November 30, 2011

advent calendar: a tutorial

The day after Thanksgiving, Evelyn bounded onto our bed at 6:03 in the morning and asked "Is today Christmas?"

It's become a bit of a routine.
What we needed, was an Advent Calendar. Actually, we needed a Last-Week-of-November-Plus-Advent Calendar. Not a problem. Last year I made no fewer than four Advent Calendars for various articles, some of which could be changed to add a few extra days. So after day two of way earlier than we need to get up on a four day weekend mornings, I got out our bin of Holiday decorations and found that.... I'd left them all in storage.
All of them. Even the old ones that we'd had for ages. I'm sure that, back in the spring when I was sorting things to be stored and things to go to New York, I assumed I would be making more Advent Calendars anyway. Or maybe I was just packing-crazy by the time I hit the Christmas things. Who knows. Either way, we needed a new one.

I know, I know, just go get a chocolate open-the-door thingie. Kids love those! I love those! They always make me think of this moment during the first season of Vicar of Dibley (What? You don't know that show? Run! Run to Youtube and watch them all. But go to the bathroom first otherwise you might pee your pants laughing) And I will get one for each of them, just as soon as I get myself to Trader Joe's. But I'm a crafty girl, and I like to have crafty things like DIY Advent Calendars.
The theme of this year's Grimm Family Advent Calendar is USE WHAT YOU HAVE. Because, even in it's pared down form, my craft supplies overrunneth at the moment. And I'm going to be hitting a Hobby Lobby within the next 30 day to stock up on more, so I need to make room.

Last year I made little packages for filling with holiday candy using magazine pages sewn into tubes. Despite the fact that I never made the homemade candy to go int hem, I've wanted to find another way to use the idea since. Plus I love Christmas Crackers, and these remind me a little of them, except without the bang. Maybe next year I'll figure out how to add that to the mix.

Magazine Tube Advent Calendar

You'll need:

24 pages from a magazine or catalogue. I used non-peopled pages from the latest Anthropologie Catalogue for this but anything with a bright colors or holiday pictures would be perfect
Sewing Machine - you only need to straight stitch, so don't panic here. In a pinch, you could even use tape. Stickers, candy, little plastic animals or toys - I had lots of things from the dollar bin hanging around
String of 34 Christmas lights
Ribbon Tags numbered 1-24 * Hole punch

Roll one of the magazine pages roughly into thirds, but don't fold. Pinch one end flat and stitch straight across, leaving about 1/2 inch seam allowance. Fill with treats and then pinch the other end shut the opposite direction from the first and sew. This gives it a cute little twist and distorts the image so it just looks bright and colorful instead of like a page from a catalogue.
Repeat with the remaining 23 pages. Punch a hole at one end of each tube between the stitching and the edge of the paper.
Thread a tag and a tube onto a 6 six inch piece of ribbon but don't tie it. Once they are all be-tagged and be-ribboned, hang the lights around a doorway and tie each package just above a light. The light will help keep the tubes evenly spaced and in place. I kept my tubes on the sides but you could go all the way around as well. FYI, the pompoms over the door are just Styrofoam balls with cupcake liners glued on. Super easy.
I had planned to let the kids take the right package down each day but I like the way the whole thing looks so I'm thinking we'll just cut the bottom off and let the treasures tumble out pinata style.
What do you do for Advent? Chocolate doors? Candles?

* The Tags were also DIY, but you could use ready made, stickers, or just open one package a day. I used my Silhouette to cut both green and red tags and also cut the numbers out of the green ones. Once they were all cut, I glued a green and red together with plain old glue stick.

** Be careful with the lights and paper combo. No fires please.


Lullabies have made a surprise come back in our bedtime routine over the past week or so.

Baby-bye, see the fly? He is watching you and I.
There he crawls, up the wall, yet he never falls.

Old songs. Songs that, really, are strange when you think about the words, are requested in place of, or to go along with, Knuffle Bunny, Pinkalicious and Wildwood.Not every night, but more often than not. I can't remember when they were last requested, it's been a while. But, as with lullabies, they dust off pretty well.

I can show you, if you choose, where to look, to find his shoes.
Three small pairs, made of hairs, these he always wears.

We have reached that "last few weeks of term" part of the semester, which means that Will's hours grow later and later, and our evenings become disjointed, dinner at different times, bedtime shortened, lengthened, rearranged. So that tenuous rhythm that we've tried to build lately has been interrupted and we are all counting down the days till winter break, when we can slow down our pace and just be. Well, Will and I are counting the days till then, the kids are counting the days till Christmas, but that's another post.
I like rhythm. I like a slow, calm rhythm where nothing moves too fast and there is time for baking and reading and knitting and board games on a Tuesday afternoon. It's harder to find that here. Even with the door shut and the curtains drawn, the faster pace creeps in. I was listening to someone complain about how frustrating it can be dealing with the West Coast, because, in general, they just don't seem in a hurry. And while I totally understood her point of view, I also wondered what those West Coasters thought of the situation "East Coasters, always in a rush." I think I could live here a lifetime and never really settle into that East Coast rush.

That small speck, is his neck,
see him nod and beck.

Last night, just as I was putting my book away, bleary eyed, ready to sleep, Evelyn crept into the room. "I had a bad dream. Can you sing me a lullaby" She crawled in with me and I sang, and then we slept, a tangle of arms and hair and dog snuggled in the crooks of our knees. And it was nice to have that quiet, slow, warm moment before drifting off. I think, maybe, you're never too old for a lullaby. I know I'm not.

November 29, 2011

little knitters

We have little knitters in the house. Little hands making Christmas gifts for each other and for others. After some internal debate about the whens and wheres and hows of teaching them to knit and some advice from a friend, I scooped up some knitting looms that someone offered to me and have set them working.
Briton has already completed one project, a hat for Eliza that he made from one of my small balls of self dyed, spindle spun yarn, and is now working on another project for his sister. He's a little faster at it once he gets going, but Evelyn is pretty efficient at it as well, and she's a bit more dedicated to her task. Her project is bigger. A grown up hat for a grown up person she wanted to make a gift for.
I used to love finger knitting and spool knitting - of course, my spools were actual spools, with nails hammered into the end - and I sometimes find myself looping over a row for them when I find it sitting, abandon for some other project. Because it's still fun.
I never knew what to do with all those yards of cording that both finger and spool knitting produced (although I spotted some in a knitting store the other day sold as yarn, so there's an idea) but these looms make something more substantial, which is nice. Both kids seem to find it gratifying to find, at the end of a few rounds, that they are actually getting somewhere (bulky yarn helps!) So I'm hoping this interest in handiwork is a growing trend around here.

Did you spool knit as a child? Do your kids knit or crochet? How did you get them started?

November 28, 2011

when in New York

I still forget, sometimes, that we are living in New York. I mean, I don't forget, but I get, complacent, I guess. Or just used to it. And then something will happen, I'll be standing in a park somewhere and look up to find the Empire State Building (otherwise know around these parts as the Entire State Building if you are speaking with Evelyn) looming overhead. And I suddenly think, wow, this is New York! I wonder if people who have lived here a long time feel this way, if they suddenly realize, every now and then, that everything around them has been in a movie or a book or is some kind of icon in American culture.
On Thursday, before putting the turkey in the oven or cleaning the house for our guests, we went to the parade. The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. And even though I know it's here, it still seems odd to be able to hop on a subway, pop up right in front of the Sonic Balloon as it passes by and still be home by lunch.

Or to be able to wander down 77th street the night before (ok, wander might not be the work, jostle, would be better) watching them inflate Mr. Koolaid and Sponge Bob. I think both kids almost fainted when Santa went by at the end of the parade. Evelyn has switched her writing and coloring theme from "I love my family" to "I love Santa" and has a substantial stack of illustrations to deliver to the big guy when we go see him at Macy's
Be forewarned Santa, much, much art is heading your way.

November 22, 2011

on the christmas list

Well, now it's really official, I saw trees for sale outside a Rite Aid this morning. It's Christmas time.
Last night I sat at my knitting group and was amazed by the woman next to me. In planning for Christmas, she had a spreadsheet set up with who was getting what handknit item, what yarn would be used, (color coded) which days she would be working on them and when each needed to be shipped by. Holy Cow. I'm a list girl, but compared to that, the scrawled notes in the back of my calender look pretty pathetic. So, as with the sweater, it's time to get cracking.

I read something yesterday on SimpleKids that, I think, is the perfect philosophy for planning gifts for my kids. Four gifts.

Something they want
Something they need
Something to wear
Something to read


I always start off thinking that I should get more gifts for them, more things, and then by the time Christmas morning rolls around I look at the piles of gifts and realize that maybe I could have scaled back a bit. Over the past few years we've tried to focus more on special, handmade if possible, gifts, but this sums it up so nicely for me. It's a good reminder.

I've got the wear and the read for both kids already (which, hey, means I'm halfway there, sort of!) The need, I'm still deciding on, but it will probably be winter gear related since we are a bit lacking in that department, and the want, well, Briton eats, sleeps and dreams Lego's, so that's sorted. But then there is Evelyn.
Evelyn is hard to shop for. Not because she doesn't like things, she likes everything. She just doesn't really want anything. She wants things in the moment, when we pass them in the store, but unlike Briton who has always had something that he's dying to get, Evie is pretty content with what she has. Which is fabulous, I'm not complaining. But it means that when I want to find something special for her, I have to dig a little deeper.
I pinned this onto my Evie and Briton board on Pinterest a while ago. It's so sweet and it seems very Evie (and Eliza) and I've been wanting to make it since the moment I clapped eyes on it. So when, during our adventure in bench toting, I found a vintage suitcase as well, I snapped it up.

Will is helping design the rooms (naturally, I can't wait to see what he comes up with, hopefully something I can sew) and I found some fun wool felt and fat quarters at Purl Soho when I was last in there, so now all I need to do is get going on it, without her knowing or seeing or peeking. Which, in a wee little apartment, is proving to be a little difficult. I think we are going to have to have some gift making days in our homeschool schedule.

Tomorrow I'll be prepping for Thanksgiving as we are having a house full (apartment full?) of Will's fellow students, none of whom has experienced Thanksgiving before. I wonder what they will think of Pumpkin Pie.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving All!

November 21, 2011

back in action

After a full week of doing nothing, and I mean nothing because I was too tired to read or knit and too blah to lay and watch movies, so I really did nothing but sleep, I woke up this morning feeling almost normal. Normal enough to notice that one of the restaurants I passed on my way home from dropping off Miss Evelyn was decked out for Christmas. When I first saw it I thought "A little early isn't it?" Before realizing that, really, it wasn't. Because Thanksgiving is THURSDAY and then there is only one month until Christmas. Loosing a week has not been food for my plan to get everything ready on the early side this year. Somehow, I don't' think that is going to happen.

On the top of my to do list right now is Will's sweater. Briton's is totally done, Evie's needs some seaming and a button but is otherwise ready to go, so now I'm left with Will's, which is, I have to say, a whole lot of sweater. During the week before I went down with the crud, I spent a couple of days dying yarn for this project. Yes, Dying yarn. Will requested an Oregon Ducks Sweater and the dark green yarn I wanted for it was sold out until mid December. They did, however, have undyed yarn and acid dyes. And since I've been wanting to try out yarn dying, I figured I'd give it a go. It was exciting, let me tell you. I spent most of one day not letting anyone in the kitchen for fear they would spill the giant bowl of boiling hot green dye all over and at the same time wondering if a stainless steel bowl was really ok to use on the stove or if it was going to explode at some point (it didn't, phew)

I've come to the conclusion that dying wool is a little like canning, not a lot of physical work, but a whole lot of hovering over hot pots and pans. Although I'm not expert, having only done this once (well, three times since I had to do it in batches and did a test run on some of the yarn I spun - but it was all in one day) I'll give you the run down on what I did and how it turned out.

You'll need:

1 large heat proof container - after reading several tutorials that suggested various things, I went with a large stainless steel bowl, but next time I'll just buy a cheap pot
1 big spoon that you don't mind turning a deep shade of whatever color you use
Acid Dyes - I used Jaquard - a mixture of kelly and spruce green
White Vinegar
Undyed Wool - I went with KnitPicks Wool of the Andes because it's good and cheap. Can't beat it.
Measuring spoons or scale

Whatever tools you use for dying cannot be used in food prep, so keep that in mind and don't stir with your favorite spoon. Unless you have two and don't mine one being green forever that is.
The yarn needs to be tied in several spots so that it doesn't unravel. Knit picks helpfully does this for you but if you are going with another yarn, make sure it's secure. For the yarn I spun, I wound it onto my swift and tied it in three places so that I had one large loop of yarn. You don't want it too thickly wound (too many layers I mean) unless you want white patches, so a bigger loop is better.

Soak the yarn well in clear, cool water. I pressed mine under water in a full sink and gently squeezed out all the air. Be gentle, because you don't want to felt the wool before you begin (this will be a recurring phrase here)
In the large bowl, heat enough water to fill it two thirds of the way, maybe a bit less. Remember you'll be adding all that yarn so you don't want it too full (trust me, speckles of green on my stove from a too full bowl on round one!)

Once the water is simmering, add 1 tsp of dye for every 100 grams of wool you started with (dry wool, that is) and 3 Tbs of vinegar. Stir well and then add the wet wool to the mix.

Here you have some options. If you want a really solid color throughout the yarn, you have to stir the yarn pretty well. But not too much agitation because, again, you don't want to felt it. If you want it variegated, just let it sit there, submerged in the dye. I wanted something in between, we'll call it light variegation, so I stirred a little. Let the yarn cook away for about 30 minutes. Most instructions say that the water will become clear and with other types of dying projects I've done, this did happen, but I found that the darker color did not clear totally, it got much clearer, but not totally clear.

Let the mixture cool down for a while and then drain, rinsing with cool water (again, gently so you don't felt it!) until the water runs clear when you squeeze it out. I recommend wearing rubber gloves here, but it's up to you, you might want green hands.

Hang the yarn over a protected surface and allow it to dry until it no longer feels cool to the touch. I slung it around plastic hangers and suspended it on my shower curtain rod over a bowl, which worked well.

Once it's dry you can wide it up and knit away.

I'm about five inches into the sweater and am loving the lightly variegated color. So yay!

Have you ever dyed wool? How did it work for you? Are you getting ramped up for Christmas or are you one of those uber prepared folks who is already done (lucky you if you are!)

November 15, 2011

sick days

Homeschooling is a funny beast. There are things that I was positive would be problematic (keeping Briton's attention all day, not going stark raving mad at having no break) that have turned out to be, well, not a problem at all. And then there are things that I thought would be easy, or didn't think of at all, that have turned out to be something of a pain. Like trying to balance field trips around the city with getting back in time to pick Evelyn up (we cannot get to Brooklyn and back in time, as we found out not long ago, oops) or the Homeschool Office loosing all of our paperwork and then getting all huffy about why they don't have it (hello! If I hadn't sent it in you wouldn't know I was homeschooling!). Or sick days. Not kid sick days, that's obvious. Mom sick days. I'm about four days into a nasty bronchial cold that makes me want to sleep all day. In fact you'll have to forgive me if this seems a bit more rambling than normal, my head is pretty fuzzy. But what do you do when the teacher is sick and you can't just call a sub?

The answer, so far, has been all about muddling through. Yesterday Evie had a short day at school so for the few hours of "school" that Briton had we watched a documentary on Revolutionary New York. And then I slept while the kids played for the rest of the day. Today Will took over for a few hours and now that he's off to school we limping along with things that are more independent and less mommy based. It's not ideal, but it's not long term, so it will work.

So off I go to prop my head up at the table while Briton runs through French and then onto art and independent reading. I'll be back when I can string a sentence together without falling asleep midway through.

November 11, 2011

snippits of the week

Sign of the week. Found downtown outside a pub. This version is a bit more direct than the "Please Curb Your Dog" signs we have up here. We're such pansies uptown.
Also, "Canyons of Wall Street." I totally get that now.
Over the weekend, the kids and I took a train (or two, actually) down to the Nordic Center, otherwise known as Scandinavia House.

My mom and I found this place when we came for a girls weekend a few years ago and ate the most wonderful dinner there and I've been wanting to go back ever since and their Scandinavian Folk Story Time seemed the perfect excuse. The plan was to stay for a snack but by the time it was over Briton was feeling lousy so home we went.
But not before we dropped a quarter in the very first Salvation Army bucket of the season and spent a few minutes staring at the ceiling of Grand Central Station.
Briton and I are studying the Revolutionary War and what parts of it happened here in New York right now, so the two of us headed downtown and went on a hunt for Revolutionary New York. We walked along Wall Street and saw the spot where Washington was sworn in as the first president. Wandered through Trinity Church and Bowling Green and the old Common.
We did a few rubbings on some of the graves from the time period. Lots of history. Lots of fun. (we also went to The Strand Bookstore which reminded me so much of Powell's Books in Portland! It even smelled like Powell's. I could have stayed all day...)
We also went to St. Paul's which, besides surviving the Revolutionary War, Hosting Washington's Inaugural prayer Service and making it through the great fire of 1776, was right next to the World Trade Center. I've seen it from the memorial side and it's hard to imagine how it survived the towers falling, but it did. And inside there are still pews that have scuff-marks from the boots of the first responders when they had to rest and signs that people posted, looking for lost loved ones, and strings and strings of cranes, folded by people around the world in memory. Although Briton understands what happened and continues to ask, often, about that day, the display inside St. Paul's was a little beyond him. But it was wonderful, and so very sad, for me.
Have a lovely weekend all.

November 10, 2011

cup of tea and a book:a NOOK cover tutorial


I have a NOOK.
After repeatedly telling anyone who would listen for years that I would never NEVER read from an ereader, I have done a complete flip flop and am now an ereader addict. I'd like to blame living in the city and honestly, it's a big part of the reason I use it SO much, but I also started down that slippery slope when I got my iphone and started reading books on that. But then, somewhere around my birthday, I started realizing that I had increased the font size on my phone's reader so much that I was getting about two sentences per page. Time for a bigger screen. Ok, that was only one reason to give in to the e-reader. It's also cut down on how much I bring with me every day (What if I finish this book and I'm stuck on the subway for hours, I should bring two books. Yes. Two. And also one for Evie. Just in case she is stuck there with me) I can download my knitting patterns onto it which is handy because I almost always ruin/loose/accidentally use my patterns to help dispose of an unwanted mustard covered hot dog. So now I have them with me in a form that wont inadvertently end up in the trash. I've gotten into the habit of using it on our homeschooling and put maps and scavenger hunts from museums on it which is much better than trying to read them on my phone or trying to print them out on our wonky printer (which currently feels the need to be re-aligned between each piece of paper it prints).

All of that is great. It makes my life just that much easier, my bag that much lighter. But in the end, it's really just about the reading. I'm not sure why - maybe it's having it save my page for me or the fact that it's always there or that it lights up so I can read at night without turning the light on and disturbing Will or the fact that I can check library books out from my computer and start reading them right then, but I'm just reading more. A lot more. For a while there I was lucky to get through my book club book each month, much less reading anything else, but lately I'm back in the book reading swing which makes me a much happier girl.

Which brings me to the tutorial (you were starting to think I'd never get there, right?)

You know that question "what's your idea of a perfect afternoon"? It's one of those questions like "What's your idea of a perfect date" that usually sends me into a panic of doubt and blurting out the wrong answer. But when I stop and think about it, a perfect afternoon, or evening, or Sunday morning is a cup of tea and a book. And some knitting if possible (oh, I can knit and read, that's another plus with the ereader! I forgot that one!) So a couple of weeks ago I was doing just that. Children blissfully quiet. House clean. Cup of tea at my side and my latest downloaded library book in my lap (Ellis Island, fyi) and I realized that the cover I bought shortly after the NOOK arrived in my life was looking, um, grimy. I'd bought a moleskine notebook style cover so that it looked NOT like an expensive piece of electronics in my bag on the subway, and that was great. But at the time I could only get a hold of a white one. White+Subway+Children= yuck.

I didn't want to buy a whole new cover, that would be neither in the budget nor very eco-conscious of me. But something needed to be done. Perhaps a slipcover. I'd seen a book cover in the shape of a teacup, with a teabag as a bookmark recently. And while book covers and I have never gotten along long term, I thought the idea might just be perfect for a e-book cover slipcover.
My meagre stash of fabric included a piece of wool that I had planned on making into a scarf but which ended up being a little short for my taste, but it might be perfect for a slipcover (Note- it actually isn't perfect, if I were to do this again I would use wool felt. This wool. although soft and sturdy, frays a bit. SO if you are going to try this, got for a good quality wool felt.)

I'd like to pause here and say sorry for the crappy photos, and also the fact that there aren't many. I was sewing at night and I got a little excited that I was actually sewing and was done before I remembered to take pictures of the process.

This whole process could be done without the handle and the teabag earphone holder. So if a cut of tea motif isn't your, well, cup of tea, just don't add either of those two. The basis for a slipcover would be about the same.

Start by taking your ereader out of the case and setting it aside. You wont need it till your done.

Spread out your fabric on a solid cutting surface and lay the cover on it, leaving room for the "handle" on each side.
Using chalk or a sewing pencil, trace around the outside of the cover as close to the edge as possible. You 'll want the slipcover to be tight so there are no real seam allowances here.
Initially I was going to cut the handles out as part of the cover but then decided that having them separate would make the edge of the cover sturdier. Plus I cut one off when I was cutting the thing out.

Using the chalk, line up the cover underneath the now sketched shape and mark where the clips that hold the reader in place are. Be sure to mark for length and position.

Cut out two of the base shape and four handles, give the end of the handles about 1/4 inch extra so that they catch nicely in the seam.

Now, on the rectangle that is marked with the clips, fold the fabric in half and cut 3.4 of an inch down from the fold so that you have two separate pieces. This will allow you to get the slipcover on. Obviously that would be handy.
Before you sew this all together, and I promise, that's the quick and easy part. you have to sort out the fastener. Meaning, the thing that keeps your cover closed. On my original cover that was just a loop of elastic but here I wanted something a little more fun. I wanted a teabag. That was also a pocket for my earphones. And I wanted a button, not elastic. Because I'm weird like that. You, of course, can choose to be more sensible and go with elastic, but if you want ribbon, cut two pieces that will be more than long enough to meet in the middle if they are attached to the top and the bottom of one side. Make them long, it's easier to trim the later than to rip out your stitches and put in a new piece.

Now, to sew:

Start with the handles. Set your machine to a short stitch length and, with a very, very small seam allowance, layer two handle pieces together and sew all the way around both the outside and the inside edge. Repeat with the other handle.

Take the piece with the snap markings on it and sew a button hole to cover each, be careful to line up the mark with the center of the buttonhole. Trim the opening of each hole once you are done and get rid of any excess thread.

Lay the smaller rectangles on top of the larger one, pinning the handles into place (make sure when you fold it in half the handles match!) and slipping the ends of the ribbon in at the top and bottom on one side (you can do either side. Personally I like the side opposite the reader so that I can flip in into the cover when I'm reading and have access to my earphones if I want them.)

Using that same tiny seam allowance, sew all the way around the outside edge, trapping the ends of the handle an the ribbon, as you go.
OK, almost there. Now. If you want a teabag on your ribbon, cut some white felt into three identical teabag shapes. Trim the top half off of one of them and then layer them up, two full teabags with the half bag on top. Trim the top ribbon so that, when tucked in to the top of the teabag, the bottom of the teabag just barely hit the bottom of the cover. Sew all the way around the edge of the teabag, trapping the end of the ribbon as you go. Add another button hole, this time centered in the top half of the teabag.
Slip the cover into the slipcover and pop the snaps through the buttonhole. With your ereader inside, close your new cover and wrap the ribbon around it, marking where you need to add a button to the bottom half of the ribbon to line up with that buttonhole.
Sew on the button and your done!

How about you? Are you an ereader?

November 9, 2011

good days, bad days

There are good days, and then there are bad days. I know that's true for everyone, everywhere.

There are days that I marvel at the ease of a grocery store around the corner, or bus and subways stops right down the street that will whisk me off to the far flung, or close at hand, sights that the city has to offer. But there are also days when the bus is thirty minutes late and when it comes someone yells at your for bringing your groceries on with you. On those days, I am done living here.

I hear people say, all the time, "You either love New York, or you hate New York, there are no in betweens." I think that that is 100% true. I'm just not sure which camp I fall in. I love the weather here. It's perfect for me. But I hate the fact that no one knows how to stand in a line here. They jostle and shove and sometimes yell. I love the parks. Parks, parks, everywhere. No lawn mowing every week. No weeding. Just big beautiful landscaped parks with gated playgrounds that I can sit in for hours while my kids play. But I hate not having a garden. I dreamed about digging the other night. Digging.Not planting or growing things, digging. And it was such a nice dream. I love that sometimes, you will sit on a bench in a park or a seat on the subway and chat with the most remarkable people but I hate that while people are friendly, it is very hard to make real friends.

I realized this week that the simple fact that New York is temporary for us, makes it all the more difficult to settle into a normal lifestyle. The clock is ticking. We have six months left. And with such a short time here, it makes it difficult to build the support network, neighbors, friends, teachers, that you can rely on. For a chat or a glass of wine or a shoulder to cry on.

Briton told me the other day that he missed his friends in Virginia because he had just finally found a group that he really fit in with. "We had the same kind of personality, mom. And that's hard to find!" I reminded him, as I am trying to remind myself, that it is hard to find, and it takes time, but those friendships, they will be found again. It's not a connection you make overnight. You have to give it a chance to grow. But at the same time I was explaining this to him (and to myself) I was also thinking "I know. It sucks."

We have reached a strange place in this adventure of ours. The city is no longer so awe inspiring. Of course there are still a million things to see and do, but we've passed that vacation stage and have moved onto just living life. Living life with Broadway shows and museums and storytime at the Nordic Center on a sunny Saturday morning, but still living life. And the things that are normally a big part of my life, cooking, sewing, canning, gardening, shooting the shit with my friends in the back yard, they are not so easy here. Space, cost, time, they tend to get in the way of the things that I have always thought made me, me. So do I just hold my breath and wait out the six months? Try to slip in a little sewing here, a few cans of jam there? Or do I try to be a different me, with city interests (or at least city interests that fit a very tight budget). Do I invest in the time it takes to make friends. Not just acquaintances but call and talk, meet for drinks, vent our frustrations friends, knowing that I will just have to leave it behind again? I don't know.

Like I said, there are good days, and there are bad days. Some days I don't care. I'm just having fun heading off to a tour or a show or just another new playground. And some days I care a lot.

And today? Well, as with my feelings about New York, I'm not sure which camp today will fall into. But the sun is shining and my boy is ready to go out and find something cool, so I'm hoping for a good one.

November 7, 2011

to bring home a bench

Once upon a time, when Briton was two and the three of us were living in Dublin, we ran into a little problem. How, exactly, do you get a Christmas tree home to your apartment when you have no car? Later we would find out that the answer was that either you a) went to a tree lot that delivered or b) weren't in so much of a hurry to get your tree that you buy it at the tree lot two miles away, one will pop up two blocks away a few days later. Live and learn. But as I said, not until after we had already tackled the problem.
There we were, out in the cold, dark and wet night with a tree that had looked small when we bought it but seemed to be growing the further we walked, with a freezing cold and tired two year old. No taxi's to be found. No stroller because, you know, that would have been the smart thing to do. I held Briton's hand in on one of mine and carried one side of the pot (oh, yest, this was a live tree, which came with a pot full of dirt, making it extra heavy, except it wasn't a live tree. But I'm getting ahead of myself) Will held the other side of the pot and wheeled his bike with his other hand.

After about half an hour of walking through dark streets, we finally came to a major road and a plan. We wold un-pot out tree for the time being. I would take the boy and the pot home in a cab, Will would take the tree on the bike. Somehow. SO we hailed a cab and started to carefully extricate the tree from the pot when it popped out with a thunk. Not a live tree. At all. Instead it was just a tree that had been "Potted" in some rocks and dirt. No wonder the damn thing was so heavy. After some choice swear words for the tree salesman, I put a now asleep on the curb Briton into the cab with the pot and sent Will off with the tree slung over his shoulder. To this day one of my favorite memories of Ireland is standing out on our stoop watching Will fly down the street, black wool coat, black wool hat, black wool gloves, looking like some kind of Santa-ninja with a tree on his back.

So what does this have to do with benches?

This weekend, after much debate (much debate - which one, do we really need a bench, how much do we want to spend on a bench) I bought a bench for our hall. Our coat rack that my dad made has been perfect except that there was a table in the hall that got in the way of hanging anything long on most of the hooks and when you want to put your shoes on you have to either lean against the wall, go to another room or sit on the floor. So, the table needed to go and a bench needed to be there in its place. I actually spotted this bench at the flea market when my parents were here but Will wasn't sold on it. There would be something better or cheaper or something-er. But on the day of the snow, with boots and scarves and lots of coats lumped in the hallway, it became obvious that we needed a bench. We actually intended to go last weekend to the flea market, in the hopes that it was still there, but never made it.
So, bright and early (really early as it turns out, I forgot about the whole daylight savings thing) I popped the kids on the bus and took them down to the flea market. Will was gone at a 24 hour visualizing marathon that was in it's 22nd hour and I wanted to get the bench home before he got there as a surprise (to go with a couple of projects that I did while he was gone. I still can't resist diving into big projects when he is away. But more on that later). I found the bench and a vintage suitcase that I need for a Christmas Project and a few other little things. Fantastic. Success. And it was still early! See how nice that worked out? Now to get it home.

Lately I've had some run ins with bus drivers and bringing home bulky items. Groceries, mostly. Some bus drivers in New York seem to understand that you have to get your groceries home, and the bus is often the best way to do this. Some obviously have cars because they wont let you one the bus with your grocery cart. The bus we took to get to the flea market is the line I usually have the most trouble with when it comes to cantankerous bus drivers, so after standing at the stop waiting for a few minutes, I decided not to chance it. Instead. We'd take the subway.
The kids and I hauled the (quite heavy as it turns out) bench and the suitcase and our coats because now we were getting hot with all the hauling, up a few blocks to a subway station that didn't have an actual person in a booth (not taking any chances) and down through the turnstiles. We got some looks, yes. And there were some awkward moments, like, say, how does one gracefully bring an antique bench through a subway turnstile without getting stuck (you get stuck, and then you twist your body and go under the bench and then pull it out, just fyi). But there were upsides as well. No seats available on the platform. No problem. We brought our own.

Ahh city life.

November 4, 2011

snippits of the week

On Saturday, it snowed. Not light little flakes but swirly, mushy, cold snow. Enough to keep us inside for the day. Which ended up being ok. Lovely, even.
Because we had planned on a weekend road trip, we'd stocked up on books and movies from the library and I'd bought a new game called Doodle Monsters for the car that was a great snowy day distraction. So other than the whole, empty fridge things, we were good.
When I was eleven, my family spent Christmas in London. A very cold Christmas in London. I have a vivid memory of walking down near the tower of London, freezing in the icy rain, when my dad stopped to buy hot roasted chestnuts. Instead of eating them (right away) we slipped them into our pockets to keep our hands warms. On Sunday we went to mid-town to check out the new Uniqlo store and on the way spotted roasted chestnuts. The perfect thing to keep us warm (no one liked eating them except me though)
The Book Fairy costume was a success, although someone asked if I was an " A-dress book". Might have to do that one for next year.
All this indoor time has led to some more completed projects.
Among them two wee little hats and more iron ons for the kids room. The A that I used for a stencil turned out a little weird though, I think I'll have to re-do that one. Maybe in some other color fabric. Too much red.
Briton is almost done with his Van Gogh painting. We watched a video on the artist and Briton's takeaway message seemed to be mostly about the fact that Vincent cut off his own ear. I guess that would be the cool thing if you were a nine year old boy though.
I took Briton and a friend to see a show at the New Victory Theatre by the Reduced Shakespeare Company. Not Shakespeare, alas, but sports. But even I thought it was funny, which is saying something. The best part was the grand old beauty of the theater though. Not that the boys noticed.

For only the third time since Briton started soccer in September, it's not supposed to rain, snow or thunder on Saturday, so we may actually get to have a game. Yipee! Happy Weekend!