Monday, April 23, 2012

Pouring Rain

It didn't occur to me when I scheduled a weekend away that April would be the big crunch month of my semester. Though I'm oh-so-glad I went, I've been scrambling to put together my two workshop pieces before the end of this week, as well as my next packet (for which my mentor has graciously given me an extension). And because that didn't seem like enough writing, I've voluntarily taken on two unrelated nonfiction projects this month as well. We're going on our second week of sick kids (apparently, just because they were born together doesn't mean they get sick at the same time). I depleted my sick leave on Z last week, so C was supposed to stay home with E today, but decided that since he didn't have a fever he could go to school (poor youngest child always gets the shaft). Z burned three fingers on the wood stove last night and screamed so long and so loud I thought for sure we'd need to take him to the emergency room (thank goodness for doctor friends who dispense medical advice over the phone). Baseball season starts in force this week, with four days of practice, although we've gotten a bit of a reprieve (tonight anyway) because it actually is pouring rain outside. And just in case we didn't have enough going on already, we increased our household by thirteen yesterday.

Which is all just to say you may not hear from me until May.

In the meantime, enjoy the rain.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Fabulous Weekend...

...with my three favorite women.

Staying up all night talking
(and the obligatory break dance moves)

LOVE you guys!!!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to love PAAS

Two little bunnies spent the week leading up to Easter hiding eggs, so that the Easter Bunny had to go on an egg hunt before he could fill and hide eggs himself.

After last year's failed cabbage- and onion-dyed eggs, I bought two boxes of PAAS (half-price!). 

We left them in a long time, so they got nice and dark.

(The chick egg cups were a recent Etsy purchase).

M spun his pinwheel around until he got so motion sick, he had to lie down on the couch for an hour .

Everyone remembered last year's Easter Breakfast Feast, so I had to make hot cross buns and fruit salad again.

We had three different egg-dyeing sessions, including one Easter afternoon, after we decided we hadn't made enough in the first two rounds, and 'cause why not? 

The piece de resistance--Lemon Merengue Ice Cream Cake (from Apples for Jam). Sooooo yummy (but next time, I'll put the top merengue on the other way, so it will be prettier). This topped off our traditionally non-traditional dinner of salmon, spanikopita (that was actually Swiss charadikopita) and asparagus with lemon sauce. Spring always puts me in mind of greens and Greek food and lemony things.
Happy Spring to you, dear friends.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Pinwheel Tutorial

I made pinwheels for the boys' easter baskets, which turned out to be one of those projects that you think is going to take ten minutes and then turns out to take two hours. I hesitated posting this tutorial because making these is actually a gigantic pain in the a**, but I posted a picture of someone else's tutorial on Pinterest and gobs of people repinned it, so I thought that maybe I could add my words of wisdom to all the pinwheel tutorials out there, to maybe save you a bit of frustration (or at least warn you there will be much!).

First, gather your supplies:

*heavy paper (I found a booklet of six inch cardstock squares with different patterns printed on each side in manly pastels)
*3/8" dowels
*cap erasers
*paints and brushes (I used this Clementine Arts natural paint that I bought a couple of years ago and which we hardly ever use--because it was so expensive--and which is starting to dry out)
*straight pins
*small beads

Cut your dowels in half and paint them festive colors.

 Draw lines from corner to corner on the inside surface of your paper and cut from each corner about 2/3 of the way to the center (if you cut too far, there will be too much torque on the wing and it will drag against the stem when it whirls).

Cut a small circle (or flower shape if you're fancy) of contrasting paper, poke a straight pin through a bead, through the center of the circle and through one corner of each triangle.

Finally poke the pin through the center of the pinwheel (where the two pencil lines cross) and add one or two more beads.

Now this is where it gets tricky. You need to get the pin into the dowel deep enough that it will stay without bending it. Expect numerous beads to go flying through the room and many curse words to be spoken. You may even fling a dowel or two. I finally found that adding an eraser cap (I imagine that this creates a little friction to keep the pin from slipping) and using a push-pin to pre-drill a hole in the dowel helps. 

There are many tutorials for these things all over the web, and they tend to gloss over this step, either making it sound like no problemo to push a sewing pin into hardwood, or suggesting sticking it just through the eraser. My guess is that most of these tutorials are designed for decoration and not children's toys. So, after much frustrating effort, I finally got all four assembled (the fourth was meant to be a prototype, and is a backup in case when someone's breaks) and whipped them through the air rather vigorously to make sure they will stay together for a little while at least.

They do look bright and festive on a gloomy day, don't they?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Four-Season Sweater

This was supposed to be a summer sweater. I was going to wear it over sundresses for times I did not feel like baring my upper arms (which is always). I started it last spring, and knit through baseball season,

Then mostly took the summer off because I am not a summer knitter. Then I picked it up again during soccer season (including one amusing incident, when sitting on the bleachers I could not find my pattern, thought back to the last time I had it, remembered it was two days earlier at another soccer practice, looked over to the other set of bleachers and saw a sheaf of tattered papers--my pattern--in the mud beneath them), knitted right through swimming lessons and basketball season and finally finished at baseball tryouts Saturday. Good thing my kids play so many sports; otherwise I'd never get anything knit.

I even blocked it for reals (with pins and everything), but I only sprayed I and I think I'll need to dunk it in water and block it again to help smooth out some uneven stitches (I do have trouble keeping my tension consistent) and encourage the bottom edge to not roll.

The pattern is the Transverse Cardigan by Ann Weaver (transverse, because it's knit from sleeve to sleeve--I really wanted to type from sleeve to shining sleeve--and the knit runs across the sweater, rather than up and down as usual) and my Ravelry notes, such as they are, are here.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Signs of Spring

C finished up the maple syrup boil last weekend, but I was too busy last week spinning my wheels on various writing projects to post about it.

The sap held up in the shade through a week of 80 degree weather, but the trees stopped running

and he pulled all the taps.

I don't think he ever made a final count, but I think I saw a good five gallons of syrup pass through my kitchen over the past few weeks. Enough to get us through part of next year, at least.

Of course, it got down into the 20s all last week, and even snowed, but I'm guessing the trees had adapted to the summery weather (I know I did) and probably wouldn't have run again, even after it snowed a few days later.

My crocuses came up in the heat, a good month early and already dry and withered on the stem, and the daffodils made an early appearance, too.

I was worried a week in the 20s would kill them, and had been wishing I'd just cut them and brought them in to put in vases, but they seemed to make it through okay, as did the peepers, who had been singing their hearts out through the heat, and kept right on singing the first night it dropped down to 29 degrees. They were quiet the rest of the week, but I heard them again this weekend when it warmed up a bit.

I was lucky enough to have the afternoon off the day it was 85 (I was E's lunch buddy, and we had parent teacher conferences later, so there was no sense in going back to town in between) and spent it all in the hammock reading. Do you have any idea how rare it is for it to be warm enough outside to lie still and not be devoured by insects? Very rare indeed.

Other signs of spring include the beginning of baseball season. M spent the last two Saturdays trying out for Little League and today I got the call that he made it! I know I totally pretend to be all "whatever" about these things, but deep down I'm very proud of him (though I can take zero credit, genetically, for any athletic ability he may have).

It's odd to think that a year ago yesterday we were snowed in at home in the midst of an April Fool's Day blizzard, and a year ago today C and I and our friends D and P went to go see David Sedaris in Portland, which was the last time for months that I laughed, as, beginning that Monday, my career started crashing down around me. I wish I had some words of wisdom about the last year (either for you or for me), about taking adversity and turning it into opportunity, but I guess I'm not there yet. Mostly I'm just looking forward to the whole thing being resolved, which may happen very soon. 

Spring is the time of renewal and rebirth, right? Hopefully this spring will hold the same for me. How about you? What signs of spring are you seeing around you?
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