Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year

Although I know it is not literally true, in my memory it seems as though I spent all the new year's eves of my youth at my best friend's house, having a sleep-over. Of all the blessings one may have in childhood, near the very top is having your very best friend live right next door to you, and your blessings are multiplied when she's from a big family so there are always lots of kids to play with. The Collins family lived next door to us a long time, then they moved to the suburbs for a short while, then they bought a house back on our block. Really the new year's eves I remember most are in that last house, where Mr. and Mrs. Collins still live. They had a great, finished basement with a wet bar (although as a kids' domain it was alcohol-free) and we'd spend the night down there, drinking hot Dr. Pepper with lemon (which for some reason was all the rage), calling in our requests to the local radio station, waiting to be called upstairs to see Dick Clark and the ball drop in NYC, then heading back down for another hour of revelry before ringing in our own new year. My own blessings are exponentially multiplied now, given that I still know and am in touch with my first best friend and her family, and I am thinking of them all today and remembering our shared traditions fondly. Edited to add: except that I'm pretty sure that Pat, like me, has never touched a fruit slice gummy candy (they were made to look like perfect little fake fruit slices, in orange and lemon and lime, but they were made completely without fruit -- just lots of sugar and gelatin or something) since that one year when they were living in Arlington Heights and we picked some up to eat on new years....

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Fresh starts

My dear friend Natalie's birthday is today. If you are reading this, I hope that you will go over to her blog and wish her a happy birthday. You'll be doing yourself the favor, actually, if you haven't been to her blog before, because she's a wonderful writer and great photographer -- you'll like what she's up to.

Yup, still playing with the camera. This was the least-blurry photo I could get of our house last evening (I felt as though my heartbeat prevented me from holding the camera still enough). The huge black shapes looming at the front door are arborvitae gone wild -- they'd be as tall as the roof by now if Ken didn't vigorously trim them back every year. Some years we (well, ok, Ken mostly) string the white lights on those monsters, but it takes a lot more lights, a ladder, and heavy gloves. By the time we decided to do lights this year, there was already snow on the ground so Ken rightfully decided to do the small, bare lilac bushes instead. In New England, the electric candles in the windows at Christmas are just kind of de rigeur. It was warm enough yesterday to melt some of the snow off the bushes in the foreground, but the forecast is calling for another 6 to 8 inches by this time tomorrow, so it'll be all solid white again.

I want to be a better person in 2008 (with the idea being that the new me carries forward from there!). I want to be less judgmental, more forgiving, and I want to figure out how to take the friendliness that's within me (and that seems to come out easily enough online, with friends I've never met) and let it out more easily with the people I do meet, in person. Truth is, I'm pretty socially inept in person; I assume that people have better things to do with their time than listen to me, but the result is that I come across as kind of cold and distant. I don't mean to be that way -- not at all -- but I need to learn how to just relax and be friendly when I get to know people (and not let it take the years and years that it sometimes can for me to relax and be myself, because frankly most people aren't willing to give it that much time). I need to reach out more. I need to be more willing to make mistakes, and to keep trying. I also really, really need to get my house organized and clean up the utter and complete mess that is the craft room/guest room. I need to follow through and finish up projects. Seems like enough to start with, since biting off more than I can chew is also a lingering fault....

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Sew-it-up Saturday

It's a day of snow fog here; warmer than it has been for a while, so the snow starts to melt and evaporate quickly enough to create fog. I stepped out the front door this morning in my slippers and jammies to take this shot; I am still having endless fun playing with the camera Natalie sent me, figuring out the settings and thinking about how it changes everything to be able to have instant access to a photo.

Toying with the idea of some theme days for my blog, but not sure how long I can be consistent with it. I've long been a fan of these photobooth Fridays and I'm enjoying wordless Wednesdays, so I'm tempted. In case I do manage to pull this off, I think Saturdays are a good day for sharing crafty things -- sew-it-up Saturdays? I give you these ancient embroidery designs for camels it that spirit today; I'm also thinking about Three Kings' Day coming up January 6, and these camels seem the sort that could have been carrying kings....

Finally, the first pair of elf shoes I made from Jenny's pattern (I reduced it down quite a bit). I see that I need to do a better job of planning so that the knots end up under the uppers and not visible in the back of the shoe, but that's what practice is for. I'm wondering, though -- would everyone know what to do with the gift of a pair of elf shoes? Would you open them and think, "oh, what an adorable pair of elf shoes that I can put out with my other Christmas decorations!" Or would you think, "why did she send me this weird pair of doll shoes?" Would it make sense to attach them to some ribbon so they could be hung on the tree?

I'm also very fond of little wooly felt baby shoe patterns and wonder if I made them up and added some wintery embroidery and put, oh, some Hershey's kisses or something in them, would that be a good gift or would someone wonder why the sam hill I was sending them baby shoes? I guess I could just include a little note, or -- aha! -- send them early as St. Nicholas Day gifts and then the whole shoe thing would make a little more sense. Right? Yes, I worry too much.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

It was time to get out into the world today, after being happily snug at home since Monday. Dean had a gift card that was burning a hole in his pocket (a lot of other people seemed to be suffering similarly out there) and so we made a swoop to get some fresh air, some post-Christmas bargains, and some lunch. Had to stop at the bookstore, of course. "Um, are you going to be taking pictures now of everything we do"? Dean asked. Well, yeah!

I had thought how cool it would be to take a picture in the drive-through car wash we were planning to drive through, but the sleety rain and slush coming down made it seem like a trip for another day. I have so many new projects in my head that I'm finding it hard to buckle down and DO anything; that, and I'm enjoying that so many bloggers are now picking up where they left off online before Christmas.

Any big plans at your house for New Year's Eve? We're going to try to pick up some nice fish (salmon, maybe) and will try out some of our new games (so far we like Set, which is a card game) and watch a movie or two before checking out the drop of the big ball in Times Square. I am STILL not used to living on Eastern Time; growing up, when Dick Clark shouted "Happy New Year!" it meant that you still had an hour to go before it was real. I'm always caught off-guard and feel weird that when he (or will there be a replacement this year?) says it, it is for real. Is it time to start talking about resolutions yet?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Our Christmas Miracle

It was about 4:30 in the afternoon on Christmas Eve. While Ken took a well-deserved nap, Dean and I snuggled on the sofa and I read him the last few pages of Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory. It's a beautiful, bittersweet story and the last paragraphs are hard to read aloud without choking up (for me, anyway). We went to pick out another book, and stopped by the windows to look outside at the dusky sky and snow-covered yard. Dean said, "I really wish I could open just one present," and I stopped myself from giving the grown-up answer ("there will be plenty of presents to open tomorrow"). Instead, I thought about it for a moment and answered honestly, "me too." I suggested that we put on coats and boots to take a walk out to the mailbox, just in case anything had been delivered. Not that I thought there would BE any presents out there, but I thought there might be some cards (there were) and that the fresh cold air would perk us up.

As we stepped past the bushes in front of our house, the little white lights on them clicked on -- it seemed magical, as though our steps had alerted the lights that it was time. We walked carefully down the icy driveway (really -- I think it would be possible to ice skate on it) and could see that the door on the mailbox was just slightly open, indicating that at least something had been put into it. Well. We're still in awe of what we found! A package from Natalie and her family that included the incredible digital camera she gave me, and also a perfectly wrapped Lego set for Dean and a music cd and the makings for our own Mexican hot chocolate and a card and letter that left us all just speechless (Ken came down from his nap just as we were opening). "I can't believe something this good just happened," Dean said. Ken and I agreed.

I charged up the battery, read the instructions, and tried a few test photos this morning, including that one up there of some of our snowglobes. Here's Dean with his first working roller coaster construction from the jumbo K-Nex set he'd been wishing for that Santa brought:

I will try not to go completely crazy and posting eleventy million photos with each post, but it won't be easy!

Christmas day was lovely and mellow though different from what we expected; Ken's parents decided that morning not to come because his mom didn't want to come up our stairs (she prefers to walk through our yard and up our back steps, but there's a good 4 feet of snow and ice there because all the snow from the driveway gets plowed into that area). It was too bad -- we'd done a lot to prepare for the day, the meal, all that stuff, but Uncle Bob still came and the 4 of us had a blast. We were able to eat our big meal later than we usually have to (Ken's parents like to have the option of getting back on the road while it's still light out, which means Christmas is normally a marathon for me in order to make it all happen quickly) and play with our toys.

I used to get kind of blue on Christmas day -- all those weeks, months of effort and it goes by in a flash. But I've started instead to think of Christmas as everything that happens all month, before AND after the day, and even today it feels like we're celebrating. I know I am, thanks to Natalie and her family.

Monday, December 24, 2007

May your day be merry and bright

Dean and Santa, Disney World, December 2006

And so we prepare for the big night. I'll do the rest of the cooking that can be done ahead, and will prepare our scallop, sugar snap pea, and angel hair pasta dinner for tonight, which we'll eat in front of the fireplace. We'll start early, so there's plenty of time to let the fire die down (although we know Santa is well-prepared and can deal with fireplaces blazing or not). We'll hang our stockings and finish the advent calendars just before we go to bed.

I've been taking my own good advice for a change and have not been working myself into a frenzy. Dean and I decided to put the gingerbread house dough into the freezer so we can make our house after Christmas and in time for New Year's Eve instead. Paper napkins for Christmas dinner (hey, they do have Christmas trees on them!). A spiral-sliced honey ham that only needs to be reheated. It's all good.

I hope you are finding a moment for yourself today at least, if not tomorrow -- I'm listening to Christmas music, drinking my coffee, watching the full moon (I think) set as the sun comes up, feeling happy anticipation. Oh, I've got some notes to take for next year; Ken and I were up late wrapping last night after I'd sworn we'd wrap as we went this year so we could avoid the marathon session. And I've got to work on making some festive fabric bags over the course of the year that we can reuse and thereby cut back on some of the paper. Can do.

Have yourself a very merry Christmas. Thank you so much for stopping by, thanks even more for leaving comments, and here's to a new year of connections and conversations.

Friday, December 21, 2007

One, two, three...

I could not resist adding just a little more polar bear to this Christmas, and yesterday made a vest for Dean with polar bears on it. Simplicity pattern 9498 has both a very simple vest pattern and a hat pattern as well that I've made bunches of times out of fleece -- great projects, fast, and they'd be good for beginners who want to start using their machines to make clothing items.

Dean and I started our school vacation break yesterday by going out early so he could do his Christmas shopping. Now, I'd been asking him since early November if he wanted to spend a day in Boston with me when we could get his shopping done, go out to lunch, have some fun in the city -- but he was never up for it (if ever a boy loved staying home...). But yesterday was the day and while we couldn't go to Boston (more snow was falling, and Boston is a MESS during snow and after snowfalls -- they still don't have the streets cleared from last week's snow) we went to Framingham/Natick which is strip-mall heaven (or hell, but you know what I mean) so he could pick out a tie for Ken and a Webkinz for me (sigh -- it IS the thought that counts). I did try to convince him at the start of all this that handmade gifts would be most appreciated, but he is at that age when it's important to him to be able to spend money on things -- it's that point in childhood when you feel like since all you've ever done is MAKE things for people that you need to be big and save up your allowance to buy things instead. I do understand. We had a delightful lunch out together, and worked on his mega snow fort in the yard when we got home (after he wrapped and hid his purchases). Ken had his office Christmas party last night so we never even saw him. We shared a mac and cheese dinner in front of the tv (!), snuggled up under a blanket, and watched one of the shows we recorded about Disney World. Man, life is good.

Turns out today, with Ken now home on his break, too, that there's a whole plan afoot for us to go see National Treasure: Book of Secrets; not long ago, we rented the first National Treasure movie and all absolutely loved it. I was extremely impressed -- while it's not for little kids, they did actually make a movie that appeals to and is appropriate for kids and adults. Dean loves US history, and the movie did a nice job of raising his interest (and savvy) even higher. We'll finish up a few more errands, get the rolling salt box (car) washed, and while Ken and Dean do more snow fort work, I'll get cookie dough going and some wrapping done. It feels like the right place to be, with 3 days to go. Sure, I wish I were done with the wrapping and had the housework underway, but I know from experience that we will manage. I JUST had the brilliant idea to perhaps use festive paper napkins on Christmas rather than ironing the big stack of cloth ones; I'd rather cut some corners than decide I don't have time to go to the movies.

I hope this finds you making the decisions you need to make about what gets done and what doesn't, and that you are not driving yourself crazy trying to do it all.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Do you recognize this pair? Tempted as I am to make it a contest, I won't. They are St. Nicholas and Krampus, respectively. If you're hip to Krampus, give yourself a pat on the back, or thank the Austrian relative who turned you on to him. I was all excited to be able to give you the link so you could get your own set if you were so inclined, but House on the Hill no longer carries them. I had Austrian grandparents on both sides of my family, but I think I learned more about these guys as an adult.

So the deal is you know all about St. Nicholas, of course, and you're probably all set with December 6th being St. Nicholas Day. Well, in Germany and Austria, St. Nick's traveling companion is Krampus. You've probably already got a bad feeling about him, given the horns on his head. He's the one in charge of dealing with the bad children. As my great little info sheet (that came with when I bought the cutters) says, you can think of them as a good cop/bad cop pair. I try to make an even number of each out of our favorite gingerbread recipe, but sometimes I make more of Krampus just because. You know -- maybe if we honor the bad cop, he'll overlook any transgressions....

Monday, December 17, 2007

Beary Christmas

OK, here's the thing. I am just ridiculously pleased with how this polar bear came out. What the scan doesn't show you is that he is 3-dimensional -- he has 4 legs, and a gusseted head. I'd been making the dogs, as in my last post, from a pattern, and last night when I couldn't sleep, all I could think about was how to adapt the pattern to make polar bears. I'm just going to tell you right now that 2008 will be the Christmas of polar bears. This first guy, of course, is for Dean. But I am picturing them with more elaborate saddles -- all embroidered up with flowers and snowflakes and stuff. I can see putting a string through the tops to make ornaments. I am thinking about adapting the pattern for smaller and larger sizes, so I can make whole families. Polar bears everywhere. It feels good to have a plan AND a year to carry it out.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Yo ho ho

It has been a week. I won't drag you through the whole mess of it, but it has been a week. I've been hanging on thanks to the incredibly wonderful thing that managed to happen -- being one of the winners over at Natalie's 1000th post giveaway. (I still can't believe it!) Gives me faith that there is NOT some divine being trying to force me completely off the road. I may actually be able to post pictures, taken recently, and could show you the snowflakes in my kitchen window, even (I'm trying, Leslie!).

Dean's Winter Concert at school today was also a wonderful thing -- the sight of 30 kids singing Straighten Up and Fly Right would put a smile on any face.

We had about 7" of snow fall yesterday; I need to count at one of my blessings here that we all got home all right, given that it took some people we know 5+ hours to do what should have been an hour's commute. Big mess. More coming Sunday, they say, but please cross your fingers that the very expensive tickets I bought for the candlelight carol concert don't go to waste because of the weather. Tomorrow this little pocket puppy dog, along with a sleigh (or station wagon) full (sort of) of gifts goes with us to visit family and do the first of our holiday exchanges and celebrations. I get this weird sense of unreality -- we look forward to this season all year and then it goes in a blur of things sometimes done right but otherwise just kind of cobbled together best we can with a lot of Christmas music and food mixed in. Life, right?

So my plan is that by Monday it'll all be good -- I'll be back on top of my game and ready. Meanwhile, here is the easiest, tastiest fudge you'll ever make:

Foolproof Fudge

3 cups chocolate chips
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt

Lightly butter an 8 x 8 baking dish, or line it with foil.

Slowly, gently, melt the chocolate chips (microwave or stovetop, whatever's comfortable for you). Stir condensed milk into the hot melted chocolate, and add the vanilla and salt. Once it is all combined, pour it in the dish and flatten out the top. Refrigerate for 3 hours. Slice and serve.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Let it snow

A number of years ago, my mom crocheted for me a flurry of snowflakes. I treasure them, and each year think about where to hang them for optimal viewing pleasure. This handful still needs to be pressed and hung. I put a bunch up in my kitchen window last night and it made me smile to walk into the kitchen this morning and see them there.

I sound like my mom today -- this is not a good thing. Her low, raspy, gasp-for-breath voice comes from years of smoking; mine is the last vestiges (I HOPE) of this cold I am trying to shake. I need to get better and get my energy back again. Now. Dean's recovery has been faster than mine, fortunately. It makes all the difference when you are still growing and your cells are doing all that hard work already.

Wow. Two weeks from today. I just noticed.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Fat man in the red suit

We have a wonderful collection of Christmas books; we spend the entire month of December reading them at bedtime. There are the classics, the books received as gifts, the ones carefully chosen from the bookstore. Then there are the little gems picked up from yard sales, from used book sales, that we especially treasure. The Mole Family's Christmas, by Russell and Lillian Hoban, is one such gem. You can get it used from Amazon for as little as 50 cents, apparently, and if you were going to add one book to your collection (or start one) this year, this would be my recommendation.

Dean and I are both suffering from nasty colds at the moment, so it's a relief that we've already done everything "out in the world" that we needed to do this weekend and can just be at home today. Just two more boxes of decorations to bring up from the basement. A mountain (really, a mountain) of laundry to fold, a bathroom to clean, some serious dusting and vacuuming to do, but we'll get there. Next weekend we have a lot more going on -- relatives to visit, the candlelight carol service to attend, a stroll through Boston's North End for some Italian Christmas treats -- so our plan is to be healthy and caught up by then. At Christmas time I miss Chicago for so many reasons; first, of course, simply because it was 'home' and the place of all my childhood Christmases, but then for the Swedish shops in Andersonville and all the German restaurants and bakeries where my own family's heritage is connected. There was never much of a German presence in Boston, so we're without Bavarian gemutlichkeit and I feel its absence.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Egg-drop Soup

Have you ever made egg-drop soup? Did you know that it's got to be the easiest, fastest, most comforting last-minute thing to make?

4 cups (1 quart) chicken stock
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 scallions, sliced thinly on diagonal

Bring broth to a boil, add soy sauce. Slowly pour the eggs into the broth, in a stream, and add scallions. Turn down heat and let cook about 5 minutes. Serve.

This is my little gift to you -- this instant meal for a time of year when a quick something to eat is just the ticket. What's your favorite emergency meal?

Monday, December 3, 2007

Good news

This is the center part of a mini-quilt (roughly 8.5 x 11") going out in a day or two; trying to get all the gifts mailed this week. I'm even thinking about finishing my own mini-quilt. Having the time to consider getting a project done for myself feels like the ultimate accomplishment at the moment.

Dean and I spent some time this morning putting ornaments on the tree, since school was delayed for 90 minutes because of the overnight dusting of snow and ice. "Do you know how Jesus died," Dean asked. "Well yes, Dean, I do know." "Really horrible," Dean said, "I hate to even think about it." There were a few moments of silence and I said, "but he rose again, Dean -- he didn't really die -- that's what Easter is all about; we celebrate that he rose from the dead and has eternal life." Dean just stared at me in awe before saying, under his breath, "sweeeeet!"

Friday, November 30, 2007

What can you do with an acorn?

These wonderful little acorn people have been up on my bulletin board for a long time -- a page pulled from Parenting magazine from 2002. I've been looking at them a lot lately and thinking about a whole holiday crew of them, and we certainly have the acorns and pine cones out in our yard for the taking. Dean's pretty enthusiastic about making a set, too. He's having a friend over on Monday and they are going to make fudge -- Dean found an easy recipe in one of his cookbooks. I love that. I have been informed that I should just be on stand-by -- that Dean and his friend will do everything and I should just be available if help is needed. Can do!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


So it's just a universally accepted fact at this point that time moves faster at this time of year than at any other. You think a day has gone by and it has been almost a week. We all know it. It still hits me up-side the head, though.

I love old photos of Christmas trees, reflecting the utter pride and love people feel once they get their masterpieces decorated. I also appreciate what they say about the times -- about how much (or how little, I suppose) was just enough. I have some old pictures that my parents took when they were newlyweds, new parents, of their decorated tree and the gifts spread out below, and I think about how precious it was to them, how monumental (and photo-worthy) it was. It helps to remember that it wasn't very long ago that photos were NOT instant nor instantly disposable -- that to take out the camera and use film really meant something.

We're going to hear Candlelight Carols at Trinity Church in Boston in a couple of weeks; if you live in the area and have never experienced this I can highly recommend it. This choir is one that instills in you complete awe that human voices can be so beautiful, so perfect, and celebrates the richness of Christmas music. When we lived in Boston, we used to go to Trinity Church for Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, which is also an intense, awe-inspiring experience that I can highly recommend (whether you are religious or not). I hope someday to be able to take Dean to a Midnight Mass, just so he can have that experience, although the churches out our way are not nearly as majestic.

I'm working away on my gift projects, happily and contentedly. Sending my sister's family homemade cookies and not feeling guilty about it. And hey, we're even going to go get our tree tomorrow night; with so many people decorating earlier and earlier, we've realized that if we don't get on the bandwagon then we'll end up again, as we did last year, having a "choice" of one tree by the time we get to the lot. We do buy cut trees now. We did buy and successfully replant live trees for many years, but it's not workable anymore. Our cut tree purchase supports the tree farmer who keeps his fields planted in trees (and not turned into over-sized housing developments) and we have space in the woods behind our house to leave the trees out to rot (and support all kinds of wildlife along the way). We'll start reading our Christmas books, and watching our holiday movies soon. I just wish I wasn't the only one in the family who likes eggnog....

Friday, November 23, 2007


Feeling better; thank you, all, for the support and kind words. Thanksgiving is now under our collective belt (and how!) so we look gleefully ahead now to Christmas.

I bought this book, A Grateful Heart, when Dean was a baby. We use it every holiday or special occasion meal to read out a grace, or blessing. It's a terrific book because it is non-denominational and includes very short, simple pieces with rich meaning that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. Dean was proud to be the reader this year -- I mark in pencil next to each piece with the date we read it and now am marking the reader as well.

Another simple little tradition I undertook before I was married was to use a small, hardcover blank book to record special meals. I write down the date, the guests, the food and wine, the weather. I love being able to look back and remember the year, the meal, by the notes I've taken. It helped Ken prove his point the other day when I commented that "it is so much easier [Thanksgiving] when it is just us" and he said I don't cook any less even when it is 'just us.' Ah, well. Got me there.

I've decided to be less sensitive to perceived criticisms about a simpler, more handmade holiday and am simply going for it. I'd be happy to receive a sweet little doggie ornament like this -- wouldn't you? Once again I see that I don't have it in me for the kind of mass-production required when you sell your work, but I *think* I can get all my little gifts made on time!

Monday, November 19, 2007


So, okay. Yes. This post-every-day-in-November thing just isn't working out for me. I've been stressed over figuring out what I need to get done and then trying to find the time to do any of it -- weirdly putting things off which is so not like me. Running into some snags with the trying to do less for Christmas things (I spared you the hyphens because I care). Not feeling okay about spending time blogging. I think it'll get better after Thanksgiving; that's my plan, anyway.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

39 crafting days til Christmas

I don't update my blog from work -- or at least, I've never done so before. Seemed like a good line to draw. But I'm all caught up and am only still here because Dean insisted on spending time in the after-school program to visit with his friends and sooo....

Lots of Christmas crafting love going on in blogville these days. I've been inspired by the numbers of people making real efforts to give mostly, if not wholly, handmade gifts, by those who are talking earnestly about giving (and wanting) less, and those joining the effort to avoid things made in China. I was intrigued to come across a movement to avoid buying anything on the day after Thanksgiving (traditionally THE shopping day in the US for Christmas). Read more about it and see what you think. We've always made it a point to stay at home on that Friday -- to revel in the mostly clean house, in the rush of relaxation that comes after any big event, to enjoy the riches of the fridge and larder all stocked with leftovers, to avoid the crowds and insanity of the world outside. Last year at about this time, I had an interesting conversation with a woman who worked at Sears. She was delighted that she had drawn the opening shift and had to be at work at 3 a.m. (you read that right) the day after Thanksgiving because it meant that she'd be able to get a parking spot. She explained to me that the people who had to be at work later in the day would have to arrive hours early just to circle the lot and find parking (unless they were lucky enough to have someone who would drive them to and from work that day). I was horrified -- I'd never thought about the impact of those ridiculously early opening times on that day on the people who work in those stores and malls. It isn't right. So I like the idea of declaring it a "no-shopping day," although I'm less enamored of the "resistance" efforts (I don't think the people working as security guards at large chain stores deserve to have to deal with people intentionally trying to gum up the works). But then, I'm not an extremist and you knew that about me already.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Actual crafting

I actually made stuff today! Four small zippered bags, three tissue holders. Dean's going to a birthday party soon and the gift has a whole dog theme, so a little zippered doggie bag (for which Dean intends to sew up a dog softie to go inside) seemed just right. The only adjustment I'd make to this tutorial would be to say that you should sew the lining pouch with a larger seam, so that the pouch is less deep (and therefore does not wrinkle at the bottom) than the size of the bag. I can't decide yet if the tissue holders are going to be as useful as I'd hoped, so I may test-drive one for a while before I make any more as gifts. Next I really need to finish up the mini-quilts I've got going, and figure out if there's anything else I particularly need to make in the next month.

Meanwhile, Ken's off again -- Phoenix, this time. Last night I dreamed that his flight was canceled because of torrential rain, but he appears to have gotten off all right and will be in Phoenix at just about the time Dean and I are finishing up story time and heading toward lights out. I'm not as nervous or as stressed this time, which seems good. So far.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


Have you discovered Blurb yet? Oh, my goodness. You go there, you download their book building software (I'm on a Mac and it works like a dream), and you create your book which they will then publish for you -- hard or soft cover -- for a pretty reasonable price. I'm in the midst of converting my old blog postings to book format so that I can delete them online but save them for myself. It all started because I've noticed Blogger is dropping out some of my photos, which I'm guessing is because I've hit a storage limit. I'd rather pay for a book to keep than for more online storage space, so there you go. My paternal grandmother, Ellamae (is that a great name, or what?) kept a diary, but every New Year's Eve she'd burn the prior year's book. I appreciate her sense of privacy, and yet what a treasure it would be to have one of those diaries (she was private in everything, so it makes it all the more frustrating not to have what she purposefully kept for herself, alone). But I'm driven to keep, to save, to record. The big downside to this book making business is that it is yet ANOTHER big time drainer, another thing keeping me away from the Christmas-gift to-do pile....

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Dragon rider

Catching up on photo sharing -- Dean as Eragon. 10/31/2007

Friday, November 9, 2007

At long last

Back in August, I really did finish this small broken dishes quilt (titled "Too Much Going On") and Dean promptly claimed it. Here's my picture, promised so long ago; I literally picked up the roll of film today. Better late than never? Dean was giving me his "but I AM smiling normally!" smile -- I miss the days when the camera didn't bring out some other creature in him, when he didn't go all pose-y on me. He does cooperate, though, so I know I shouldn't complain. Dean likes to put this quilt on his bed and sleep under it, which has pushed me into working on a real bed-sized quilt for him. Hope to have it done after the holidays, and then maybe by spring I'll have a picture to share.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Comfort food

It surprises me to realize that I've never mentioned the magical recipe for Pumpkin Bars here before; Pumpkin Bars are such a part of our lives this time of year that Dean even said, when talking with someone we hope to have over to our house for dinner one of these days, "and there will be Pumpkin Bars!" I made the mistake of sending this recipe to Helen; a mistake only because now I know that canned pumpkin is NOT something you just go to the store and buy if you live in England. Maybe you do need to live in the U.S. to be able to buy canned pumpkin? In any case, canned is the only way to go -- don't even think about peeling, seeding, and cooking down an actual pumpkin. I often use canned squash in recipes that call for canned pumpkin, but dollars to donuts that's a U.S. thing, too. Maybe even just a New England thing? If you have recipes that call for canned pumpkin and you can get canned squash, give the switch a try!

And before you go thinking otherwise, let me be right up front and tell you that Martha and her minions are the ones to thank -- it's their recipe.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Holding on

Another calendar page; this one's from mine, for next year. Lately I've been trying to tackle the piles that are all over the house of pages torn from magazines and catalogs by cutting out the particular images and filing them in my image binder. Makes all the difference to have the things right at hand, "semi-filed" (in that my system of categorizing is pretty loose), and already cut. Also helps cut down on the slag heaps everywhere....

Tuesdays are our marathon days: school/work, Dean's piano lesson, Ken's guitar lesson, a late dinner. I'm trying to figure out how to hold on to November, how to have a grip that keeps it from utterly sliding away the way October did, and I think part of it may involve not thinking too much beyond today.

Monday, November 5, 2007

A month of posts

I've just learned that November is post-something-everyday-on-your-blog month. (Well, officially, "National Blog Posting Month.") Did you know that? I won't be defeated by having just learned this and already being out of compliance -- I'll just forge ahead and see what I can manage.

I truly, deeply dislike Daylight Savings Time, and so am feeling better about everything, now that I've fallen back. Did you see all the reports in the past few days about all the scientific studies supporting the idea that "springing ahead" should be abolished because the human body was simply NOT designed to have twice-yearly tricks played on it to adjust to a new time? That it's typical human hubris to think that we can just arbitrarily set the time, ignoring the body's clock? Yeah, baby. One time, all the time -- that's my story and I'm sticking with it.

The picture up there is from the latest calendar I'm making -- one for Dean, at his very special, ardent, request. He'd asked for one last year, too, but I didn't get to it really mostly because I didn't think a person of his, um, age, would have a great deal of use for a week-by-week calendar. But whether or not he'll use it is, I've realized, not the point. The point is that he values homemade things, enjoys the stuff I make, and wants me to make for him one of what I'm willing to make for other people. Fair enough. I'm lucky to have his encouragement and support and I'm already having a lot of fun with this one.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

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Friday, November 2, 2007

Plastic perils

One page from this delightful book, which I used to make Dean one of these bad boys for his Halloween day lunch box treat (his was white and taupe, with a batman-type mask and a 'trick-or-treat' banner in its paws). Oh, Halloween's all done with already? And October's over, too? Where have I been?

Well, one thing I've been doing is researching plastic (particularly BPA content in food containers and in the lining of canned foods) and searching out replacements. Read more about the dangers of chemical leaching into foods and drinks, but only if you're prepared to shop for replacements. This time (unlike my microwave panic), Ken's on board, having checked the sources for all this information and finding solid science behind it. There IS controversy, because the plastics industries/bottle and can manufacturers, etc., are claiming that while BPA is present and does pose health risks, that the amounts needed to reach toxic levels are higher than what people's 'normal' exposure would be. The challenge is that there are myriad health risks, and the ability of BPA to interfere with hormonal/reproductive health occurs at the kind of low levels that use of these plastics delivers. The biggest risk is to children who stand to face a lifetime's daily exposure. Go here and download their "Smart Plastics Guide/Healthier Food Uses of Plastics" for some helpful details.

I have ordered, at the staggering cost of about $60 (includes shipping), three stainless steel drink containers designed for lunch box use for Dean, and also found a great list of links for even more information at that site. While I cannot deny that $20 a piece for a drink container would, under any other circumstances, be unthinkable for me, limiting Dean's exposure as quickly as I can in as many ways as I can is critical. He will still be exposed to Bisphenol A (BPA), Polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and Polystyrene (PS) -- these toxins are everywhere, given that very little food or drink is packaged in glass anymore (which, of course, uses more fossil fuels for shipping, etc.) -- but I want to take charge every place I can. And as with the China-free thing, I want to send clear messages with my purchasing.

It is easy to get stuck in feeling hopeless. When I first started down this path, I almost gave up; after having figured out how to package Dean's lunch foods differently, I realized the sources for those foods were plastic containers that the stuff gets packaged and sold in. But it's back to that idea of incremental change and wanting to do what I can. If you find good sources for alternatives to plastic, please do share.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Just trying to make it

So maybe you, too, succumbed to the lure of The Cute Book, and maybe you, too, have had it on your shelf but haven't quite had time to do anything with it. Well, I'm here to tell you that this little panda (page 12!) came together in no time at all, so you should open the book and try something out. I've made some little countdown treats for Dean's lunch box this week (counting down until Halloween, of course); I loved that last week on the way home from school one day, Dean reminisced about our tradition that we "always" countdown to holidays with lunch box surprises. Kids are like that -- they'll take something you've done that they liked and instantly turn it into tradition. It delights me. And it reminds me how worthwhile it is to pick up some felt and thread and make things. I wish I could show you the hamster I made (complete with a mask and "trick or treat" banner), but that guy is too big to be scanned -- and now Blogger doesn't want to let me post anymore photos so I'll have to try again tomorrow.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

China-free me?

All right. Natalie and Leslie have both reported in that they are back in their homes, and while optimistic are keeping close watch on the fires. We are all still on edge, waiting, but I'm trying to push myself out of can't-think-about-anything-else mode and honoring Natalie's request to just get on with normal stuff. If you hear about relief efforts that need support, I'd love to know about them.

OK -- so the long-simmering-in-my-head post that I meant to write days ago was in response to some wonderful questions Natalie raised about the whole China-free thing, and about where the ability to be environmentally responsible begins and ends. First, she made me laugh out loud with her first thought -- that "china-free" meant, like, paper plates for Christmas dinner! Gotta love a mind like that! And I even wrote her a whole long comment that evaporated in the ether when I hit "post." Anyhoo.

For me, China-free is about sending a message to the big businesses (primarily American? seems so, but surely it's global) whose manufacturing operations are in China, and to those manufacturing operations in China themselves. How dare you sacrifice the health and well-being of your workers, of your customers, and of our planet by using the cheapest and most deadly materials to make your goods? How dare you, Hasbro, increase your profit margins by knowingly (yeah, knowingly) allowing lead levels in toys -- TOYS -- to be what we've now learned they are? From the horror of the pet and human food contaminations to lead in toys designed for infants to suck on them, where does it end? It won't end, I believe -- it will keep getting worse. Once you start doing some research into how polluted China has become (and how quickly), it doesn't take long to calculate how devastating, given its size and population, this will be for all of us on Earth.

So sure, the lure of China for manufacturing is just how CHEAP it is, and as consumers we get sucked right into that because it's easy not to think about getting cancer in X number of years because we loved the color of lipstick we saw on our way to the register and bought it as a little pick-me-up and didn't realize it was full of toxic chemicals. Yup, the quick, easy, affordable choice for a lot of us is to head to Target or WalMart and get what we need. I go to Target and Walmart to be able to pick up what I need (in no way am I presenting myself as the queen-o-environmental-responsibility). No, we all can't afford pristine, artisan, environmentally perfect choices (and the reality is that there are not environmentally perfect choices for humans on this planet -- it's ALL a compromise).

OK. So where does that leave us? I'd written a post a while ago which of course I can't find now, but it was about my belief in the power of incremental change. About how the reason I think we fail is because we tend to have all-or-nothing approaches and so, for example, once we break down and eat the Halloween candy that was meant for next week we figure we'll never make our weight-loss goal so what's the point of even trying anymore? For me, this means that I am trying to be more environmentally responsible, more aware. It means that I will most assuredly still sometimes buy things made in China because (1) I was in a hurry and neglected to read the label, (2) it's the version I can afford, or (3) I honestly cannot find an alternative. But none of that will stop me from trying, and I've already turned down stuff and I'll keep turning down stuff. The China-free Christmas idea also pushed me toward re-examining our own expectations and approaches to the holiday in ways I wouldn't have done before, and I do believe we'll end up lighter AND happier.

One easy and well-intentioned tip: I found a terrific Web site that will help get unwanted catalogs out of your mailbox. I'm hoping by next year I won't have the piles and piles of catalogs going in the recycle bin.

I get wound up -- passionate -- about this stuff, but I hope I don't come across as holier-than-thou or anything. I'm just trying, learning. You may or may not want to keep an eye out for what I've been learning lately about plastics. It's ugly.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Stay safe

[image from Chile Pepper Passion postcard book by Eduardo Fuss]

I had a whole post in my head that I was planning to write, but my idea included linking to a post on Natalie's site and in going over there I saw that she and her family have been evacuated ahead of the fires in California. So nothing else seems important today.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Back around

[A Quilt For The Child I Never Had by Jane Burch Cochran]

I knew I was overdue on posting but didn't realize it had been a whole week -- that makes total sense, though, because it has been quite the week! All good, mind you, but as super-busy as I can possibly manage to be. The personal highlight had to be meeting up with Heidi at the New England Quilt Museum -- my first experience in meeting a fellow blogger firsthand. We took our time touring the museum, then really took our time exploring the gift shop (more of the most perfect quilting books and fabrics gathered in one place than you would imagine). Lunch was apple/butternut squash bisque at a quirky little organic/vegetarian place across the street (the kind of place that you wish were in your very own neighborhood). I'm looking forward to another adventure with Heidi, AND to getting up to the museum again soon.

So otherwise it has been work and soccer and family activities that have kept me hopping. Tomorrow I get to go on a field trip with Dean's class to hear a "Conversations in Jazz" concert here and he has a friend coming over after school (the game plan is for me to do my grocery shopping after the concert and before the play date -- wish me luck). Then I'll have my regular work week and I think it's back to just the usual level of mayhem.

I had kind of a revelation -- a small one, granted, but still -- when we were all asked for our Christmas wish-lists yesterday. Rather than three lists, I'm going to offer one little list of things that we could be given as a family. Some board games we've been eyeing, a gift certificate to L.L. Bean which is one store where we all shop (and where we get outfitted for our camping adventures), things that we can all share and enjoy. This simplifies things all the way around, and moves us toward an even easier plan for next year (I am delighted to be a part of an extended family that generally has the holidays pretty much in hand by now, so we can't pull off wholesale change this late in the game).

The US, with 5% of the world's population, uses 30% of the earth's resources. How can we all scale back?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Pick one

[getting the pumpkins, c. 2001]

I had an image in my mind, as I often do, about what "going to get our pumpkins" was going to look like this year. Oh, we'd drive a little ways (not TOO far), we'd peep at some leaves, we'd inhale the smell of apples, and cider, and maybe there would be a hay ride and then we'd pick out our pumpkins from a massive selection of every shape and size. Instead we did the right thing -- we drove to a tiny little family-run business just over a mile from our house. They are trying to make a go of it as a garden center, and seeing as they are as off the beaten path as you can be, it's hard. So we went there because they are essentially our neighbors. And the three pumpkins we bought were pert-near the only pumpkins they had (not that they'd run out, mind you). And that's where we bought the asters I planted and the allium Dean intends to plant in his garden. It's ok, that it didn't go the way I'd intended. I get a little too crazy sometimes, when Ken and Dean are perfectly content with the simple way.

In addition to all the other projects I talk about starting, never seem to show you, and never mention finishing, I now present: halloween mini-quilts! I'll, ah, keep you posted. But hey, is it just me, or would you have never thought of sewing a zippered pouch this way?

Friday, October 12, 2007


Join me, won't you? Raise a glass, and let's toast: to Al Gore, to the Nobel Peace Prize, and to the Democratic future for the United States (and to the positive difference that will make to the whole, entire world). Hear, hear! (At least, that's the form of "hear" I *think* would come in agreement to a jolly toast -- or would it be "here, here!"?)


Also please join in with the effort launched over at me and my storey -- a China free Christmas! Is that cool, or what?

One of these days I am going to attempt to show you what's inside my purse, but I'm telling you right now -- it is not nearly so stylish nor so organized as this gal's. Just proves how much better your life is if you happen to live in Scandinavia somewhere. [I can't get the link to go to the specific post, so if you wander over there and don't see what I'm talking about, seek out her Oct. 4th post, please.]

I said I'd report back and so now I am -- they honestly DO give you free shipping over at Halloween Costumes 4U if you mention them on your blog. I think this is a stroke of genius type of marketing, and I'd like to see it spread like wildfire.

I saw the headline "Grilled Cheese Renaissance" and I thought -- but in order for there to be a revival, a renaissance, something has to have been gone first, or dead somehow, right? I mean, were grilled cheese sandwiches ever dead to you? I didn't think so.

Can you tell I've been in a weird mood? But I'm coming back around, not to worry -- I won't be going "all random" on you from now on or anything.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Catching up

The ladybugs are back. Some years, in the fall, when it's especially warm, swarms (well, small swarms) of ladybugs move into our house. They stay for the winter, snuggled up in bunches in odd places (like in the corners of ceilings -- isn't it hard to hibernate up there?). We like when they come and live with us and we miss them when they don't. So anyway, they are back again this year and it feels good. Lucky.

I got some gardening done today, which I haven't managed to do in a long time. Planted 3 purple dome asters, pulled weeds, and cut back some of the summer stuff that's long since done. I also started putting the face details on Dean's dog quilt -- I'll show you when I get to the noses.

I had a nice phone conversation with my mom; it is weird to live 3000 miles away from your mom, with neither of you living in the place you'd both call 'home' (Chicago). I haven't lived in the same city as my mom in 22 years. It's not just been me; she moved to Arizona when I was (briefly) back in Chicago after college.

OK. Pretty random. But good. All good.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Just walk away, Renee

[We are NOT talking about baseball. Not. talking.]

Oh, it was a day. Not an all-bad day, certainly. The sun shone, birds sang, I got out for a walk, I ate healthfully for lunch (and breakfast!), good work was accomplished, productive meetings were had, nothing tragic happened within the immediate circle of my family and friends.

But still, there was that black spot. That ugly hole where the *thing* that happened, the interchange, the personal politics, the drama about a particular issue -- which, in and of itself I may have been able to negotiate painlessly -- that managed to connect itself with heavy, poison tentacles to some of my own darkest baggage. That's the whole thing -- you know? -- the problem. It's that each of us has those hardwired, well-defined connections that make what seems to all the rest of the world like an innocent enough, stupid enough *thing* and make it into the stuff of horribleness. Of anger and frustration and hopelessness (depending on just how low you can go). And the thing about it is that only WE can see those connections in ourselves. Only we know how it went from Point A to Point B wherein Point B has us boiling over and those around us can't understand how that happened. "Why are you so upset? It's no big deal." Well, sure, not for YOU, because you aren't wired the way I am. Your buttons didn't get pushed, but mine did. [No, Ken, this honestly has nothing to do with you -- you were away, remember? Not anything about you!]

I'm the kind of person about whom other people regularly make the mistaken assumption that I "never get angry." I don't wear it on my sleeve, for sure. But when I'm ready to blow I just walk away -- that's the danger signal with me. And because people don't even expect THAT of me, it turns out to be a lot more powerful than, say, the verbal explosion other people may employ. Not saying that's good or bad. Just saying.

So yesterday I had to walk away. And now I'm trying to just keep walking -- to leave my anger behind me and wrap back up that ugly, scary baggage and leave it alone in the dark again. When I worked in Boston (and had an hour's commute each way), after a bad day I would employ the image of a spool of thread. I would imagine that all the stuff at work was thread wrapped around this spool. And I would hold the spool with me, in my mind, and leave the start of the thread tied there in Boston, and let the thread run off the spool as I drove home, so that by the time I got out of the car I had just this lovely, wooden (of course!), empty spool and I'd left all the stuff behind me.

How was your day?

As I took my walk, after walking away, I thought about how to process this thing, this time, and I thought, "can I work this out through my art?" And then I thought, "what art?" And I laughed. Then I thought a little more and I came to the realization that whatever it may be that I may call "my art," and whenever it may be that I have time to do it, I won't be working out my anger that way. I can see working through those feelings of coming OUT of the bad stuff (I have this image, this feeling when you are in deep water -- after having jumped feet-first into the deep end of a pool, say -- and you are reaching up for the top -- up, up, up -- and you know it will be there yet you're a little bit panicked [I do need to BREATHE now!] but finally you break through the surface and that first hungry breath is so reassuring and delicious). THAT I could work with. But for me, I don't want to mix in my worst with the things I enjoy doing the most. Does that make sense?

Hey -- I'm feeling better already!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Love hurts

Woe is me. After having carefully, with just the right amount of dedicated detachment (so as not to jinx anything), watched my beloved hometown Cubs take the NL Central title, I am now subjected to the pain of an unnecessary (unnecessary!) loss in Game 1 of the NLDS. It ain't right. Where's Mr. Cub when you need him?

[image from the amazing]

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

You can go but be back soon

Ken left early this morning on a business trip. Waahhh! I realize that many families deal, weekly, with a traveling parent -- we've known so many people, are even related to people!, who travel regularly for their jobs. Ken and I both have always put right up at the top of our lists for our own career choices no regular travel required. I even passed on a decent job not that long ago that required spending the week before Thanksgiving, every year, in Las Vegas at a trade show because I knew that would just kill me -- every year. So anyway, Ken did need to take a rare trip (although he has to go away next month, too -- waahhh!) and he's only been gone less than 2 hours and I already miss him and the whole routine of our family (he won't be home for dinner! he won't be here for the bedtime story!). And ok, I'll admit it -- even though I wouldn't normally call myself a fearful person, I always worry a bit when one of us is away. I have to really hold the fear down and sit on it so it doesn't get much chance to breathe, I have to focus on that point that will come in a couple of days when Ken walks back into the house with his bag in his hand and tells us how happy he is to be home again. Safe and sound.

The other part of me wonders how Dean and I should live it up, now that we've got the pad to ourselves....

[I've got to get some film developed and get some of my quilts and other projects posted here -- you'd hardly know that this here is a crafter's blog!]

Monday, October 1, 2007

Round & round

Friends like to tell me how incongruent it is with the rest of my personality that I love Walt Disney World the way I do, but I feel this photo I took on our last trip goes a long way in explaining. Carousel horses, beautifully designed and maintained, twirling around a backdrop of castle and village, brilliant fairy-tale color everywhere.... Works for me.

I'm trying to catch up on some scrapbooking and so my trip photos are everywhere at the moment. I find I can do only one kind of craft at a time -- my space is either given over to scrapbooking or sewing or quilting or collage-making or whatever; probably both a mental and physical limitation. But I've got to switch over to more sewing soon, what with October here already and Christmas around the corner!

The month of pumpkins. And leaves and soup (not together!) and sweaters and -- oh, I keep forgetting to check when the time changes this year. November 4th, as it turns out. Weird not to make the change before Halloween, but there you go.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Full Harvest Moon

For all you knitters out there, I thought you'd enjoy seeing this magnificent advent calendar from Garnet Hill -- tiny hats and mittens numbered 1 through 24, just big enough to hold a small treasure. If I could knit....

Now if I had a digital camera, the image up there would be of the incredible Full Harvest Moon that Dean and I saw early this morning. We stepped out onto our front porch, in the mostly dark, to use binoculars for an even better view. It was the kind of brilliant and changing full moon that makes it nearly impossible to believe that it isn't being lit from inside, starting silvery white and becoming coppery orange before dipping, by sunrise, below the horizon. Those moments with Dean are particularly sacred to me -- outside before dawn, listening to the natural world waking, breathing in the sweet morning air, watching the sky. He felt it too, today, saying "I love you" before handing me the binoculars.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Ah, New England in the fall!
Our camping trip was successful -- very nice weather, probably the best possible tent site we could have gotten (given that they didn't honor our original booking), a terrific day at the fair, no ticks (one year Ken did have that one and needed to go on antibiotics...). We must concede that this particular camp ground no longer suits us -- it really has become RV heaven. Nothing wrong with RVs (in fact, I'm always fascinated by the whole RV culture and the instant villages that sprout) but if you're camping in a tent and can count 15 of them from the place where you're sitting in front of your camp fire, you know it's time to move on. I'd thought that gas prices would have had an impact, but apparently not. One lovely woman we spoke with, who travels with her Australian Sheepdog, had the coolest Airstream trailer imaginable (outside one of those great vintage models, that is)....

I think we all agreed that we want an Australian Sheepdog, and that next year we'll probably camp in Vermont. Hey, before I forget -- next time anyone is staying at a Ritz Carlton, will you attempt to order a s'more from room service and report back on what happens? It was Helen's idea, and I think it is brilliant.

Friday, September 21, 2007


[from Dover's Spot Illustrations from Women's Magazines of the Teens and Twenties]

I've been meaning to recommend to all lovers of vintage images that you go to the Vintage Workshop site and sign up for their e-newsletter; you'll get a free image every month (and you get a couple of free images just for signing up). I've also purchased download collections from them and can commend their system and the quality of the images they sell.

We head off on a camping trip this afternoon and will make our annual visit to the Bolton Fair tomorrow; if you live in the area and are looking for a quaint fall fair, I heartily recommend this one (but also recommend getting there early). I think it will be our last year camping at these particular camp grounds since it appears they are now really catering to RVs and don't expect many tent campers (although with gas prices, I am surprised anyone can afford to drive an RV anywhere anymore...why not just book a room at the Ritz and save money?). I'm also bummed because even though I booked the specific site that we wanted back in June, I got a phone call earlier in the week alerting us that we'd been bumped off that site (NOW they point out the fine print that reserves their right to use the term "reservation" lightly) and will, I think, be more in the thick of RV-ville. Oh well. Two nights, camp fires, roasted hot dogs, marshmallows, stars, snuggled up together in a tent, a day at the fair -- lots to look forward to! We started doing these sort of "junior camping" trips a few years ago to introduce Dean to the experience in way that allowed us a big escape hatch (in that we weren't going too far from home, flush toilets and running water available). Our very first trip with Dean, we took him to our favorite place in Vermont, but thunderstorms sent us home early and the 3.5 hour drive taught us a little something about how to better adapt to the needs of a youngster.

Camping is a prime example of the differing trajectories between parents in their mid- to late-40s and a 9-year-old boy; our needs, abilities, and interests still intersect but I worry a little about how much longer they still will. Ken bought a second air mattress to put under his first one to help (we hope!) alleviate any potential issues for the pinched nerves in his shoulders and the challenge of sleeping on the ground. This keeps us pretty firmly in the "car camping" category (that is, going to a camp site you can drive to, as opposed to one that you backpack to). Would we still have it in us to backpack? Well, better to enjoy what we can do than to worry about what we're not doing, I guess. More s'mores, anyone?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Measuring up

Just in case you've been feeling pretty adequate and on top of things lately, I give you this image, from this Japanese mom who makes lunches like this one (and posts photos, nutritional information, and tool sources) on her blog. Daily. Personally, I'd also like to see the "after" photos, when her child has finished eating -- what's left? And, what does this child do when confronted with food that has not been painstakingly cut, molded, and arranged into art? Finally, what will this mom do the day her child says, "OK, I'm 25, enough already with the little animals and stuff!"?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

How lucky can we get?

Yes, I am feeling much better and just oh-so-lucky! Dean came home from school and honestly had to be convinced to try the vest on (see previous post) because he just looked at it and pronounced it "great!" I convinced him that he did have to try it so that I could at least get the length right. He loves it. His only question was whether I was going to add clasps to the front, and I assured him that a trip to the big fabric store and their dizzying array of notions is on my list.

The luck continued when I found online THE Eragon light-up sword from this site that seems to have Halloween completely covered. Their confirmation email to me said that I'd get free shipping on my order if I mentioned them on my blog -- I will let you know if that works. Dean had been entirely willing for me to take an old plastic Viking sword from the basement and spray paint the "blade" red, but I felt that such a patient, willing young man deserved to have just exactly the right sword. I think I'm going to buy a nice length of black wool to make his cape/cloak and then recycle the wool into other projects once Halloween has come and gone.

I had to laugh at Natalie's comment to my last post, about how her son Max is the exacting kind of Halloween costume-orderer/designer -- I LOVE that he wants to be a helium balloon yet feel her pain in his insistence that she figure out a way to make him float...

Monday, September 17, 2007

Technical difficulties

I have the frustrated, pent-up, antsy, headachy, frenzied feeling of a sewing project gone somewhat wrong. I am trying to counter these feelings (exacerbated by the fact that to get to this point has pretty much used up my available time for the day) by having a green tossed salad for lunch and by picturing myself THIS way -- with true aim.

Admittedly, I set myself up for trouble, yet again. Rather that going out and buying the new pattern from which to make the vest for Dean's Eragon costume, I thought I'd attempt to make the smallest size possible from an adult vest pattern I already had (mandarin collar, princess seams). Also decided to make use of a good sized hunk of synthetic ultra-suede like material that I had on hand but had never worked with before. What I have going for me (thank you, Grand Master of the Universe) is that Dean is amazingly, incredibly adaptable in terms of what suits him for costumes (and for clothing). While I was a nit-picking, detail-crazed child who was bitterly disappointed if the things my mother made did not PRECISELY match my vision (even when said vision was simply had, but never communicated), Dean seems to have an incredible amount of latitude and flexibility -- for example, he readily OK'd the ultra-suede stuff which IS the right color but is clearly not leather, as Eragon's vest 'really' is. Not familiar? Take a look:

Gee, why didn't I take another look before I started sewing? The collar I made goes up flush with the front seam, instead of being set back, like this one is. And I'm going to have to make at least one if not several trips to find some kind of clasps that are going to work. Well, I will get some feedback from Dean on where I am so far with the thing and will either attempt to make some final adjustments or I will scrap it and start again the right way. No, I will not be making nor buying Dean any leather pants; I've already purchased black micro-fleece pants (which he approved! and tried on! and loved!) -- so much more practical and cozy on a cold Halloween night. On that note, Dean has also already approved my making a black cape that he can wear over this if indeed it is too cold on Halloween to go out just like this. SUCH a reasonable young man, and yet he won't even try a piece of fruit. Guess we all have our limits.