Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween Sneak Peak

To make up for my extreme verbosity this week, just a few pictures today...I do just want to say that, despite the military-heavy emphasis of the costumes this year, I was very happy to not be up till midnight every night this week sewing butterfly wings. All I had to do was make E's vest and facilitate M's papier-mache helmet construction. Yay!
The Soldier

The Marine:

And the Cowboy:

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Morning Bags and Mama Bag

I call these Morning Bags, because I made them Monday morning before we went for our hike. A couple of weekends ago we stopped at a fabric store after soccer and on our way to get a birthday present. Immediately upon entering the store E saw this beautiful orange fabric, which appealed directly to my taste, so of course I said he could have a fat quarter of it, to make something out of. Then of course I had to let Z and M choose a fat quarter. M found this really ugly taupe/black/maroon abstract floral print (that he considered somewhat camouflagey), and I could not convince him to wait and let me look for real camouflage at another store (yes it is bad enough I would prefer to sew cammo). Z of course wanted more of what M picked out, but I talked him into/tricked him into choosing a print with cute raccoons on it (he was sufficiently distracted by a plate of cookies, but later got pretty mad at me. He got over it and I'm sure we'll both be happier with the raccoons). Only when I went to check out did I find out E's fabric was $4.50 for a fat quarter! By then it was too late to reverse the whole process (and I really did like it), so I went ahead and bought it feeling thankful I didn't grab one for myself too.

Monday morning our friend called to say she wouldn't make it hiking with us after all, and I was waiting for the doctor to call (finally doing something about the persistent cough), so our time pressures were somewhat relaxed, and I found myself at the sewing machine making little Christmas trees (don't ask) when Z found me out and announced he wanted to make his raccoon bag (he was over the ugly fabric by this time). I went with a quick no measuring, no ironing, eyeballing method: folded the quarter in half length-wise, cut enough off the top to make it proportionally pleasing, used some of the cut-off bit for a pocket on the lining (we went with an olive-greeny ticking stripe of which I have several acres of half-yards cut into quarters vertically), sewed the bottom/sides, put in a gusset in the bottom, added straps (twill tape that came wrapped around a tablecloth I recently purchased at TJ Maxx), sewed the inside to the outside, inside-out; turned it right-side out and top-stitched around the top.

By this time E had found us out and declared he wanted his bag too, and would not be put off, even when I reminded him that I had just made his cowboy vest on Sunday. We finally compromised that I would make the outside of his bag now, and finish the inside later. Finally Tuesday afternoon, when I'd slipped up to my room for a little rest, E found me and asked me to finish the bag (persistent little bugger!). I asked what he wanted for a lining and he said "stripes." I found two fat quarters of yellow strips that my mom had sent me when I was doing a patchwork pillow in yellow stripes and couldn't find any around here (by then I was done with the pillow, but it's getting a bit worn, and I have enough yellow stripes to make a few more). He wanted it to be "really pretty," so he picked yellow and white and green stripes for the lining and tiny yellow stripes for the pocket. I have to say, I'm a sucker for any of my boys wanting anything "pretty." I sipped through the last few steps, trying to finish before we had to get M off the bus, encouraging Z to go find his socks and put them on and hoping I heard wrong when E said he would go to the bus after he put his shoes on (I didn't--he was there, waiting for us and the bus when we got there...I had to assess why I was so concerned about him being out by the road by himself, after all I played near our street every day growing up, and found it was less about him running in the road, getting lost, or being kidnapped, and more concern about what other people would think seeing a four-year-old alone at the end of a long driveway with no house in sight...gotta get over that!)
It turns out the bags are reversible (I didn't even plan that!). Here's the inside of E's:

And here he is wearing it in the manner both of them prefer--as a backpack (at first I thought the two sets of straps would be annoying, but they lend themselves perfectly to modification):

And here's Z's peaking out the bottom of his jacket:

Since my boys got new bags, I needed one too. Actually the truth is I checked out a copy of Handmade Home from the library, and I'm feeling quite unnaturally obsessed with making EVERY SINGLE THING in it (god I can't wait until it's due back at the library!). I rummaged in my fabric boxes and found this quite ridiculous decorator fabric remnant (I have quite a few that I was buying for $1 at a nearby store for some reason), some minute blue checked cotton and a leg cut off of an old pair of blue jeans. Within a couple of hours I had whipped out the Mommy Bag.

Although it is not really my style or color (practically everything I own is green or orange), it is growing on my (I was lying in bed last night with it slung casually over my shoulder...). I like its sort of retro-look--I feel like I should load it up with cigarettes, lighter and ash tray and go driving off with my kids standing on their heads in the back seat (there's that Shirley Jackson influence again). Instead maybe I should stick a notebook and pen and go off somewhere and write, because all this crafting is severely distracting me from writing (look...I've even given up refusing to use the word "craft" as a verb!)

Papier Mache

I had been hoping to send C off with the boys for the soccer round Robin Saturday so I could bag a half-dozen hikes for the Other Blog before hunting season, snow and general hiking-unfriendly weather set in. However, when the forecast called for two inches of rain, soccer was postponed and C planned a day of work at a friend's house, I switched gears into full-project-mode.

I began the day helping M with his rainforest animal project, which was due Monday. Helping M with homework is always a challenge, and despite my efforts to walk gently on the eggshells, I always end up breaking a few. When it had been assigned three weeks earlier, M came home and immediately completed the worksheet portion of the assignment. He showed it to me and I made the mistake of not praising his work and efforts before pointing out the part where he had misunderstood the directions. This was followed by much wailing of "You hate me! I'm stupid!" et cetera, ad nauseum. We put the project away for a bit, and I kept slipping the "buy posterboard" from my mental list, resulting in our late start. Our efforts began well, watching videos of giant centipedes devouring snakes and tarantulas on You Tube, and making notes of facts from Wikipedia (god, how did parents do these things before the Internet? Libraries?), but the waterworks began immediately upon sitting down with our posterboard. Last year I let M lead the way and do his posters how he wanted (and thus could feel superior to the kids' whose posters looked like they'd been put together as a display for Scrappers Paradise or some such store), but this time I thought I'd introduce him to the concept of planning, making a sketch and deciding what you want to include before touching pencil to poster. After setting things aside (again) for lunch, we were able to come up with a plan, M drew a centipede and we found C's letter stencils for the title. He got it partially colored and then we put it aside for completion Sunday in favor of the much anticipated making of an Army helmet.

I followed the papier mache bowl instructions and paste recipe in Handmade Home, which are fairly straightforward (although I probably would never have thought of the plastic wrap and would have bowls permanently encased in paper and paste). M got to work on a bowl about the right size for his head and E and I set to work on bowls of our own. Z preferred to draw, but became interested at about the point E gave up on his, so I had to put him off while I finished both E's and my bowl (working on two bowls at once is doable, but three would be a bit much).

All three kids loved this project (using a paint brush rather than one's fingers--which is how we've done it in the past--made it much more tolerable to M who doesn't like gooey stuff on his hands), but E and Z ran out of interest quickly, and I got to finish theirs, which is fine, since I was having a great time. For some reason my phone always rings off the hook when I'm up to my elbows in slime (happily one of those calls was C, offering to bring home Thai food, leaving me off the hook for dinner and giving us the time needed to finish).
I don't have any process photos, because I didn't want to take the time to look for the camera, and it was dark and gloomy all day (those two inches of rain remember), so they wouldn't be much to look at. Fortunately the sun came out Sunday and Monday, drying the bowls out (I did take them off the forms a bit prematurely, hoping they would dry faster--M's bowl/helmet, by far the thickest and wettest warped a bit, which was fine with him because we ended up using a rubber band to warp it more into an oval shape, and some of the tissue paper tore from the inside of E's--but otherwise, they turned out really cool. It's shocking how light they felt when they came off the mold, after carting heavy Pyrex bowls to various sunny spots, I somehow expected the papier mache to be heavy too (and I really love writing papier mache).

Here are our final products:

E chose the pink flower and teal tissue paper...I love that one of my kids likes something other than camouflage once in a while. Z's is the red-white-and-blue on the far right (my patriotic boy).

And, of course the soldier helmet, which M says "looks like a bowl." Hmm. I told him to pretend he'd been hit in the head by a shell, which made a perfectly flat dent on top. Stay tuned for a picture of the final, painted project on the Junior G.I.'s head.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Imagine Childhood

Check out my Nature Walk photos over on the Imagine Childhood blog (and while you're there, peruse all the other lovely blog posts then head over to their store to do a bit of drooling).

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Very Long Post in Which I Improve My Health by Being Negative

A friend of mine (who is a doctor) recently wrote in her zine that people who write about upsetting experiences and negative emotions have lower incidence of illness as well as fewer symptoms and side effects from disease treatments. So, since I’m on a roll about my general crankiness this week, I figure why not make it three-for-three and really build up my immune system (and here I was wasting all that money on Chinese herbs, zinc and elderberry).

Yesterday did not begin well. On Wednesday, E and Z had decked themselves out in several articles of M’s camouflage clothing which they mined from the foothills of Mt. Laundry. They looked cute, in a disturbing kind of way—Z in green sweat pants, with cammo shorts over them (because I wouldn’t let him out of the house in just the shorts), a cammo t-shirt, dark green button-down, Rambo belt and John Deere cammo baseball hat; E wore olive green cords (on top of plaid shorts for some inexplicable reason), a long-sleeved cammo T-shirt and a black US Army baseball hat (for the record, I want it to be known that I have in no way shape or form played a roll in bringing all of this military goodness into my home, except possibly the long-sleeved shirt and shorts, which may have come home with me from a friend’s hand-me downs).

When we all got home from parent-teacher conferences that night, M repossessed most of his gear, and Z proceeded to cry, wail and gnash his teeth for the ensuing hour, with a brief break for the reading of two chapters of The Pearl and the Pumpkin. Upon waking Thursday morning he immediately lit into his melt-down, as if the intervening ten hours of sleep had been just a hiccup in his cry-a-thon. I managed to get everyone dressed and out the door without wearing any articles of contraband (it was Pajama day at preschool and therefore should have been an easy morning for getting ready, but all of my kids unreasonably refuse to wear their jammies in public), but not without several more minor meltdowns over things like jacket choice, mitten options and car seat selection.

Needless to say we were very late and had to contend with crowded parking lot and coat room conditions at preschool, but finally I handed off my charges and proceeded to the office, only to return four hours later to retrieve said progeny for a trip to the dentist (rescheduled from last August, as it fell in the middle of our vacation). Dentist visit went well; teeth looked good (unlike M, E and Z have always been relatively cooperative about nightly brushing—I did not mention that I do not have it in me to attempt morning brushing with them…shhh). I was able to hand back the vinyl bag the hygienist handed me, taking only the tubes of Crest (which, once my kids try it, will probably turn them off of Tom’s of Maine forever), stupid flossing sticks (for teeth set widely enough apart to render flossing kind of unnecessary—besides don’t those things just spread bacteria from one tooth space to another?), and new toothbrushes. Unfortunately, on the way out, they scored Mylar Halloween bags and a couple handfuls of stickers (would our dentist bills be less if they did not buy all of this crap to hand out to our kids? Do they really need a sticker for just sitting with their mouths open for ten minutes?).

Afterward we headed to the health food store, where, when I lifted my full grocery bags off the counter after I paid, I knocked a bag of Jacob’s Cattle Beans which the customer behind me was waiting to purchase, onto the floor, and the bag split along the side seam, sending beans in all directions. After apologizing profusely and making I half-hearted attempt to clean them up, I went to the grocery store, where I was to meet C and hand off the kids.

On our way into the store the twins spied the car cart and proceeded to have a fist fight over who would get to sit in the spot with the horn on the wheel (whoever invented the car cart ought to be shot numerous times in multiple, non-lethal places). As I attempted to calmly and quietly straighten them out the people waiting to redeem their cans and bottles smiled patronizingly at me. “I have two grandkids,” one guys said, “I know what it’s like.” Fork you. I managed to sort them out, making Z who was causing all the fuss sit on the seat with no horn, and we avoided further fisticuffs as I collected my groceries and went through the express lane. C, late as usual, met us in the parking lot, I gave him the kids and the groceries, and, when informed that he would not have time to pick up milk at the farm, went back into the store for milk (running into the guy from the redemption counter in an aisle, who smiled patronizingly at me again and repeated his grandchild platitude). From there I went to the library, where I spent a quiet half hour reading Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson, which is most entertaining (although the regular references to full ash trays are a bit disconcerting, until one reminds oneself that this was the 1940s).

After the library closed I went to my friend’s weekly knitting and craft night, imbibed on braised greens pie, brie cheese, cookies and mulled wine, enjoyed chatting with a diverse group of women and even got two birds closer to the felted flock I’m creating for Christmas. Arriving home rather late, and feeling a bit tired and cranky, I found that only the perishable grocery items had been put away. As I rummaged in the bags, looking for the Calendula cream I had bought, a bag of popcorn fell to the floor and split up the side, emptying its contents on the floor, in an eerie replay of the earlier bean incident. I recovered about three-quarters of the bag and scooped it in a Tupperware, but swept up the rest for the compost (thinking about how if it were The Long Winter, Laura and Mary surely would have picked every kernel out of the dust and hair, and feeling guilty that I wasn’t).

I decided I may as well put away the rest of the groceries, feeling irritated that when I’m home alone with the kids I manage to cook for them, clean up and get them to bed at a decent hour, while when C is alone, he takes them out to dinner, puts them to bed late and can’t even bother to put away the groceries. As I finally crawled into bed, around 11 p.m. (which is a good two hours later than I need to go to bed in order to get up when I need to get up in order to get to preschool when I need to get to preschool in order to get to work on time), it came to me that I might have once read that Shirley Jackson, whose mysteries I read ravenously when I was younger (I only recently discovered she also wrote about motherhood) had committed suicide, and that’s why The Haunting of Hill House or maybe Come Along With Me was never finished, and this thought kept me awake and troubled—how could someone with so much talent and with four kids want to take her life? How old were her kids when she died? Was it even true? (I resisted temptation to go downstairs and turn on the computer to find out; but I did look it up today and found out that, though she did not commit suicide, she did die of heart failure at age 48, which is itself tragic, of course, and that Come Along with Me was the unfinished book published by her husband posthumously. I also found out that though I thought I had read all of her books, I only had read the ones my Mom had in our bookshelves, and that there are several more out there to add to the list).

A day that started with crying and ended with gloomy thoughts—though with a few bright spots in the middle, most notably some Me time and an evening among friends—a day not unlike many days around here.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Last night we had parent-teacher conferences. I usually go into these reminding myself that probably 90% of who M is I can in no way take credit for, except insofar as mate selection and mitosis (or is it meiosis?) are concerned. The other 10%, OK, I'll grant to extended breastfeeding, a decent bedtime, healthful food, a lifetime of reading books and other meager, but usually inadequate-seeming efforts at being a creative and engaged parent (oh, yes, and C's involvement as well). This helps keep me from puffing up to much as M's teachers sing his praises.

After Ms. N went over M's school performance and as we were preparing to leave, she said something along the lines of “keep doing what you’re doing,” which I attempted to brush off. Then she related that she hears a lot from M about spending time with his parents DOING things, and that she doesn't hear that a lot from kids, but rather about how they go home and watch TV or play video games.

She mentioned in particular how I had helped him put fabric over a helmet for his Halloween costume.
She was referring to Tuesday afternoon, when, still feeling residual crankiness from the weekend, and just wanting my kids to DO something already, without involving me, so I could make an attempt on Mount Laundry before embarking on Dinner Drudgery, I found myself instead being pulled in all directions, being begged to play and help. So I gave up on my agenda, sat on the floor and played two rounds of Go Fish with E and Z, then set them up with a game of memory and proceeded to help M with part of his Halloween costume—covering a toy hard hat with fabric to make it look like an Army helmet. The fabric he had chosen—a tan and olive ticking stripe—was not quite wide enough and we had to try piecing it together with safety pins, and the final result was less than convincing (it looked more like an old man's driving hat when we were done.

I'm afraid I went into the whole thing—Go Fish game, helmet construction—with a big sigh, probably radiating irritation that I had to actually be INVOLVED with my kids for an afternoon. And look at the impression—a memory made. Mom helped me make an Army helmet with a hard hat and safety pins. He may remember it the rest of his life, or he may forget it instantly (the way he forgot the loaves of bread that come out of the oven weekly, or the plate of popovers I had just placed on the table when, as I put a pan of chocolate cupcakes in the oven for the PTA bake sale he complained, “How come you never bake anything for US?”). Even if I can’t claim responsibility for A’s (or, as it were, E’s) in school, these moments add up to something.

I've been feeling unappreciated and sorry for myself lately, and not quite up to the task I've set out for myself of creating the kind of magical childhood I wish my kids could have. The constant war play defeats me. The fact that M wrote 'The Cartoon Network' as his favorite TV show on one of his school papers, even though we don't even have cable. My vision of how I want it and the way it really is never aligns. And I will always feel woefully inadequate compared to the homeschooling, book-writing, crafting supermoms whose blogs I torture, er inspire, myself with. Yet I can see that my efforts—even the half-hearted begrudging ones—make a difference.

So after we got home from conferences, having slunk up to my room to lie down while C made dinner (feeling ill with out-of-whack blood sugar thanks to eating an inadequate lunch and then having a cupcake and as much of a peanut butter ball as I could stuff down before my kids caught me and stole it away) when I heard C reprimand E for playing with the woodstove, I remembered that we had talked about building a house on the drive home, and came downstairs and sat on the floor for half an hour, stacking blocks into castles and barns, arranging wooden animals and knights. It kept E out of mischief and made me feel both relaxed and virtuous, and maybe, just maybe it will make a memory.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sorted Out

I spent the weekend feeling out-of-sorts--not in the mood to do anything from my long list of to-do's (make Halloween costumes, make a stack of new pants for E and Z, fold the mounting pile of clean laundry threatening to take over the sunroom, sort through the hand-me-down boxes for winter clothes, etc.). I was especially not in the mood for mothering (such a contrast from last weekend, after my Me Day!), and, as usual when I'm in such a mood, everyone seemed especially clingy and needy, wanting to be in full body contact with me, or playing with me, or getting my help with something or other. C was working at a friend's all day Saturday, and spent much of Sunday splitting wood and the weather was rather blustery, sending little bodies right back inside after being sent out.

We went out Saturday morning for M's soccer game, and headed to Damariscotta to buy a birthday present for M's friend. I was slow, sluggish and uninspired all day, even at the book store and fabric shop. What I really felt like doing was curling up with a book and a cup of tea in total silence all weekend--an early start to hibernation season. Monday started out with much the same sentiments, but after a frantic search for mittens and gloves in the morning, I realized I really needed to deal with the winter clothes bins, and that I needed some way to keep hats and mittens sorted and organized this winter--our current drawer system (and previous basket), leaving something to be desired (since every time someone looks for a certain item everything else in drawer/basket gets tossed around the mud room and not put away). start off, I put together these wall pockets, modeled somewhat on a set they have at preschool for holding "just in case" clothes, and customized to the wall space and the piece of fabric I had, which is this really cool marblized cotton that I got for a smokin' deal many years ago at a mill ends shop and used for panels to cover the back of our refrigerator (which is set into the mudroom to keep it cool and use less energy). It reminds me of these marblized balloons we used to get when I was a kid...and never fails to make me happy.

(I intentionally left the mudroom in the exact state I found it in when I took this picture)

Then, despite a twinge in my lower back (which may have contributed to my general listlessness over the weekend), I hauled big rubbermaids of hand-me-downs, winter coats and mittens up the stairs. This is a process I go through twice a year, and usually enjoy--it's like shopping, for free--and I often wonder if I died would C know to look in these bins every spring and fall? Would he even know what size they kids wear (since he can hardly tell M's clothes from E and Z's I find it doubtful). The boys acted as willing mannequins and let me hold things up to them to see if they'll fit this year or next. When M got home he was thrilled to find a new winter coat that a family friend got at the LL Bean employee store last year...and totally rejected my suggestion that he save it for next year. He's already happily wearing the zip-out lining on the cold morning runs to the bus.

I tucked a selection of mittens and hats for each person into the pockets (they ended up buckling a bit when stuffed--I could add some reinforcement to the back, but I don't think I'll bother) in hopes that the drawer will stay closed most of the time (already we've been rummaging in there for some imagined pair of gloves--because, apparently, mittens are no longer cool when you're four!). In a couple of weeks we'll have to switch out all the hats for bright hunter orange ones, since we do live in the woods, but the hand knit woolies will return in December, and, if I can get out of my funk, will hopefully be joined by some new Christmas hats and mittens (or, if I get really brave and energetic, gloves).

Now if only there was some way to sort out the shoe bin...

P.S. New post up today at Capital Walks.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Corn Dollies

I have wanted to make corn husk dolls for about as long as I can remember (going way back to my childhood when I would have much preferred life in a covered wagon to our green stucco bungalow). A couple of years ago I saved a bunch of corn husks from a summer dinner, but I didn't dry them properly and they developed gross dark mold spots. That was the extend of my efforts until last week, when after buying a surprise half dozen late-season corn ears from a nearby farm, I piled the husks on a cookie sheet and placed them in the oven--still warm from cooking dinner--to dry. I turned them a couple of times over the next 24 hours or so, and the oven got rewarmed with toast-making, and within a couple of days the husks were mostly dry (and mold-free).
Saturday afternoon, spying the pile of husks on my counter and noting the restlessness of my children, I set to work, pulling a page of directions I had printed out several years ago from the filing cabinet (from that last statement you might mistakenly surmise that I am of an organized nature--but you would be wrong--it is a freak occurrence indeed for me to know where something is and actually find it there on the first try).

Making the dolls was much easier than I'd imagined it would be (we followed these directions), although it was one of those "watch while Mom does all the work" kind of craft projects, at least as far as E and Z were concerned. No matter; they were content to stand on the learning tower cutting corn husks into shreds with their scissors. M joined the fun after a while and made a soldier (of course) corn husk doll, complete with walnut shell helmet (E and Z added walnuts to their dollies too) and combat boots, which we fashioned, after much trial and error from hemlock cones stuffed into folds of husk. M had just been talking about wanting to make a soldier doll on our (very long) drive to soccer that morning. "I want to make it out of all natural and recycled stuff," he said, "That's much healthier than going to the Wal-Mart and buying a G.I. Joe, don't you think? Oh dear, I believe I'm rubbing off on him. I have to say though, that the rebel in me delights that he bucks both the consumer/plastic culture by making his own soldier toy and my Waldorfy tendencies by making his corn dolly a soldier.

After our dolls were complete, we hit the trail in search of accouterments (it was a beautiful day--I believe these are the days Thoreau referred to as "washing days"--although I know that only second-hand because I am far too mentally lazy to read Thoreau. I assume he's talking about how quickly laundry dries when the sky is gloriously blue, the air dry and breezy and the sun shining down as if winter were not breathing down it's golden neck). In addition to laundry, washing days are ideal for walks in the woods--completely bug free.

E took a break to build a fairy house.

I collected some autumn leaves.

And admired some fungi:

(The white one, of course, was declared a fairy umbrella). M collected a ball of clay from the riverbank and Z fell in the river, which was our cue to head home, where we decorated our dolls with sticks and pine cones and flowers (which I collected as we went since everyone else seemed much more intent on enjoying the hike than gathering doll decor).

M's soldier is the one on the far right (he later added a twig rifle which adds quite a dynamic dimension to him).

I went out to get the mail, leaving three boys behind happily playing with dolls, congratulating myself on what enlightened males I have the privilege to live with, and returned not ten minutes later to find all four of them (yes, Papa had joined in now) throwing balls, running, jumping, shrieking, kicking and generally carousing around the house. Sigh.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Me Day

On Friday I had the experience of that rarest of rare events--a day entirely to myself, free of obligations and responsibilities. I have the state budget crisis, inflexible preschool hours, a pre-arranged evening off and my husband to thank for my good fortune.

After dropping E and Z off at preschool, I headed into the woods to finish up one hike (the last 0.6 miles of a total 3 mile trail network that took a total of three visits to hike...even with lollipop bribes!) and hike the full series of trails at a second nature trail for the Other Blog. I finished up just in time to meet a friend at her house and head out for lunch and an afternoon of antiquing at a giant old chicken barn filled with good things. I came home with this great storage jar, two adorable juice glasses and an apron (it all cost less than the one bowl I was really lusting over. Do I need another bowl? Yes?).

I dropped my friend off at a party and headed north, to Waterville where I patronized no fewer than three fabric stores, picking up some odds and ends--a pattern and elastic for a pants-making-a-thon that never materialized over the weekend, some other notions and fabric--and this amazing assortment of flannel for Christmas jammies (made by Grandma):

and these lovely prints:

all from Marden's where the fabric is $2.69-$2.99 a yard! I did not find the Joel Dewberry Sparrows I was hoping for, but there were quite a few bolts of his fabric, including both the pink and the spring green with blue silhouettes which I have since draped over a curtain rod in my room, contemplating another round of curtain-making (it must be a mania!)

I met up with a friend at the third and final fabric store (where she was looking for a pattern to satisfy her daughter's devil wishes without making the slutty devil costume she saw in a catalog), and we made our way to Railroad Square Cinema where we met another friend and saw Bright Star, which was really wonderful (despite excruciatingly uncomfortable seats). I find myself wanting to walk through the woods reciting Keats.

I got home late, tired and with a headache, from having only eaten a granola bar for dinner (I did have two plates of everything at our buffet lunch--and heck, I was kid-free so why not be all wild and crazy like skipping dinner?), and looking forward to spending Saturday with my kids. I think I should do this more often.

Friday, October 9, 2009

More Fall Color

I'm trying to cultivate an appreciation for the autumn season as it is here, now...letting go of the summer that in many ways never was...bracing for the winter ahead.

I am very much a fall color person--all about the yellows and oranges (but also those bright summery greens, and also reds, blues, purples...OK I'm just a color person).

I love these sunflowers (?) that have sprung up randomly around our yard. Maybe from wayward birdseed?

And these calendula are the only success in my herb garden this year (unless you count the mammoth catnip plant I keep trying to cut back). I probably will not turn them into infusions or salves as I once would have, but I love the colors and they're so easy to grow (and even self-seed), and they last through the mild frosts right up to the brutal end.

I moved my yellow and orange vases from my spring/summer arrangement (where they were joined by a third, turquoise vase) on the "mantle" (a.k.a. top row of rough, bare brick that no one--ahem--has bothered to finish off in any kind of attractive or functional manner whatsoever) to the kitchen windowsill, to join the parsley, which is finally starting to produce after an entire spring and summer. These colors are so versatile!

And I'm still loving my new curtains, which feel very seasonally appropriate (despite orchids growing in the tropics) and yellow and dark brown. Hopefully they will be equally uplifting (and equal to insulating the windows) through the winter.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Final Harvest

This overgrown mess was what was left of our garden this weekend after two frosts and a summer plagued by rain, slugs, bunnies, deer and neglect.

I pulled out the dead stalks of tomatoes, stacking their cages under the deck for next year--hopefully a more sunny and tomato-friendly season. I shook the tomatillos free of their thick, woody stems, and collected a couple gallons of them (this basket is only the tip of the tomatillo iceberg).

And spent Sunday afternoon husking them--there were hundreds, but most of the fruits had only grown to the size of a marble.

Now they await boiling, pureeing and freezing for winter-warming enchilada sauce (cooked together with onions from our garden, jalapenos or serranos grown, roasted and frozen last summer, and some fresh cilantro--guess I should start a windowsill pot of that!)
Two seed packets of two different types of poblanos yielded only half a pound of peppers (nothing like last year's harvest--though that was mostly hot peppers, I did get a few decent poblanos!)

There were too few too small peppers for any hope of chiles rellenos (sniff, sniff), so instead I made this casserole (from this book) with rice, cheese, tomatoes and my meagre poblano supply (which were even too small to peal after roasting so I just pureed them in the blender and hoped for the best!) It was quite tasty.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Fall Colors

Finding ourselves rained out ten minutes into a soccer game Saturday,

the boys and I made our way down to a nearby state park

and walked down to the beach in the calm before the deluge.

We were all quite cranky and needed some time outside--threatening clouds or no.

The colors of autumn leaves always seem brighter on cloudy days, somehow,

as if the trees are creating their own light from within.

I had to trick my point-n-shoot camera into allowing in enough light to capture some of the brightness.

No one ever talks about the conifers losing their leaves in the fall, but these "evergreens" shed about 1/3 of their needles each year.

The boys naturally gravitated down the beach

where we found bright colors

captured in the water.

They were surprised to find themselves on a familiar dock

from which they jumped into the water this summer,

and delighted to find friends' camps down the shore.
We returned to the car just as the sky opened up, driving on roads sheeted with water to a lunch of hot chocolate, grilled cheese with bacon, and french fries at the A-1 diner, followed by an afternoon at the movies--Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs--a rare treat (only the second trip to a movie theater for E and Z, not counting the disastrous attempt when they were two months old). I was surprised how crowded the theater was--guess a movie on a rainy Saturday is not such an original plan after all.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Motherhood Muse

I’m very excited to be involved in a new project to be launched today. The Motherhood Muse is a community for writer-mamas wishing to connect with each other as we journey through motherhood with a desire to draw nature into our lives. Kimberly Zook (of ZookBookNook) created the Motherhood Muse to send the message to her daughters that having a relationship with nature is critical to the human body, mind, and spirit. The Motherhood Muse blends Kimberly’s passion for literature on motherhood and on nature.

The Motherhood Muse has four main elements:

The literary magazine (an e-Zine) features literature on motherhood, nature, and children. This is the part that I’ll be involved with, writing a feature profiling publish authors who artfully combine writing about motherhood and the natural world.

A free e-newsletter is sent that includes blog highlights, writing contest information, features about the readers themselves, web-only deals, and more.

A website that serves as the central resource for mothers and writers, with writing contests, a fantastic bookstore with books for writers, mothers, and children, a boutique featuring items with The Motherhood Muse logo such as journals, note cards, and more.

The blog is a continually updated resource for mothers and writers to share personal stories about motherhood, nature, children and writing, as well as interviews with authors (and book giveaways), tips on writing, activities to do with children in nature, and more.

Buzz one over to the Motherhood Muse and check it out!

Friday, October 2, 2009

New Curtains!

I've been wanting to make new living room curtains for a while, but hadn't quite gotten motivated to carry it off, until I set myself the deadline of the Solar Home Tour this Saturday. Our old curtains were floor-length gauze in a buttery yellow color from Pier 1. I liked them a lot when I bought them (seven years ago), but they are not very effective at either blocking light or keeping in heat, and they had become rather limp with age. Also, the floor length was not very practical--with furniture in front of every one of them, we rarely closed them because it was a hassle.

Old curtains:

My vision was to use this lovely yellow sparrow fabric from Joel Dewberry, but by the time I got around to ordering it, it had been discontinued and there wasn't a scrap to be found anywhere (I have hopes of finding a full bolt of it at Marden's, but that is unlikely since I never go to Marden's). Instead, I found this fabric, on sale at Sew Mama Sew, also by Joel Dewberry, and much more practical, because it is drapery fabric (while the other was quilting cotton), so it is wider and heavier. The more I sewed it, the more I loved it (though it kept making me think of French vanilla ice cream with swirls of chocolate, chunks of dark chocolate and bits of candied citrus...wouldn't that be a good flavor?)

I followed the instructions in this tutorial, which while excellent, has the unfortunate tendency of making it look a lot easier than it is. I neglected to take into account the fact that I don't have enough space to work with this much fabric (I stretched twelve yards of drapery lining from one end of my room, across the hall and through the kids' room--and have a set of grubby four-year-old sized footprints on one panel to prove it--and it still didn't fit); that I am totally incapable of cutting a straight line (while the curtains themselves came out relatively even on the bottom, don't lift their skirts, or you'll find the linings all katywompus); and I apparently cannot measure properly either (I had barely enough fabric, even though I'd ordered 1/2 yard extra). Despite all of these inadequacies, along with poor thread tension I didn't notice until I was nearly done and not making the overlap on the sides big enough, I think they came out perfectly fine. I love the brightness (though it may appear a tad busy to some?). I hope that window-length curtains don't look weird in a living room--I guess floor length is more standard, but like I said, it wasn't working for us.
Now I just need a chocolate-brown velvet camel-back sofa to go with it, doncha think (and send that awful red barkalounger to the dump)?
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