Friday, March 30, 2012

Dear Niecelet

I'm sorry, but your birthday present will be late this year.

I am on idea number three for your birthday.  Idea number one was a book on animal searching that Liam likes, in fact, he likes it so much that he found the extra copy I had set aside for you and somehow managed to tear pages in both copies.  (That searching is hard work, and they're not big tears, just little ones, but still.)  Idea number two had to do with science and the outdoors, I was thinking of a little house for bugs, a magnifying glass, an explorer hat. . .but that started to feel too much like it might be an assignment for your mother, who does not need extra assignments.  So, idea number three will be, I think, the winner, but it will be late.

You see, this is the prototype.  This suffers from all the faults in my sewing.  Somehow I didn't completely read the directions all the way through the first time, so it has taken two trips to the sewing store to get this far.  Somehow I didn't just settle down and work through the measurements completely either, so it is, I think, not full enough and the edges are uneven.  Darn that 54" tulle.  I'm always eager to get going, and I get impatient with laying out and cutting, which is really where all the action is on this.  The ribbon is too short.  None of this is the fault of the instructions (from here, my favorite sewing book for children), which are totally clear and easy to follow -- lovely really, if you only read them.

I have learned that tulle must be a shade darker on the bolt than what you want in your garment.   And that pink and purple are just grand to have as favorite colors but they probably should not be combined in one tutu.  Another trip to the store tomorrow and I think we'll be done and have two in the mail for you soon.  I hope your ballerina / pirate party goes great this weekend, and that you don't outgrow ballet in the next week.  Once finished, I am going to really try to get your present in the mail right away instead of driving around with it in my car for a week and a half, like I did with you Auntie Chris' extra clothes and stuff.  (I promise Chris -- they are on the way now!)

Enjoy year four small one -- we hope to see you soon.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Tonight at dinner Liam said, apropos of nothing I could fathom: "Mommy, do you know what I used to think you did at work all day?"

"What did you think?"

"I used to think that you were at your desk and you moved a lever back and forth all day."  (Imagine Liam, in his chair, holding both hands out in front of him and pushing them out and back vigorously, like he is rapidly operating a stubborn railway switch or something.)

"Well, what do you think I do now?"

"Oh, you know, you read your email, and type on your computer, and talk on your telephone, and go to meetings."

That about covers it.  Although days like today the lever idea doesn't sound too bad.  Imagine how cute my upper arms would look in sundresses?

How I love that child and what a privilege it is to see him unfold. 

He had a big day today, one of the other school parents, a neighbor, brought him home from school because I was at a meeting for work and couldn't be here to pick him up and turn him over to the late-afternoon babysitter like I usually do.  His first time ever going somewhere with someone who is not mother, auntie, or grandmother/grandfather.  Ever.  He was so very nervous about it and he did so very well. 

He needs a lot of reinforcement to make sure he knows exactly how it will work.  For a week we have been reviewing: Mrs. G will take you home, Kiley (the babysitter) will be here, Mommy will be home for dinner just like a regular day.  But if I can help him prepare and work through his fears ahead of time, the actual event can be a non-event.  Worth remembering. 

Pouring rain here all of a sudden, just buckets. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Wolf haven and running around the house

We went out to Wolf Haven today.  One of Liam's school friends must have said something about it to him because he has been on and off pretending to be a wolf named Wolf Haven for a few weeks now.  This morning he asked if we could go there and I said, yes, sure, get you play clothes on.  He dressed in wolf colors (gray and gray, with orange stripes), and off we went.

It would have been much, much better if the 15 minute tour had really been 15 minutes instead of a very long hour full of lots of information about various details of wolf recovery and endangered species politics.  Or if more running, kicking, climbing, or, well, even talking had been allowed.  (They do programs for school kids and I'm sure those are much better for someone his age; the tour was interesting just L.O.N.G on standing around listening to someone talk -- not ideal for a four year old.)  The wolves really are close; I think it would be fun to go for the campfire some evening and see if they howl.  We heard one howl today.  Liam said "what is that noise?"  He couldn't believe it.

At home we rallied and cleaned up the last of the winter garden; planted potatoes and tiny 4-leaf-big broccoli and kale plants grown in the garage.  I'm hopeful for them, but I've also started some more out in the garage.  The sky was stunning tonight, like summer; dark inky blue fading to just a tiny bit lighter on the horizon at 8:30 when I went out to make sure the chickens were locked in.  And Venus and Jupiter all lined up and crazy bright. 

After dinner Liam pretended to be a wolf and then a dog and then just ran in circles* around the house over and over until bath time.  He is running to Cumberland Mount Bear Chase, from here, his current favorite.  He is addicted to banjo music and I couldn't be happier about that.  That he loves these Pete Seeger songs pleases me to no end.  He also loves this one

* I remember so clearly Will talking about how Liam would run in circles around the house, and what a wonderful thing about this house that would be, and that we should reinforce the floor.  I wish he were here to see it now -- still un-reinforced but hanging in there.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Pizza Friday - the scrambled egg edition

We are going to work on an Easter egg tree this year and decided to forgo pizza Friday in favor of scrambled eggs for dinner, so we could start blowing eggs.  Sunny's eggs are bigger and have harder shells than Stary's.   More later after we're farther along. 

After days of rain like the flood was on the way, tonight about 4:00 started in with some sun breaks.  I'm not a huge fan of daylight saving time but today. . .today I'll take it.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Felting soap and sorting laundry

Yesterday we felted soap.  I had this idea that we would (spoiler alert) give felted soap as  St. Patrick's day presents, along with some little seeds or something as an inspiration to get out in the garden.  In my mind this turns out lovely and we (somehow) make bright green shamrocks on white roving around the soap and maybe even have shamrock seeds.  Except they basically are an invasive weed around here, so it would have to be something else.  Details.

The thing is, I've never really felted anything before.  So we decided to start slow, with just seeing if we could actually get it to work at all.

And it pretty much did.  We followed the tutorial from here, a lovely place, by way of here, a place I am trying to remind myself to visit more often.

The basics.  Step 1: go to the yarn store and buy some wool roving.  We got lots.  We're that way when we get into project mode.  Get some bars of soap.

Liam holds up the roving; bar of soap in background

Step 2: wrap the base color of roving tightly around the soap.  The tutorial has good instructions for this, you want it to be pretty tight and wrapped a few different ways around so you cover all the soap well.  Do this with some of the roving that didn't cost so much.  Use little bits of the expensive dyed roving to decorate the wrapped soap.  This wont really stick, but you can sort of mash it onto the top and sides where you want it to be.

Liam decorates the wrapped soap.  He liked this part.

Step 3: find some old stockings. (In my case some old off-white tights---unopened---in a size I have not seen since, oh, I don't know, probably 10 years?  Why do I have these things?  So I can felt soap on a whim, I guess.)  Cut up one of the legs and put your wrapped and "decorated" bar into it.  Peek in and move the decorations around if you want.  Tie a knot at both ends.  Now you are ready to felt.

Felting.  He did not like this part as much.
Step 4, the last step: to felt you put the soap in water about as hot as you can stand and suds it around to make it very soapy -- you want to really work this because you need to get hot water and soap all into every little wool fiber and mat them together.  This is a lot like shrinking your favorite sweater in the washer except you are both making the sweater and shrinking it all in one step.  Keep moving and sudsing, dipping in hot water often.  After Liam gave up on the process (approximately 1 minute into the felting part), I poured steaming hot water from the kettle over the soap.  I like to think this helped.  The tutorial says to work the soap 10-20 minutes.  I think for the first soaps we worked them at least 20 minutes (1 for Liam and 19 for me), and for the second more like 10 minutes (all me).  The 20 minute soaps definitely were better.  When you think it's done, untie the stockings, remove your soap, run it under VERY COLD water for a while to shrink it down even more, and then sort of wring out the excess and put it out to dry.  Ours needed a day and a half to be (mostly) dry.  Liam enjoyed checking the drying progress.  ("Mommy! The soap is still very wet!")

Finished soaps.

So, here's the thing.  It was fun and all, and it looks nice enough, but, well, I'm not sure I like felted soap.  We moved one of the bars up to the soap dish in the bathroom and I hoping it will be less messy that the gloppy icky soap that used to be there.  (Actually, it is that soap, we just felted it.)   Liam washed his hands with it tonight and was not sure.  I have one in the kitchen. We'll see. To make anything approaching a shamrock I'm sure I would have to needle felt it on, which seems possible, but, well, I don't know.  At any rate . . . much more than you ever wanted to know about felted soap.  If anyone is still reading and has an opinion on the pros or cons thereof, please weigh in.  In the meantime we have enough roving to make our own sheep and will have to be figuring out things to do with it.  This is not a bad problem to have.

After we felted soap we sorted laundry.  Sorting laundry is one of Liam's household jobs and he is SO PROUD when he finishes it.  I ask him to sort laundry by color.  The result is many little, tiny piles of laundry: one green, one gray, one red, one orange, etc..  Then we combine the piles as appropriate.  It is very sweet.

I would like to note that as you can see by the laundry my child really does not wear footed fleece PJs 24/7, it only seems that way in pictures taken mostly on Saturdays.  (Edited to say: these soap photos are supposed to have captions, but I can't seem to make them show up.  Or fix the spacing. Sigh.)


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The chickens want to come into the house

Well. . .only one of the chickens, actually, Sunny.  Sunny likes to hop up onto the back porch and peck at the storm door.  Or hop up on the railing and peck at the kitchen window.  This is funny for about the first minute and a half and then it is not as funny.  (Liam disagrees, he thinks it is funny EVERY SINGLE TIME.)  One of my new big fears is that Liam will let the chickens into the house.

Camera update: it is sort of working; sort of not.  It seems to be on it's own schedule.

When Liam is not wishing to welcome Sunny into the kitchen, he is the self-appointed Person In Charge of Removing the Chicken from the Back Porch.  This also, apparently, never gets old.