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

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

a jumble of things on a tuesday

Early morning at our house today.
 This is what "snow in the higher elevations" looks like.
 Looking out the window on the opposite side of the house,
the sun was coming up over the ridge behind us,
casting that beautiful light on the range across the valley.

Every single day, my breath is caught by this view, 
by the reality that this is where we live,
by the sanctuary that it affords us.
 Sometimes we keep a galvanized bucket full of water in our bathroom.
Because sometimes the power goes out in this 
enchanted place and our pump goes out, too.
And this bucket of water comes in mighty handy when you need to flush the toilet.
(See, it's not all enchanted).
Wilma and Cora often use it as a watering hole...
We took our vehicles down to town to have our tires swapped out,
and to have my front brakes (unexpectedly) replaced, 
which was also not enchanting.
We donned our masks and distanced ourselves 
and washed our hands when we got home.

This view on the way home was nice.

Today our oldest turns 38, 
and I was remembering him as a toddler,
and myself as a young mama.
Our little starter family in Old San Juan, PR.

It was a lifetime ago and I am feeling all the feelings today.


Saturday, April 25, 2020

staying in touch these days

Well what a week it has been, eh? Just when you think things can't get any more surreal, they do. I am dumbfounded. But enough of that.

Inspired by our daughters Lindsey and Hannah, who were baking bagels together virtually a few weekends ago, I decided to try making some myself. As you can see, they ended up looking more like rolls than bagels, but they were tasty. I wrote notes on the recipe (I used this one) for how to improve them next time. I used a bit 6-grain flour along with the white and added a "harvest mix" of whole grains to the egg washed tops to add a wee bit more nutrition. Batman went out and clipped some chives, (just popping up in the garden) to add along with dried dill to the cream cheese. That made them extra special.

Last Sunday, our VTMQG held our monthly meeting via zoom. Thirty nine members attended! I must confess, it was lovely to see everyone's faces lined up on several pages of the "gallery". It really was lovely. Really.

Last weekend Batman, Hannah and Lindsey used FaceTime to bake Toll House cookies together. Our kitchens in Vermont, Detroit and Bloomfield Hills were all busy with the noise of mixers and banter.  

On Wednesday, I participated in a free zoom session hosted by The Makerie, a small business in Boulder, Colorado dedicated to creating "modern creative retreats". Heidi Parks guided us through some hand yoga (!) to get us started. Then she demonstrated some stitching techniques and handed things off to Melanie Falick who read from her book, Making a Life:Working by Hand and Discovering the Life You Are Meant to Live. There were women from all over the world gathered on many pages and again, it was wonderful to see so many faces who joined to sew together in a most unusual way!

Lately, all four kids and their spouses/partners have joined us on Sunday mornings for an hour long zoom session. Sometimes we get a glimpse of Maggie, but she is a busy one these days! We do a check in, we chat about the week, we share good resources for understanding the times we are living in. Twice now, we have joined up in the evening to watch the same movie together in real time and comment via text about what's going on. Hilarious!

This afternoon, our quilt guild hosted a "virtual sew in" via zoom and a bunch of us enjoyed a bit of time to chat together over sewing projects that ranged from piecing quilts to hand sewing to organizing sewing space. We talked about notions, techniques, rehabbing vintage machines and where to have our machines serviced in these odd days. It was a delightful distraction.

Anyhow...all of this is to say that life has certainly changed the way we navigate our days (I won't even tell you about Batman's legislative work!!!). This new normal certainly depends on having an electronic device, access to a reliable internet connection and a steady electrical power source, and I feel privileged to have all three. May we work harder as a nation to find ways to make this possible for all of the people who live in these United States of America.

And I still love snail mail, but even that seems to be under fire in these bizarre times!

How are you staying connected to people in you life?

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

tuscan tuesday::tucked into my suitcase

Yesterday I pulled a tissue wrapped parcel out of one of my sewing cupboards. It had been tucked away since we got home from our trip to Italy. This linen was my one splurge as we navigated the medieval hill towns of Tuscany. I spent a bit of time drooling over gorgeous bolts of linen in a shop in Montepulciano. And I am so glad I picked this olive printed linen as "my one true treasure" to bring back home with me.

When we saw it in the shop, it was smooth as silk on the bolt. Yesterday I trimmed the edges of the yardage, turned them under and machine hemmed them. Then I washed the linen in cool water and dried it on low. This process pulled all the sizing out of the fabric and left it soft, drapey and floaty. Just the texture I was looking for.

We've had flurries off and on for days, the temperatures have been chilly and it feels like a late spring this year. This special tablecloth reminds me of warmer, more carefree days. Wish you could pull up a chair and join me for fresh figs and a glass of Prosecco.


Monday, April 20, 2020

april stitching

 crayon pouches for maggie,
stitched with denim from old jeans, and bug fabric leftover
from a project from about 22 years ago. 
a zippered pouch made for a friend's birthday.
the zipper pull was cut from scraps I snagged from the floor 
of the vermont glove factory in 2018.

(read about how sam has pivoted
and how some of us have been pitching in, here)
(see the connection between the glove factory and
the governor of vermont here).
i had to go "shopping" in our pantry to
find a few goodies to put in it. 
"spring fever" pillow for the living room, sewn
from my stash and backed with the front of one of batman's 
old shirts...sometimes a  button placket works better than a zipper. 
this faded chickadee was cut from a very old
linen calendar tea towel.
1978 to be exact.
the year i graduated from college.

fabric, thread, scissors, pins
my beloved bernina.


Saturday, April 18, 2020

cooking and eating close to home

Hello friends,

We are so very grateful to have sufficient food during these times of isolation. Early on, I did an inventory of our freezer and found a few fun surprises. I found a quart of apple cider, pressed from our own trees, during a neighborhood cider pressing party last fall. There are lots of frozen soups, stews and baked goods in there too.  
On Easter Sunday, Batman decided to whip out his Great British Baking Show skills and tried his hand at a hot water crust meat pie. Filled with ground lamb (from the freezer), potatoes, peas, tomatoes, currants and spices, there was NO soggy bottom!
We're still growing sprouts in containers on the windowsill and in jars in the kitchen. This sprouting mix came from High Mowing Seeds. That beautiful Meyer lemon (above) is the first harvested from our windowsill tree this season. Six more are ripening on the tree. And the muffin is filled with blueberries grown last summer at our "bit of earth", pulled out of the freezer for chilly morning baking. We had run out of buttermilk and instead I added a tablespoon of lemon juice to 1 cup of milk, let it stand for 10 minutes and then used it in the recipe. #pandemicflexibility
Our favorite local eatery, the Black Krim Tavern is still open, serving pre-ordered meals "to go" from the sidewalk. They have just started a fundraiser to support other local businesses in town. On Wednesday you can order a "meal kit" to pick up on Friday. It is priced so that part of the profit goes to a donation fund. Folks who are able, are also encouraged to overpay at bit. Sarah has a table full of free vegetables on the sidewalk, grown by her husband Chip, who runs Pebble Brook Farm. Yesterday I buzzed down the hill and picked up some meal kits and last night Batman cooked us up some dilled salmon, plated over a carrot and parsnip mash, topped with an orange and olive slaw. It was fabulous. We remain grateful for our small town living and we honor the people who are working with generous hearts to keep multiple bottom lines as they try to stay afloat themselves.

Last weekend, two of our daughters cooked up homemade bagels in their kitchens. They texted process questions back and forth and then posted pictures of their bagels online. What a fun way for siblings to stay connected! Now inspired, I have printed out a recipe from King Arthur Flour and plan to give bagels a try here in Vermont.

Last week, Batman bought and printed out his fishing license, and so perhaps someday soon we will have fresh caught fish to grill up. Standing in waders in very cold, rushing water may not sound like fun to you, but that is one of the best places for him to relax from his legislative duties. And you can bet he leaves his phone in the truck!
And just for fun...Jennifer Judd-Mcgee has some new free printable coloring sheets available here, and the page (above) is from artist Lisa Congdon. This page can be found here.

***Keeping this space as a quiet refuge continues to be my goal. I have recently added a few timely pieces to my long quiet blog "a repository for growth", where I keep more feisty subject matter archived. There's a link in my sidebar.***

Thursday, April 16, 2020

a tutorial for vicki, and maybe others :-)

Reader Vicki had asked about how I sewed the paper cover onto our "staying home" book. I'm happy to walk you all through this very easy project.

Things you will need...
  • a soft covered notebook
  • decorative paper to fit the front cover (may be a full sheet or collaged to fit!)
  • pencil
  • scissors
  • glue stick
  • something to smooth the glued paper onto the notebook cover
  • sewing machine with a universal needle and thread to either match or contrast with paper, depending on the look you want.

This photo is to show you how soft and pliable the cover is on the notebook I used. This blank book was gifted to me by one of my college roomies. She lived in Costa Rica for many years and this book was made in part, of banana fronds!
Line the notebook cover up with the corner of your decorative paper (wrong side up) and trace around the other two sides.
This will save you a bit of you have just two sides to cut vs. all four edges.
Add a few dabs of glue to the corners and center of your paper, on the wrong side of the paper. Carefully place the glued side of your paper onto the front of your notebook, matching edges as you go. Don't sweat it. Perfection is just an option.

Use the smoothing tool to press the paper lightly to the notebook. This will help keep the paper from slipping around while you sew it down. Let the glue dry.
Lengthen the stitch on your machine. Using a small stitch may actually create a perforation, which you don't want. If you have a "needle down" option on your machine, turn it on. Start sewing at the bottom, middle of the notebook edge.  I sewed about an eighth of an inch from the edge.
When you get to the first corner, lift your presser foot and swivel the notebook under the presser foot, lining up your stitch line with the next edge. Put your presser foot back down and continue to stitch around the edges and corners of the notebook in the same manner. When you get to it, you may want to sew a bit further away from the binding of the notebook, to allow for the bulk of the pages there.
Once you have sewn all around the edge of the notebook, take a few more stitches to overlap for tying off. Turn off your "needle down" setting, take a stitch to release the needle from the down position, lift the presser foot and pull the edge of the notebook away from your machine. Cut the threads, leaving longish tails.
Turn your notebook over to the wrong side, pull all of your threads through to the back.
Tie the loose threads carefully and trim them with scissors.
Presto. Easy peasy. You've got yourself a sweet little "staying home" book.
I hope you will find your version of a "staying home" book to be a comfort in these odd times. Keeping track of whatever is meaningful to you may become a bit of a mediation for you. As the days change, so can your writing. Not meant to be an obligation or chore, these little books can document anything you want.

Stay safe. Stay well. Send me any questions you may have in the comments here or send me an email. 


Wednesday, April 15, 2020

puttering about

 When I woke up this morning, I thought it was a foggy start.
Then I put my glasses on and realized it was snowing.
 Later I noticed that the sunlight, creeping around the side of the house,
was creating a sharp line of melting.
 That Mother Nature, she is cool beans.
 In between legislative zoom calls and
conference calls with the hospital,
Batman has been keeping busy with
fun projects around the house.
I have been wanting a window box under the windows of
The windows crank outwards,
so a box tucked under the sill is not practical.
Count on Batman to come up with a solution.
We brought this cedar window box with us from the house in CT.
Batman crafted a stand made of downed birch branches
collected here on the property.
I can't wait til it's warm enough to plant it full of flowers!
It gets morning sun, but most of the day it's in shade.
Any suggestions? 

I have a book stand for my cookbooks,
but I also use lots of recipe cards, 
recipes pulled from magazines and printed from the internet.
 I sometimes become exasperated when they flop over,
or flutter off the counter.
The other day I pulled out my toolbox and
screwed a brass cup hook into
the windowsill at eye level.
I found a paper clamp and hung it from the hook.
Such a very simple solution. 
You can find the recipe for Leek, Celeriac and Potato Soup here.
Sometimes it's the simple, easy projects that
can provide shelter in these odd days.
My dad called time spent this way as "puttering about".

And hey Vicki...
tomorrow I'll be back to explain how
I sewed the paper onto the cover of our "staying home" book.

Hang in there friends!

Monday, April 13, 2020

anatomy of a challenge quilt

Our Vermont Modern Quilt Guild has a strong Programming Committee. Each spring, these fabulous women put together a challenge around the Kona cotton color of the year (Robert Kaufman Fabrics). This year the Kona color of the year is "enchanted" and you can see a color swatch in the photos, above. Each member was gifted a fat quarter of the fabric at our February meeting, to get us started.

The guidelines are simple:

  • clear use of color theory concepts and modern principles
  • use any additional fabrics, including more Kona COTY Enchanted
  • any size, any project
  • whatever you make, it should be quilted
  • due at the April meeting
I decided to delve into my fabric stash to create my submission for the challenge. I had a very precious fat quarter saved for something fun. I bought the insect print while visiting my brother Nelson in Portland, OR two years ago. Bolt is a very nifty neighborhood shop that has a fun selection of fabrics. My only regret is that I did not buy more than a fat quarter of these bugs!

The bugs have a dash of teal that closely matches Kona's "enchanted", so I used it as a jumping off point for the project.

A few years ago I purchased a fat quarter stack of Kona greens while shopping at Gather Here with my daughter Lindsey. I pulled a few of them for both squares on the the front and panels for the back of the quilt.

I bought the Essex linen at an end of bolt discount when our sweet shop "nido" in Burlington closed a few years ago.

I also had some orange fabric, made I think, in Guatemala that served as the "pop", sitting on the other side of the color wheel from the "enchanted" teal. I used a bit of the orange and lots of the  "enchanted" to make a flange around the patched part of the quilt.

The only thing I needed to finish the project was a baby quilt sized batting, and I ordered four of them on sale online. (because you never know when you might need another baby quilt batting).

Once I quilted the entire piece I tossed it into the washer and dryer to give it the textured, wrinkled look I love.

I didn't have a pattern for this quilt and I didn't even plan it out completely before I started to cut into all the fabric. I guess you could say I winged it. These seem like days when winging it feels pretty good. To just hunker into the process, to see how it unfolds.

I'm calling this one "Enchanted Bugs".

Quality control courtesy of Corazón.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

an overwintered fig and candlelight

We give thanks for all those simple times we have
arisen from the depths or simply taken a tiny step
toward something new. May we be empowered by 
extraordinary second chances. As we enter the
world anew, let us turn the tides of despair into
endless waves of hope.
-Molly  Fumia

Saturday, April 11, 2020

to remember these days

Way back on March 17th (that seems like ages ago, doesn't it?) I sewed some pretty paper onto a soft covered notebook and dubbed it "STAYING HOME". Each page documents a day. The date, the day of the week, the weather, meals, conference calls, snail mail written and received, packages delivered, work done outside, stitches taken (knit, sewn), garden/hoop house notes...they are all recorded here. It's a bit like a Victorian lady's book of days. 

(Have you read The Journals of Dorothy Wordsworth? My copy has a hand written note in the front, "Karen Lowry May 27, 1977" And a rubber stamped "Wordsworth's Cottage, Grasmere". I purchased the book while studying "off campus" as a student at Earlham College. I took a class on the romantic poets which was capped off with a long weekend in the Lake District, rambling the lanes of the poets. Best memories ever. Please excuse my digression).

Oddly, sometimes Batman and I get to the evening, sit down to write in the notebook's pages, and we can barely remember what we did that day. We call it suspended animation. Perhaps you are feeling it too. A weird sort of wandering through a day. Accomplishing things, yes, but perhaps not with the same sense of focus we usually have.

Last night, my book club had scheduled a Zoom meeting. Since April is National Poetry Month, we had agreed to bring a poem to the meeting to share with the group. I loved the idea. But the closer it got to the time to sign in, the more uncomfortable I became. I begged off, via a last minute email. I felt a bit guilty, but I just couldn't show up. During a phone call later, with two friends from our group, I realized I had known that poetry would make me feel vulnerable and sad. Their kindness just opened the way for me to get in touch with all the emotions I've been "managing". Holy smokes, friends, it's a lot, isn't it?

Most mornings, I start my day with a mug of tea and some hand work. (First I have to feed Wilma and Cora). I try to sink into the slow stitching as a sort of mediation as I watch the early morning light drape across our landscape. I do so wish you could join me. We could sit in silence for a bit and then we could brew a second cup of tea and talk about the day ahead, and offer one another the shelter of friendship.


(love your comments, friends. thank you.)

Thursday, April 9, 2020

a dress for a fox

Perhaps you know Alicia's sweet blog, Posie Gets Cozy and are familiar with her delightful patterns and kits. I've made a bunch of Alicia's felt animals, you may check them out here, here, here and here. Recently, Maggie has discovered the fox I made for Gretta. This afternoon I stitched a wee Little Red Riding Hood print dress for the fox, inspired by the cape I stitched for Maggie last month.  I'll put it in a little care package and send it off to the Brooklyn apartment where Gretta's little family is doing science experiments, crafting, playing games and planting seeds on the windowsill. There will be love and hope tucked into that package as well.

It is rainy and raw here in Vermont today, with snow in the overnight forecast, but I am not discouraged. The grader went up and down our dirt road the other day and the tiny yellow flowers that grow in the ditches are blooming. 

After we came home from our lovely trip to Tuscany, I treated myself to a milk foamer. Every once in while, I make a cappuccini, and I am transformed to breakfasting at the B&B we stayed at while in Florence, with the doors to the dining space open to the gentle air. Two women worked in a tiny kitchen and produced the most elegant breakfast treats, and exquisitely simple "spa breakfasts" as we called them. It was nice to have so many choices. But the cappuccinos were stellar, and I have yet to reproduce one exactly like theirs. This morning I made another effort, trying to fend off the chill. One of these days I'll get it all just right.

I stacked a bunch of cardboard boxes up the other day, tipped on their sides, and Wilma and Cora have had fun playing and napping in them. Soon they will be able to play out on the three season porch, with fresh air drifting in through the screens.

Perhaps that's enough rambling for today. I send hope and love and comfort your way dearest readers.  

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

sunrise this morning at our "bit of earth"

“it is a serious thing
 just to be alive 
on this fresh morning
in this broken world.”

-Mary Oliver, Red Bird