inhale...exhale...relax your shoulders...repeat as often as needed

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

a late bloomer

Beauty will save the world.
-Feodor Dostoevski
For the wonder of each hour of the day and of the night,
hill and vale and tree and flower,
sun and moon and stars of light,
Source of all, to thee we raise this,
our hymn of grateful praise.

words:Folliott Sandford Pierpont

from Singing the Living Tradition
Beacon Press, Unitarian Universalist Association 

Monday, March 30, 2009

addition to the feline family tree

My Mom's kitty, Honeybee. (Thanks, Judy, for sharing the pic). I think Honeybee may be my step sister?  Furry, in any case. And she is a sweetheart. Also oversees my Mom's artwork. And hogs her quilt. And keeps her company. 

another branch of the feline family tree

Here's my grandkitty, Isabella Sophia.
And my Buddah-like grandkitty, Stewart Ferguson.

They live in Beaverton, OR, with our son Stewart and daughter-in-law, Dawn. Bella and Stewfer are both rescue kitties.  When Stewart and Dawn went to the shelter, Stewart Ferguson came over and sat at Stewart's feet.  The shelter person said something like, "Oh, that's Stewart, he likes you". And of course, the two Stewarts went home together!

Stew and Dawn often foster kittens and their Moms until the kitties are old enough for adoption. I don't think I could let those little ones go once they found their way into my home, and so I admire Stew and Dawn for the good work they are doing. 

Now, Mumsie, I need to get a digital picture of Honeybee, and add her to the tree...and Nelson, are you feeding any strays in your London neighborhood? Send pics!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

is it genetic?

This is the lovely sewing caddy that belonged to my paternal grandmother.
She was a thrifty gal.  Worn bed sheets were cut down the middle lengthwise, flipped, and stitched by hand down the middle.  Now, the old worn middle fabric was on the edges and the stronger, less worn fabric was in the middle of the renewed sheet. She also hand stitched her curtains and pillow covers for her kitchen rocking chair.  She mended clothing and sewed new satin bindings onto woolen blankets. 

This sewing basket belonged to my great grandmother, Namine. When my maternal grandmother was nine years old, her Pa, who was a carpenter, fell off a roof and died a few days later.  Namine and all four of her young daughters, Beatrice, Margretta, Elsie and my gram, Muriel, gathered themselves together and started a dressmaking business. They even made wedding dresses. 

My Mom made most of my clothes growing up, and her sister, (my Aunt Margretta) made most of the clothes her daughters wore.  I remember my cousins and I had mixed feelings about our homemade clothes, but I know back then, our families saved a lot of money staying out of retail shops! I do remember having fun picking out patterns and fabric and buttons when I was old enough to go with my Mom to the fabric store. And because I have always been very tall, my Mom could lengthen a pattern to help me out.

I sewed some of my clothes as a young adult, and made my wedding gown.  I sewed for all four of our kids when they were little, too. I got into quilting in the early 70's and I've been a fiber addict ever since.

So, I think the answer is yes, IT'S GENETIC!  On BOTH sides of my family. And it's been handed down to a newer generation. Our Gretta, (whose full name is Margretta), has quite the fabric stash, and knows how to wield a needle quite nicely. 

And that's a chapter from my sew and sow life!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

life and a cup of tea for comfort

Sometimes we sense things before we know them.  Yesterday I posted a quotation that is speaking to me, big time, today.

The art of living lies in a fine mingling of
letting go and holding on.
-Havelock Ellis

The church I have been committed to and worked hard for is in the midst of turmoil. I know I did what I could when I could. Then I slipped to the periphery about a year and a half ago, resting and waiting and watching. Now we are in the maelstrom. I am trying not to be attached to outcomes.

Gretta decided this morning, she will attend Knox College in the fall. We are so proud and excited for her. We have raised all four kids to be strong and go out into the world to do good things. She is doing what we hoped she would do. And I know that is a blessing. But I am feeling in the midst of letting go and holding on. And I know I am going to feel this way for a while ...

My home away from home, The Country Quilter closed its doors for the last time today.  The women who I have grown to love through their classes, their encouragement, their support and their dear spirits will go their separate ways. They are all starting new adventures and life will go on.  But, yikes, I will miss them and their welcoming shop/creative community. I am letting go...

But here's the thing--we heard spring peepers last night for the first time this year.  So in the midst of all this holding on and letting go, there are the things that stay the same.  That we can depend on, and anticipate and anchor ourselves to. Like the peepers, the snowdrops and the crocus. 

P.S. Will you be turning out your lights from 8:30-9:30 tonight for EARTH HOUR?  It's a symbolic energy saving exercise, calling for action on climate change. Join us!

Friday, March 27, 2009

reminders to self

Never eat more than you can lift.
-Miss Piggy

The art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.
-Havelock Ellis

Another secret is that laughter is carbonated holiness.
-Anne LaMott

Thou shalt not should thyself.

Measure twice, cut once.
-my Dad

Thursday, March 26, 2009

kitchen freshening at "a bit of earth"

How Peter got this hulking cupboard out of our smallish kitchen in Vermont, I don't know. Then he managed to move it across the breezeway and into the woodshed, where it awaits its next incarnation. 
This is what was left behind the cupboard, "lovely" paneling and a patch where an old window must have been, complete with clear vinyl and insulation flapping about the edges.  We trimmed said stuff and filled and spackled. 
Much scrubbing with TSP, two coats of primer and two coats of paint later, voila!  And after much fussing with cryptic IKEA directions, a new wall cupboard for food, a new work surface/storage unit and some shelves. (For you color fanatics, we used "palm springs", from Ace hardware).
Then a glass of wine at the end of the last day, soaking in the view, weary joints and a feeling of accomplishment!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

around the neighborhood

Here's a picture of the Braintree Hill Meetinghouse, just down the road from our place in VT. It's a beauty, in need of a little TLC. The view from the front doors is spectacular, and the cemetery out back is full of lovely old stones. The Historical Society is housed downstairs, and it's only open a few times a year. We are looking forward to the time when we can get in to take a look.
This sign was just posted at the foot of our road, where it leaves the paved town road and heads up, up, up. Our road gets messier by the day, with deep ruts and wet muck. Yesterday the grader came by and dumped gravel in the worst places, providing a bit of traction. I love that the notice runs through May 15th! So many funky aspects to this part-time country life.

Yesterday, Peter and I walked the property lines.  He did "show and tell" with the pruned apple trees.  There are seasonal rivulets running down many parts of the property, trickling water and shelves of ice all along the way. Very pretty. The six acres of balsams still have a carpet of deep snow, in the shade under the boughs. A slice of heaven on earth.

The kitchen freshening project is nearly done. Last coat of paint is drying while I sit here at the 3 Bean Cafe, using the WiFi and sip a mocha.  I'll try to post photos tomorrow, when we head back to "civilization".

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

a few things...

Peter gathered these beautiful pine cones from around the yard, downed by the wild winds up here on Braintree Hill. As a centerpiece, I think they are prettier than a crystal bowl from Tiffany's. 
There are sap buckets all over the neighborhood...a sure sign of spring in these parts. We are looking forward to the day when we can make our own maple syrup.  Just not quite yet.

And hey, ladies and gentlemen, have you heard the news? Hip hip hooray! Now, to the rest of the country, wake up and step up!

And last but not least, check this out.  My friend Judy has posted a bit about my very own Mumsie.  (I actually found Judy's blog through my Mom).  Love the connections we've all made!

Monday, March 23, 2009

heading to "a bit of earth"

This is our porch, in greener times. Can't wait to get up there this afternoon. Peter went up ahead of me, yesterday and reports that the road is barely passable because of the MUD. But the temperature this morning was supposed to be near zero degrees, so maybe the road will be frozen again? I love Vermont!

I'm packing my ancient overalls, 'cause we will be painting the dark paneling in the kitchen. Peter took out a huge old cupboard and we will replace it with a free standing base unit I found at IKEA. Everyone in our family loves to cook, so we really needed more counter space in this small kitchen.  Beside, we need room for raucous kitchen DANCE PARTIES!

I'm taking my sewing machine, too, and hope to make more progress on the quilt.  Deadline is creeping up.

I can't think of a better way to start a Monday morning than getting into the car and heading to Vermont.  Well, I guess maybe waking up in Vermont on a Monday morning....

Sunday, March 22, 2009

additional sunday post

The high school I graduated from 35 years ago has come a long way, and I share this with you. I am feeling proud of the Canton High School drama club! Thanks, Mumsie for forwarding this to me!

100 hours

The independent school Gretta attends has a requirement for graduation that is not academic. All students must log 100 hours of community service before they can receive their diplomas.

Today, she and a group of other students and staff are going to Philadelphia on "Alternative Spring Break 2009". Students have been going to the same neighborhood for over 12 years, so the school has established a real connection with the neighborhood. The kids will cook and eat meals with homeless folks, visit with recovering drug addicts, and pitch in wherever the community needs a hand, clearing lots, repairing homes...

Gretta has been working away at these 100 hours in many ways...stitching up Linus quilts, working at our local CSA, helping out at Sunday School and now, today, setting off for Philly.

Reminds me of something Barack Obama said on November 4, 2008.
Let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other."

And it reminds me, too, of Kahlil Gibran's words.  A quote dear to our family, Work is love made visible.  Gibran's thoughts on work, found in The Prophet  are worth a read (or maybe a reread).

I guess my hope is that Gretta and her classmates will not stop at 100 hours, but rather see their volunteer hours while in high school as a mere warm up for a life full of service.  And may these young folks act as a gentle reminder to the rest of us.......

Saturday, March 21, 2009

boston ramblings

The folks in Boston sure do know how to brew a pot of tea.  They throw wicked good tea pahties, too.
This is the view from Lindsey's window at work on Beacon Hill. Sweet, eh?
We found the statue of Mary Dyer, whose twin sits in front of the Meetinghouse at Earlham.

"My life not availeth me in comparison to the liberty of the truth".

We hiked a bit around Quincy Market and the Common, and we had a great dinner at The Burren, an Irish Pub near Davis Square.  Lindsey and I could not resist the fish and chips.....mine with malt vinegar. Mighty fine.

Brunch was at the S&S Deli near Inman Square, where I had poached eggs over salmon hash (roasted salmon, new red potatoes, scallions and dill).  Next time I have leftover salmon, I am going to was really good.

In between the walking and eating, there was good conversation and a few good chuckles, and a little bit of sister time.  As the kids grow up an way from us, these get-togethers become more dear.  We missed Stew and Dawn, especially.

We left Hannah in Boston with Lindsey, they are going out dancin' tonight, then Hannah is flying out of Logan to go back to school.

I grew up outside of Boston and used to spend time bopping around Cambridge and Boston on weekends.  A lot has changed since then, but the city driving and the crazy accent have not.  It was fun to reconnect with a city I love.

Friday, March 20, 2009

feline family tree

My nephews, Kris and Kringle, (they are handsome brothers) and my sister in law, Maya.  Maya's in the classic meatloaf pose and she's grinning, too. They love playing in paper bags, racing up and down the stairs and hanging out by the woodstove.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

road trip to Massachusetts

We are in Massachusetts to catch up with family.  We've had such a fun day. First to my Mom's, where my Aunt Margretta and Uncle David came by, then on to my brother's for an overnight. He is sprucing up the house where my sister in law, Ra, grew up...perched on the edge of beautiful cranberry bogs.  
Doug and Ra were married here, almost 26 years ago.  Who needs a church?
Tomorrow we are up early, to head to Boston to catch up with Lindsey, of tree pruning fame!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

apple tree pruning at "a bit of earth"

Here's Lindsey and her Papa, pruning apple trees in the old orchard at "at bit of earth" in Vermont this past weekend.
She's a crazy woman!
And here's Peter, out on a limb.

Many thanks to Lindsey's friend Dave for sharing his pictures with us. And many thanks again to Lindsey and her Boston buddies for all their help.

busy kitchen

Citrus for breakfast.
Whenever Hannah is home from college she gets into a baking frenzy. We don't complain. She spent the fall semester studying in Cuatla, Mexico and tonight she is cooking us a Mexican feast. She says it won't resemble Taco Bell AT ALL. Thank goodness! A gang of her high school friends are coming over, and it will be great to catch up with all of them, too. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

what really matters

Good food, candlelight, good conversation with those you love.

urban adventures

Hannah, Gretta and I were out and about in the world today.  First stop, IKEA, for a few items for the kitchen freshening project in VT.  Lunch in the fun cafeteria, of course. 

Then on to the Yale Center for British Art, where we saw "Endless Forms Charles Darwin, Natural Science and the Visual Arts". At last week's gathering of our Speaking of Faith group, we listened to Evolution and Wonder,  and one of my friends recommended the exhibit at Yale to us. Glad we went, it was full of paintings, artifacts and books related to Darwin's life and times. Of course, my favorite piece was a book printed in Edinburgh in 1821 called Werner's Nomenclature of Colours. It was full of little squares of color, with names and formulas for mixing next to them...the book was open to blues...Scotch, Prussian, Indigo, China, Azure. The charts were used for taxonomic descriptions of flora and fauna in the field. I covet the book.  
It was a sunny, warmish day in New Haven, here's a few pictures of pretty things we saw along the way.

And many congratulations go out to Hannah's Earlham friend, Eva Jimenez, who was just awarded a Watson Fellowship.  If you are up for a good read, go here to see all the fascinating projects that will be funded this year.

Monday, March 16, 2009

beta carrot teen (gretta) reporting on superhero day

No matter what art class I'm in, I seem to revert back to vegetables. In my fall art elective I made an art book called "Forgotten Veggies". These lovely veggies were produced in my Experimental Art class. In this class we focused on the necessities for life: food, clothing, and shelter. Although some may argue about the clothing aspect, I think we can all agree food is imperative to our survival. Seeing as I love beets and carrots, I made these out of newspaper, masking tape, and paint. The beets are a little larger than life and the carrot is just plain huge.
I learned this simple sculpting style on a trip to Bread and Puppet, a political theater company in Glover, VT a few summers ago. They believe in "cheap art"; art that costs very little make and can be shared for a  low price. I crumpled the newspaper into the shape I wanted and then covered it in masking tape. I painted them the colors you see here. High-tech, eh? The beet greens were kind of a pain, but overall it was worth it.
I have found use for the carrot. Last week, an underclassman at my school organized Superhero Day. We were all supposed to have a superhero outfit prepared, and at some point in the day it would become apparent that supervillains were trying to take over the world. Sadly, only about 6 kids participated, but it was still really fun. I was Beta Carrot Teen, and the giant carrot was my weapon of choice. I could turn people orange so other superheroes could see they were villains and capture them. I wore some awesome suspenders and a shirt I silkscreened with my "Carrot" screen. And of course, a cape. I wish I had a picture to share, but I wouldn't want to give away my secret identity.
Mom says she wants the beets for her birthday. I guess that's progress because usually when I ask her what she wants she replies "world peace". I've had trouble coming by world peace lately, but I guess I'll keep trying! :) 

better than roses

Branches pruned from our apple trees in Vermont, budding now in our dining room in SW Connecticut.

Silly Peter forgot to take his camera to VT this weekend.  Maybe Lindsey, Dave or Moira will have photos to share?  Much got done at "a bit of earth", three cheers for Lindsey and her friends for pitching in! Sending lots of gratitude their way...

Sunday, March 15, 2009

shifting energies

a) twigs cut last week and put in water.

b) same twigs, this week, sprouting leaves

c) snow melting, even on the north side of the house

d) listening to newly discovered music, priscilla ahn

e) reading about magical seeds

f) CHIVES in the garden

g) driving with the windows open

h) having the laughter of two daughters in the house again, (for a week!) 
i) lighter, happier yarns, with a touch of silk (not so much wool)

j) growing clarity

Saturday, March 14, 2009

la luna

11 PM last night, on the way home from La Guardia.

Friday, March 13, 2009

getting ready for a full weekend

This morning, Peter left for work with a cooler full of good food...fresh fruits and veg, a batch of lentil soup, a pan of lasagna, a block of Cabot sharp cheddar, naan bread, yogurt.  He will head straight from work to VT, where he will meet up with Lindsey and a carload of rural minded refugees from Boston.  This weekend they will all descend on the old apple orchard at the bottom of our property to do some pruning.  We are hoping the trees will appreciate this TLC and revive their fruit bearing energies!  I'm guessing a fair bit of Long Trail Ale will be enjoyed in the evenings, and there will be some geetar strummin' up on Braintree Hill.

In the meantime, I will be driving to La Guardia to fetch Hannah from a late night flight back from college for spring break.  

She'll get to sleep in as late as she wants, because Gretta and I will be out of the house by 6AM to attend the True Colors conference at UCONN. Gretta is an active member of the gay/straight alliance at her school, and a group of us are going to this wonderful conference again this year.  I love going along as a chaperone and being in the midst of kids who may be feeling safe for the very first time in their lives. I am also glad to be a "straight but not narrow" adult for these kids to talk with.  Our family have long been members of HRC, and are dedicated to standing firm against hatred.

And on Sunday, there will be NO alarm clocks going off at our house.  

P.S. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JANE!!!!!  The best is yet to come, no doubt about it, girl!

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Have you ever been really stuck on a project, then switched into avoidance/procrastination mode?  My friend Judy posted about this problem lately and it really resonated with me. I had been trying to work out how to applique letters onto fabric to be sewn into a quilt.  My free motion quilting skills (I wasn't even quilting anyhow) are not up to the precision these letters require.  And using a conventional machine foot was not working either, fabric got pulled down into the feed dogs. After lots of experimentation I've come up with this method...old fashioned tissue paper under the piece, light weight "heat and bond" to join the fabric letter to the quilt fabric, open embroidery foot and smallish stitches, and of course, using the "needle down" option to get around those tight corners. Also helpful, adjusting the needle setting to the right. Later, I'll tear away the tissue paper, and sew the pieces together with the rest of the squares.  

Whew!  A weight has been lifted from my shoulders and now I am excited about the project again.  Why do we (I) waste so much psychic energy on procrastinating?

a day at home, mostly

We have been playing with Henry a bit more than usual, and he seems to be perking up. Here he is enjoying yet another one of Peter's pots. Henry is really into sniffing flowers.  Today I am going to the vet's to pick up Calico's ashes, and we will bury them in VT once the ground softens up.

Every once in a while, despite frequent wiping up of spills, I break down and use the self cleaning cycle on my oven.  Now I am captive in my own home for 4 hours and 20 minutes. I've decided to hunker into my sewing room to make serious progress on this quilt. 
Our friend Margie came for supper last night and I gave her the muttons I knit for her. Since we are both such fashionistas (HA, HA, HA, HA!), we thought we'd have her do some posing, and do a photo shoot.  Here she is, looking very fetch.

Over the last 27 years, Peter and I have had a very effective parenting partnership going.  His steady ways and mellow temperament have made him the perfect driving instructor.  Once he has done the initial teaching, I get brave enough to join in.  Although the kids will say that this does not always bring out the best in me.  And I will agree.  But, this morning, Gretta drove to school (she is learning) and we managed to remain civil with one another. Progress!

Late this afternoon, I am off to have an early supper with a friend to catch up on stuff and gather courage together for a difficult something that must be done. And then on to Spirit in Practice class. How blessed am I?