August 31, 2011

Baby Vocabulary.

I love words so much. I love them written and spoken, scribbled and typed, and I love the space between them and what that can mean, but mostly I love the way a word shapes itself in my daughter's mouth like a bubble and how she opens her lips with great care and uses her tongue as a wand to blow words into this world. This last fews months have brought Tessa lots of new words, and every week she presents them to me proudly.

Yesterday morning I started to write down her words on the chalkboard wall in our kitchen. I want to be able to remember them later on, before she starts traipsing down the path of sentences and paragraphs and car-ride conversations that make my head hurt.

As the day went on I kept scribbling her words down. I was surprised to see that she now has 25 of them to tell me what she wants or what she sees. None of her words yet tell me how she feels; she uses her tantrums and her slobbery kisses for that. Two months ago there were only eight words (thank goodness for blogging so I even know that), and she wasn't saying "mama" yet. And, really, isn't that the word that every woman who has ever wanted to be a mother most longs to hear? That word, in Tessa's mouth, is my drug. Now she gives me many, many hits of this drug everyday, and the high is not wearing off.

"Mama"and every other word that Tessa's surprised me withhas reminded me not to worry so much. Every time I start to get nervous about her hitting a milestone oranything in life reallyit tends to resolve itself without my having to do anything at all. My worry du jour is that I'll be putting a great, navy blue ocean between me and my baby next week while Nekos and I are in Barcelona. I've been waking up in the middle of the night thinking about it, and my heart feels like an anchor that's sinking to the ocean floor. But I know that she will be safe and sound with my mom, who she adores. And I know that the greatest gift I can really give Tessa is a mother who is truly happy, in her marriage, in her role as a mother, and in her own skin. I want Tessa to see that in my eyes and hear it in my words the way I hear it in hers.

August 30, 2011

Restyle: Too-Big Shirt Gets Downsized

This was another of my online shopping fails that needed fixin'. I ordered this vintage shirt from etsy or someplace many months ago. It was an XL, sure, but a vintage XL which is normally like a medium these days. So I thought it would fit. Anyway, point is, the thing swallowed me up and spit me out. And it wasn't a matter of just needing to be taken in on the sides. The arms and chest were way huge, too. So it sat on my to-be-mended shelf all this while until I found this tutorial from Melissa at I Still Love You. Her refashion tutorials have become my favorite because they make so much sense. (This one about how to shorten sleeves while maintaining the original cuffs is really cool, too.)

I pretty much followed her tutorial but, as with most sewing things, also ran into some problems when it came to reattaching the sleeves to the shirt's armholes and had to figure it out myself. So, now, I have a shirt I'm pretty sure I'll wear the crap out of this fall. I just love the off-center ruffle. 

Thanks to my mama for taking my "after" pics today :)

August 28, 2011

A Backyard Movie Night.

Candy and beer. That's what I had for dinner last night, which I think is totally reasonable on movie night. Nekos and a co-worker recently hatched this idea to screen Wet Hot American Summer in our backyard, and last night it all went down, along with the sun. (Have you heard of this movie? I hadn't. It's this hilarious, depraved comedy about the last day of summer camp in 1981, and it stars Janeane Garofolo, Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd, Bradley Cooper, and a thousand other dudes and dudettes you know and love.) 

Before, during, and after, we sort of couldn't get over how fabulous it was to watch a movie under the stars with friends. This will definitely happen again soon--we're thinking Dazed and Confused next month and a horror flick (maybe The Shining?) for Halloween. Here are a few pics from our night:

Bowl and after bowl of popcorn.

Tessa taking in all of our guests. This kid loves having people over. 

Especially people like her friend Dylan Jane.

Lots and lots of candy. 

Movie got started at 8:30 p.m. after the kiddies were fast asleep. 

Everyone clapped at the end. 

And then we danced. 

Oh, and I made this S'mores popcorn, which was a big, gooey hit. (Recipe here). 

Hope you all have had great weekends!

August 26, 2011

Stuff I Wore: Dinner Date.

Oh dearest date night! We are spoiled rotten with date nights because we usually get one a week (although they're not strictly "dates" because we often meet up with friends after dinner). These nights are all thanks to my mom, who loves to keep Tess overnight and who texts me things like, as she did last night, "Tess is the cutest little thing, hugging her blankie as she sleeps." (I also get texts about god awful diapers.)

Most often Thursday nights are our date nights because my mom is literally so busy being retired (what with yoga, art classes, travels, and stuff) that that's the best night for her to keep Tess. We are not complaining! It's just sort of a random night to have a weekly date. Last night we went out to dinner at Silly Goose (which is silly good and silly adorable) and then to 308 for cocktails, where Nekos geeked out over their bring-your-own-vinyl night.

I apologize these outfit pictures are a little off because we were in a hurry and didn't have the ISO setting right. I don't even know what that means but that's what Nekos says so I'm sticking with it. Anyway, this outfit has defined my style for the past few weeks, which have been a leetle less scorching than previous months. A button-up tucked into jean shorts with boots. Also, I had a full-on arm party last night with about every bracelet I owned. So fun.

Shirt - Gap Western shirt, thrifted about 10 years ago
Jorts - Gap 1969 Patch Pocket Shorts
Boots - Bought at boutique in New York City five years ago
Purse - DIY

August 25, 2011

Stuff I Made: Plantation Shutter Headboard.

The Habitat for Humanity home store yielded another great cheap-o find yesterday--these four wooden plantation shutters for $25. $25 TOTAL, y'all. If you've read my blog recently, you know I've been hunting for an old door to use as a headboard, but I never could find the perfect one and I knew it would be much easier to load four shutters into my car than to try to squeeze a door around a carseat. I took a chance and hoped that these four shutters would equal the width of our king-sized bed and they did exactly. So, tada! I really like the way it turned out, and am calling it my Pottery Barn knock-off because PB has a similar headboard for sale right now (their Alden Reclaimed Wood Headboard) for $900. (See below). Total savings? $875, bitches. 

I've linked my project up to The Shabby Nest and Funky Junk Interiors

August 24, 2011

17 Months Old.

Yesterday Tessa turned 17 months. Each month, I try to write a little something about her and post some new pictures. But I find it difficult to write about this tiny woman, and I’ve been trying to think why. Because I want to write about her. I can write about Nekos, easily. I seem to have no problem, either, writing about a pretty dress or a dream I have or random crap I bought or made.

But how could I put together a sentence that would describe the sound Tessa makes when I growl and chase her around our coffee table or the way my body feels when she breathes the word “mama” into my neck? And how also could I use words to describe how irritated I am when she yells and screams and pulls so hard at my legs that she yanks my pajama pants around my ankles? Or how crummy it feels to know that there are already things I would have done differently with her and how scary to know how many things there will be in the future that I will also royally screw up? And, mostly, how can I express how very, terribly, insanely much I love her while also saying that sometimes being a mother is really, really, really hard?

I’ve found the joy of motherhood to be exquisite but also exquisitely interrupted by the sound of other mothers. Sometimes, in a room of “other mothers,” I feel like a child. And, mostly, I feel suffocated. I want to clap my hands over my ears so I won’t have to hear them say things like “I can’t remember/imagine my life without him/her/them” or any other number of things that rub something inside of me that is raw. Is it bad that I can remember my life before Tessa and that I liked it very much? But is it also bad that if this life were without Tessa I wouldn’t want to live it one day longer?

Most minutes I love being a mom. And I can't get over the way that motherhood has kicked open all kinds of new doors in my life and in my mind. I work from home now (which is something that I thank the heavens for every day), and I get to spend more time on things I love. Things like Tessa, yes, but also things like pretty dresses and dreams I have and random crap I bought or made. And I love the surprises that motherhood has brought--not only the sound that banana makes when it’s thrown against a wall--but that becoming a mom has made me know myself better, not less. And that it keeps presenting me with new opportunities, even in a room full of other mothers, to learn more.

My feelings about motherhood are so complicated. My feelings for Tessa, aged 17 months, are simple.

And, also, she started saying boobies this week, which I find delightful.

August 23, 2011

A Restyle: Maxi Dress to Skirt

Why, why, why do I ever shop for clothes online? Stuff too often turns out to be too big or too small or weird-smelling or way less effortless on me than it looked on the model. In this case, I fell in love with this H&M maxi dress when I saw it on some famous chick online. And since we don't have an H&M in Nashville, I ordered it on eBay. From a guy. In Asia. Who is now terribly upset with me because I left him a "neutral" review saying his sizing is off. Anyway ... 

It was about three sizes too small. Like, not even a two-week juice fast was ever going to make me fit into this dress. It hung, forlorn, on a hook in my bedroom for a couple of weeks, and I waited too long to return it. 

So last night I made it into a skirt, taking inspiration from Style Pantry, which is often converting old dresses into long skirts. The chiffon of my dress was ultra-sheer and came with a polyester lining. After bravely hacking off the top part of the dress, I added two separate elastic waistbands -- one to the chiffon material and one to the polyester lining -- since the chiffon was way more voluminous than the polyester. Then I connected the two waistbands together with a few stitches all around. I also sewed what was once the halter neck as a tie onto the waist.  

I'm still bummed about not getting to wear the dress, but the skirt is a close second and so comfortable and breezy, and I have lots of ideas about how to wear it. 

I also wore this necklace today, which I made months and months ago when I was having my dalliance with doily necklaces. For some reason I never wore it 'til now, but I think it really tied this DIY outfit together. 

August 22, 2011

This Week I Will ...

  • Try this recipe for bacon-chocolate chip-pecan cookies. They just sound reaaaaaal good to me.
  • Also, try this recipe for tuna rangoon from my fave cooking blogger -- Andie with Can You Stay for Dinner? Have you heard of her? Everything I've ever made from her website has been delicious, and her writing is just as yummy. She just scored her first cookbook deal! 
  • Workout three times. I've been on a roll with this the last few weeks because I'm trying to use it as a way to help my insomnia. Toning up would be totally acceptable to me, too. I discovered Zumba (like five years after everyone else), and I'm in love. I'm so terrible at it but I don't even care because it's so much fun and I can pretend for two seconds that I'm Janet ... or Britney. "Slave 4 You" Britney. 
  • Find at least one book set in Barcelona to read before and during our vacation there. Two weeks from now!
  • Start on Nekos's anniversary and birthday presents. We agreed not to spend any money on presents this month because our trip is our present so I'm thinking creatively. 
  • Finish a sewing project or two.
What will you do this week?

    August 21, 2011

    Blog Post No. 205

    Tessa's Converse collection. <3
    I started this blog in November 2010, and this post will be my 205th since I wrote that self-conscious first post. I still have lots of doubts about blogging, chiefly that this online destination isn't a real reflection of who I am because it's too, like, "look at my clothes and look at my house and this pretty little baby girl I made with my husband whom I adore." It's a blog that looks at all the good things about my life and tunes out most of the bad, sad, and idiotic. I almost never blog about fights I have or mistakes I make or stupid stuff that I actually said out loud. That's for a reason -- not because I don't live in reality, but because I decided at the beginning of my blog-venture that I didn't want this to be a "Dear Diary" diatribe that would later embarrass me or anyone I love. I also committed to blogging almost every day; I wanted to go big or go home. And so this place has become my highlight reel and a love letter to my life, which is -- on most days -- just sinfully amazing.

    Several really cool things have happened since I started blogging, and they're things that egg me on every week, that tell me I'd be a fool to pull the plug on this mack daddy, even though I want to about once a week especially when it's embarrassingly earnest about things like yarn pom-poms.

    No. 1: I get off my ass more. I need stuff to blog about, after all. This appeals to that little girl in me who only wanted to dive off the high board if there was someone there to watch me do it. I had fallen into a creative slump, but this blog has become a tap-tap on my shoulder reminding me to turn off the TV or the computer and go make something, do something, lead a fuller life, even if that means I might be judged by someone somewhere.

    No. 2: People come visit me here, and not just my Facebook friends anymore. I mean, the traffic isn't crazy-high or anything, but enough so that I feel listened to, which is nice since I work doing freelance writing from home and don't have an office to go into anymore or colleagues to socialize with. Thank YOU for being here and for listening!

    No. 3: I write something every day. Sometimes it's just three sentences with 95 pictures attached, but sometimes it's an essay about motherhood or an epiphany about creativity. Whatever it is, it takes me beyond the writing I do professionally, which is mostly about car accidents. (True story.) And sometimes when I read back on it later, I think, 'Who is this person?' And then I realize, 'Ellen, this person is you. You two should really grab a beer together sometime.'

    No 4.: Opportunities. I've gotten some really cool opportunities through my blog this year. I haven't made a dollar from the blog or sold any ads (and there's only been one giveaway, which six people tops entered), but I'm pretty sure this blog is at least partly why my family got to be in a fashion show and why I've gotten several paying writing gigs from various peeps. I hope, too, that the blog will help me move in the direction of some writing-related dreams I have and present me with opportunities I haven't even thought of yet.

    .... All that's to say, I've been thinking about adding a weekly feature that will incorporate both what I already like about my blog and hopefully help to diminish what I dislike about it. What I'm thinking is a feature that will essentially be a list of weekly goals that I want to accomplish (i.e., try chicken tetrazzini recipe, take your fat dogs on a walk, etc.) and then I can blog about these things later on if I want to. The idea is to take advantage of the accountability that the blog provides while also giving me an outlet for being more "real." What do you think?

    August 18, 2011

    Before & After: Tee to Tank and Dresser Facelift

    The other night Nekos told me, "I don't know what it might be like to have a memory as shitty as yours." Unfortunately I don't remember what he was referencing BUT I did think it was hilarious in its utter true-ness and I went to write it down so I, ahem, wouldn't forget it. So sad. I'm 28. How has this happened?

    I like to think I remember the important things, though: The best times and the worst times. Most of the day-to-day stuff goes coursing down the drain. Like, I remember this tee-shirt -- not because I'm a Phish fan but -- because it's the one I'd always pluck out of Nekos's dresser drawer when we first started "having sleepovers" in college. It's huge and worn to that yummy thin softness that only very old, very loved teeshirts can have. 

    There are loads of tutorials in Internet land about how to reuse an old teeshirt, but when I saw this tutorial on Crafterhours about transforming an old tee-shirt to a trapeze-style tank top, I knew this was the one I wanted to try. And just like they said, the whole thing took only 20 minutes and turned out great. I love the fit. For the straps I decided to use some trim I had on hand instead of slicing off the bottom of the teeshirt to use. I have a whole bunch of other tee-shirts getting in line for their makeover, too. 

    And I didn't stop there. I've wanted to replace the knobs on Nekos' tee-shirt dresser forever. (Yes, he has an entire dresser full of tee-shirts and there's a whole 'nother box of them in our basement). It's a great piece of furniture, and I don't really want to paint it but I thought it looked too plain-jane-lumberjack (does that make sense?) with its knobs as is.

    Enter all-new, all-different knobs from Anthropologie. You didn't really think I'd be all matchy-matchy with my knobs, didya?

    And now I can rummage through Nekos's tee-shirts for all of eternity. (Also, wanted to note that it looks like my baby might have an extra nipple or two hanging out on her chest, but those are skeeter bites. Although if she did have an extra nipple, I would love her all the same.)

    August 16, 2011

    Tessa Jean's Runway Debut.

    On Saturday the Barnes family hit the runway at the Tomato Arts Festival fashion show wearing vintage duds courtesy of The Hip Zipper in East Nashville. Honestly, I'm pretty sure that Nekos and I were technically only invited to be in the fashion show because we are parents to Tessa. After all, this sassypants little supermodel needed someone to hold her hand while she sashayed down the runway. Tessa clearly ate up the spotlight with a spoon. Just have a look at that grin. I mean, I kind of can't stop looking at it. Thanks to Trisha Brantley for having the three of us and for letting Tess keep the Noah's Ark dress.  

    Photos courtesy of Kendra Krantz and Chris Thompson

    August 15, 2011

    Ten Dolla Window Make Me Holla.

    It doesn't take a lot to give me a thrill. Here was today's:

    I scored this window at the Habitat for Humanity building supplies store on Division Street (thanks to Squirrel Pearl for the heads up about that place!) and as soon as I saw it, my heart did a roundhouse kick. The window had just been carried in by a sweaty guy and didn't have a price tag on it yet. When the sales guy considered it for a minute and then told me it was ten dollars, I said "I'll take it" so quickly that he laughed.

    I was really still on the hunt for the perfectly beaten-up door to use as a headboard but turns out it's hard to look through doors when you're holding a baby who's asking for crackers (over and over and over again). I need to save that for a solo mission later on, I suppose. But also it seems windows are occupying the same place in my heart that doors did last week. Just have a look at these "old window" ideas on Pinterest.

    I broke the very bottom left pane of glass as I was putting the window into the car. Figures. But where I ended up putting it you can't even tell. Tessa took great pride in helping me Windex the glass, just so's you know.

    Anyone have a clue what this style window is called? Or what time period it might be from? I'm clueless.