21 February 2010

Car culture

We've been a one-car family since the Buick Century blew a head gasket in '07 and would cost $1100 to fix. We just couldn't stomach that kind of repair on a car that wasn't completely necessary. V was still wee then, and Shaun was a stay-at-home dad with part time work, and my teaching schedule helped us just trade off the Mazda. It meant that when Shaun worked weekends, V and I were either stuck here or had to break out the stroller, and when I was teaching, Shaun and V had to wait for me to bring milk home after class or walk the 8 blocks to Hornbacher's.
But then V started pre-school (a year and a half ago, now) and my classes started coming around 1pm instead of 3, which made things considerably more complicated. Plus V wanted to play with folks on the weekends, and when Shaun was working, V's friends either had to come here or we were out of luck. And when we did travel anywhere, to the cities or the in-laws, for example, I was a little bit nervous in the Mazda: I bought that car new in 2001, and I still love it, but with 174,000 miles on it, it just seemed like too much of a gamble sometimes, being 200 miles from home with a child in the backseat of that car. So I consulted with my car-loving cousin, Jonathan, and we talked about what we wanted in a car (a bit more room, but not mini-van level; reliability; low miles), what I wanted (something unusual, with good mileage), and what Shaun wanted (an automatic!). I found this 2008 Scion xB at a dealership 34 blocks from our house, and after test driving Beth and Chris (Shaun's sister and her husband)'s Scion, I was pretty well sold. The Scion xB is listed as a wagon, but it's kind of like a shrunken mini-van: the seats are upright, and the backseat is way roomier than our Mazda Protege, which is hugely important when your 4 year old is taller than average and has a kicking habit.
It's the kind of car that people either think is repulsive or awesome; I'm in the awesome camp, though many of my closest family members disagree. I'm just happy that I can go grocery shopping now anytime I'm not at work, regardless of where Shaun needs to be. And this gold color is soooo easy to spot in a parking lot. I just really like it.

At the same time, I feel totally indulgent and also grateful that my job allows this new expense. I promise to take good care of it, and if any one of you needs a ride, you should let me know.
Now, with this fancy car, I found myself drawn to the car accessories aisle at Target. There I found lots of extra cup holders (which we don't need), CD cases (which I bought), and a fabric trash holder for $17.99 (which I find ridiculous). So I came home and made one instead.

I like the idea of a fabric trash bag because I would do anything to keep this car reasonably clean, and I have that serious fabric obsession we've discussed. Plus, unlike the Target version, I could chose colors and materials myself, and get the exact size I wanted. I chose a mid-weight upolstry fabric for the outside, and some rip-stop nylon for the inside, all of which I had in my sewing room. This made a tough, lovely bag that was also totally washable. What's not to like about that? I gave it a pocket (because who doesn't love pockets?) and I sewed on an elastic loop to connect it to the back of the passenger's headrest: I can easily reach it while driving (and V can keep her area tidy, too).
Here you can see the rip-stop lining. Rip-stop is fairly thin but totally durable, and even if I toss my scissor collection in there, it won't ruin the bag.

What I liked about the Target version was that it had a rigid circle on top, so it's easy to throw small or large things in. But how to replicate that at home? At first I thought I'd wrangle a wire hanger, or even bend some thin plywood. But down in my craftroom, I found an oval embroidery hoop that was the perfect size. I just unscrewed it and slid it through the casing, then screwed it shut again. And then, though the lining is waterproof, I thought "Why not use the other half of the hoop, and make cleanup even easier?" and attached a plastic grocery sack. It's not as aestetically pleasing, I think, and I try really hard to use reusable grocery bags, so we may run out of these as liners, but for now, I'm awfully proud of myself.

And since I saved $17.99 on this project, I think I'm going to try to find a nice hula dancer for the dashboard. Or something. Maybe if I took some of that leftover easter grass, and V's unplayed-with barbie doll....


Megan said...

I think it's perfect for a creative mama like yourself! And that's the nicest darn car garbage receptacle I've ever seen!

Shirley said...

Now, in your "spare time" you can start making Xmas presents for "all" of your relatives.

You know, I have all those materials in my stash; perhaps I should get back to sewing, though not nearly as creatively! I purchased an ebay sewing machine just like the one that died the day before I had knee surgery but I had to take it to my friendly sewing machine professional for internal adjustments. If it works, I'm back in business. If not, I may be machine shopping again.

Love to see all your projects, Jen. I should pass on much of my stash to you and your sister!!

Shirley said...

I forgot to say anything about your awesome car! I love it. That is my kind of car. Enjoy.

Jess said...

Yeah, so I'm not crazy about the color. I had the opportunity to purchase a urine colored Accent when I bought my car new but I turned that down as well - granted your car would probably in need of some serious antibiotics if it were a human. Despite the crazy color I'm excited for my first ride in it. Maybe we will play sometime. Brad pointed out the parking lot benefit earlier today after we left your house. Well, he mentioned it makes it easier to avoid you while shopping - HA! (not really, he's not that mean. But I am)

Shirley said...

Love the sisterly banter! Happy you haven't changed that much with old age!!

Anonymous said...

Jen...When your mom told me about the color of the car she said it looked like baby poop...and we all have certainly seen enough of that the past few years. I knew just what she was talking about. I like the color (of course that is from someone who is driving a yellow car referred to as the "Duckie")and am looking forward to a ride our next trip northward. I am so excited you are coming for a visit my dear. Gma S

Anonymous said...

by the way I never have trouble finding the "Duckie" in any parking lot. Gma s