Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Evenings in Spring

Our new evening routine goes like this: finish dinner and related tasks, then go outside to visit the chickens.  Spend a while in the run discussing their names, personalities, quirks.  Feed them.  Water them.  Love on them. 

And then they love on us.  Penny and Daisy perched on me last evening. I haven't decided if this means they love me or they hate me.  It's very funny, though!

(Annie took these photos.  You can see Penny up there--and if you were here, you could hear her too since she's a nonstop talker.  But Daisy was also back there--just lower, I guess!)

Then Finn rides his bike like a wild man up and down the driveway and Annie and I water the flowers together in the last light.  I pull stray weeds and we check on progress: are the bleeding hearts coming up?  A day lily bloomed!  Oh, look at the last peonies......

Then Finn puts the chickens to bed and we wash up and they enjoy ice cream on the front porch while watching fireflies light the yard.  

This may be the most satisfying spring of my life so far. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Sewing Room

This past weekend I finally got the chance to sew in my new sewing (laundry) room.  What a luxury!  What ease!  To have everything right there--patterns, fabric, ironing board, sewing machine.......bliss.

Bring me my tea on a silver tray, please.  And then skedaddle, because--I'm in my studio! (With Alice, of course.)

Monday, May 29, 2017

Every Gain Divine

This weekend has been all about testing (Finn takes a standardized test every year), gardening, sewing, and food. 

Today I spent six hours in one of our flower beds.  The mulching goes quickly, but the pulling up wire grass and clover goes a lot slower. (Clover! Bane of my existence!) I'm also transplanting a zillion muscari and that takes forever: tiny bulbs deep down in the dirt.......

I just hope I can walk tomorrow. 

Today also involved proctoring Finn's standardized test and a smidgen of sewing, but the best part of the day was at the end: after homemade ice cream on the porch, we visited the chickens, watered the flowers, listened to my cousin's crackling bonfire in the upper field, and watched the sky turn flaming pink over my grandparents' house.  Annie spun around and around in her pink dress, and I can't tell you how beautiful it all was, and how grateful I am for it.

*          *       *

And, in closing, it's a day to remember to whom my freedom is due: our fallen soldiers.  

O beautiful for heroes proved
in liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life!
America, America!
May God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness,
And every gain divine. 

When we sang this yesterday in church, I had tears in my eyes....never fails. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Annie Does Etsy

For months Annie was asking me to please start an Etsy shop for her.  It would be called Cute Conference. It would be full of cute things that she makes.  It would allow her to earn money. 

We finally opened the shop a few weeks ago. We made some stuff for it and I took the pictures and listed it (tedious).  And then I breathed a sigh of relief that I could move on to making stuff *I* want to make!

She made her first sale quickly--thanks to a law school friend who has two little girls. 

If you're in the mood very Very Handmade bookmarks or felted flower clips, Cute Conference is the place for you.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Coyote Season

Well, it's calving season here.  Which means it's also coyote season.

Tonight as I was tucking the children into bed my husband said: "coyotes! and they're close." 

We opened the deck door.  Indeed, they were close--they were in one of the cow fields.  

"Do you think they're going after a calf?" my husband asked.  He barely finished his sentence before I was exclaiming "that's exactly what they're trying to do!" He ran out onto the deck and started making noises as I thundered down the stairs with a flashlight, and then out the basement door to the backyard, to shout and shine lights. The coyotes quieted. 

At that moment I saw that my cousin's truck was already making its way through the dark field; he'd heard them, too.  He parked and worked his way around part of the perimeter of the huge field, shining his light.  I heard his rifle fire only once.   He continued around part of the perimeter, and eventually made his way back to his truck in the dark. I'll text him tomorrow morning to see if he lost a calf. I sure hope not. 

Did I mention that two weeks ago Annie and I were hanging out on the porch in broad daylight and watched a skunk saunter to the neighbor's chicken run....and get inside? We quickly alerted our neighbor--not only to protect the chickens, but because their children were playing nearby, and the skunk was probably rabid. Our neighbor shot it quite neatly.  

We joke that for a quiet rural life, we do have our share of excitement...thanks to the varmints. :) 

Saturday, May 20, 2017

It Gets Worse Before It Gets Better

This afternoon my husband was watching me sew in our schoolroom with the poor task lighting and various school supplies around me.  He suggested we move our elliptical trainer out of the laundry room and set up a "real" sewing room for me. 

I thought for about 2 seconds before saying yes!

My laundry room currently holds all of my sewing stuff--and that's a lot of stuff. Fabric, notions, pillow forms, patterns, my dress form.  But my machine was in the adjacent schoolroom. It's not far away--just a matter of a few feet, really.  I just had to run back and forth while sewing.  Somehow having everything in the same space feels both luxurious and efficient!  I spent the evening setting it all up, but haven't sewn in my new space yet.  

Because you know how it goes: move two pieces of furniture, and rearrange other stuff. I'm also preparing for a book sale and have boxes of books stacked in the basement. Whew! It's going to be organizationally so much better once it's all done, but as my husband and I reminded each other this afternoon...when it comes to rearranging rooms, it gets worse before it gets better.

Hot bath, bed, and Sabbath rest will rejuvenate me.  

(And in the midst of it, I went through my vintage patterns and chose the size 6 patterns.  I have at least a dozen darling little patterns to choose from for Annie this year from my grandmother's collection.  I'm excited!)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Real Home Love

"This household happiness did not come all at once, but John and Meg had found the key to it, and each year of married life taught them how to use it, unlocking the treasuries of real home love and mutual helpfulness, which the poorest may possess, and the richest cannot buy.  This is the sort of shelf on which young wives and mothers may consent to be laid, safe from the restless fret and fever of the world, finding loyal lovers in the little sons and daughters who cling to them, undaunted by sorrow, poverty, or age, walking side by side, through fair and stormy weather, with a faithful friend, who is, in the true sense of the good old Saxon word, the 'houseband', and learning, as Meg learned, that a woman's happiest kingdom is home, her highest honor the art of ruling it not as a queen, but as a wise wife and mother."

            --Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Good and Tired

My husband loves an episode of the Andy Griffith Show where Opie works hard all day on something (I can't remember what) and at the end of the day Andy asks, "well, Opie, don't you feel good?" And Opie responds "yes, Pa.....good and tired."

Today was a perfect example of how one thing leads to another. I started the day switching out my winter and summer clothing.  By about 10am it was clear that I was also on a big purging streak.  And well before lunch I had emptied all of the dresser drawers and the closet, and was happily immersed in sorting, purging, and organizing. 

But of course I didn't stop there.  That would be too sane.  I continued on to purge the kitchen (breadmaker?  juicer? bye-bye!), some of our bookshelves, the dining room linens, my bed linens.......I only stopped because it was time to put everyone to bed.  And then when I stopped, I really stopped; that is, I came to a screeching and exhausted halt.  Reward; hot bath. 

So yeah, I feel good. Good and tired!

Friday, May 12, 2017

A Slip for Annie

Annie outgrew her slip, just like that.  I took the old slip, traced it--with a couple of inches added--onto some old sheet that I had (actually had to piece the back out of two pieces, simply because I was working with scraps), and made a new slip.  For free!

The tracing step.....

Slips are so easy.  I trimmed the bottom with a bit of lace from my stash (probably inherited from my grandmother). I noticed a little late that the front piece had black marker on it, so I just cut a few hearts from other white scrap fabrics and appliqued those onto the front of the slip. 

Here you can see the finished slip as well as the little black spot, which is only visible when its brightly backlit.  Totally not noticeable otherwise, and certainly not noticeable under a skirt!

Guess what?  Annie lost this slip.  I hope it turns up before it's time to sew another one......

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Exposed Hem Tape

My Grandma Polly made this dress back in the early 1980s. I think she probably made it for my sister.  At some juncture the hem was ripped out--probably because my sister grew--but was never stitched back in--probably because my mother didn't have time. Since it's now in Annie's size, I decided to hem it for her to wear.

But after I stitched the white hem tape on with red thread, I couldn't resist the little decorative pop the lacy tape provided.  Ergo, I left it just like this!

I do think I'll hem it sometime this year, but it has been fun to enjoy the band of white at the bottom of the dress, and it's always fun to see Annie wearing clothes my grandmother made long ago. 

Monday, May 8, 2017

The 20-Cent Dress

Sometime last year I made this lightweight dress for Annie out of a vintage pattern. I used fabric from the thrift store (it was something like $1 for 5 yards of a nice lightweight cotton); I also lined the bodice in yellow thrifted cotton.  I used some vintage buttons from my neverending button stash. All told I think the dress probably cost about twenty cents to make.  Not bad!

This was my first experience with sewing a collar. It was fine.

The flower on the sash was my own touch.

The pattern called for little gathered sleeves with puffs, but by the time I got to that point I was losing steam!  I should have sliced that armscye in closer as a result, but did I mention "losing steam?"  I just popped some self-binding on and called it a day, and we're all perfectly happy with it. 

Cool and comfortable and feminine and vintage-inspired; all she needs is a lemonade and a big straw hat. 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Peonies and Sage

Just a few days ago I was thinking about my garden's awkward "in between" stage.  Today I was amazed to see how rapidly things changed.....

from this.....

to this!  

The ruffly white peonies and purple sage flowered overnight and this bed looks lush indeed.  I love evening here; the sun is setting behind the pin leaf oak and the garden is aglow.  Words cannot express my delight over coral bells.  Their elegant flowers, their perfect foliage....

In the meantime, my mother's antique rosebush started blooming as well.  That pink peony is almost about to bloom...but not quite yet.

Today we bought some plants.  I rarely buy plants; nearly everything in my garden is a cast-off from someone else or a division of one my plants.  But I'm bulking things up a bit, and I made a list recently of plants I need to acquire.  Today I crossed the Japanese painted fern off this list, as well as the false indigo and two more bleeding hearts (I have one, but she is hiding behind the lavender right now).  Annie chose seeds--columbine and echinacea.  Finn chose an English ivy plant (!).  We decided to make it a houseplant because we don't have many places for ivy to safely grow.

And finally, sunflower seeds.....because I hatched a sweet plan for them.  Stay tuned!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Finn Does Beethoven

Today is Kitchen Day, which typically means I scrub the kitchen, but today I roasted a turkey, baked gingerbread, and went through the freezer.  One of my goals for May is to bake and cook my way through my freezers, to make way for the summer bounty. Whew.

Accompanying my cleaning today was this wonderful music: Finn played the old piano (rich sound, ivory keys) downstairs.  He took the main theme of "Ode to Joy" from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and improvised and riffed off of it, going high treble for some parts, low bass for others.  He played with the dynamics, occasionally used the damper, and added extra notes.  Sometimes the song would built to a crescendo with extra little bass notes thrown into the mix; other times he played way high and slowed down before adding the theme into the bass notes.  

It was heartbreakingly beautiful, once I realized what was happening.  Finally I had to just stop everything and sit down and listen.  I didn't understand how he kept bringing it back to the same theme so effortlessly, but he did.  

Truly, truly: goosebumps.  And I love that he loves this music. 

Do you bow down before Him, you millions?
Do you sense your Creator, o world?
Seek Him above the canopy of stars!
He must dwell beyond the stars.