Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Farewell September

In some ways, this year is going fast. I can't believe we're 3/4 of the way through 2014, but I also feel like Severin has been mobile forever yet he wasn't able to walk on January 1. Time moves even more strangely when you have a child. Days can seem really long (because you are tired), weeks fly by because so much of your time is already committed (to the baby, to work, to getting all those other things done) and years move both quickly and slowly. I turned on my old work computer today--I had forgotten that I'd changed the wallpaper to a photo of baby Severin. It's not a compute I use often (it's old and obsolete so I bring in my laptop), but it was a pleasant surprise. It seemed like forever since he was that tiny (about 2 months old)--we've done and shared so much since then, and it almost seems like we didn't know each other quite so well back then.

Now the year is almost behind us, I have those usual thoughts about not accomplishing as much as I would have liked. I'm hoping to prove myself wrong and use those extra, cooler days to complete a couple more tasks, including the book proposal I've nearly finished and those articles that could be completed by the end of the year. With luck and even more hard work, I will be able to reflect on a productive 2014 in just three months time.

Monday, September 29, 2014

What we're watching these days

Over the last 8 months or so, I've had to improve my time management skills. I used to be that person who'd follow a TV show to the bitter end, even those whose quality declined leaving me barely interested (I could, after all, multitask or send out emails while watching). Since Severin has been active and very mobile, that's changed. I used to think I was being a good media studies scholar as I completed show after show. Now I just don't have the time to spend on mediocre television. In fact, I watch very little now--some of it is for work (that doesn't mean it's quality TV--I watch TLC after all), a little for pleasure (I think I'm down to two or three shows now) and the rest is for children.

I'm careful about what Severin watches and how much TV he consumes. He would happily watch more than I allow, but he does get an hour or so early in the morning (6.30 am or so) and I sometimes get some very precious cuddle time. We basically watch CBeebies shows, sometimes live, but more often on youtube. He cycles through programmes, binging and then moving on, but his current favourites are Something Special with Mr. Tumble, Shaun the SheepRaa Raa the Noisy Little Lion, Small Potatoes and some of my childhood shows--the wonderful Bagpuss and The Herbs. He's also quite fond of Old Jack's Boat and Wibbly Pig.

I know this time will soon pass, that he will have other favourites, that he won't want mummy's cuddles so I'm enjoying every second. He even slept until nearly 8 am today, waking at his usual 6.30 for a bottle then settling back for a long nap. I stayed awake, holding him and worrying that he might be ill. He's fine, and it's likely just a one-off, but one day, he will sleep until 8 and it will be  a harbinger of a new sleep pattern, one where I may feel more rested but I won't have our precious early hours together.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Some Autumn Picks: Part II

It's a lot easier to justify buying clothes for Severin. It's not just that he's a growing boy, but that he's guaranteed to look adorable in whatever he wears. I actually don't need to buy him that much this autumn as his spring clothes still fit. I learned the hard way that as sweet as one-pieces, rompers and even dungarees look, they only last for the shortest time. Just a half an inch growth renders them practically unwearable--the snaps snap open and the poor child is uncomfortable. Trousers and t-shirts can be worn a bit loose or a bit small (short trousers work as capris and then as shorts), especially when you get to the one year mark when their girth really doesn't change much. I've also been buying age 2-3 for a while and if something runs big, I'm really happy that we'll get even more wear out of it.

As for me, I've started to become very aware that clothes may look great on the model but not so nice on me, which makes shopping difficult. It's partly because of the post-pregnancy weight redistribution (I'm bigger on top, even if I'm the same from the waist and below) which also means I can't fit into many of my older clothes. It's not that much of a change in shape but I'm not used to dressing this way--skirts make me look big these days so it's really a return to the old pregnancy styles of dresses and jeans (I'm not pregnant, btw, even though I would love to be). I also feel invisible--not ugly, just unattractive--which relates to the tiredness and lack of me-time (hence sporadic blog posts), which leaves me with a grayish pallour and dull hair. I'm not complaining--I think this is a normal state of affairs for any mother of young children--and certainly I'd so much rather have Severin than lots of leisure. He is beyond joyous and I love him so much it actually hurts. I'm getting my work done, cooking, doing some cleaning and spending time with my dear, but that means I have almost no free time. That means no gym, no yoga, and despite what the media tell you, cutting out wheat and walking a lot with a pushchair doesn't get you skinny.

So, with that preamble, here's some of what I'm looking at/have purchased/fantasise about owing this season. In all likelihood, it will all look really dismal on me anyway, but I'm still imagining that I could look good again. If only I could lose 10 lbs and have glowing skin and hair again, I'd trade that for a few new dresses.

I'm still on my Madewell kick and have my eye on this shirt. I saw it in the store and the fabric is soft (like a fine, lightweight cotton flannel). I'm waiting for it to go on sale (and for the extra discounts they offer online) and hoping that I don't look like a plump middle-aged mum in a tent but rather something more stylish.

Alternatively, there's this dress in the same fabric. I've already got the same cut in the summer striped cotton and would probably size down in this (no need for as much fabric when it's cooler). It all depends on which looks less matronly on. Hopefully they do the shirt in another similar fabric (Madewell typically repeat their cuts) and I can get both--on sale.

I'm also curious about this cotton Madewell dress. It could be flattering, but equally, I could end up looking huge. Again, I'm more than happy to wait for a sale + coupon code.

I'm going to have to try these on, but if they are comfortable, I want to get these Oxfords. They come with (optional) laces.

I like this dress from Zara but will it like me? It's either going to be super flattering on hideous!

Monday, September 22, 2014

One More

From the first issue of Photo-Play Journal (not to be confused with the far better known Photoplay). I just love these graphics. It's nice to spend some time back in the mid 1910s again, this time for a different project. Writing the second book is so much less pressured--I feel I know what I'm doing and am happy to be doing it, even if I have to be more strategic with my time.

The second issue also had a pretty amazing masthead over its table of contents:

This vampire version further demonstrates their care and attention to style.

Of course, the cover art was also quite lovely.

Things You Find When Conducting Research

I'm deeply involved in researching and writing the next book, which is really fun and energising. I came across this ad (unrelated to my topic) which I had to share (from Picture-Play magazine, sometime in 1916).

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Some Autumn Picks I: Severin

Here's the first of two posts on a few of the pieces I'm looking at for Severin and myself this autumn. I've included here some of the items I've already bought for him. I'm trying not to spend too much on my own clothing as I'm still feeling out of shape and tired (the only mothers of very active 20 month old boys who aren't are those who have infinite financial resources and endless help).

I've already mentioned how difficult it is to find nice clothes for young boys--and if it's hard when they are under one, it only gets worse as they grow. Severin is huge (off the scale for height and in the 80th percentile for weight--so tall and reasonably slender), wearing age 2-3 for the past few months which basically puts him in the last size for good toddler clothing (Boden, Frugi). We've already abandoned Baby Gap as their offerings for larger infants and toddlers suck. It's predominantly navy, black, grey and dull colours, macho or logo/slogan covered clothes and too many denim, canvas and other unyielding fabrics. At 20 months, his skin is still soft and his clothes should be too. I want bright colours, quirky styles, stripes, polka dots and stars, and, honestly, I'd like those options for a good few more years (retailers--wake up!). H&M basics does some really great striped t-shirts and long sleeved tops--cheap and in soft organic cotton. They go up to age 8 or so, which means I've got at least one affordable option as he grows. Curiously, their less basic line is worse in its styling, colour choices, fabrics and finish for a somewhat higher price. And Zara offers some nice pieces but the quality isn't as good and they are pretty overpriced.

Here are the H&M shirts I bought him (at just under $14 for three, they are a great deal--I wish they had them in my size).

H&M also do some nice bright coloured cotton trousers for older boys (yellow, purple, green, bright red) but those are for the future. Right now, I'm keeping him in his jersey shorts and trousers which have the added advantage of working well as shorts as he grows taller. My style inspiration for the future, older Severin comes from a 20-something Asian guy who was walking past our building wearing yellow narrow fit pants, rolled up to just above his ankle, a white Comme des Garçons Play long, loose fit t-shirt and a long, navy cardigan. The bright pants did it and I'm grateful that we crossed paths with such a stylish figure.

Most of my toddler picks are from Boden, which has become our staple Severin shop. We get a lot on sale. Although they don't allow you to double up their coupon codes with reduced merchandise, the codes sometimes get you clothing cheaper than on final markdown so we buy relatively often. As it's $50 minimun for free shipping, we opt for a mix of final sale and new items with coupon codes (this is the royal we, I realise, as I'm the one doing the shopping, not him). It's one of the few places where I find more items I want for him than I could ever afford to buy, and more than he'll actually need before he grows into the next size. Here are a few covets--and a couple of purchases.

What can I say? I want them all. The colours and appliques are so charming. And these are just three of a large list of similar items.

I've already bought him the shirt below--it's soft and it looks lovely on. Who can resist mummy and baby owls?

It will go perfectly with these trousers, all bought on sale. The darker ones are Mini Boden, and great for playtime at the park, but they lack the softness and style of the baby line.

Alas, the party will soon be over. When Severin grows out of baby Boden, then it's Mini Boden time which, alas, isn't so hot. The colours become more muted, the fabrics are not so soft and there is a definite strong masculinity that I would like to avoid until he makes it into High School at 11 (or even later if possible).

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Rest In Peace, Joan

A few years ago, Evan and I went to see Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work. I have to admit that, until then, I wasn't a fan. I didn't really know what she did other than red carpet commentary, and that she tended to work with her daughter. I was also familiar with the very 1980s images of her in ruffled Dynasty-style evening dresses and furs and had decided (on no evidence) that she was probably arch, unfunny and likely very irritating. I was wrong on all counts. After seeing the film, I realised why my friend Jane (with her own razor sharp wit and uniquely rude but loving demeanor) identified so closely with Joan Rivers, other than politically, of course. Another surprise in that film--that Joan was a Republican, something still unfathomable to me.

From that screening on, I became a fan. I watched Fashion Police every Friday before going to bed, watching with Jane, Ben, Evan (who couldn't tolerate the others but accepted Joan) or Margo in her living room in Clapham. Sometimes I'd save it for later and watch on my own. And many times, I'd call Jane (or think of her) when Joan was particularly outrageous. I'd marvel at how someone in their 80s could get ever younger, even as their face became more like that of a drag queen. On her, it worked.

She just seemed so young, so energetic and so witty and outrageous. It seems hard to believe that a small medical procedure could kill like that and so very sad. Words really fail me--we will miss you Joan. If Jane was in NYC, I know she'd try to gatecrash your funeral.