Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Before or after the ball?

Ken, of course, being the adult, refused to even consider participating the other night when I asked the boys, "if I were, you know, one of the princesses, which one would I be?" Ken tried to explain to Dean, via sign language, that a guy never answers this kind of question. Ever. The best Dean could come up with was "Mulan?" I think I was feeling kind of Cinderella-ish at the time....

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Counting the days

Me and my dad, circa 1965.

There used to be a series of television commercials for lemonade (Country Time?) that started up right around now (after Memorial Day, sort of the non-official, official start of summer for a lot of us in the US) and announced how many summer days you had ahead of you to take advantage of the pleasures of summer. They’d update the ad over the course of the summer, like a countdown. I both loved and hated them – loved the glorious reminder/celebration of the small joys, and hated the sense that time was already so limited and slipping away.
Summer is such an interesting challenge – the point is to relax and take it easy and let things happen, but the reality is that if you don’t plan and put the effort into doing certain things then the moment passes and you find yourself in September without having gotten enough sand in your shoes. There seems to be a lot being written in blogland these days about small moments, small pleasures, and I honestly believe it’s a seasonal thing. Even on the other side of the Earth where they are now stepping firmly into winter, I think it still applies – the shoulder seasons of spring/fall are coming to an end and the full seasons (as I think of them) of summer and winter are getting underway. A natural time to pause and take pleasure in the thoughts of how you’ll enjoy the season.
28 new planets. Have you heard this yet? I was thinking this morning that, had a discovery like that been announced – 20 years ago? 50 years ago surely – it would be THE topic of conversation. Everything would just sort of stop as people paused to take this in, to ponder it, to question it, to celebrate it. It would consume the news, the dinner tables, the school rooms. But now the news seems to be falling on a lot of ears that somehow aren’t all that impressed. I find it mind-boggling that 28 new planets have been discovered, and equally mind-boggling that it seems to be a piece of information just floating past on the breeze.

Monday, May 28, 2007

The Life

For the first time in a long time, I bought myself two treats yesterday while we were at the bookstore. I'd seen these two magazines mentioned elsewhere; Heather Bailey blogged about her pattern in Quilts and More, and Pam Garrison wrote about her participation in Somerset Life. While I truly am working very hard to buy less, use what I have, and pare down (and feel that I've been fairly successful), it felt good to get the treats and I've been thoroughly enjoying them. The sheer joy of getting up early, having a cuppa coffee, and sitting down with fresh magazines to read is worth the (very) occasional splurge. And splurge is the word -- at $14.95, Somerset Life is more of an investment than a magazine; even $6.99 was steep for the Quilts and More (which, if you're curious, is more geared toward a beginning/non-quilter -- slightly disappointing in that regard). It was fascinating to me that our local Borders bookstore has dropped ALL their scrapbooking magazines and is now a fount of sewing/knitting/crocheting/art-crafting titles; I wonder if they are just mixing it up, or if there's been a real shift out there.

Before the shopping trip, we spent yesterday morning working in the yard. My efforts to make Dean a gardener seem to have paid off; he spent a long time planting seeds and puttering along with me. I think that being able to enjoy time in your yard tending to growing things is a life skill worth, well, cultivating (sorry!). It's hard, sometimes, to let Dean loose out there -- plants do get stepped on, things get planted in impossible places, some portion of water intended for the flowerbeds ends up all over the driveway, and my own plans have to go by the wayside (that is, he enjoys having us work together so whatever was on my list gets neglected). But all that is worth it to have him happy out there, and despite all the 'gardening don'ts', his own garden is a magical, thriving place. It reminds me of the time we were mini-golfing and I told him to stop messing around so much -- just as he sunk a hole in one. (Yes. I recognize the ridiculousness of my telling my son he wasn't taking his game of mini-golf seriously enough -- I'm working on it.) I then of course said that he should clearly mess around as much as he wanted since it was working so well for him, and that holds true for his garden, too. We'll get out there today and water everything we planted yesterday since the rain that was in the forecast isn't materializing. And we'll take a walk, I hope, and scout for turtles. This is the life.

Oh, and chicken salad. I've been meaning to share my most favorite recipe for a summer staple around here:

  1. 3 poached chicken breast halves (so, one full and one half breast piece -- poach by bringing to a boil in a shallow saute pan with a lid about two cups of chicken stock with enough water added to nearly cover the breasts; add breasts, cover, let return to a boil, then shut off but leave on the same burner for about 30 minutes or until breasts are cooked through)
  2. 2 or three stalks of celery, cleaned and diced, or equal amount of seeded cucumber, or a combo of the two
  3. 2 or three scallions, minced
  4. 1/2 cup of mayonnaise
  5. 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  6. 1/4 cup heavy cream
  7. 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  8. salt and pepper to taste
  9. optional: some seedless grapes, sliced in half
Dice the cooked chicken, and combine with celery/cucumber and scallions in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, combine everything else (except grapes) and whisk smooth. Pour dressing over chicken, top with grapes if desired, chill and serve.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Happy Anniversary

I have the same bemused, unconcerned feeling about having been married for 18 years that I have about being 45 -- these numbers are just kind of out there, counting down something, but sort of unimportant or meaningless in a way. Is 18 years a long time? A drop in the bucket? I remember so much about that day, making it seem not that long ago. We have a lot of fun, Ken and I, and adding Dean to our party gives half of those years a different kind of significance. Over the years we lost my dad and his second wife (not my mom) to cancer; friends at our wedding have since married and divorced. Some people who were friends then we haven't seen or heard from in years, and of course many other friendships have bloomed since then. Ken and I have grown and changed in some ways, but are still fundamentally as much ourselves now as we were then.

We celebrated yesterday with a hike, some mini golf and ice cream, and dinner cooked out on our grill. Today we'll hit a book store on our way out to dinner after getting some work done in the gardens. It's delightful to have the holiday weekend to celebrate (Memorial Day in the US -- so we have the Monday holiday). A toast to seeing it through.

Friday, May 25, 2007


Because I don't have a digital camera and because I enjoy (for now?) posting a little something every day, I think I come across here as a little more scattered and unfocused than I really am. I say that since I can't just take a quick picture of something about my day, or always easily show incremental progress on a project using my scanner. Well, as I like to say, that's my story and I'm sticking with it.

This is a bit of an old quilt top I bought off of eBay years ago. I was inspired by the book Worth Doing Twice, which advocates taking old tops like this apart and re-making them correctly. I believe this top was done by someone very young, or else someone very new to sewing/quilting -- the stitches are big, the thread was used doubled, the points blunt and lumpy, and the fabric choices rather -- whimsical. But after mulling it over for years, I've decided that at some point I'm just going to go ahead and quilt it as-is, lumps and all. I'll respect its history. It's small -- crib sized. It has a few stains. But someone worked hard to get it to this point, and so I'll just move it forward to where it was intended to go.

Over 90 degrees F. here today -- another hot breath blast of summer shot out of nowhere and making it hard to do much other than drink lemonade and stay out of the sun. No school today giving us the extra-extra long weekend and it does all around feel like a little taste of summer.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Letting go

Real Simple magazine runs reader profiles as the last page these days -- they remind me very much of the old Dewar's Profile ads (do you remember those? classics in advertising). Anyway, I tore out a quotation from one -- reader Diane Israel said:

Show up fully.
Pay attention.
Tell the truth.
Let go of the outcome.

I saved it and posted it on my board because I so believe in and live by the first three -- what's hard for me is the letting go part. But I'm working on it. I had a conversation with my boss today, and he was speaking to me about someone else -- of her he said "sure, she compromises -- but she also keeps score; nobody realizes that all those years of compromise have in her mind a price -- she has a score to settle now, whereas everyone else thought those things were water under the bridge." I thought about how he COULD have been talking about me. And in mulling it over I think it's not the compromising I've got wrong but the keeping score part, and I see that relating to the "let go of the outcome" piece, too. Do you know how to let go? Any pointers?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


My calendar project is blazing along -- if I could love doing other things the way I love making these, I could be...truly happy for more of the time. I do love the sewing stuff too, but right now the 'craft room' is such an unholy mess that I don't have the space to work and for some reason at the moment that gumption is gone. Oh, it'll be back. Soon. Probably after I finish up this calendar. The page, above, is for the week of my birthday.

Someone blogged recently (helpful -- I know -- I'll fix it if I can figure out who it was) [THANK YOU Austen for pointing out the post I meant at Wise Craft!] about how great it is to have a design wall -- a place to put up all the bits and pieces that inspire you. I realize that my calendars serve that function for me; I tuck away all the things that catch my eye, then make the weekly collage images as further inspiration. After I get mine done (yes, I'm working ahead, for 2008) I'll do one for Ken and then one each for two friends who received calendars as birthday gifts and seemed to really enjoy them. But maybe with some breaks for sewing and quilting and aproning and, well, stuff.

I noticed from my stats that I'm getting a few more new people wandering through lately. Hello to you all, and do leave me a little note if you can -- I'd love to come visit your space, too.

Monday, May 21, 2007

I rarely buy cards, but when I saw this one I knew I had to have it. We are working on our summer wish list (even jotting down some ideas for the fall) -- things we want to do that are particular seasonal joys. We've already had the official opening of the mini-golf season and this Thursday we will hit our first carnival. Ken even brought down my summer clothes from the attic yesterday. Now we just need to get the grill working.

Sunday, May 20, 2007


I came across this little scrap of embroidery in my sock drawer yesterday (oh, the wonders that hide in there!); I think I must have done this when I was in summer camp (approx. one million years ago, or 35). I'll have to try to clip more of the threads on the back and sneak it into some project someplace -- maybe make it part of a quilt label or something. I'm loving all the little bits of embroidery that are showing up all over the place in blog/craft land these days....

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Never too late

Dean gets a wish come true this evening; his first time being left home with a babysitter. Yes, he's 9, and this is the first time Ken and I are going out without him and paying someone (nice girl who lives next door) to come and have pizza and watch a movie with him. We did go out one time before, and Dean's Uncle Bob came to spend the evening with him -- that was 5 years ago. It went well and everything; not having Uncle Bob over to watch Dean since has everything to do with the hour-plus drive each way for Uncle Bob as well as his intense work schedule. Also has to do, of course, with Ken and I not feeling the need to get out without Dean (a benefit of having been married almost 10 years before having him and being older parents so that we really would rather be home, or out early all together and back by bedtime). Please -- I'm not saying there is anything wrong with getting out on your own as adults or having other people watch your children -- it's totally normal and healthy; I'm just saying what our own situation has been. And, interestingly, it's made Dean eager to have this adventure. Ken and I agreed this morning that we'd rather not be going out (an auction to benefit our school -- worthy cause, but we'd still rather just be home) but we couldn't disappoint Dean by taking away his novel evening. If all goes well from Dean's perspective, who knows? Ken and I just might try going out to a movie or something completely amazing like that. Gosh, I remember crying and crying when my parents were going out for an evening -- they'd be getting all dressed up (those were the days!) and I'd be begging them not to go....

Determined to get some sewing and card making done today, and hoping to do a bit of cleaning up in my crafts' room too (the piles are starting to slip and fall over). I'm hearing the siren call of the doll quilts, but am trying to resist until my top-level WIPs are done.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Robin's egg blue

Our routine, on Thursday afternoons, is that Dean (after getting the mail out of the box) gets out of the car so he can gather up the recycle bins, put them into the big garbage can, and roll the whole thing down the driveway to the garage. I follow behind him, slowly easing the car down the driveway at a distance. About half way down the driveway yesterday, he motioned for me to stop and get out of the car. I did not want to get out of the car. I was tired, it had been an unpleasant bit of driving to get home (from Wellesley, 30 miles away, via Route 128 and the Turnpike and 495 -- a drive known for it's ability to be unpleasant), and I've been hovering on the edge of a dark mood and not feeling the best. No no no, Dean motions, just get out of the car!

So I get out. And he excitedly shows me that, right on the driveway, right on the path of the tires of the car, is a robin's egg shell. It is beautiful, as Dean knew instantly -- beautiful, and precious, and worth stopping for and saving. I apologize for being grumpy. He says that's ok because I knew you'd be happy when you saw this. He's right, of course.

Somebody was asking on her blog, just this week, what "robin's egg blue" really is. Here you are. This is what it really is. An almost impossibly beautiful color for an egg to be. We've had just a bumper crop of robins in our yard this year; one even made her nest in the arborvitae right next to our front door (and she yells at us whenever we go in or out that door). Ken winces at Dean's and my passion for all things bird -- picking up feathers and old abandoned nests and empty shells seems to him an invitation to the risks of disease. But we can't resist (and we wash our hands carefully with soap).

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Looking forward to plans I've made with a friend to check out a local antiques mall, where she'll be admiring tables and eyeballing furniture while I scour for buttons and sewing notions and ephemera. It reminds me of going with friends to the Brimfield Antiques Fair and we drove in this HUGE old Toyota Landrover, and bought things like salt and pepper shakers and saw other people trying to cram dining room tables into subcompacts.... I don't need anything as much as I need the chance to get out and do something that the boys aren't into doing.

Perhaps "sproing!" would be a better name than "spring" for what's happening here; I feel quite literally that I look away from my garden for a moment, for a day, and then suddenly see things a foot tall. Our grass is a lush green that only survives until the big heat comes to stay and the rains depart -- we do not water our lawn so this color never lasts.

Only four weeks left of school, with the Memorial Day holiday thrown in and a couple other random days off for good measure -- can fireflies be far behind?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Isn't this beautiful? Dawn sent it to me, to hang in the school where I work. I scanned it first so that I'd always have one available to put up; things in schools tend to get loved to pieces.

I'm all delighted that we are going out to dinner tonight; an incredibly rare treat on a weeknight. Can't even think of when the last time would have been. It turns out that the place we're taking my car to get the tires replaced (after having had a spectacular blow-out on the highway Monday, on the way back to school from Dean's doctor's appointment -- not the fun part) is essentially next door to an Asian restaurant we all like. Dean will be doubly pleased; he's been very uncomfortable about the spare tire that's on the car now (took a while to convince him that it was not illegal to drive on a spare) and he'll be relieved that all the tires are new (still haven't convinced him that all tires don't just eventually blow). I'm just happy to have a weeknight out and am trying not to think about the cost of the new tires, or the cost to repair the wheel-well damage, or the cost to repair the damage done by the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority guy when he wrenched the spare out of the back without undoing any of the fasteners (?). Also, of course, just so happy that nothing worse came of the adventure itself -- fixing stuff is easy.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

International Cooperation

Helene and I had a small, impromptu magazine swap; these riches arrived from her yesterday. Being me, I had an immediate panic attack -- did I send her enough? was what I sent good enough? I can't believe how wonderful these things are! will she be happy with what I sent? In my frenzied state, I quickly got out an email to her to thank her profusely and to beg for feedback if she feels shorted in any way when her envelope arrives. I also had post-office anxiety -- the lady at the post office on Friday was excited to be able to send off the package at a rate that has been eliminated with the new US postal rates that went into effect yesterday, but will that mean Helene's package will be delayed in anyway? Oh really, I make myself a wreck over these things. I like to think that it's the mark of a conscientious person; that worrying means I care. But there is the possibility that it's just a sign that I'm nutty.

So the delights from Helene included two amazing magazines, a gorgeous hunk of what I'd call drapery weight fabric, moo cards (my first moo cards! I got moo cards!), tiny butterfly buttons, a doll card and a dolly postcard. I think I am going to have to learn to crochet -- not that I don't want to, just that I fear a new stack of supplies and WIPS. Oh, and I need to learn French. I like to think that my receptive French is ok (I could usually follow the instructions, or comprehend the information, when people spoke to me on my travels -- or at least I didn't have anyone start screaming and waving their arms at me so I thought I was doing what I was supposed to) and my menu French is ok, but reading is another story all-together. But then, hey, it's easier than following Japanese.... In any case, these French magazines are beyond beautiful and are stuffed full of inspiration and delights. Is it a "grass is always greener" thing? I'm hard pressed to think why someone in France would want a Martha Stewart magazine, but maybe there's always appeal to what's 'foreign.'
[edit: I didn't intend to sound insulting when I wrote this -- on re-reading, I realize I made it sound like I disapproved of Helene's interest in MSL. I did not mean it that way at all. I just meant that I think everything is so much better in France. Of course Martha puts out a nice magazine or she wouldn't be where she is today, and I have quite the collection of back-issues, and I was happy to get the newest issue to send off for this swap. Forgive any implications otherwise in the original post!]

Monday, May 14, 2007

Any ideas?

In my collection of handed-down vintage linens, I've got a bevy of these things. They are fussy little linen mats, 5" x 8" (12.7 x 20.3 cm), in sets of 4. There are different designs and I'll guess that they represent different manufacturers -- some have hand embroidery on them, like this one, and others have either machine-made decoration or none. Some have light staining, like this one, but most do not. These are waaay to small to be napkins, and clearly were meant to be used flat. I can't figure out if they were meant, perhaps, to go at the top of a place setting as a place to put the dessert spoons and forks (seems unlikely, given that there aren't napkins to match?) or if perhaps they went down on a card table for a ladies' game of bridge, as a spot to put down your bridge mix or something. They seem to say "ladies' lunch" to me, or ladies, in any case -- they are all very lightweight and the designs are very feminine. Any ideas what they were for would be appreciated, before I turn them all into something else.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day

We're off for a day of fun -- mini-golf, ice cream, Chinese food. My notion of a day of fun hasn't changed by becoming a mama, but has been enhanced and expanded by it; I just wish Dean couldn't already, legitimately, beat me at mini-golf.... {and I just realized that I am wearing that same shirt today! must be a good omen}

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Attempt at a post

Helen's post reminded me of this page from last year's journal (I'm having trouble getting a link specifically to this post, but it's the one dated May 10). Today it makes me wish that I could be so addicted to a clean house that I enjoyed doing housework and kept right on top of it. Instead, I get so far behind and the house becomes such an unbearable mess that it takes herculean effort to bring it back around again. I guess people get addicted to exercise and that seems on surface like a potentially good thing. But back to Helen's point, we're right in taking the negative connotation away from the word since it does NOT have to mean attachment to something detrimental.

Friday, May 11, 2007

A peek at my apron project:
Having fun with this one and, yes Helen, I really am making progress on my other project (thank you for keeping me honest!) and will surprise everyone, including myself, with an amazing update in about a month (I hope).

Meanwhile, Ken says the microwave thing is hooey, based on his thorough 10 minutes of Internet research. Says the science just isn't behind the claim and that more active research would be underway and available if there were legit concerns. Rationally, I can process that (and I, too, can be skeptical of what I read online). At the same time (and, perhaps, sparked by this little picnic scene), I think about a strong summer memory from my own childhood: mercurachrome. Were you subjected to this stuff? It went on every cut and scrape than I got -- a bright, neon-y orange/red color, it came in a little brown bottle and had a smell so unlike anything else that I can close my eyes and smell it. It stung to high heaven, but every mom in the neighborhood dispensed it to prevent infection in cuts. The thing was -- it contained mercury. So when someone finally figured out that introducing mercury directly to the bloodstream wasn't such a great idea after all, out it went. Ooops! Now gone the way of lawn darts, and margarine, and Pluto.

My point is just that while I can understand the lack, now, of scientific evidence against old mr. microwave, I wonder what we'll know 40 years from now that makes us say, "OH MY GOD!, can you believe people actually had these things in their HOMES? And cooked FOOD in them?" and I think of mercurachrome. No mom back in 1967 thought she was doing anything other than precisely the right thing by slathering it on her children. (Although I guess I'm still alive and don't know what the harm is, yet, that's been done, but I know I don't like to think about it too much, either!) Sigh. Ken also made the environmental argument -- fewer dishes to wash! less energy used! I was kind of liking the idea of getting the counter space back....

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Don't say I didn't warn you

Today's piece of unsolicited advice: if you love spring, do not move to New England. I've lived here for 27 years now (aaak! how is that even possible?) and can tell you that winter takes forEVER to release its hold, then if you are lucky you get about a week (maybe just a couple of days) of "springtime" weather, and then BAM! Summer! It hurts, actually. Last week temperatures were just barely in the 60s (15, if my Fahrenheit/Celsius converter is to be believed) and yesterday -- whack! -- 87 (30c). I am unprepared in nearly every way. (Well, more fool me, I guess, having admitted to 27 years of this.) Out of habit, my first cuppa joe was a hot one this morning, but now my second (and final of the day, just for the record) is a tall iced number.

Summer means a lot of wonderful things -- don't get me wrong. Carnivals, mini-golf, ice cream, the beach, dinners on the deck (no one in America has a 'back porch' anymore -- it's a deck), gardening, bubbles, reading (Dean and I both tend to read more in the summer), vacation.

So yesterday I read that microwaves can cause permanent health damage because of the molecular changes they make on the foods you heat. My first frustration (is it yours, too?) -- who to believe? Is this a truth that's known but covered up (hello, trans fats!)? Is it speculation? Am I condemning my son to infertility by serving him corn that's been heated in the microwave? My reaction is that I want to unplug the thing and move it to the basement (I heated that first cup of coffee, by the way, on the stovetop and it didn't even take "forever"). I want to live for a while (the summer?) without it, see what that's like again, and do research in the meantime. I was late to the microwave game -- I did not want one. (I didn't used to eat meat, either.) My dad, who only meant well, was shocked, and I do mean shocked, that time he came up from Florida to visit us and found that we didn't have one ("honey, it will save you SO much time and effort!"). He insisted on taking us out and buying us one. And we got used to having it and have had one ever since. But is it worth the potential risk to keep it? I also want to finally clear out all the non-stick cookware we've got and go with stainless steel; we've been talking about it forever but now's the time. Does the change of season make YOU want to start over, too?

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The dark side

I laughed when I saw this bumper sticker, and I smile whenever I think of it:

Come to the dark side
We have cookies

Maybe it's just my peculiar sense of humor, but to me this just works on so many levels.

I've touched a little here before about the struggle, inherent particularly in this craft blogging community, to determine what to blog about and what to keep private -- knowing where the line is, while at the same time acknowledging that it's not all ribbons and flowers and birdsong and light. There's even that whole thing about how so many craft bloggers just *seem* to have these perfect, ideally decorated, resource-rich and trouble-free lives. So then someone lets go a little bit, unfurls some of the darkness, writes about the struggle and the feelings of isolation and helplessness since it seems only they have that dark side bubbling up; inevitably they get heartfelt comments from people offering support and the reassurances that they struggle, too. This is all amazing stuff that happens, and I think it's what makes the experience and the community so incredible, so much more than "here's my latest project."

I was awestruck and teary-eyed, reading Kim's entry yesterday. The deep sadness and tragedy of her past, the purity of her writing, and the ultimate story of survival and determination and goodness that comes out of it all -- I don't know how to put into words the powerfulness of it. Her writing made me able to stop and reconsider my own story, my own relationship with my mother, and through that process -- just yesterday -- I came to a place I hadn't been before. I was able to break through to some insights about myself I didn't have before, while at the same time making me admire Kim and her work and making me feel so honored and privileged to "know" her through her blog.

Don't you wish, sometimes, that you could just hook something up to your brain somehow so that the thing you've been writing in your head for hours and hours could just come flowing right out, since you realize that once you sit down to do the actual writing it won't be nearly as good as it was when you were composing it in your head? Or is that just another one of those things that makes me weird/wired (Helen, really, either does apply!).

So here in the US, Mother's Day is this Sunday. And I am still fighting the demons of my childhood, and the demon of a mother gone terribly wrong. I've spent my adult life deciding very, very specifically to hold images like this one in my mind -- images of a woman who looks delighted to be a mother, and a child who looks happy and loved (if not also quite plump but that was how they fed us back then!). I reason that while I could dwell on the bitter disappointments and utter unfairness that it won't do me any good (other than to make me bitter) and that clearly, within all that was horrible and wrong, there were things that were wonderful -- I did, on the whole, turn out all right. This year I've even started a list -- things I learned from my mother -- so that I can focus on and honor the good while this woman is still alive. The step I'm having trouble with is presenting it to her; I'd had visions of a Mother's Day card along these lines but I couldn't do it. I know I have to do this soon because I will regret it if she's gone before I do. (I lost my dad to cancer 8 years ago and think about him every day -- he's another long post for some other time, but the reality of losing one parent is understanding what the loss of the other will mean -- I hope it hasn't happened to you because it's awful, but the thing no one tells you is that when you lose a parent, you lose not only that person but a whole part of yourself that just cannot be recovered.)

My own reality, which Kim's post helped lead me to yesterday, is that my subconscious need to appear, if not perfect, then certainly in control and successful and happy stems from my childhood defense system of putting up a front so that no one would know the shame and anger and frustration I felt at my mother's alcohol abuse and the whole ugly downward spiral that came with it. I spent a good part of my 30's realizing that I was subconsciously doing this -- trying to make people think I was more fabulous and on top of things than I was -- and I've been spending this first half of my 40's trying to catch myself at it and stop it. But now I suddenly understand where it came from, and why -- a miraculous new power.

The great news is that the good side has cookies, too. I'm even going to make some this weekend -- gingerbread, at Dean's request. And I'll celebrate my own Mother's Day in my own way and I'll call up my mother and try, deeply, to give her my best.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

By any other name

I flipped through this book just now, My Little Bird Book by Elizabeth Gould, to find a picture of a goldfinch (having just enjoyed their return to my garden) and I realized once I came to the illustration that this book must have been published in England (it was -- no publication date given, but it's old). Indeed, this is not the bird we know as the goldfinch here in the states (or, at least, the Eastern US). I don't know the Latin names of any birds, so I swim in the soup that is the "common name" and am just happy when I know at least that much. I used to know more of the Latin names of the flowers in my garden, but this spring find myself having a hard time bringing those names out -- I usually begin with something along the lines of, "I know it begins with an 'A'." I like to think that I keep filling my brain with so much information that I can't keep it all in, even if it is just the date and time of this week's soccer game, and whose birthday party is this Saturday and what time it starts and ends, and what we're out of and need more of from the grocery store. That line is more comforting than the idea that I am simply losing it.

I'm trying, regardless of what we call them, to learn some of the birds by their song this spring. I'd like to be able to sit, cock my head, and say, "oh, the goldfinch must be nearby!" Reminds me that Dean has a nice cd designed to teach children some common birdsong -- have to dig that out. [Ah! A pair of Canadian geese are flying overhead right now -- theirs is a tune I can always recognize! Hooonk, Hooonk to you, too!] I'm pretty sure I can identify most if not all of the trees in our yard. Dean knows more of the birds than I do, but I'm working on it. (I didn't believe him, initially, when he glanced up and said, "oh, that's a cedar waxwing" -- but then I looked it up and decided to go with his identifications without question and try to learn something at the same time.)

Our school is undertaking a more formal, organized approach to something we've done pieces of all along; place-based education. David Sobel spoke at school recently and lit a fire under us to implement some specific programs for next year. The very basic idea is that children learn in-depth, and in a hands-on, active way about the world that's right around them -- they learn about their immediate environment, their community, and take a meaningful role in its improvement. That could include anything from planting a garden to getting involved in local politics or public service projects. A fundamental component of our school is that the adults in the community are there to learn as much as the children are. Now that I piece this all together, I realize it's a big part of why I feel good about my life -- I feel overall that I am in the right place, doing the right things. Still feel there's more to do than I can manage at any one time, but I'm trying to keep moving ahead and constantly assessing the priorities in the moment. Now I need to get ready to go to work.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Always thinking

Here is a corner of the tablecloth I unearthed yesterday from the slag heap that is my closet, and today I'm feeling better about the prospect of cutting it up to make an apron. The trip through the washer did it good, but it is still very heavily stained in some areas. It does not fit my table. The color scheme, ah, doesn't lend itself to anything else in my home (what was up with 50s design, when a spring scene like this would be rendered in these colors?). As an apron, it will get use and will not be forgotten. Making it will connect me with others in the project. That's the plan. I wish I had a pattern for an Aunt Bea style apron (I searched a few minutes to find you a picture -- you know, Aunt Bea, from the Andy Griffith show -- but weirdly am not finding one). It's the kind of apron that has arm holes (rather than straps), and really covers your whole front (to protect the dress you'd be wearing if you were Aunt Bea) -- more like a smock, I guess.

This isn't quite it (and these women are no Aunt Bea's, that's for sure), but something kinda sorta along these lines:

Well, these are a little fussier than what I was picturing, but I can't quite find the exact thing. That happens to me a lot -- I get some very specific picture in my mind and then can't find the like, so I don't know if I'm drawing from imagination rather than memory. Does it ever happen to you that you can't quite sort out if something really happened or you dreamed it? I've had times when I've seen a friend, or co-worker, or family member, even, and thought -- ohhhh, I'm really upset with this person; but then when I stop to think about why, I realize it was something that happened in a dream so I can just calm down. Maybe it's just more proof of my own weirdness.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Yesterday I drank my morning coffee (elixir of the gods) while watching the flickr slideshow from Tie One On's rick-rack apron challenge. If you haven't seen this yet, I can highly recommend sitting down (with a cuppa joe, ideally), and watching the slideshow. Aside from being impressed by the range of interpretations and utter creativity, the gallery made me think:

  1. I love when people show themselves wearing their aprons -- their whole selves, so that you can see their faces and even little glimpses of their homes. It's not that I don't understand people's privacy concerns, but it's disconcerting nonetheless to see all of the headless torsos. Also, it's interesting to me (but maybe there is no connection?) that people are willing to show their children, faces and all -- but maybe the people taking pictures of their children are the same ones who are willing to show themselves...
  2. Given that some aprons, too, are shown without a human in sight, it's hard to know for sure, but I wonder about the seeming lack of cultural diversity in this group -- surely there are more crafty blogging types out there without white skin? I just notice how homogeneous the community seems to be and I wonder about that.
  3. In as much as the "studio" like shots are gorgeous, I do like the pictures where you see, again, the real person wearing the apron in her real home -- maybe a little messy, maybe lots of other stuff going on -- just a great little slice of life.
I considered making an apron for this theme but not doing so was the right decision (laugh at me, please, those of you who've been reading for any length of time and know how many projects I'm juggling at once as is). But then the next theme, pockets, has me seriously considering. Which takes me to more of yesterday's activities and the image, above.

I spent some time working on cleaning out a closet. Very slow, depressing work -- we just have too much stuff, and no amount of spiffy organizers or rearranging will solve it. We need to get rid of some critical mass of stuff before effective cleaning can be done. Anyway. I've inherited/accumulated a really large collection of old linens. I've been known both in my own family and by my husband's family as someone who appreciates/keeps/uses old linens, so those drawers full of stuff that no one uses but no one can bear to throw or give away all come to me, along with the things I've purchased over the years. Oh, I've got drawers in the house where I keep the linens I use regularly, and there are some in the upstairs linen closet, but this closet of yesterday (my bedroom "clothes" closet) features a large laundry basket heaped full of MORE. So much handmade lace, like the sample above, so many hand towels and napkins and things that I don't even know WHAT they are, but they carry some little bit of embroidery or lace or other handiwork of the women who have come before me. I'm trying to think realistically what to do with some of this stuff, other than leaving it heaped in a basket in a closet. So ONE of the things is a vintage tablecloth -- 50s, most likely -- really too stained to use, not with any handmade-ness to it, and I'm thinking about cutting it up for an apron featuring some kind of magnificent pocket. Again, even though it is not handmade, I'm a little hesitant to cut something up, but this could be just the ticket.

Speaking of cutting things up to make something else, one of the aprons in the rick-rack gallery was made partially from an old pair of jeans. It inspired me to pull the pair of jeans I put in the give-away pile yesterday (maybe this is not a good thing). Stuff made out of old jeans has so much potential to go wrong, but this apron was a lovely example of seeing it done right and made me think I was too hasty in giving up the old pair. Well, I'll give myself a deadline and if I don't do something with the jeans they'll go back to the give-away pile. I have this image in my head of a beach-worthy bucket tote, made from two legs of jeans cut and sewn together....

Friday, May 4, 2007

Pieces of history

Hmmm, can I write a post AND cook dinner at the same time? Note that the kitchen is downstairs and the computer, upstairs. Well, I'm game to try.

The rush is on because I've just learned that I need to take Dean to soccer practice tonight; Ken can't manage it.

Well. Anyway. This fragment comes from a bag of mixed fragment bits that I bought at a craft fair a number of years ago. The enterprising crafter who bought old quilts to cut them up and make other things out of them (teddy bears, pillows, covered footstools, etc.) took all the scrap pieces she cut and bagged them up to sell -- getting quite the most mileage from her materials purchases. You know what they call these quilts, right? I hate to even use the term -- "cutters." Can you imagine? Can you imagine having made something by hand, only to have it end up designated worthy only of being cut up to make something else? I know there are two sides to this debate -- the people who say that a torn, dirty, damaged, or otherwise unusable quilt [dinner intermission here] gets a new lease on life when cut up to make something else, and those who feel no quilt should ever be cut up for something else but instead repaired or else simply enjoyed with all of its history intact. I couldn't bring myself to buy something made out of an old quilt, but I've enjoyed taking these odd scraps and have tried to make them back into tiny quilts. I'll put a binding around this piece and use it on a table top (tip if you're ever up to something similar -- take one of the 30's repro fabrics and use the back side of it; that gives you the same faded look that the genuinely old fabrics have). I wouldn't do it again -- buy another bag of these kinds of scraps -- but I don't regret rescuing this little collection. May none of your projects ever, ever be deemed a cutter (unless, of course, by you).

Thursday, May 3, 2007

She hit the nail on the head

Are you familiar with The Stone Doll of Sister Brute by Russell Hoban? I highly recommend it (although I can't say I know for certain that it's still in print).

Over at Stripey Pebble, she got to the heart of what I've been struggling around but not coming to; please take the time to go and read it.

Meanwhile I'm trying to figure out how to convince Ken to stop digging up the dandelions from the lawn, but then I do appreciate that my dandelions will win in the end....

Wednesday, May 2, 2007


This is a very preliminary look at one of my homemade calendar pages for next year; the real thing is 8.5" square (so the date side of the book extends to the full 8.5" -- just not showing the whole right-hand side spread here). The collage is still just beginning. I will layer in rubber stamped images, more ephemera, some punched images, perhaps. Sometimes the collages have a theme relating to the month, or a particular date on my calendar, sometimes they include quotes I like, and sometimes they are just a play of color and shape. Gail was kind enough to stop by yesterday and encourage my habit of "project jumping"; what I love about having the calendar work going is that even with only 5 or 10 minutes to spare, I can go to it and do something. The instant fix.

I haven't really thought very much about the intersection between quiltmaking and collage, but seeing the amazing work Kim is doing has me wondering if my Broken Dishes quilt (thanks, Kahne!) should be the base for something more. I'm thinking about perhaps machine appliqueing some things on top, with all the layers in place, so that the applique lines also serve as the quilting lines. I may be getting ahead of myself, but I'm thinking. Isn't it glorious when you have ideas that really interest you percolating around in your head so that you can go to them in the odd moments during your day and instantly feel alive and motivated? Now that I write that, I think that perhaps some of my slump times have to do with stretches when I haven't been doing enough creatively to have those thoughts to turn to, and so my mind wanders instead to the less-than-stellar stuff (the petty frustrations, the dirty or unfolded laundry, the "is this what I'm meant to be doing with my life" stuff). Having things that you do that make you happy and give you powerful, positive grist for that mental mill cannot be bad. A number of people recently have been pondering some of the "dark side" of too much craft time, too much online time, the potential for these pursuits to separate us from others in our immediate, physical lives. I guess there's always a line, but I do think that a richness and satisfaction for our own lives at this level ultimately spills over to make us people that other, real people want to spend time with -- right? We want to be with people who are happy and interesting and involved and who need to carve out the time from all their other goings-on to make the time to see us; it's not necessarily as much fun to be with people who have nothing else to do with their time, little to talk about (beside themselves), and no creative side to share....

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Too much going on

Today's WIP -- the machine piecing project I am doing to get back into the swing, so that I can tackle my real project. There will be three more vertical sections (if you can look at this and see two vertical sections), although my scanner again is not big enough to show the full length (finished piece will be about 27" square). Feel free to ignore the loose threads and the corners that aren't meeting. Pattern is from the October 1997 American Patchwork and Quilting magazine; it calls for cutting 200 3 1/4" squares, which would give you enough half-square triangles to make two charm quits (no fabrics repeated). Having taking years to accumulate 100 squares, I went for making just one and it will have 2 triangles of each fabric. One smart thing I'd done was to make a copy of the pattern to keep in the bag where I was collecting my squares so I knew what I had and why I had it -- really, quite a novelty in my "collection" of ongoing (abandoned and recently re-discovered) projects. Because I'm putting this together fairly quickly, I'm not being as careful as I should be to keep the triangles arranged the way I laid them out (on a piece of poster board, shoved underneath the ironing board, and not big enough to hold the whole layout) so every now and again I'm ending up with something even more random/haphazard than the pattern intends. Oh well. Dean is liking it, and claims it for his stuffed animals when done. Ken's not wild about it -- "too much going on" for his taste. Ken did help me get my other finally finished quilt hung this weekend and it makes me happy every time I walk into the bedroom and see it. I'll try to take a picture soon. It's not that the colors or even the pattern are so much my current taste (the drawback of letting things sit for years and years and years), but it is done. I may attempt to machine quilt this current one; I have the foot for my machine and I even bought some monofilament which is somewhere around here. Being able to have that option would certainly help with getting even more of my old projects finished off. I've also started working on my 2008 calendar (I make my own week-at-a-glance calendar every year, and last year made 3 additional ones to give as gifts) and will show a scan tomorrow. Why can't I just focus on getting one thing done at a time? Guess I'll think about that -- tomorrow.