Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bedroom Overhaul: Done!

I set out this month to bring order to the chaos that was my bedroom (plus office plus sewing room).  And I did it!

I started by sorting out the closet and all of my drawers, and then I dealt with the things that emerged from the closet--books and other random things--and cleaned out my sewing and writing area.  The best part was organizing all of my sewing and knitting patterns, which had been scattered between my room and the basement, stuffed haphazardly into various binders and bins.  Now I have a nice file box sorted by category (Sew: Ornaments and Toys; Sew:  Garments; Sew:  Everything Else; etc.)

Then, I made new curtains!

Our old white gauze curtains had grown lank with time, and the thin whiteness of them meant they served no real purpose in keeping out either cold or light.  Plus at full length, they were kind of in the way of all the furniture.

The new ones are made with two different fabrics, both pale spring green with aqua blue floral silhouettes (the palm-tree-lookin' ones are actually black-eyed Susans).  When I went through my bins of bedding, I ran across an old worn-out set of light blue sheets that turned out perfect for the linings--using them saved me the trip to Waterville to buy muslin (and the money) plus it gave the slightly-more-yellowish-than-green background of the fabric a slightly more greenish hue so now they match the walls exactly.  And, the blue makes them that much darker, so that they block more light.  I'm quite proud of my "upcycling" efforts there!

On a whim, I tucked the old curtains under the mattress to make a dust ruffle.  I've never had a dust ruffle before, so I'm not sure if it actually serves a purpose (does it keep dust out from under the bed?).  C will probably get his feet tangled in it and rip it (it occurs to me also, as I look at the picture, that it lacks the essential element in a dust ruffle of ruffleiness...hmm...).

To finish it off, I did a major dusted and vacuumed all the neglected corners, washed the windows, aired the pillows and comforter, rotated the mattress, and dealt all the nagging tasks I'd been avoiding for a long time--re-gluing finials on curtain tie-backs, re-stringing glass balls that hang in the windows.  I took everything out that doesn't belong in there, which did involve a bit of cluttering up other spaces, but I plan to bulldoze my way through the house and get everything in its place...and everything else to Goodwill.  The room has become a nice, soothing sanctuary (of course it's the place that everyone wants to be, especially since I've been neglecting housework in the rest of the house in favor of working on this).  I plan to not take anything into it that doesn't belong, and keep up with the dusting and vacuuming weekly and make the bed daily.  I promise.

Next stop:  the bathrooms!  Stay tuned for even more of Andrea's Exciting Organizational Odyssey.

Monday, March 28, 2011

March Miscellany

Aside from that one freakishly warm day, it continues to feel wintery out there, though not as cold as that March day three years ago when it was seven degrees out (and if I hadn't blogged about it, I would never have remembered, but now it's seared in my brain--it gets as cold as seven in March).  Every coat is filthy.  Every pair of snowpants is wearing out at the knees.  Every boot is sopping wet.  Hats and mittens and gloves have gone missing--or into hiding under car seats, in the basement, in snowbanks.  Every short person in the house is under the impression that now that it's spring, he can wear t-shirts outside now (or, in two cases, shorts and crocs two sizes too small discovered in the hand-me-down bag).  I do believe spring fever is epidemic around here.

As for me, my usual March Malaise has been compounded severely by the horrifying political situation here in Maine.  Unfortunately, that won't go away with the turning of the calendar (I keep hoping I'll wake up and it will have all been a horrible, horrible dream, but so far that hasn't happened).  It's really starting to effect my emotional well-being and is not helping me out in the happy mommy department.

I've been reminiscing lately about those two days in September when I was really sick and stayed home lying on the couch, reading, napping and drinking tea all day.  I haven't yet resorted to licking doorknobs or walking around in the cold with wet hair, but some days, it's tempting...

Some things I've been doing in a feeble effort to cope (other than main-lining chocolate):

  • I try to get to the pool to swim every morning.  I've been working on the Total Immersion program for about seven years, but have continually been drug out of the pool by life events of major (having twins; work) and minor (sinus infections; preschool runs) proportions.  For the first time I have the flexibility to go there every day.  It's the one half-hour of the day when I'm focusing completely in the moment; and I feel really good the whole time I'm in the water and for a short while afterward (about until the moment I walk into my building).   I totally love the TI program--which is based on, among other things, the philosophy of Kaizen, or continuous improvement.  I think I could become quite evangelical about it, and I may post more one day, but if you're wondering why a swim blog appears in my blog roll at the right, that's why.
  • I've become a bit of an Etsy-a-holic.  It's where I go when I need a little mental/emotional escape from reality (which is a lot lately).  I'm beginning to amass quite a collection which I'll share with you once all the items arrive (if I can stop buying more!)  Now I know how internet gamblers feel--just one more!
  • C and I watched the funniest movie Saturday night--Soul Kitchen.  I don't think I've laughed so much in a long time.
  • We're going to go see David Sedaris in Portland next Saturday.
  • We're going to Philadelphia for April vacation (though not to the paper doll convention, which is in August in that same town).  I kept putting off trying to figure out reservations and such, and finally C just called a travel agent who took care of it all (train + hotel).  Whew.  Now I can just figure out what fun stuff we'll do there (perhaps weep at the foot of the Liberty Bell in mourning for the loss of hope and promise this country may have once had...), and find a cute travel bag (I really love this one, but I don't have four weeks to wait for it, and it's a little scarily expensive, though I would never have the patience to make one like it myself).
What are you doing to beat the the March Malaise (and if you live in one of our fascist sister-states, how are you coping?)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Nature Journaling, A Poetry Field Trip

I went on a Poetry Field trip Friday.

Although it was a sunny day, the wind blew wildly, so I donned a wool sweater, scarf, hat and fingerless mitts.

When I got outside, I found it was a warm wind, almost a hot wind.

Yet in the woods, the ground was still covered in snow, and I sank in to my boot-tops every few steps.

I found a clear, dry patch of ground at the base of Owl Tree and sat down to write a Weather Poem.

First, I wrote a list of verbs that I normally associate with people.

Then, I wrote a list of verbs I associate with animals.

Then I chose some of these verbs and wrote a poem about the wind.

I wanted to express the disorientation I was feeling, after having begun to believe that winter would never go away, but now finding the snow melting and the weather changing so suddenly, without warning.  Here's my final poem, in case you can't read it in the picture:

March Wind

So you think you can just sashay back,
Fondle the pine boughs in your warm embrace,
Bend them to your will,
Release the river from its icy prison,
Peel back the crisp, dirt-flecked snow
One molecule at a time,
Awaken tiny green tendrils with your hot breath?

Do you feel no remorse?  No shame?
Should you not beg forgiveness
For your long, cold absence?

This exercise is from A Crow Doesn't Need a Shadow:  A Guide to Writing Poetry from Nature by Lorraine Ferra and illustrated by Diane Boardman with wonderful pencil drawings that are exactly the kind of drawings I'd love to be able to draw in my nature journal.

It's a book that's kind of intended for teaching poetry to kids (the examples were written by young poets ranging in age from around seven to 12 or so), but I find it enormously useful (I would say I'm at about a 12-year-old level of poetry writing, except that kids have an innocence and sense of wonder and openness to the world that I've long ago ceded to cynicism).

Invitation:  Take yourself on a Poetry Field Trip.  Try this exercise, or follow any other poetic thread that strikes your fancy.  Write the poem in your nature journal.  Post it on your blog and link to it in the comments, or post your poem in the comments.

Previous Nature Journaling posts:  Nature Journaling, Birds at the Feeder, Nature Journaling, An Invitation.  See also Nature Journaling as Meditation for more on starting a nature journal.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

(Trying to) Welcome Spring

A single, unseasonable 65 degree day and everyone has sworn off coats, boots, hats, gloves, to say nothing of snow pants, even though each morning the man-eating puddle in our driveway freezes over 1/2 inch and snowy patches still outnumber bare patches three to one.

I have to admit when I looked out the window and saw the first open patch of bare, dead grass, my first thought was, "Great.  Now we have to watch out for ticks."  Every silver lining has its cloud.

Our celebration of St. Patrick's Day was fairly non-eventful, what with the black eye and social obligations and all.  The Leprechauns did leave E and Z each one of their shoes with a chocolate gold coin in each (a Leprechaun dropped one a couple of years ago for M).  Of course there was a great deal of suspicion that in fact I had made them.

I tried to hold a "St. Paddy's Day, Observed" celebration the next evening, with creamy potato cabbage soup and soda bread and my Putumayo Celtic Tides CD playing on continuous loop.  But everyone was extremely tired and cranky from the late night the night before--E cried right through dinner in a flashback-to-two-year-old event, and Z, with the black eye and an arm scraped from slipping on the stairs fell off his dinner chair and bruised and scraped his ribs (daily reminders of "sit on your sit bones" apparently have no effect).  I was cranky and edgy too, despite having had the day free from both work and children--the trouble with a few hours of solitude is that it's like trying to eat only one Thin Mint.

Saturday morning, E, Z and M were affronted that snow was falling from the sky again.  The day continued the cranky and impatient theme, as every cry of "Mama"--and such cries seemed to come more frequently and in a more whiny tone than normal--was fingernails on the chalkboard.  Perhaps it was just cabin fever.  Perhaps we should have gotten out for a hike, instead of letting certain people spend it in their jammies.  Perhaps I should have stuck with my New Year's Resolution and skipped Town Meeting, which is like New England's special version of waterboarding.

After we arrived home that evening, we went on a Moon Walk to view the 14% bigger and 30% brighter than normal (so M informed us) full moon.

C and M set up the telescope while E and Z ran around the muddy and frozen but nearly-snow free field.

Then C lit our Christmas wreath--which was still surprisingly fresh and resistant to flame--on fire.

"Say goodbye to King Winter and Hello, Mrs. Thaw," I said.

"Even though they're fictional characters from Finland, " intoned Mr. Literal (M).

After the wreath burnt itself out, we walked back to the house, with E and Z running ahead calling, "Goodbye King Winter, Hello King Spring!"

As we tucked them in bed, we heard the yips and yaps of a coyote family also out to enjoy the bigger, brighter moon.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Thinker

That's Edith Hamilton's Mythology he's "reading," in case you're wondering.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

It's All Fun and Games Until...

I get the call just as I'm beginning to prepare for a conference call I'd forgotten about.  Z got hit in the eye with a stick at daycare; I need to get him.  

Thursday is usually the low ebb in the the unmitigated nightmare that is now my nine-to-five world, and today is no exception.  I should appreciate this Get Out of Jail Free card.  But my afternoon is already complicated.  Normally, I have Thursday "off."  I spend a quiet hour in the library or a cafe and join a few friends for wine, food and knitting.  But today M has an eye doctor appointment, and C has an evening meeting, which I didn't find out about till the last minute and, because I'd already arranged to take M with me to knitting so he could tie flies with my friend's husband, I'll be taking all three boys to knitting.  Now this complicates matters.  Maybe it's nothing.
At daycare, all three boys are in the kitchen, Z in one arm chair, ice pack over his eyes, M and E in the other,.  Z removes the ice.  The area below his eye is dark blue and swollen, and split with a raw red wound.  Blood pools on his eyelid and the corner of his eye and a stream of dried blood streaks down his cheek.  OK.  Not nothing.
I call the doctor and cancel M's eye doctor appointment.  M sobs.  Z whimpers.  I find myself reassuring them and our daycare provider who tells the story of the boy who got mad and threw the stick that split open Z’s eye.  He's in E and Z's class and has been having problems all year.  His mother is on her way to get him, and I feel terrible for her.  As awful as it is to have a boy with a bloody eye, I imagine it's many times worse to be the mother of the kindergarten bully.  
At the doctor's office, Z and I squeeze together on the exam table, and I tell him about how when he was a baby we went to the hospital in an ambulance, and we lay together in a hospital bed as small as this table.  He laughs at my description of the lung X-ray machine, with its tiny blue bicycle seat and clear plastic tube with the Medieval leather strap that buckled it closed around his body.  
The doctor is older, with a bushy beard, funny tinted glasses and corduroy pants.  He seems more like an absent-minded professor than a doctor.  I just read William Carlos Williams' story, "The Use of Force," and this doctor's efforts to look into a reluctant Z's eye remind me of that doctor's attempt at seeing into the little girl's throat.  He assures me that the cornea is undamaged and there is nothing solid in the eye.
By the time Z’s prescription is ready, the boys have recovered from their empathy and are fighting in the car.  My head is pounding and I want to lie on the couch with a book and a sleeve of Thin Mints.  M and Z elect to play outside, but E comes in with me and wants to play Connect Four.  When Z and M come in, all three just want to be near me and talk and talk and talk.  I feel stifled by their neediness.  I count down the minutes to knitting, where they get attention, ice cream and TV.  We arrive home for a late bedtime.  I look weird, Z wails.  Yes, you do, I say.

The Eye

Z recovered enough to take arty pictures out the window. 
Another arty Z photo (he say's it's Colorado)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Good Word

I want to put in a good word here for Alewives Fabrics.*

Over the last couple of weeks, I need to make a couple of scarves like the ones I made last year for friends's birthdays.  I already had the voile fabric for one (not pictured), but needed to get fabric for the other.

Now I'm lucky to have Alewives right down the road (in Maine, "right down the road" means less than an hour away), and normally, I would love to go and browse around all the lovely fabrics they carry there, but I didn't have time to get to Newcastle, and with gas prices these days, the shipping cost pretty much evens out.

I just wanted to share with you that when there was a mixup with my fabric choice (I ordered the "sea", but got the "sweet"), their customer service was excellent, quick and generous.  And, they were open on Sunday, so I could address the problem as soon as I discovered it.  The replacement fabric arrived on Wednesday, which gave me just enough time to make the scarf for a Thursday celebration.

Of course, I would always advocate for patronizing your local fabric store--I normally just run to the even more convenient Whipper Snappers--but if your local store doesn't carry a certain fabric (like this lovely voile), or if you don't have a local store (which was the case when I first moved to Maine--I had to drive 40 minutes for a spool of thread!), do check out Alewives.  

*This is not an advertising post--I received no goods or services in exchange for telling this real true story about great service and lovely fabrics!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Chipping Away

This is what the other side of my room looked like after I cleaned out the closet:

Part of my goals with this room-by-room approach is to not just tidy up, but to find a permanent fix, get things out of the way that need doing.

I tackled the mending pile over the weekend (using the same invisible patch technique I used in this typo-studded post).  Happily, the boys are perfectly content to wear patched, or even holey jeans (I found at least two more pairs in need of repair when putting away the laundry).

I finished one small, nagging project that I have been putting off for half a year.  It goes in the mail tomorrow.

And I sorted the reading materials into piles, which did nothing to diminish the fact that I'm never in my life going to have time to read it all.  I did forge through two old Sun magazines (I'm making myself read all of the Sun and Orion magazines I fell behind on--back in 2009--before I'm allowed to renew either subscription) and figured out two others that I had read at least partially.  Those all went to work with me to be handed off to a friend.   One box contains books I either read and don't remember reading, or never read.  I'm trying to find a way to make it OK to just pass them on to the library book sale, regardless.  I tend to be a book hoarder, and I just might want to read one of those particular books, someday.  But I can always get them at the library.  This is the kind of mental dilemma I need to shut down before I tackle our big bookshelves.

I also have a box of every letter and card I've ever received in my life (practically) and various other sentimental nonsense.  I'm trying to find four decent boxes, one for each of the boys and one for me, into which I can place mementos like cards and letters and their school papers and three of the four plaster-of-paris handprints M made through his preschool years, etc.  If I can get it down to one folder per year, tucked neatly in a box (out of sight/mind), I will be happy.

I keep waking up in the middle of the night, my brain turning all of this organizing over and over.  I wonder if I'm focusing on it too much in my waking life, or if bringing order to my bedroom will open the door to better, more relaxed sleep.

Also, I am not unaware that while I'm focused on clutter, half a world away people have been swept away in waves and are attempting to stave off a meltdown in one of many nuclear power plants.  It seems callous, but sometimes I think focusing on our own personal minutia is the only way to avoid crawling under the bed and weeping. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Spring Wreath

I haven't gotten out the spring decorations or the spring books--it's just still very much winter, and focusing on bunnies and birds would either be disorienting or depressing (though I have heard the chickadees singing their "fee-bee" song the last few mornings for the first time, so maybe there's hope).

I did create and hang up a new spring wreath on our front door, though.  I loved the fabric wreath I made for Christmas so much I left it up all winter, and wanted to make another for spring.  I was stressing out about what to use for a wreath form, though.  I refuse to buy a styrofoam one, or one of those green ones (which have Prop 65 labeling, meaning they are made with something carcinogenic or toxic to reproduction...I don't want a wreath that bad).  I made the Christmas one with a straw wreath form, but even that was wrapped in plastic wrap, and it was kind of heavy, so it clunked every time the door opened and closed.

Then I saw Heather's great yo-yo Valentine's wreath and was inspired.  I've always loved old yo-yo quilts, but they seem like way too much work.  But a yo-yo wreath, I could handle that.  I started it back in January, and worked on it a little at a time.  

Yo-yos are very easy to make.  First, you draw a circle about double the diameter of your desired finished yo-yo:

A yogurt tub works great for this.

Then, fold under the edge about 1/4 inch and hand-sew a running stitch all the way around.

Pull the thread tight to gather.

And poof, you have a yo-yo.  Once you get started, you might find them addicting. 

 Instead of a cardboard form, like Heather used, I wanted something that would look good from the back too (since I would be hanging it in front of a window) and that would be durable over the years, so I stitched a little fabric sleeve around a wire wreath form, scavenged from a Christmas wreath from years' past.  I sewed a button in the center of each yo-yo and stitched them to the wreath form.

The bird I had made a couple of Easters ago, from the same fabric--my very favorite ever Kaffe Fasset print (sadly discontinued) that includes all of my favorite colors.  The wreath has been a bright, cheerful, quiet addition to our front door.  It gives me hope that maybe, just maybe, Spring is not a mythical land, but a real place we might get to visit some day.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


I have been obsessed with organizing for at least the last two-and-a-half years (my first blog post on the topic is here).  I have had been driven by the irrational belief that if I can just get the house clean enough, it will stay that way.  I am starting to realize that decluttering and organization are a practice, like meditation or yoga.  They require mindfulness and daily attention, and if practiced faithfully, will lead to continuous improvement and, eventually, enlightenment.

Well, maybe not enlightenment, but I do feel weighed down by all the stuffness of my life, and I do feel lighter when I am able to lift a bit of the load.  (Not that I want to turn into my Grandmother, who has spent her whole life cleaning and recleaning her spotless house...).  I've decided to focus on one room each month this year and not only clean, declutter and organize, but also add to those rooms in a way that makes them feel more finished.  This month, I am taking on my bedroom, which is also my sewing room and office (maybe I should start calling it my "studio," my Sewing, Writing and Sleeping studio.  Maybe a new name would facilitate more sewing, writing and sleeping.)

I did a major overhaul in this room two years ago and again last year.   Neither stuck.  Last week I could barely get into my closet, and the ironing board attacked me anytime I tried.  Though, while going through my closet and drawers took two whole days last year, it only took me an afternoon this past weekend, including the previously-ignored top drawer of jewelry and random trinkets, which I took downstairs and said to the boys "who wants to look at some treasure?"  Those boys like bling.  M has been begging to look in that drawer for months.

I ended up with one big bag of get-rid-ofs.  I also folded all my clean clothes that had been heaped on the dresser and they (mostly) fit in my newly sorted drawers.  I still need to sort through four bins of bed linens that line the back of the closet, and I found two boxes of books therein (part of the reason I couldn't get in there)--one of books that I'd sorted out of our bookshelves two years ago and planned to read and then get rid of and the other one full of literary journals I picked up at AWP last year and some other books people have given or lent to me.  I am going to make a concerted effort to just read through them.  I need a two hour train commute, or a long bout of the flu or something.  I will definitely need to take a break from library books for a while.

I have a pile of pants that need mending and several WIPs that I am going to force myself to deal with, as well, including making curtains for this very room, a project which has been in the queue for a long time.  I also want to come up with something to do with the big blank wall over my sewing table, and I really need to clean out my writing desk so I can actually write there (though C partially moved out of our living room and to a real office, so now I'm able to set up my laptop in the living room).

March is also shaping up to be a busy month, socially (everyone must have cabin fever)--including the clothing swap, where I'll actually get rid of all the clothes I sorted out.  Hopefully I can squeeze it all in this month.  I'm holding out on "after" pictures (though my side of the closet looks very nice--C's side is a whole 'nother story) until the end of the month, to encourage myself to keep it clean.  Next I want to take on the upstairs bathroom and the boys' room, then maybe take the summer off before attacking the downstairs.

Has the spring cleaning bug bitten you?

Monday, March 7, 2011

March Green

By March, my eyes and my heart hunger for just a bit of green to feast upon.

Outside, the white and blue of midwinter have faded to grey and brown--leaden skies heavy with freezing rain, filthy snowbanks along the roadsides, driveways of frozen mud ruts.  Even the so-called evergreen trees--pine, hemlock, cedar, fir--appear no longer green, but dark and rusty, no longer full of the promise of life that they were when they decked the halls at solstice.

To find hues of that life-giving color, I turn inward.  The sunroom, cold and neglected through January and February now fairly glows with new growth.

New leaves for the rubber tree.

Fresh cilantro,

parsley, mint, sage and chives.

This mystery succulent that sprang from nowhere in the soil of our (now-dead) ficus has chosen now to put forth pink blooms.

Our shamrock, Lucky, whom we bought many long years ago in a tiny, mossy greenhouse in Denver, and who has traveled across the country with us twice, is blooming just in time for St. Patrick's Day.

St. Patrick's Day I look on as another celebration of the coming spring (for by next week it will be spring on neither the calendar nor in the weather) and an opportunity to learn a little about another culture, rather than a celebration of the Saint who, legend has it, drove the "snakes" (druids) from Ireland.

The nature windowsill, we redecorated with rainbows and various gnomes, dwarves and Santa's standing in for Leprechauns, and M's Leprechaun shoe.

The two green mushrooms I made for St. Patrick's Day a couple of years ago, though there is nothing remotely mushroomy about March.

I went to an antique store with a vision of a row of green vases along the "mantle."  Instead I found this fabulous green Akro Agate tea set.  It's missing the creamer and the lid to the teapot.  Perhaps I'll make it my mission to find replacements (at first I felt a little embarrassed to be a grown woman going gaga over a toy tea set, but then I googled it, and see that there are zillions of collector sites out there).

Finally, we planted a bit of hope, in the form of a few scatterings of hard red spring wheat berries in a tiny pot.  That way we'll be sure of at least a little green by the time spring is actually here.
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