Tag Archive | learning process

Live and Learn

Far be it from me to ever lead you to believe that everything I make turns out awesome every time. It’s not “crafting fearlessly” if I’m too cowardly to discuss mistakes or shouldabins. So let’s go back and look at a few of the things I’ve made over the past year and see how they’ve worked out.

The infamous thumb holster

I made two of these last summer to cover Rana’s thumbs in an attempt to keep her from sucking them. First lesson learned: There is a reason why sinew (real or fake) is used to sew leather. The thread repeatedly wore through and I ended up having to repair these several times. The concept was good and actually worked up until the point where Rana “lost” the covers sometime this winter. I recently found one in the bushes outside. heh. And wouldn’t you know it, now it doesn’t fit her anymore. She’s a cagey one.

Little corduroy pants

These pants were among the slew of clothes that I made for Rana at the beginning of the school year (that seems forever ago!). Something was never right about the crotch so they were uncomfortable for her to wear. Fortunately, there was a solution! I took out the crotch seam, whacked the pants off at the knees and made it into a skirt. It was a cute little skirt. Unfortunately, it cramped Rana’s playground style — too hard to climb stuff — so she never wore the skirt. I guess I should just give it to Granota.

Falilla the Fairy

This fairy doll was Granota’s 4th birthday present back in September! She was not met with the excitement that I had anticipated, but after a couple of days Granota fell in love with her and named her Falilla. Falilla looks so pretty here; it’s almost a shame what she looks like now. Granota insisted that I put her hair in a ponytail so that it would be out of the way of her wings. Now Falilla is losing copious amounts of hair. I’m going to try to run a line of fabric glue along the underside of her roots to slow down the balding. It’s a good thing I gave her so much hair to start with. Interestingly enough, Jessie the cowgirl doll that I made for Rana has not had any hair-loss issues. Maybe Falilla needs a fairy hat.

Looks beautiful, not practical

In November, I made each of the girls a new winter coat. These coats, as you can see, are very full. Wonderful for twirling, not wonderful for buckling into car seats. The other problem is that I did not make the center front pieces wide enough — they just barely overlap enough to button. That means it is highly likely that these coats won’t fit the girls next year. In a way, that’s ok, because I am pretty sick of struggling to get everything flattened and mashed down enough to get them buckled into the car. If we lived in Europe and walked or took public everywhere, these coats would be fantastic, but as it is, I’m going to have to use a different pattern this fall.

Not all they’re cracked up to be

March brought my attempt at recycling all the broken crayon bits in my kids’ coloring box. I melted them down in muffin cups and right off the bat I could tell these weren’t going to be as awesome as I had hoped. As you can see, they were already beginning to break after they had cooled. I’m pretty sure that there is not one left whole anymore, which pretty much defeated the whole purpose of melting the little bits together.


Most recently are the new pajama pants I made. I had this ingenious idea to elasticate the cuffs. Y’know, to keep them from riding up and twisting around my knees at night. Well guess what? I didn’t make the pant legs long enough, so once I bent my knees, the cuff rode up and then got stuck right around my calves. Thanks, elastic. The other night it was driving me so nuts, I seriously considered going downstairs and taking it out right then and there at 2 a.m. But since the cabin is basically one giant room, I knew Mr. Gren wouldn’t appreciate me turning on the light; so I just toughed it out the rest of the night. But the elastic is out now! Hopefully it will feel better tonight. I think it was still a good idea, but next time I’ll know to add some extra length in the pant legs.

So there you have it. A little rundown of some of my not-so-perfect projects. It’s all a learning process, isn’t it?

French Friday #24: Why I don’t drive a stick-shift

Over the last three weeks, Mr. Gren has had to chauffeur me everywhere because the car I drive had died. Why can’t I drive his car? Because it is a stick-shift. And why can’t I drive a stick-shift? Because I am inept. Believe me, I’ve tried. It just doesn’t work out for me. There’s just something about adding an extra foot and an autonomous hand into the mix that eludes me. I couldn’t be a drummer for the same reason. Sewing machine: One pedal, two hands working together. Automatic vehicle: One foot, two pedals, two hands working together. Drum sets and standard cars: every limb doing something different equals disaster waiting to happen. So I’ve been handicapped for the past three weeks by not having a vehicle I could operate. No big deal. While we lived in France, I didn’t drive for three years. I wasn’t quite as handicapped because the public transportation is fabulous (as long as the drivers aren’t on strike), but that’s a post for another day.

There did come a time, though, towards the end of our three years, that I was compelled to drive a stick. It wasn’t pretty. But I’ll get to that in a minute. First, to set the scene.

Mr. Gren had a rare week of vacation that we chose to use on a little driving tour from Paris towards the south of France. Rana was a baby at the time and had already made several journeys in her short life. And we had learned from the experience that, if she felt comfortable in the place where we stayed, she would sleep well. And for new parents, sleeping well is the holy grail of life. We booked our trip to stay at a series of Formule 1 motels in each of the cities we intended to visit. My first experience with Formule 1 was during my study abroad. Our program director had planned an excursion to Chamonix and we stayed in a Formule 1. I learned later that they are a subsidiary of Accor Hotels, which also owns Motel 6, but Formule 1 is infinitely cooler and more space-agey than any Motel 6 I’ve stayed at.

No race car beds, unfortunately.

First, every room is the same, right down to the blue and orange comforters on the beds. It doesn’t matter if you are in room 105 or 205, in Lyon or Dijon, they are all exactly the same. The sleeping arrangements consist of a double bed with a perpendicular twin bunk across the head. In one corner is a tiny little table with a chair and in the next corner is a little sink and mirror. A TV is mounted on the wall and that’s your room! Did you catch all that? Notice anything missing? There’s no microwave (that’s in the lobby), no coffee pot (there’s a vending machine for that, also in the lobby), and, oh yeah, no bathroom. Here’s where the adventure starts.

Rana enjoying an unopened can of Coke in Dijon. Or Lyon. Or anywhere, really.

Each wing of the motel has a bank of 2 to 4 bathrooms. Over the door to each bathroom are two lights — a green one and a red one. Think traffic lights, which is essentially what they are. The bathrooms are a step up from the floor. Once you go in, you’ll find yourself in a large tile room with a dividing wall between the toilet and the shower head. So, you do your business, take your shower all to the constant whirring of fans and motors in the wall and ceiling. It’s like being in the world’s most spacious airplane stall. All that whirring and humming really kicks in once you leave the bathroom. The door automatically locks behind you and the bathroom goes through a self-cleaning cycle, spraying sanitizer over the entire room, then rinsing it and drying it. Apart from the noise, the red light above the door tells you that it’s not a good time to go in. I always thought the self-cleaning was actually kind of ingenious. I never found weird or questionable things in a Formule 1 bathroom.

(From here on out, I will pepper this post with random pictures of Dijon that we took on our way back to Paris. I have no idea what these buildings are, but they look cool.)

So, the reason we chose Formule 1 was because of its predictability. We figured we could fool Rana into thinking we were sleeping in the same place every night. And you know what? It worked! The downfall to our vacation was that it rained nearly every day. It was hard to justify wandering around an unfamiliar city in the rain with a baby in tow. In Dijon, our Formule 1 was inconveniently located on the far outer reaches of the fringe of the most modern part of the city (read: industrial). In other words, not near a thing worth seeing. The motel was in a huge parking lot shared by an enormous grocery store and an athletic wear store (we spent a fair amount of time in there out of sheer boredom and to buy Rana a jacket for the lousy weather). It was an ideal place for the circus to set up camp. We didn’t have any money to actually go see the circus, but anyone who wanted was allowed to walk through the makeshift animal corrals and visit the zebras and camels. And we did. They were under a tent, so it was one of the few dry activities we had open to us.

Hello, camels

The next day, we decided to hit the road earlier than we had originally planned since there was no point in sitting in our Formule 1 room to watch the rain. Mr. Gren drove us over to the grocery store where he was going to go get us some sandwiches for lunch while I nursed Rana in the car. It had been raining all morning, but less than a minute after Mr. Gren entered the store, the sky unleashed a pounding, watery fury like I had never seen before. Even Rana was impressed enough to stop nursing and watch. The water cascaded down the windows of the parked car with such force that I couldn’t see a thing outside. It was worse than going through a car wash and nearly as noisy. Several minutes passed. Rana finished nursing and I buckled her back into her seat and waited for Mr. Gren. Several more minutes passed and the torrent hadn’t let up one drop. I pictured him, standing forlornly at the door to the store, just waiting for a break long enough to sprint to the car. I kept waiting for a lull, but it never seemed to come. Finally, I made a momentous decision: I would drive the car — the stick-shift car — up to the front of the store to meet Mr. Gren.

I didn’t get it started on the first try. The second time, it did start and I got it into gear and slowly heaved out of the parking space. With the windshield wipers whipping, I could see in front of me. Like a drunk rabbit with a broken leg, the car lurched and staggered through the parking lot. Amazingly, I didn’t kill the engine, but it couldn’t have been a pretty sight from the outside. Now, I could see in front of me, but I couldn’t see a thing through the water sheeting down the sides of the car. So, what I didn’t see when I began this odyssey was that Mr. Gren was a mere 15 yards away from us, meaning he had already traversed 2/3 of the massive parking lot. In the pouring rain. With an armful of groceries because, oh yeah, this store didn’t use bags. Mr. Gren knows full well that I don’t drive a stick, so you can imagine his surprise and horror at seeing the car pull away when he was oh, so close. He watched helplessly as I drove (in the loosest definition of the word) down the next aisle of the parking lot, then bolted after me in a desperate attempt to catch my attention. Meanwhile, I cruised past the front of the store, looking hard for my stranded husband, but when I didn’t see him waiting in the doorway as I had imagined, I decided to keep on driving around until I saw him come out because I was afraid I’d never get the car going again if I stopped. So down another aisle I turned, moseying along just fast enough to stay out of Mr. Gren’s reach. From his point of view, his unpredictable wife was defying all logic and allowing him, and our lunch, to become a soggy mess in the process.

As I was meandering through the parking lot, a strange figure caught my eye through the moire effect the rain made on the windows. It looked a lot like a salmon jumping upstream, tail paddling furiously as its body wriggled and thrashed. A large… man-shaped salmon. Hampered by an armful of sandwiches and drinks. And bellowing. “Oh!” I thought, “He must have been standing in the door after all and came out when he saw me drive by.” I pulled into a parking space and climbed over the stick to allow Mr. Gren to get in.

“I’ve been following you all over this parking lot!! Didn’t you see me?! What were you doing?!”
“Well… I saw you now. [sheepish grin] I was trying to be helpful… How long were you following me?”

When he told me that he had nearly reached the car when I began my epic journey, I started giggling hysterically. The mental image of him chasing a bucking car up and down a parking lot in a torrential downpour was just too good. That’s sitcom fodder right there.

Five and a half years later, I still giggle hysterically when I remember this story. Mr. Gren still just gives me a wry smile. And that’s why I don’t drive a stick-shift.