Thursday, July 28, 2011

Little Project

Not only have I not done much blogging in the last couple of months, but I haven't done much else constructive, either--writing, sewing, cooking, knitting (except what I got done at the edge of the baseball field).  Even more organizational push has tapered off. Partly it's been my mood, partly it's been other obligations, partly it's been the weather (i.e. beach-going), partly it's been TV[Lengthy aside: I don't watch much TV--usually just Masterpiece on Sunday night and two Netflixes a month--but lately we've been watching The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency TV series, which is so fantastic I have to tell everyone about it. I read several of the books some time ago, and while I don't remember the plots well enough to say how well the episodes follow them, I can say the characters are really well casted, especially Mma Makutsi.  Also there's lots of yummy Botswana scenery (I've been in love with Botswana ever since I first saw one of my favorite movies, The Gods Must Be Crazy, in high school, and reading Cry of the Kalahari back in my pre-children, we should go live in Africa and study wildlife days).  And? It passes the Bechdel Test with flying colors. It's one series I would actually consider owning if I was the type to purchase DVDs.]

Anyway, I have been feeling projectey lately, and though I've been daydreaming about some big and elaborate projects, I haven't had much time.  But I did have make time last Thursday evening, on what was probably the hottest evening of the year hear in Maine (for some reason I like sweating over the sewing machine), when I should have been packing for our weekend away, to make two reversible headbands.

They're from a pattern I printed out some time ago (unfortunately I lost the original web address), and with the heat, it seemed the perfect time to pull my hair back from my face.

Super quick and easy (even with the ironing).  I wore them all weekend, partly because I ended up with such color variety, and partly because once I wore one, my hair was all matted down and it was either keep wearing one or take a shower (What? Shower on vacation?? Blasphemy!)

I love a quick and satisfying project that can make me feel accomplishmentey without much effort at all.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Summer Reading Giveaway

Remember way back in April when I did a book review for Literary Mama?  Well, I'm finally just now getting around to giving away my copies of the books, as promised.

The books, Shamrock and Lotus by Cassie Premo Steele and The Life You Imagined by Kristina Riggle.  They would both be great books for reading on the beach, in a lawn chair or (my favorite) hammock. I'd tell you what they're about, but you're just going to have to read the review.

My readership around here dropped by about half during my little posting lull, so you can look at this as a ploy to entice people back, or you can look at it as a really good chance to win, since there are two books and probably not a lot of competition.

So here's what you need to do to enter. Go read the review, decide which book you'd rather have and leave a comment here letting me know which between now and next Wednesday. I'll draw two names--the first one will get her first choice, the second will get what's left.  Sound good.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

July Ramblings

1. Last Friday, when the world-famous heat wave was giving its grand finale and I was driving home I noticed that the red maples in the bog on my road were starting to fade from green.  It was the first twinge of "oh my god summer is almost over and now all there is to look forward to is 11 long months of cold, darkness and misery." The twinge began to bloom into outright conviction yesterday when I woke up to an icy 60-degree house with the windows all open.  Now today it's gray and gloomy, with a coast-like pea soup foggy misty sort of thing hanging everywhere and I'm convinced.  It's all over!!

2. I forgot to tell you my poem Mix Tape was published on VoxPoetica a couple of weeks ago as part of their If Men Had Ears contributor series.

3. I've been feeling so sad and sickened by the massacre in Norway. Imagine sending your kids off to camp only to have them gunned down? I always think of Europe as a bastion of clear thinking and rightness (and no, not right-wing-nut kind of right, as this guy apparently was, but right as in do the right thing rightness), but I guess deranged people are everywhere.

4. We spent the weekend on Mount Desert Island, visiting friends who live there and friends visiting from the West Coast. I was a little apprehensive about seeing the visitors, whom we haven't seen in years, because I always think of their lives as so perfect--perfect jobs, perfect living situations, perfect kids, perfect marriage--and feeling so discouraged about my own situation right now with regard to work and general direction in life, I expected to reach new levels of feelings of inadequacy.  But, really, they are super nice super interesting people (that's why they're our friends), and everything is not perfect for them, either, so I had a great time, and look forward to visiting with them again soon.

While we were there we stopped to visit our Alma Mater, College of the Atlantic (both C and I and the husband half of both couples we were hanging out with graduated from there).  When we stopped by the community garden and I got a whiff of the powerful reek of the community gardens, it put me right back to that weekend just before C and I started dating when he and I turned the compost as part of our community service as garden plot lessees.  Ahh, love.

Between our three families and a fourth who came for dinner Saturday night, there were seven boys and only one girl. She held her own pretty well, but when she needed to escape the mayhem, she and I made friendship bracelets.  This was another crafty activity that I had planned for our unrequited cross-country road trip.  I figured the boys could make them in the car and give them as gifts to friends we visited along the way (I stopped in at Michaels before the weekend to lay in a store of pink and purple pearl cotton--I had only grabbed reds, blue, green and orange for the boys--and was pleased to find this was a girl who did NOT favor pink, though she did make use of the "lavender" and was disappointed that I didn't have yellow (how could I have forgotten yellow, my own childhood favorite color??).

The boys, meanwhile, did not slow down long enough to make bracelets or anything else.  They were perpetual motion machines, playing baseball, frisbee, slip & slide, swimming and trampolining.  It makes me tired just to type about all that action.

Before heading off the Island, we actually stopped and played mini golf at Pirate's Cove--my inner hippie college self cringed (ak, the blasphemy!), but it was super fun.

Hope you're enjoying July and not feeling that end-of-summer creep too strongly yet. Peace.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Finishing Touches

During my unfinished furniture shopping extravaganza, I picked up two wall shelves for topping off the reorganization frenzy in my room and the upstairs bathroom.

I needed (OK, wanted) a shelf behind the tub in the bathroom, for tubby toys and soap and things. I painted it this ridiculous minty green because I had already painted a small cabinet in the same bathroom the same color.  It works for me. So does the shelf.

I finished a similar shelf to hang in the sewing corner of my bedroom/sewing room/office.  Right now it sports jars of pretty ribbons, buttons and a knitting bear, as well as some of my stuffed animals from childhood--a bunny, a chick, a big and two hippopotamuses. That cracks me up.  Who has one hippo toy, let alone two? Me apparently. I hung a bit of rick-rack across it for pinning up inspirational pictures. I don't have much inspiration at this time, so instead I hung up some cards.

And for fun, I got this tiny pastel floral banner from LiliaRose on Etsy.  I love vintage hankies, but never know what to do with them (I've made curtains with them before, but the sun destroys them).  These sweet little pennants are perfect.

 Finally, I got a 13-moon calendar from So Wabi-Sabi.  The funny/embarrassing thing about it is that I bought it after (because) C and I had a "discussion" about whether the 12-month calendar is just arbitrary and if 13 months wouldn't make more sense.  Meanwhile, the calendar is designed as a tool to raise human consciousness, and the proceeds were to help fund the creator's peace walk. So take that, C!  Just kidding...after I got it, I quietly hung it up without any "see I told ya so's."  See? My consciousness has already been raised.

Now, when I started this process of cleaning, decluttering and reorganizing every room in the house, one month at a time, my goal was to make my house so clean, it stayed clean.  So, how has it worked so far? In the parts of the house I haven't tackled yet (those would be all of the public parts of the house, that people see), it's been a disaster, because my focus on the rooms I'm working on, has caused me to neglect (more than usual) those rooms.  But, in the rooms I've done, it's actually worked fairly well. No, the rooms don't stay clean by themselves, but if I stay on top of things, put stuff away (clean laundry, finished books, craft projects, etc.), then all I have to do to clean my room on the weekends, is dust and vacuum.  Not that I get to it every weekend, mind you, but when I do, it's not onerous at all (which implies I should probably get to it every weekend).  I try to tidy up the upstairs bathroom every night while I'm getting ready for bed, and, instead of noticing a filthy sink or mirror and thinking "I'll clean that Saturday," I try to just clean it right then, in case I don't get around to cleaning the bathrooms on Saturday.  The boys' room, has been harder though.  They are like little entropy machines. I had tried to lay down the law, "Nothing on the floor, ever!!" But, as usual, they ignored me.  Instead, I try to encourage them to pick things up each night before bed, and help them clean the whole thing every other week or so.  So far it hasn't gotten as crazily messy as it usually gets, but I have been amazed by how quickly they mess it up.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Salvaging Summer

I had hopes, which I held out till the bitter, improbably end, of getting away this summer, of spending a significant chunk of time on the road, camping out, visiting family and friends and wild places, in general going feral.  These hopes were, of course, dashed, at the last possible minute, as anyone with an iota of common sense could easily have predicted. 

One thing I had most looked forward to was totally unscheduled, unstructured time with my kids. Time not spent rushing to get somewhere, or exhausted after returning from somewhere.  Time with me relaxed and happy, rather than tense and grumpy. I had a whole bag of tricks stored up for the chilled-out down-time in between miles of driving and visiting and sight-seeing, things we don't normally have time to do between work and school and just barely hanging on to a semblance of household order.

The first on my list was to be henna tattoos (I pictured it as an activity for our first campsite somewhere in the wilds of Western Massachusetts). I spent the weekend trying to salvage a bit of summer and spontaneity, first with those tattoos:

The boys got right into the spirit of it.

Practicing for the real thing.

Even the mama got in the act (perhaps an alternate career route now that the other one's not working out so well?)

Then we headed to our favorite beach, to swim, play in the sand, look for crabs and even (some of us) bury our selves in the sand holding one end of a rope with a cheese cracker tied to the other end, trying to catch seagulls.

We've been having New Jersey weather around here (no offense to anyone from New Jersey, but the one time I was there for more than a layover, it was August and hot and humid, and exactly like weather we've been having here off and on for the last couple of weeks), which has encouraged a little al fresco dining in the evenings, with pretty tablecloths and unbreakable plates.  

It's not exactly picnicking at the foot of Long's Peak, but I suppose it will have to do.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Moment of Wonder: Hail

You'd think they hadn't just been playing in snow two months earlier.

This actually fell almost a month ago (June 18), but it's so unusual here in Maine, I had to share.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Teacher Gift

Yes, school has been out for three weeks now (yes, truly that's it), but I never got around to showing you what I made for E and Z's teacher (to M's teacher--a man--we gave a porcelain reusable coffee mug and a pound of organic coffee).

This is my modified version of SouleMama's Gratitude Wrap.  (I've made at least two of these before, but because I've never bothered to label my post, it's impossible to find anything--even if I did ever post about them).  Anyway, Ms. R, whose son is on M's baseball team, noticed mine (which I don't use for gratitude, but more as a planner/hold-all in my bag) when I got it out in search of pen & paper for to entertain E and Z during a long game.  She complimented it, I said something self-deprecating, because taking compliments is so not my gift, and decided to make her one for an end-of-year thank-you gift.  

My modifications are to add a vertical inside pocket for safekeeping things, or straddling a larger notebook or calendar; using elastic and a button to fasten it, rather than ties; and, apparently, to attach the third pocket too low, though that was not an intentional modification (and maybe it's supposed to be there, but just looks funny in the picture).

I was psyched to find some Ancient Egypt -themed cards at TJ Maxx, since that was their big unit of study this year (and I was even more psyched that they didn't all fit, so I got to keep some of them).

The colors are totally Ms. R--she's a very energetic, vibrant, creative, fun, funky lady.  Exactly the kind of person you want teaching your young kids.  And we're lucky, because her class is a K-1, so E and Z get her again next year.  For that I'm very grateful.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Simple Yet Effective Shawl II: The King Tut Edition

I finally finished my second Simple Yet Effective Shawl, which I started way back last March (as in 2010) immediately after I finished the first one.  I don't feel too bad about the time lag, though, since it was the project on which I taught myself Continental knitting, so it was like learning to knit all over again.  Also I've finished several projects in between (this is number five for 2011--my goal has been to finish one project per month this year; I've now fallen behind, but I haven't given up!).  I got a significant amount of it done at baseball games this spring (it's antisocial to read or write at games, but you can talk and knit at the same time...only balls of yarn tend to fall down the bleachers).

At first I didn't like the way the colors came together (you take a skein of self-striping sock yarn and divide it into two balls, which you alternate for more/narrower stripse), but E and Z spent the last couple months of Kindergarten studying Ancient Egypt (I love their teacher), and because I'm a bit of an Ancient Egypt geek myself, we checked out all of the library books on the topic, and dug out all of my own books.  After it was finished I realized these are totally the colors of Ancient Egypt, which I think tended toward the bright, verging on garish.  So now I like it.

It came out much, much bigger than the first one, despite having the same amount of yarn.  I think my Continental knitting is much looser than my old-fashioned stitches (though I do think my tension has both tightened up and evened out with practice).

And I do not feel compelled to start another one--finally got those stripes out of my system!  My next (current) project?  Another sweater (for me too)!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Get Me Off This Crazy Thing

Wow, sorry to disappear like that again. I think I'm back is really and truly over, and I'm sort of reaching a place of equanimity with the work situation (not happy, but figuring out how to benefit from a sucky situation--deluding myself? Perhaps).  I do miss it.  There has been so much I've been wanting to tell you about--knitting and fishing and dragonflies and organizing and poppies and toenail polish.  I hope I'll get to some of it all this week.  In the meantime, do you realize we're in the middle of full-on summer?  And by in the middle I mean careening wildly toward winter (sorry, I just can't find my way to appreciating summer without acknowledging its every milestone as a step closer to its end).

I picked strawberries on Saturday, which was the very last day the place I like to go was open for the season, which meant not only that all the berries were either moldy or small and unripe, but also that strawberry season is over!  How could this have happened.  Our peas have been done for two weeks (I just shelled the last of them, growing starchy and wooden in our crisper drawer, into dinner tonight), and my flower garden, which is just irises and poppies, has been done for ages (suggestions on later season plants would be most welcome).

I did manage to eek 21 quarts of berries out of the fields (to my quadriceps' everlasting dismay), which I made into 14 jars of jam/syrup.

I was so psyched by my no-pectin experiences last year, that I felt really confident in going into this batch (with a slight variation on technique), but I only had 7/8 the sugar I needed, so divided three batches over two pans, and so that they were too full, and every time each neared 220 degrees, it would boil over, and I never did reach that magic temperature (and ended up with a very messy stove).

Don't they look pretty though?  I haven't tried it yet, but my family consumed a jar while I was away on an overnight at the lake with some very bawdy old ladies.  Their behavior was quite shocking--they had already downed three margaritas when I got there, and they proceeded to tease a neighbor (also old lady) about whether her date was spending the night ("well if he doesn't stay with you, he can stay with us" said the two widows) and skinny dipping at midnight.  Two of us went kayaking the next morning and I managed to get my annual "I won't put on sunblock because I want a little color" lobster burn.  Yowch.

The previous weekend we took our second-annual Fourth-of-July weekend trip up to Grandma C's camp.  It was a good opportunity for me to just let all the stress of the last couple of months just drain out of me.  Grandma C took care of us, and I just read, drew and helped little boys unhook sunfish from their lines.

I try to point out to all and sundry that I am not the one to fish, so I shouldn't be the one to unhook fish, but no one listens (the other adults think six-year-olds should be able to unhook their own fish; the six-year-olds just let the fish flop around getting further entangled; the ten-year-old tried to help, then started crying, "It's hurting it!  That's why I don't like to fish anymore."  I have since been informed by someone whose husband is a fish and wildlife guy that fish like sunfish and bass have cartilaginous mouths and it's impossible to hurt them.  I don't know if I believe this, but I passed it on to M in hopes that he won't give up fishing so easily, since he used to love it so much.  P.S. We do catch-and-release due to mercury, plus ewe, who wants to gut fish?)

We came home for the Fourth of July parade, with its classic mix of really loud fire trucks (and all three of my kids with their fingers in their ears) pukingly patriotic/right wing trucks and the local artist's walking critique of politics and society.  This year's was "Maiden Maine" being married off to big business.

We even went to the fireworks, which was crazy, since they don't even start until 9:15.  Two out of three kids were asleep when we got there.  But I guess  now that we've done it two years in a row, it's a tradition and we're stuck with it.

I've been trying for the last three months to plan a long trip/leave of absence for the rest of this summer, for which I've been unable to get either approval or denial, so I've been living in this weird state of limbo, unable to make plans for either going or staying.  As a result, I've made no lists of things to accomplish, places to go, work to get done, events not to miss.  What's that they say, life is what happens while you were making other plans?  I've actually gotten used to the uncertainty, which shouldn't be surprising since humans get used to much worse things all the time, though I'm really read to know already, one way or the other.  Preferably the way that involves getting the heck out of Dodge for a little while.  I really need some time (as in more than a weekend) away from the stress, the politics, the construction (oh, yes, in addition to the workplace being hostile, it is also being torn apart to replace the HVAC system), and truly just some time to slow down and live life for a little while.  Know what I mean?
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