Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Don't know when I became the mama who dresses her baby to match the holiday, but here I am. She does make a mighty cute pumpkin, though, doesn't she?

Friday, October 30, 2009

First "crop"

One of my goals for this fall was to replace some of our sad, neglected houseplants with edible plants--and then not let them get sad and neglected! So we've been picking things up at the farmer's market: a beautiful potted thyme, and then a loaded hot pepper plant. This past weekend, while hanging out with a houseful of guests, our hands were busy--as they always are in the fall--storing food, and this time, it was from our indoor "garden." Andi picked all the ripe peppers off the plant, and I strung them on thread with a needle. I love how they look hanging in our kitchen, and so do the kids: "What's that flower?" "Are those spicy peppers?" "Are we going to eat them?" "Can we eat them now?"

(Also in this little corner of my kitchen: a decoupaged light-switch cover I made years ago, and a vintage sewing card that was a gift from a friend.)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Autumn in a basket

Better late than never, right? I'd wanted to pull out a collection of autumn children's books on the equinox, but didn't have time to fully search the shelves until this weekend. Oh, well, we have a nice collection of them out now, decked out with an "autumn" sign by one of the four-year-olds. This afternoon, I'm planning to take the basket outside for reading on a cozy blanket amidst the leaves.

What we're reading this fall:

Autumn by Gerda Muller. I love this seasonal wordless series, and use them regularly to decorate our seasonal table.
Now It's Fall by Lois Lenski. I'm collecting this series, too, because I love its sweet old-fashioned style. Heavy on the mainstream holidays, but so cute, I include it anyway.
Autumn Story by Jill Barklem. I'm in love with the detail in the illustrations of the Brambly Hedge books: larders full of tiny food, trees criss-crossed with elaborate tunnels, nests fully outfitted as a house, etc. This story of a girl who gets lost is just suspenseful enough to be great fun for the kids, and so satisfying when she's found again.
Fall by Ann Blades. I have a few from this seasonal wordless board-book series, and they're somewhat odd, but sweet, too. I love all the glimpses of animals in the woods, and the simple pleasures of playing in the leaves, watching a train go by, etc.
My First Halloween by Tomie dePaola. The kids request this book over and over, probably because it so well reflects their experience of the season: carving pumpkins, decorating with simple cut-outs, putting on costumes, trick-or-treating.
Georgie's Halloween by Robert Bright. I remember loving Georgie as a kid. He's a sweet, shy, gentle ghost, and the stories about him are equally sweet and gentle. Nice in the midst of a holiday that can be frightening.
Apples and Pumpkins by Anne Rockwell. A simple story about going to pick fruit at a local farm. Pretty obvious why I'd like it!
Pumpkin Pumpkin by Jeanne Titherington. A simple description of the life cycle of a pumpkin. Love the close-up illustrations and insects shown throughout.
The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams. Just the thing when kids want a "scary" story. The repetition and suspense here are just right.
Play with your Pumpkins by Joost Elfers and Saxton Freymann. Not a children's book, but inspiring and fun to look at.
Chipmunk at Hollow Tree Lane by Victoria Sherrow. A chipmunk prepares for winter. I love this idea of preparation in this season, because that's what we're doing, too, and it's cool for the kids to see us as part of that natural rhythm. For the same reason, I love
The Busy Little Squirrel by Nancy Tafuri. I adore her illustrations of animals, too.
Let's Find Out About Fall by Martha and Charles Sharp. Part of the "Let's Find Out About Science" series, which I love in their vintage form (much more than the newer versions). I got this one at that recent great library sale.
Apple Farmer Annie by Monica Wellington. The kids love this story about Annie, who grows apples, makes many things from them, and sells them at the farmer's market. I love the local-food aspect, and all the signs to read in the illustrations.
The Ghost-Eye Tree by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault. Another great scary one. I once heard Bill Martin, Jr. read this book, and it was incredible! I aspire to tell it as well.
Pumpkin Circle by George Levenson. A completely different approach to the pumpkin life cycle, this time with photographs.
Skeleton Hiccups by Margery Cuyler. This one gets hysterical laughs from 4-year-olds.
Flower Fairies of the Autumn by Cicely Mary Barker. These fairies have gotten way over-commercialized, in my opinion, but I still appreciate their beauty and the idea of introducing all these plant names through their appropriately-garbed fairy folk.
The Little Scarecrow Boy by Margaret Wise Brown. The more I read of hers, the more I think she was wise indeed; she knows just the right tone to keep children's rapt attention. This one's fun because it's about getting to act scary and big.
Frederick by Leo Lionni. While we're preparing for winter, I love this reminder that art, too, is necessary.
The Bear's Autumn by Keizaburo Tejima. We have bears who travel through our yard, so bear books are always a hit here. This one, set in Japan, has beautiful woodcuts.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

When in doubt, make more longies

There hasn't been a lot of sewing going on around here lately, what with the miserable colds we've been having, and lots of company (thus the lack of posting, too). But this week, I found myself with a bit of time. What to do? Well, there's always a need for more diaper covers. Not very exciting, but very practical.

Needed right now: longies. In cold weather, it's much easier to dress Lucy in a diaper cover that is also pants than in diaper, cover, and then pants on top. And the rule right now is dark colors, because she's crawling all over the place, and they get filthy fast.

(She didn't want to stand up for a photo, but these look super cute with this dress when she does.)

So first up, a pair of plain brown longies. Remember that shrunken cashmere sweater from a friend that became a bum sweater? I still had most of it left, so I used the sleeves to make legs. But this time, rather than add an elastic casing as I usually do, I used what was left of the sweater's waistband to make a waistband for the pants. I pulled it very taut as I sewed, so it would be snug. I love how it worked out, because it resulted in pants that come high up on her waist, keeping her tummy from being exposed in the cold. I left these pants very long, because I don't want to waste this lovely fabric; I want them to fit for a long time.

Next up, a beautiful patterned turquoise pair. I found this sweater ages ago, and have been saving it (I think I bought it before she was born). It's too bad it's so grey here today, because this photo does not do them justice. I love these! The buttons at the bottom look so cute (though for the moment, she has to wear them rolled up). And as an added bonus, I was able to use the buttoned neck of the sweater as the waistband, so you can open them to get them on, and then button them up snug. This pair is really thick and warm, and will be great for the winter.

I've fallen in love with the look of a baby in longies and a dress. And I love all the funky, mis-matched but somehow just right outfits that result (for example, because diaper covers get rotated as they get wet, later in the day she wore the turquoise, patterned ones with the purple floral dress, and it looked great!) I wish I could find a super-gigantic gorilla-armed sweater so I could make a pair for myself; they've got to be the perfect winter pants!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Independence Days challenge, week 26

Time again for Sharon's Independence Day's Challenge:

1. Plant something: No. Starting to think I never plant anything.
2. Harvest something: Eggs. Kale, Good King Henry. 2 bushels apples from Quonquont Farm.
3. Preserve something: Dried celery greens, 2 pecks apples. Froze 3 qts. spinach. Canned 18-1/2 qts. applesauce.
4. Waste not: Nothing new here.
5. Preparation and storage: Stored parsnips, carrots, sweet potatoes from Farmer's Market. Added pasta to storage. Stored 2 bushels apples. Started taking an online Kids & Herbs class.
6. Build community food systems: Signed up for our CSA for next year. Took my mother-in-law apple picking for the first time in her life! Made applesauce with the kids in my early childhood program.
7. Eat the food: I've been serving the kids "green eggs" about once a week lately, from our yard (yay!).

Monday, October 19, 2009

Independence Days challenge, week 25

Time again for Sharon's Independence Day's Challenge:

1. Plant something:
2. Harvest something: Eggs. One last basket of tender greens and herbs from the garden. 3 bushels apples from Quonquont Farm.
3. Preserve something: Dried comfrey and carrot tops to feed the chickens. Dried the last bits of sweet cicely, lemon balm, bee balm, feverfew, mint. Dried 1 watermelon, 2 pecks apples. Canned 3-1/2 qts. pickled bean salad, 4 qts. potato-leek soup (this is the first time we've tried pressure canning). Froze 4 lbs. cauliflower, 2 lbs. beans, 1 qt. stock.
4. Waste not: Favorite fall trick--I use an apple slicer to cut and core apples for the kids, and I hate to throw away the big core it leaves. I put them in a bag in the freezer, and they'll get added to our next batch of applesauce. It's amazing how quickly they add up to something useable.
5. Preparation and storage: Stored 1 bushel apples, 1 crisper drawer full of carrots.
6. Build community food systems: No.
7. Eat the food: We've eaten a ton of potato-leek soup and apples this week. I've also been trying my newly-dried goldenrod as a tea for my cold. And we've been using tons of the elderberry syrup I made.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Friday, October 16, 2009

Sew-a-long spurs housecleaning

The other day, I was reading blogs and clicking links--you know how it is--and I ended up here: a lazy-days-skirt sew-along! Perfect! I mentioned a few posts back that Lucy had a new sweater that needed a skirt, and I'd actually started that skirt following the Lazy Days Skirt free pattern. I thought I'd join up, and it would give me the incentive to finish.


The skirt calls for a ribbon hem. I didn't have a ribbon that coordinated with both the sweater and the skirt, so I'd gone out last Thursday with both in a bag to a local shop and spent ages with the woman working there, trying out each possibility from their extensive ribbon supply. I couldn't find just exactly the right thing, but I was only about 15 minutes from finishing the skirt, so I wanted to just get something and call it done. I picked something, added it to the bag, and then...lost the bag for more than a week. Does this tell you a little something about the state of my house right now? Yeah. Let's not talk about that.

I had thought the sew-a-long would make me find it and finish it--now I had a deadline, after all. But I just couldn't find it. Finally, finally, at the last second, I found the bag buried on the floor of the coat closet. (I know. It's really too embarrassing.) So I finished it tonight after all the kids went home, photographed it in a too-dark house, but hey, it's done just in the nick of time!

I think she likes it.

(Sweater and shoes both from a recent consignment sale.)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

One last basket

All the kids came in this morning announcing that it's supposed to snow tomorrow, so out to the garden we went to pick anything that was left. Lots of comfrey (to be dried and added to winter chicken feed), several teeny tiny volunteer squash and squash blossoms from the compost bin, two tiny green tomatoes, some sorrel, and bits of mint, lemon balm, bee balm, feverfew, and sweet cicely.

This winter, I'm going to see what I can grow inside. I've yet to experiment with sprouts, or to have a successful container herb garden in my cold, drafty house. I'm determined to try, though; it'd be good to have some fresh greens through the winter.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Time to build an addition on the house... house all the books! Yesterday was my all-time favorite book sale at a nearby library. I've become a "friend of the library" so that I can get in to this one on the first night, because their children's section is amazing. When I got there, I was the only one in that room, despite the hoards elsewhere going around with their dealer's scanners. (How fair is that?) It took me more than an hour to go through all the picture-book boxes. Then I checked out the other areas, finding lots of great stuff in the science and nature section.

Some of my finds:

Many "Golden Guide" identification books: insects, trees, birds, rocks and minerals, insect pests, mammals, flowers, seashore, pond life. We had these when I was a girl, so partly it's sentimental, but I really love them. They're manageable--just enough info, just the right size to fit in your pocket or field bag.

Many books I'd added to my wish list after reading about them on Vintage Kids' Books My Kid Loves (one of my favorite blogs). Some include:
Fierce the Lion
Tim Tadpole and the Great Bulfrog
Fly High Fly Low
The Sky was Blue
and who knows how many others?

This is one of the best sales I know for finding vintage children's books (lots of library discards). I found so many new-to-me books by favorite authors and illustrators such as Don Freeman, Roger Duvoisin, Leonard Weisgard, Munro Leaf, Brian Wildsmith, Charlotte Zolotow, and on and on. Off to catalog them all on my librarything.

Independence Days challenge, week 24

Time again for Sharon's Independence Day's Challenge:

1. Plant something:
No, but the kids and I spent a lot of time this week spreading the compost from our leaf pile over our forest-garden beds, in preparation for next year's planting.
2. Harvest something: Eggs.
3. Preserve something: Raspberry jam, using a new-to-me method from the book Small Batch Preserving. I love it! I have a hard time with jam, often burning it to the bottom of the pan. This method was much easier for me. I followed the strawberry jam recipe, just substituting raspberries. Better be good, as the 1/2 pint I made cost about $7! This is why we don't make much raspberry jam, though it's my favorite! Also canned 8-1/2 pts pickled beets, 5-1/2 pts tomatillo salsa. Froze 2 qts corn, 4 qts. stock, 2 qts edamame. Dried 1 pt. nectarines, 1 pt. hot peppers, 2-1/2 qts watermelon.
4. Waste not: Nothing new.
5. Preparation and storage: Got a big new crock pot at the thrift store to encourage us to cook more this winter! Started buying the "root cellar" foods for the winter: 50 lbs squash, 80 lbs potatos, a bag of garlic.
6. Build community food systems: Nothing new here.
7. Eat the food: Andi actually admitted she's come to like cooking this week! Maybe we'll start eating at home more with this realization!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Laying my burden down at the river

"And that's where I take my burden
when I lay my burden down
in the seasons of the wind
and the belly of the ground
when I have no answers
and no answers can be found
that's where I take my burden
and I lay my burden down."

(Erica Wheeler, from "Spirit Lake")

When life's getting to me, I need to go to the water. This was our Thursday-night "family date" yesterday:

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Something quick while I nurse this cold

Remember these scraps that I sent to 2Hippos for her quilts for the Miracle Foundation? Go here to see what they're becoming, and to vote for the version you like best.

Monday, October 5, 2009

A little treat for me

When I was little, my mother sewed many of our clothes. She once made me something out of this seersucker fabric--a dress? a skirt? I can't remember. What I do remember is that I took a piece of the scraps and used it for my first-ever sewing-machine project: a pincushion. Apparently, the sewing machine was set up with black thread--and I didn't change it, or hand-sew the open side. All the same, I was proud of this pincushion and have used it all these years for sentimental reasons.

But it has its flaws (beyond the aesthetics). The pins poke through to the other side--often my lap--and if a cat knocks it on the floor, they fall right out.

The other day, I saw the perfect solution. Egg-cup pincushions! For some reason, until I saw this tutorial, I never understood the reason behind pincushions-in-a-container, besides being cute. (Mostly, I'd been turned off by some that were too cutesy for my taste.) But I suddenly realized maybe this wouldn't get caught up in the fabric and get dropped off the ironing board or sewing desk all the time! Maybe the cats wouldn't see it as the perfect toy! And, not only that, but for some unknown reason, I was recently compelled to buy a set of turquoise egg cups at a tag sale, despite the fact that I don't eat soft-boiled eggs. Clearly, it was meant to be.

This tiny little project was just right for me this week, as I've been feeling crummy with a cold and lack of sleep. I broke into my gifted vintage fabric, added some vintage buttons, and made these. One for by the sewing machine, one for the floor or the ironing board, or wherever I am. Maybe they'll inspire me to get to some real sewing this week. Lucy's got a new sweater that's begging for a skirt...

Independence Days challenge, week 23

Time again for Sharon's Independence Day's Challenge.

Our shelves are finally starting to look ready for the winter:

1. Plant something:
2. Harvest something: Eggs. Goldenrod. Apples (from Freecycle. Now, as I drive around town, I'm eyeing everyone's yards for neglected apple trees and trying to work up the nerve to ask if I can pick them.)
3. Preserve something: Goldenrod oil. Dried dill, watermelon. Froze green beans, cauliflower, spinach, stock. Canned 10 qts of (free!) applesauce.
4. Waste not: Same old, same old.
5. Preparation and storage: Added vinegar, pasta, tortilla chips to storage.
6. Build community food systems: Well, we sure supported what's there already! In this last month of farmers' markets, we're buying as much as we can haul out in our grocery cart (one of those wire things on two wheels you pull behind you--so helpful!)
7. Eat the food: Nothing new and exciting here.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Garlic Festival

It was a gorgeous fall day,

so despite lingering colds and a huge to-do list,

we simply had to get out and enjoy it while it lasted.

We went to the Garlic and Arts Festival,

and I don't know why we waited so long to discover this gem!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Don't try this at home

My latest experiment in herbal remedies has been making goldenrod tea and goldenrod oil. If you'd like to learn how, too, read Lisa's excellent post here.

This, on the other hand, is how not to do it.

Go for a walk in the twilight hour, and fill the basket of your stroller with goldenrod in the dimming light. At home, drop the heap on your kitchen counter to deal with later:

Get your baby out of the stroller and put her on the floor to crawl.

Note with mild interest, "hmmm...wonder why the cat's so interested? Does it smell like catnip?"

Return later to notice this:

And this:

Yup, there were 5 bees in there. And that one on the floor? Not so happy.

Margaret's Hope Chest

Craft Hope Spreading seeds of hope one stitch at a time

I grew up in New Jersey and Connecticut, went to school in Virginia and stayed a while, then moved to Massachusetts. But my heart (and my accent) belong to Michigan, the home of my mother's family, and the place of our summer vacations. My mother (and her mother) grew up in Grand Rapids, nearly all my family went to college there, and my sister lives and teaches near there. So when I heard that Craft Hope's next project would benefit homeless children in Grand Rapids, I knew I'd be participating again.

Craft Hope will be partnering with Margaret's Hope Chest with a goal of making 400 quilts. From their website:

"This summer we stepped out in faith when we agreed to provide a quilt for each child in the Grand Rapids (Michigan) Public School system who is homeless during the Christmas season. The exact number will not be clear until November but considering the economic climate in Michigan it will more than likely be high (200+). Consider the journey of a homeless child. No house to walk into at the end of a long day, no couch to cuddle on and read books with mom or dad. No kitchen to walk into and help themselves to a snack. No bedroom to sleep in- nothing to give that child the security that a home brings.
What might a handmade quilt mean to a homeless child? It might bring warmth to a 5-year-old boy in a drafty room. It might give hope to a 12-year-boy who never had a handmade gift before. It might give comfort to an 8-year-old girl who wants something pretty to snuggle under."

Can you believe they estimate 200+ children? That kills me. A quilt seems like a very small offering in the face of such tragedy, but it's something. And it's something I can do.

They are asking for quilts made of squares. They're even willing to finish it if all you can manage is the top. What could be simpler? I'm going to do it. Will you?

(Apparently, Craft Hope has not yet announced this project, but should in a few weeks. I heard about it on Crazy Mom Quilts.)