Monday, April 27, 2009

Buttercups are popping up

I'm sorry to tell you,
but I love taking photos of my clothesline,
so you may just be seeing more of these in the months to come.

Well, OK, not literally outside in the grass (which, please note, is green now!). But I had to make another trip to Alewives for MORE fat quarters and magnetic clasps to make MORE Buttercup bags. This is how deep my desire to get there was: I took the boys along with me. Which turned out to be great because Jonas (with his keen eye for color and 10 year-old fearlessness) helped me to pick out a lining fabric that was *just* a tiny bit out of my comfort zone. And Sylvan found buttons to match, amazingly.

I have a lot of spring/summer birthday girls in my I am only able to show you a limited selection of combinations that will go to non-Blog readers.
It's going to be hard to let this combo go.
The red is the outer fabric.
I'm sort of in love with it.
Um, the flipping owls?!
And the buttons, in real life, are an amazing match,
which I am sorry my photo does not reflect.
The person for whom this montage is destined
actually DOES read this blog.
So she'll just have to wonder.
To reward these good boys for their patience, I let them both pick out a fat quarter of their own. Sylvan fell in love with this fabric which he proclaimed perfect for Miss E. He drew me a picture of how he wanted it to look, fingerknit the little button loop, and helped me guide the fabric through the machine. How wonderfully selfless of him! I am secretly so glad he didn't go with his first choice which were color-rich, intense fruits and vegetables. It's good to remember that frequently, an adult aesthetic is totally different from a child's (except in the case of my father-in-law who, left to his own devices, might paint his house outlandish colors).

I am just weeks away from the end of my first semester in grad school and already making my summer reading list...and sewing project list.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Sewing for Spring!

My boys have been away, leaving me for my favorite type of vacation: one spent here at home, alone! It is amazing what can be accomplished when I am not tending to their needs---hours of the day are freed up! I have been studying, working on school projects, an exam, and a term paper. But I also had time for a special visit with a friend from afar, a couple of walks, and some sewing! Now I am thoroughly ready for my boys to make their way homeward.

In case you felt I stiffed you on pics of my recent Alewives purchases, here are a few.
If I have cute notepaper, I write notes! How could I pass up Amy Butler notecards?
So I had in mind this bag that I had seen on the Made by Rae blog, a small purse, and very cute. Sort of the algorithm that translates to when your kids get bigger, your purse gets smaller. I had never made pleats, but what the heck. AND it takes just a couple of fat quarters! I chose this home dec weight fabric for the outer, because I wanted a little bit of "body" to my purse.
And, sorry for the awful indoor lighting:
I wore it out for its debut today in the super market (right, those boys will be eating when they return and I will be feeding them), and I felt so very hip and adorable as I trolled the aisles. It fit my wallet, phone, and checkbook, really the bare essentials...but so Spring-feeling to be unencumbered by stuff. Now that I am hooked on this easy and quick pattern, I have to return to Alewives for more magnetic closures and perhaps more home dec fat quarters. Sigh.

The great part is I feel kick-started back into sewing! And my fabric-hungry tiki from Mary Anna is beginning to fill his tum! (Click on that link to her blog, she is making this totally chic trench coat right now.)
Atop Beech Hill, looking eastward. The sun was sunny, but the breeze was brisk. Soon, it will be green.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

photography and me

Mary Nanna keeps asking about how I learned to take photos, and I wasn't being cagey in not answering, but I have been thinking about how I would answer.

Well, OK, here it comes. I was a professional transfer student during my undergrad years. I have plotted my five various schools on a Google Map, which took me to both coasts and in the middle too. Along the way I studied Russian language and literature (but I never actually really wanted to go there) and also art. I did two years at the #3 spot on my map (Greenfield Community College), which had a lovely and small and really good art department, and got all my foundation courses out of the way. During this time, I took some photography classes and liked telling visual stories. But I really loved woodblock printmaking.

After this wonderful start, I went on to School of the Art Institute of Chicago to continue with my printmaking interests. Art school (at both schools) was great---so amazing to be surrounded by all that talent! But during the year I was there, I took a 3-D design class and a performance art class that sort of cemented what I already knew from the previous two years of art school: that words were always part of my best work. My work was always narrative and incorporated words.

(And then, the best surprise: In the spring, I became pregnant with Jonas and DIDN'T HAVE TO GO BACK TO SCHOOL IN THE FALL. It was what I had always wanted all along.)

Much as I was happy to learn things (officially and about myself) along the way, I always knew that really, I needed to be a mom before I would know my direction. This was not really in the program for me (white, middle class, daughter of educated parents) though and I felt a little pushed to just go someplace and study anything. Which I did. But I always tell my story to parents because I think it's important that they encourage their children to consider other options like travel or internships or just plain old work, before college.

So back to Mary Anna's question: Where did I learn how to take pictures?

Part of it is all that art training. Part of it is that I am observant to the world around me. And inspired by beauty and good light. Part of it is that I read your blogs that have photos that inspire me and give me ideas for composition and lighting. And part of it is that I am taking many more photos now, with this blog, and through practice there are necesarily more pictures that are good ones. So this blog has, without me realizing it, become a place for me to express myself through the photographic medium as well.

My camera is a Sony Cybershot H-10, if you care. I like it a lot, especially the "action" setting (good for boys who are fast-moving) and the macro setting (good for close-ups).

(Um, if you're wondering about these photos: I took them in the reflection of the window through the winterizing plastic that was covering it.)

Saturday, April 18, 2009


the treats table,
since all that shopping is exhausting
Alewives Girl (of Alewives Fabrics, check out the new website here) turned 30 this week and she hosted a big store party with 30% off! It was a teeming madhouse of fabric hungry celebrants...and we had been encouraged to bring gifts for the girl! Some of the brave ladies present actually brought along their young children, in carseats, backpacks, slings, and mobile ones too. That's dedication---I find taking the kids to the dentist or haranguing them into bathing infinitely more enjoyable than having them along at a fabric store.
The work room was filled with Turning Twenty quilt tops on the walls, perfect inspiration for me to get a move on with my own.

Inspiration #1:
that bird fabric?! so awesome.
Inspiration #2:
Inspiration #3:
Inspiration #4:
Cool applique:
Thanks for hosting, Rhea! I am now armed with some fat quarters to have handy for making more hankies, as well as a little purse pattern I am hoping to try on Monday!

This boy celebrated his 6 and 3/4 birthday at school this week. It is the last time we will hear a kindergarten teacher tell our child's life story and I was a little bit wistful about that. With each candle that is lit, an anecdote about that year in Sylvan's life was lovingly shared by the teacher:
The birthday boy (symbol=Moon) got to sit in the Special Birthday Chair and collect the symbols from his friends as they sat in their designated spots:
Here is the table set for lunch and cake, with beautiful felted tea cozy:
So much to celebrate this week, including some much-needed spring sunshine and warmth that we have waited so long for.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Creative approaches

I know this incredible, creative, brilliantly intelligent, generous and kind person who does awesome things named Matthew. He has a new project currently that absolutely fascinates me and I'm hoping you'll take a moment to read this post right now.
If you actually live in the vicinity of New York City, stop by and pose your question. He's giving updates on his locations via the blog. I wish I could show up in person.

In addition to this creative project, Matthew has also produced an award-winning documentary film (due out this fall) about the reasons why poverty still exists in our world, entitled The End of Poverty? And while producer can mean lots of things, what I think is amazing is that this was Matthew's own idea that he pitched to a production company, he got in touch with these brilliant experts from all over the world, and now here is this film that was an official selection at the Cannes Film Festival!

So, take a moment and explore that post. It fills me with wonder.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Little Red Hen

Little Red

The trouble with chickens is that sometimes they die, like all pets. Many of our girls have passed over the years, mostly just dying the quick chicken death that looks like this. One day I look at you and you are looking kind of piqued, your eye just doesn't look sparkly like it usually does, and then I see that you are not on your roost at night, but in the corner of the hen house on the floor. Then the next morning you have ascended the Rainbow Bridge into chicken heaven, which is probably full of green grassy lawns, teeming with worms, nice fluffy dust for your dustbaths, no fences, and no predators.

Because it was a daytime marauder who took the life of this beautiful chicken, our Little Red Hen (Reddie, for short). She was our Best Girl. Always friendly, curious, and happy to see us. And happy to take a bit of goodness right from our fingers or hand, ever so gently.

When I went to shut in our girls last night, I noticed the chicken yard full of her pretty red feathers. And no Reddie on the perch. A fox? A dog? We'll never know. We feel pretty sure it wasn't a hawk, because she was no lightweight. What I really don't like to think about is her last moments. So instead I think about the fact that she knew we loved her, she was well-cared for, and led a very happy chicken life.

Sylvan was sobbing this morning when he heard the news. He drew her a picture.
Easter day

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Star of a Day

We had a brisk, Maine-style Easter day: whipping wind and temps in the mid-40s (F). Hats, runny noses, parkas, the whole shooting match. Did I mention Sugar was also present, as in White, Refined, and Completely Unhealthy?
The day was a success on many levels, and satisfied my party-loving 10 year-old's need for a festive gathering on his Favorite Holiday. But the most important one is this: No one came in personal contact with chicken poop. Because my dearest Love of a Husband scooped it all away in preparation.
Egg-peeling by Miss Z. (who was, in Sylvan's opinion, the very best part of the whole day---More than candy?!---Yes!!!), who liked using the step-on garbage lid-opener. Do I need to draw your attention to the adorable legs in tights and small shoes? Or is it obvious enough that I was nearly in a swoon while taking the photo?

I loved seeing our friends' eggs. So much more creative than ours, and in much greater quantity! Next year we'll have to try our hand with rubber bands, sticky tacky (that stuff that sticks posters to walls), and get a little more loose with our form. This one, below, is like the Universe Egg:
So beautiful.
At left, this was supposed to say OM in Sanskrit, but it's backwards, so we think it says MO. And since my boys love deviled eggs, why not, we'll get a couple dozen more eggs next year!

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Favorite Holiday

One more shot of my new favorite hankie,
already on the clothesline!
First day of hanging out the laundry!

A couple of years ago, Jonas told me (in utter disappointment on the actual day) that Easter was his most favorite holiday, and why had we not planned a party?!
Too late that year, but this year, Mama is on top of it. I think it's the excess that he appreciates, and thanks to Jenny, who has personally stuffed 72 eggs with a combination of candy, coins, and Easter jokes, I think he'll be all set. We will be having some brunch with a couple of families here at our house, and hopefully, an outdoor egg-hunt. One of our favorite 2 year-olds will be here, in some sort of festive adorableness, and my biggest fear is (not the testosterone-plagued 6-7 year-olds on SUGAR but) that Miss Z. will trip and come in personal contact with chicken poop.
This is always my biggest fear about anyone who comes to our house.
Tiny felted eggs in a hand-made basket by Ravenhill's Mom.
Above is the little package that I sent off to Miesmama for the Swap--CHOO; I am showing it to you because she told me it has arrived. Here's what she sent me. I chose the poem Litany by Billy Collins, one of my favorites. There was an ATC in there too, but it's hiding.
And finally, these amazing cookies from the latest issue of Cooks Illustrated, which really ARE worth the 400 times they spent trying to perfect the idea of chocolate chip cookie. The key: browned butter. Since receiving the new issue, I have already made these lovelies twice. Perfectly decadent, with that lovely toffee flavor of browned butter. And as Hannah says, why don't we use browned butter in everything, it is just SO great. I did make them smaller than Cooks told me to, because dang, they wanted them HUGE and they are just too rich for that size. I laughed out loud when I saw that Annie made these recently also and was raving about them on her blog!