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.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Key

I used to carry my recipe for Key Lime Pie around in my wallet. I was prepared to be able to make one, or to give my recipe out, at any time -- mostly because we made frequent trips to visit my dad in Siesta Key, Florida. He had a friend who had a key lime tree or two in his yard; we'd go to this friend's house to fish in the Gulf and we'd be given a bag of limes to take home. I'd make pie, of course, and we'd make margaritas and have slices in our vodka tonics or bloody marys (not that we drank all the time or anything, and it was before we had Dean in any case).

Key limes are just about the size of a walnut. I can't explain to you why key limes are so much better than your regular old run-of-the-mill limes, but they are. I was shocked to find a bag of key limes at my grocery store this week, and had to celebrate by making a pie. (For the record, I squeezed all the limes at once and froze the leftover juice for another pie -- no limes in drinks anymore.) Key Lime Pie is astonishingly easy to make -- just finding the limes is the trick (although Trader Joe's often carries bottles of key lime juice and sometimes you can find it other places as well). So:

Key Lime Pie

For the crust:
1 and 1/4 cups crushed graham crackers (in the States, graham crackers traditionally come in rectangles -- it takes 8 of these rectangles to equal 1 and 1/4 cups crushed crumbs)
1/3 cup melted butter
3 tablespoons sugar
pinch of salt

Combine crust ingredients and mix well. Press into a buttered 8-inch pie plate.

For the filling:
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
4 egg yolks
1/4 to 1/3 cup key lime juice

Combine filling ingredients and mix well. Pour into crust. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes until set. Cool completely and refrigerate.

To serve, whip up a pint or so of whipping cream, dollop decoratively on pie, slice and serve. Or, let everyone apply his or her own whipped cream. Ahhhhh. We're paying our respects to summer today when we serve up the pie I made yesterday.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

It's not what you wear that gets you there

I know I haven't been very inspired or inspiring here lately; being profound is just something that's either in you that day, or not. You can't pretend. I feel I compose a lot of amazing blog posts, but the thing is that I compose them in my head in odd moments throughout the day (and sometimes, night) and then come up empty when it's time to do the thing. Same thing with letters -- I write great ones in my head that never see the light of paper.

Reading someone else's blog recently (and of course now I can't find it -- argh!!) made me think about that divide, that dichotomy between the life you think you'll have, and the life you have -- between the parent you'd thought you'd be, and the parent you are. It made me remember how hard it was for me to stop buying clothes for the life I wished I had, expected I'd have. Like the really lovely kimono jackets that would look great over a slim pair of black pants that I could wear with ballet flats when I went to the opera or the ballet or even to a dinner party, except that I have found myself in a life (and a lovely one at that -- don't get me wrong) that doesn't involve much opera or ballet and when we go out we are pretty committed to the whole jeans and t-shirts scene. It was hard not to shop in that wishful way, though the unworn clothes hanging in my closet caused more than enough guilt to make me stop.

It's not the stuff itself that gets you there, or keeps you from going there. I certainly could find something decent to wear in my closet right now, should I be heading out for the ballet. And honestly, if we were invited to the kind of dinner party that required fancy grown-up clothes, I'd probably find some excuse not to go. Still, this reminds me that I actually considered doing a little shopping for my whole co-assistant-soccer coaching gig; Coach Louise, who's at the helm of our team of 13 9-year-old boys (and who knows what she's doing when it comes to soccer) has all the exactly right shorts and shirts for being the very picture of a soccer coach. But, I figure neither the kids nor the parents really care all that much about what I'm wearing, and looking more the part won't actually make me know any more about playing or coaching soccer.

So where does that leave me? It reinforces this business that it's not about the stuff. Makes me feel better about not buying stuff. But I could use 24 more buttons just like this little black one at the beginning, to use as dogs' noses for Dean's quilt....

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Good deeds

What's made 9/11 more real to me than anything else is the boy here at school, Dean's age, who lost his father that day. This has made the day real to Dean, too, who didn't really understand the whole thing until it became about understanding how this boy's father died.

I love the movement to make 9/11 a day of good deeds. Learn more here.

Friday, September 7, 2007

We learn

And so the first week (half-week, really) of back-to-school draws to a successful close. I need to spend some time thinking about what I want to learn this year, what goals I have -- I know my wish would be to hang on to this feeling of freshness and possibility and energy. For all of us.

After creating this post, I'm going to cut out the pieces I need to complete a bed-sized quilt for Dean that I started, of course, years ago but never finished. Although I'd officially had other projects ahead of this one in my queue, I am inspired by Dean's love for the small quilt I just finished and bequeathed to him. He thinks it's beautiful, he loves holding it and wrapping his stuffed animals up in it, he plans eventually to hang it up in his room -- how can I not forge ahead with a quilt he can sleep under? And I never have finished a bed-sized quilt before so it is about time.

Sunday, September 2, 2007


One of the transitions out of college, and schooling in general, and in to the workplace that was difficult for me was the lack of meaningful delineation from one year to the next. When you're working, life year-to-year can seem pretty much the same -- there's no agreed-upon schedule for "moving up" the way there is in school, and not any place where a fresh start is proclaimed. That's one of the many reasons I love working at a school now. I love September, the new beginning, the fresh opportunity to do better. I am an eternal optimist.

A lesson for me for these last two weeks that's really coming to a head now has been changing my sense of back-to-school transitions away from a process of buying things. I've felt a little empty, at odds, rattling around feeling somehow we weren't adequately doing this whole back-to-school thing at our house, and I realized it's because we aren't spending money on anything. Dean needed a haircut a few weeks ago so he's still all set there. We'd bought new shoes in the early summer that still fit and that hardly saw use all summer (sandal season!) so no need there. I watched for sales and picked up the few things (a new raincoat, some jeans and long-sleeved shirts) along the way, so no special shopping trips for clothes. And finally, our school doesn't have supply lists for the kids -- the things they need will be provided. So I'm trying to think about building some of our own traditions that aren't about buying stuff. I think, too, now that Dean is heading into 4th grade we've all become old hands at back-to-school -- Dean is excited, to be sure, and is completely looking forward to going back, to connecting with friends, to being with his teacher whom he already knows pretty well -- there's no need to carefully negotiate this process for him anymore. I think we'll bake cookies and take a long walk or two and maybe talk about our hopes for the year. Oh, and try to get the mice out of the garage as humanely as possible.

[above: from All Over the Map; an Extraordinary Atlas of the United States by David Jouris]