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

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

tuscan tuesday::a little bit haunted

 In Adoration of the Magi, Botticelli is said to have created an image 
of himself in the lower right hand corner of the painting.
Kinda creepy.
c. 1475.
 At the Uffizi.
The monk Maurus, warned by St. Benedict, saves
his fellow monk Placidus from drowning
by walking on water.
by Bartolomeo di Giovanni. 
c. 1485-90.
c. 1495.
The wife of Brutus, one of the conspirators involved
in the murder of Julius Caesar.
After her husband's suicide, she too killed herself... swallowing burning coals.
(Detail, lower right hand corner of the painting).
By Fra' Bartolomeo.
 In Montepulciano, in the church of Sant'Agostino.
A woman bereft.
 Saint Anthony di Padua, finder of lost things.
Captivated by the energy I felt at his feet,
his statue was littered with photos of missing people.
His sleeves were filled with notes left by pilgrims.
This was one of the most moving experiences I had in Tuscany.
I am not a religious person, but rather spiritual.
There was something going on here I have yet to wrap my head around.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

some distractions

the girls

Oh silly me, I came out from under my rock and peeked at the news today. Now I am scrambling to find distractions. Fun distractions. Lovely distractions. Anything to give me some relief from the fatigue.

Thought you might appreciate some links.

Do you know the enchanting work of Salley Mavor of Wee Folk Studio? Check out her needlework here. Recently, Salley's work has taken a very interesting twist and turn. You can read about her short film and watch it by clicking here.

And here is some gorgeous beadwork by Margaret Nazon, who stitches images of the cosmos that are magical indeed. Be sure to follow the links in the story to other lovely things. (Years ago I heard US Poet Laureate Tracy K Smith read at a gallery not far from here).

We've had a rainy spell here, and I took advantage of the day and cleaned and tidied up my sewing studio. Priorities have been set, supplies have been organized. I'm ready to rumble.

Bring it on, Monday.


Friday, October 25, 2019

triptych #46

  • leaden skies
  • quiet pebbles
  • still life with plants
Maybe you are feeling it too. A slowing down, a hunkering in, a need for quiet. Here in Vermont nearly all the leaves have been blown off the trees by recent, wild winds. But the oaks hang on, the lilacs are finally turning brown, the tamaracks are blazing gold.

It's chilly and damp today, and grey. A good day for tea with a friend, a good day for warm slippers and a wee fire in the stove.

This is the time of year...with the approaching days of Samhain, Halloween, Day of the Dead, All Soul's Day, that I feel most in need of time for reflection.

I've been thinking of ways to honor this urge to pull within.

Usually a place of connection and inspiration, lately I found myself checking my Instagram account more often and "following" more accounts and then actually feeling a bit burdened by it all. So I removed it from my phone. I'm just taking a break. And I feel better already.

And, oh, the news...I've put the brakes on that too! I no longer listen to the news on the way down the hill to the gym or errands. Instead I soak up the treat of driving on a dirt road in rural Vermont. Watching the light change as I go through a tunnel of trees, or drive across the open ridge line, it's a much more inspiring way to start the day.

There's more time spent in the kitchen, too, cooking with local squash, root veggies from the garden, local sausage from neighbors over the ridge. Curries and stews and soups, paired with very special slivers of Vermont cheeses are finding their way into our menus. The cider from last week's neighborhood pressing is nearly gone. We're snipping potted rosemary, brought in from the herb bed outdoors. It all just feels so dang cozy.

This month's book group selection is The Book of Joy,Lasting Happiness in a Changing World. The book documents an extended conversation between the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu, both Nobel Peace Prize Laureates. It's wonderful. I'm guessing that you, dear readers, might like it too.

This weekend, I'll be working on a secret sewing project (Miss Maggie is nearly 2!!!), casting on a shawl with some local Vermont yarn, shopping at the Norwich Farmer's's the last outdoor market of the year, and doing a bit more yard work with Batman. And I dream of staying in bed on Sunday morning for a bit, with a mug of tea and a idea of heaven.

Wishing you moments of quiet reflection, too....

Monday, October 21, 2019

october is sliding by

Well then!

Our busy house guest season has come to a close. We had visitors from Mount Desert Island, ME, from Massachusetts, from Alabama and from Cape Cod (also MA). Activities included the Vermont Sheep and Wool Fest, leaf peeping, a bonfire, hiking at the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller Historic Park,  chatting around the dinner table long into the night, eating dinners produced from the garden and root cellar, celebrating my Mumsie's 87th birthday (!) and watching a few movies at home. A neighborhood cider pressing and goat visiting topped things off.

The prepping in the kitchen, the towel and sheet swapping, the vacuuming and sweeping became a mediation of sorts. Anticipating guests and then remembering fun times drifted in and out of the housekeeping.

There is such a satisfying quiet that has draped itself around the house today and the late afternoon sunshine slants into the living room in such a gracious way.

We have shared a deep exhale, and now we look forward to getting the last few chores and projects done before the real cold sets in.

And just look at how the hoop house is holding up! We have greens, beets and leeks growing under the plastic tunnel. The madder is still looking good in the dye garden. We have straw to spread on the garlic bulbs and the madder...maybe tomorrow. Batman planted Chinese forget-me-not seeds under the hedge of sunflowers and they surprised us with their hardiness. They are still growing strong out there!

Birds are flocking, getting ready to migrate. We had a group of about a dozen bluebirds gorging on the mountain ash berries last week.  This afternoon we saw a murmuration of birds that flew by so fast that we couldn't identify them, but they were magical!

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

tuscan tuesday::don't forget to look up

  • the carved wooden ceiling at the bibliotecca medicea laurenziana in florence.
  • a model of a flying machine, built based on drawings by leonardo da vinci, at the leonardo da vinci museum in vinci.
  • an ancient portico at chertoza de pontinaro.
  • the magical ceiling at the duomo cathedral in sienna.
  • in the piazza del campo in sienna.
  • an evening sky over our rented villa.
  • the ceiling at "a small family church" in the castello di brolio.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

wish you were here

this weekend was peak foliage around here.
brilliant reds, oranges and salmons and golds and yellows
played against the deep green of the balsams
 and the grey of rock outcroppings.
i drove to our modern quilt guild meeting this morning, along I-89,
blown away again by the glory of vermont in october. 

it just doesn't get old.
year after year, it continues to stop us in our tracks.

this afternoon
i took a little wander in our side yard, close to the stone wall that 
keeps our neighbor's cattle from coming into our yard
(most of the time).

the colors are softer under the birches and beeches...
more golden and russet.
the ferns, bleached by the hard frost, look ghostly.

the hunter's moon will rise tonight
and the change of seasons is feeling more urgent.

pine cones and acorns and crabapples
are being hoarded by the little wood critters.

the birds are busy eating berries and seeds from the
bushes and trees.

woodpiles are looking fresh and organized.

squash and root vegetables are stacked at farm stands
and jars of gleaming jams and jellies and pickles are everywhere.
piglets are being born all over the valley,
hay is baled and tucked into barns and shelters.

sitting, looking at the view with batman this afternoon,
we could smell the dry leaves.
is there a perfume that mimics that scent?
i would buy it, to be sure.


Saturday, October 12, 2019


 Two of our favorite birches, snuggled up near our property line, were badly damaged by the heavy snows we had last winter. Batman cut them down (reluctantly) recently, and I helped haul all the limbs out into the meadow. We'll use the chipper on the tractor to clean things up, and deliver the chips to neighbors.
 One of the silver linings of this small tragedy was all the birch bark I was able to salvage for winter projects. (Harvesting bark from living birches can damage them).
 This time of year is so very spectacular here in Vermont. Even as the sugar maples turn a flaming red, the sunflowers nod their last hurrahs.
 The wind knocked a few down and scattered their petals across the lawn, creating a lovely carpet of colors. As the first hard frost threatened, I went out to pick the marigolds. They do such a nice job all summer, keeping pests away from the vegetable beds, it's a shame to let them turn to mush in the freeze!
 Here they are, on the three season porch, scattered out on newspaper, waiting for the afternoon sunshine to dry them out.
Once they are dry, I'll store them in a mesh bag in my sewing studio. On some gloomy day next winter, I'll pull them out, brew up a tea and create some gorgeous and cheering colors on linen and cotton fabric.

We are in the midst of peak foliage season up here and I still can hardly believe that we live here.


Tuesday, October 8, 2019

the decade quilt

 I started this quilt in April of 2009, back when sewandsowlife was just a baby. You can read about it here.
I finished piecing it this summer (2019!) and had it professionally quilted by a friend in my guild. This is the very first time I have had a quilt done by someone else, and let me tell you, it was a joy!  It's a queen size quilt and there is no way I would have been able to lug that thing through my conventional machine. I know, I know, people do it all the time...but it would have made me mad with exasperation! So thank you very much Karen Abrahamovich, of Machine Quilting Services of Vermont. Her suggestion of a citrus peel pattern was spot on.
Anyhow, the whole point of the quilt was to use sentimental scraps. The nine patch (above) is stitched with scraps from a dress I made for Lindsey in 1986. Here's a picture of Stewart and Lindsey (wearing the dress) playing on the shore of Lake Arcadia in Michigan.
This block is made with scraps of kettle cloth (do you remember kettle cloth?) my mom used to made me a skirt and matching jacket set that I think I wore in the third grade.
These flowers on blue were bits of kitchen curtains I made for the very first house we owned in La Grange  IL. The wallpaper was in reverse, white background with blue flowers.
This chintz green and white was from a dress my mom made for me when I was in college. I have very funny memories of wearing it when I had dinner with Peter's parents in NYC (when we were just college sweeties) and I got a wee bit tipsy by mistake.
These beautiful batik birds came from a blouse I wore the day Peter and I shared a fateful train ride in 1974. xo

Other bits came from quilts I've made over the years, more kid's clothing I stitched and gifts I've sent off into the world. 

My word for 2019 is "productive" and I've been determined that some of that productivity would be used to finish up some UFO's* It was a relief and a true pleasure to put this quilt on our bed. 

Thanks for following along with this sentimental patchwork. Tuscan Tuesday will turn up again next week.

* UnFinished Objects

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

tuscan tuesday::curtains

 one night we ate dinner at la vecchia bettola
in florence,
recommended by our b&b hostess
as a typical neighborhood restaurant.
it was after a long day sightseeing
and not a lot of sleep.
i nearly had a meltdown.
but this neighborhood supper spot was such fun...
communal tables, a "fiasco" of house chianti and
wonderful, local food.
dogs underfoot, loud, friendly conversations
and folks of all ages.
as we left i spotted this sweet curtain, hanging in the open door.

and thus began my fascination with italian curtains...
the rest of these beauties were spotted in the 
medieval town of radda in chianti.
the eyelet...
the lace...

the cutwork!

each curtain, fashioned to be just the right size for its window.
what a marvel!

i do wonder if they were custom made or
if there is some amazing website we could track down...