Saturday, May 7, 2011

These [expletive] socks, free time and being alone

I planned to post about these socks on their first birthday - a year after I started them - but I have managed to be late even for that. They're still not finished, either. They were intended to be a birthday present for my sister-in-law, then Christmas, then birthday again.

To be honest, I haven't felt much like working on them or anything else lately. That's no surprise, with my extended radio silence here. I hope my creative drought is just due to being tired - so tired - all the time. I'm pretty sure it is, since ideas still pop into my head regularly.

I suppose it's just a matter of determining where to spend any energy I have left at the end of the day. Right now, Forever Young Adult is getting what little there is, and I've been doing more off-screen writing. Honestly, I don't feel like sharing these days. Some mothers talk about not wanting to be touched after spending all day nursing and cuddling and playing and carrying their children, and that's kind of what's going on with me right now. I don't get much time alone (and awake) each day, so I'm hoarding the quiet, private space inside my head. My parents will probably say I need to get out of my head a bit, which is also true, but this process of blogging increasingly feels like a one-sided conversation - both writing here and reading others, since I often read without commenting.

Anyway, I'm sure I'll be back - I always am - and it'll probably be soon. Happy Mother's Day to everyone who is a mother, has been a mother, who acts as a mother. For those who've lost their mothers, I hope you can spend the day in a way that comforts you.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Al fresco

We are spending a lot of time outside these days. It's gorgeous, and before we know it, it'll be too hot. Also, the house is a wreck and the backyard's a nice escape. Ha.

We had dinner out on the porch the other night, and the setting turned a commonplace weekend dinner into something special. (It wasn't our first dinner outside this spring - that was a few weeks earlier when I smoked us out cooking steaks on the stove.)

Chris grilled steaks, we had baked potatoes, a Brie en croute we picked up at Fresh Market (it's totally easy to make with this rough puff pastry recipe, but I was feeling lazy) and our new favorite asparagus recipe. Asparagus just tastes like spring, don't you think? I'm so ready for all the great veg and fruit that's coming into season - winter roots and squashes be gone!

Asparagus with Parmesan
from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
1 1/2 to 2 pounds asparagus, trimmed and peeled
2 to 4 tablespoons butter, plus some for greasing the pan
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
About 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Simmer, steam or microwave the asparagus; undercook it a little bit. Drain and plunge it into ice water, then drain and dry. (You may prepare the recipe in advance up to this point; refrigerate, well wrapped or in a covered container, for up to 2 days before proceeding.) Preheat the oven to 450 F.

Butter a casserole or baking pan, then place the asparagus in it. Dot with as much or as little butter as you like and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Scatter about two-thirds of the cheese over the asparagus and bake until the cheese is just beginning to turn light brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan and serve.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sneak peek Sunday

Whew! Haven't done one of these in a while! You might recognize the pattern from Feeling Stitchy's February vintage stitchalong (hey, February's not over yet!).

I'm stalled a bit because I need to run out and get some water-soluble stabilizer, but hopefully I can get this stitched up soon and can show off the whole thing.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

On pinning, patience and being a hare

Those of you who know me already know I'm not the world's most patient person (and a lot of you who've read here for a while probably had that figured out). I read young adult books partly because I get satisfaction out of finishing an entire book in just a few hours (by the same token, I like nonfiction because I can quit when I get bored and don't have to finish to find out how it ends). I usually don't read all the directions before just jumping in - it's a big reason I'm self taught. I don't think I could handle a sewing or other class where I had to take baby step after baby step, though I'm sure I'd be a better seamstress for it. In fact, it's pretty crazy the things I love most take the most patience. That old cliche -- it's the challenge that make it so rewarding.

I started thinking about all this when I was making bias tape, which I love love LOVE having on a finished garment, and hate hate HATE making and using. It's not super difficult to do, it's just super tedious. Careful marking, careful cutting, careful ironing, careful pinning -- all before getting to the fun part, the sewing! Then, MORE careful ironing and careful pinning. Quelle nightmare! But it's so lovely to have enclosed seams, and even lovelier to use custom tape rather than store-bought.

miles and miles of pins, i swear.

I'm definitely a hare, forever bolting out the door wholly unprepared (figuratively and literally - did I ever tell you about the time I dashed out to the convenience store with my shirt still undone from feeding Mr. T?), leaving masses of unfinished tasks in my wake. I watch my timid little tortoise son, almost nine months and not yet crawling (not that I'm fussed about it!), afraid of his own shadow, and I wish I had just a little of that caution and think-first-edness.

So I practice. I make myself iron and pin and iron again. I measure ingredients exactly (haha, yeah right. I do try to read the whole recipe and check my pantry first). The discipline is like meditating. Distracting at first because I get agitated and impatient, but the results are so much nicer, and maybe one day I'll learn patience to balance my impulsiveness. Until then, I'll just try to remember procrastination is not the same thing as patience!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Hot and Strengthening, or Just One of Those Days

Jeeves was bringing me the morning cup of tea when I read these missives, and I handed them to him in silence. He read them in same. I was able to imbibe about a fluid ounce of the hot and strengthening before he spoke. 
--from The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse

Yesterday was one of those days. Disappointment didn't come in the form of missives, it came in the absence of them. I was expecting a package of advance review copies of books from one of the girls over at Forever Young Adult, but the envelope I got was opened and empty. I'm not sure why it got me down, but it did. The prescription? Fortifying cups of tea! (Why, yes, I have read a lot of British lit.)

I did what always cheers me up a bit and pulled out my silver tea tray, badly in need of polishing, and got the omnibus copy of some of Barbara Pym's novels I picked up at the Friends of the Library booksale a couple of weeks ago and settled down with my new teapot. Also, I know it looks virtuous of me to have an orange as a snack, and while it's partly because it reminds me of that bit in Cranford where they eat their oranges in solitude* because there's something unseemly about sucking the juice from them, it's mainly because I'd already eaten the last cupcake and a handful of chocolate chips, and the Girl Scout cookies hadn't been delivered yet.

Isn't it neat? It's actually an old teapot, one my brother got me for Christmas ages ago. He scoured the mall and other shops and this was the only one he could find (I think it predated the teapot vogue of a few years ago). I was thrilled, and on Christmas Day, the first time I used it, the lid fell off and smashed to pieces on the floor. Of course I was crushed, but when I got home, I found the lid of one of those brew mugs fit perfectly and added a little dash of color.

Anyway, ever since reading The Code of the Woosters a couple of years ago, I've been dying to embellish this teapot with Bertie's wonderful epithet for tea, the "hot and strengthening." I just used a couple of Pebeo Porcelaine pens and a great deco font I found on urbanfonts that I can't manage to find now, and Bob's your uncle.

Have any of you read P.G. Wodehouse? He's marvellous, and I wish there were more opportunities to sprinkle his hilarious turns of phrase into ordinary conversation. Frankie Landau-Banks, the protagonist of E. Lockhart's The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks does a pretty admirable job with her embrace of neglected positives (like "gruntled" and "maculate"), if you're looking for a way to get a little more Wodehouse in your life.
*When oranges came in, a curious proceeding was gone through.  Miss Jenkyns did not like to cut the fruit; for, as she observed, the juice all ran out nobody knew where; sucking (only I think she used some more recondite word) was in fact the only way of enjoying oranges; but then there was the unpleasant association with a ceremony frequently gone through by little babies; and so, after dessert, in orange season, Miss Jenkyns and Miss Matty used to rise up, possess themselves each of an orange in silence, and withdraw to the privacy of their own rooms to indulge in sucking oranges.

I had once or twice tried, on such occasions, to prevail on Miss Matty to stay, and had succeeded in her sister’s lifetime.  I held up a screen, and did not look, and, as she said, she tried not to make the noise very offensive; but now that she was left alone, she seemed quite horrified when I begged her to remain with me in the warm dining-parlour, and enjoy her orange as she liked best.
--from Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Reading, thinking (or trying to) and the past few weeks

It's nearly 4 on a Saturday afternoon, and Mr. T is still fast asleep (in his own bed!), and Chris and Daisy are snoozing on the couch, so I'm taking advantage of the quiet to think a little, and catch up with y'all out there. I don't know how long my reprieve will last, but I'm going to enjoy every second of it.

Earlier this week, I got a lovely box o' L'Engle (of the Madeleine variety) from Amazon, and I've been slowly soaking in A Circle of Quiet, the first of her Crosswicks journals. Published in 1972, it's "the attempt of a gifted woman to define and explore the meaning of her life," according to her website. Anyway, aside from having to look up several words and sit and think for a while to figure out what they really mean in the context of the book -- specifically ontology, a word I remembered from college philosophy courses, but couldn't explain or understand anymore -- it's been a joy to read. Madeleine L'Engle's books are so familiar to me, they're like old friends. She's one of those authors I've read so often I feel like I know her, and it's been wonderful to get inside her mind and realize she was very human. She made me feel good about sitting and enjoying a book in the midst of housekeeping failure (yes, that's a pile of unfolded laundry about 2 feet tall in the picture above).

Oops, I hear little noises from upstairs, so I'll leave you with this, the secret to long naps and sleeping (almost) all night solo: swaddling. Yes, I know he's eight months old, but honestly I don't care if he wants to sleep swaddled until he's 15 as long as he sleeps. So I used it as an excuse to make the cutey cute cute swaddling blanket from (who else?) Prudent Baby:

he's totally thinking, "are you for real? this is not cute."
Yes, there are birds on that fabric. Would you believe me if I told you a. I bought it years ago and b. I bought it because I liked the trees. No really, I swear.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Only connect

You guys don't even get decent photos on this post today - just random ones from my phone!

A year ago, I had a million and one projects going, I was cooking all the time and I had a nice, regular little schedule here. Now, my days are a muddle of naps (or no naps), nighttime marathon feedings, laundry and quick, uncreative dinners. I'm in awe of a friend of mine who manages to blog three or four times a week, scrapbook and do art projects with her four- and nearly-three-year old -- AND take care of her tiny new twins! That's not me, not this time around.

Anyway, I've been thinking about this blog a lot lately and trying to figure out if it still fits in my life, and if so, where? I'm not ready to let it go yet -- every time I think about it, I also think about some of the great things I want to share, and all the cool stuff I've learned from others. But this space is neither my main focus right now nor even my main writing focus. I'm putting more energy into book blogging, since I'm lucky enough to be one of the writers at Forever Young Adult, but that doesn't mean I want to quit this yet.

I will be rethinking what I do here. I've been (re)reading E.M. Forster lately, and have been struck by his plea to "Only connect." And that's really what these public-private spaces are all about, really. Connecting knowledge with learners, enthusiasts with each other.

When I first started this, I was mainly sharing my projects with my husband, who was in Afghanistan. My first subscribers (6!) included my mom, grandmother and dear friend from college. I don't have loads more readers now, but I don't really care about that.

What I am getting at (eventually ... I do have a point!) is I'm trying to figure out what I'm doing here. Even though I know the blogs I visit over and over are the ones that let me peek at the writers' lives, I have a hard time sharing much. I don't want to be solipsistic. Who cares about my boring struggles with laundry? But I want to share more. Like this:


Mr. T has TWO teeth! And has outgrown his infant car seat (well, he has about an inch of clearance, but has been averaging an inch a month).
I've started running again (I hope - today was week 1, day 1 of couch-to-5k for about the fifth time).
My parents just left after a week's visit, and it's awfully lonely, but at least I have Daisy back! And the bookcase my dad built.
I have about a zillion things I want to make, and enough spare time each day to either empty the dishwasher OR start something new. (Un)happily, the dishwasher has been winning.
There are so many people I want to be like, but every day I still wake up just me. And I guess that's ok :)

Anyway, I suppose my point is, for this year I have a simple goal: Only connect.

Check out these wonderful people I have been lucky enough to connect with in the last year, online and in real life:

Nicole at Blue Bicicletta, my penpal and wonderful artist
Melissa at Yummy Goods, co-founder of the Bronte-along an fabric designer extraordinaire
Beth at An Accomplished Young Lady, other co-founder of the Bronte-along
Fourteen Countess, an amazing stitcher
Kayanna of the delightful June Craft
Olivia, who always has interesting travels, musings and thoughts about books (ok, this is kind of cheating because we've been best friends since college, but y'all, she's awesome)

Are you connecting - really connecting - this year?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Trellis for T

I call this T's old man sweater - the combination of heavy cables and the shawl collar makes a cardigan that looks like it's made for a grandpa, and that just makes it extra charming on a little boy.

The pattern is Trellis, from Knitty 2005, and I used Debbie Bliss Cashmerino. It's a great yarn for baby things because as a microfiber/merino/cashmere blend it's soft, squishy and machine washable - without being made of squeaky acrylic. It also knits up fast, and I haven't noticed any pilling yet.

The pattern was great, too. It was easy to follow, and had enough going on to make it interesting, but it wasn't too crazy I couldn't knit while watching tv, listening to a book or while in company. I also managed to get it finished in only a couple of months (a normal person could probably knock one of these out in weeks). I made a 12-mo size, but there's not tons of room to grow and he's only 7 months old, so keep that in mind.

The red buttons came from my grandmother's button stash, and they're absolutely my favorite part of the sweater, aside from the kid wearing it, of course!
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