Sunday, November 22, 2009

Friday nights

On Friday evenings, I knead the dough alone. But by the time it has risen and the pizza needs topping and baking, he is usually home. We talk about the week. He spreads the cornmeal on the pizza peal carefully, and I give it the final olive oil drizzle before it goes in the oven. We've got a comfortable rhythm going.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Another hunting post

How charming the sight when Aurora first dawns,
To see the bright beagles spread over the lawns;
To welcome the sun, now returning from rest,
Their mattins they chant as they merrily quest.

Then hark in the morn, to the call of the horn,
And join with the jovial crea,
While the season invites, with all its delights,
The health-giving chace to pursue.

Well, this was a very different meet than the last Thursday meet I wrote about, and not very much in keeping with the sun-filled verse above. We met at a misty Oakland Green. The field was small, and since the corn's been cut and turned under, the pack was a little slower in finding a scent. Still, we were on our way and I was breathing deeply. And then. We went by Dr. Marion's and two of his family's horses jumped a coop to follow the field. So there was a long period of cowboy/cowgirl work to get the loose ones contained before we could be on our way again.

Then, almost immediately as we moved off, it started to really rain. The whole time we had been out, the cloud ceiling had been slipping down in the sky, until it felt like it was sitting on our shoulders. But then, from the clouds, steady rain. Most of us headed for home. Something about this fixture this year. It really rained the last time we met there, in October. I didn't get quite as soaked this time.

Still, it was beautiful. I always think that the damp in the fall makes the colors more clear and bright and crisp, set off as they are by the dark black branches of wet trees. Until next time.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Happy H-owl-oween!

Our little family had a pretty low-key and very nice Halloween. H happily went as an owl in the felt costume I constructed with this Martha Stewart "tutorial" as a guide. I use the term tutorial very lightly as there was much filling-in of the blanks. It was a good costume for a wee one, however, because all of the annoying pieces were easily removed and nothing about the costume hindered crawling.

On Halloween day, lucky Henry got to see both sets of his grandparents and his great-grandparents. We ate North Carolina barbecue on a Virginia back porch and went to a baby party to see our buddies, baby Raggedy Ann and the Cowardly lion. There were many trick-or-treaters to greet at the door, and the weather held out long enough for baby H to visit all of the important neighbors. I think having a baby really enhances my experience of the changing seasons and the holidays. Something about the wonder in his eyes prompts me to experience everything anew.

A Hunting Song

Away to the field, see the morning looks gray,
And, sweetly bedappled, forbodes a fine day;
The hounds are all eager the sport to embrace,
And carol aloud to be led to the chace.
Then hark in the morn, to the call of the horn,
And join with the jovial crew,
While the season invites, with all its delights,
The health-giving chace to pursue.
We had a great day's cubbing from the Glebe a couple of Saturdays ago. We began the day with a viewing-- the youngest riders saw him first across a hilly field. We lost the pack a little bit in the middle of the first run, but recovered nicely and covered a lot of ground. Up Mount Gilead and then down to the swinging bridge through vineyards. Back through the bottom to Askari's, where we ran through fields of wild mint, that lovely scent wafting up from fleet hooves. Crossed the Goose more than once, wading at one point, pony riders picking up their knees. Even on a less-than-eventful day, this is a sport that makes me feel alive and connected. Beautiful day.

The verses above come from a very old book that my mom put in my Christmas stocking several years ago. I don't know anything about it, except that it is a book of songs titled "Roundelay, or the New Soren, a Collection of Choice Songs including the Modern," and was published by Sondon, and "printed for W. LANE, Leadenhall Street", maybe in London? It's about a quarter of the size of a piece of typing paper (trigesimo-segundo, or thirty-twomo size, google tells me) and bound in leather. There are many other verses to this song, and many other songs about the fair sport of foxhunting, so you may see more here in the future. I wish I knew what tune this song might have been sung to!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Monday Monday

When we get to this point in the year, things seem to move really fast. Maybe it's the chill breeze in the air, but in the fall I feel like I can't get everything finished in a day or a week or a month. This afternoon I'll be making yogurt and picking up farm share vegetables and just trying to take a breath. I saw a meditation poem on another blog late last month (unfortunately I can't remember which one), and these simple words, repeated with each in and out are really helping me to slow down and calm down in this busy time. Try it:

in, out
deep, slow
calm, ease
smile, release
present moment, beautiful moment

Ah. Isn't that nice? Above is a wee little kangaroo vest that I made (from the book Closely Knit) when I was pregnant with Henry. It's the one-year-old size, done up in Malabrigo worsted, and it's fitting him now, finally (although the head is a little bit of a tight squeeze). I love seeing my baby in things that I've made for him.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Zig Zag

We spend a lot of time on the floor lately. Henry crawls and bangs things together and ignores his toys in favor of much more exciting things like outlets and electrical cords. I sing and bang things together in an attempt to make his toys look interesting and thwart his constant attempts to electrocute himself. These days, camping out on the floor is how we fill our time between naps and meals and occasional trips to the farm.

So there couldn't be a better time for a new floor quilt. Papa calls them H's "activity mats". This one measures about 40" by 47". I wish it were a bit bigger, but I love its bold pattern. Later, I hope those zigs will become rivers and the zags roads and mountains. For now, H wads the quilt up with busy knees on his way across the room or allows me to drape it over his head for a game of peek-a-boo. He examines the patterns and fabrics in the quiet moments before naptime, and every so often he actually pops his thumb in his mouth and lays down his head, ever so briefly. Good enough for me.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Inspired by Jennifer's great new site Putting By and by Liz's amazing pantry photos, I've been trying to can more of summer's bounty this year. My mom and I made bread and butter pickles last month and planned to do more, but life has gotten in the way. We use a mandoline to cut the cukes as thin as possible, as my mom's Mimi did. Mom winged the recipe from memory (and of course taste and smell) and they turned out just great. We've already eaten through the refrigerator jar. (The last jar filled, not quite full, which isn't processed and is instead eaten as close to immediately as possible-- the next day if you can wait that long for the flavors to meld. Does everyone do a refrigerator jar?) It was great fun to can with my mom.My Granna makes damson preserves each year that she can get good damsons. This year my grandfather picked up a couple of quarts for me, and Granna told me her recipe. I only tinkered with the ingredients a little (reduced the sugar), and followed her procedure (which involves standing over the pot and fishing all of the pits out one by one) exactly. These preserves are great, too. I love the way the skins taste. I also loved getting a word-of-mouth recipe from my grandmother.

The last thing I made for the larder is those little jars of pizza sauce you see in the middle. We've recently started a Friday night homemade pizza tradition, so those should come in handy. I got the recipe for this sauce from the Ball book.

The stash is building and I love seeing those bright clean jars stack up. I'm itching to pressure can some Brunswick Stew next, but we'll see if I get any time over the next couple of weeks. I think some multi-colored quart jars would look just dandy next to my current jar soldiers, protecting my family from winter hunger. I'd be interested to hear what other folks have canned or preserved recently.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Out of season

Today the weather really feels like Autumn, and all of a sudden I noticed the slanting light on the dining room table as I fed the boy his peas and carrots around five this evening. My grandmother called this afternoon to tell me that the damson plums are in at the farm stand, and the foxhunting season (cubbing) starts this week.

Suddenly, the signs are all around us that summer is over. I'll sleep with the windows open tonight, and breathe deeply.

(These are some unrelated crafts that have been completed lately. Top: The Baby Sophisticate sweater done up in Dream in Color Classy held double. I made the six to twelve months size and it's already kind of snug around the middle. Oh well, still cute. Bottom: A wee wonderfuls kitty made for Cousin Hannah's third birthday.)

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Fourth

There was a little bit of this:
Mixed with a lot of this:
And then some of this:
Followed by a lot of this (for everyone):
And that was about right. I hope your Fourth of July was just as good.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


I've been writing this post in my head for a week. My friend didn't make it home. We weren't ever particularly close, but we knew each other for a long time. The last time I saw her was a couple of years ago-- she was hunting the socks off of an ex-racehorse, galloping away in front of me.

I think what has made my heart heaviest about this terrible event (besides of course the facts and the violence) is that this was a girl who lived her life to the fullest, cheerfully true to herself always. Her positive attitude and peace with herself drew others to her.

The last few mornings, I've woken early, before the baby, to the sound of birds. Lots of them. Talking to each other, greeting the new day. And then the baby chirps from the next room and I rise and we start all over again.

Friday, June 12, 2009


I'm hoping and praying today for an old friend's safe return to her family. Yesterday on the Writer's Almanac, Garrison Keillor read this poem, written by Jack Gilbert. Hoping is hard.

Horses At Midnight Without A Moon

by Jack Gilbert

Our heart wanders lost in the dark woods.
Our dream wrestles in the castle of doubt.
But there's music in us. Hope is pushed down
but the angel flies up again taking us with her.
The summer mornings begin inch by inch
while we sleep, and walk with us later
as long-legged beauty through
the dirty streets. It is no surprise
that danger and suffering surround us.
What astonishes is the singing.
We know the horses are there in the dark
meadow because we can smell them,
can hear them breathing.
Our spirit persists like a man struggling
through the frozen valley
who suddenly smells flowers
and realizes the snow is melting
out of sight on top of the mountain,
knows that spring has begun.

"Horses At Midnight Without A Moon" by Jack Gilbert, from Refusing Heaven. © Alfred A. Knopf, 2005

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Summer uniform

I love these little playsuits. Such a classic look on a little child. These are from the Oliver + S tea party playsuit pattern. I skipped the contrasting piping because I think it makes them look more classic, but I did manage to get the snap tape into the crotch of the seersucker version! These are the three to six month size-- they'll be outgrown in another month.

H has worn these almost constantly, though, with a long-sleeved onesie and booties on cooler days and solo on days like yesterday, which was hot and humid. They're nice and washable, and don't require ironing since they're so small. The twill pony-print one was a lot easier to make than the seersucker; it was easier to line that curved bodice seam up with the stiffer hand of the twill. These taught me that I need to work a little on my buttonholes. Even with the "automatic" feature on the machine, it's easy to make them too big. I need to learn how to make bound buttonholes-- I think they'd make these that much nicer. (Also, from Mom, useful information on how big to make the buttonholes. Apparently the rule is to add the diameter of the button to its thickness to determine the size for the hole. Good information to know.)

I already have fabric picked out for a couple more of these in the next size up. Maybe gnomes and baby wale corduroy.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Sewing Machine meme

Do you know how hard it is to take a photo of a sewing machine in a dark basement on a rainy day? Pretty hard-- here's the best I could do. Sew Mama Sew is hosting sewing machine month for June, so today I'm answering their sewing machine meme. All questions are from the Sew Mama Sew site.

What brand and model do you have? My machine is a Bernina Virtuosa 153 Quilter's Edition.

How long have you had it? I (with much help from my mother) purchased the machine in late 2001 or early 2002, secondhand from a Bernina dealer.

How much does that machine cost (approximately)? Bernina doesn't make this machine anymore, but it ran about $2700 new. I paid about $1750, if I remember correctly, for an almost brand new machine. The woman who bought it new had turned it in for an even spiffier model soon after she purchased it. I've seen this model on eBay for $1200 - $1300 recently.

What types of things do you sew? I have sewn almost everything with this machine. I think the strength and sturdiness of a Bernina its greatest asset. I've done quilts from start to finish (piecing, quilting), clothes for me and my family, handbags, slipcover projects, a fair group of fake fur and fleece items for the horse and his equipment, paper for greeting cards and paper piecing, and much more. This machine has even sewed double-thickness split cowhide to heavy-duty Carhartt insulated coveralls (not that it was a walk in the park, but the machine came out unscathed). Basically, if you have the right needle and the right foot, with this machine the sky's the limit.

How much do you sew? I sew whenever I can, up to two hours a day after the baby goes to bed, but I've been known to sew a weekend away with two twelve-hour stretches.

Do you like/love/hate your machine? Are you ambivalent? Passionate? Does she have a name? No name, but I really do love this machine. It's quality.

What features does your machine have that work well for you? I like the automatic buttonhole feature. The blind hem stitch is very handy when time is tight. The adjustable feed dogs and the stop-needle-down feature see a lot of use. The bobbin is incredibly easy to wind and replace. The computer screen is not complicated. It simply displays the choices I've made with the buttons on the machine's face.

Would you recommend this machine to others? Absolutely. Without hesitation. It's such a strong and versatile machine that I don't see myself needing another.

What factors do you think are important to consider when looking for a new machine? I learned to quilt in college on a vintage Singer Featherweight that belongs to my mother. It did everything I needed then; it sewed beautiful rows of straight stitching. I made quilt blocks and stayed up late making dresses for beach week.

When I first got the Bernina, it was probably more than I needed. More functions and buttons for someone who really only knew how to sew in straight lines of straight stitches. But now I use almost all the features, and I can really do whatever I want to do with it. I think it's important to look for a quality machine above all else. Look for something that doesn't intimidate you but that does a little more than you think you'll need. I've grown as a sewist because of my machine.

Do you have a dream machine? Have you seen this new Bernina 830 that supposedly costs $12000? I haven't seen it in person, but I've ogled it on the computer more than once. Although I'm definitely not into the machine embroidery stuff, I'm a loyal Bernina user now, and this machine seems to be the only one with extended neck space. That's the one thing that I wish my machine had: a longer neck so that I could quilt larger, bed-sized pieces with ease on my home machine. There's a fair amount of wrangling to quilt a twin size piece now. Oh, and it'd be way cool to have the automatic scissors to cut the threads at the end of a seam. And a bigger bobbin. But I can't see spending twelve grand on a sewing machine!

I look forward to reading about other peoples' machines this month.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Just in time for summer

I've finished crocheting an enormous heavy woolen granny square for the sofa. Just when the sun has decided to ratchet those temps up to the high eighties every day. Typical. Just ask my husband how many Christmas and birthday gifts were given to him half-finished. Embarrassing, really.

I love this afghan, though. It's mostly Lamb's Pride Worsted, and is almost all scraps. I did have to buy a couple of skeins more in the dark brown color that anchors and borders the blanket, but I'll use the scraps someday, some more knitted toys, perhaps? I used a G hook, and the finished size is about 58" square. I was going for 60" square, so pretty close, right? I just couldn't make myself crochet one more round.

I got the idea and the pattern from the Purl Bee.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

This is just to say

I have begun
the new quilt-along
that is at
the old red barn co

a project
that you probably know
one too many

Forgive me
the quilt looks delicious
so fresh
and so clean

(with apologies to William Carlos Williams. Follow everyone's progress here.)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


They have to be my very favorite flowers. My mother cut these for me from her garden yesterday, in the rain. They smell heavenly.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Meet Quiltie

When we were children, my brothers and I each had a different "lovey". Mine was a polyester department store baby blanket that my mom improved by hand-applying a satin ribbon binding. I loved my blankie. My oldest little brother had a Plaudie bear (more on this in an upcoming post), and my youngest brother had Quiltie. Ted's quiltie is awesome, with needle-turned hearts surrounding a calico checkerboard. That handmade quilt became threadbare as baby Ted and then toddler Ted dragged him everywhere and slept with him every night. I still have my blankie, and I think lovies can be very important to little children.

When Henry was born, we got several "minkee" blankets as gifts from friends. They are very very soft, but they lack personality. I know that's probably because they often need to be replaced and the simpler something is, the easier it is to replace. But. I made this little guy when I made this quilt for my friend Katie's son. I had a few extra blocks and I cut them down from half-square triangles into these hourglass blocks. The quilt measures about 11 inches by 13 and is batted with bamboo, which makes it very drapey and not at all stiff.

Henry is currently a fan of grabbing things, and this quilt has been in his crib ready for grabbing since about three weeks after he was born. It goes with us on most car trips and in the stroller, protecting his chubby little legs from the sun. I know I can't force this little quilt as his lovey, but he does seem to like it now, rubbing it on his face to soothe himself in the crib, sucking his thumb all the while. And I love to see him snuggling with this little quilt that I made him.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Bowties or butterflies?

I did it again-- I took my quilt photos in the fat middle of the day. It makes the colors so over-bright. But here we go anyway. This is a crumb-type scrap quilt that I made in the months just before our baby was born. It's made up of alternating nine-patch blocks (an "x" block next to a "cross" block, if that makes sense). It was inspired by the ones that the little red hen makes, like this one, except that I only put colors in the corners of alternate patches instead of in each patch.

It measures about 36 inches by 43 inches, and sports my normal stippled quilting. Each patch of the nine-patch blocks is 2.5 inches finished. There are a few different white fabrics in the quilt, some Kona bleach white and some white on white prints, because this is a true scrap quilt. Everything came out of the bins.

Everything, that is, except the back, which I love. It's a green and white print of tiny train tracks complemented with the yellower-green leaf print. Initially I had planned on doing a green binding as well, but I'm so glad I opted for the dark brown Civil War repro print. There are tiny light brown leaves on it, and I think the dark color does such a great job of setting off all that white.

The baby boy has been using this as an activity quilt. When we went to our mothers' group, he rolled around all over it, and he spit up on it at least once during Mama/baby yoga. Thus all the stippling. I love dense quilting like this on a baby quilt because it can be thrown in the washer and dryer without a thought. It's getting softer and softer. I hope the boy will grow to love this one as much as I do, in all its crinkly goodness.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Shady days

Just what we all needed yesterday. An afternoon on the front lawn with a bowl of cherries (for me) and a big white sunhat (for him). Ahh. I love the shady, breezy spring.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Still here!

Hello. There's not much going on here, other than loving on my little one and begging him to sleep. His once-daily nap is usually filled with laundry and picking up after the day before, but there has been some crafting as well.

I made this itty bitty baby dress from the made by rae pattern for our friends who welcomed a little girl thirteen days ago. We went to visit them this weekend and I simply could not believe how little baby Claire is. I can't remember when Henry was that small, even though it hasn't been that long at all. Whew! I'd better keep my eyes open.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bald eagle day

I was going to call this post "Bluebird Day", but I think it's early yet for those brilliant little ones. Birds we did see yesterday at the farm:
  • A juvenile bald eagle on the "eagle tree" in the hill field
  • Full-grown bald eagle on the same tree earlier in the morning
  • A pair of loons. The male stood on the dock with his wings held up as if to give his mate some privacy while she took her morning dip in the pond
  • Many many jenny wrens with their cheerful upward tails (many many jennies!)
  • The ubiquitous Canada geese
  • A hawk (probably a broad-winged hawk?) carrying bits of lunch
  • A skittish robin
  • A pair of rock pigeons nesting in the machine shed
Unfortunately, I didn't get photos of any of the birds, but it was a storybook day with a wide blue sky and green green fields of pretty babies washed clean by yesterday's rain bath. Cattle are much easier to photograph than birds.
And although no photograph can capture the all 'round huge spinning beauty of the great wide open on such a beautiful spring day, the photo above does a poor job of trying. My baby was awake and alert for our entire walk yesterday, his eyes wide and searching from his stroller. I think maybe he'll be a country mouse like his mama. I hope so.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Kicking bag

Henry: Happy, healthy, hale and hearty. Mama: Tired. My husband has been sick, so I've been flying solo on all baby duties. My mom was here to help for several days (which was so nice!), but the middle of the night is still and always my responsibility.

Luckily some of the sweetest moments also occur in the middle of the night. I don't speak to him, since we're trying to get Henry to sleep better and longer, but the baby snuggles up on my chest and buries his dandelion-fluffy head under my chin. After some warm weather last weekend, the past few nights have been very chilly. Perfect for the Kicking Bag for Babies, a free pattern on Ravelry. I used just over two skeins of KPPPM that my brother thoughtfully gave me last Christmas. The warm wool makes this baby even more cuddly there in that dark room as we rock and rock and rock. This bag used to swallow this baby whole, but now he's filling it out more-- he grows and grows when I'm not looking.

I'm hoping that the weather will turn warm again soon and Spring will be here to stay. I'm ready to get this kicking baby out into the fresh air. (And to take some photos with natural light again.)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Back to the farm

Yesterday. It was a little cold and windy.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Guess who napped today?

For almost an hour! These little Gocco guys will be winging their way out to friends and family soon, assuming that someone can see his way clear to napping again tomorrow. Whew.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


We're still alive! Baby and I are surviving our first weeks home alone and trying to establish a routine (for example, the "routine" morning nap for both Mama and baby, with baby's head nestled softly under my chin as he sleeps on my chest).

Standards have been lowered slightly (This morning, I was eating a blueberry waffle that I made and froze in the first weeks of H's life when he was sleeping a lot. Since the child wants to be held constantly, he was in the Baby Bjorn, riding high on my chest. A droplet of syrup fell on his tiny, downy head and I licked it off without a second thought.), but we're enjoying each other.

I have been missing my crafting time, however. I've been dreaming up elaborate quilts in my head, quilts that I probably won't have time for in the next eighteen years. And although the dreaming is fun, I'd love to get my hands on some actual fabric someday soon. I'm trying to institute the solo afternoon nap, for baby only. In the meantime, there are two crafty products in the photo above. The heart onesie is probably the only thing I've finished since H was born. I whipped it up in about seven minutes on Valentine's Day as H's (and my) gift to his papa. Yay for scraps of quilting fabric and interfacing!

The crumb quilt that the baby's lying on is another story. I finished the piecing and quilting several weeks before he was to be born, but since he surprised us and came almost three weeks early, there's no binding. Luckily, in this view you can't tell. More about that little quilt when it finally has some edges-- maybe in three years?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

He's here!

Henry was born on January 19 in Washington, DC. The next day, in our hospital room, the three of us (well, my husband and I anyway) watched the inauguration going on across town as we got to know our new son. The three of us. Such a happy day. Welcome home, Henry.