Friday, August 26, 2011

In Which I Smear Coconut Oil on My Son’s A$$

After my son David was born, I joined an online breastfeeding forum. Initially, I appreciated the supportive atmosphere. Many moms offered advice that most health professionals are not aware of because they fall outside the tightly defined boundaries of conventional medicine.  I tried a number of suggested remedies with some success. One recurring thread was the use of coconut oil.
Another random sighting of a fetching headband.
Have you ever heard the expression, “Don’t be a one upper”? Well, that’s how most of the forum regulars operated. If someone extolled the virtues of one organic compound, another mom would immediately intervene, touting a purer, even more “natural” option. 
There are many very natural byproducts that I want nowhere near my person, like bat guano. Poisonous plants and jellyfish are natural, too, but unless a large pharmaceutical synthesizes them first, Mother Nature can keep them. And do not get me started on natural disasters! Recently we have been inundated by a series of them--an earthquake and an imminent hurricane--that I am not ashamed to take a stand here as anti-natural disaster.
Vaseline, Eucerin, and Aquafor are so yesterday! Plus, they allegedly contain “toxic” chemicals. The ultimate one upper is not compost, bird crap, or butter—it’s coconut oil.

Coconut oil is solid at room temperature.  It is sometimes used as a cooking oil because it has a high smoking point. Some people swear by its healing, super nutritive properties as a body and facial moisturizer. It may be true that it is better for you than butter because it is a “good fat,” much like avocado. If you’ve never fried your French toast in coconut oil, you are missing out on a delicious treat! If you have never slathered your baby’s butt in it, you ain’t missing much.
Lest you eat from this jar...

After buying a jar from Whole Foods, I regularly applied it to David’s derriere. Truthfully, it works no better than Eucerin, but it smells yummy. Not sure, though, that I want my son to smell like a macaroon. My initial doubts, however, have been confirmed via rigorous scientific inquiry: You are no better or worse off using a commercially prepared cream. It may in fact be easier, as coconut oil is hard to scoop out with your fingers, and it doesn’t go on smoothly.  Also, unless you regularly wash it off, it goes rancid quickly; who wants to smell like a rotting coconut? That, by the way, is a rhetorical question.
NEXT TIME: Surviving natural disasters through fun sewing projects! If ever FEMA requires cute headbands and adorable earbud pouches to aid the affected, I will be their go-to gal.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I Sew a Supercute Skirt for My Kid So She Can Torture Me in Style

Its beauty was not marred by a later incidence of incontinence.

He's got Bette Davis Owl bedroom eyes!
Who knew that the terrible twos would lead into the *@#$%& threes? Not I. For unknown reasons, I believed that the irrational behavior that causes a two-year-old to act against her best interests would magically disappear as said toddler approaches the age of three. Not so. At age three, my daughter’s newfound physical and verbal abilities have enabled her to campaign more effectively against her best interests.  A recent brunch out featured her hurtling over booth seats, much to the chagrin of her parents and aggrieved restaurant patrons.  I am counting the days to full-day preschool. My husband is looking into the possibility of Swiss boarding school for tots. I'm sure it will all work out for the best!

I’m really hooked on the Lazy Days Skirt, available at Oliver & S . It’s so simple and lovely. Designed for beginner sewers, it doesn’t require a cut-out pattern. The elastic waist creates natural gathers.  At least she will look good being bad.
I also sewed four earbud pouches. I downloaded the pattern from Pattern Patti on Etsy. Her directions and step-by-step photos were clear as can be.

Velcro, I shake my fist at thee

A revelation: the results of most sewing projects, unless you make PJ pants or a shirt, are girly. Fabric choices are more often feminine than not. They cannot be made masculine by any stretch of the imagination.

Even if I found black fabric emblazoned with bleeding skulls pierced by a Morningstar (actually, this sounds fairly manly!), a pouch is inherently girly. A real man doesn’t worry about tangling his earbuds! He just tosses them into his briefcase or stuffs them into his jacket pocket with nary a care! A girl, on the other hand, is mindful that their $30 price tag means she’d better take care. She lovingly sews a pouch with a Velcro enclosure (damn you, Velcro! But I’ll get to YOU later) with a lovingly selected outer fabric and a complementary liner fabric. Must teach myself to sew on snaps…

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Pillowcases Smell Like People! And Other Unpleasant Revelations

I made a pillowcase dress this weekend. The good news is, it turned out the way it was supposed to. The bad news is, it turned out the way it was supposed to. Clearly there is an aspect of refinement to the pillowcase dress concept that eludes me; it looks like a toga for toddlers. True, you can make a “pillowcase style” dress for any size little girl, but again, why would you when with a few safety pins and an old sheet you can whip up an honest to good toga?
"Should I tell mommy it smells?"

The pillowcase dress enthusiasts also fail to mention that pillowcases smell like people. Think about it: you put your big, fat, smelly head on one every night. While you sleep, it absorbs your hair grease. After you mourn all of life’s lost opportunities, it soaks up your muffled tears. I’ll tell you what, this endeavor has helped me see the necessity of weeding out one’s linen closet. Damn the expense, I am not going to sleep on another smelly pillow—or is it pillowcase? If they both smell, I’m screwed. I don’t want to buy more pillows.

Another big downer is that lately I have been feeling less like a mother and more like an unpaid, psychiatric nurse. One of my patients is psychotic and refuses to take her medication; the other is affable, but highly dependent. I feel guilty for feeling this way, but it’s really wearing me down. After they go to bed, I’m too tired to be domestic; I can barely watch Real Housewives. However, I DID manage to bang out another gorgeous mod headband!
The thread and elastic of my sanity.

My husband has suggested that we hit the road to sell them to hipster chicks at Lollapalooza, or Coachella or wherever the crazy kids are listening to live music these days. His real agenda, of course, is to get away from our kids! At this rate, I will be lucky if I make it to WXPN headquarters. I hear there are a lot of 40-something moms there who appreciate handmade goods.

Friday, August 5, 2011

I Answer a Reader's Question and Sew Myself Silly

Gertrude Perter Malone, a reader from Syracuse, NY, writes: “You claim to know a lot about sewing. So, smartie pants, do ya know what a bodkin is?” Thank you for your interest, Gert! And yes, of course I know what a bodkin is, thanks to the magic of Wikipedia. Also, never use colloquialisms (ya) with me or I will block you from my site.

The primary definition is  “A blunt thick needle with a large eye used esp. for drawing tape or cord through a hem.” In fact, I could have used a bodkin the other day whilst sewing a small skirt for my daughter. Unfortunately, I did not yet know what a bodkin was, so I used a safety pin instead to pull the elastic through the waistline.
I sure could use a bodkin about now.

The second definition is used far less. It dates back to the Renaissance period in Europe, when men wore codpieces to protect their nether regions. Gentlemen of less means who could not afford a codpiece wore a bodkin, or half a codpiece. Naturally, the bodkin offered only half the protection of the codpiece. It was also not considered as stylish. Examples of the bodkin that survive from this era are on display at London’s British Museum.
Now, on to my latest sewing projects! I wanted to continue to sew useful items that a beginner can complete but that test my developing skills. Coasters fit the bill. These are great to practice stitching straight, applying ric rac, and working with cotton batting.
 Before the coasters, I made two headbands, which have always given me a headache. However, they are so pretty I am willing to give them another shot. I’ve made two so far—one for me, and one for a friend.


Coaster in action.

Both of these appear in the 1960s Mod section of the book Sew Retro: A Stylish History of the Sewing Revolution (Judi Ketteler, 2010). Not only does she take you step-by-step through each project, she also traces the role of sewing in American society since the early 1900s. The sewing timeline is cool, too; I did not know, for example, that the Cleveland Fabric Shop changed its name to Jo-Ann Fabrics. I guess the owners felt that "Reich & Rohrbach" wouldn't convey the right tone in 1943.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

World's Greatest Dad Has World's Suckiest Son

The truth will set you free, but also might make you naked.

I have admired Robin Williams since his Mork and Mindy days. He reminds me of my own dad, teddy bearish and wise, except for his past cocaine use. He has come a long way, of course, since his rainbow suspenders days. I really wanted a pair of those, by the way, but lacked the chutzpah required to pull off the look.
In World's Greatest Dad (2009), Williams is Lance Clayton, who holds the world’s two completely thankless jobs: he’s a parent AND an English teacher. His teenage son Kyle is a douche bag. I’m sorry, but his odiousness goes way beyond the usual adolescent personality defects. Kyle’s main extracurricular interest is watching hardcore German porn. At school he bullies girls. He's a horrible student. He thinks all music is "gay." Often trailed by his long-suffering, introverted friend Andrew, but he mainly just hangs out in front of his computer monitor.
Lance gets no love—or even begrudging like—from Kyle, but maintains a cheerful disposition.  His professional life is unfulfilling, too. Popular fellow teacher Mike gets published in The New Yorker on his first try, while Lance’s rejected manuscripts pile up on his desk at home. Perhaps worst of all, Lance’s hot art teacher girlfriend starts responding to Mike’s romantic overtures!
Things start to get really interesting for Lance when Kyle dies. Yes, World’s Greatest Dad is a comedy! A dark, dark comedy in which a strange twist alters the trajectory of Lance’s life for the better. Bobcat Goldwaite directs. Refreshingly unpretentious and sweet.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Nellie Olsen Fesses Up, Everyone Laughs

Alison today, reveling in her cult "bitch" status.

Little House on the Prairie (LHP) was one of my favorite TV shows growing up. Of course, I had major crushes on Almanzo, Laura’s husband, and Blind Adam (Mary’s man), whom I wanted to take care of in the worst way. I also wholeheartedly fell for the Judeo-Christian values of work hard, be nice to your neighbor, and hate Nellie Olsen with the burning passion of one thousand fires.  I even had my mom sew me a lace-trimmed nightgown (and nightcap, for pete's sake) that looked just like Mary's and Laura’s. The reality?  The set was in the California desert, not Walnut Grove, Minnesota; the crew drank hard liquor on the job; and Half-Pint and Nellie were best friends!
Reading Confessions of a Prairie Bitch by Alison Arngrim is like visiting the factory where your favorite hotdog is made; you’ll still eat it regardless, but after they scrape the rat tails in, you may look at your dinner a bit askance henceforth. LHP is still a perfect example of how a television show can impart good values AND tell a great story with likable--and not so likable--characters. 
Arngrim has written a hilarious book without being snarky. Her love and respect for her co-workers is clear. She also balances her humble tome with funny anecdotes and heart-wrenching personal confessions regarding her unconventional childhood. Among the LHP “secrets” she reveals….

1.       Melissa Sue Anderson (Mary) was a cold bitch

2.       Nellie's blonde ringlets were actually an itchy, painful WIG literally pinned to her scalp

3.      Landon was the only actor on the set allowed to bare skin. Suspenders barely grazing his nips? Sweat glistening on his chiseled pecs? His long, curly mane of dark hair rippling in the wind? Yeah, LHP was definitely for ladies of all ages—this I knew!

Happily, Arngrim did not go the way of so many 1970s child stars. Instead of dabbling in drugs and porn, she became an early advocate for people with AIDS when it was anything but fashionable. Later, she pushed for legislation to protect victims of incest. She attributes her normalcy to Michael Landon, who ran a tight ship but had a kind heart.

This autobiography is not just for lovers of LHP; Arngrim's wacky sense of humor is universal. But I admit it is great fun as she gently busts the myths surrounding the cult favorite...