Sunday, January 30, 2011

From the Archives

Isn't it amazing when you find an old roll of undeveloped film? So full of possibilities. I remember my friend Jeff once told me that his father found a roll still in a camera, with a few pictures left. Mr. McKay finished the roll, and when he had them developed he discovered pictures of himself as a young child and as a father to grown children on the same roll. This is the loss that comes with the advances of digital photography.

Dave brought home a surprise roll the other day. Turns out, they are from Clio's first week. What a lovely gift to see these first looks we gave to one another.

And to see this serious expression on our always lively girl.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Bathing Beauties

I'm not sure if it's some kind of survival mechanism relative to the number of consecutive days that snow has now been on the ground, or if it has to do with the uptick in the thermometer (to a balmy 30 degrees), but the girls have taken to wearing their bathing suits around the house. Sometimes they put dress-up dresses over the top, but I haven't caught that on film. Yet.

Flashback Friday: Walmart Portrait Studio

It's flashback Friday over at the other blog, which means I've been going through old photos. I found these portraits of Clio that we had taken at the Walmart photo studio in Illinois when we visited Barb and Pete in May, 2008, about 6 weeks before Eleri was born. I could have sworn I wrote about the session back then, but I couldn't find the post. Until....I checked the DRAFTS from back then, and found this:

"Flipping through a Parents magazine on the plane to Illinois, I was inspired by a few ads for various portrait studios- JC Penney, Target, etc.- and suggested a trip to Wal*Mart as one potential outing with Clio. The idea was to let her pick out a new outfit, and then go ahead and have her first formal portrait sitting.

Let's just say it did not end up being a great experience. I take responsibility for the fact that the timing was just bad- we were really pushing things with both lunch time and nap time, and by the time we actually got started, Clio was not her absolute best.

But mostly, it had to do with the fact that the seemingly to-good-to-be-true deal is, in fact, too good to be true."

I don't remember the exact details of the bait and switch, but I do remember that there was one, and that we went in for a $10 package of photos and ended up spending more than $30, and the photos weren't even particularly good.

But from the vantage point of nearly three years later, they are good! They are! I mean, Clio has had many cuter moments, but aren't these fun?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Clio Grace, Author

Clio has taken to making books. The process is pretty straightforward: Clio makes a bunch of related drawings, then puts them in order and dictates the words for each page, which a grown up writes down. Then she makes a cover, comes up with a title, and the whole thing is stapled together. Mostly this is a Daddy activity. I am delighted that I finally replaced our scanner (it broke while I was at the hospital birthing Clio, when a floating shelf came crashing down on top of it) so that I can share her artistry. Text for each page appears below the image.

I love this rainbow. I really want to buy it.

I really love this flower because it has some silver in the middle. I really want this flower because I think it has underwear.

I want to climb up this rainbow to get this snowman because it has underwear on its hands.

The flower I really like because it's all covered in red. There is also green.

This flower is so pretty. It just has some dandelions on each petal.

This flower has a flower inside of it.

This flower has rainbow petals on it.

This flower has pokes around it. Pokie pokes.

This street light has a monkey in its belly.

This whole thing is so crazy. Cause it is so crazy.

It's hard to argue with that. I might share a few of these, depending on how much patience I have for scanning and transcribing.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Outfit of the Week

Sometimes, Eleri manages to get the dress-up clothes out of the basement and up into her daily wardrobe. She puts these things on herself, which is why she ultimately ends up with the layered look. (She's into layering these days anyway: short sleeve shirt over long, dress over skirt--that was a favorite tactic of Clio's at this age, too. Must be developmental, somehow?) I especially love the use of this dresses' waist band as a halter strap (which, incidentally, broke off and smacked her in the face when we tried to pull the dress down without pulling the stap over her head first. That was an unpleasant surprise.)

The self-dressing also accounts for the hunchback look, since Eleri can't pull her two shirts down under the dance dress.

Did I mention that she is also wearing sweatpants? Boys sweatpants two sizes too big, from the cast-off pile at school, no less.

And now that we're on the subject, Clio is rocking a while lot of a look here, too, only none of hers is from the dress up rack.

Eleri gets stuck in her shirt

Her sister laughs.
Her father documents.
Where is her mother?

What a helpful bunch.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Surprise! New Look

So here's what happened: All my pictures were feeling really, really dark. Looking at this blog was feeling gloomy. I hold two things responsible: the fact that I take so many pictures with our cherrywood table as a backdrop, and the blue tones of the original Clio Confidential design.

My new blog, Love Your Space, feels bright and fresh with a clean white background. So I got to thinking....

What you are looking at is probably not a finished design. It might be too simple. I don't know. But it feels like I can breathe when I look at the blog again, and for a while I couldn't. Liberating the design content to its own place also lets me breathe, and I'm so happy to post some regular old Clio Confidential content again. These are positive developments.

It's funny, though. It felt very sad to change the template here, to tinker around. For so long, this has been a place of comfort, the place of family history, and I was as used to the look of it as my own handwriting. I hesitated before applying a new template--what if I couldn't get the old one back? But then I remembered that, of course, it is the content, and not the design, that makes this blog special.

Another change: I've added the "if you like this post..." feature. So far, it seems to be picking posts at random, so I'll have to do some research to see if I can make it choose more relevant posts.

Let me know what you think. And be prepared for some tweaking over the coming days!


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tis the Season

In the run-up to Christmas, I kept meaning to spend a day making gingerbread houses with the girls, but somehow this activity never materialized. So imagine my delight when I took the girls to Michael's the other day, and all holiday stuff was 80% off. There was one deluxe gingerbread house kit on the shelf, but no marked down tag, so I brought it to the counter to find out the price.

Are you ready for it?

Five dollars! So I snapped it up and brought it home, and the girls could hardly contain their excitement to put the thing together.

As it turns out, it was a multi-step process. The first night, we put the pieces together with icing, but had to let it dry at least 3 hours before decorating. To throw them a bone, I let the girls decorate the "guys," and used the rest of the first batch of icing to make snowbanks along the edges of the house. Clio and Eleri both approached this task with the philosophy that no part of a gingerbread person should remain undecorated, and the cookies ended up so top heavy, I had to reinforce their feet with gumdrop piles to keep them upright. Nonetheless, some happy, proud campers were on hand.

Tonight we got to finish decorating the house. Parental error number one: leaving the gingerbread house and all the fixins on the table with the children while I mixed up the second (of three) batch of icing. By the time I got to the table 4 minutes later, Eleri had eaten half of the snowdrifts on her side of the house, save the one I dug out of her mouth and washed down the sink. (A word of warning: if you ever buy one of these kits, do NOT read the nutritional value information on the box. I have literally never seen such a long list of chemicals on a "food" product.) There was much continued sneaking of candy, then a potty accident diminished our progress. After bath, the girls discovered that dried icing is much less amenable to candy decoration than wet icing, but Eleri showed little remorse for the interruption. They each got their hands on one of the icing bags, and all hell broke loose.

Still, I like the sort of Jeckyl and Hyde results. Clio's half:

Eleri's half:

I especially like the single bead in one window, which says to me that she did consider the windows a design element, but this is all she had for them.

I achieved balance myself by taking some control freaky measures on the icicles, the path to the house, and the green garland along the eaves, allowing the girls to wreak havoc pretty much everywhere else.

So, if we include this is a Christmas activity, our holiday was officially almost seven weeks long, beginning with a tree trimming party on December 5th, followed by Duggan Christmas on December 19, Wood Christmas on December 25, and Peterson Christmas January 1. And nary a photo or blog post in sight: shame on me. I think I'll just ignore that thing about how blogs should record the day to day and go ahead with an onslaught of holiday posts, thereby extending our celebrations just a little bit further.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, January 17, 2011

On the color of our skin

I've been thinking about race lately, and how we're not supposed to talk about it. And here I am, wanting to talk about it. I went to the zoo this weekend with the girls, my friend Rachel, and her two kids, a just-turned-7-year-old girl, Nadia, and a 1 year old boy, Givenson, who happen to be adopted from Haiti. A zoo volunteer, enjoying all the questions from the older girls, asked us "whose girls are those," and my instinct was to say, "the black ones are hers and the white ones are mine." I did not say this, of course, though it would have been both true and direct. Instead, we each pointed to our kids to claim them. I felt that the volunteer was probably proper (and safe) not to assume any particular combination of family, even though I am told my grils look just like me. We could have been a couple and all four kids could have been both of ours, for all anyone knew. Or we could have each had one biological and one adopted. Or, or, or.

After the volunteer went on our way, I confessed my instinct to Rachel, and told her that when Clio had asked me to remind her who Nadia was before we met up, I hesitated to describe her based on the color of her skin. Rachel said that people are funny this way, that she often hears things like, "Oh, is your daughter the one who loves to read, and carries such-and-such backpack?" In these cases, Rachel DOES say something like, "and her skin is brown? Yes, that's her." It is amazing to me that we go so far out of our way to avoid referring to the color of someone's skin, even in cases where it is the easiest, most obvious differentiation. It makes me think of Stephen Colbert's hilarious recurring gag that he "doesn't see color," which gets right to the heart of the matter: color is visual. It is something that we do see, that we all see, that we can't avoid seeing, period.

I was a little late picking the girls up from school on Thursday, and ended up staying for the music class that happens Thursday afternoons with the extended-day children. In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, many of the songs were about civil rights. The school is incredibly diverse, and I found it quite wonderful to sit in a room of children of many colors singing "All the colors of the earth," a song that lists the colors children come in, including "chocolate, caramel, cinnamon" and so on. It was meaningful to see that my children will grow up in an environment where they live the truth of that book, rather than a classroom, like some of mine over the years, where a rather sheepish (white) teacher preaches multiculturalism to a room of white faces. It is a great hope that by the time they have kids of their own, we will live in such a mixed-color world that it will simply be a matter of practical description, and not at all loaded, to describe someone by their skin color, the way we might say someone has red hair or blue eyes.

For her part, Eleri colored this MLK crown for the school assembly, and I am told that she marched with the other toddlers across the stage, wearing their crowns and chanting Love, love, love, love, love.

Friday, January 14, 2011

New year, new blog

After thinking it over for some time, I decided to make a single, simple resolution for 2011:


Yes, I realize the irony of taking this long to make the resolution to act, but I'm not going to lose any sleep over it. The thing is, for years and years, I have fallen into things, one after another. I've had tons of great opportunities and wonderful experiences. I have learned a lot. A LOT. My M.O. was to just say yes. I have looked forward to the payoff of all of this work, all the learning curves mastered (or at least, well, learned), all the skills built and connections made. But the truth is, I didn't stop all that often to think about what I wanted, and to notice whether the choices I was making were leading to some ultimate goal.

I have years of journals that circle back to one major theme: the idea that I am waiting for an invitation. From who? For what? Well, I suppose an invitation to do the things I want to do, to live the life I want to live. And of course I know that the only person who can issue that invitation is me.

And yet.

When I was in my 20s, my mom gave me a book called "I Could Do Anything if Only I Knew What It Was," and after much resistance and skepticism, I read that book (on a plane) like my life depended on it, like here was the answer. But the truth is. I knew what "It" was, I've always known. It's just far more terrifying to ask whether you can in fact do anything when the thing you want to do really matters to you. This is not a new story. I just read all about it in Oprah not too long ago, and that was only the latest iteration. I know, I know: Oprah. Yes, I hear myself. I think (and this is a miracle) that I may be starting to care a bit less about what others think. I may be too old to go chasing down each and every opportunity that I know damn well does not lead to that "ultimate goal." At the same time, I think I'm wise enough to know that my "ultimate goal" is still pretty vague and I will probably open a lot of wrong doors as I try to refine it. Is anyone still with me, through the cliches and the Oprah?

Okay, then. Let me be clear. I have always loved to do two things: decorate, and write.

So I'm doing more of both. In fact, I'm bringing together these two loves in a new blog. I made this decision a week ago, and then faced many setbacks in naming the thing, designing it, etc, all the while boiling over with content. So you know what? It isn't designed at all. Literally. No background, no color scheme (okay, there's a little bit of orange), no pretty patterns. That will come later. I know what I want it to look like, but the technology? Well, learning curve. I hope that some of you will read that blog as well as this one. I hope you will follow it, even. I feel that the growing split in content here on Clio Confidential has been a major struggle, and I feel relieved to put the design content somewhere else, to let this remain more of a parenting blog and, really, the family document that I started it to be. There may be kinks along the way, but I bet I can figure them out. Go ahead and share your thoughts with me, I'd love to hear from you.

So head on over to Love Your Space and read my first post: Let Them Eat Cake. It may not be the perfect "first" post, but you gotta start somewhere.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Outfit(s) of the Week

My little fashionistas, sporting some new gear picked up at Christmas from the Nonners.
Looking good, kids!

Friday, January 7, 2011

The girls' room: After

Well, it's not quite finished, there are lots of little finishing touches, but I figure the longer this gets drawn out the higher the expectation is (read: the more perfect I think the room needs to be to share.)

Remember the room before? Not much to it.

Here's the decorated room.

The silhouettes are placeholders--I'll probably do an asymmetrical arrangement over the beds to break up the symmetry. Just need to figure out what that is! Also need to decide on book storage for the foot of Clio's bed--small shelf, book bins, other?

And there's the rattan hanging chair. Needs to be hung (though Dave and I both had second thoughts when we saw the size of the screw that goes into the ceiling), and the cushion cover needs to be made.

It's hilarious to me that I had the balls to post before pictures just after Christmas, thinking I would be finished before we headed back to Illinois for New Year's. But that's the way these things go: projects take forever.

This is the only room in the house that I got to design completely from scratch--every other room had something to build around, whether the rug, or bedding, or another major piece. (Actually, untrue: the basement living room was from the ground up. That one came together quick and easy--I'll share sometime). Originally, I thought I would build the room around a pair of quilts the girls inherited from their great-grandmother, but then I learned that she made them herself in the 1930s, and the first time I narrowly averted something bad from interacting with the fabric (poop, marker), I made the suddenly not-so-tough decision to put them away until the girls are older. Let heirlooms be heirlooms.

I bought the raspberry fabric (prematurely) for a chair in the living room, but realized the quality and weight was really better suited to headboards, so started there. That awesome fabric for the curtains came next. I spotted it at SR Harris, the amazing discount fabric warehouse (literally 30,000 sf) that I am so happy to live near again. $8/ yard!

I think the thing I am most proud of in this room is the budget. Allow me:

Dresser: $42 at auction. Bar Keeper's Friend and a ton of elbow grease to clean the hardware.

Rug: $162 from (it's Safavieh and actually really well made. It is not as described in the posting online, but it works)

Headboards (plywood, foam, batting, and fabric): about $50 each

Fabric for curtains, cornice, bolsters, and blankets: about $100

Lumber and hardware for cornice: about $30

Bedding: white duvet sets on special for $16 each from Target (their RE brand). Quilted shams $12 each from TJ Maxx.
The bedding was my biggest sacrifice. Originally I wanted this set from PB Teen, with a graphic border around the edges in brown. In the end, I think that may have been too strong, but I liked two options from the regular Pottery Barn: this hotel-style bedding and this whimsical version with embroidered dots. Both would have brought things up a notch, but even on special the duvets were $59 each and shams were $19 each. I think I did better than that! I considered using up my vintage green grosgrain ribbon to make a similar border, but my sewing isn't that good. As it is turning out plain white bedding is more forgiving: you can't tell if it's on straight or not. A good thing for a 4 and 2 year old!

Awesome yellow artichoke Lamps: $29 each from Home Goods

Rattan Chair: $50 from craigslist

We already had the white Ikea table and stools, the twin beds, and the current art.

TOTAL: $598

Now, some people will think that's still a lot to spend on a little girls' room (my husband may be among them), but buying just the headboards (instead of making them) would have cost about that much, so I'll go ahead and pat myself on the back.

As i figure out the last bits and pieces, I may put some options to a vote. I've been looking at this for too long, I may need a fresh opinion!

Thanks for looking.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Okay, I didn't mean for that to be such a tease. When I posted the "before" pictures, I thought the "after" was imminent. I was wrong. A couple of projects had all kinds of setbacks, but progress is being made, and there's only one major thing left for me to do in there before I can reveal the room, which is looking quite adorable if I do say so myself.

Here's a sneak peek of some of the things I've been working on.

I just made these bolsters for the beds.

I love moire fabric--reminds me of my grandmother and covered the tables at our wedding--and there's just something about a chartreuse moire bolster that makes me weak in the knees. This is a pretty simple project--you basically sew a tube and then put a casing on either end--but I decided to find directions online instead of trying to do the math myself. I liked the way they explained it over at Canadian Living, but I misunderstood the folding directions for the casings and ended up with these long poochy ends.

Solution: a little pleat at the end of the bolster, which gives a more finished, tailored look anyway and highlights the puckered ends.

To make the pleat ,I just measured the radius of the circle at the bolster end, then measured in the same distance on each of the ends of the fabric tube, folded it under, and used about a 1/4 inch seam allowance to stitch all the way around. I didn't even have to pin it, which was awesome.

I also had a remnant of a super cute plaid that I found in my fabric box that I bought about 10 years ago for who knows what project that never got finished. (Or started.) The colors pick up on the scheme in the curtain fabric, and I like that it feels young and sort of preppy. I considered it for the bolsters (the only thing cuter than a moire bolster is a plaid one), but I wanted a larger dose of it in the room, so I decided to make little throws for the ends of the beds. Since I only had 1 1/2 yards, I ended up making what is apparently called a "bed scarf": a throw that drapes over the ends of the bed and comes up about 1/4 to a 1/3 of the way. The woman in the fabric store told me hotels started making them a few years back to save on fabric.

I bought some ivory fleece for backing (on sale for $3.99 a yard!) and picked up some Wright's blanket edging to finish it off. I followed the directions here on the wright's website (though they don't tell you how to do the final corner, so I just made it up). My corners aren't exactly perfect, but I'm mostly happy with the result--sort of baby blanket like.

It occurred to me as I made the second one that I could have just sewed the plaid and the fleece together inside out and ended up with a finished throw without a binding which may have been a little more sophisticated. If I was doing it over again, I would probably consider piping the edges instead of a blanket binding--I'm not sure I love that satin. But hey, the girls are only 2 and 4, and I'm guessing these will be used largely as blankets for their dolls.

Lastly, I FINALLY tracked down this chair on craiglist, which I was originally supposed to go see just before Thanksgiving.

I know, what am I thinking, right? A rattan swing chair plus plaid blankets plus chartreuse moire? The curtains pull it all together, I promise. I'm sort of tempted to paint the chair since it's not in the greatest shape, but I think I'll make a new cushion in cute fabric and get it up in the room before I decide.

The rug arrives tonight, I think I can build the cornice tomorrow, and then.... voila.

It has been so much fun pulling all of this together, though I'm not sure I've ever done quite so much sewing in my life!