Friday, March 31, 2017

Shades of Green in Early Spring

The unintentional theme for the evening was shades of green: starting with the pale green linen tablecloth, continuing on through the jadeite, and crowned by the bouquet of hyacinth, lavender, and not-yet-blooming snowball bush branches. 

I wandered the yard searching for Something Green to balance out the white hyacinth and more silvery lavender.  Snowballs did the trick. 

For supper I made roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, salad, butternut squash-kale gratin, and for dessert, a cool chocolate pie accompanied with whipped cream and hazelnut coffee.

Takeaways from dinner tonight: 1) I need to perfect my chicken roasting skills (it was okay, but it could have been better); 2) I need to perfect my coffee making skills; 3) three hours is just not long enough to visit with our dear pastor and his sweet wife. 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Three Cheese Asparagus Tart

Our simple supper from earlier this week: a three cheese and asparagus tart.  Easy and delicious. 

Spring, you are so welcome here. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Yard Bouquet: Hyacinth and Rosemary

Yard bouquet season is here again!

This morning I wrote and drank my coffee while enjoying a jar of hyacinth and rosemary.  

And then, this afternoon, the same bouquet helped me in my hostessing..... 

when a friend came over for a delicious double batch of scones: dried cherry and almond on the one hand, chocolate chunk and orange on the other.  And a pot of earl grey cream tea.  It was a lovely midweek luxury.  Now: back to work!

A New Chair

My quick pop into the thrift store over the weekend yielded a book for my sister, a twin sheet and a curtain (both to be made into articles of clothing for Annie), and the golden egg: this gorgeous chair upholstered in blue silk, in my favorite shade, in good condition....for $25.  Mmm, those upholstery tacks! Those creamy legs!

In this photo she's showing off in the living room, but she's now in her permanent home by my bedroom window. And I'm happy because I've been pondering our bedroom makeover, now that we can probably take the crib down (yes, it's still up), and now I see the direction we're going....understated glamour.

It strikes me that last year I planned a whole room around a white vinyl chair from the thrift store.  I guess I have a thing for chairs!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Dipping into Quilting

So it struck me today that before making a quilt it might have been a good idea to actually learn how to do it.  Right now I'm just working via the osmosis of random tidbits I've read or seen over the years; I actually have *no* idea how to quilt properly.  I'm quilting by instinct. 

Also, I'm not tackling everything at once.  Starting tiny, and I even bought (!) binding for the quilt.   Just keeping it simple and unintimidating.

I like this unquilted look. 

But I'm struggling to like this quilted look.  I think it's the (lovely) perle cotton--it's so white.  I've never enjoyed contrast stitching.  And maybe it's also my big stitches, living large on these squares! Hmm.

So many questions.  Do you draw lines to show you where to stitch?  (I didn't, and decided to just do inside each square because drawing lines intimidates me.)  Is it *supposed* to get textural and a little puckery (which I like) or am I doing it wrong (which I don't care too much about, because I like it)? How big should the stitches be?  Do you start in the middle or along a side? Is it foolhardy to re-pin the safety pins as you go?  Et cetera. 

The good news is that the process itself is fun, if I can overlook the confusing parts. 

Annie took this blurry photo of me hard at work during art lesson. I like the size of this project! 

So I'm having fun, but next time we go to the library, I need to check out a book...for the next dip into the quilting sea.  

Monday, March 27, 2017

Signs of Spring

Annie and I were observing signs of spring to each other on the way to pick Finn up from scouting this evening....

*ornamental cherry trees are blooming in all their magnificent splendor

*the grocery store asparagus looked crisp...time for an asparagus tart!

*my uncontrollable urge to clean everything, paint everything, and pull all the weeds

*purple peony shoots emerging from the soil


*the house was hot this evening, so we're leaving windows open for cool night air

*the heady scent of hyacinth everywhere

*my favorite pink linen trousers

*we're getting spring chickens (ha) in a few weeks

*today during our picnic I felt a warm opposed to all the cold ones we've felt for months

*the final four is this weekend...and I will be cheering for the Gamecocks!

*and finally, I pulled a tick off poor Annie's head this afternoon.  At the dollar store. I'm so glad I was running my fingers through her hair while she was looking at the toys!  And I'm also so glad that I was able to pull it off with my bare hands and  not leave any gross tick parts on her little head.  Nasty!

Spring has certainly sprung!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

On Recognizing the Moments

"There are moments in life so beautiful that everything in us wants to praise the Creator. Maybe it's stars--or an ocean view, a magnificent sunset, the birth of a child. It's important to put ourselves in places and situations that bring us those moments--and to recognize them for what they are."

                                      --Nathan Clarkson, Different

Friday, March 24, 2017

Finn's Latest

Just in time for a burst of spring, Finn finished his wintry painting and brought it home yesterday.

My favorite part is the falling effect achieved by flicking paint with a toothbrush, apparently. 

I'm going to enjoy looking at this when the heat of summer swelters us!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Substitute Nightstand

Today I moved the behemoth nightstand out of Finn's room so that I could begin the process of beautification, and in its stead (he must have a nightstand for his lamp!) I put a little three-legged table that usually sits in the kitchen. 

I love how airy and light this is!  I tried to convince Finn that perhaps this could be his new nighstand, but he rightly pointed out that it doesn't have nearly the storage space he needs.  For the lamp, plus the Harry Potter book and the flashlight and the toy snake and the.....well, you get the picture.

Today I lugged the behemoth into the living room, washed it down, and removed its doors and hinges and pulls.  Tomorrow my husband will move it outside and I will sand it before putting on the first coat of primer.

Also in today's news: I set out the Easter decorations, sewed a dozen more square pairs for Annie's quilt, made vegetable masala (yum!), finally--after over a year--fixed my Nikon camera (MYSELF!) and figured out how to package it to send it to Nikon for a spa day (cleaning), and managed lots of laundry. The reward: a hot bath and a flannel nightgown.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Annie Begins Her Quilt

Annie and I decided that her beloved Rebecca* needs a quilt.  Yesterday we sketched out plans, today I cut out 108 squares.  (This process went quickly because I'd already cut lots of different fabrics into 18" strips; we just had to choose the colors and patterns we wanted and use the rotary cutter to cut the strips into squares.)

Rebecca's favorite color is purple, so we're focusing on purple, white, and gray. 

I put right sides together, used a pencil to draw the seam line, threaded and knotted the needle, and showed Annie how to stitch.  Then I handed it over and started cooking supper.

Although she has never sewn a stitch before, she took off like a rocket.  She got ten squares sewn into pairs before dinner, and I'm so impressed by the skill in those tiny hands. 

 Such calm, focused attention, and such patience!

*Rebecca Rubin, an American Girl doll.  She's a member of the family, you know.....

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Tuesday's Treats

Today was a pretty typical Tuesday, but was studded with little pleasures:

*Finding watercolor paper and canvases on big-time sale at the craft store 

*Treating my children to frozen yogurt

*Basking in warm, sunny weather

*Loving my new prescription sunglasses, the first pair I've ever owned and a total game-changer!

*Planning a doll's quilt with Annie during Finn's art lesson

*Ooohing and ahhing over darling little chicks at the hardware store

*Gazing upon Finn's new haircut (we buzzed it with clippers yesterday!)

*Enjoying Annie's tutu during her penultimate ballet class

*Coming home to a house that is fresh, tidy, and clean

*Finishing a pretty olive-green infinity scarf I knitted for Annie (it looks perfect with her complexion)

*Drinking San Pellegrino after bedtime, and not having to share it!

Monday, March 20, 2017

"Our Feet are Set in a Large Room"

Having passed an unsettled day fretting over the enormity of schoolwork + housework + life management + Everything Else, and having no clear resolution in spite of all my fretting, I turned tonight to Charlotte Mason, who wrote in Chapter 25 ("The Great Recognition Required of Parents") of Volume Two....

"This great recognition resolves that discord in our lives of which most of us are, more of less, aware....[i]s it not a fact that the spiritual life is exigeant, demands our sole interest and concentrated energies?  Yet the claims of intellect--mind, of the aesthetic sense--taste, press upon us urgently.  We must think, we must know, we must rejoice in and create the beautiful.....once the intimate relation, the relation of Teacher and taught in all things of the mind and spirit, be fully recognised, our feet are set in a large room; there is space for free development in all directions, and this free and joyous development, whether of intellect or heart, is recognised as a Godward movement."

I love the reminder that my feet are indeed set in a large room, that there's space for my growth and my children's growth, that these interests are not in competition with each other, and most of all, that the Holy Spirit is my ally in living a beautiful, unique life which engages both my mind and my hands.

I feel better!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Thunder and Rainbow

Today I woke feeling tremendous, outstanding, amazing!  I had slept solidly and felt like I could tackle the world.

So I tried.  I cleaned the living room, decluttered, cleaned the kids' bathroom, baked a lemon pound cake, washed laundry, hung laundry out on the line, brought laundry in....before heading down the lane to my aunt and uncle's house, where several sets of cousins had descended for the weekend.  We had a lovely time visiting!  And an exceedingly cold and windy tractor wagon ride around the field--thank goodness for the wool blankets stashed in my car.

At one point in the afternoon we had a majestic roar of rolling thunder from the north--glorious!  And as I approached the clothesline I saw a beautiful double rainbow arching the valley.  (I ran back inside to get my phone, but I snapped this just a few moments too late--you can see the rainbow, maybe, if you strain....)

Later in the day when I was with my cousins another rainbow appeared and ended right near the barn!  We called the children out to see it.  And we smiled, because rainbows have always reminded us of Grandma.  

She is always with us.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Airing Out the Sickroom

Today I was too exhausted to be of much use to society, but after a couple of good long rest periods, I did have the energy to air out and tidy the sickroom: that is, our bedroom.  The nightstand had acquired all sorts of clutter: thermometer, Kleenex box, kindle, water bottle, backup water bottle, earbuds....this photo features the kindle atop my "sick book*"......and a photo of us seventeen and a half years ago!

I opened windows, changed sheets, dusted, and tidied. Going to bed in a beautifully neat and clean room without all the trappings of illness feels so good. 

*The Sick Book is a spiral-bound notebook that resides in the bathroom closet next to the first aid supplies and medications. It is pulled out to record dates and details of fevers, symptoms, etc.  It's invaluable!

Thursday, March 16, 2017


This week I have had the flu! I spent the first half of the week in a feverish haze. Now I'm just coughing and exhausted, so I think I'm entering the blessed recovery zone. This afternoon I felt well enough to *sit up in bed* and knit.

My husband has taken three solid days off of work to wrangle children and fix meals. I don't think he has ever missed this much work for anything other than out of town vacations or new babies!  Remind me next year to not leave the house during flu season.

I know recovery is happening now because my mental plans are revving far ahead of my physical abilities.  First I have to dig out from under the messes (four days without my organizational and tidying abilities, and without the children's chores = mountains of work). It must be the combination of spring on the horizon and realizing that I'm not going to stay in bed forever, but here's what's on my mental list for spring:

*frame a couple of paintings
*repair and chalk paint Finn's nightstand
*get into the flower beds!
*help Annie make a doll's quilt
*hang the big gold mirror
*poke around in my fabric and patterns, and sew something
*gather up all the goodies for Easter baskets
*learn to make a sponge roll in time for Easter
*draw plans for new deck and patio and hand them to our contractor
*take the children on a field trip to two
*get the upstairs piano tuned

I'd like to finish a couple of loose ends, too--

*finish reading the half a dozen books I started in winter
*finish the infinity scarf I'm knitting for my stepmother
*and seriously, clean out the mechanical room already (I had intended to do this in January)

First, though, my goal is to take a shower without getting so tired I need a nap.

Baby steps!

Thursday, March 9, 2017


You'll never fly as the crow flies, get used to a country mile.
When you're learning to face the path at your pace
Every choice is worth your while.*

Do you ever stand at the watershed of your life and take a good look?  I do. I was born for it. Someone once told me it was the result of losing my mother at a young age, but that's not true; I was an armchair philosopher as a child.

Our backyard, where we see an expansive physical reality spread in front of us full of ponds, fields, woods, mountains and clouds, mirrors my internal life, where I climb up on the highest points I can find to get the best vision.  The daily demands and messes of ordinary life make it easy and tempting to slip into the myopic, to only see the chores and tasks and checklists. 

But there's more going on here than all that.  So much more.

I hope that these little people will understand vision, too.  

(But for now, they're calling turkeys.)

*with thanks to the Indigo Girls

Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Waning Season

Lent is a big deal to us each year.  My husband and I always give stuff up, and I also tend to add stuff in.  This year I decided to step back from a few things, and the Internet is one of them.  My interest in things like Facebook and Instagram (I don't know anything about Twitter!) waxes and wanes, but I like life best when my interest is low.  I'm going through a busy season in life generally, and a pretty intense season of introspection.  Most days I read the Bible for half an hour to an hour, but without the distraction of the Internet, I'm hoping my Bible study time will be more like two hours most days (certainly much less on some days, too--just because of the demands of life). I like to read and drink coffee for about an hour in the morning before I exercise, and am hoping to do more reading in the evenings during Lent. 

There's a lot for me to do right now.  I'm still focused on my 2017 goals, and I'm also teaching Shakespeare and Plutarch to high schoolers in my little Charlotte Mason co-op.  I love this so much!  The students are so insightful.  I am suspicious that they understand Plutarch better than I do.  We're studying The Winter's Tale this spring and I'm truly enjoying it so far.  I also have a conference to attend with my best friend, a boys' camping trip to prep for (eek! it's going to be COLD!), lots and lots and lots of vegan and gluten-free food to cook, furniture to paint, and the passing desire to sew something....but I'm not sure if I will truly have time before gardening season slams into me!

And introspection: I'm a ponderer by nature anyhow, but this season seems to be particularly deep for me.  Is it because my children are older?  Because my chores seem easier?  Because I get up earlier?  Yes, probably, to all three. That has been important for me to recognize and honor. 

I love this last quiet stretch of winter before the glory of Easter is upon us!