About me

Friday, July 6, 2018

out of practice

I used to take the kids on road trips regularly, all by myself.  We’d jaunt down to my husband’s grandparents’ farm for Memorial Day, Labor Day, and all the holidays in between.  We spent many spring breaks in Tennessee, visiting with my in-laws, and soaking in the warmer weather while my husband worked back at home.  One summer I trekked out to my parents’ house in the Midwest, all the way from the East Coast.   It was a two day trip.  I enjoyed packing up all of our things, planning the clothes we’d wear and the outings we’d take.   I had my checklists and my systems, and I knew what needed to happen to make our trips run smoothly, although they didn’t always. Looking back on all those adventures, I’m wondering where the energy for traveling came from!  I certainly don’t have the same stamina now. I’m just a tired, old lady. Ha.

As I was contemplating the packing for a recent trip to my husband’s grandparents’ farm, I realized that it was so hard to figure out what we’d need because I was out of practice.  We don’t really travel much anymore!  I’ve forgotten how to prep the house, make my checklists, and think ahead.  My little ones are also growing, and their needs are so different than the last time I made the same trip.  I no longer need to pack diapers and baby things; instead, I’ve got to pack extra things to wear for when my kids, big or small, cover themselves with mud or fall in the creek.  I guess I just need to make more opportunities to practice!

We hadn’t been to the farm in three years, and being there left me with a kind of ache.  I love it there: the setting, the house, the family.  I hate to be away from it all for so long.  My goal while there was to take as many pictures as I could to evoke a feeling of the place and the things we love most about it.  Hopefully we’ll get there again before too many more years elapse, but the photos will help when we can’t be there.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

yarn along: july 2018

For vacation, I took a break from my normal projects. Big M was away all last week, so Z had no one to share evening screen decisions with. Her request: watch the film versions of her favorite books. We blew through the Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice and loved Claire Foy and Matthew Macfadyen in Little Dorrit. Watching Little Dorrit put me in the mood to read the book again, so I’m deeply immersed in the world of the Marshalsea and Victorian London.

I really made some progress on the shawl edging while rooting for Lizzie Bennet and Mr. Darcy, but left it at home while on a little jaunt away.  (I knew it would need more focus that I’d be able to give.)  Instead, I brought along the ideal vacation knitting project--sock yarn squares.  Maybe I’ll make some real progress!

Happy Independence Day!  Stay cool...

joining Ginny...

Monday, June 25, 2018


My husband’s parents were visiting this weekend, to see us, but also to take Big M back with them to the Virginia farm, where he’ll help my father-in-law rebuild a chimney on a log cabin there.  Since they would be leaving the day of T’s birthday, we celebrated early, with presents, and CAKE.  He requested "brown velvet with sprinkles," so I made him what he wished for.  We all loved it, I think.  He was especially proud to help make the frosting and be-sprinkle the top layer.  In our house, eight means helping to wash dishes, load the dishwasher, and unload it, too.  As much as the other kids dislike this chore, they’ve made it a rite of passage that T was eager to make.  It’s a nice thing for everyone to have another capable dishwasher available!

I hand-stitched the buttonholes and buttons onto the back of Little M’s gray dress sometime last week.  Hand sewn buttonholes look so much nicer than the ones my machine can do, so it’s something I do myself.  It’s funny how much I procrastinate, and then how pleasurable it is while I’m working!  As I was preparing to sew on the last button, I accidentally flipped it into the crevice at the side of the couch.  Fifteen minutes later, no button--but the missing remote, a pair of scissors, and umpteen legos were unearthed!  I found a button in my button jar that almost matches the other two, so on it went.  Thankfully Little M runs and twirls so much that the odd button blends in with the originals.  Now to hem and sew buttonholes on the last two dresses!

I’m embarrassed to admit how much time I spent last week photographing the yarn in my (very small as stashes go) yarn stash and cataloging each skein on Ravelry.  In addition to the gift knitting I have planned for the future, I also laid out the yarn I’ve intended for some selfish projects.  I love the colors in that stack of skeins.  I can’t wait to finish my sister’s stole so I can get going on those!  I began the edging last week (woohoo!) so just a million rows of that, blocking, and done!  My goal is to finish it by her original wedding date, July 22, so that I can give it to her when we get to spend time together the next week. 

I don’t know if you can tell that’s a firefly in the last picture.  Big M caught a bunch on Solstice evening and brought them in the house.  He put several in jars and they made the sweetest, twinkly lights before they escaped into the house. 

Monday, June 18, 2018

easy livin’

The weather has finally decided to be summer.  The beautiful, cool days of the past few weeks have given way to HEAT, and we’re doing all we can to stay cool in our old, lacking-central-air house.  We’re hot in our little sundresses and shorts, but I have no idea how the ladies in the past suffered through this kind of heat in corsets and petticoats and long, long dresses.  We have to remind each other to stay hydrated, especially the little ones, whose pink cheeks and sweaty hair show just how they’re sweltering.  What’s funny is that, after a lifetime of AC, my body is adjusting to the heat, and I need a little sweater with me whenever I go to the air-conditioned store or church.  I never used to be so cold in those places!  Or maybe I’m just getting old? 

Father’s Day festivities are always low-key. The kids spent Saturday morning making cards for Fr. G while I went to the grocery store; their heads were bent over their work, and each tried to think of the funniest thing to say.  This year they gave him their best wishes in different languages, thanks to Google translate.  On Father’s Day, he and the boys watched the World Cup games after Liturgy  Fr. G had one request--Southern-style banana pudding.  So we relaxed the fast a wee little bit, and indulged.  It was a really lovely, peaceful (and HOT) day.

I celebrated the first day of the last year of my thirties earlier this month, and my two birthday presents arrived in the past week!  I asked for a camera, just a basic Nikon and lens, and my sister gave me a gift certificate to a favorite yarn shop. The yarn shop had a sale last week, so I snapped up enough of the Local Natural Dyes, dyed with indigo, for a sweater.  (And it looks like now they’re out of the indigo!)  

I’m not the only one excited about yarn--Little M asks to squeeze the skeins in my stash.  Could she be a burgeoning knitter?  Z and I hope!  Little M is very opinionated about her hair these days.  Today she asked for a "back, up ponytail. two."  Many hairstyles and tears later, I finally got it the way she liked. Looking at the picture, I saw that the outcome really was two back, up buns. Ha!

I’m excited about some easy livin’ over the next week, to rest now that our school year is officially over!  

Friday, June 15, 2018

happy place{s}

Prayer for Anxiety
O Lord of hosts, calm my anxious heart.  In Your love and concern for the salvation of my soul, bring to mind Your loving kindness and grant me Your strength to block out every thought or feeling that does not bring glory to You.  Teach me to keep my mind in the present that I may meditate upon Your goodness whenever I am assaulted by anxious thoughts.  If I may not be freed from the anxiety plaguing me, let me continue to work out my salvation, and allow me to know your peace and trust you for each step heavenward.  Amen.
From The Ascetic Lives of Mothers by Annalisa Boyd

I’ve had a lot of anxious sleepless nights this year.  Between all of our activities, some minor health issues, and some major life changes, I wasn’t paying attention to my self-care.  I was drinking coffee to keep myself awake after angst-filled sleepless nights, and I was jittery and sleepless because I’d had too much caffeine.  It was a vicious cycle, filled with lots of prayers and tears!  Finally, I made the connection:  my body does not tolerate caffeine at all like it used to.  Even one cup of decaf black tea after noon messes with my circadian rhythms, which is a shame.  I really love coffee and tea.  The good news is that I have been enjoying lots of chamomile tea blends lately.  My husband calls it my twig juice.  No matter what name you call it, the tea is soothing and refreshing.

Daily walks have been immensely helpful, too.  Usually I go early, before everyone has woken up, and breathe the cool morning air in relative silence.  There are a lot of animals awake, though.  The other morning a skunk scampered under a car just up the block, and a few minutes later I watched a fox slink behind a house.  It’s surprising to see them, given how very urban our area is.  Last year we had a mama fox and her kits living in an abandoned ground hog hole under our shed.  Since our area was rural, it was more of a delight than a surprise.  The kits used to wander into the fenced portion of our yard, causing shouts of "Mama, Mama!  There’s a fox in the yard!"

This week there were a couple of days that I just couldn’t face walking at 6 am, so I decided to take he kids to two of our very favorite places.  The first is nearby, and the other is about an hour away, closer to where we used to live.  Being in both of those places did wonders for us all!  We saw some blooming milkweed, which seems a bit early to me?  (The plants that I thought were milkweed and rescued from our side yard are not milkweed.  They're dogbane.)  My son also spotted our first prothonotary warbler, as in he knew exactly what he was looking at and called our attention to it.  I didn't believe him until we played the warbler's song on my handy dandy Cornell Bird App.  But he was right!

The past few evenings, I have spent in front of my sewing machine, working on some summer wardrobe items for little Miss M.  I’m a much better knitter than seamstress, but there’s something about sewing that requires mindfulness more than knitting does.  I won’t call it relaxing, but...maybe satisfying is a better word?  Little M is so pleased with the results: "Did you make that dress? For me?"  She wanted to wear the first dress before I had a chance to sew on the buttons.  She sat on my lap to help sew up the skirt of the second, and specified that she wanted sleeves on it.  Short sleeves.  What a relief that I had enough fabric for sleeves!  The third dress is in double gauze, and I’m a little nervous about how it will come together.  

My current knitting projects are still occupying some of my knitting time.  Whenever Little M asks me to read her a story, she tells me to go get my knitting so I can knit while I read to her.  She’s so considerate.  Thanks to her, I’m getting the body of my Arwen sweater done.  I love planning projects almost as much as I loved bringing them into being.  Baby gift knitting tops my list of happy things, and I’ve got a couple of gifts in the works.

I finally had time last weekend to visit he produce shop a friend recommended.  The fruits and veggies were inexpensive and delicious, but the herbs and flowers are what will make me a repeat customer.  I picked up a huge bunch of peonies, and we are still enjoying them almost a week later.  Fresh flowers are a definite weakness of mine.  I don’t get them more than once a month, but they make the whole house seem fresh.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

A Long Yarn: June 2018 Yarn Along

My sister’s wedding has come and gone, and I’m still plugging away at her veil.  It’s a delight to knit, really!  I fear I have not much staying power, though.  My ideal projects lie somewhere between the 400 to 800 yard range, and this one is over 1200 yards, so I feel like The Little Engine That Could every time I pick it up.  I noticed a tea splotch on part of it, and in washing that bit, I got a little glimpse of the finished, blocked product.    Ahhh.  It will be heaven to count this as a finished object, when it has been a work in progress for so long.

My Arwen sweater us still coming along, too.  I ripped back to where I cast on the underarm stitches because the body had too much positive ease for my frame.  I re-cast on 4 stitches at each underarm, rather than 22 (!), and the fit flatters much better.  It still has quite a bit of positive ease, so I will be able to layer it over some of my favorite long sleeved shirts when the weather cools.  The picture really washes out the lovely olive-y gold-y green of the yarn.

But!  I’m really hoping to finish these two projects soon so I can move on to making my sister and brother-in-law’s wedding gift, another giant project.  Ha.  I chose this blanket pattern from Purl Soho, to be knit in Brooklyn Tweed’s Shelter.  As soon as color cards arrive, I can make my color choices.  (I also took the opportunity to order a color card for BT’s new Peerie!)  I really love knitting gifts, and I take quite a bit of time selecting just the right patterns and yarns for the people I love.  One of the perks is getting to try different brands, patterns, and colorways that I might not choose for myself.  I can’t wait to cast on!

Reading this month has been primarily focused on my oldest’s high school list, chock full of Revolutionary War primary sources, but I did order Beginning to Pray by Anthony Bloom for a book group.  I randomly opened a page and found the profoundly simple, yet surprisingly difficult to comprehend, thoughts, pictured below.

(Today marks the first of the last three hundred and sixty five days I can say I’m in my thirties!)

Tuesday, June 5, 2018


A few weeks ago, we spotted almost twenty milkweed plants growing in our side yard that faces the public eye.  While we wanted to save them, we also know that our yard needs to look presentable.  I asked my oldest son to transplant as many as he could to a garden plot in the back yard, and he was able to rescue three of them from the imminent jaws of the lawn mower.  He and I are pretty excited that they’ve taken to their new spot, and, despite looking like crooked old men, they appear to be thriving.  I planted some milkweed seeds (a gift from a friend, who knows me well) in the same little garden plot this spring, but they haven’t sprouted yet.  Maybe some of the seeds were moved to the side yard by the industrious squirrels who inhabit our yard?  I’d like to think that the seedlings we transplanted were from my friend’s seeds!  My dad gave me some bee balm seeds from his garden, and those were put in near the milkweed.  So far there hasn’t been any action from them, either, or maybe there has been?  I’m still learning which of the plants I see are weeds, and which are intentional!  Usually I just have to let plants grow until I can tell, and even then I have doubts!

Our transfer this past fall was pretty abrupt.  We’re still processing our new surroundings eight months later!  We think of ourselves as transplants from Maryland, but in the process of putting down deep roots: growing and thriving, and learning, too.  It takes about a year for me to figure out the flow and what we need in a new house, and how to make it work for us.  Wintertime means hibernation, but the warmer weather puts me in the mood for another huge purge of clothes and toys, which will hopefully help streamline our tidying efforts.  Right now I’m struggling with our hand-me-downs.  I don’t know if we’ll need them again!  Z has said, more than once, “As soon as you get rid of our baby clothes, you’ll have another baby!” Ha. There’s a lot of hope in her voice.

One big change has been moving Little M out of the crib in our bedroom and into her own room.  I broke down the crib and tucked it into storage.  My husband and I have had babies sleeping in our room (and in our bed!) for the last fourteen years, so—WOW—we don’t quite know what to do with the space!  I have grand plans of framing some of my needlework and hanging it over a desk in the corner where the crib used to be.  It will be fantastic to have a private nook for early morning reading and planning.  I have a mountain of pre-reading for Z’s freshman year of high school, and I visualize the books in a neat stack, all right where I need them.

Since all three of our family's June birthdays fall within the Apostles' Fast this year, I baked a cake this weekend for a delicious dairy-and-egg celebration.  I used the Double Chocolate Fudge Cake recipe from my Loveless Cafe dessert book.  It, like every recipe I've tried from the book, did not disappoint.  The cake would have been perfect by itself, but I paired it with Alicia Paulson's cheater frosting instead of the one recommended.  (I'm itching to try Alicia's Cloudburst Frosting, but was short on time.) Rich, decadent, over-the-top--in short, the cake was a delightful end to a feasting period, and has us ready to begin the fast tomorrow morning!