Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Hosta Bouquet

On Saturday we hosted one of my husband's colleagues, who is relatively new in town, and his girlfriend for dinner.  I'd never met them--I love hosting people who are Strangers.

My menu was simple and easy to prepare ahead.  The biggest hit was the roasted pork loin. I made a variation on Anna's recipe.  For my pork loin, I juiced two lemons and a lime, heavily doused the pork loin with Jane's Crazy Salt and Pride of Szeged Chicken Rub, then roasted it (covered) for 20 minutes at 450 degrees, and then an hour at 350 degrees.  Delicious.

Nothing is really blooming in the yard right now other than the day lilies, so I did not have any flowers ready to cut for the table.  I was sweeping the patio when the hostas caught my eye.  Their blooms are still not open, but they were beautiful!

Yard bouquets are the best--free, simple and always unique.

And we had a nice time--our guests are much younger than we are (born in the 1980s! Imagine that.) and were up for a game of boys v. girls trivial pursuit.  The boys won!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Dress for a Flower Girl

Annie will be a flower girl in a wedding in August and yesterday I *finally* had some free time to work on her dress.  I based this dress on vintage Advance 7933, which I have made before in a pink-polka-dotted print.  This time I lengthened the skirt by 9 inches so it is floor-length, re-drafted the back bodice piece for a lower neckline and omission of back buttons, and messed around with it so I could figure out how to sew it without the bias binding on the sleeves.  Lesson: it takes a long time to simplify things...and to sew without instructions!

The bridesmaids are wearing "capri" blue, so I wanted to incorporate blue into the dress somehow. I made it in a white cotton sateen from the big box fabric store--about $7/yard. I bought some pale blue organza and tried my hand at an organza overlay, something I'd never done before!  I bought a wide pale blue ribbon to attach around the waist.  My goal was to make a comfortable dress because the wedding is outside, in mid-August, when our climate is usually *extremely* sticky and humid. Her hair will be up and she will wear a flower crown. 

Last night at midnight I triumphantly finished the construction and admired it, only to soon realize that I had sewed the front inside bodice piece to the back pieces when I attached the gathered skirt. I said things like "no! oh NO!" After the initial shock I ripped the skirt off, losing a few gathers in the process.  And then I went to bed. Lesson: when your intuition tells you to sew bodice pieces together at the waistline, do it

This afternoon I rallied myself and re-attached the skirt (after sewing the inside and outside back and front bodice pieces together!!!).  I'm celebrating by leaving it in my closet for a week or two before tackling the hemming.

Very simple and sweet!

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Secret of Her Calm

"How unmistakably her cabin bore the flavor of Miss Alice's personality!  In both the woman and her home there was an effortless beauty, never a straining for effect, a harmony that seemed to come from having one's roots down in the place where the roots were meant to be.

"There was something else I had noticed too: an initial acceptance of herself as she was and so of other people with their foibles.  And so she did as little scolding or criticizing of others for their foolish behavior or their sins as anyone I had ever known.  It was not that she was willing to compromise with wrongdoing or poverty or ignorance, just that she was a long step ahead of wasting emotional energy on fretting.  And she never put pressure on the rest of us to accept her opinions.  The secret of her calm seemed to be that she was not trying to prove anything.  She was--that was all.  And her stance toward life seemed to say: God is--and that is enough."

          --Christy, by Catherine Marshall

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A Workable Summer Routine

Summer is tricky; you have to strike the balance between productivity and having a relaxed, laid-back schedule.  On the one hand: the garden!  On the other hand: the pool!

I've hit upon a morning routine that may endure:
* get up very early--it's so bright anyhow!--and drink tea, write and read for about an hour
*start on housework and laundering while my children sleep
*breakfast, dress children, supervise their chores
*finish my daily cleaning jobs

By 10:00 or so I go outside.  The goal is half an hour in the flower bed and half an hour in the vegetable garden.  It's great if this can be broken up by a square of 90% cocoa chocolate and some (iced) tea--that 10:30 snack break helps my blood sugar stay stable, and the chocolate feels more luxurious than, say, a cheese stick. 

After lunch I do a bit of work and then we hit the pool, ideally for about 3 hours.  During the 15-minute breaks when the children are required to sit out, my children eat a snack in their big floppy hats and I swim laps.  

Then we're home in time to cook supper, eat popsicles on the front porch, snap green beans on the back porch, catch fireflies......

And fall into bed by 11!

(And I'm counting on some rainy afternoons when I can squeeze in some sewing!)

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Lilacs and Children on the Farm

The lilacs have finished their fragrant bloom, but I enjoyed them while they were in the midst of it!

Now everything in the yard has gone orange--the daylilies are out.  And we're harvesting peas!  Yesterday I kept a friend's four children (ages 5, 4, 2 and 11 months) for about 9 hours.  At one point everyone but the baby was outside playing "The Long Winter" and battling starvation by picking peas that had miraculously grown through the blizzards.  Later I found the starved family picking black raspberries...they were literally covered in red juice.  I went out and told Finn (aka "Pa") to quit the raspberries and go shoot a rabbit. 

They also spent time enjoying one of Finn's favorite pastimes, which is 'making hay.'  You make hay by raking all the grass cuttings and putting them in plastic dishpans, packing them tightly and leaving them out in the sun to dry.  It really does make a tiny bale of..."hay!"

Later they were all revived by popsicles on the front porch. I'm glad to report that all four children were sent back to their mother having survived a day on the farm, and there was only one head injury, and no broken bones.  


Saturday, June 20, 2015

Focusing: To Everything A Season

When we returned from the beach I had grand plans of what I would accomplish this summer. Frankly, the plans were totally unrealistic: school planning, several major sewing projects, a few painting projects, vegetable and flower gardening, landscape design and implementation, my work on our pastoral search committee, organizing the schoolroom...et cetera, et cetera.  The list of 'to-dos' truly never ends.  My garage needs attention.  I want to chalk paint a side table for my daughter's room.  I need to hang shades in the children's rooms, find a new lamp for the living room, throw a bridal shower.....you get the picture.   (I also need to provide clean clothes, fresh food and keep my house clean, take care of my family, chauffeur children to art and swim lessons, supervise piano practice....)

It's too much. This evening I stretched out on my bed and prayed for some wisdom!  I realized that I needed to narrow my focus during this season of life and accept the true limitations of this time.  I did this back in January, creating a list of what I planned to focus on for three months.  It helped me tremendously!

My priorities, in addition to regular meals, housework, childcare, exercise and my own reading/journaling, for the next three or so months will be:

*throwing a bridal shower
*sewing the clothing for the wedding my husband and children are in
*flower and vegetable gardening
*school planning
*pastoral search committee work
*minor reorganizing of the schoolroom 

That's it! That is truly all I will have the time to do, and all I need to do during this season. Setting solid priorities like this helps me keep my focus on what is important during each season of life.  I've found that setting these goals seasonally is helpful!  

And on that note: it's time to sew. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

For the Love of the Holy City

Yesterday morning I was on my way to swim when I heard the news about Charleston.  My chest hurt for Charleston, my home away from home, beautiful and gracious historic city.  The names of the victims include familiar old Charleston names...Pinckney, Middleton, Coleman, Simmons.  Tragedy happens everywhere, but this tragedy hit home for me. My father and stepmother barely slept on Wednesday night once they heard the news; they were keeping vigil at home along with so many other Charlestonians.

I swam laps under a blue sky streaked with white clouds.  The verse that came into my mind was one my son and I had recently discussed, John 16:33:

I told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.

I had told Finn that Jesus knew our lives would be hard, and He chose to affirm that and also to tell us that we have hope in Him.  We can trust Him because He was not selling a bill of goods; he wasn't convincing us that following Him would be easy.  He was honest.

The evil hung onto me, though. The racism.  The fact that the murderer was welcomed into and sat in the Bible study for almost an hour, listening to the attendees discuss the Bible, share their thoughts, possibly pray--he heard them share their humanity--and yet he still chose to massacre them is chilling. The darkness hunched over me.

This morning the verse that would not leave my mind was Romans 12:21: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.  

Then I read about the litanies of forgiveness the victims' families are offering. That is overcoming evil with good.  That is faith in action.  That is evidence of hope.

Jesus stated that He has overcome the world, assured us that we can overcome evil with good, and the victims' families are showing the fruit of their beliefs through their affirmation of forgiveness.  I pray for the victims, for their families, for the congregation of beautiful Emanuel AME Church, and for the community of Charleston at large.  Even so, come Lord Jesus.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Scenes from Beach Week 2015

What a relaxing week!  My primary duties were preparing breakfast and lunch for my family and helping to clean up after supper every night (my brother-in-law is an excellent cook and he took care of most dinners--I did help chop vegetables one evening!), washing our laundry and taking care of my children. Easy

With cousins, an aunt, two uncles, and a set of grandparents around, the childcare part was easy too--there was lots of entertainment!  

Our house overlooked the pool and the ocean. 

I am recovered now, I think, after a rocky start to the week!  The laundry has been conquered, I organized and cleaned out my bathroom linen closet today, made a huge list of summer projects and goals (complete with weekly breakdowns of when I need to do each thing-whew!), we joined the pool, the house has been vacuumed and the main bathroom cleaned, I got 11 hours of sleep one night, and we're settling back into the new routine of summertime!  I am so grateful for the break that this vacation gave me and for the time I was able to spend enjoying my children, contemplating life, dipping into a few books, journaling, and reading my favorite pink Bible.  I am a thinker, a ponderer (an INFJ on the Meyers-Briggs scale), and the beach gave me a lot of time to think and ponder.  I also promised myself that I would not make lists, contemplate school, or think of my summer projects or tasks while I was gone--and I didn't!  

Relaxation supreme!  Perfectly-timed and a wonderful way to start the summer. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Easing into the Week

The first week back from a vacation needs to be eased-into, and this is my easing-in week.  I'm still on island time, and returning to reality is a challenge. 

Last week was lovely.  I walked along the beach for three nights in a row under a luminously full moon which lit the water and made me weepy, lazed in a hammock after a glass of wine in the evening, took my children to the beach one night and ran wild and dancing together along the deserted shore, and swam in the ocean.  I love ducking under a wave as it comes crashing down on me.  Every time I go to the beach I tell myself that I will not swim in the ocean, as I imagine all the perils that await me (rip currents! jellyfish! sharks! sting rays!).  Every time I cannot resist the siren song of the sea.  I awaken from the comfortable slumber of my careful, risk-averse life and find myself doing the backstroke in the Atlantic.  It never fails. (As it turns out, my husband *did* see two large sting rays, but all's well that ends well, as Ma Ingalls says.)

Tonight I treated myself to a bottle of Simpatico No. 72 Ambergris bubble bath.  I realized I had to buy it when I kept returning to the bar soap and breathing it in.  "Oh, I could swim in this," I thought.  And then I saw the bubble bath and realized that yes, I could swim in this!  The scent reminds me of something from my childhood that I cannot place; it is musky and dark, yet clean and heady.  I am smitten.  

I still have one foot at the beach and one foot here at home.  I think after a few more ambergris bubble baths the transition will be complete, and summer can officially begin.