Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Pattern Weights from Ben

What do you say when someone asks you what you want as a gift?  I'm old-fashioned and don't like wish lists and telling people, although I'm modern enough to appreciate clear, direct communication of wants and needs.  So I usually come up with a few gift ideas and add clear permission to the giver to go off-list.  And I harangue my children about gifts being just that: gifts, not obligations, and to give and receive out of love.

I think Ben was listening.

He asked for tempera paint in December and set about painting rocks, leading me to fume about where these things would end up catching dust or require someone (me) to pick them up.  Thank goodness I kept my fuming inside, because this dear boy was making the rocks for me, for an eminently practical use.

"dear mom
You are always using Phoebe's toys to weight down your sewing patterns. So here are some rocks to help you with that
love, Ben"

I was so touched at his thoughtful observance of my machinations and his excellent, homemade gift that does, indeed, help me out.

It pinches my heart a little bit to think that I will be using these pattern weights long after there are no toys laying around in the dining room

Monday, January 22, 2018


I am just back from a funeral.  In fact, I sang a Leonard Cohen song at the funeral.  And I agree with my pastor, who said some time ago that it's important to go to funerals to step back from our busyness and look at the witness of our brother or sister who died and ask ourselves if we are truly focused on what's important.

Here on the blog, I am writing about the mundane, over and over and over again. You'll see that I put hearts on Phoebe's jeans just like I did four years ago for her big sister.

People are not talking about the mundane at a funeral; they are talking about more unique acts in peoples' lives, and yet we must eat, wear clothing, and be sheltered in hopefully clean houses. Somebody is working behind the scenes.

In this season in my life, I am deep in the mundane work behind the scenes.  I'm sure it's holy work, it's mostly loving work (sometimes I hate it), and I know it's only for a season and then my children will be out from under my wing.  Will I be ready to fly up high again and get some glory?  Well, I don't know. 

In the meantime, this discipline of blogging is going to help me step back and reflect, to exchange ideas and encouragement with you, dear readers.  Perhaps you've noticed that my posts the last few months are bare-bones and heavy on the mundane details.  I wondered, in fact, if I should stop blogging.  But I think.  The funeral today broke my heart a little, and I am back with a softer heart and a willingness to keep at it, the mundane, the endless food, laundry, vacuuming, tidying, the chaos.  Onward!

Friday, January 19, 2018

Prettying Up the Puffer Coat

Before I bought Phoebe's plain navy coat on eBay, I looked at the photos closely.  I wanted to add ribbon down the placket and at the zipper pulls on the pocket.  

I think this was meant to be a boys' coat, with rugged orange tape at the pockets, but I took it off and replaced with something a bit more like a Scandinavian girl.  It was easy to topstitch the ribbon on the placket and re-make the zipper pulls with the same ribbon. 

This coat pleases me.  Navy is one of my favorite colors just now looks and great with Phoebe's blue eyes.  We are going out in the cold in style and with mitten clips - such a sanity-saver with kids in the winter.

Phoebe is not in pain in this photo; she is smiling for the camera!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

A Clever Zippered Pocket

My aunt Esther got me this handwork bag and I love it.  But the metal zipper on the pocket developed bent teeth that could not be fixed by orthodontia.  I looked at it more closely, and marveled at the clever design of this zippered pocket.

The zipper is topstitched on one side to the top of the pocket flap, and then topstitched on the other side to the bag itself, with both ends sewn down.  So simple and functional.  It was easy to remove the broken zipper and put in a new one.

This is my knitting bag, so I keep little items in the pocket like a measuring tape, rubber needle tips, yarn needle, etc.

Currently, I'm working on a Nola Cloche for myself that I fell in love with from the photos.  I hope my version turns out just as beautifully.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Phoebe's House

Genevieve seized the big box that her Christmas beanbag chair came in and made it into a house for Phoebe.  She did it swiftly with a box cutter and so effectively with the fold-up door and a handhold. Let us not overlook the curtain, either.

Phoebe was thrilled. She wore her new red socks, fresh off my knitting needles, and sat down for a good play with her doctor kit.  I used the same pattern as before, with thrift-store red wool.

Flushed with success, Genevieve made a more ambitious cardboard structure, a boat of sorts, for her little cousin.  I am afraid it may have gotten smashed in the presents' melee at my parents' house, but no one seemed upset.

Friday, January 5, 2018

A Real Winter Soup

Happy New Year, everybody! I am done with cookies and meat and cheese balls.  Let's put a pot of real old-fashioned soup on the stove because it is so cold outside that school has been canceled for the day (yes, really, how ridiculous).

I love making a pot of soup that stays on the stove for a long time, throwing in some more veggies as I run through the kitchen, tasting a bit later and adding more something.  Worcestershire sauce or fish sauce is a bit of soup magic.  Or freshly ground pepper or a bay leaf.  I love building the flavors of soup over a few hours.  Throw in a loaf of fresh bread because I'm home all day out of the cold, and that is why I love winter suppers.

I had some radish tops, so I put them in the borsch too.  And look at Phoebe, just totally happy with her new easel in the winter sun. Her big thing these days is dressing and undressing; it's rarely appropriate to the circumstances, which cracks us all up.

Russian Borsch - from the More With Less with tweaks by me, and please taste and tweak as you go along; I tried to accurately record what I did, but ultimately, soup-making is an art which varies with mood and pantry realities

If you have a beef bone, preferably a meaty, fatty bone, from roast beef, simmer it in 2 quarts water in a soup pot for at least 12 hours with 1 tsp. salt and 1 Tbsp. vinegar. I did mine 18 hours, starting the night before. (More With Less recommends a mutton neck or lamb bones - good for you if you can get those). And if your cupboard is bare and you have no bone, use whatever meat stock or broth you have.

Take out and discard the bone. Add to the stock:
1 large onion, chopped
2 big potatoes, diced
1 medium red beet, shredded
1 cup pureed tomatoes
1 tsp. fresh-ground pepper
1 dried red pepper
3 bay leaves
1 Tbsp. dill seed

Simmer covered for 1 hour or so. Taste, and if the broth seems thin, I like to add some powdered beef bouillon instead of just salt.

4 cups shredded green cabbage
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 tsp. dillweed

Simmer another 30 minutes or so.  Taste and add more salt if needed (or a splash of Worcestershire!). Serve with dollops of plain yogurt or several tablespoons of heavy cream in each bowl. When you stir it in, the borsch will turn creamy red-purple, which is exactly what I remember from Russia.