21 April 2014

book musings: French Kids Eat Everything

I encountered the book, French Kids Eat Everything, by Karen Le Billon, when reading some of the blog posts for the Carnival of Evidence-Based Parenting on food and eating habits over the summer. One of the bloggers referenced Le Billon's book, so I looked it up, discovered that the author lives in Vancouver (local writer!), and got the book at the library. Now I'm finally getting around to writing up my reaction.

I've read bits of it out loud to J., who asked, "Why is it always the people from Vancouver who do an interesting life experiment and then write about it?" (Earlier that year, I read him The 100 Mile Diet, written by a pair of Vancouverites). I don't know what it is about the air or water or landscape that drives us to do this,but the results are interesting. French Kids Eat Everything is certainly a useful read, given that our child is starting to eat solids now.. Not all the principles that I lokked will be applicable right away, but once we started introduce solid food, there were some ideas that I found very helpful.

For example, it's apparently typical for French parents to have their children try many different foods many times. They don't worry if the child doesn't like it right away. They just introduce the food again at a later date. They don't assume that the first exposure to something new will "take." This reflects my own experience with food as a child. For a long time, I disliked mushrooms and wasn't terribly fond of onions. I wasn't too keen on cooked spinach, either. When our exchange students from Taiwan made us seaweed soup when I was five, I was not enthused. This has changed. Drastically.

There were, of course, things I didn't like. The general French approach to parenting and food is far more rigid than what I would prefer. Here doctors recommend feeding on demand with infants, but in France, they're on a schedule quite early. I do a bit better with the North American version, since having to adhere to a strict schedule doesn't always work for me (with some things, it's great, but if my child is hungry and screaming, I'll feel a lot better about feeding her rather than waiting until the clock says it's time). We have a rough schedule for E., but I don't want her to be so dependent on the routine that a change in it throws her off.

However, the emphasis on the variety of foods, limited snacking (something I need to implement more in my own life), and insisting that your child tries foods regardless of whether or not they like them on the first try, are principles that I appreciate.

From the beginning, E. has been given a variety of foods. On the list on the side of the fridge of things she can eat are the usual bananas and rice cereal, but we've also given her tofu and asparagus. Recently, we checked off most of the major allergens (just nuts, peanuts, and shellfish to go!). Since she's only about 8 months old, she tends to make a face at new flavours and then try them anyway. She is, I must say, far more interested in what we're eating than in what she has. She dumped her snack on the floor the other day and crawled over to demand my eggs and toast. Last week we were able to give her a meal that was basically what we were eating, except her fish was cooked separately and unseasoned. It's nice to finally be able to do that, though we're still figuring out what works and doesn't work for her food-wise. It looks like strawberries may be a problem (but the problem could also be our laundry soap or several other things, so we're still trying to figure out what's making her look like she has acne). We still can't feed her exactly what we're eating yet, but it'll be nice when we can. Next on the list is probably broccoli. Steamed. 

19 April 2014

Kid's Clothes Week: Wrap-Up

Yes, I know it's almost a week past the end of KCW. But I did accomplish my goals, and there are clothes.

Geranium Dress in a rocket ship print
I stuck with the Geranium dress View 2: pleats, faux cap sleeves, and skipped the pockets. This one is dress-length, snaps up the back, and the lining does not entirely match the outer fabric. I ran out of the rocket ship print and subbed in some galaxy fabric (planets, stars, swirling galaxies) for the two back pieces of the lining. Not really noticeable, but it kind of makes me smile anyway.

Geranium Top--my mum's holding it and E. is sitting there in the foreground
I did a top-length Geranium dress with the notched neckline and it came out beautifully. I love it. It looks really cute on E. and she seemed happy enough with it. She doesn't seem to have very many clothing preferences yet, other than enjoying chewing on shoes and playing with fabric.

I also did a crossover pinafore jumper, but it's still too big for E. The 6-12 month size (only size pattern came in, since it was a free pattern) was much too roomy on her, so when I tried it on, it looked kind of funny. Maybe she can wear it during the summer. We'll try it again in June.

Took a break from sewing this week, but I have a few more dresses on the list. A friend just had a baby girl who is, as a newborn, almost as big as E. I'm going to make a Geranium dress for her and try out the gathered skirt option.

13 April 2014

Romeo and Juliet

I keep intending to finish off the comedies and then move into the histories properly, but for some reason, I'm stuck in the first act of Winter's Tale and can't get past it yet. So here's my thoughts on a play I've read before, for at least two different English courses. We're skipping ahead briefly to the tragedies. 

Romeo and Juliet is not the easiest play for me to write about. Like many kids, I had to read it in grade nine, and I hated it. Two idiots falling in love, making a series of stupid mistakes, and then killing themselves, is not my idea of a good story. "They're morons," I thought. "Why on earth do people idolize this story?"

Then I watched Season 2 of Slings and Arrows. Romeo and Juliet is the secondary plot in that season, and the treatment of the play there transformed how I responded to the play. The language is beautiful and draws me in, and I have been able to accept the story more. The characters are not wise, and in that sense, they represent most teenagers. I too, fell in love all of a sudden with someone I barely knew when I was only fourteen. I made an idiot of myself, and the only reason I didn't make any really colossal mistakes was that he wasn't interested (and years later it occurred to me that he could have done a lot of damage had he been a certain sort of guy, and I breathed a sigh of relief that I'd escaped that. Embarrassment was far preferable). After acknowledging that, it's easier for me to put myself into the main characters' minds. I would never have gone so far as suicide, but their passion is more understandable when I remember how I was in my early teens. I can empathize.

Despite my new-found empathy for the story, I still don't love this play. Romeo starts it off in love with another girl, Rosaline, and crashes a party hosted by his family's enemies, the Capulets, in order to see her. Then he spots Juliet Capulet, and the young Montague instantly forgets what's-her-name, and makes it his mission to conquer a different girl's heart. I almost wrote, "to nail Juliet" instead, but though I'd guess his interest in her is primarily sexual, he does appear to be emotionally involved as well. The two of them talk in the famous balcony scene, make plans to run away and marry, do so, and then before Romeo kills Juliet's cousin for murdering his best friend, and is banished from the city. Juliet is heart-broken, especially when her parents suddenly decide to marry her off to another man. As she can hardly tell them she's secretly married her cousin's killer, she fakes her death with the help of the friar who had conducted their marriage. He sends word to Romeo to come fetch Juliet. Unfortunately, Romeo receives the news of Juliet's death first. He arrives in Verona to find Juliet's intended lurking around her tomb, kills him, then kisses his beloved goodbye and downs a vial of poison. Then, of course, Juliet wakes up. As Romeo has been so inconsiderate as to consume all the poison, Juliet makes use of her husband's dagger to kill herself. In the aftermath of their children's suicides, the Capulets and Montagues reconcile.

See? Disappointing. I'm not inclined to think of suicide as romantic, so it just seems like a tragedy of morons and miscommunication. But it is a tragedy of morons with pretty language, so it does have some redeeming qualities. Just a couple of quotes this time, though.


"Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean." Romeo and Juliet, I.1.4 This one somehow resonates with me--a poetic comment on the darkness overlaying these so-called 'civil' people, these nobles who can't stop killing each other.

"Look, love, what envious streaks
Do lace the severing clouds in yonder east:
Night's candles are burnt out, and jocund day
Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops." Romeo, Romeo and Juliet, III.5.7-10 The third line here is most often quoted, but a little context shows that the speech is even more lovely.

10 April 2014

Kids Clothes Week: Day 4

Okay, I promised pictures. I managed to take a few pictures of my first attempt at Geranium:

Geranium in an animal alphabet print
This is the 3-6 month size. E. is nearly 8 months, but the bodice is loose enough to be comfortable and give a little room to grow, and the skirt's a bit long on her. Yes, my child is tiny. I did "View B": pleated skirt, faux-cap sleeves, with the optional cut-out neckline. I skipped the pockets, though I have a version of this planned with a contrasting bodice and skirt that may get pockets made of the bodice fabric.

I mostly-finished another one yesterday in a rocketship print, and another one is cut out: a stars and planets print skirt and a green bodice. Those are all pleated skirts with the faux-cap sleeves, but I'm planning to try the gathered skirt at some point, too, and I have one set of fabrics picked out that I think would work will with the flutter sleeve.

My parents are coming for a visit this weekend, so I'm not sure if I'll hit the requisite time-length of an hour a day or not. I've managed a couple days where I got in a couple hours so I'm not going to worry too much if Saturday's a wash. This is for fun, after all.

08 April 2014

Kid's Clothes Week: Day 2

I managed to make E.'s suspenders yesterday, and get more things cut out. I'm counting prep time (cutting, pressing, etc) as sewing time for the purposes of this project. She doesn't do long naps very well most of the time, so I end up cutting out a few things, or sewing a few seams, and then going to get her because she's awake again. Or she tries to get into the dresser in the bedroom while I sit and sew and keep an eye on her. This is mostly successful but requires me to pause frequently.

Today: more cutting, more pressing, and a bodice for a Geranium dress put together. Then the skirt. The pleats are a little off, but it's my first time doing the pattern. I'll learn. Hemming and snaps to go! Pictures tomorrow.

06 April 2014

clearing a space

I don't like de-cluttering. It's annoying and messy and takes forever and at the end of it, I have stuff to haul to the garbage bin, the recycling bin, and the thrift store.

And we like clutter. J. and I are not minimalists, and I don't think we ever will be. We like books too much for that. He's into board games, and I'm into fiber arts. Both are hobbies that take up space.

But we do have stuff that needs to go. We really do. When I was in the process of sorting out E.'s bedroom so we could finally move her in there, I found a box. I opened it. Inside was a random assortment of stuff that I hadn't wanted to sort through when I was clearing our dresser top so I could put the changing pad on it. It had gotten stuffed in the spare room, and forgotten again. I sighed and took it to the living room, where E. was napping, and dumped it out. I sorted. I tossed. Her closet still isn't properly sorted, and her room is also home to the pieces of a giant desk that we're trying to give away on craigslist and Freecycle.

I feel better for it, but I don't think it's a process I'll ever love. I was the child who, when we remodeled our 60's-era bathroom, insisted on keeping a chunk of pea-soup green pebble-patterned linoleum. I later tossed it, but that's how attached I could get to things. Change was devastating.

On the other hand, I like to organize things. I just don't like getting rid of them. But I'm doing it. Slowly. I'm going through my closet and winnowing down my wardrobe. I'm opening boxes of random things and realizing that at least half of them are junk that we should have tossed last time we moved. I found cards from our wedding nearly six years ago that I haven't looked at since and had no intention of keeping, so those went into the recycling. It's a work in progress, and it's being done partly with an eye on our plan to move sometime in the next year or so. The more junk we deal with now, the less we'll need to pack up when we move.

I've never been great at keeping things uncluttered and tidy. It's not my forte. I'm a little better at it now that a tiny person is crawling around and throwing things on the floor, but our place still looks messy. I like the way things look when they are clean, but I think I'd be uncomfortable if our home was spotless and perfect. A clear space is good. A pristine space is maddening.

So I'll settle for clearing a space and hoping it stays that way for a little while.

Kid's Clothes Week starts tomorrow!

I'm participating in Kid's Clothes Week this season. The goal is to sew for about 1 hour per day for seven days. It starts tomorrow. I'm starting tomorrow off small. Baby suspenders and some cutting out of fabric. Also a trip to the fabric store, because I need more snaps. Hammering them in place the wrong way down and cursing them meant a lot of the snaps are now longer usable.

The suspenders are for E.'s Captain Malcolm Reynolds costume for Fan Expo in a couple weeks. I got a bit ahead of myself for once and sewed her pretty floral bonnet together today. Shirt and pants are already sorted, so now she just needs the suspenders. I'm still finalizing my Kaylee costume, and J. is going as Wash. He has the Hawaiian shirt but nothing else yet. Yes, we are geeks.

Also on the list for this week are two Geranium tops. This is a fabulous pattern and I'm excited to finally get going on it. It has several variations available, and I have the newborn-5T size, so I'll be making Geraniums for E. for quite a while, and may buy the 6-12 pattern when she's big enough for that if she still likes the dress by then.

Photo credit: Made by Rae
I have pieces mostly cut out for the Geraniums. One is an animal alphabet print, and the other is a spaceship with astronauts print.

The other dress on my list is the Little Girl's Crossover Pinafore from Smashed Peas and Carrots. This is a free pattern and tutorial. The pattern is apparently in the 6-12 month range, so it may fit my tiny 7-month-old right now, or it'll be a decent summer dress in a couple months and a jumper top in the fall.

Photo credit: Smashed Peas and Carrots
As you can see, it's a really cute little pinafore and it'll be great this summer. I haven't actually figured out the fabric for that one yet. It's a bit of a tentative one, as the suspenders and Geraniums are top of the list to get done this week.

I may get around to trying out the serger a friend lent me during this week, though I don't really need it for any of these patterns. We'll see how the timing works out. In the meantime, here's hoping Munchkin tolerates me measuring her for suspenders tomorrow as well as she handled trying on a bonnet today.