Friday, April 29, 2011

Easter skirts

With a new baby, most tasks around my apartment remain only half done. Thus I didn't even attempt to make entire Easter dresses for my girls, but opted for Easter skirts instead. Even with one of them made weeks in advance, I still stayed up late on Saturday night to finish the other. Definitely worth it.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

those fences

Serendipity: (happy) chance, fluke, luck.

This is the picture my husband came home with on Monday after a day in the mountains with the boys. A day way up in the mountains with snow and hiking and . . . a random row of skis. Yes, skis. They're beautiful (don't you think?) in such an odd sort of way. Not particularly spectacular, and certainly not the sort of beautiful one expects to find 30 miles into Nowhere. But still. I found them so lovely that I already included this picture in Wednesday's ode, and yet here they are showing up again just a day later.

But the story is too quirky, too fluky, to skip, once you pair it up with the next picture.

Because later that same day I took the 12 year-old out for a date (here's to a boy who can handle two sick little kids and two bored larger ones while his parents are watching his third sister downtown in a play -- downright heroic, that boy) and I noticed the camera in the backseat.

"We need to swing down this dirt road for a second first," I said. "There is the craziest fence I keep meaning to show dad."

"Oh really?" he said. "We saw a crazy fence today too. Up in the canyon."

And just like that, we had eight pictures on the camera card, six of which featured ski fences.

I'm no good at guessing odds (or distance, or age, or even the hour, for that matter), but there has got to be a way to determine the odds of two different people taking pictures of two different ski fences on the same day with the same camera, completely unawares of what the other has done.

I mean really. Can you imagine the odds on that one? Makes the odds of winning the Big Mega Powerball Monster Lottery seem unbelievably short.

Serendipity. Definitely.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

wednesday's ode

To beautiful surroundings.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

picture frame picture

Today is our anniversary.

8 years! A short time compared to some of our friends, but compared to us, it's the longest we've ever been married.

When we were dating, I made my future husband a picture frame painted with fond memories from the relatively short time we'd known each other.
It's funny to look at now and think about the ways I felt close to him when our relationship was just budding. This frame would be quite different were I to make it today. It would probably depict him making dinner and putting the girls to bed solo while I rest with our baby at the end of a long day. Or show him pulling an unimaginable string of all-nighters as he works to finish his dissertation. Or where he massages my exhausted body though he slept even less than I did the night before. Or where he teaches our four-year-old how to dance like a robot.  Or perhaps a middle of the night scene where he calmly shushes and comforts our sleepless baby after I've despaired that the crying would be infinite.
And I expect that in another 8 years, the frame would yet again be completely different. I know you mock cheesy romance, my dear, but I imagine that the new picture frame pictures will be just as rich and meaningful to me when we get to 16.

Monday, April 25, 2011

more tiny gifts

The thing I love about baby gifts is that they are small. And the thing I love about small things is that they are quick. Being somewhat behind on things in general (like gifts and dinner and visits and clean-up and exercise and naps), quick has become a close friend of mine. A plethora of friends have had new babies lately, and I have thoroughly enjoyed the excuse to make lots of lovely small things.

My mother-in-law sent me some gorgeous merino wool in the mail a few weeks back, and I spent at least a week pondering what to do with it. Then my friend Amy up and had baby #6, and the wool found a destination. Although this sweater is technically supposed to take five hours, it stretched out to two weeks. Why is it that everything takes so much longer in 5 minutes chunks?

I finally finished the sweater on a day that started out like this:

And finished up like this:

Perfect kind of day to knit all morning, and then stretch the legs for a walk in the afternoon.

Friday, April 22, 2011

patchwork patch

My third baby has been the hardest on my body, both during pregnancy and postpartum. Granted the delivery was incredibly fast, but recovering my pre-pregnancy body has been disappointingly slow. At almost six weeks postpartum, I am still wearing maternity jeans. Although I don't own a scale, the doctor does, and so I found out yesterday that I still have 15 pregnancy pounds that aren't quite willing to let go yet.This is the first time I've had to wear maternity jeans after having a baby, and I've discovered that they look a lot more flattering if you are actually pregnant when you wear them.

A week before my baby came, my favorite pair of maternity jeans were on the brink of getting a hole in the knee. Instead of patching them at the time, I simply stopped wearing them (assuming I would no longer need them). Since then I've been biding my time and sporting some pretty unflattering maternity jeans. But with yesterday's unfortunate revelation, I decided to bite the bullet and patch them.

I've never had much luck coming up with a patching method that looks decent. But Allyson's post inspired me to give it another try. Drawing on the design of the lattice insert I put in my overalls, I decided to go the route of a patchwork look. I'm actually pretty pleased with the result this time.

But not so pleased that I won't be ecstatic when I can retire these jeans permanently.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


The kids are out of school today, which has made for all kinds of anarchy and chaos (mainly good chaos, but, well, you know). Today we are in the midst -- making, riding, playing, cleaning, dirtying, building, waiting -- in hopes that by sunday we can wrap up in a little calm as we celebrate Easter.

The grass is up in the baskets:

The eggs are ready to be dyed and filled:

And the backyard is begging for a few raised beds:

Between our projects and keeping all these little (and not so little) tummies filled and refilled today, I am thinking we're definitely going to need a good movie to detox and relax with tonight. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

wednesday's ode

To beautiful surroundings.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

sculpted skirt pattern

I loathe sorting through my children's clothes: pulling out the ones they've outgrown; figuring out what I have stashed in the closet that might now fit them. Déjà vu is my constant companion while doing so, as I realize I already organized the "in-between children" clothes waiting in the closet - probably more than once. The organizational method that seemed so clear to me when I did so is now incomprehensible to me and the only way to determine which clothing can be cycled into the children's wardrobe is to look at each and every tag. This is something to be avoided for as long as possible. Instead of working to overcome my aversion, I indulge it by designing clothes that can be worn far past the piddly year mark of most toddler clothing.
This skirt, besides being gorgeous on its own, has been an invaluable "size extender". It is form fitting around the hips and bottom, then flares out. This, coupled with the lightweight gauze from which I constructed it, make it perfect for wearing under dresses and other skirts. My four-year-old is still wearing dresses that barely cover her bottom, and yet other mothers don't disapprovingly shake their heads and wonder why I haven't taken them out of circulation long ago. With the skirt underneath, the dresses appear to still fit her perfectly. Ah, success.

The pattern, complete with detailed instructions and charming drawings, is now available in our Etsy shop!

Monday, April 18, 2011

running low

In the beginning everything seems so new and exciting. Sounds and recipes and books and projects. Even diapers and spit-up were new and exciting fourteen years ago (although still endearing these days, in an odd sort of way). But then the lag time comes, and the recipes get old and the sounds start to grate and the lost sleep catches up with me and, well, some of the sheen comes off. While I'm a firm believer in trudging through the learning morass, sometimes I just run out of gas. You know what I mean?

Our oldest wanted to play the piano for years before we finally put him in lessons. Numbers Two and Three begged for violin lessons for ages. We were all of us excited to pull out the new books and tune up the rented instruments. Practice was a treat; lessons a highly anticipated event. Watching the kids pick up a note or a fingering was absolutely thrilling, as much for me as for them. And really, can it get any cuter than a little kid sitting at such a big piano? Or an even smaller one snuggling a 1/16 size violin under her chin?

But then practice got hard and and lessons got tedious. While the early piano years are a little easier on the nerves (after all, even the wrong notes are technically in tune), I don't think it is a stretch to say that the first two years of violin lessons fall somewhere between defenestration and being drawn and quartered. So many things going on at the same time; so many fingers and postures and notes, oh my. By the time Number Two was getting the hang of the bow going one direction and the left hand fingers going another, Number Three was still trying to figure out how to hold the thing.

Seven years from the beginning, here we are: Two musically proficient kids, one who has started, stopped, started something else, and re-stopped, and three kids who have had nary a music lesson among them. And I feel a little conflicted. Our family doesn't have a lot of space for more right now -- lessons, practice, reasons to complain -- but at the same time our life is so much richer for the music these kids have already brought into it. Can I really stop at three and leave the rest of them hanging? I'm calling this a temporary break, and crossing my fingers that I'll be able to keep it from slipping into a permanent one.

When I watch group jam sessions between these older kids and their dad, the choice seems already made for me. There is definitely a larger family band in our future.

Friday, April 15, 2011

dollhouse puzzle

Sadly, I cannot take credit for this ingenious design (by A miniature doll house puzzle whose pieces double as furniture? The versatility of such a toy and potential ensuing creative play was too tantalizing to pass up. I ordered one for my daughter's birthday. When it arrived, I was disappointed by how unfinished and rough it was, so I decided to try making one myself. My dad and I worked on this project together. Not as easy as I thought, and it required many hours of sanding, but I loved the finished product.
 My daughter dubbed it her "tea set". I happened upon some little wooden dishes at an Amish flea market and couldn't resist. We've also added interesting objects we've happened upon during nature walks.
 The passing beauty of these tiny purple flowers made for a perfect picnic scene yesterday. My younger daughter insisted on leaving it set up for hours because "they [weren't] done eating!"

Thursday, April 14, 2011

wednesday's [thursday] ode

To beautiful surroundings.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

seeing in chunks

Is it usually the case that artists look at other artists' creations with envy? Or are they content with the style that they have developed?

It's not that I exactly consider myself an artist, but I do love to draw and paint. Here's the problem: I draw what I see. And I think it do it moderately well. Why would that be a problem, you ask? Because the art that I stare at, that I drink in doesn't look like the world around me. Impressionists and post-impressionists like Monet and Van Gogh capture the feeling of an image without exactly reproducing it. I love examining up close the chunks of color laid on the canvas, then stepping back and letting it meld into a cohesive image. I, on the other hand, am so tied to the thing I see that I find it practically impossible to deviate from it. When I was 12 years old and first drawing in earnest, I was quite pleased that I could look at a photo and painstakingly create a pencil drawing that looked exactly like it. But as I got older it gradually dawned on me that a xerox machine could accomplish pretty much the same thing (only faster).

When I began painting with watercolors, the medium simply wouldn't yield completely realistic results for me. I was so thrilled by this that I haven't gone back to pencil since. Though I still long to paint in chunks, in blocks of color, I am somewhat pacified by paintings such as this one where I've managed the slightest hint of broad, uninhibited brush strokes. Ah, if only I could see the world in chunks.