Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Happy Anniversary, Kate and William!

Four years ago I got up very early and had a party. Friends came.  

We had lots of tea.

Of course we had a professional cake made.

Quiche, fruit and cheese, Allison's scrumptious scones, etc!

A champagne toast at breakfast because why not?

My dear Allison is excellent at flower arrangements. 

We sat and feasted and drank tea and laughed for hours after the wedding. It was a great party and so much fun to do something so out of the ordinary!

Spring Dinner & Asparagus

This afternoon I harvested asparagus!  I planted this asparagus when my daughter was three months old, so tired and so hopeful. Here's the asparagus root before I planted it....

 It was fun to harvest the delicious vegetable today with that baby who is now so big--she held the spears.

So tonight for dinner we are having--
roasted home-grown fresh asparagus
roasted local potatoes
and a big pot of black bean soup, because although I can happily eat asparagus and potatoes for supper, my husband and children need a little more in the way of calories!

Spring is here.  The asparagus is up.  I am happy.

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Revolving Door

Today was a fun and happy day in our household: the Revolving Door day.  A friend arrived in mid-morning with her daughter; another friend came fifteen minutes later with her son.  We visited, then the first friend left and I babysat her daughter. The four children played and ate lunch, then after lunch another friend came over with her two children.  And finally in mid-afternoon an additional friend came to drop off three of her children--I had said I'd babysit them while she took her other two children to the movies!

So that means in and out of our doors today rotated five adults and seven children.

A whole pan of gingerbread was consumed and lots of tea......and we adults tried to solve all the world's problems around my dining room table while the children played in various locations all over the house, dug holes in the unplanted part of the garden, used the swingset, chased each other around the yard.....

At one point,  my friend Allison laughingly said she was going to re-name my house "Polly's Drop-Off Day Care, Tea Room and Mobile Therapy Unit."

I love having people visit and feeding them lots of food and many pots of tea and hoping that they leave refreshed and energized to go out and tackle Real Life.  Life can be challenging, and true and honest friendship restores our souls!

All We Have to Decide

"I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.

"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times.  But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."

--Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The New Leaf Scarf: My Alabama Chanin Workshop Project

This is my project from my trip to Florence back in February.  Here's what it looked like when I was working on it. I finished it around Easter. I love the muted, natural colors. 

I named it the 'New Leaf" scarf and am giving it to a dear friend who has many new leaves budding on her tree right now. 

I love the way a project looks after the cutting-inside-the-stitching is done!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Parenting and Gardening: Acts of Faith

April means working in the garden and flower beds.  My husband takes over the vegetable garden (kale, cauliflower, cabbage so far) and I work in the flower beds.  This month I have been rearranging flowers, transplanting grape hyacinth because I want them to create a border, not a fuzzy mess between the lilac and the rosebush. Our daffodils have faded.  The tulips are noble and beautiful now and Finn pointed out the other day that the peonies have budded.  The azaleas are going to be bursting forth any second now, and the snowball bush is just starting its show.  

Over the 14 years we have lived here I have done a lot with the flower beds, but they are all still a work in progress.  Ripping out extremely large plants (at least 8 large bushes--including forsythia--were ripped out because I felt they were too cumbersome, too close to the house), planting smaller ones (azaleas, lilac, hydrangea, lots of peonies, variegated liriope, irises, black-eyed susans....)

It's a work in progress.  But I like the work.

Gardening is just like parenting!  It requires work, thoughtfulness, planning, cultivation.  Every winter I have absolute faith that last year's work will show in the spring flower beds, and every spring I can see the fruits of last year's labor.  

Parenting is an act of faith.  Every day when we invest in our children we are doing invisible work.  No one usually sees this work, these quotidian tasks--reading books, washing laundry, making meals, cleaning messes, correcting attitudes.  Sometimes you don't see the fruit immediately, either.  A child may act out in a public place, a toddler may throw a tantrum that humiliates you in the grocery store...add to this any number of other issues!  During these hard moments having faith in the process is so important, and the process itself is also vital.  I can't leave my flower beds up to nature because they'd be overrun with wire grass, thistles and other weeds within weeks (I know this because I have done this).  Similarly children cannot be left up to themselves to grow; they need cultivation, attention, care and work. 

As I try to create a beautiful garden outside my home I must try even harder to create beauty and foster a life-giving environment within my home, even if I do not see the fruit of this work for months or years.  

And that's just my little April-evening encouragement to any parent (or gardener) who is feeling weary with the work!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Most Noble Life

Sally Clarkson has long been my go-to source of inspiration for parenting.  I just read this

"...when a mom or dad determines to live the most noble life possible, to be the most like Jesus in every situation, to choose to live righteously, the child's soul is planted with seeds of truth and nobility, the child's appetites grow from tasting goodness and excellence in the oxygen of his home, and the vision in the child's heart is to want to become the best person for Christ he can be, because this is the truth lived in his home."

May it be so.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Alabama Chanin Scarf with Bloomers Stencil: In Progress

This was my Alabama Chanin workshop project from February. Stitching around the leaves is so meditative.  

I love the back, with all its knots.

In reality, I am done with this project!  Finished product pictures to follow...after I get through this busy week!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Task of the Modern Educator

"For every one one pupil who needs to be guarded from a weak excess of sensibility there are three who need to be awakened from the slumber of cold vulgarity.  The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irritate deserts."

                              --C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Easy Saturday Luncheon

Today we invited a lovely couple over for lunch; they were friends of my late mother, and are genuinely kind and gracious people.  I was too busy enjoying their company to take pictures before we ate--but here's the one glimpse I got with my phone.

 I did all of my cooking yesterday, leaving this morning for the fun task of table-setting. Annie and I picked the tulips together, and I was happy to use my jadeite--perfect luncheon plates--and my husband's grandmother's silverplated flatware.  

  The menu was perfect and simple to make ahead, which is what I needed. I was cooking for four people who eat anything, one vegan, and one gluten-free person.

The Menu: 

chicken salad on a bed of lettuce (for my husband: lettuce with pecans, raisins, et cetera)
platter of hummus with radishes, carrot, celery, red pepper and cucumber
fruit salad (strawberries, blackberries, apple)
crisp whole-grain crackers 

chocolate-almond cake for dessert topped with freshly-whipped local cream and a dollop of berries
hot tea!

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Oh! The unsightly paper towel is covering fresh, still-warm cinnamon bread that our guests
brought to share.  Delicious!

After we ate we all sat around and drank tea and visited. W, the husband, did the portraits you can barely see in the background here, so we took him on an art-tour around our house and discussed the origin of the various pieces we have collected over the years.  I even pulled out an old watercolor that he had done in 1968, of his two daughters, and he'd forgotten about it.....that was a sweet moment.

After they left we spent the rest of the afternoon happily engaged in various productive pursuits: my husband mowed and did the weed-eating outside, the children played raucously, and I sewed a new tee-shirt for myself, then we had Thai food for supper, topping off a perfectly wonderful Saturday.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Doing the Creative Best

"Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that....each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life."

                       --Galatians 6:4-5 (The Message)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Altering my Easter Dress

I wish I had taken photos of this process, but I was doing it on the fly while babysitting a friend's daughter on Saturday, so I didn't achieve photos!

A couple of weeks ago I bought a few dresses; one of them was the "casual weekend dress" from Boden (in Lavender Grey Woodblock).  When it arrived and I tried it on I realized that it was perfect except that the bodice was way too big on my short-waisted physique, resulting in a very low-cut neckline and unattractive "bagginess" throughout the bodice.

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{source: Boden}

Here's how I fixed it: I put the dress on my dress form and played with it. (My dress form is a replica of me: SO HELPFUL.) At the shoulder there is a narrow panel and the front and back bodice pieces are attached with some gathering to that panel. I took my scissors and cut the panel--just sliced it open!  Then I just lifted the bodice until it looked good, pinned it, and sewed it all shut--right sides together, of course. The back side was larger than the front side. I didn't do any formal gathering to eliminate the extra fabric; I just put a couple of little tucks in as I sewed along and no one is the wiser.  Now the dress is perfect, the neckline is at the right place for my comfort level (I do not like a low neckline), and I didn't lose my armscye (a big concern).  I cut the excess fabric out of the seam-there was a lot--and tacked it back so it looks nice.  The binding on one side is a little odd, but I'm not worrying about it.

I still cannot believe I had the nerve to do this, but I'm glad I did because I wore the dress for Easter with a white cardigan and my favorite linen-cork Etienne Aigner peep-toe wedges.  Yes!

Fortunately the other dress I bought only needs to be tacked at the crossover front for the sake of some modesty, and that's easy!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Lovely Easter

"And it will be said in that day:

'Behold, this is our God; 
We have waited for Him, and He will save us.

This is the Lord; 
We have waited for Him; We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.'" 

-Isaiah 25:8-9 (NKJV)

We had a chilly, breezy, beautiful Easter.  It began with attending a moving, candlelit, incense-soaked Easter Vigil Saturday night with my father at my sister's church in her city. When we left the service a luminous moon hung directly in front of us in the sky.  The next morning I was up before dawn to attend our own church's sunrise Easter service, and the beauty of that moon over purple mountains was holy. After Easter baskets we went back to church for the traditional service. I rested in the afternoon, battling a raging head cold, and then spent the rest of the afternoon and evening at my in-laws' house. Egg-hunting!  Family-visiting!  A dessert spread of strawberry trifle, chocolate cake with poached oranges, and cheesecakes.

Everything was beautiful. 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Facing the Giant

Finn loves the story of David and Goliath and asks me to read it to him frequently.  Well, yesterday I entered Finn's room to face my own bloodthirsty giant: cleaning up.  Although I like to stay on top of cleaning tasks, Finn's room had been neglected because last week we were out of town. (It gets cleaned every Thursday; typically Finn and I do it together.)  There were toys, clothes and papers scattered across the room as well as 'nature' items--random rocks, pieces of bark, etc--his treasures--in various spots and lots of stray legos.  He's an artist, so the quantity of paper alone is staggering! And we had not been faithful picker-uppers at nighttime this week.

I dove in.  My modus operandi for cleaning a room that is way past due is to declutter first by going counter-clockwise around the room and ending in the center. This keeps me focused on one bit at a time, and keeps me from feeling overwhelmed. After that is done, I pull out the vacuum and go crazy with it: furniture, valances, window frames, floors. I even did inside his dresser drawers (I switched out seasonal clothing while I was at it.)  Make sure the sheets are fresh and the bed is made.
When we read our bedtime story last night it was so refreshing to sit in a clean and tidy room again.

Next up: the basement!! It needs some love.