Thursday, September 30, 2010

Why my kitchen looks the way it does

(Well, that and it being food-preservation crunch time. That's also why we had pancakes for dinner tonight.)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Summer Vintage Swap Recieved

Last week, I received my Vintage Swaps package from Kristi. It was one of those weeks, so though it gave me a thrill to receive a package, and I took a quick peek inside when it arrived, I had to wait a few days before I actually had time to go through and take a good look and photograph what she sent. What a lot of things there were to discover! Here are some of my favorites:

This fabric and trim are destined to become something cute for Lucy. She claimed them as soon as she saw them. "Mine? On!"

This lemony linen napkin is on its way to becoming something else.
Not sure what yet, but I love the fabric...

This embroidered trim has blueberries! (One of my most favorite things.)
Hmmm...a blueberry-picking dress?

And these cute little vintage cards tickled me.
Perfect for a swap that celebrates the joy of snail mail!

Thanks, Kristi, for a great swap package! (Kristi's is on its way to her. I'll blog what I sent once I know she's received it.)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Because surely I needed some more...

...I went to one of my favorite book sales with a friend this weekend. Oh, did we have fun! As is our habit, we scanned the tables, pulled anything that looked tempting, stuffed it into a bag (two giant tote bags just for me!), and then sat in a corner weeding through the piles, trying to make ourselves put some back. I was good--my put-back pile was as big as my must-have pile. But still, I came away with this many new books. Oh, did I get some treasures! I've just barely started really reading them all, but so far, I'm very excited about:

Fairy Tales by e.e. cummings. Really?!? Who knew? And they look fabulous.
A beautiful edition of Pinnochio.
That Pablo Picasso book on the right above, to add to a series I've been slowly collecting at book sales for the studio.
An Anno book I didn't yet know.
Our Friends in Spain--a learn-Spanish book with fabulous vintage illustrations (right now, my group of kids includes one whose mother is from Spain, and another who recently lived in Spain for 4 months).
A book that's been on my wish list since being recommended by a favorite blogger.

There's more, more, more; I'm off to take a closer look at them and get them cataloged on Librarything. I've got to hurry, because my absolute most-favorite best-ever sale is coming up very soon!

Monday, September 27, 2010

The bumblebee dress

I finally finished my 2nd Charlotte Dress for Lucy. It's been mostly-finished for days, but I just couldn't find time to sew the neck (the sewing machine wakes her up, unfortunately!). I am so excited about this dress: I love it, love it, love it!

The fabric is vintage; it was a tablecloth, given to me by a friend. It's covered in bumblebees, ladybugs, apples, and flowers. I love it, so it's been hard to use; I wanted to find just the right project. When I finished the last dress, I liked the pattern so well I wanted to make another right away, and it seemed the perfect thing to show off this cute fabric. The yellow fabric was once curtains--and then a tablecloth--from another friend. And there's the cutest vintage flower button (sorry for the bad photos--it's grey and rainy here today).

And the pocket! I think all little girls' clothes should have pockets (why do only boys get them?). There are so many rocks and sticks and shells and acorns to collect! You have to have somewhere to put them. Lucy loves pockets, and is thrilled when she discovers them on a new outfit. Once upon a time, I'd seen a great pocket on Made by Rae. I filed it away in my brain, and actually remembered where to find it when I wanted it for this dress. ( I made my pieces one inch smaller all around to make a child-sized--but still very big--pocket.) Isn't it cute?

It's getting hard to take pictures of Lucy; she wants to be on the move! In these pictures, she was running full speed around our kitchen island, while in my mind, this song played over and over:

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Books to read while the dehydrator runs

Here's the second installment of my book list for our "squirreling away" project. These are the books the kids and I are reading about apples.

The Apple and the Moth by Iela and Enzo Mari.
A recent book-sale find, in horrible condition, but oh so worth reading anyway. While we're picking apples, gorging on apples, and smelling the apples in the dehydrator, it's fascinating to "read" this book about the life cycle of a moth, taking place in an apple tree. The moth lays an egg in the flower--and so is then inside the apple as it forms--and the caterpillar has to bite its way out? Somehow I missed that in biology class, and loved learning it here! I love the simple, bold illustration style, too.

The Apple Pie Tree by Zoe Hall and Shari Halpern.
When we went to pick crab apples recently, one of the children commented that he remembered visiting when the trees were fully in bloom. This is another good book for showing the life of an apple tree through all the seasons, with the end of the story being "there's nothing as good as an apple pie you grew yourself."

Apples and Pumpkins by Anne Rockwell and Lizzy Rockwell.
Oh, so sweet and nostalgic (remember when you could give away apples as treats at Halloween? This book does...). When I read "we go to the Comstock farm to pick apples and pumpkins," Lucy is riveted. It's her experience, exactly. I love the innocence of this one, perfect for toddlers.

Apple Farmer Annie by Monica Wellington.
There's something about this book that makes kids ask for it again and again. I like that the farmer is a woman. And that it's simple enough for a toddler, but shows everything from harvesting apples to making cider to baking with them to selling all the products at market. And I appreciate all the signs and border illustrations that invite lots of discussion beyond the story.

Coming up next...books about squirrels and other animal food gatherers.

By the way...if you click on a link and find yourself at IndieBound, and then buy a book through there from your local independent bookstore, I should theoretically earn a bit of change (hasn't happened yet). If you find yourself at Librarything, it's because IndieBound didn't have it and I want you to see the book without finding yourself at an online giant retailer.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Dressing my baby for the 1960s

I almost forgot about the Sewing and Craft Exchange at the church around the corner, but luckily, we drove by at the right time, and I was able to run in for a few minutes. The first table had boxes and boxes of patterns for 10 cents!!! I wanted to just pick up the huge box of children's patterns and take them all home, but I showed great restraint and only bought 80 cents worth. (Oh, how I'm mourning those I didn't buy! But I have to be realistic about how much storage space and sewing time I have.) Look at these darling treasures:

I'm hoping that some day, I will be a good enough seamstress that I can make a coat, like that little yellow one up there. And that tulip hat to go with it? It's almost too cute--cheesy? But I like it.

I just love the sweet innocence of vintage baby clothes. Babies were allowed to be babies, rather than tiny teenagers.

I thought this top looked simple, comfortable, and versatile.

I love the side buttons on this one. I think that blue dress would look great as a winter jumper in wool or something else cozy and warm.

I love the little inverted pleats and the round opening at the back on this one.

That yellow dress with big pockets looks like a great layering basic to me. And that cape? Love it.

And, seriously. Lucy needs this chicken dress. She'd be thrilled. It has a chicken! And an egg-shaped pocket! (And a chick on a string to put in the pocket, but I think I'd skip that part.)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Books to read while the canning pot boils

I promised I'd share a booklist for what I've come to think of as our "squirreling away" project (our current investigation of storing up food for winter, focused in part on the comparison between us and animals, especially squirrels.) The books we're reading now have some overlap with last year's autumn book basket, but as we read, we have a different perspective found through the lens of our recent experiences foraging, collecting acorns, making jelly, and picking and eating apples.

I'm afraid this might become a marathon post, so I'll break it into a few smaller ones (you know I tend to go on and on about children's books!). These are the food-storage by humans ones.

Have I told you about Librarything? It's one of my all-time favorite online tools. I've used it to catalog all my books. It's super-helpful for teachers or parents who want to follow up on children's very specific interests, because you can tag all your books with whatever keywords you want. After years of going to the school librarian asking "can you think of any books about string?" (for one of my most-frustrating examples) and ending up with only one non-fiction title from the computer card catalog, I am thrilled to be able to find all the books I've got that show inspiring uses of string. (If your kids--like many of those in my past classes--happen to be into string, you may be interested in my collection of books tagged "string,"or in the books tagged "string" by anyone on librarything.)

So, for example, as I began to notice the children's interest in all the food preservation that was going on around them, and in acorns, and squirrels, I searched my librarything catalog for "food storage," "canning," "squirrels," "acorns," "apples," and "foraging." Here are some that I chose from those that came up (for a group that's currently a 1 1/2-year-old, 3 2-year-olds, a 3-year-old, and a 4-year-old).

Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey. Of course. Is there any more classic, more beautiful story about the experience of gathering food for the winter? And it's about both people and animals. And that picture of the kitchen on the endpapers? I could move right in, and I find myself spending as much time discussing that illustration as reading the rest of the book! (And the fact that Sal is playing with a spoon and canning rings rather than toys? Perfect.)

Autumn Story by Jill Barklem. The mice gather berries just as we're doing. And the illustrations of their well-stocked pantry shelves full of canning, and ceilings strung with drying food, and baskets and baskets of berries covering the floor? Fabulous.

Let's Find Out About Fall by Martha and Charles Shapp. One of the advantages of vintage books is that they come with vintage assumptions: like everyone's gathering stuff from their garden and preserving it for winter. Just a brief mention, here, but I like normalizing "weird" habits like local eating by having them come up in many ways in many books.

Frederick by Leo Lionni. A twist on the old "The Ant and the Grasshopper" fable, except that here, the "lazy" one is an artist, gathering the sun rays and colors and words the others will need as their food stores run low. A good reminder of the different gifts we each contribute to our communities.

Hurry, Hurry, Mary Dear by N. M. Bodecker and Erik Blegvad. What a score when I came across this one at a library sale! "Pick the apples, dill the pickles, chop down trees for wooden nickels. Dig the turnips, split the peas, cook molasses, curdle cheese." Etc, etc, etc...all the tasks Mary takes on to prepare for winter, while her husband lazes about. Great illustrations, so much to talk about, and a reflection of all the skills (and more) I'm trying to learn and share with the kids.

By the way...if you click on a link and find yourself at IndieBound, and then buy a book through there from your local independent bookstore, I should theoretically earn a bit of change (hasn't happened yet). If you find yourself at Librarything, it's because IndieBound didn't have it and I want you to see the book without finding yourself at an online giant retailer.

Coming up next...books about apples and acorns and squirrels, oh, my!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Last summer evening at the farm

Lucy's goal for this summer's visits to the farm was to go "in" and "up!"

Mission accomplished.

It was a lovely evening all around.

Welcome, fall.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

By 9 am

I'm getting much better at squeezing in small amounts of food storage whenever I have a bit of time, rather than doing all of it in marathon sessions that keep me up until the wee hours (though lots of it does still happen that way). We had a half peck of peaches at peak ripeness, and a bag of apples given to us by a parent in my program ("can you use these? They're kind of spotty..."). So this morning, as the coffee perked, I cut up apples and put them on the stove to cook. After breakfast, Lucy and I ran them through the food mill and put the sauce into jars. As they processed, I peeled peaches, greeting the arriving children in my apron with peaches in my hands. They went into the canner just as the last child arrived, so I was able to begin my day with them with a bit more fruit for our shelves. (Then we sat down to a snack of toast with the crabapple-wild grape jelly we'd foraged and cooked up together...mmm! I'd made that yesterday when one of the kids came in asking "how's that jam coming?" Umm...not at all...I'd forgotten to finish it. It was just a bit, so we didn't can it, but popped it in the fridge for some immediate gratification.)

Monday, September 20, 2010

A peek

I'm not participating in this, but seeing others' work is clearly inspiring me to actually get around to some of the sewing I always fantasize about! This evening, I took a peek into my (overstuffed) sewing closet...

...and found further inspiration.

I hope I'll be able to show you more soon!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Garden Girl Dress

I sewed something! I can't quite believe it, since it feels like forever since I sat down at the sewing machine. But I saw this deal the other day, and I'd been feeling like Lucy needed a few more long-sleeved dresses, so it seemed too good to pass up. I bought this pattern right away*, and knew if I didn't get to it soon, it would join the giant projects-to-get-to-someday heap.

My first thought was to make it from an orange checked men's shirt I had on my to-refashion pile. I thought it would be cute with the buttons up the front. But that shirt was super-wrinkled, and I knew I would not be ironing Lucy's play dresses! But then I remembered some super-cute 30s-esque fabric I'd bought last summer (I googled it so you could see a close-up, and found some here), and decided the orange shirt would be great as an accent. Lucy loves to dig (any time we ask "what did you do today?" she answers "dig"), so the little gardening girls with shovels are a perfect choice for her right now. I re-used the shirt's pocket, but puckered the top for little-girl cuteness, and added a vintage button.

The dress went together easily (I especially loved the method of putting in the sleeves). If you make one, though, I'd advise two things. First, there was a 12-18 month size and then a 2T size. Lucy wears 12 or 18 month dresses, but I didn't want her to outgrow it too soon, so I made the 2T. You can see it fits just right (and she's short!) Second, I'm not quite sure why the pattern calls for you to make wider pieces for the back of the sash than for the front. I put a pucker in it as I sewed so the edges would line up, and that looks all right, I suppose, but I wonder what was intended. Otherwise, a great pattern, and well worth the price. I know I'll be making it again (it goes from 6 months to 5T). I've got a soft, fine-waled blue corduroy that I think would look great for the next one... (edited to add: turns out the sash difference was an error, and she's fixing it. Yay for responsive sellers!)

*I have no connection to this shop, just bought the pattern and liked it.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A-foraging we will go

Lucy adds acorns, gathered on a walk to the park, to clay in the studio.
Watching her, I realized we were nearly out of acorns, and asked if the kids wanted to gather some more.

We're back in the swing of things, here, and it's been a busy first week and a half with the kids! I was sitting back, observing the kids at play, watching for that beautiful moment that signals the beginning of a possible ongoing group investigation, when I realized that--of course--food preservation had taken center stage again. How could it be otherwise in the autumn, in a house where we're at the height of storing up for the winter? Naturally, the kids' play and interests reflect that which is going on all around them.

This year, we've been noticing the similarities between our work and that of the squirrels and other animals around us, all gathering, gathering, gathering. Here's a bit of the story, so far.

Everyone was game for an acorn-hunting walk. But setting off with our baskets reminded one of them that "we could pick crabapples" at another local park. That became the plan for the next day. In the meantime, I introduced them to the idea of acorns as food.

The acorns we gathered--plus a few other discoveries.

We used a hammer and a brick to break the acorns, and nutpicks to remove the meat.

Acorns to be processed, caps for the studio, shells for the compost.

This morning, this invitation to continue the work awaited them on the coffee table, along with a book which elicited many shouts of "we picked those!" (Oh, I had such fun pulling books to support this interest! I'll share a book list soon.)

The hunt for crabapples was disappointing (they were mostly gone), so we moved on to gathering wild grapes and goldenrod, instead.

Heading home after a successful foraging expedition.

At the moment, we've got acorns waiting to be cracked and processed into acorn meal (with the promise of acorn bread in our future--for the equinox, maybe?), wild grapes and crabapples dripping juice through a bag, to be made into jelly, and goldenrod waiting to be made into salve. And those are just the with-the-kids projects; never mind the tomatoes, beets, carrots, and more I plan to preserve this week!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Still in vacation mode

I said I'd be posting more soon, didn't I? Oops. My brain is functioning in vacation mode. Really, I'm mostly just cleaning the house and enjoying the slower pace of a week without work. But we did escape to the Cape for two days on the beach. Perfect for me, because there was treasure-hunting along the shore...

And perfect for Lucy, because there was another carousel!

I hope you're playing and soaking up the end of the summer, too.