Wednesday, September 05, 2012

First Grade!

It's been a long, long time since I've posted on the blog. We had a great summer, Sofie especially -- she went to a variety of fun camps, including a mystery-solving camp at the zoo, princess power camp at MoonPaperTent in Ravenna, ballet and irish dance camp at American Dance Institute, and wilderness survival camp up in Winthrop. In between she went to the beach, to the cabin for two weeks straight, and to Texas to see Aunt Dana. She learned to swim (almost). She played with friends a lot. She visited nearly every park in town. She had a rocking birthday party.

Basically, she came home from the last day of kindergarten with a list of ten things she wanted to do this summer, and we pretty much did them all.

Whew! I'm tired just thinking about it. But I'm so glad she had an awesome summer. I was in school for most of it, which was hard but did give me a little bit of schedule flexibility  to sign her up for things I might not have been able to do if I were working until five every day.

And now, she's back to school! This kid likes school more than just about any kid since the dawn of time. Since the beginning of the summer she's been beside herself thinking about that magical day when she can go back to elementary school, sit at a desk, and learn things. It's totally awesome. She has been collecting school supplies since June, practicing sharpening pencils, and figuring out what to take in her backpack the whole summer.

Today we headed off to school in the morning, new backpack (which is almost larger than she is) in tow. Soon enough she was at her desk, happy as a clam and ready to learn. Yep.


Monday, January 02, 2012

And now back to our regularly scheduled life


 Happy new year everyone! We had a lovely break - it felt nice and long, for some reason, even though it was only two and a half weeks. It took me a few days to relax and unstress but I did successfully shake off the tension of the end of my first quarter, and we enjoyed having Christmas at home.

My Aunt Dorothy visited before Christmas for a few days, and Dad joined us for Christmas festivities, and then we hosted our annual Goodfellas New Year's Eve dinner, which is basically an excuse for Brett to spend a whole days makin' a meatballs and wearing a bowling shirt and fedora. Lots of fun. Also on the plate: Kate's wonderful Christmas eve party for the kids, our friend Amy's New Year's Day open house, several movies, a couple of playdates, and lots of lazing around.

I tried to do a lot of napping (didn't actually pan out all that well) and reading (which went better.) I plowed through a bunch of novels like a starving person sitting down in front of a nice plate of food. Guess I missed my books over the last few months.

Here's what I read:
  • The Marriage Plot, Jeffrey Eugenides (loved it)
  • The Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides (hated it)
  • V is for Vengeance, Sue Grafton (very good)
  • The Revenger, Rory Clements (liked it)
  • A History of the World in 100 Objects, Neil MacGregor (technically I’m still reading this; it’s awesome)
  • Death Comes to Pemberly, PD James (loved it)
  • Indian Killer, Sherman Alexie (liked it)
  • Shadow of the Giant, Orson Scott Card (loved it)
  • About half of a poetry anthology from the library
  • A few pages of Scarpetta by Patricia Cornwall, decided I was all mysteried out for now
  • A few pages of What The Dog Saw, by Malcolm Gladwell (will get back to this)
  • A big stack of magazines
I don't usually read so many mysteries to the exclusion of all else, but they were just the right level of complexity for helping me destress from school. Nothing too challenging on this list after finishing up finals.

And now back to school tomorrow, starting bright and early by waiting (in the rain, undoubtedly) for the bus at about 7a.m. tomorrow. Bleah. I do love my program and I'm sure I'll be back in the swing of it within a few days, but I'm kind of bummed about starting back up again. This promises to be an especially brutal quarter, with seven classes and a schedule that keeps me there for much longer days than we had in the fall. It's going to be very challenging keeping up with an extra science class thrown into the mix, with all of my afternoon study time mostly taken up with classes, and with Sofie in daycare three or four days a week after school.

Nonetheless, in ten or eleven short weeks we'll be through it. And then I hear spring quarter is kind of easy in comparison.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

One quarter down, eight to go


Finally, some breathing room. I finished the last final of my first quarter of grad school today, and it feels like it's on a very short list of the bigger accomplishments of my life. 

A few of us having drinks after the last final today. (Shamelessly stolen from Kyrsten's fb feed.)

This is my second time through graduate school, but it's vastly different now than it was the first time through in several ways. The first time, I was in a writing program that was much more practically oriented than academically rigorous, I was 22 and fresh out of college, and I was only responsible for myself. It felt much, much easier then than it did this time around.

To say this has felt like a huge transition is understating it a bit. Becoming a parent was a bigger transition, and so probably was entering the work world for the first time after my first set of degrees, but it took me more than ten weeks to become accommodated to either of those, and within ten weeks here I’ve gone from essentially having all my time to myself to taking on a huge amount of new role demands: juggling full time school, the bulk of parenting responsibilities, home, partial care of a parent, trying to maintain friendships, and all the other pieces of my life that have to be balanced. 

Here's a look at where I've gone this quarter:
  • In ten weeks I’ve attended almost 100 class sessions, taken seven exams, five finals, written three papers, and visited a room full of dead people approximately thirty times.
  • I’ve learned how to get over the smell and strangeness of working on dead bodies to the point where I now routinely go there alone to work. I only once got faint.
  • I’ve found a hundred different paths around what really has to be one of the biggest and most labyrinth academic buildings ever. (See map.) I still get lost in it (today, in fact), but way less than I used to.
See that big sprawling white box with the ten billion branches? That's my building.
  • I’ve figured out how to study again, how to mostly keep up, and how to survive anatomy. I'm figuring out (still) how to balance it all out so I don't get behind.
  • I’ve learned what is essentially a whole new way of thinking in the OT-specific classes. I can now usually define OT in a way that sounds pretty coherent when asked what on earth I’m doing. I can talk theories and models and frames of reference. It's sinking in.
  •  I’ve visited two clinical sites and read a bunch of placement folders for my six months of clinical work, and am hugely excited about a whole variety of different places I could possibly end up working.
  • I’ve put my daughter to bed almost every time I was supposed to, and I’ve only stuck her in extra daycare four times across the quarter. I never missed school pickup. I only begged my friends (who are saints! thank you Kate and Kate and Jennifer and Lara and Christina and Emilee and everyone else who helped) to babysit her once in a while. 
  • I fed my family almost all the time; although none of the food was fancy, we did not live on cheetos and breakfast cereal. My house did not completely fall into chaos. I did some but not all of the laundry. I kept the house sort of clean, but only if you didn’t look too closely.
  • I only missed one class, which feels miraculous. I only once shut my eyes in class because I was so tired and it was in the very last week. I did not actually fall asleep. I actually never wanted to sleep because it was all really interesting.
  • I met and started getting to know a bunch of really great people. One of our professors said that most people are drawn to this field because of altruism and a desire to do good, and I think that may be why all the students here seems to be so amazingly nice and funny and down-to-earth.
  • I’ve discovered I really love this subject area we’re studying and that this somewhat impulsive choice I made to turn my life completely around and head off in a new direction might actually have been the right choice after all.
 I would be remiss in not mentioning that my husband has been a rock through this. He reassured me when I thought I was never going to adjust to all these new demands in the first month, was endlessly accommodating about all the weekend time I suddenly needed to study, put up with me running off to the library at all hours of the day and night, and was really, really supportive. For something that we were both so unsure about going in, it's worked out better than I ever could have hoped. Thank you for being so awesome!

And now? I've got three weeks (almost) off before I go back and take an even more packed schedule than this quarter. We've got five classes and two labs in the winter. But between now and then, I'm going to nap, read magazines, wrap Christmas presents, and nap some more.

Oh, and nap.

Did I mention nap?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wistful

This morning, upon leaving for kindergarten, Sofie wistfully put down her dollhouse animals who were camping on the living room rug and said to me, "Make sure they have a good time while I'm gone..."

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Kindergarten: rhombuses but no stuffed animals

School is continuing to go well, although really bonding with the new kids and making friends is slow. Right now Sofie sounds like she spends her recesses with a girl from another kindergarten class who was in her swimming classes this summer. Nonetheless, she seems to be making friends. Yesterday we were on the playground in the morning, waiting for the bell, when two little girls ran by holding hands and then backed up and screeched to a stop in front of us.

"HI SOFIE!" they shouted, and then off the three of them went, giant backpacks swinging wildly behind them.

I stuck around to make sure she got to her classroom after the bell, but when it rang she took off with her friends for the door without so much as a glance my way. I followed discreetly (I had her lunchbox) and had to laugh as I observed her trying in vain to get through the school entrance in the swarm of many, many bigger kids.

Sofie is not a confident one when it comes to pushing through a crowd or holding her place in line. Given the least resistance or shoving from others, she entirely gives way and will be the absolute last one in line. This was no different. From her initial position in the middle of the crowd, I watched her get pushed further and further to the side until she was basically flat against the brick wall holding on for dear life as all of the first through fifth graders rushed in. She was glad to see me when I came to rescue her. Funny little thing, her.

***

I'm not sure what goes on in kindergarten these days. Sofie came home yesterday telling all about two things:
  • Learning in gym class about how running around makes your heart beat faster, which she then proceeded to demonstrate for us at various points throughout the evening, and
  • Somewhere she learned what an ellipse, rhombus, trapezoid, and hexagon were. Rhombus? They teach rhombuses in kindergarten?  
Sounds like there's more happening in a kindergarten class than the endless rounds of tinker toys and giant blocks I remember.

***

Today she had her first bout of not really wanting to go. It wasn't exactly antipathy to school as much as the fact that she wanted to keep playing with her doll(cat)house. Why do I have to go? I want to keep playing! she cried. And more stirringly, But there's no stuffed animals there!

Well actually, she told me later, there are some stuffed animals. In a secret place outside her classroom. But all they have are otters and dogs.

She never did tell me where this secret place is.

 

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

First Day

Kindergarten, good lord, started today. This feels both exciting and cataclysmic. Sofie has been beyond thrilled the past week, full of energy, telling each and every person she has any excuse to talk to during the course of her day that a) she just turned five and b) she's going to school and then basking in the attention this creates.  Everyone is ooohing and aahing about this huge step, us included, but none of them are also feeling sad about it like I secretly am.

 And so the day finally came. She woke up this morning so excited she was bouncing around the house, begging to go even though it was way too early. She strapped on her backpack fifteen minutes ahead of time and sat on the couch waiting to go.

Such a cutie, and so confident. Which is awesome. How did she get to be so big?





Sofie tells me that maybe the neighbor girl who ended up assigned to the same class will be "my best girl" in a way that's both hopeful and sweet. I explain to her that this may very well be but she'll also be meeting lots of other kids and there's no way to know who her best friends will be yet. Kid friendships are tricky things; you don't want to put too much pressure on the idea that any one particular kid will be someone's best buddy.

I'm glad school is starting for her, for all kinds of reasons. She's ready, of course; her teachers, her doctor, pretty much everyone has told us so, and we have no doubts about it. She's reading, she's got all those good interpersonal skills from two years of preschool, she makes friends well and isn't crippled by shyness, teachers tend to like her, most of the package is there. What I'm pretty sure we'll hear about is her ability to sit still and listen. She fidgets, and she still lives in her imagination much of the time and spent most of orientation reading all the signs on the walls of her classroom when she was supposed to be listening.

"They'll knock the whimsy out of her in under a week," one of Brett's friends said recently. I have to disagree. Sofie is a lot like me, and no amount of schooling managed to knock me firmly back into reality at her age. Sofie's got my stubborness and my imagination, and I predict there's nothing that will keep her from pretending (or perhaps believing) she's secretly a cat during school hours. Give her a few weeks and she'll be organizing the same massive-scale, multi-kid cat activities at recess that she was famous for at preschool.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Two Years?

How did we go from here, freshly turned three and just off to the very first day of preschool:


to last night, graduating and saying goodbye to beloved friends and teachers and heading off to kindergarten in just seven days, so very very fast? This may have been the fastest two years ever. Last night we attended her graduation ceremony, and today she went in for one last morning. At the end of the morning I came in and sat on the couch in their classroom, read books to a bunch of kids while Sofie finished her lunch, and then we said goodbye to the teachers and some of the office staff and left. For good.

I cried. Sofie did not. I am a sentimental sap. Sofie is just happy about what comes next, and very, very excited about kindergarten.  Me, I'm hoping I can hold off the waterworks on the first day of school until she is safely deposited in her classroom and I'm out of sight. I don't wanna freak her out.

Here are some pictures from last night's ceremonies...

 Sofie and her best preschool buddy, Sadie, sharing a hug on the playground during the festivities. Sadie graduated at the end of spring but they came back last night to watch Sofie have her turn, which meant a lot to us.

Note Sofie's princess dress, which she wears everywhere, and faithful old Little Phoenix, currently being dragged around on a blue velvet ribbon "leash."


 The preschool class, lined up to wait for the ceremony to begin. Each graduating kid gets a fancy cape to wear and a memory book full of pictures and drawings the other kids have made for them. Sofie is in the back row with her head turned away.
 Sofie receives her cape, and we were all amused when teacher Laura revealed that she'd made a blue one instead of the usual red for our little blue cat girl.
 Pretty roses in her ponytail.
With teacher Laura, who we love so much. Thank you for two wonderful years of helping our little one grow from the kid who sat under tables all morning watching everything but not participating to the little ringleader she's become.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Jacob's Ladder

Did my grandmother ever imagine her everyday teacups would someday be put into use as pin holders, two generations later? Probably not. But I admit that all three of the sugar bowls that came into my possession as part of her china have been sneaked into use in my office to hold safety pins, bobbins, and other little bits. I like it. Everyday objects should be beautiful and have a history, at least some of the time.
I'm working on the quilt above this weekend -- a Jacob's Ladder, in simple gold and white, about 54x50. I finished the top of this quilt probably four years ago and was, for reasons I can no longer remember, dissatisfied with it and therefore stuffed it away in an "unfinished" bin. There it sat until I pulled it out a few months ago and discovered that I really liked it. And so this week I decided it was time to block it and quilt it.

I'm taking the opportunity to work on my freemotion quilting some more. As with many things, the only way to really get better at the thing is to just do it and do it a lot. On this quilt I decided to try drawing large daisies all over it. I've never done this pattern before but it proved to be a pretty forgiving one, and within a few tries I was getting the hang of it. You can see a few in this picture, although the lighting is poor....


Did I practice on a sample first? Why no. That would be prudent, and I am almost never prudent when I quilt. Quilting, for me, is an activity of instinct and wild abandon. And usually it works out just fine.

I finished the quilting tonight and will be getting the binding on soon. And then it's off to a new home.

More pictures to come when it's finished!



Saturday, May 14, 2011

A love letter

After the somewhat large undertaking of hosting the annual homeowner's meeting on our Mazama cabin, I went out tonight at the exact last moment of dusk to take a slow walk around the forest road to reconnect with the real reason we're here -- the indefinable majesty of this place. What is it, I kept asking myself as I slowly wandered the path, that makes me love it here so much? Because I do, all on my own. This was definitely Brett's place; he had been coming here for over a decade before I ever saw it. I liked it immediately, but it's grown on me steadily in the years since, and I have to say that I love it as passionately and feel as moved by it as I ever have by any place. I need this now, in a way I never expected. No part of me grew up dreaming about the mountainous West and it's dim evening shadows and vast, purple spaces.

The very brink of night, the moment before the light falls away, has always seemed magical to me, that time when you are still able to see silhouettes but only in shades of black and white and gray and maybe if you concentrate the faintest touch of dark, dark green. It rained all day today, and the air smells clean and deep and cedar-like, and wispy low clouds hang in front of the mountain behind the house and across the valley. I used to know a Celtic world for the edges between places, like the edge between shore and sea, between mountain and sky, between dusk and night. Those places held power, to the Celts, and you can feel it when you're lucky and the world is very, very still..

I wouldn't usually be out this time of night here, because it's somewhat risky - bears abound in our little settlement, but so far they haven't been sighted this year and with the snowpack hanging on so stubbornly they might still be up in the hills nursing their young before they come down to see what vintage of berries and birdfeeders can be found in Liberty Woodlands this summer. There's a little added thrill to be out here feeling no need to hurry or be especially wary, to wander and stare up into the forest behind the house, examine the blackness that is uninhabited Lucky Jim Mountain and the few lights that glimmer on Goat Peak across the way. The valley seems to be holding its breath, shaking off the rain and unfurling its boughs. I gulp in deep draughts of this place I have to leave tomorrow, already planning the next time we can get back.

 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Preschool quilt - finished!

Yay! The preschool quilt is finally done. We're taking it in tomorrow to show the class. I can't wait!

This was a really fun project, an idea born from this small quilt we made for Brett's office. I've wanted to do a quilt with the kids in her class for a while, so when I reached the last month of freedom before I start back up finishing my graduate school prereqs, it seemed like it was now or never.

The starting point - each kid traced their hand on heat and bond and signed their name (with varying degrees of success - my favorite is the one who just signed with a big X) on a yellow square of cotton.

From there, I fused the hands to the squares, and then zig zagged each one of them down. This sounds like a lot of zig zagging, probably, but it was fun. I've done a lot of machine applique from my days making and selling baby tees, and like riding a bike now -- once you master it, you can always do it just fine.


Then I made a center square for Sugar the bunny, their class bunny who passed away about two months ago. The kids all loved him, and it seemed like the perfect way to center the design for them.

This is a wool felt applique, with a blue button eye.

Each square got a plaid border with blue and red cornerstones, all pulled from my scrap piles. I loved how this plaid drew all of the different hand colors together. Isn't it cute?

I wanted the borders to be slightly off center -- I had this image in my head of flying geese going up and down part of each side, and once that was in place, it just seemed to make sense to put the class name and year slightly off center too, so that the colors were concentrated in the upper right and lower left corners of the borders.

Appliqueing on the class name and year was a little more laborious - I printed off the words in the font I wanted (450 pt type!), traced it backwards onto fusible, then cut, fused, and stitched each letter and number I wanted in place.


And the quilting - I free motioned a heart in the middle of each hand, and outlined the hands and other appliques too. Then a swirly, loopy design in the sashing strips, and parallel lines in the outer borders. The binding is the same plaid as the inside.

Tomorrow we show it to the kids - I hope they enjoy looking around for their hands on it!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Just One Star (or, well, seven)

The folks at Moda are running a special project in conjunction with the Quilts of Valor foundation designed to gather 1800 star blocks from quilters around the country and produce 100 quilts in 100 days to be distributed to injured soldiers while they recuperate in the hospital.

Regardless of how I feel about the war, I definitely feel for the soldiers who are fighting. So I decided to take part in this project and have been whipping together star blocks here and there for the last day or so. It's a great little pattern, ideal for using up scraps, and only takes about 10 minutes to put together once you've got the pieces cut. I ended up making seven, because I'd finish one so quickly and think, "Well, I'll just make ONE more." It was kind of addictive.

Here's more info from Moda Lissa's blog.
The challenge is to piece, quilt and bind 100 quilts in 100 days using the
Flag of Valor pattern by Minick and Simpson.

The deadline for star blocks is May 1, 2011 so that we can meet our quilt deadline
by Flag Day, June 14, 2011.
 
We need 1800 star blocks to reach our goal.

Please take a few minutes to piece Just One Star block (click here for block pattern) using a medium red or blue and a cream background. Better yet, invite your small group or even your entire guild to make Just One Star block. Sign each block with your name and state.




Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Perfection is Overrated

I started this quilt about a year ago. It's a little thing, only about 20x30. I based it on a confetti quilt done by Crazy Mom Quilts and by this tutorial by Lady Harvatine -- but I had such a hard time putting it together that I threw it aside when it was finished and let it rot.


The pattern is called confetti. Basically, you make all of these little pieces of different sizes and then fit them together like a puzzle. This was the difficult part - I couldn't figure out how to set in all these squares of different sizes so I ended up trimming them into rows and it kind of destroyed the pleasing arrangement of colored pieces I'd designed. There ended up being big empty spaces and some colored spots that were too close together, and I just didn't like it. So into a box it went.


 Until yesterday, when I dug it out and just decided to machine applique a few more colored blocks on in the spots where it needed something more to tie it all together. And in the end, I think it looks fine. Not my greatest work ever, and full of oddities if you examine it closely enough -- but my new thinking is that I'm going to quilt whatever quilt tops I finish, regardless.

And I'm glad I did! It's cute. It has personality. Who says all quilts have to be so freaking perfect, anyways? 

Therefore, I present to you, my latest little quilt, entitled "Perfection is Overrated":

I also tried out pebble quilting for the first time on this, as I mentioned yesterday, and was very happy with the results! Pebble is a very forgiving quilting pattern - there's just no way to get yourself trapped in a corner and unable to get back to where you need to go because you can just travel around the circles you've already made. I've never before met a quilting pattern that I couldn't get myself into trouble with, but this was it!

And, I was happy to find a home for my funky, black and white barcode fabric that I used in the binding. I bought it on impulse a few years ago and never found the right place for it until now. Black and white seemed like the right frame for this particular quilt.

Of course, Sofie this morning tried to claim this quilt, as she does all my quilts, but this one time, I told her I was keeping this one. Here it is hanging in my very messy office/studio:

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Trying out pebbles


Trying out pebbles, originally uploaded by bellflowertextiles.

I've been wanting to try out free motion pebbles for a while and decided to take the plunge today. We did it briefly in the free motion quilting class I took a year or so ago, but I haven't tried it since!

I don't think it's coming out too badly though, do you? Trying to vary my circle size and go around each one twice before moving on.

This is going to use A LOT of thread. :) But it's a small quilt, one that I finished the top of ages ago and found stuffed in a box today while I was cleaning my studio. Perfect for an experiment!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

First Nine Blocks - Mosaic


First Nine - Mosaic, originally uploaded by bellflowertextiles.

Just a quick note to share the first nine blocks from the block-a-palooza quilt along - I think it's coming together nicely! I'm trying to work more solid red into it now, since that seemed a little lacking in some of the blocks where I used mostly red stripe or dots.

Seven more blocks to go!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Small Quilt for Daddy

Sof and I started playing with tracing and fusing her handprint yesterday because next week, we're signed up to do a class quilt with her preschool.

Yesterday we made a prototype with the fabrics we think we're going to use, and we liked it so much that we did the other hand too and turned it into a quick wallhanging for Daddy to take to his new office. Here's the final project, at left.

For her class, the blocks will be the pale yellow background surrounded by the plaid sashing, and the hands will be a variety of prints in red, green, and blue. Each kid gets to sign their name with a fabric marker, and I'll put it together and quilt it. I think it's going to be really cute!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I made a pillow!

Pillows are one of those things I've just never known how to make, but it turns out that your basic envelope pillow cover is ridiculously simple. Wow. My first project, at left. This is a hunk of flannel remnant I bought a while back and never used. It's soft and cheerful and I'm really happy with it!

There are many, many great tutorials out there - here's the one I used, from Megacrafty.

Now that I know how to do this, I predict that we're going to see a lot of changing pillow covers around the house. I've always liked the idea of swapping out pillows and throw blankets with the change of seasons - something a little more warm and cozy in the winter, something lighter and brighter in the summer. So yay! New skills.

On other fronts, Brett is off to a new job this week which will have him working out of the house most of the time. This has brought about a number of changes for the family, one of which is that because he now gets up at six a.m., Sofie inevitably hears him putzing around in the kitchen and wanders out around 6:30 to join him, which is a whole hour earlier than she is usually up.

It's actually very sweet -- they sit down at the dining room table and have breakfast together every morning and chit chat. I'm usually awake but I like to stay in bed and listen to them having their little moment of connection. It reminds me of growing up; my dad was an early riser and I often had my cereal with him sitting at the kitchen table with me, while the rest of the house was still asleep. Those early morning talks were always important to me, and I like that Sofie is now doing this too.

That said, it leaves her tired and cranky by her normal bedtime, this getting up at the crack of dawn. Yesterday, we had friends over to play and at 6:30 p.m. she just lost her marbles, cried and yelled, and them climbed into bed with a book to wait for me to see everyone out and read to her. She was asleep by 7:15. *boggle* This might actually be a good thing, as it means Brett and I get a nice long evening together and lots of time for studying and projects and whatnot.

The other big change with Brett's job, of course, is just that the house is empty now during the day and kind of lonely! I'm getting used to it, though, and finding it makes me want to clean. I did Flylady's weekly home blessing routine yesterday morning for the first time ever -- a one hour cleaning that you do once a week, where you spend ten minutes each on a series of six tasks designed to make your whole house look a lot more presentable in a quick way. Vacuum the middle of rooms, quick mop, take out the papers and magazines, change the sheets, etc.

And it was awesome! Things felt really clean, and Sofie even helped me do it. Except then we had a huge playdate and messed it all up again. :) C'est la vie.

Today I'm slow cooking lamb shanks in wine and rosemary and garlic and the house smells divine. It's a recipe, from The Italian Slow Cooker by Michele Sicolone, which I got yesterday with my reward dollars at Santoros, our favorite little neighborhood bookstore. It smells fantastic and in eight hours I'm sure it will taste really, really good.

That's it for today!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

More progress

I got quite a ways behind on the quilt-along project last week, with being out of town, and since we got back on Sunday I've been impatiently waiting for my sewing machine to be returned from the shop. They're a week or so behind and I finally had to break down and beg one of my friends to loan me one. I had a customer order that needed to be finished like yesterday, and the prospect of also being four blocks behind on the quilting thing by the end of the week was too daunting too.

So my lovely and talented friend Kate kindly let me borrow her machine, and I got all caught up, on both the customer and the fun sewing project fronts. Whew!  You know what they say... a true friend is someone who loans you a big honking piece of machinery when you really need one. Or something like that.

Here are the things my borrowed machine and I made today:
Customer order - a wedding knife holder with a notebook for recording who used it.
This is a terrible picture because it was gray and pouring rain and this is just one of those items where the colors are impossible to shoot except in sunlight - all these pretty pale aqua blues just wash out in Seattle's dim gray muck. Trust me, it's much prettier than this. :)

And here are the three blocks I was behind on from the quilt-along -- I had them all cut and marked and pinned so it was pretty quick to whiz through them today and get them finished.

Block five - Geesey McNine Patch, by Miss Print. Lots and lots and lots of flying geese in this one. Let me just say, Miss Print's techniques for doing this were freaking awesome, and I learned a ton, but someone please shoot me if I decide to use a directional print like a stripe again in a project like this. None, none, NONE of these "make a bunch of geese at once" techniques take into account people with directional prints! Arg. So that meant that half my geese ended up with vertical stripes in the triangle and half of them ended up horizontal. However, once I put them all in place around the edge of the block, I have to admit it's kind of a cool effect -- all the stripes on the block run in the same direction, regardless of the orientation of the triangle. Hrm.
It's straighter than it looks. It's the camera angle. Really.


 Block Seven: You are Here, by Happy Zombie. This one looked kind of intimidating but wasn't all that hard once I figured out what all the pieces were - since I'm using different colors than the posters are, it sometimes gets a little complicated to make their instructions correspond to my fabrics. But I'm really happy with how this one came out! I'm trying to end up with something really graphic and modern on these and I think it's working.

Block eight - an easy, restful block by Ala Mode:

And, finally, here's a shot of the three quilts I bound and finished at the cabin last week! All of them are tiny - one was a baby quilt for a friend which we delivered on Monday, one is for Brett's office, and the other one is just for fun:

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Remembering and Forgetting

"What did grandma look like? I can't remember."

Sofie is beginning to forget. It is the way of early childhood -- some theories hold that around age four, the brain essentially rewires itself, cutting extraneous neurons, streamlining and becoming more efficient, and for most of us, removing most of our memories of the first few years of life. I've known it was going to happen for some time and wondered if we'd be able to tell.

The answer? Yes, we can tell, because she can tell. She's aware that she suddenly can't remember Grandma as well, and it bothers her. She asks for long retellings of the life and death of Grandma, wanting excruciating levels of detail about her last days and what happened after. We curl up in front of the fire and tell the story, which can take twenty minutes to get through with all of her questions.

When we're done, she sits for a moment, then says, "Tell me again."

So I do.

After that version, she wants a new story where Grandma comes back to life in a "magic fire" and never dies aain.

It's perfectly natural, both the forgetting and the trying to reclaim the stories. It's bittersweet, my shining little girl who loves and misses someone she can no longer fully recall.

***

I want to set some of her memories. I desperately want Phoenix, our oldest cat and her great favorite, to live long enough to be cemented in memory as her first pet. The first pet you remember is a little bit of childhood magic; this will immortalize him in a way. 

I want her to remember Mom so badly because Mom, for all her complications and defenses, was at her best with Sofie. Her relationship with Sofie was simple and straightforward and full of joy. Her loss seems so magnified, somehow, if that disappears.

It's been a while since I've choked up much about Mom. Nearing the two year mark, it's become more bearable, less sharp. I miss her badly sometimes, but life has moved forwards and it's not so deep a pain. I'm surprised, then, to find myself caught up in a fresh wave of grief after Sofie's endless retellings and the beginnings of her forgetfulness. Nature takes it course, both on the elderly and on little girls. Time marches on. We grieve, and hold things dear, and sometimes, we let them go entirely.

In the end, I pulled up a picture from this blog to show Sofie her grandma's face. She took a long look, and a huge smile broke out on her face.  

Oh right, she was thinking, I could tell. That's her. 




 

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

winter in the woods

Life in the woods. We get up whenever Sofie makes her way down the stairs - this morning in a baffling bump-bump-longpause procession that we laid in bed puzzling over before realizing that she was slowly making her way down on her bottom, one thump at a time.

After breakfast we draw for a while, then go out to play in the snow. Today we trudge over to the empty cabin behind us, which involves busting through a lot of knee-high, untouched snow -- Sofie, light as she is, floats on top but it's rather a harder proposition for me.

After we peer through its windows and confirm that yes, it's still completely unoccupied, we make our way back through the same footsteps, then pull out the trusty sled for a trip around the loop of our road. It's a gorgeous day -- 31 degrees, utterly clear and brilliantly sunny. The road is snowy in most places, icy in some, but we make it most of the way around without too many mishaps.

A quick trip down our favorite sledding spot doesn't go so well today. Now that we've been visiting it daily the sled run we've carved out is getting icy and hard and, as a result, exponentially faster. The first trip down was fun; today's trip was heart stopping for a brief moment, and entirely too much for Sofie, who cried but insisted on trying again. When we skipped out of the track the second time halfway down the hill and got dumped out on our sides, she decided she'd had enough and we had a whiny and sobby walk back to the house.

Oh well. Hot chocolate and whipped cream fix most things when you're four.


Brett works upstairs with his window looking out through an impressive field of icicles into the woods and snow. It's an awesome spot to sit. He puts on Mozart later in the day, quite loudly, and we all enjoy it. Between the gorgeous weather and the fireplace crackling and just the calm and quiet of this house, the most ordinary things seem so much more beautiful here than at home. Maybe we'll stay longer, we discuss at lunch. One hundred days, Sofie suggests. She likes it too.

Sofie and I putter most of the rest of the day, except for a quick trip into town to visit the hardware store so that I can carry out an impulse project. One of our vacation rental tenants has rehung the bedroom curtains so that the top third of the windows is left clear of fabric, and I've decided that they're right; it's much nicer that way. You still get a little privacy from the road, but you can see the trees and sky while you lay in bed. However, the half-assed way they're rehung bothers me, so we go buy an iron so I can chop off the bottom ten inches of each curtain, iron in a new hem, and sew them up. By hand. Which takes about thirty minutes, looks good, and is very satisfying. 


Dinner is yesterday's homemade soup. Since I've learned to cook better, I find the difference in how I shop and travel for these vacations interesting. Instead of bringing a bunch of fancier ingredients to a week up here, I now bring things like chicken broth, flour, and yeast. Cans of beans. Some meat and greens. We'll make good food out of it, I'm sure.

So far we've made biscuits, homemade bread, turkey meatball soup with greens and white beans, and a pasta bake. I'm on quite a midwinter carb bender right now, wanting warm homemade bready things all the time. It's not doing my waist any good, I'm sure, but it's definitely comforting, and the ritual of bread making is my new love. Yesterday's loaf I brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with sesame seeds and sea salt before putting it in the oven. It was a revelation. Not one ounce of it remained in the house by morning. "Can you make more of this?" Brett asked. Maybe tomorrow. The fireplace shelf is a great place for letting bread dough rise.


It's Brett's night to do bedtime, and time for one of my favorite rituals -- looking through Sofie's notebooks to see what twenty or thirty artistic creations she came up with today. She draws more than she does anything else, constantly, all day long, and her work is always evolving. Today she's using her markers to make huge washes of color alongside the ever present cats she creates. A bright fuschia couch, a blue chair. Some of the cats are surrounded by music notes. Many of them have sly humor to them -- a perfectly normal-appearing cat, until you notice the eyes of two other cats peeking out from behind him. A toilet, with a cat perched to drink from it, only his backend and tail showing over the rim. Funny, funny stuff.

In the moments when Sofie is amusing herself or absorbed in a drawing, I am utterly wolfing down Just Kids, by Patti Smith, which I'm finding beautifully written, and I'm binding a small pile of quilts, taking a few pictures, staring up into Lucky Jim mountain to try to see deer (must buy binoculars!) and generally relaxing. We don't do anything remarkable here, but all three of us seem to feel as if it's a kind of nirvana. I read somewhere once that humans are evolved to need the sensation of dappled sunlight, sun filtered through trees, to be happy. I can't possibly find the reference now, but it was something about dopamine and how we evolved from forest-dwelling creatures so that this interplay of light is hard-wired into our happiness centers. I believe it. 


It's neighborly here. This afternoon the ladies who clean the house after each vacation rental stopped by, just to chat and see how we were doing, and we ended up chatting with them for almost an hour. Sofie took them up to see her bedroom and they were kind enough to play along, despite having been in there at least a dozen times already, I'm sure, and we all talked about kids and life in the valley.

We're having our friends who live across Highway 20, the main thoroughfare here, over for dinner in a few nights, and Sofie and I regularly run into the very nice lady across the street and her dogs on their daily walks. At the hardware store, the older gentleman ringing me up volunteers that I really ought to exchange one or two of the things I've picked out for a better deal, and another man kindly carries my fifty pound bag of rock salt out to the car and then stops to blow up balloons for Sofie. The ladies at the country doctor's clinic where I had to take Sofie yesterday morning were funny and chatty and made use feel quite at home.

It's slow and small-town and very welcoming. It's nice to know a few people. I always fantasize about living here fulltime and hope that maybe sometime we'll get to spend a year up here, at least. It won't be for a while, since we have ties and responsibilities that keep us happily in Seattle, but it's fun to dream about it.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Quilt-along progress (and snow)

As I mentioned a few days back, I'm doing the Bloggers' Block-a-Palooza quilt along right now. Here are the first four blocks - starting to get a sense of how this might look:

 The top right square was the first one and is the least good of the set - I wasn't quite sure of my color and fabric choices that week, but has been evolving since to the point where I have a pretty good idea what I'm doing now. I'll be remaking that block at some point before the end - in addition to not quite being right in terms of layout, it's a little smaller than it's supposed to be.

The latest two are the bottom row, both of which I really like. It's evolving into a very modern looking quilt, making a lot of use of polka dots and stripes and simple, graphic fabrics. I'm also liking the dove gray accents in place of much white.

***

And, because I don't have enough projects going on at one time, I've started one of these quilts, from Crazy Mom Quilts, one of my quilting heros. It's a great way to use up a ton of scraps, which are literally eating up my studio space. I have baskets and baskets of scraps of truly wonderful fabrics I've used over the last couple years of making things for etsy, all of which would look awesome in a quilt. And nine patches are so quick and easy to make that it's going to be a breeze to accumulate 70 blocks in no time - I've already made over a dozen in the last few days.

***



We're heading up to Mazama this weekend for a week's stay. I'm very excited  to get up there and see all the snow (the pic above is from about a month ago, sent to us by our neighbors across the way), and to spend some time relaxing and sitting by the fire. Sofie is bringing her sled and her dollhouse, and I'm bringing three or four quilts that need their binding sewn and a big stack of books, and I think it will be a very idyllic week in the snow.

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