April 29, 2011

who knew?

So did you watch the Wedding this morning? I fully planned to but in the end, getting up for the bus wasn't going to happen, much less waking up for a wedding at 5 am. (I did watch it later thought)

Who knew that one little teeny tick bite could make you feel so freaking bad. That's right, good old Lyme's. Fun, fun, right?

Horse pills started, Heat pad is at the ready at all times for my achy joints and much napping is occurring (my head feels extraordinarily heavy that's normal, right?) and I'm hoping that after a restful weekend I'll be back up and running. I better be, because an apartment has been found!(Yay! More on that soon!) and the packing will soon commence. So my sleepy, achy butt better be over this thing ASAP!

Hope you have a lovely, restful weekend (minus the Lyme's Disease, of course)

April 28, 2011

t-shirt to ruffle dress: a tutorial

Our kids have a deep and abiding love, ok, obsession, for our local cupcake and cookie shop. And when I say our kids, I really mean all four of us. And the dog too, actually because they ususally have treats for her as well. The very first day they were open, Briton happened to have lost his two front teeth and we were cruising downtown looking for a treat to celebrate, and low and behold, a cupcake shop had appeared. The owners snapped a photo of him, all chocolaty and gappy and we've loved them every since, making a pretty regular weekly trip for a one of their yummy cookies (my favorite is chocolate salted caramel) and always, always staying for a chat.

Earlier this spring we were in there for our post library treat when Evie pointed (for the millionth time) to their shirts and giggled over the dancing cupcake, it never got old for her, and I think it never gets old for them to see her love it. So the next week when we went in, there was a t-shirt waiting for her, and for me to make into something (this is how much they know me, they handed it off with a "it's too big but I bet your mom can make somethign out of it for you!") And since it's hard for me to resist a challange, and because someone wasn't going to leave me alone till she could wear it, the ruffle dress was born.

You can use either an second old shirt for the ruffles or buy jersey fabric for them, I've done both. The first time I used an old shirt but then I decided I wanted the ruffles to be bigger so I pulled them off and cut jersey strips. Either is fun and both ways the dress was well loved (as in, Evie didn't take it off for three days) I've been puttering with the idea of making her a skirt like this too, since she loves the poofyness of it and it's easier to keep clean than a tutu, kind of a meld between the skating skirt and this dress, but that may have to wait until after the move. Or maybe not.

T-shirt to Ruffle Dress

You'll need:

2 Adult t-shirts - 1 small or medium, one large or extra large (or 1 shirt and 1/2 yard jersey fabric)
Also a t-shirt that fits perfectly
Sewing machine armed with a knit needle (it's worth it to go get one, but you can go without)
Fabric scissors, pins, thread and all that jazz

1. First lay the smaller adult shirt on your cutting surface and lay the child sized shirt over it so that the neck lines up. Pin in place and cut around the child shirt leaving a 1/2 inch seam allowance all the way around (leave the neck and the top of the sleeves uncut)

2. Turn the newly cut adult shirt inside out and, with a zig zag stitch, sew up the bottom of the sleeves and down the sides of the shirt. Try it on and trim the bottom to the lenght you want the finished dress.

3. Lay the larger shirt on your cutting surface and cut just under the armpits to create a large tube from the bottom of the shirt. Discard the top.

4. Cut the bottom of the shirt into equally sized strips or cut four strips from your jersey (I made mine 3 inches wide and cut four - I know, there are three there, but I did cut a fourth, promise).

5. With your machine on it's longest stitch length, sew along the top edge (about 1/4 inch down) of three of the strips and down the middle of the fourth . DO NOT BACK STITCH!

6. Pull gently on the bobbin thread on each strip to gather, maing sure the gathers are even along the strip, until the ruffles are about as big around as the bottom of the dress.

7. Pin one of the ruffles along the bottom edge of the dress and sew along the top using a zig-zag stitch. Pin the next ruffle on so that the bottom of this ruffle covers the stitching from the first. Continue until you have attached all of the ruffles, leaving the once that is stitched through the center for last.
8. Remove the gathering stitches and trim all threads!

April 27, 2011

what sparks a memory

Last weekend, after our crazy week of house prep, we got the heck out of Dodge. It was something we actually planned with our supper club long ago but it was so perfectly timed and so effortless (as heading out for a weekend with friends should be) that it felt like a spontaneous reaction to the stress of the days before.
It might surprise you to know that, for a girl who has a hard time sitting still and not doing most of the time, when I go out to our friends cabin I am utterly delighted to do nothing. Hours spent playing cards, laying in a hammock, watching the kids run around and around the yard or pretend the picnic table is a pirate ship, lovely sweet nothingness. And good eats as well, which is always part of the game when this group gets together. Although I'll tell you the truth, I'd be happy to hang with these folks even if we were just eating cold hot dogs.

In front of the house, just across the road, is a creek that rushes and bubbles by. It's one one those bodies of water that seems cheerful, you can't help but smile just looking at it. But we never just look at it, not with five kids and a Nigella around. No, we revel in it, wade in it, spalsh in it. Cathch all sorts of beasites in it (this time it was a salamander and a brown trout).
When I was in ninth grade, my creative writing teacher gave us an assignment to compose a story that was inspired by an olfactoy memory. IT was kind of a brilliant project ebcause first we had to leard what olfactory meant and then we had to put it to use, digging into our teenaged brains for some memory that woudl serve for the story. If I remember correctly, I wrote about Seattle, and how the smell of salt water took me back to a childhood trip there. I only remember that because I described Seattle as gray and season-less and my mom thought that was kind of rude to the city of Seattle, but really, to me, gray and season-less is a compliment, my kind of place. Although I probably couldn't have told you that at the time. But ever since then I've love how a smell, or touch or sound can take you back to a place you thought you'd forgotten.
This weekend I was sitting on the rocks next to a quiet creek in Virginia, watching the kids wade knee deep in the water, with the sun prickling my skin, almost hot enough to go slather on sunscreen, and suddenly I was eight years old. My feet dangled over the side of our cabin cruiser and the Northern Idaho summer sun beat down on my shoulders as we bobbed up and down, tied to the dock while the boat was gassed up. I could almost taste the strawberries and cream flavored whistle pop that my dad bought when he went into the little floating shack to pay, could practically hear the funny whir of the outboard motor about to roar to life, newly filled and ready for a day on the lake. Maybe a trip across to the shoreline bar where I would drink a Shirley Temple while my parents had a beer, or over to the reedy inlet where we might spot a turtle or twenty, languidly sunning themselves on old logs.

ANd then, just as quickly, I was back in Virginia, because someone had a splinter and needed a kiss and someone else was wandering just a little too far upstream. I didn't mind, it was lovely to revisit that old memory, just for a few moments. It made a wonderful weekend even better.

Do you have those moments? Where some small thing sparks a memory so fiercly that you feel almost transported back to that exact spot in time?

April 26, 2011

the only thing better than rainbow hair

You may recall that a few weeks back, Evelyn learned the terrible life lesson that no, in fact, your doll's hair will not grow back rainbow if you cut it off. I say that jokingly, but really, it is a hard lesson to learn, as several readers pointed out. It's terrible to find that your doll is not real. Although at the time I didn't really see it that way, I only saw it as a) maddening and b) hilarious, but it was a real little heartbreak for my girl. Since then Eliza has been quite the pariah. Banished from Evie's bed (by Evie, not me) neglected during playtime, the poor doll has gone with out kisses, hugs and her normally plentiful "feedings". I knew this was due to the hair incident and have been meaning to replace it, but life has gotten in the way in these past few weeks. I wanted to take Evie with me to the yarn store so that we could have just the right hair, but anytime she was free and the store was open I seemed to need to paint to nail or fix something in preparation for putting the house on the market. But finally, finally, yesterday we were both free, the sun was shining, someone was looking at our house so we needed to be out of it and the yarn shop beckoned.
We wandered down to The Needle Lady, checked to see if their resident dog Nikki was in (he wasn't) and then got to work looking at everything that could possibly be called rainbow in the shop. We looked at huge fluffy yarn and dredlocky handspun and silk and cotton before she fell in love with an almost violently colored, truly rainbow hued cashmere yarn. Of course.

I actually probably would have bought it for her too, all $30 for a tiny skein worth, just so that she had the hair of her dreams (and hopefully would not cut it again) and also because, hey, the girl knows her fibers, I couldn't fault her for it. But at the last minute she found something better than rainbow hair. Pink and purple sparkly rainbow(ish) hair. She gasped and squealed when she spotted it (I might have gasped myself, but from relief at the much cheaper price tag)
At home she helped me wrap it around a book to make wigs, Waldorf style, and sat very patiently on the floor under my desk while took off the mangled old hair ("Eliza looks weird mama!" Indeed she does!) sewed the new hair in place, gave Eliza a final trim and tied back her bangs so that you can see her eyes.
I have to say that I much prefer the orange hair, this pink sparkly version looks a little Fragglish and since the yarn is cotton and thinner, it's not as full, but Evie adores it, and Eliza, once more. When I handed her off, Evie said "I'll never cut it now, it's SOOOO beautiful! And I love it!" I guess when you have pink and purple sparkle rainbow hair, all is right with the world.
We did have a very serious talk while I was sewing about the fact that Evelyn's hair would not, under any circumstances, grow back pink and purple and sparkly. Just in case she was thinking about it.

April 25, 2011

here we go

It's official. We are on the market. Well, the house is. But you know what I meant. I kind of want to cheer and cry at the same time. Ya know?

Fingers, toes and everything else crossed that we sell before we head New York-wards.

April 22, 2011


After a mammoth work day on Wednesday out house is, for the most part, done. I mean done enough to put on the market of course, no house we ever live in will be done. How could it? There are always projects to do, things to fix or tweak, paint to change, plants to put in the ground, that's just how we roll. But this house, these projects, they are done. We have a few little things to finish, but nothing dire. And so up it goes on the market on Monday. And suddenly, I feel like we can exhale.

When I go back and remember the house we bought,
I almost don't even recognize it as the place where we live, the place we love, now.
So happy...

April 21, 2011

pikelets (ie drop crumpets) : a recipe

For the past two weeks I've been craving, out of the blue, a big pile of warm crumpets. And also french fries. OK, scratch that, I always crave french fries, I mean, who doesn't. But this week I ate some after a long hiatus and now I just want more more more! Ahem, but this is about the crumpets, which are not a normal craving. I know exactly who to blame for this, however.
My friend Jen recently went to England (and Paris, but we wont even talk about that because I might cry if I think about it too hard) and reported back on her blog about how lovely the whole trip was, royal wedding tchotchkes and all. Amongst her tales was the mention of clotted cream. And that, my friends, is what set me off.

The most wonderful, delicious, amazing meal I have ever eaten in my whole life was at the kitchen of one of my English great aunties. I was about 12 and we were there for Christmas and one morning in the midst of the hustle and bustle of having house guests at Christmas, she pulled out a tub of clotted cream for us to eat for breakfast with a package of crumpets. I'm not really sure on the particulars after that, I may or may not have consumed the entire container of the stuff, but it's all a bit of a blur, like in those movies when people fall in love and the camera gets all fuzzy around the edges.

Lest you think that this auntie was some kind of great chef, I should also mention that the absolutely wost meal I've ever consumed in my life was also eaten at that table. Bubble and Squeak. I know there are people out there in the world (somewhere) who love this dish, otherwise, why would it survive? But even in Jamie Oliver or Nigella Lawson popped over and whipped up a batch in my kitchen, I don't think I could taste even the smallest bite. It was a very traumatic experience.

Anyway, all her talk about the English countryside and clotted cream got me salivating over my memories. And this led to a almost insane longing for crumpets. Occasionally I drive over to the Trader Joe's in Richmond and stock up on all sorts of goodies, crumpets among them if they have any, but otherwise, I almost never get to eat them. If you've never had a crumpet, it's like a pancake and an English muffin had a baby and then demanded that it be slathered with melted butter and eaten. I know, right? What could be better?
Over the years I've thought about making them, but you need a crumpet ring thing, which I don't have (although, it might be a good investment, come to think of it). But after several days of having crumpet related dreams, I got online and looked up recipes, just to see if there was a ringless version and low and behold, there was! Even better, the very first recipe I ran across was by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall who is my go to guy on jam. And if they guy can get great jam recipes, I know his crumpets will be awesome. Because jam and crumpets go together like, well, like PB and J.
Apparently ring less crumpets are called pikelets. How freaking cute is that? I think I'd make them even if I didn't know what they were just for the name. And other than the need to sit for a few hours to let the yeast do its thing, these were really, really easy. And my kids scarfed them up like they hadn't been fed in a week ( I promise, I do feed them from time to time). They are very yummy, in fact, they are scrummy, as the English say.

I used about half the batter to make little crumpets, using a heaping tablespoon for each, because Evie wanted to have a tea party and if you already have crumpets on hand, well, why not, ya know? The rest of the batter was used up making English muffin sized specimens which we toasted for snacks that afternoon and breakfast the next morning. lots of good, melted butter and a little jam and/or clotted cream if you can find it, make them heavenly. And now I need to go get another batch going because I kid you not, Briton has asked for them at every meal since we ran out three days ago. And I promised that afterschool there would be a batch waiting for him to eat with his afterschool cup of tea (yes, my son often acts like an 80 year old Englishman, he also walks in the door and takes his pants off and drinks his tea in his boxers. Which is just further proof that we are more EastEnders than Windsor Palace type of Brits, and proud of it :))

What are you cooking this week? Anything new? Anything fun and exciting?


adapted from gaurdian.co.uk

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups warm milk
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 heaping teaspoon of yeast
2 teaspoons of salt
1 teaspoon of baking powder
Cooking spray

Whisk the flour, milk, eater and yeast together until combined and then cover with a kitchen towel or Saran Wrap and allow it to sit until bubbly (about 2 hours for me).
Spray a griddle pan with a generous coating of spray and heat to medium low. Stir in the salt and baking powder and drop onto the hot pan by the tablespoon (for small) or 1/4 cup full (for the larger).

Allow the batter to cook until bubbles form all over the top and the batter has stopped looking glossy then flip and cook for 1 minute more. If bubbles aren't forming, add a little more water. Serve hot off the griddle, cold or toasted with lashings of butter or clotted cream.

April 19, 2011

bye bye birdsnest, hello sea urchin

When you renovate your own house, I've found over the years (and over several different houses) that there are things that you are willing to put up with that aren't the norm. Or maybe that's more of a living with an architect thing. He's rubbed off on me. I'm not really talking about structural issues or things that are bad. Just things that might make some people crazy that we are perfectly happy to deal with. Like our light.
I love our kitchen light. It's funky and a little silly and it makes me smile just to see it. But, at the same time, about once a year it either needs to be rewired with a new strand of lights or all the bulbs (that would be 200 of them) need to be changed. I'm happy to do this because, like I said, I like my light. But someone else might not love it 200 bulbs worth. So alas, it had to go.

Lowe's and Home Depot had absolutely nothing that fit my slightly strange and modern criteria and I was starting to think that I'd have to order something and have it quickly shipped so that we could make our listing the house deadline when Will reminded me that he would be up in Maryland for a day and could pop into IKEA.
Oh, IKEA. I do love you. I couldn't have, say, my whole house or even the whole of any room IKEA, I'm not the Fight Club type, but when it comes to inexpensive but fun details, they are often my go to people. The light was no different. We considered "The Artichoke" but decided it's a little too common now (not that I don't like them, however) and thought about some wiry led things but finally settled on this one, which we have dubbed "The Sea Urchin" because, really, it does look like one.
I'm surprisingly happy with it. As much as I liked my Birds Nest, The Sea Urchin looks perfect in our modern meets classical kitchen style. And bonus! Only one light bulb to change! Yay!

What do you think? Still funky enough? Will it appeal to buyers?

April 18, 2011

long afternoons

Last week, Will built steps that led from the mudroom to the backyard. Which was helpful because we'd been jumping down off the door jamb in the rain and mud since the door was installed. But more than helpful, it's been a little blissful. They are long and wide, nothing fancy, just boards, but they have very quickly become my favorite spot to sit.
Friday I sat with friends, enjoying wine and cheese and one of those rare Virginia spring afternoons when it's not too cold or hot or wet. The kids played until the sun went down and were still disappointed to come in.

Saturday, of course, it poured. All day. Making me not sorry at all that we are leaving in less than two months. I like rain, I actually secretly love rain. But the rain I love is the gentle rain of the west coast. All drippy and soft and constant. Virginia rain reminds me of the storms that we used to watch when we lived, for a short time, in San Antonio when I was in middle school. IT was drilled into our heads there that if you feel so much as one drop of rain, hear one distant clap of thunder, run for cover, seek higher ground. Because the rain would come swift and hard, stinging your arms and sending a flood of water into the various rain gullies around the neighborhood. This rain was like that. Hard, unrelenting.
But then we had yesterday. A reprieve of Friday, made all the better because it lasted all day long and happened on a weekend. I sat for hours and hours on my steps. The kids played in the yard, on the neighbors driveway, on the basketball court. They pounded rocks and played soccer and had picnics.
The steps are wide enough for lots of people to sit, or, as was the case yesterday, one person with lots of things. Knitting, books, iphone playing Vienna Teng and Madeleine Peyroux (at one point her "Heaven" came on and I couldn't have agreed more) camera, coffee. And later hair scissors and a brush when a (not so) little boy consented to a hair cut at last but only if he could be outside while it happened. It's those days that I will miss.

The closer New York comes, the more I am thrilled to be going. My book list of interesting educational books is ever growing and I'm excited to put them to use. The lure of something new is bubbling up inside me, I'm almost looking forward to unpacking in a new space even. And I am so, so, so ready to get rid of the car. The prospect of spending a whole year without a car makes me grin (I hate cars and driving, and believe me, I'm tempted to turn us into one of those carless families, but in a small town, it's not super easy, we've tried) But on long, sweet Virginia spring afternoons, it's hard to imagine a better place than my little blue house with the big yard - kids of all sizes running around like monkeys, knitting in my lap. On days like that I don't remember the unbearable hotness of July and August and the seemingly unending winters, because who can think of that when it's simply glorious outside?

How was your weekend? Did you have any lovely lazy afternoon time?

April 15, 2011

i just might be that crazy

When Briton was about two and a half, Will and I moved our family to Dublin. We didn't have any real reason beyond the fact that we just wanted to go do something different. Will had quit his job, we were almost done fixing up a house and we were ready for a change (humm, this is sounding familiar, isn't it) We lived in a teeny tiny, I mean teeny tiny little apartment about a mile from the city center and threw ourselves into life there. It wasn't anything extraordinary, we cooked dinner and went to the park and the grocery store and the farmers market. Will went to work during the week and on the weekends we puttered around town or rented a car and took off into the countryside. So it wasn't really the actual place that had a profound impact on our life, although, in a way, it did that as well simply because it was very different from the life we had been leading, it was more the function of our family that I look back on with misty eyed envy.
We were a tight little unit, the three of us against the world. Ok, against stir craziness, rain and trying to figure out the quirks of living in a country that is not your own. And on top of that, Briton and I were a happy little team. We spent all day together. Taking the train to the beach or riding buses around town just because he loved to sit at the front window on the upper deck, or simply sitting in our little living room building train tracks or rolling cars down the stairs (he was heavy into vehicles at that point in time) All of my energy was focused on him. Well on Will as well when he came home, but my daytime energy wasn't split up between PTO and a house renovation and snippets or piles of work depending on the week and golf and ballet lessons and a never ending list of things to do. It was just him. And I loved it.

Now don't imagine that I didn't have friends, I did, many of them, and I had plenty of good grown up time, but I very purposely focused on my son during out 18 months in Ireland, and we both flourished because of it.
When we got home, life changed in so many ways. For one, we became four instead of three, happily. We had a house to renovate and had moved back to Portland so our days were full of both new and old friends, favorite haunts, new finds...it was a good life, I have nothing to complain about that time (well, there was that one time when the toilet that we had sitting on our curb ready to be hauled to the reuse center was picked up by some crazy lady who was mad at her boyfriend and threw it at his car. But other than that, life was pretty mellow there) and I also have no complaints about our life here in Charlottesville. It's lovely, truly, truly, lovely.
But there is a small part of my heart that has been hankering for that solid focus on my child, my children, for a while now. A part of me that, no matter how ridiculous it seems, has been wanting to chuck it all and just hug them as tightly as possible before they grow the rest of the way up. To close my eyes and hold them for weeks or months. Sappy, yes, impossible, surly. I mean, at some point we'd all need to go to the bathroom. And eat. But in my head, it would be just what the mommy needs.

When Will first applied to Columbia I asked him what on earth we would do if he got in. His first reaction was to say that he was sure he wouldn't (I had other opinions on that, however, and we all know who won that argument!) his second comment was something like "Well, maybe you could spend the year homeschooling them in the city. That would be pretty cool!"


I'd go stark raving mad.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I went a little mad with laughing just at the mention of it.

For one thing. Well, I'm not a homeschooler. I was a public school teacher, homeschool is the opposite of what I believe (ok, I realize that's quite a strong statement, be patient with me, it's just what I thought at the time) and for another thing, I'D GO STARK RAVING MAD!!!!!

I laughed, maniacally, I'll admit. And put that thought straight out of my head. Along with any other thoughts about New York. Until the letter came saying that he had been accepted (I never doubted it! OK, I forgot it, but if I hadn't I wouldn't have doubted it)

And then I had a strange idea.

What if I homeschooled them in the city for a year? That would be pretty cool.

Trust me, I get the irony here. All I can say is that I had to come to it in my own time. But the more I thought about it, the more I liked, and then loved the idea. It was, albeit in a round about way, the thing that I had been wishing for in the back of my mind. Time, with no house to renovate, no duties, no commitment, to just be with my kids. To focus all of my energy, or at least a much larger portion of it, on them. And most espeically on Briton. Because I'll tell you the truth, I can see him slipping away a little every day. Easing into tweenhood and all that comes with that. I'm not ready to loose him to Justin Bieber hairdos and texting and eye rolling. I need just a little more time with my little boy. And this just might be my chance.

It's not set in stone. And I'm not a fool, I know very well that it won't be all sunshine and roses. It will stress our budget and will mean that I will have very little adult time. But it's worth it to me. And to Will. And, as a matter of fact, to the kids, who seem to think that it's a pretty neat idea.

Besides, if you were ever going to pull your kids out of school for a year and try to squeeze every bit of culture and interest and opportunity that the world around you has to offer, wouldn't a year in New York be the one to choose?

So now I am, in the midst of packing and fixing and primping the house and making brownies for the bake sale and supervising homework, planning and researching this whole homeschool thing. I've been reading unschooling books (yes, there is such a thing), flipping through curriculum files and dreaming up all sorts of projects that you could never do with a whole class but could pull off with just two. Feel free to tell me how crazy I am, or to offer advice (I'd love to hear from other homeschoolers, or unschoolers, about their experiences). As I said, it's not set in stone, but you know, I kind of can't wait to get started.

April 14, 2011

2 minute wrap: a tutorial

I saw this on pinterest and decided to give it a try and it's so freaking easy that I had to share as well. The original directions, here, called for one square yard of fabric and if you are a petite little thing like the girl on the blog,well, I'm sure a square yard would do it (although a square yard is kind of vague. Is it 45 inches square? 56?) so I altered it a bit to fit a normal sized person. When I say two minutes, I'm exaggerating of course. It's really more of a 30 second thing, but I had a few, um complications, which I'll explain below. They weren't to do with the actual making of the wrap though, so you should be just find.

So, here we go.

First, dig through your stash and look for a yard of 60 inch wide jersey (or, you know, buy some - this will of course add on some time, but you were looking for an excuse to go to the fabric store anyway, weren't you?)

Now get out your fabric scissors. Discover that your fabric scissors aren't in the scissor bin where you left them. Curse a little. Hunt around the house mumbling about how everyone in this house knows to NEVER touch mommies fabric scissors, find them in the kitchen utensil bowl. Curse some more. Discover that someone has cut something other than fabric with them because they are dull, dull, dull. Break out the sharpener and sharpen them and vow to hide them away next time so no one can find them. Whew. I told you, complications.

Fold the fabric in half so that the selvage edges meet and lay it out on a flat surface. Measure six inches down and six inches in from the folded edge at one end and mark the spot with a pin. Now measure six inches in and 16 inches down from that same edge and mark with another pin.

Cut, carefully, through both layers, in a straight line between the pins making two 10 inch long holes parallel to the folded edge.

Open it up, slip your arms through the holes and check yourself out in the mirror. (Well, realize that someone little hands and someone else's wet snout have been hard at work dirtying up the only long mirror in the house, go dig out the vinegar and a rag, clean off the mirror and then give yourself a look)

Crazy, right? The original tutorial also talks about using it as a scarf which, you know, is cool, but scarves I have, wraps I don't, so it was really the wrap part that interested me. But who knows, I might wear it as a scarf one of these days too. Either way, I think I need a few more.

April 13, 2011

shopping- how do you roll?

I had a tutorial planned for today but last night was struck with the overwhelming urge to talk about grocery shopping. I know, not very exciting, but just for shits and giggles, go with me on this, because I have a question. A couple of questions actually.

Last night I went out, past my bedtime (granted, that's pretty early these days) to fetch our weekly groceries. Our trip to New York threw off my shopping schedule and while I had hoped to make it through to today to do a big shop, I realized last night (after I had put on pjs a slippers, dang it!) that we were totally out of milk and bread, among other things. The other could have waited but milk and bread were a must for the morning. And since the little shop that we run to for forgotten items was already closed and we needed a bunch of stuff anyway, I got dressed again and headed out.

I rarely go to the grocery store at night, but when I do I'm always amazed at how calm and quiet it is. Everyone should go to the store in the middle of the night. Except not, because then it wouldn't be calm I suppose. Last night I arrived at the same time as two women who were doing their shopping together. You know how when you start shopping at the same time as someone else and you are both going at about the same pace you keep crossing paths? I hate that. For some reason I feel as though they think I'm following them, which of course I'm not, it's in my head. Which explains why I love grocery delivery I suppose. Well, last night I kept crossing paths with these two women. Normally I'd shoot off to the other end of the store to break the cycle but after two aisles with these two I realized that they were tandem coupon shopping, and I couldn't help but hang around and watch.

Coupon shopping fascinates me. I know that there are people out there who revel in it, who buy loads and loads of groceries for pennies through the coupon game, but somehow I've never been able to be much of a coupon shopper. Sure I bring the odd coupon, but for the most part I just search for deals on the shelves and pay my bill accordingly.

These two were super organized with a big binder perched at the front of one cart filled with photo pocket sheets to keep the coupons organized. At first I thought they might be kind of brilliant. Working in a team like that seems more doable. For one thing, you can split the amount you buy, so instead of coming home with ten of something, you only have to store five. Plus I imagine it's more fun to work together, both in gathering the coupons and in doing the actual shopping.

But as we went along I started to notice the actual contents of the cart. No fruit. No veggies, not a lot of meat or cheese. It was mostly snack food and canned goods. Lots and lots of chips. Now don't get me wrong, I love a bag of Doritos as much as anyone, but I very rarely buy them. We've always been on a pretty tight grocery budget, I suppose most people who operate on once income are, and I try my best to be health conscious for my family and minimize the premade, processed type foods. So most of the things in my cart each week are ingredients, rather than ready to eat foods. And the snack foods that I do buy are things like graham crackers or string cheese, both of which I can buy as a store brand.

So here is my question, or at least the first question. Does coupon shopping really save any money? I mean, if you are on a tight budget and you cook most of your foods from scratch, is it worth it, or can you save more by shopping store brands and skipping the snacky items that are most often on sale?

My other question is how people do it? Where do you go for all those coupons? I usually look though any fliers that we get but since we don't subscribe to the paper (sorry dad!) we really don't get many coupon circulars. I'm curious about the amount of time and commitment it takes to really make a difference on your grocery bill.

And also, where do you keep all that food that was such a good deal? We've never been bulk buyers, mostly because my husband and son will eat whatever is on hand within a week, so if there are three boxes of crackers that are supposed to last a month, they'll still polish them off in five days flat, which means the whole club buying thing ends up costing us more in the long run. But even if they didn't, say, devour everything in sight immediately (and still be long and lean, lucky genes!) I never know where to put all that extra stuff.

This has been on my mind lately as we get ready for our move. Since we'll be living in 'wholly cow it costs what for a gallon of milk?' New York, and will be on a student budget with all that implies, I've been flipping through cookbooks and my stock of recipes to look for my most budget minded meals for the coming year. Which makes me wonder if it would be worth my time to start playing the coupon game.

Advice, please. What is your experience? Are coupons really just a way to get you to buy what you don't need or do they help?

April 12, 2011

the mudroom, the mudroom

The mudroom, and more specifically, the siding on the outside of the mudroom, is the only thing at the moment that is keeping us from listing the house. Sure, there are a few other things that need to be done, but mostly, it's the mudroom siding. So you would think that that would be something we'd knock out ASAP. And we want to, we really, really do. But as it turns out, it's not just a case of slapping up some siding and calling it a day. In fact, this might be the most complicated renovation we've faced with this house. Seriously. Concrete counter tops and full kitchen renovation included.
But why is it so complicated, I hear you ask. Well, because it started out life as porch. And then it was turned, in a rather slip shod way, into an enclosed room. And then it was wrapped with nasty siding that covered up all the sins of the builder, of which there are many. Nothing is level. NOTHING. Nothing is on the same plane, or evenly spaced or square or anything that you would expect in a built space. But those are all things we can handle, I mean, this whole house has had those issues. The real problem is that the walls are going to come out further at bottom than at the top. All the new siding will stick out about 3/4 of an inch from the old siding. Now that doesn't seem like a big deal, but eventually the rain will rot away the wood at that level change and cause big problems. And because we aren't going to replace the whole end of the house siding wise, we cant slip flashing under the existing siding. It's all so....complicated. It's doable, somehow....I'm sure... we just haven't quite figured out how to make it look good and function well at the same time. But there are plans brewing, so I'm still hopeful.

For now I am thoroughly enjoying the door however. THE DOOR! I was looking back through our photos and realized that we cut the hole for the door in September! That's a long time to wait for a door. But it was worth it. The mudroom is getting a lot of use these days and we've mostly switched to no shoes in the house because of it, it's just so easy to go in and leave your muddy shoes before walking into the rest of the house. Ahhhh...sigh, wish we'd had that during this winter's snow. Or for that matter, last winter's snow. Sure it means that there is a constant jumble of shoes in there, both big and small. But that's miles better than a pile of shoes by the front door, or on the stairs, or in the middle of the living room, I've been tripping much less these days...
But beyond that, having two glorious big doors that open to the yard has meant that we now have the perfect spot to sit and enjoy the weather, watch the kids play or, as I found out this morning, wait for the bus in the pouring rain. Love it. And I'm not the only one. Someone has a new favorite spot to watch the world pass by.
Now if only these siding plans would come to fruition as nicely! Any ideas out there?

April 11, 2011

we now return to our regularly scheduled blogging

Or at least I hope we do.
New York plans are grinding along. They are mostly a case of "hurry up and wait" because there is so much to do, and yet, a lot of things cant be done yet. I've packed what can be packed, but the rest is needed for living and, you know, making the house look nice for prospective buyers, we've chosen a neighborhood but not an apartment because we don't need one for another month or so, we've prepped the kids and made as many arrangements as we can and now we're just in a holding pattern.

Without anything concrete to focus on I find myself obsessing on the ridiculous, like, what is the perfect bag for walking around the city with kids or can I pull of skinny jeans since that is obviously the look in New York in general and around Columbia in particular or given the choice, would I rather have a dishwasher or a washer and dryer in our apartment? How long will it take for Evelyn to get it into her head that touching everything within reach on the subway and then licking her hands is not a great idea? And then on the flip side, how awesome is my city boy at making his way through the hustle and bustle with out batting an eye?
But other than those random thoughts that are constantly running through my heads, life is starting to get back to normal. Or normalish. We work, we play, we fix up the house. Projects that were on the back burner for a while there are reemerging.
Like knitting. I haven't' been knitting much lately but 12 hours on a train can give you some serious knitting time, or maybe it was getting to go wander through a mecca of knitting recently. Either way, the great Christmas slipper debacle is well on it's way to being rectified, Evelyn's sweater is finally coming to an end and a new one for me is in the works. I saw someone wearing something like this last week and had the overwhelming urge to knit one like it right now. Good thing I still had a ton of worsted yarn in my stash left over from this sweater. I've also got some chairs to paint, our dining room chairs are pretty much done for and we are neither taking them with us nor storing them so the school house chairs that we used for a while last summer are going to get some fresh paint and some cushions for their new home (but first, I have to figure out a table, somehow I doubt we'll find an apartment that can accommodate our huge table, not, that is, unless we want to fore go other things, like, um beds or a couch) and a few other sewing projects are sitting on my table (figuratively, everything is stowed away in preparation for house viewings) that I'm hoping to get done before the good weather really hits. If it ever does....

So what's on your to-do list this week? Anything fun?

April 6, 2011

so far

It's funny what a few short days can teach you. For example, on day two and a half in New York I have already learned that:

The amount of thing on the "to bring to New York" list needs to be cut waaaaaay down if the little studio we are staying in for the moment is anything to go by.

Flip flops are not appropriate April in New York footware.

But then again. There are shoe stores everywhere here. Darn it. I just had to buy sone shoes!

Google map transit is awesome. But not infallible . Sometimes there is a closer subway stop.

By the same token it's worth trying out a few directions when searching for something like a grocery store. Because the crowded and expensive shop might be five steps this way. But Trader Joes might be six the other way. (dang it!)

My kids could live in the natural history museum.

Or FAO Schwartz (Evie in the pink section was hilarious)

Being on the city with an architect is pretty funny too. Do we go see the landmark buildings that everyone knows? No we do not! We have to go find the curved structure in Columbus Circle that Brad someone or other designed and the triangulated articulated somethingated tower down the road. Of course.

The people at the Plaza understand that little girls who love pink MUST go look for Eloise. And are happy to help.

Not so little boys who were once city kids switch back into metro mode easily. Little girls who have spent most of their lives in a small town do not.

Thank goodness for digital cameras. Because Evie took pictures of Every single animal in the museum. And Briton has logged about 600 photos of things on the street so far.

You can find anything here. Even this. (weird,right?)

As much as I love my garden and my house andy small town. There is another side of me that love love loves being in a city. I didn't know how much I missed it.

Chinatown, SoHo and lots of playground time today. All on my own with the kids while will is up at Columbia. Let the real test begin.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

April 4, 2011

on the road (train) again

I've always been afflicted with wanderlust. Even as a kid I would daydream about travel everytime a bus or train or plane passed by. For some reason that wanderlust has led more to moving rather than just travel, Will says its because normal people have crazy dreams about going places and they either just keep dreaming or take a vacation. Being far from normal, we end up moving.

But I'll admit. The last few years have cooled my need for the new. Or at least I thought they had. I haven't had that crazy urge as much since moving to Virginia. I think having kids in school is part of it. And living in a great neighborhood helps too. Sure, last time we were in an airport it almost killed me to have to walk past the flights to London, Paris, and my beloved Dublin for the boring old flight home to DC. But I made it.

Whe this NewYork adventure sprang I us, my first instinct was to say no. I was happy. We were happy. But very quickly that wanderlust started to take over and the desire for adventure started seeping back into my veins. I see it in the kids to. The fascination with the new. The wonder over what else life has to offer. It must be genetic, they are definitely our children. Will, by the way,was not born with wanderlust but ice rubbed off on him and he's even more of a dreamer than I am. Crazy how it works like that.

This morning we got on a train for New York. Not to move, obviously, just for a few days. Time to get acquainted with our new city a little. And when the train pulled I I got that flutter. The one I get when, for once, I'm the one boarding instead of the one sitting at the level crossing, watching the train pass me by. It's a good kind of day.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

April 1, 2011

t-minus two months

I woke up this morning and realized that two months from today, Will will be starting his first day of grad school. Two months. In some ways it seems kind of far off. There is a part of me that's ready to just GO already. But most of me is still in the overwhelmed, too many things to do, holy crap how are we going to pull this off mode. All we Will and I have been finishing projects. Rain delayed the door installation till tomorrow, but we've been caulking seams, painting trim, touching up walls and finishing all those little boring things that need to be done to make the house"finished".
I spent most of one day this week thinning out the shelves and cabinets around the house, packing away things that we don't need but want to keep, loading up bins with things that we don't need and don't want to keep so that they can be hauled to Goodwill. It's amazing how much neater it looks, just because there is less "stuff" around. Will finished the built in in the kids room (at last!) and together we've been sorting, packing, and finishing a huge list of to-dos. And there is more to do. I woke up at three this morning panicked about how many things were on there, sure that we would never get it done, and ended up down on the couch watching Emma until I fell back asleep again sometime around when the sun came up. Of course in the morning my list didn't seem so daunting, and I know that I always get a little in a dither when we move. But really, what I would love to be doing this week is reading the book that I ordered the day before we got the letter and haven't had a chance to pick up yet. Or puttering outside. But I don't think my house has ever been this clean, so I've been taking pictures for postarity, so that when we're in the middle of unpacking I can look back at a clean, pretty house and go to my happy place ;).
Strangely I'm not panicked about New York at all. I've pretty much come to terms with what we'll be doing and am more excited by the day, which is probably why I wish we could just go and not have to deal with all of this selling the house, packing, sorting and cleaning. But really, who would want to do all that? That's the sucky part of moving, right?
So sorry I've been a little MIA this week. I'm really hoping thing will calm down a little over the next few weeks. Monday we're off for a quick trip to our new city to check things out before we really truly sign on the dotted line. Officially and all. So I may be a little absent next week too. But I'll try to pop in from the road! Happy Friday All! (Is it really Friday? Where did the week go?)