Monday, March 30, 2009

I feel like I'm on vacation when...

Above is for Kate

The breakfast dishes are washed before I leave the house. Clean sink for my return!

I grocery shop early in the day, by myself. Today I was there at 8:10: the store is always empty, the clerks are happy. No lines.

I bought myself these flowers, and if you look carefully you can see it's 50 F on my thermometer.
The massive laundry pile that had been taking up my bedroom floor-space for a few days, just growing larger each day, was folded before 7 a.m. Put away by Husby by 7:15. Doing one load a day can be like vacation also.
Grundens rain gear:
the only kind that holds up to mud season in Maine,
and favored by fisherpeople.
Love the design detail that you can notice in that the snaps ALTERNATE
side to side, for better rain protection.

I got to exercise with the regular awesome crew today. We're like an army of strong, gorgeous women (and Richard and Donny), all ages, all shapes, all sizes, working so damn hard, totally high on life and endorphins while getting our butts kicked into shape by this amazing woman. Check out the pictures of the space we get to fill up at High Mountain Hall. (It used to be a feed store, before that it was a church!) And our class, Sacred Sweat, has a Facebook page if you want more inspiration---better yet, come by and try it.
I already know what I am making for dinner.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Afternoon at home

Do you remember this post, where I said that we are good-hearted people who sometimes use our things in unusual ways? Well, we are still those people.
This is Sylvan's work of the warm afternoon, with no coat on: multi-season outdoor equipment, tied together with dad's special rope, and later, the addition of two life vests.
Another one bites the dust.
Inside, I was busy breaking the Garlic Press, not in an unusual way, just pressing garlic. It's our second broken one this year, probably a combo of over-use and (in this particular case) shoddy design. Any ideas for a rock solid one that can stand the test of active cooks who use garlic frequently? And yes, I know I could mince it with a sharp knife, but I don't like to.
Raw kale salad with apples and walnuts and vinaigrette,
inspired by this post.
This kale, brilliantly dazzling in the late afternoon light, is ready to accompany Kate's poached eggs on toast to Hollywood to make their fortunes.
More sourdough bread, more eggs.
The remains of a shared clementine between two friends.

P.S. If you need a laugh, as I did tonight after the third straight night of doing bedtime alone, please read this post.

Monday, March 23, 2009


These sweet things came from dear Emily, of Ravenhill. She has a shop also, and is the maker of all things gorgeous. Can you believe this sweet spring-like bird fabric? It's so super. I am thinking of a single valance for the window next to my bed...just a little border of something around this rectangle, and hanging it where I can see it often. And watch how the light plays through it. Thank you for your kindness, Emily! Just a lovely spring boost of blogland friendship from afar. Inspired as we were from our Saturday Art at the Library, our Sunday morning included some art-making at home, working on those pages we began and gesso-ing more paper.
Jonas's painted page, see all that cool texture? It's from the Flexible Modelling Paste.
Sylvan's house with Red Truck in garage.
Homage to a Good Red Chicken
These last two come from an idea I got from Totally Smitten Mama, where you (or your kids) use a permanent marker to first draw a simple design, then you add paint. (I should note that I prepped the pages with gesso on both sides.) The sense I got with her project was that the kid would do the drawing and the grown-up would paint it in, but Sylvan was not interested in that kind of collaboration. I was in charge of paint-mixing and brush cleaning. So I made my own.
Can we ever have a food-free post from Creative Endeavors in a Busy Life? you are asking.
Sunday Crepes with strawberry sauce and yogurt, and our own maple syrup.
Second batch of sourdough bread, this time with just under half of the flour as whole wheat.
The answer is no. I may be on the No-Carb Left Behind diet, hopefully only momentarily.

Finally, I have been given my very first blogging award from Skip the Chips! It's the Lemonade Award and apparently I show Attitude and/or Gratitude. Thanks, Peggy.

Here are the rules:

1. Put the logo on your blog or post.

2. Nominate blogs which show great Attitude and/or Gratitude.
3. Link to your nominees within your post.
4. Let them know they have received this award by commenting on their blog.

5. Share the love and link this post to the person from whom you received your award.

I hereby nominate (and this is very hard): A Sew Groovy Chick, Make it Smirk, Miss Smith at Home, Philigry, Tollipop, and Totally Smitten Mama.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Art, Sewing, Bread, Library

They have a French name, but I call them mini-daffodils,
obviously mugging for the camera.
They come from my sweet library director.

Art at the Library: Artist Journal Mini-Course
We had the first workshop today at the Rockport Public Library and I am happy to tell you it was a total success.
We had fun. We had all slots filled. We spoke about memoirs, journals, and creating personal narratives. We had books on display from our collection that reflected these themes, for adults and kids. We were packed into the plasticized children's room, USING PAINT. In the Library. With lots of Books, Carpet, etc. And it was just terrific. Amazing art playtime was had by all. Also: we were lucky enough to be the recipient of a Rudman Family Grant from the Maine Community Foundation, to help with underwriting the cost of supplies, a stipend for Robinsunne, and purchasing an instructional video with some of these awesome techniques we are playing with.
Today it was paint, spray bottle, scrunched up paper towels and newspaper, and flexible modeling paste (think spackle but when it dries it doesn't crack), to make these interesting multi-textured bases for our pages. More embellishments to come!

Swap--CHOO update
Peggy and I have been getting some great PR for our Swap! We are featured on the Swapdex as well as on One Crafty Place. This last blog has some great ideas for Easter/Spring crafts you should definitely check out (OK, even if it's actually FALL for you southern hemisphere gals). And amidst our arting at the library today, Carol showed me her wonderful trick with the thimble that she told us about in the comments section of the Swap--CHOO post; it made the whole process very smooth. I really did have to see it to get it, but perhaps this is because I am not naturally facile with the thimble. There is still time to join the swap, just leave a comment with your email address on the original Swap--CHOO post.

Kitchen news
This becomes THIS:
Remember Annie's no-knead sourdough post I was telling you about? In addition to sending along the starter, there was also a complete dinner for my family. That EVERYONE. ACTUALLY. ATE. And even LIKED (yes, even the fussy among us). Chicken paprikash, Israeli Couscous, and Sourdough bread. And it was just about the best gift I have had in a long time, given at exactly the right moment. Again, thank you, friend.

So I tried the recipe for the bread. Totally easy. The only thing you have to consider is the time frame, but I technically could throw together the dough in the morning, let it rise all day and make loaves when I get home in the afternoon, to eat with/for dinner. Let me just also reiterate: No kneading required. And again, she is giving away starters to any interested parties; leave a comment on the blog.
Here is the result:
The aroma was amazing.
I also lack the right size and number of Dutch ovens to bake the loaves in. But I winged (wung?) it, with a covered casserole dish, and a glass bowl with a glass pot lid on top. At any rate, here is the result, and it was truly incredible. It was also kind of magic that the sourdough starter, a wild yeast from some 100 year-old organism, made this! It really worked!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Is she really as busy as she says?

Yes. But that has never stopped me from 1) recreational reading, and 2) knitting.
But, you say, here you are obviously squandering a few minutes
trying to capture the perfect photo of sap dripping.
Yes, that is also true.

I finished a birthday scarf for one of my best girls, a confirmed Winter palette, who wears wool year round, so I was unperturbed that spring is nosing forward. It's a great scrunchy pattern that is so easy. This is the same woman who coined the term Conceptual Dressing, for the type of clothing choices we notice in Mainers who, when they see that the temperature is 55 degrees F think it is Spring and therefore, out come the shorts and tee shirts.
Photos are mildly blurry because the sky is blurry today also.
The rainbow shawl is growing.
So, how do I do it? Well I make knitting progress by having a project that is easy enough so that I don't have to really pay much attention, but it also can't be completely dull (like acres of Stockinette Stitch) or else I would be bored. Self-striping yarn helps keep the interest up also, as do bright colors.
I am the knitting geek who takes her knitting with her everywhere, in case there is an odd moment to knit. This makes me not resent waiting and makes me more peaceful. I knit through the school music concert last night. I sometimes knit and read, because I have this neat gismo to hold my book pages open. I take odd moments when I can get them.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Spring may be coming (here in Maine, at the pace of a glacier), but the sniffles are still around. Need to brighten your purse? Lift your spirits? We have the answer...

Peggy, of Skip the Chips, and I are collaborating on a hand-stitched, rolled-hem hankie swap, entitled, what else? Swap--CHOO! We are sweetening the deal by encouraging you to include a favorite poem with the hankie you send off, in celebration of April (National Poetry Month). It doesn't have to be an original poem, just a favorite, and if you pen it in your own hand-writing (in this age of computerized print) we'll love you even more.
The great thing about hankies? They use such a small amount of fabric that I can almost guarantee you have something in your "scrap" pile that could be a hankie. You can go wild and make it colorful and floral or wacky and wonderful! You don't need mad sewing skills either, but I will say that my success was greatly improved by a skinny needle (as opposed to the big ones with big eyes that we mostly have around here). It's a project of short duration; really, it takes about a half hour at most. (And if I can do it, what with the various crazy school and home-related dramas of my life, so can you.) Wouldn't you love to impress your friends with your totally earth-friendly AND gorgeous AND handmade remedy for a spring sniffle, that was made by a stranger in some far-away place? Or perhaps flaunting it as you wave from the deck of a large ocean steamer, flapping your hankie in farewell?
So. How to do it. Check out Skip the Chips, for her original post (what got me started on hankies), and her flickR page for a close-up. Visit the Tutorial from Purl Bee. Leave your email address as a comment on this post (or on Peggy's post about the Swap--CHOO) and we will let you know who your swap partner is by Wednesday of next week (March 25). Make your hankie in the next three weeks and you should have yours by Easter/Passover! The talented Peggy has also set up a Swap--CHOO flickR group so you can upload your pictures there and see what others have made also.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

In the Kitchen

...With beloved foodie friends this weekend. It was hard to ignore the sun, which was making gorgeous light. We had a summer meal to counteract the effects of March.
Blueberry pie with frozen blueberries still tastes good in March
The beginning of Guacamole for 6
Ratio of avocados per person= 1:1
Climate miles expended: We don't want to think about it
Yummy buzzy bee barley-sweetened lolly
When did he start looking 20 years old?
Buried in snow, loving it
even when his brother almost shaved off his face with the shovel
when he was uncovering.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

More Eggs

I can tell Spring is coming. We have sap on the woodstove. And more than the Occasional Egg appearing in our henhouse. (Wouldn't Occasional Egg be a great blog name? Free for the taking if you want it.)

The Time Change of Saturday has completely devastated the rhythm of one of our boys. It is hard to see him in such a fragile place, out of sorts with sleep, going to bed later and waking up tired, needing more cuddles, sad and mad and REALLY mad about things that seem small to me. But clearly they are Big to him. With his growing skills and talents, it is a hard thing to still find himself in a child's body with adults telling him that he can't just eat bread for supper or that Calvin and Hobbes is not really a bedtime story.

The only things I have control over, now that both my boys are in school for most of their waking hours are: serving healthy food at mealtimes, providing a gentle rhythm that is predictable, and being an anchor adult who is also *mostly* predictable herself. That's it.
March in Maine is a pretty intense time for everyone. We can see the light is coming back, we can feel the growing strength of the sun on our faces, but each and every year I feel a bit devastated by the winter-spring fluctuations. You can't tell your heart not to feel hopeful, but when the next snowstorm comes, or you drop the full bucket of maple sap on your bare toe, your heart is broken anyway. Maybe this is part of what is going on for my boy.

And just so I don't have to end on such a bleak note: Check out Annie's blog Artichokes and Asparagus for some great tips on No-Knead sourdough breads and the care and feeding of your sourdough starter. And she is offering some of her own starter to readers of her blog, from a 100 year-old organism, which is just so cool. Annie is a captain and chef on one of our local schooners---a great way to experience Maine from the water---and she does all of this amazing cooking (homemade breads and sweets, wonderful gourmet meals, etc.) from a wood-fired cookstove on her boat all summer, for you know, like 30 people. Thanks, Annie, you've got me thinking of summer now!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Color therapy

Crafty Sunday
Some were beading.
Sylvan, carefully threading the tiniest beads onto wire:
Jonas, making earrings to sell at the fair next fall, to earn some money towards next year's skiing habit:
At $15 these lovelies are priced to sell! Let's hope the "age 11" minimum is slightly flexible by a few weeks...

And the new knitting project, a shawl, first seen on Soule Mama's blog a few week's back. Called Simple, Yet Effective 2.0, the pattern is here. It's not free, but it's still good! It calls for one skein of Noro Kureyon sock yarn, which is self-blending, and I used it for my birthday socks last year. (And oh my gosh, if you look at that post, the sweetness of raindrops on irises in June!). For this pattern, you split the skein and alternate the balls so you get stripes.
For this shawl, I chose something in the rainbow family, mostly because I like the idea of wearing rainbows around my shoulders in bleakest March. But rainbows also have special meaning for me and my name: Iris is the goddess of the rainbow in the Greek Pantheon. When my mom was pregnant with me she saw more rainbows in those nine months than in her whole life! (Wait, what part of that last paragraph gave it away that I am a child of the 70s?)

I had overthought this simple shawl and won't bore you with the details, but I decided after about 8" that I didn't love the way the stripes were alternating. So last night ripped it all out, rewound one of the balls and began again. Much better this time, proving to me that listening to my inner-ickometer is better than listening to my husband because we don't always share the same aesthetic.
Both portraits are hanging in my dining room now. At right, the photo taken by my husband when Jonas was just a small angel, maybe only a year old or so; the shiny glass made photographing it here challenging. At left, the portrait in oil crayon by my brother (first seen here) and given to me this February. Two of my most favorite fellows.