August 30, 2012

and then my heart jumped into my throat

Yesterday was the first day of school around here. And while the first day of a school year is always exciting, this year was a banner one for us. New school, new town, new bus, and the first chance my two have had to go to the same school. Evelyn has been waiting to get on that bus with her brother since he started Kindergarten and finally, FINALLY, she did. All smiles and waves as they drove away.

At the end of their day I was up at the end of the road, waiting for the bus, waiting for them to tell me about their day. Bus pick up time is my favorite. In the mornings I'm usually groggy- clutching my coffee and pulling my sweater tight against the morning air, sometimes still in my PJ's, almost always rushed. A quick kiss and they're off. But in the afternoon I have (hopefully) gotten done what needed to get done, am (again, I hope) fully dressed, caffeinated and awake and I've had a whole day to miss them. I really do miss them. too.  I know that there will be the homework battle (Briton) and the dinner battle (Evie) and the bedtime battle (Briton again) but for those moments, from the door of the bus to the door of the house, everything is rosy. We talk about their day, we hug, we smile. Like I said, it's my favorite time of day.

Yesterday they both popped off the bus smiling and talking a mile a minute.

"We had MUSIC mom and I SANG and I LOVED IT!"

"There are two boys and two girls at my table and there are SIXTH graders in our class too!"

"We have recess all together and I saw Briton but I didn't play with him because I was playing with my friends but I said hi to him and he was playing with his friends out on the field and then they made grape juice from the grapes on the playground."

"The pizza at lunch was AWESOME, mom. And it was healthy, I think I should eat hot lunch everyday." (more on that later, our school has a crazy amazing lunch program. I saw them kneading the dough for homemade pizza when we went to the first day coffee hour after school started)
And then Briton stopped and let his sister run ahead, his voice dropping to almost a whisper.

"Mom, I have a problem."

I had a little moment of panic. Is he being bullied? Does he hate his teacher? Did someone hurt his feelings?"

"Next month. There's a dance. And not a mother son dance, mom. A BOY GIRL dance. And....I have to ask a girl."

And my heart jumped right up to my throat. Because...NO! I'm not ready for that!

I tired to keep my cool, to not start, you know, crying right then and there that my baby is going on, basically, a date, in a month. I smiled and said "That will be fun." or maybe "Cool Briton." Or it might have been a little blubbery and incoherent like "Mah, whaaa? Fun, yay!" I'm not really sure. But he didn't seem to notice.

"I know who I want to ask. She's really nice. The things is...she's always with her friends. How am I supposed to get her alone to ask her."

Cue the inner sobbing here.

"And, what if someone else asks her first? I don't want to ask too early, but I don't want someone else to ask her either. What should I do?"

At this point, obviously, I'm barely holding it together on the inside, but my brain has started functioning again and I'm able to brainstorm with him on the way home. Maybe you could write her a note? Or ask your friends how they are going to ask. Maybe two of you can go up together and ask her and a friend. And then when Will got home we talked more, because dad knows, he had to ask girls to dances too.

I think he has a plan. He's trying to act cool about it, although I know he's nervous. But there is a plan. He does the guy head nod/shrug and says "OK, I think I know how to do it."
How did he grow up so fast?

August 28, 2012

finished and begun

One sweater down and...two to go. But I wont think about that right now. In fact, it might just be one sweater to go. I think this year Will might be getting a twined (and therefore very warm) hat with earflaps instead of a sweater. I'm sure he'll need one by December. But who knows, maybe I'll knock two more out between now and then. 
Evelyn's sweater was inspired by this kit, which was unavailable (and not in English) so I used Elizabeth Zimmerman's Seamless Yolk Sweater recipe from Knitting Without Tears as a base and figured out the striping as I went. In the end I decided to make the sleeves short because she wears the little blue vest I knit her as a layering piece all the time, so it seemed like a good idea to repeat the shape. Also, I didn't think I'd have enough white for long sleeves. I'm still contemplating knitting some long arm warmer tubes and stitching them into the sleeves so that it looks like a two layer sweater, but for now, I'm happy with it as it is. I wish I could have her try it on but that would ruin the surprise a bit, wouldn't it?
In case you're inspired to knit something similar, my Ravelry notes can be found here. Both yarns were skeins that I spun on my wheel. The orange and pink is Falkland and the white is Kid Mohair, which was wonderful to knit with.
Briton's sweater is at the beginning stages. I'd hoped to spin yarn for it but moving got in the way and so I went with some yarn milled in Southern Vermont that our local yarn shop sells.
He really, really wanted green and gold (my little Oregon Duck!) but they had no solids in either, so I found two (just two) skeins of those colors combined and am using it for thin stripes against a backdrop of some rugged looking grey. Although the yarn isn't as soft as what I used for Evie, it isn't itchy and it feels very warm, so it should be good for my boy who likes to leave his jacket places and just wear a sweater. I'm following the notes I wrote up for last year's sweater, the only change being that I've increased the cast on number by 5% and will go from there.

Anyone else starting (or working on) their winter holiday knitting? I think I might need a new sweater myself but haven't found any that I LOVE so far. Suggestions?

August 27, 2012


 We are making progress, little by little, in the living room/dining room. Against all of our DIY instincts, Will and I have both been trying (very) hard not to tackle too many projects at once, and instead have been focusing on just a few. Outside we are stacking wood and thinning trees (and general upkeep) Inside we are working on this room. It's hard. Especially for me. I want to rip up ALL the carpet and paint the bathroom and rip out the tub and do SOMETHING with the reading nook and lay flooring in Briton's room and put in a farm sink and paint the cabinets and so many things ALL AT ONCE. But I'm being good (mostly, I might have one extra painting project on the side).

The living room/dining room has been the most challanging room for us, style wise. Which is why we are tackling it first. That and it's one of the first things you see when you come in and is the room we spend the most time in. It is so vastly different from any living room or dining room we've ever had. For the  most part, Will and I have always lived in old homes with small, square rooms that thrive on symmatry. We have lots of dark wood and compact furniture that fits perfectly in bungalow and cape spaces but which look odd in a large, open room. Especially one with a curved wall. It's not that I don't like the space. I really do. It's open and spacious and I still can't stop gazing out the window at the view into the woods. It's just different.

It also doesn't have any specific style of it's own. Its not farmhouse or mid century modern or loft or bungalow. Or maybe it's a little bit of everything with a lot of knotty pine thrown into the mix. So we are rolling with that. The mix look. Minus most of the knotty pine. And we've been taking a lot of hints from Swedish design because they know life with snow and short winter days, which means there is a lot of white.

We are not remotely done. There are still a few panels of ceiling to paint. And yes, that is patched plywood on the floor. The carpet had to go. We couldn't wait. Eventually (soon!) that will get painted and sanded as a temporary/somewhat permanent fix until we can put in radiant heat and new flooring way down the road. Right now it looks like it had a bad case of the chicken pox and is covered in calamine lotion. And the big wall, the curved wall, at some point that will have wallpaper instead of just the big panel of Orla Kiely print. If we can find a print we like. Which is proving harder than we thought. So there is still much to do. But it is better. Closer. And so much brighter. We still debate about the trim. Some days we like the wood with white look, some days we aren't so sure. It sort of walks the line between cool and dated. But painting all that trim.... I don't think I'm up for that, at least not at the moment.

Now we just have to choose a floor paint. I'd love to go with dark grey but I think it will show dirt too much. So maybe lighter grey. Or maybe I'll just mop a lot.

August 24, 2012

the resting log

When we first found it, we were at the end of a long walk and it seemed like a good spot to stop and rest before heading back up the hill toward home. And so they call it The Resting Log. Since then, we make a beeline for this spot, spending most of our outdoors-in-the-woods time there. We load up a bag- shovels and jars and butterfly nets and books and snack and, of course, knitting - and head down for the afternoon.

They are building a mammoth waterworks at the moment, creating a second stream next to the creek itself. But there are also minnows to catch under the waterfall, and interesting rocks to gather, and caterpillars that seem to be drawn to The Resting Log, trucking across it at a surprisingly speedy pace.

The play, and dig, and get soaking wet. I sit on the log and read or knit or I love that mud and water can still keep them busy for hours. I love that we are, all of us, drawn to this spot. Love to hear the (wee little) waterfall crashing down, to watch the dog swim in the deep(ish) spots until she is exhausted, when she comes to sit on a pile of leaves next to me. Love that, unlike when we are at the house and I feel the constant need to paint or unpack or do, here I just sit. And rest. Perhaps it's an apt name after all.

August 23, 2012

grand old dame

I didn't really need another project - what with the unpacking and painting and getting ready for back to school among other things- or another sewing machine - I have three (eek!) - but when I spotted this lovely lady languishing on a back table at a garage sale, I decided she needed me. Or maybe I needed her. Ten dollars later she was in the trunk of my car headed home.

I posted a photo of her on a sewing thread I frequent on Ravelry and the experts there tell me she is a 1937 Model 99, which was the little sister to the mack daddy sewing machine of the day, the 66. And in the opinion of some, it seems she is one of the best machines ever made, which makes me want to scupper any plan to sell her (that would be Will's idea. I think he finds the idea of four sewing machines in the house a little over the top, or maybe we've just been watching too much American Pickers) and use her as my main machine. As much as I appreciate all the bells and whistles of my heard of Brother machines, most of my sewing involves straight stitching, which is the forte of the 99.

Since then I'm sorry to say she's just sat on top of the heater, looking decorative. Unpacking came first. And then painting, which I'm still chipping away at. But now that the main part of moving in is done (yay!) I can spend a little time tinkering with my new toy. And she needs some tinkering for sure. Some cleaning - the remains of a mouse nest was tangled up with the original owners manual and a few extra feet under the machine - a new belt and perhaps some new wiring, I'm not sure about that yet. There is also the pesky issue of learning to sew using a knee press instead of a foot pedal to run her. I can't quite wrap my head around making that work but I'm willing to give it a try. I think.

I've found a few resources for restoring old sewing machines but would love any advice I can get. Anyone ever restore a 99. Or a 66 for that matter because it seems they were identical except in size. Should I keep her and use her? Or perhaps fix her up, sell her and buy that featherweight I've always wanted? Decisions, decisions. 

August 21, 2012

a quilt. or muscle memory

It's been a long time since I've made a quilt. I think the last time I did any kind of quilting was just before Evelyn was born. Feeling bad at the stack of quilts (mostly not made by me, but still) that Briton had at birth and the utter lack of quilts for my second child (ah, isn't that the way of it, poor second children) I made a violently pink and green diamond quilt and matching bumper for her room, finishing it a few days before she arrived.
I used to quilt a lot. Baby quilts were always my favorite and were once my go-to gifts for the new babies in my life. Two babies of my own, however, somehow sucked the quilting mojo out of me I guess. I hadn't even thought about making a quilt until I spotted a gorgeous log cabin lovely on one of my favorite blogs, Posie Gets Cozy and realized that that, that  was just what my girl needed.
It's funny. Even thought it's been years, literally, since I did any kind of quilting, I find myself sliding back into it easily. My hands remember the smooth, sweeping movement of a rotary blade along a wide ruler, my fingers press out the seams, lining them up for ironing. I'm not in a hurry with this quilt, and I probably wont get fancy with the actual quilting. I've always liked piecing better than quilting. In fact, I'll probably just tie this quilt when it's done. But for the moment I'm enjoying the slow, steady process of piecing a log cabin, which I think has always been my favorite pattern.
This weekend I unpacked some of the last boxes, one of which held two quilts passed down to us that have been packed away in tissue for years, waiting for the right time, the right age of kids, to be used. I'd forgotten, really, about the Sunbonnet Sue quilt. It's fits Evelyn's bed so perfectly that I almost don't need to make her another. Although, having been made in, and for, the south, it's not particularly warm. So I think it will become her summer quilt, and the log cabin will have thicker, warmer wool batting for the winter. The Postage Stamp quilt is on our bed right now, much appreciated, and not just by us it seems.
Quilts have an odd fascination for me. As a little girl I used to gaze at the big block quilt that covered my grandparents bed and try to find the pattern in the patternless order. My fingers walk over the tiny squares of the postage stamp quilt, thinking of all the hours- hours and hours- that went into sewing those tiny squares. I wonder if Evelyn, or someday Evelyn's children, will find the same fascination in the quilt I'm making now. Is that just me?

Briton has been watching me work and has requested a quilt for his bed, except in solid colors. I'm tempted to make another log cabin since I so enjoy them, but I should probably branch out. Any suggestions for patterns that are boy-ish and would look good in solid orange, blue and grey (and maybe black and white too)?

August 20, 2012

first hints of fall

From our windows, the forest still looks green. Green and sunny and warm. Two weeks ago we were struggling with heat and humidity, swimming in the river, avoiding the oven,  opening windows and placing fans and trying to get the air moving through the house when it wanted to settle, hot and sticky and unpleasant.
This week something has changed. The evenings are cold enough to light the wood stove. We aren't very good at it yet, it still takes us a few halting starts to get it really going and keep it cooking away, but we're getting there, and thankful for the heat on these chilly nights. And from the upstairs windows you can see that fall is indeed coming. The tops of the trees are crimson and gold here and there. A few leaves have floated down to the ground as well, picked up by eager fingers. Today we are sorting out the fall clothes that I packed away in vacuum bags before we left New York. Long sleeved t-shirts have emerged, sweaters and slippers are out and being used, the firewood comes on Thursday. Fall is coming.

August 17, 2012

almost ten

Tomorrow, Briton will be ten. I don't quite see how that can be possible, because he was just a baby, and a toddler, and a kindergartner and so he can't possibly be ten, but he is. In a few weeks he will start fifth grade which here, thankfully, is only the second to last year in elementary school, allowing me to pretend that I do not have a tween or an almost middleschooler for just a little longer.
Ten is so very big. There are so many things that he asks if he can do, ride his bike to the road to get the mail, try out my old BB gun (with supervision), go for a walk by himself, use the stove, use the phone, that I instinctively want to say "no, you aren't old enough for that". Except now, he is. Oh boy.

Today he had his before school checkup and the nurse pointed out that he has two more inches to go until he can legally ride in the front seat of a car. I had somehow imagined that that was years away but two inches, given the way he's been wolfing down food of late, is probably a mere six months, or less, from now. Holy cow. Ten.
He is impatient today. Impatient for tomorrow. For ten.

"Do you think if I went to sleep now I could sleep all day and night and wake up and it would be my birthday?"

"Maybe we could build a time machine so that I can go forward a day and open my presents!"

"I just can't wait until tomorrow. I can't WAIT."

I can understand that. Ten was one of my favorite years of my childhood. I remember turning ten, being ten, knowing that I was double digits. Huge! Practically a grownup! Ten is a good year. It was always my favorite number. Ten in exciting.
I, on the other hand, am slightly panicky. Because if tomorrow he is ten, then suddenly he will be fifteen, or twenty. Ten years from now used to be a time when he would be bigger, but still a kid. Now, in ten years, he will be a man.

Holy cow. Ten.

August 15, 2012

of mushrooms and mosses

The other night I went for a walk through the woods, all by myself. Actually, the dog came crashing along with me, but the rest of the gang stayed up at the house clearing up after dinner and getting into pajamas while I set off into the trees.

We are still getting to know this land of ours. Finding the paths along the creek that offer the least resistance to ambling without needed to walk in the water, learning which ground only looks squishy and which spots will actually swallow up your shoe with a squelch, exploring the best places to sit and dream and the best spots to find kindling sticks (I'm trying to gather as I walk these days).

On this particular walk I noticed that we are overrun with mushrooms of all types at the moment. And since then I've noticed more and more.

Bright colors, peeking up from the brown and green of the forest floor. Tiny, pin-prick red dots, comical domed caps, yellow and brown and amber. Evelyn thinks they are thrones for our fairies.

We also have a plethora of different mosses. Some feathery and fern like, some spiky and a few that look like something out of a Dr. Seuss book.

I would love to learn the names of them, the mosses and trees and flowers that grow here. And most especially the mushrooms. I learned to love mushrooms late in life, well into my adult hood, and now I'm making up for lost time buy devouring them whenever I can. But I'm weary of picking wild mushrooms, too many readings of Babar, I suppose. I remember reading a book set in France where the local pharmacist would identify the wild mushrooms for you, somehow I doubt that either the newly retired local pharmacist or the folks from Kinney Drugs who took over his store would oblige.

Any mushroom experts out there with good recommendations for books or websites? It's not one of those things you want to take a chance on, you know? But I'd love to make some wild mushroom stroganoff one of these days. For now, I suppose, I'll just enjoy them as bright spots of color amongst the green.