Sunday, June 29, 2008

Birthday Give Away

Tuesday, July 1, is my birthday, and to celebrate, I am giving away a crochet cupcake. It is handmade by me of wool (pink) and acrylic (brown) yarn, stuffed with poly pellets and polyfil, and is the size of a real cupcake. Add it to your birthday decorations, or let your older children use it in pretend play. (Because of the poly pellet filling and seed beeds on top, I would not recommend this for children who still put things in their mouth.)

To be eligible, just leave a comment on this message by late Wednesday night. I will randomly select a name, and hopefully get this in the mail to the winner on Thursday, before the holiday weekend.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Outer space quilt

This wall-hanging quilt is still in progress, but I figured it was close enough to being done that I could show it off. Besides, here's a secret: I actually don't like quilting all that much, so I'm pretty much in-the-ditch and get it done. I like choosing or designing a quilt pattern, selecting the fabric, cutting the pieces, and piecing them together, but quilting the top, batting, and backing together is drudgery to me. I have tried to machine quilt, but that's painful, too. So even if I waited to photograph this until it's completely done, it's not like I'd have really cool quilting to show off.

I found the perfect fabric for the outer space theme. It's purple (my purples always look blue in my photos for some reason) with stars and swirls. I always love to find that perfect fabric, and finding the perfect one totally justifies shopping for new fabric even when I have a decent stash at home.

I mentioned these embroidery patterns in this post. They are from Sublime Stitching. This wall hanging is for my son, who likes humor and outer space. The little alien appealed to him big time.

Thanks for all the comments on my last post about radishes and old strollers. I've learned something new about gardening, and it relieves me a bit to know that I'm not the only one with a strong attachment to those things from babyhood.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Early harvest, and farewell to an old friend

Gosh, that was fast! The radish seeds I planted a mere four weeks ago have grown into radishes already. The yield is plentiful, a little too plentiful, if you ask me. No one in my family will touch a radish, and my personal radish limit is one, maybe two. I planted radishes because they are supposed to help carrots grow, and I like carrots, but wouldn't you know, the carrot seeds never sprouted.

These radishes are actually pretty tasty, for radishes, but still, I think I've had my fill.

This gardening thing is a bit mystifying. I would never have suspected the radishes would be done already. It's not even July yet! I guess I should plant something else in the space the radishes occupied, but I'm not sure what.

More garden mysteries: I am growing lettuce for the first time, Bibb lettuce, and it seems to be coming along nicely. But, I have absolutely no idea how to harvest the lettuce. Do I cut it? Do I yank it out of the ground? Do I just pick the leaves? How do I know when it's ready?

In other weekend news, we had a yard sale on Saturday. The kids were the driving force behind this. They wanted to unload some toys and make a fortune in the process (to buy new toys, of course). No surprise, they did not make their fortunes, which secretly makes me happy because I do not enjoy having yard sales, so they likely will not suggest it again!

The sale was emotionally difficult for me, as we put our old double jogging stroller out. This stroller was such an integral part of my early days of mothering. I used it nearly every day for six years. It was an extension of me, it was part of my identity. Every day I loaded my kids and went for long walks around the neighborhood. Some days we just wandered. Other days we had a destination: the park, a friend's house, the store. When they were really little, the kids enjoyed the walks as we passed familiar landmarks or followed construction sounds to see who was getting a new roof or driveway. As they got older, they protested aimless walks (aimless to them, but purposeful to a mama who needed exercise and fresh air), so we packed snacks and books, or brought their little tape recorder with a story or music on tape to keep them sated and entertained.

Some days their tolerance was extremely low, and they'd want me to do only one jaunt around the block, and would scream in protest when I wouldn't take the turn that would get us home as quickly as possible. Neighbors out working in their yards would look up as we passed by, and I thought we must have been quite a sight: the grim-faced mama firmly pushing a big stroller while doing her best to ignore the screams of the tots inside.

Not every day was like that, though, and in fact, most days weren't. When my son was in kindergarten I pushed him to school every day in the stroller, with my daughter along, too, and at certain times of the year our shadow was cast directly in front of us for most of the walk to school. If I put my hands on the handle in a particular way, our shadow looked like a silly head, and the kids would laugh as I wiggled my fingers to make the silly head look even sillier. As kindergarten wore on, my son didn't want to be seen in the school yard in the stroller, so I'd push him most of the way there, and one block from school he'd hop out and walk beside me the rest of the way.

When my son was in first and second grade he didn't ride anymore, but my daughter still rode as we took my son to school. His backpack would ride in the seat next to her. When my daughter started kindergarten, I pushed that stroller to school three times a day: once in the morning to get both kids to school, back at noon to pick up my daughter, then once again at the end of the day so my daughter and I could go get my son.

When my daughter started first grade she was big enough to walk the distance, so the stroller began to stay parked in the garage. After I dropped the kids off in the morning, it felt strange to walk home by myself without them or the stroller. I felt like an imposter, like I was trying to pretend that I didn't have kids. People were so used to seeing me with that stroller, and everyone commented "You don't have your stroller!" No, I wasn't using it any more. I could go on walks by myself now. I could pick my route without hearing screams of protest. I could leave when it suited me and not have to pack snacks and books.

For two years the stroller has sat in the garage collecting dust. It took up a lot of room. We would have to push it out of the way to get the lawn mower or the bikes or the scooters. We piled things on top of it. Basketballs were stored in the seats. It was a cumbersome thing to keep around. So when we decided to have a sale, we brought out the stroller and dusted it off. We put air in the tires, straightened out the seat belts, wiped down the footrest. When I put it in the front yard with a price tag on it, I felt like I was being unfaithful somehow, like I was not remembering how important this piece of equipment had been to me. I had a lump in my throat.

It didn't sell right away, and I started to secretly hope no one would buy it, but then suddenly there was a man there with a little 3 year old girl, and she was saying "Why you need this?" and he was saying "Because mama tells me she wants one for you and the baby," and he was inspecting it and asking questions, and next thing I knew I had money in my pocket and there was a stranger pushing my stroller--my stroller!--down the sidewalk and out of my life. My eyes brimmed with tears and I had to look away. I half wanted to run after him and tell him it was a mistake, I still need my stroller, he can have his money, I just want that stroller back in my life.

(Here they are, sound asleep after a jog with daddy.)

It would be silly to keep it. Really silly.

It's still in the neighborhood. Maybe I'll see it up at school in a couple of years.

Friday, June 20, 2008


I saw a tutorial for monster dolls and thought I'd give it a try. I have some gorgeous soft velour fabric that is so easy to work with, and it makes such a soft, squishy toy. I'm happy with the results. This monster doll is for a two-year-old boy (the big brother to the baby who will be getting the tag blanket).
My daughter and her friend designed monster dolls of their own, and I helped put them together. Now my son wants to design one, too. I'll have to make some for my nephews and niece, too. So far this summer I've been getting more done with the kids home than I did when they were in school. Now that school responsibilities are over, we all have so much more free time.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Simple Summer Supper

Feta Pasta I went to a cooking demonstration for easy suppers many years ago, and came home with one of my all-time favorite recipes.

8 oz feta, crumbled
8 oz tomato sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 T fresh basil (or 1 tsp dried)
1 T fresh parsley (or 1 tsp dried)
1 T fresh dill (or 1 tsp dried)

Combine sauce ingredients in a large bowl. The sauce can be made one day ahead and kept in the refrigerator.

Cook 1 lb of pasta per package directions. (I prefer Barilla Plus Penne, but any brand or shape will do.) Drain pasta, do not rinse, toss immediately with the sauce, and serve.

I grow sweet basil, dill, and parsely in my garden just because of this dish. When I cut the basil leaves the aroma is so strong and enticing that I am tempted to lean down and take a bite right off the plant! I'll bet that wouldn't taste as good as it smells, though, so I refrain.

I learned a good trick for cutting basil at the cooking class. Rinse the leaves and stack them.

Roll the leaves together in one "log" to cut in strips.
Here is the sauce before it is stirred. I like how fresh it looks.
I make it with dried herbs in the winter, and it's still good, but it's so much better in the summer.

The original recipe called for shrimp and green onion, neither of which I like, so I omit those. If that sounds good to anyone else and you want to know how much of those to add, let me know and I'll look it up for you.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Off to a good start

That's my son pitching in the first baseball game of the season this evening. He barely ate anything at dinner before we left for the game, and I worried he was coming down with something, until it dawned on me that he was nervous. He was a bit sheepish about being nervous. I don't think he's ever been nervous before a game before.

He did well and his team won, so we're all happy we're off to a good start. My son pitched two innings and faced 7 batters, walking one and striking out the rest. Last season he also started out strong with his pitching, but as the games went on the hitting improved, so we'll see what happens this year. Last year he had been doing really well until my mom came to a game, and in that game my son walked so many batters that they ended up calling the mercy rule to end the inning. Sheesh. But we won't talk about that now!

In some sewing news, I made this little tag blanket for some friends who are expecting a baby in a few weeks. I sewed two 12-inch squares of polar fleece together with little ribbon tags sticking out for the baby to grab onto and chew. I have had to hide it from the cats because they were showing far too much interest in it.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Flag Day

Today is Flag Day in the United States. On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress passed an act to establish a flag for our country, and specified that it should have 13 stripes, alternating red and white, with a union of a blue background and white stars.

I have always liked the U.S. flag. I like the boldness of the color combination and the crispness of the contrasting lines.

I found a pattern for a flag pillow in Vanessa-Ann's Holidays in Cross Stitch, 1994, and I couldn't rest until I stitched it. The pattern suggested stitching on 7 count evenweave to make a couch pillow, but I wanted to make something smaller. I stitched on 18 count and made a little pillow that came out approximately 4.5 inches by 3 inches.

While I was stitching my small flag, I ran out of the red floss, so I went to the fabric store to pick up more. The store just happened to be offering a class on making a small quilted flag. I couldn't resist that either. I had quilting experience, and could have done this without the class, but at the time I had a 3 year old and a one year old, neither of whom napped, so I signed up for the class just to buy the time to make the quilt!

This quilt is 17 inches by 12 inches.

I hang both my flags by my fireplace in the summertime.

I stitched these flags in July 2001.

Friday, June 13, 2008

I cried

I thought I would be okay. I didn't cry at the promotion ceremony on Wednesday night, so I figured I was safe. I felt unemotional this morning. So what if it's my son's last day at the elementary school? He's happy it's summer. He's ready to go on to middle school. I'll be fine with it. I still have one kid in elementary school. It's good. It's exciting. It's summer!

And then I got to school.

It didn't look like our usual last-day-of-school activities. Something was different. The students were lining both sides of the hallways, kindergarteners near the front doors, then first graders, then second graders, and so on, all the way to the 5th grade classrooms. And then the fifth graders, led by their teachers, exited their classrooms and marched down the hallway and out the front doors while all the younger kids and teachers and staff cheered and clapped them out. Cheered and clapped them out for their last trip out of that school.

I lost it. I cried. My fellow 5th grade moms cried. The couple of 5th grade dads who were there looked like they wanted to cry. Parents of younger kids seeing us cry started to cry. It was quite a scene.

And then I did the most taboo thing of all at school. I hugged and kissed my son right there, right in front of school, and I cried all over the top of his head. He, of course, was saying things like "ow, you're squishing my neck!" and "can we go home now?"

I made this sign in a hurry just before I left to pick up my kids. I wanted to tape it to the back door to greet them when we got home, but I couldn't find the tape. Story of my life! I spend way too much time looking for things like sharp pencils and Scotch tape. I propped the sign up on the laptop instead. I wish I had thought of doing it sooner than two minutes before it was time to get them so I could have done it up right.

added about 5 minutes after posting original post: You know it's going to be an interesting summer when not two hours into it your daughter says "Hey, mom, can me and (best friend) go up on the roof?"

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Faces of Son

My son's promotion ceremony was tonight. This officially marked the end of his years at the elementary school. How did we get here so fast? My favorite part of the ceremony was when the children (all 60 of them) stepped forward one by one and shared a memory of their days at this school. They all started with "I remember when..." "I remember when we made green eggs and ham in kindergarten." "I remember when I felt lonely and Mrs. R sat with me." "I remember when I got in trouble at lunch recess, but the secretary was still nice to me." "I remember when we hatched quail eggs in first grade." Hearing all the memories really tugged at my heart strings. I remember many of those things, too, and I love knowing that the kids remember it all, too.

Our principal now calls me the disco lady because I had been in charge of getting a disco ball for the post-ceremony party. I'm not sure that's how I want him to to think of me! The disco ball was not my idea, just my responsibility. We ended up having to cancel the ball anyway because we had no way to safely hang it. I was amused this evening when my daughter and I read Diary of a Worm at bedtime and I noticed the worms had a disco ball hanging at their school dance!

Here is a self-portrait my son painted last year in school. In real life his eyes are truly almost that big, although they aren't quite so crazed!

This year in art his class made masks.

They worked with a partner to make these. One of the pair would lie down on a table or the floor, and the other would place strips of gauze and plaster of paris over his/her partner's face. The child whose face was being molded had cotten stuffed in his/her ears to keep plaster from dripping in. The gauze and plaster covered the entire face, except for two small nostril holes for breathing. They had to lie there for 10-15 minutes with eyes, ears, and mouth covered, waiting for the plaster to harden, breathing through their nose through two small holes the diameter of a drinking straw. Can you imagine? I am so impressed that these children had the nerve to do that! The art teacher had a plastic mold of a face in case anyone was unable to tolerate having their own face plastered, but all of the kids molded their own faces. When the masks were cured, the kids decorated them. My son wanted his mask to look fierce.
My fiercely-faced, crazy-eyed kid is done with elementary school. Wow. At least he's not heading off to college just yet.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Summer Reading...and thieves?

I have a long list of books I've been meaning to get to, and I think this may be the summer I finally make a dent in the backlog. I'm in a reading mood. I have always been a reader, but my ability to read waxes and wanes. Before I had children, I read all the time. When my children were babies I could read for long glorious stretches while they nursed to sleep in my arms. For the past six or seven years it's been much harder to read regularly. There are always so many things needing my attention that even if I make the time to read, I can't relax because I am too aware of all that I am neglecting. I can justify time I spend crafting because I am being productive, but reading is something that is just for me, and it's hard for me to be that greedy.

My children are independent, rabid readers. We still read books together, but they each have multiple books going all the time. Quite often they are so enthusiastic about what they've just finished that they insist I read it, too. I am currently mid-way through the first Percy Jackson and the Olympians book, The Lightning Thief, at the recommendation of my son. I am also reading the first Sammy Keyes book, Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief, at my daughter's insistence (and I just realized that a thief is involved in both books! Lots of pilfering going on in the literary world!). I need to finish those so I can move on to my own reading.

I miss the days when I could get lost in a long series, and I'd like to do that again. There is comfort in knowing what type of story to expect in a new book. I'm not a regular sci-fi reader, but one series I've been meaning to read is the Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold. I read a later book in the series, A Civil Campaign, when it was first published, because it was dedicated to Jane, Charlotte, Georgette, and Dorothy. Jane is presumed to be Jane Austen and Georgette is presumed to be Georgette Heyer, two authors I love, and A Civil Campaign definitely had the feel of a drawing room comedy in the spirit of a Heyer or Austen novel. So hopefully I'll finally get to that series this summer. I was definitely intrigued by Miles Vorkosigan in the one book I read!

I want to give Margaret Peterson Haddix's series The Shadow Children a try, too. I read one stand-alone book of hers, Running out of Time, a few years ago, and it was quite a page turner. Her books are categorized as young adult or teen, but I am not shy about reading YA and teen. Because they are shorter, they are written more tightly, and a lot has to happen in few pages. There isn't room for the author to have long, ponderous, pompous sentences with grandiose prose. (Anyone read Cold Mountain? Agh, I found that tedious!)

Another YA series I desperately want to read is The Hall Family Chronicles by Jane Langton. I purchased all of them a year or two ago, so they are ready and waiting for me whenever I can commit to them.

I also have The Book Thief (hey, wait, there's thief again! Something's up with that!) on my nightstand, and I'd like to get to it soon, although truthfully the fact that it is narrated by death puts me off a little bit.

My name finally came up on the library wait list for People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks, and I picked that up today. I've been waiting for it for months. Since there is still a long list of people behind me waiting their turn, I'll have to get to it soon. I guess that is where I will start my summer reading, and then I'll just have to make a decision about where to go next. I feel like a kid again, with a whole summer of possibility ahead of me!

What are you reading this summer?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Yumminess on a Stick

Because it's going to be 90 degrees here tomorrow, and because I had bananas at the perfect moment of ripeness, and because when I opened my kitchen drawer I saw, without having to dig around, a package of wooden popsicle sticks, I decided to make frozen chocolate-covered bananas. Here they are, ready for the freezer. They look exactly the same once they are frozen, so I figured a before shot would work just as well as an after shot!

Frozen Chocolate Bananas

2 bananas
8 oz semisweet chocolate
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
4 popsicle sticks

In a small bowl or pan, melt the chocolate. Peel the bananas and cut them in half crosswise. Insert a popsicle stick lengthwise into the cut end of each banana.

Roll the bananas one at a time in the melted chocolate, then roll in the shredded coconut. Place on waxed paper. Freeze at least 2 hours. Makes 4.

It's been awhile since I made these, and honestly I can't remember if anyone in my family objects to the coconut. Oh, well. If anyone complains about the coconut, I'll just have to eat his/her dessert myself!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

June is Bustin' Out All Over

Happy June! Here are some things we did today. I made another embroidered card for a teacher.

This one will go to the art teacher. She has taught my son for the past five years, and he has loved her class. My daughter loves art class, too. My kids are never eager to get up and go to school, but I can coax them out of bed a little quicker on Art Day. They hate to miss art!

My daughter and I walked around our yard today to check out the garden. The columbine is in full bloom. This is volunteer columbine. It just popped up in our yard one year, and it keeps coming back every spring. I love it. It's so graceful.

We planted some pumpkin seeds last week, and one has finally sprouted. I love seeing how the earth gets pushed aside by an emerging plant. This sprout was still underground yesterday, but it's already grown considerably. I hope we have room to let it grow this summer.
Our cat, Tiger, watched us through the front door. She and her sister have only hind claws, but they are learning how to climb that screen anyway, much to my dismay. My daughter took these photos of our garden statuary.
My mother-in-law gave me this fairy years before my fairy-crazed daughter was even born!
The frog is my personal favorite. He looks so dapper sitting cross-legged in his rocking chair, reading a book.

When I downloaded my photos today, I could see that my son had borrowed my camera.

My first thought was that these guys are holding weapons, because that is often the scenario, but on closer inspection, I believe my son created a concert-in-the-town-square scene. See the audience in front of the stage?
I like the cafe set up on the sidewalk, complete with waiter. If you look at the stage, from top to bottom we have a guy on keyboards, three guitar players, and a drummer. It's hard to see in this photo, but the guy in the red hat in the front row of the audience is drinking a mug of beer.

If you live in Lego City above the market on the square, you can watch the concert from your window.

My kid amazes me!