Friday, April 18, 2014

Just-right break

This week was our long-awaited spring break. I deliberately left the calendar open. We did have a few things going on: ballet class, a birthday party, dental checkups for the children. It was all about bubbles and bikes this week; the GB is now riding a bicycle all by herself! She's fearless. Her little legs are bruised and scratched but she picks herself up and keeps going. I'm really proud of her. I pulled out the bubbles this week, for the first time since last fall. I guess I forgot about them. They both love to blow bubbles and so do I! I can spend all afternoon with a bottle of bubbles. It's relaxing and I enjoy the challenge of blowing them as big as I can. I don't think you can outgrow bubbles. I can still see the baby in both of my children when we blow bubbles.

Other things we did: played with the chickens every day; made pizza; hung the hummingbird feeders and brought my birdbath out of winter storage; drew all over everything with chalk; watched animal videos on Netflix; baked a coffee cake; kicked a soccer ball at the park; listened to the GB sing "Let It Go" from Frozen about a hundred times; watched the irises grow almost before our eyes. They bickered a little but generally got along. We ate good strawberries. I drank a lot of tea. I crocheted. I sewed. I figured out how to do some things on my new phone. I went out back to watch the sunset. We mostly stayed home. It was fantastic.

Are you ready for Easter? We're ready. I have everything for the baskets. I've got all the food I need to prepare our breakfast and dinner on Sunday. We dyed eggs this afternoon. The Bear and I always make an egg hunt for the children; we'll fill our plastic eggs with jellybeans and hide them in the backyard tomorrow night. I'm looking forward to Sunday at home with my family, as well as potluck brunch and an egg hunt with friends tomorrow. It will be a lovely weekend to finish a happy, relaxing week. It was exactly the break I needed.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Modern technology, and a winner

This week, I joined the 21st century when I bought my first smartphone. I know what you're thinking: this person who blogs regularly, who reads and comments on blogs every day, who obviously has a computer and a digital camera, who is married to an electrical engineer didn't already have a smartphone?! Nope. I did not. I had a prepaid flip phone, just for emergency use. It was fine, and I didn't feel I needed more. But life is changing; both of my children will be in school together starting in August, and while our chosen situation has them at home quite a lot, I should be more reachable if something happens at school. Like many parents, I do worry about school violence, but there is also illness, injury, and general communication with teachers. And, on a more selfish note, I'll now have a bit more time to myself and I don't plan to spend it all at home. So a more capable phone seemed like the right choice at this juncture.

It's only been a couple of days but it's fun so far! These phones can do a lot. I bought a Motorola phone, on the recommendation of my husband who did all the serious research for me. He knows far more about these things than I do. He explained them while I flicked through the pre-installed wallpapers and ringtones. I found a photo of French macarons for my wallpaper! I mostly concentrated on the macarons after that. Pretty, pretty. I can handle the pretty tasks. To that end, I made myself a phone case this weekend, using a tutorial from Jane's blog, Handmade Jane. She shared it last week, just in time for my big phone purchase. Her tutorial was easy and quick. I think the case came out really cute and it's a perfect fit for my new phone.

Adorable, right? I really like it. I won't rewrite Jane's excellent tutorial, but I'll proudly share my own case. My new phone is actually inside the case in the above photo; the case is a perfect fit for the phone and the whole thing fits nicely inside one of the inner pockets of my purse. Jane's phone looks to be the same size as mine, but she says she knows it will fit an iPhone too, so it's a very versatile pattern.

The pattern calls for a lining fabric and an outer fabric (as well as a piece of interfacing; Jane suggests the sew-in type but I only had the fusible kind, which worked fine). For my lining, I chose magenta pin-dots on white. This was a fat quarter from my stash. The outer fabric is by Brother Sister Design Studio, from 2012. I don't know the name of the fabric pattern, sorry. But I did get a great deal on it, $4 per yard on clearance at Hobby Lobby. It's a bit loud, but I really like it. The phone case seems a perfect place to use it; a little something splashy for my purse.

It was such a fun and easy little project (it's on a towel here because I often iron small items on a towel instead of dragging the ironing board to the kitchen, where I do my sewing). The case took about thirty minutes, including ironing the interfacing onto the wrong side of my outer fabric. The closure is done with a little bit of Velcro tape, stitched onto the pouch as well as the flap. There's a lot of top-stitching, which always makes me slightly nervous but it's such a small piece that isn't hard to make it look relatively neat. I used white thread for the whole thing, including the top-stitching; it's hard to go wrong with so many colors in the fabric.

It's a great fit for my phone and it would be for yours too, I'd think. The flap closes down securely too, keeping the phone snugly in place.

I'm mostly happy with my own workmanship. The right-hand side looks a little wonky from the back, where the fabric was just slightly uneven. You can't see it from the front, though. I like the way the fabric matches up on the front, where the flap meets the body of the pouch; I did attempt to make this happen, by adjusting the amount I folded up the bottom part to make the pouch, but I didn't really expect it to work when all was said and done. When it turned out fairly well, I was just a little bit excited.

Yep, it's all newfangled contraptions from here on out. As long as I can sew an adorable cozy for each and every one of them, the future and I will get along just fine.


Thank you for entering my Friendship Giveaway! I was really happy that so many people entered. It feels so good to know that people enjoy my blog. I wish I could give you each a token of my friendship. I have chosen a winner via the comments, using the Random Number Generator at, and here's what it spit out:

The fifty-third comment on the giveaway post was left by Angel Jem! Angel Jem, please send me an email (you can do so by clicking the little envelope button at the top of my blog) with your address so I can mail your prizes.

Monday, April 14, 2014

First posy

Last week, I collected flowers from around our yard and made my first posy of this spring. I usually wait a bit longer, for other flowers to bloom. But this year, I decided it wasn't important to wait for what I have often thought of as "real" flowers. I wanted to savor the earliest blooms too, collecting bits of color from around the yard, to bring freshness and cheer inside the house. I'm learning to appreciate simple gardening more and more as I get older; roses are beautiful and I tend mine with pride, but I enjoy plainer flowers too, even the ones which are technically weeds.

There was plenty to clip for a posy and I took one (or more) of each thing blooming. I should amend that; there were tulips blooming but we don't have very many of them and I didn't feel right clipping any of them for a posy. If I ever achieve the tulip clipping patch I discussed the other day, I will definitely be bringing them into the house. That would be the whole point, I suppose, but it would be nice to have lots of them to admire in the yard too. But that's for later; here is my first-posy selection. At the top of the photo, there are two small clippings of blossom from our apple tree, and a snip of pyracantha bud under the one on the left. Beneath them, from left to right: two grape hyacinths, five wild asters, two dandelions, a chocolate daisy and a sprig of lilac blossom.

These flowers were small, with short stems, so I arranged them in a tiny pitcher. It's about four inches high and is made of delicate china. I often use it for small flowers picked for me by the children, or bits of honeysuckle or lavender from the yard, which I like to bring inside for their sweet scent. The pitcher was the perfect size for my little posy; the short-stemmed flowers could rest among the others, and the whole posy sat in a neat cluster on the pitcher's rim.

I loved the shape of the posy and the way the colors looked together. Everything was pink or purple or yellow - soft, cheerful spring colors, Easter-ish and sweet. I began thinking about where I should put my little posy. I walked through the house trying it in different places. Larger, more robust flowers usually end up on the kitchen table in a Mason jar, with or without a crocheted jacket. I don't worry about tall sheaves of Russian sage, or big, blowsy roses in a heavy glass jar. They're tough. This little posy was not. It needed a special, safe place.

I tried the windowsill in the breakfast nook. The posy looked lovely in the morning light, but this is perhaps the most dangerous place of all. There is often boisterous behavior in the breakfast nook, and not just by the children.

I tried it on the vanity in the master bathroom. There is a high window here, set several feet about the vanity mirror, which gives beautiful light all day. The posy looked pretty here too, but I was concerned about the pitcher getting wet. And, really, some people don't move all that gently in here either. But I would have loved to see the posy on the vanity while getting ready in the mornings.

I tried the posy on my dresser and it was perfect. Here, it would be enjoyed throughout the day, each time I went back to our bedroom. And it was, whether I was putting away laundry or going back for a cardigan before heading outdoors. I was glad to have it there, a delicate posy to brighten my bedroom and remind me that spring still holds lots of promise.

 ⚘ ⚘ ⚘ ⚘ ⚘ ⚘ ⚘ ⚘ ⚘

Have you entered my Friendship Giveaway yet? The entry period closes today. You can enter through the end of the day (I'm on Mountain Standard Time). I'll choose a winner at random from the comments and announce the winner here on my blog soon. Thanks for entering and good luck!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Sushi and son

Sushi story: a boy, his dad and a very big knife.

The Bear loves to make sushi. His family hosted a Japanese exchange student when he was a teenager and apparently there were some basic sushi lessons. He enjoyed it, and later gave a presentation in school where he made California rolls for his whole class. I'd never had sushi before I met him. Actually, I'd never had avocado or imitation crab before I met him either. For me, they've been acquired tastes but I love them both now.

He only makes sushi a couple of times a year. It's a lot of work. I wrote about it last July, which was the last time he made sushi. The whole family likes to watch. He's far from expert; he just likes to have fun and come up with interesting combinations. It always tastes good and looks nice. This time, the LB wanted to help. The Bear showed him how, step by step. The LB learned how to season the rice with sugar and rice vinegar. He learned to spread it on the nori sheets, and to lay sliced vegetables, "crab" and egg on the rice and then to roll it all up in the sushi mat. He had help maneuvering the gigantic, mom-terrifying Global chef's knife. He kept all of his lovely, long fingers.

The LB did great! He was proud of himself for wielding that big, sharp knife by himself (sort of). We sat down to a delicious, colorful sushi dinner, made by father and son; I only had to pick up my chopsticks and start chowing down.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Herbs and bulbs

Hello! Thank you to everyone who has entered my Friendship Giveaway. I'm glad to see that people are interested in winning my hand-sewn needle books. It's not a fancy prize, but it comes straight from my heart. If you haven't already entered, please do so by April 14, when the entry period will close.

Back in February, the small Bears and I planted herb seeds together. We chose to plant chives and basil, thinking that both will be good to eat when they're mature. We used these little tin pots I picked up in a thrift shop for 69 cents apiece. They've been great little pots, I'm so glad I found them. They're water-tight (though I did put some plastic yogurt-tub lids, along with a layer of paper towel, under each of them just in case), they have sturdy plastic liners with drainage holes, and they're adorable. What's not to like? They sit in a sunny east-facing window in our breakfast nook. We don't have to do much with them, but we have taken photos of the seedlings' growth and written down dates and observations and all that. There's a lot to learn from little plants.

I'm so happy they grew. The chives smell just like chives are supposed to smell. I tasted a tiny snip and the flavor is mild, but decidedly chivey. The basil seedlings' leaves are almost heart-shaped, which is fitting because I heart basil.

I've only grown plants from seed a handful of times in my life. We did it fairly often in elementary school; I remember being called a few at a time to a table where the teacher had a little planting station set up. I remember marigolds. I also remember learning the word "germinate" during one of these planting sessions. I thought the teacher said "Germany." I had one of those 1000-piece Big Ben jigsaw puzzles that depicted a street scene in Germany, with red geraniums in window-boxes up and down the street. The red geraniums were my favorite thing about the picture (I still adore red geraniums) and it all made sense in my mind. Geranium-germinate-Germany...see what I mean?

Maybe it's because we have chickens now, with their shockingly speedy growth, but this spring I'm feeling much more attuned to small things growing around me. I think it also has to do with the fact that we've had a more normal spring than we had last year, when there were late freezes and inevitable plant damage. The tulips never bloomed at all, to my dismay. They're my favorite flowers and I look forward to ours every year. This year, in a burst of hopefulness, I planted a big bag of bulbs in different parts of the yard, mostly in the back. I also planted grape hyacinths, just because they're pretty. But the tulips - wow! I'm so glad I added more. Did you see Helen's post this week, sharing her tulip cutting patch? I want one too! I will have to do some research on just how many bulbs to plant to achieve this. I'm lost in tulip fantasies right now! It would be a wonderful addition to my backyard planters.

We have tulips, irises and sweet little grape hyacinths in our backyard. This is a sampler of what I'm seeing right now. The reddish-orange tulips, seen above and in this collage, were planted by some previous owner of the house. They've bloomed well most years since we've lived here. The rest were planted by me this fall. I used one of those variety bags of bulbs, because I couldn't decide which type I wanted to plant. There are many of these short-stemmed types; I especially love the one that has pink and white marbling on its petals. There were some tall yellow ones which already bloomed and withered and there was a medium-height orange one too. Do you remember when I shared the weird, grayish shoots a couple of weeks ago? The photo in the lower left is one of them, as it looks right now. The petals are just beginning to peek out, a dark pink shade. I'd been hoping for an exotic species, like the black ones, but this is good. Pink is always welcome around here.

If you look closely, you can see iris buds just beginning to show themselves. We have lots and lots and lots of irises in our backyard. They were planted by a previous owner too. I wrote about them last year, when they were just past their peak. I like the irises, but I don't feel as though I really get them. They're pretty, but they seem temperamental. Tulips, I get. Tulips are simple. They're just cheery and bright. This is why I want more of them; I already have all the irises I can handle, possibly more. But: they bloom for weeks, and they add a lot of color to the backyard. There should be a few in bloom soon, just another week or so. Then I'll bring them inside to be displayed in a vase, their strange, spicy scent filling the house, their gooey nectar dripping onto the table below. I will enjoy them, reluctantly.

 But you, tulip - oh, I love you so!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Friendship Giveaway

And if you threw a party
Invited everyone you knew
You would see, the biggest gift would be from me
and the card attached would say,
Thank you for being a friend.

In the spirit of friendship, so much of which I have found in the lovely blogging community, I'm having a little giveaway for my followers. I'm thankful for you. It's wonderful to find like-minded people to share with and learn from, who really understand what it means to crave a simple, peaceful life centered around home and family. It's not always easy to find people in "real life" who share this passion but it's everywhere in the blogging community. My blog is not fancy and I don't have ties to magazines or online stores or big names in the crafting world. But still you come back to see what I'm up to and you say awfully nice things about my family, my writing, my creations and my photos. So thank you for being on my wavelength, and for being supportive and kind.

On to the giveaway. One of my Christmas presents was the wonderful book Last-Minute Patchwork + Quilted Gifts, by Joelle Hoverson of Purl Soho. I've been addicted to this book since I received it. The projects are beautiful and inspiring; the photos and writing are fabulous too. One project that really caught my eye is the first one in the book, one of the quickest projects featured. They're little felt-and-flannel needle books with an adorable printed fabric patch on the front. The patch, which reads "on pins and needles" as if it's the book's title, is my favorite part. So clever! I kept flipping back to the needle books. I had to try making some. And I've decided to give a couple of them away on my blog.

Joelle made her patches with a fabric printer. How cool does a fabric printer sound? Unfortunately, I don't have one and have never even seen one. I figured out a different way to make my patches. I used plain pink cotton broadcloth and ink stamps! I stamped the saying onto each little piece of cloth with tiny alphabet stamps and red ink. It's probably not waterproof, but I'm thinking you'd keep your needle books as dry as possible anyway. The patches are stitched on with neon green thread, the same color I used to stitch down the inner flannel "pages." The book suggested using thread in a contrasting color, but I have to admit I stole this idea shamelessly from Purl Soho's blog, The Purl Bee. Have you seen the way they've been incorporating one surprising neon shade into many of their knitting and quilting projects lately? I really like the look so I borrowed it here.

The stitching is visible on the books' spines too - just a touch of neon green on pink and turquoise.

Inside each book, there are six white flannel "pages" for storing lots of needles and pins. The flannel is stitched down through the center of the book and you can flip through the pages.

I placed some flat-head butterfly pins on every page, just because. They're part of the giveaway too.

So here are the rules. The winner of my giveaway will receive both needle books. You can either keep them both for yourself, or you can keep one and give the other away as a gesture of friendship. It's like paying forward my friendship with you. The winner can give the second book away on his or her own blog (I won't enter your giveaway). Or give it to a friend or relative who loves to sew. It's up to you!

To enter my giveaway, please be a follower of my blog by the method of your choice (or become a follower now) and leave a comment on this post. The giveaway will close in one week, on April 14; I'll draw a winner randomly from the comments soon after that. I am happy to ship internationally; my giveaway is open to all. Thank you for being a friend!