Friday, July 31, 2009

I got pinned!

Nipper Knapp likes to joke that my desk is eligible for Superfund status. I admit that my idea of a filing system, is a series of piles, that only I can decipher. However, I have always been (in my mind) the neat one in my family. Nipper Knapp is of course, the king of neat island.

Another trait the old man likes to mock, is my resistance to throwing things away. I don't think he'd go so far as to say I'm a hoarder, or a pack rat, at least not to my face. One of our first disputes was over my storing cardboard moving boxes in the garage. My argument was that they were expensive and you never knew when you were going to pack up and go. His argument was that we could get them from the back of the grocery store, and really did I need a garage FILLED with them? I conceded this point when he discovered you could get nice clean ones off craigslist, for free. Did I mention I'm a germaphobe?

Ok, so I like to think that I have a keen sense of reuse, and sustainability, as opposed to a pathological disorder. I'm always seeing some little scrap of fabric or blurry photo and thinking, "I could use that in a project". I have boxes filled with feathers, glitter, fabric remnants, and magazine tear sheets. Oh, and fake guns. I've gotten better about sorting through this stuff, and keeping it organized, since NK and I got hitched. Otherwise, I'd have to live with my husband rocking himself in the fetal position, repeating the phrase "so many half filled boxes", and crying softly in his sleep. I haven't gotten a label maker yet. But I might.

Sometimes this behavior really pays off. When we were in Michigan over Christmas, my dad mentioned he had some pins from the 1960's in the basement, and said I could have them if I wanted. I forgot to get them before I left, so I sent myself a reminder email this time, and here is what we found:

My parents were members of the Students for a Democratic Society at Michigan State University, and very active in the anti-war movement. I think these two are pretty timely considering the current events in the news.

These were my grandfather's union pins. He was a stevedore in Detroit before he got married. He then worked for Continental Motors, for the rest of his work life. My parents, and grandparents, taught me a lot growing up about what it means to work for your family, and what it means to be paid your worth in this world. Just about every member of my family is a member of some union (UAW, teachers union, SAG). Lately I've been wondering about my job security and my union's choices, but that's a story for another post.

This is my Brownie pin. It must have been either my mother's, or one of my aunt's from the 1950's. It brought back all kinds of memories of homemade candles, tie-dye, and nature walks. I'm kind of obsessed with it, and I plan to wear it every day. It's going to be my thing. When people are trying to remember my name, they'll say "You know her, that lady who wears the vintage Brownie pin". I looked it up on ebay, and there are quite a few really cute ones from the 1940's and 50's. Awesome. When you call me and I don't pick up, know that I am trolling the web for mid-century Brownie pins.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Zap! Pow!*#@%!! Bif! Bash! Thwonk!!!

That's kind of what our little vacation felt like. Like a crazy scene from a comic book, filled with action, and a knock out punch at the end. I'd like to thank Northwest airlines for loving our family so much, they held us in the sweet embrace of their airplane, an extra hour and change. And how can I forget to thank the gentleman with whooping cough, for sitting next to us, and reminding just how important it is, to get those vaccinations. I'd also like to thank paramount limousine, for losing our reservation, and not sending a car to the airport. It really made for a thrilling end to our trip. And scene.

Our trip to Michigan was filled with 1000 little memories, that my brain is still trying to sort through. I woke up in the middle of the night last night, not sure where I was. In a fog, I tried to remember where the bathroom was, and if it was worth, getting out of bed to find it.

I'm a little behind on work, batching all the photos from Todd and Anne Marie's wedding. I'm sitting here waiting for the computer to think, and I stumbled upon this little essay by Lori Leibovich in Real Simple Magazine. It made me kind of misty, with it's acknowledgement of the nostalgia, mixed with mayhem, you often feel as a mom. Oh, and the love of a good glass of wine. Just thought I'd post it, since I'm too jumbled up to write down a thought of my own today.

More soon, on all of our adventures, and the backdrop photos from the wedding!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Greetings from the darkside

Ladies and gentleman of the internet, this blog is brought to you today, from the shady underbelly of parenthood. I'm sharing a twin size bed with America's hottest two year old and we're all about to die. Ok, that's a bit of an exaggeration, (and a nod to the movie Almost Famous).

We arrived at Nipper's parent's house, at 11pm last night. Jack slept for 3 hours in the car. So basically, he had a disco nap, and was ready for table dancing and bottle service. We let him run around for an hour or so, and then tried to reign him in for bedtime. Let the fun begin! He said NO to the crib, that was provided, NO to sleeping in the twin bed alone, and NO to Nipper and I moving more than 3 centimeters away from him as he slept.

Nipper was finally able to extricate himself, around 1am, and move to another bed. As Jack sprawled next to me, on the twin, the full size bed calling my name from across the room, I tried to will my body to be smaller, and my back to stop being so inflexible. "Suck it up", I thought. "The baby needs his rest."

By 4am, I was in a trance like state brought on by lack of sleep, and stress positions that only Dick Cheney could have invented. I realized I was willing to turn myself in, for any, and all of my my life's misdeeds, and was indeed masterminding unspeakable crimes from my 6 inches of mattress. Losing purchase, on the bed, and sanity, I crawled out silently, tapped Nipper, and said "your turn". From 4am to 6am Jack tossed and turned while Nipper silently lost his mind. At 6:15, he opened his eyes, and in a Disney forest animal chirp announced he was ready to go downstairs and see Poppa. Monster!

Tonight he goes in the crib no matter what, but I think it's important that women thinking of having children see firsthand, what this kind of sleep compromise can do to a person. Here is how I looked yesterday:

And here is how I look this morning.

I'm just saying...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Public Service Announcement

Saturday night we turned on the local NBC news around 11:15, because we were getting set to watch Saturday Night Live. We were all chatting, and no one was really paying attention, until the anchor who happened to be wearing a shiny taupe suit, with too small lapels, started a delightful segment, we'll call "Dear Detroit area residents, we know you are stressed out, so here are some friendly reminders, on how to get on in the world, without further damage."

The segment was actually entitled "DANGEROUS FOODS TO EAT IN YOUR CAR WHILE DRIVING". And the list goes as follows:

coffee, tea, other hot liquids
hot soup
barbecued foods
fried chicken
jelly or cream filled donuts

I can imagine the production meeting on this one.

"Let's say hot liquids, and foods that require wet naps after eating"

"That's not specific enough. We have to give some specific examples"

"What about hot soup?"

"Let's put chili too"

"Isn't that a hot soup?"

"No, chili is more of a stew"

"Should we just say stew?"

"Heck no Marjorie, who eats STEW in their car?"


The piece was followed by a bit on an edible bikini, on a swimsuit model somewhere. The anchor tagged that piece, by saying he wasn't sure how much it would cost, or if it would even be available to purchase.

Say YES to Michigan! Say YES!

Saturday, July 18, 2009


Ok, since we're on vacation, I don't have any major projects going on. My dad gave me the book Genome, by Matt Ridley, today, and I'm going to start reading it tonight. But, mostly I've been non-stop web surfing. Sad, I know. But I came upon this website, Three Potato Four, that is totally freaking awesome. I want it all. The kids section is amazing. And I love all the prints, and random antique pieces. Check it out y'all. (that y'all was a tip of the hat to Southern Auntie Swing in love)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

iphone 2 electric bugaloo

The annual Ann Arbor Art Fair is going on this week. I remember loving this time of year when I was a kid. We would wander from booth to booth looking at people's work, and when we got home I would go into the basement, and try to create "art" from things I found down there. Mostly things like ball jars and brillo pads. Hey, it was the 80's. I was a modernist.

This morning Jack, and Nipper, and I, walked over to the playground around the corner from my parents house. They have a swing there that is like a little nest. It's large enough for a parent to sit in with a toddler on their lap. We sat in the swing, and watched the clouds in the sky. The wind in the trees sounds different here. The air is clean, the skies are blue.

After the park, we went to Zingermans for lunch. It was in this post cloud watching, Zingermans, swing day, that tragedy (and stupidity) entered our little holiday. I was in a dreamy haze walking home. A friendly man who was selling golf balls 3/$1, gave Jack one for free. He was thrilled. He was gleefully throwing it up in the air, and then chasing it where it landed. Walking ahead, I turned to say to Nipper how funny it is, that the free thing, or the box the toy came in, is so often his favorite thing, when I saw the ball, flying through the air, headed for the road. For some reason I lept into action, iphone in hand and blocked it, racquet ball style with the iphone. Nipper looked at me, and said "That was smart". I smiled, and then looking down, realizing my screen was smashed to pieces, I gasped. What was I thinking? It seemed totally instinctual to swat at it, like I was at wimbledon. But what the hell kind of instinct is that? Apparently this is the week I smash stuff. Look out America!

I have an appointment at the apple store for the morning. Apparently they have a package for situations like this. It's called, "you give us $200, and we'll fix your toy dumb dumb."

rumble rumble

Just in case anyone out there was thinking that I had neglected Jack's cake needs on his 2nd birthday. I used a fire engine cake mold. Then I cut out a separate rounded piece for the top of the truck, and for the garbage can. Every time he rolls his eyes, and tells me I'm the worst mother EVER, when he's a teenager, I'm going to pull out these pictures. Happy Birthday Baby, your mama loves you!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Vaya con dios LA! We're headed for the mitten!

Actually we are already in the Michigan. Apparently no one outside of Michigan thinks it looks like a mitten. But they are wrong. We flew into Detroit last night, and arrived at Jack's Grandpa and Grandmas house in Ann Arbor around 2am. We went to bed at 3am, and Jack woke up at 8am. Yay vacation!

We are here for our annual visit to see family, and eat Zingermans, and swim in Torch Lake. But this year is special because Nipper Knapp's cousin Todd is getting married to the lovely Anne Marie, at Nipper's parent's house on the 25th of July. They've asked me to shoot the wedding. After shooting my good friend Misao's wedding in Sonoma, last summer, I am excited I get to shoot another wedding, of a couple I love.

The wedding photographer has to be willing to wrangle people on what is both a happy, and sometimes chaotic day. Someone has to be willing to tell your aunt Esther and uncle Frank to stop dilly dallying at the shrimp buffet, and get their booties over to the shady overlook, for group pictures. At the same time, you have to be able to make yourself invisible during the wedding. Oh and get great shots. For some reason, I thought I would hate bossing around a bunch of people. Nipper thinks this is really funny. I loved it.

Todd and Anne Marie thought it would be fun to have a photobooth type thing at the wedding. Meema and I found this great fabric that went with their rustic Gatsby-ish wedding theme. We decided I would sew it together and we would hang it just inside the doors to the barn. Simple, simple, simple. HA!

Problem number one, was that we bought about 1/3 as much fabric as we needed, and when I went back, they were out of it. Merde. It looked sad and weird, and wasn't nearly wide enough.


So, I thought maybe I could sew some other fabric onto the sides, like the pale green seersucker we were going to use for table runners. But that would have looked horrible, and the pictures would have been a trainwreck, and I would be cast out of the Knapp family forever. I procrastinated so long, that the last time I was in Michael Levine shopping for fabric to make a bench cushion for the play room, (that's right, I'm going to take a whack at upholstery) they had gotten more of the fabric in, and it was on sale! I bought more, and set out to sew it into one large piece.

Problem number two: I smashed the window.

Meems had given me the measurements of the opening in the barn, and I wanted to see how long the panels were exactly. If they were too long, I'd to ship my backdrop kit to Michigan. But if they were just right, we could nail it to the rafters. SO, while Jack was napping, I started to unfurl the fabric on the floor of the living room, while holding the tape measure. It just slipped. In my cro-mag brain, the motion of throwing my arms out, made my hand fly open, and I underhand tossed it, with all my might right into my dish cabinet. We always thought Jack would be the one to smash the breakfront. Whoopsy daisy. One call to Highland Park Glass, and 45 minutes, and $76 later, it was fixed. BTW, the backdrop is exactly 9 feet tall.

Problem number three arose when I decided to applique the date of the wedding across the middle of the backdrop. I've mentioned before that my sewing machine was not really in use for a few years, (ok, 17), and so it had some timing issues. I thought I'd be able to do that tight applique stitch that I did by hand, on Jack's wall hanging last year, faster, if I did it on the machine. Uhm, no.

It looks like Edward Scissor hands, got crafty. Nipper says it's cute, but how do I know if he was even talking about the backdrop. He might have thought I was asking about my hair. "Uh-huh, yeah, that looks cute. No I don't think anyone will notice but you."

Problem number four has not a lot to do with the backdrop, and more to do with my total inability to focus on one thing at a time. I started this project in April, and finished it last Thursday. Not because it took me that long. The whole thing, including applique, and the multiple shopping trips, took about 4 hours total. But that's 4 hours spread out over about 10 afternoons, and nights, of me spreading the fabric out on the floor and staring at it, while Nipper silently cursed me.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The best laid plans of mice and men

Our living room is an odd shape. It's plenty wide, but the length is ridiculous and there are doors and windows on almost every square inch, making furniture setup awkward. We've settled on having all the furniture down at one end, leaving the other end, which is around 15'x16', open for Jack to ride his tricyle and play with his trucks. I spied this great sort of giant ottoman dealie at The Little Seed on Larchmont.

I thought it would be perfect for our space. It wouldn't close off the other seating arrangement, nor block any of the doors or site lines for the picture window in the sun room. It would provide more seating and a great place to flop and watch a movie. The girl there told me it was custom made, and it was $$$. It has organic cotton batting, and an organic cotton slipcover, and also I guess it's also made of solid gold. Ok, so it was totally out of our budget, so I started trying to think of other solutions.

You know when you were a kid, and you wanted something really badly, like a popsicle, or tree house, or tickets to see The Cramps, and your mom gave you an apple, or a cardboard box, or tickets to see Fiddler on the roof, instead. My solution ended up kind of like that.

I bought six large (30"x30") down pillows at Michael Levine, and decided I would make slipcovers for them, and the kids could pile them up, and flop on the floor. The adults would just live on the couch. Hoorah, Topol is going to sing, again.

It really is a miracle that Nipper and I are still speaking at all. I bought the pillows in April, and they have been sitting on the floor uncovered, and shedding massive quantities of goose feathers all over the living room. I had other projects to finish (to start). I couldn't decide on fabric that would go nicely with everything else, but still be kid friendly, and not cost more than $10 a yard, because the pillows were HUGE, and I was going to need a lot of it. This effectively ruled out anything I liked. I mean I could spend $400 on irish linen and fancy trim, but then, I'm part way towards buying the oversized ottoman, but stuck with sad pillows.

A few weeks ago, during one of my tutu visits to Jo-Ann fabrics, I saw they were having a sale on all of their chinese brocades and sari fabrics. It was polyester, but I could overlook that because it was hot pink, and orange, and shiny, and machine washable, and THREE DOLLARS A YARD! I bought 12 yards. That's right, I bought 12 yards of hot pink polyester urban outfitters apartment style fabric, to cover the flop pillows. Nipper Knapp, I'm sorry, but you took a vow.

SO it took me a while to get it together to start this thing. I spent the entirety of Jack's nap one day, just trying to figure out how best to cut the fabric to maximize the amount of slipcovers I would get. I should have paid more attention to Ms. Nesper in Geometry class. Once I had the pieces cut out for the slipcover, I had to figure out how to cut the trim fabric to custom cover the cording. Right. Check. Three websites, two nights of swearing, one phone call to my mother, one visit from my mother, the purchase of one self mending cutting board, and voila, bias cut custom cording. No problem.

I learned that you have to cut a little wedge in the cording cover to help it round corners. I learned this after more swearing and cursing the day I was born. Geez sewing has a lot of rules! I decided to take a little shortcut with the cording and use iron-on fusing to create the tube for the cord. I thought, it would make for less sewing, and since the fabric was so slippery, I wouldn't have to deal with pinning it. Great. You're a genius. Except once I had the cording pinned to the slipcover fabric, and I started sewing through, what I soon came to realize was GLUE, the whole thing went off the rails.

The needle quickly became totally covered in the fusing, and was so tacky, it couldn't pull through the fabric, and the machine would jam, and the thread would break, and I would shout lots of bad words at no one in particular. At this point I called Meema, and she made some suggestions, but also reminded me that it might be time to have my machine cleaned and serviced. Considering that before a few months ago, I hadn't used it in 17 years, that was the least I could do. I dropped it at SewJoe on Mission in South Pasadena, and some nice lady is going to fix it up just like new. Either that, or Mrs Nipper Knapp is getting a fancy new machine for her birthday. One that embroiders too...

So once again, slipcovers are on hold. Nipper suggested I pay the upholsterer who made our kitchen shades to make them. But where's the fun in that? Poor Nipper.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Je suis not smart

SO I had a little correspondence with the durable supply company about the non functional marker, for the bathroom project, and I'd just like to say first off, in my defense, I am not usually a quitter.

When you order something off the internet, you never know what kind of customer service you are going to get. It might be some great mom and pop type place, or you might be entering into Bangladesh call center autobot hell. Durable supply falls into the former category. They were awesome. First of all they sent me a new marker the day I emailed about the first one not working. No questions asked. When I emailed about the replacement marker not working, they opened one from the same box, and tested it for me. As in, a human being, who was in the same location as their product, went into a room, and checked it out for themselves. Dude! They reported back that it did indeed work, but required all kinds of wiggling back and forth, and you had to press it down for a crazy long time. I worked on mine for about ten minutes, and finally got it to work, and then I felt like a jerk for being such a nuisance. This website is awesome, and their customer service is incredible.

So now there's no excuse to not finish the bathroom. Except, I need to pay some bills, call our broker, talk to my baby, seduce my husband, dye my roots, pack the entire family for our upcoming trip to Michigan, and, that's it. No problem. Pictures up as soon as it's done...

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

bobsled to hell

Ok, so I think that the decoupage might be where I slid down the slippery slope of nursery decoration into a dark world of crafts, and jo-ann fabric visits. Did I ever mention my fake band? I mean, it's not like I was I was in the The White Stripes or anything, but at least there was this thought of something cool. I mean we played the kibitz room (sort of).

Before we got pregnant, we lived in this loft downtown. It was great to have a space for my photography, and my good friend (and fake bandmate Sadie) lived right down the hall. But once we realized we were going to be parents, the truck wash downstairs, and the hooker corner outside the parking lot, seemed less than family friendly. Plus, I like to sleep. I like quiet. We quickly realized, that the wall free, concrete box, that was our haven, would soon be echoing with the sounds of a crying baby. I was going to need to shut the door on that mess.

SO we started looking for a house, and in the meantime, I started nesting, or pre-nesting. And it started with this little decoupage project. Making matters worse I found the templates on Martha Stewart's website. I don't care if that mean lady went to jail, she's got mojo. I got the paper from paper source. The dressers that were intended for the baby's someday nursery, I got at Ikea. I don't think they have this exact dresser anymore, but they always have something similar. These were unfinished and the perfect size to double as a changing table.

I like the way they turned out like an orange creamsicle. But I've noticed that since that project, I've been frequenting places where the other shoppers are frightening to me. I was in a Michael's a few weeks ago looking for linen embroidery thread, and all of a sudden I was overcome with panic. "THESE ARE NOT YOUR PEOPLE!" What was I doing there; in this place where people were buying dusty fake flowers, and WICKER baskets? I am a wicker free zone. Sure I could lie to myself and say, "You're not like them. You're just here for your very cool, totally normal, embroidery floss. These people are clearly losers, who live in sad rentals, with bad lighting, and haircut model posters". But then came the tutu project, which required 4 visits to Jo-Ann fabrics, and that's when I realized, I was lying to myself and I had hit rock bottom.

Jo-Ann fabrics is the kind of place I wouldn't have deigned to visit three years ago. It's low budget, low brow, low rent, it's the Netherlands of fabric stores, low, low, low. On each of my four visits, there was a mother and daughter couple there shopping together. These pairings unnerved me greatly.

"Mom, did you see everything on the notions wall is on sale?" the daughter would bleat with a thick Fargo accent.

"Oh sure. And did you see this pre-smocked dress fabric, that is just darling, and so practical!" the mother would respond.

"Just ignore these manatees" I'm thinking. "Just block them out". "YOU are nothing like THEM. Losers. Stupid, fat, tacky, boring, slow witted, buffet pants, comfortable shoe wearing..." and then they turned on me.

"Oh! What are you going to do with all that tulle?"

And suddenly, I'm gushing. About making tutus, for all the neighborhood girls, and my son, and how my husband doesn't really approve, and I'm breathless, and they're smiling politely, and OH MY FUCKING GOD, WHO AM I???

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


Dear internet,

This could sound paranoid, but I think the Marvy Uchida marker company might be out to ruin my marriage. I received my replacement silver jumbo garden craft terracotta marker in the mail today. It doesn't work. Again.

Jack is upstairs sobbing because he doesn't want to take a nap (this is a fun new trend). But I think it might be because he knows that the shit is about to hit the fan in crafty mom V neat freak dad land.

Please keep our family in your thoughts during this very difficult time.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

I can explain...

Ok, so this is the kind of thing that makes Nipper Knapp crazy, I know it:

Note the blue painters tape, the can of paint, and the paint pan on the little square of plastic. These are the remains of my nannygate bathroom project. They've been there since Tuesday. I'm not sure if this is what he would describe as "shit everywhere". But it's probably pretty close. The paintbrushes are next to the kitchen sink, so I guess that counts for shit in two locations.

But I have an excuse! My plan was to copy this cool design I saw on another blog. I tracked down the paint pens I would need on the internet. But I couldn't decide on gold or silver, so I ordered one of each. When they arrived, I realized that since all of our hardware is chrome, the silver would look better. Well lo and behold the dang gumb silver one didn't work. It was all dried up or broken or I don't know what.

They are sending a new one, but there was a mail holiday due to the freakin 4th of July, and so there was delay. So I'm waiting to remove everything related to the project. I don't know why. It's just how my mind works.

I just offered to mop the floor, in the hope that it would distract from the CATASTROPHE that is the downstairs bathroom. Nipper just went out for milk.