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Friday, July 16, 2021

a simple skirt

 Little M loves this skirt and, I must say, I wouldn't say no to an adult-sized version for myself.  The swishy, drapey fabric is Robert Kaufman Brussels Washer Linen Blend (55% linen, 45% rayon) in Paris blue.  I used 3/4 of the yard I purchased to make pattern p: tiered skirt in a size I can't remember.  She's worn it twice in the last four days, and dripped ice cream on it both times :) The first drips were chocolate, necessitating immediate stain treatment and laundering.  After twenty years of washing clothes, I am finally learning the lesson of treating stains ASAP!  It was probably foolish to choose such a light color for this very active six-year-old, but it's so sweet on her.  And the blue matches the floral shirt I made for her this spring...which she won't wear. Ha.

Everyone is scheduled to return from camp any moment.  She and I are both excited to see our crew.  I probably need to squeeze in forty winks before they throw open the door.  I packed this week with Little M so full of good things that I'm exhausted!

Thursday, July 15, 2021

five nights and four days with my littlest love



On Sunday night, Fr. G and the four older children left for a sleep away camp run by our metropolis.  It was G's first overnight camp experience, so we'll see how exhausted he is when they return on Friday.  We've got a crazy jam-packed weekend (is there any other kind?) and then we leave for our vacation on Monday.  I hope the kids catch up on their sleep during our 12 hour car trip to Lake Michigan.

Little M and I have had the house to ourselves while everyone is away.  I knew she would pine, especially for Z, so I filled the schedule with little jaunts outside the home, little tasks for us to do within the home, and plenty of flexible time so M could give her input.  She really wants to go to the zoo, which I emphatically do not (heat, crowds, mask mandates).  Other than that I've been able to accommodate most of her wishes.

On Monday we took a trip to our city's art museum to visit a Monet that we'd studied during term 3.  It was exciting enough to get a picture near it, but not exciting enough to look at for more than thirty seconds.  We visited another painting we've studied in the past, which merited a longer examination and many sweet questions.  We rounded out the trip with lunch at a favorite spot and then spent the afternoon at the pool, coming home just before the thunder and lightning.  She listened to an audiobook while I finished sewing a linen skirt for her. (It turned out really well, but that's another post.)

On Tuesday, she requested a morning walk to and around the cemetery near our house; she biked and I scrambled to keep up with her.  It's three and a half miles round-trip.  Little M likes to stop for honeysuckle nectar along the way and to point out all the flowers she knows (hydrangea! swamp milkweed! daisies!).  At a necessary pit-stop, I noticed a headstone for a woman whose name was the nickname I had hoped to use for little M.  Just after M was born, Z declared that she would never use anything other than M's full name, so the nickname didn't stick.  We also disturbed some broody house wrens using a sweet birdhouse (noting that birdhouse down for our own backyard).  They chittered and screeched at us from the holly tree beside the house.  After arriving home and cleaning up, she and I ran errands, ending at IKEA for lunch and a few household things.  They didn't have the dishes I was looking for, or the soft-serve ice cream that M was looking for, but we did alright.  We refreshed the throw pillow cases in the living room and found some storage containers for my sewing notions in the exact size I had been looking for.

On Wednesday morning we repeated our walk.  This time I brought my phone to play wren songs, so we were able to coax the fussy wren mama back into her nest while we stood there.  She eyed us suspiciously the whole time.  In the afternoon, I had a homeschool gathering, so two sweet girls from our parish came over to hang out with M.  She was queen for an afternoon. They played games, ate popsicles, and she  basked in the company of these two older ladies.  

Today we have the large task of cleaning out the boys' rooms and bathroom on the third floor, and then we have a trip to this lovely storefront to pick up our artist prints for the year.  I tell friends our third floor is like a frat house, and I avoid it at all costs.  The little boys have a weekly cleaning checklist, but my teen son's room...well, I should have worked on good habits earlier.  When the kids go back to Greek school, school, and our co-op in the fall (happy dances all around), I will be quietly purging things.  A friend commented that part of establishing good habits is setting our kids up to succeed.  So true.  They can't keep things tidy when there are too many things!  

The kids arrive home tomorrow afternoon, and if they don't break camp tradition, they will have pulled an all-nighter.  Most years they sleep all, all day on Friday and then all night.  Little M might have to wait just a little longer before people are ready to play with her.  On Sunday night, she said to me, "This house is nothing without Z."  I know she misses her crew, but I hope that our delightful time together has been a comfort.

Friday, July 2, 2021

the considered closet, part 4: pants 2.0

I don't think I ever posted the first version of these pants, which I made two summers ago and wear often.  They're capri length and in a delicate linen, which has been perfect for the heat and humidity of the past week.   Since I have worn them so frequently, I wanted to add a full length pair to my closet.  The pattern is from Simple Modern Sewing, in a size large, and the fabric is my current favorite.  My only beef is that I forgot to add to the rise in the back, making the fit more snug than I hoped.  I wrote a note on the pattern pieces for the next time--there will definitely be a next time!  This pair of pants should carry me through at least October, especially on those days that summer makes its last gasp.  


Monday, June 28, 2021

yarn along: july, a few days early

June is typically my most prolific reading month, and this year that has been true once again.  Much of my reading has been for next school year--I am about halfway through all of the pre-reading for our first term.  I pack a rather large and optimistic reading basket to bring to swim lessons, swim team practice, and the pool in general, and my reading has been accomplished with the sounds of splashing and shouting in the background.  I'm putting off a couple of the books, as I hear my littles might be headed back to their co-op in the fall (so much excitement about that!!!), and other books require my full concentration while I sit at a table, maps, and other materials to assist in my planning.

I wake extra early to fit in my challenge book of the day, when the house is silent and my tea has kicked in. I just finished The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, which was a birthday present from my dad (and mom, too).  The book forced a crash review of all those philosophical terms like poiesis and mimesis that just never stick in my brain.  Fr G asked me to go on a walk one morning right after I had finished a particularly interesting section, and he got an earful of all that I had been processing.  He wasn't quite prepared for philosophy before breakfast.  Ha.  Trueman's book is a thoughtful exploration of modern culture, the notion of modern identity and self, and its historical sources.  I think I need to tackle Sophie's World again before I move on to The Intellectual Life, which was a gift from a friend.  Another acquaintance mentioned during two recent book club discussions that her favorite Tolkein work was Smith of Wootton Major, and how applicable it was to our examination of parenting and educating as described the chapters of A Philosophy of Education we'd just read.  I can't remember now exactly the relation between the two (was it the part about order?), but since I've been meaning to read it for a while (and at least two of my kids have read it), I pulled it off our shelf.  

I also pack in the pool basket one of my current knitting projects.  In the hopes of supporting a "local" yarn shop last summer, I bought a sweater's worth of Quince and Co. Sparrow for a summer-weight cardigan. The colorways I wanted, either fen or fundi, were out of stock with the shop and with Quince, so I said I would wait.   I totally forgot about the purchase until this April or May, and asked if the colors were stocked.  No, not yet.  Really wanting to have this sweater for summer 2021, I settled for the colorway penny, which they could ship immediately.  I'm not sorry!  Penny is an apt name--the yarn is the color of an old copper penny, and the perfect addition to my wardrobe of navy, olive, gray, and brown.  After waffling over the right pattern, I went with the Brise cardigan.  It'll be the perfect breezy, light layer I so need in the AC.  I knit all of the raglan increases once, only to find that my gauge was too small.  Back to the beginning with larger needles!  It's the exact right summer project--knit, knit, knit then purl, purl, purl.  So, so mindless.

The other project getting my attention is similar in its (current) simplicity: the kiiruna shawl, which I saw Martha working on.  I knew immediately it was one for my needles.  I'm using Linen Quill in Stillwater Blue, after hearing glowing recommendations from several podcasters.  They were not wrong--it's a delicious yarn, extra soft and bouncy.  The pattern is just right, too.  I may add a couple of lace repeats to make it a really large shawl, depending upon my yarn.

What are you reading? Knitting?

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

letters to my daughter

For the first time in her life, our dear daughter Z flew solo to attend a ten day program in another East Coast city.  To be honest, Fr G and I required her to apply to the program, just like we require our children to eat their vegetables.  She wasn't keen on going at all, but if she went, she wanted to be there at the same time as her good friend (who isn't eligible until the summer of 2022).  We prevailed, and she was accepted, so off she went!

She returned yesterday, exhausted and glowing, refreshed to her fingertips.  On the ride home from the airport, she casually mentioned that there's a retreat for the alumni of the program, and a possible reunion.  I'd say, despite her protests about applying and going, that the whole experience was spiritually profitable.

While she was there, she was not allowed to have her phone (no hardship for her--she sees technology as a necessary annoyance), nor was she allowed to call us but once.  She was allowed to receive letters via email, and every morning I sat where I'm sitting right now, at our dining room table, composing a letter to her.  The practice of looking over my yesterdays and anticipating the joy of each new day, and then committing those meditations to paper probably benefitted me even more that receiving the notes benefitted her!  I may continue writing letters to myself so that I have a record of the little excitements and delights of each day.  They are so very small and humble, the moments that make up our days, but taken together they are a life.

Here are a few excerpts of the letters, for posterity:

June 13, 2021

Yesterday Kyria Athenaes left some little goodies on the doorstep for you—chocolates, sweets, some flowers and some bookends.  It was very sweet of her, since she knows how much you love to read.  The flowers currently grace the dining room table.  I have no idea what kind they are; I’ve never seen them before.  There are some branches with small, curly, mottled leaves, and some buds whose leaves look daisy-ish.  If the buds open, I’ll let you know what kind of flowers they are.  I hid the chocolates and sweets.  Fingers crossed that the boys don’t find them.  I do hope Kyria Athenaes is feeling better.  I marvel at people’s ability to think of others when they’re suffering themselves.

This morning we were devastated to learn that the praying mantis had died overnight.  It was looking pretty peaky yesterday, and I had resolved to release it this morning…only to find it was legs-up on the bottom of the jar.  M was especially upset at the tender age of the mantis at its demise.  The ladybug larvae on the milkweed consoled her, though.  I stopped counting them at 20, and there are a few adult ladybugs crawling over the leaves, too!  I hope there are enough aphids to feed such a voracious population.  I don’t think M can weather more tragic insect deaths.

June 15, 2021

Some trivial but exciting news:  I figured out how to use the sandwich press so that it doesn’t make a mess!  Just sandwich the sandwich in parchment paper!  Voilá!  We had delicious cheese-and-meat panini for dinner and didn’t have to scrape any melted cheese from the machine.  I hope this opens up a whole new sandwich world for you…I’m thinking grilled breakfast sandwiches, quesadillas…so many options.

It’s sunny and cool this morning here, although it looks like your weather is even cooler.  Last night we had a terrific thunderstorm just after Babá got home from a meeting.  The hail rattled the windows, like someone was throwing marbles at them.  I went out to the little front entryway to see the hail, and it was pouring in sheets. Just when I thought, “This is the hardest it’s ever rained here,”  the wind whipped everything into a frenzy and the rain poured even harder. I’m shocked we don’t have more limbs and trees on the ground and that we still have power.  Other than a few extra leaves on the ground and damp pavement, you’d never know last night was so wild.

June 17, 2021

Last night T and M did well at the meet!  T and I talked about how sometimes we get better at things, without any special practice, when we’ve had time to grow.  Remember how frustrated he was about swimming last year? This year has been such a different experience!  He’s excited to go to practice and has met a few friends.  His actual swimming has improved so much, too, although during the one race I saw his goggles fell off.  It’s hard to breathe with goggles around one’s mouth, but he soldiered on.

The milkweed got knocked over in the storm we had the other night, but it’s rallying!  On one plant, the green flower buds are blushing dusty pink, and there are more buds on the rest of the plants.  Many of our ladybug larvae are pupating, so there will be sweet little ladybugs soon!  And maybe even more eggs and larvae, too.  When the aphids first appeared, I thought about ordering some ladybugs, but it was too expensive to justify.  And now we have a spontaneous ladybug colony!  An aphid infestation is good for something, I suppose.

June 18, 2021

I was noticing this morning how far north the sun has gotten already this season.  During the winter, I can watch sunrise from the southern corner window in the sunroom; as I type this email, it is dazzling my eyes from the northern-most window in the dining room.  Summer light is just the best.  One of the reasons I rise so early each day is to enjoy each moment of it.  M is the only one up right now, and she’s quietly consuming her breakfast (cereal, again).  That same gentleman from church that gives us eggs gave us some more, mostly a delicate bluish green color.  It seemed a shame for the boys to break them open yesterday to make their fried eggs and omelettes, the jagged edges no longer holding the same beauty of the whole.  I hope there will still be some around when you return.  

I'm off to rouse my swimmers for early morning practice, to drag the recycling to the curb, and to pack breakfast for said swimmers.  I also need to do some adult things today, like schedule (and finance) driving lessons for Z.  Pray for me!  

God bless you today!

Friday, June 11, 2021

the considered closet, part 4: inside, a mess

I'm sure one could draw all sorts of metaphorical and philosophical conclusions about my latest sewing project.  On the right side it works and looks fine.  On the wrong side?  A total mess.  It has something to do with my impatience to finish the pajamas, and something to do with the fabric.

The fabric for this, Robert Kaufman Swiss Dot Chambray, I ordered last year imagining that it would become a Trillium dress.  Oh, no.  It is far too sheer to be worn in public, at least for my own modesty. (You can see the pair of shorts I'm wearing under the pajama bottoms in the pictures above!) My sewing skills are beginner/intermediate, so improvising a lining and everything  else it would take to make the fabric work for me is beyond my skill set.  It's lovely, though, and so lightweight I thought it would work for a summer nightie.  It sat in my sewing closet all year while I pondered, and then I stumbled upon this free pajama pattern from The Assembly Line

It's the size XS--I learned from my apron dress that these patterns run large.  Do they ever!  I had enough yardage to lengthen the shorts into pants.  (I may add elastic at the pant cuffs to prevent them from riding up as I sleep.)  My seams are a disaster; the fabric was so thin that my needle jumped all over the place and I had difficulty guiding the fabric through.  The interfacing and fabric for facing the neckline gave me trouble, too.  Next time I make this I will finish the neckline with bias tape, like the shirt I recently made. It's a much tidier look. Despite the hiccoughs, it's a really comfortable pair of summer pajamas!  

While I've got the blue thread all set up in the machine, I need to work on a pair of loose summer pants in what is my current favorite fabric--both for sewing and wearing.  I've got a few more projects lined up using it.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

yarn along: june 2021

 Feverishly knitting another birthday sweater here!  It's the Tin Can Knits Flax in Peace Fleece Worsted Kalinka Malinka Blue, so an easy pattern and large gauge.  I've got 23 more days until it needs to be wrapped, and I'm optimistic.  A friend pointed out that I'd need to make it to fit T's November body, which panicked me just a little.  I'd not calculated for that.  He's at the "gathering his weight to grow six inches" stage, and he wears the same shoe size  as I do.  I wear a women's 11, so...yikes.  He's not quite 11 years old!  I have no idea how big he'll be after a summer of growing, so when my friend made that comment, I increased for the sleeves a bit more.  The sweater will fit me when he outgrows it, so at least someone will be able to use it.  I'm not really following the pattern's numbers--it started as an Adult Small, but I think the size is now an Adult Medium?  And there's a plait cable, requested by T, down the sleeves rather than the garter panel.

I began Eugene Onegin this week.  One critic that I read panned the translation, but it's quite readable.  I'll take a small sacrifice of literal language to the effort of poetry.  Of course I know no Russian, so I can't really tell whether this captures both the meaning and spirit of the original, or does one or neither of those things.  I've almost finished The Eagle of the Ninth, which Z recommended ages ago.  She was on a Rosemary Sutcliff kick, and I will be as well when I close this book.  There are sequels and spin-offs available for free on Audible, so they will keep me company this summer as I do my household chores.

Sashiko thread supposedly arrives today.  Once it's here, I can begin quilting the whole cloth quilted throw on which Eugene Onegin and the sweater are resting.  The layers are pinned, the lines are drawn...come on, mail carrier! 

What are you working on?  Reading?