Thursday, October 1, 2020


Here I am, now a homeschooler! Thanks, COVID. I mean that both sarcastically and sincerely. I am homeschooling Phoebe and she is a dear little student. Our school district is currently totally virtual, and it just did not make sense for Phoebe to enter kindergarten on a screen with me trying not to chew my arm off beside her.

I am grateful that I have a flexible schedule and some years of parenting under my belt. The skills that I need are not really the skills I gained as a high school English teacher, but rather the skills I learned through parenting: patience, cheerful matter-of-fact firmness, calmness, and capacity to enjoy my child and enter into her world. 

For curriculum, I queried the homeschool parents I know who have taught their children kindergarten. I read some websites in the manner of surveying the landscape. Our state uses the Common Core standards and since we intend for Phoebe to return to in-person schooling in the future, I read those standards and chose curriculum aligned with them. 

We are using:
Explode the Code Book 1

DK Geography, Kindergarten level

some partially used kindergarten math books from a friend in the district because the Argoprep Introducing Math! Kindergarten book I bought is too advanced.  

Daily, Phoebe draws in a journal and writes the date. We go over the days of the week, the months and seasons, and do some counting as we ascertain the date.  I read out loud to her; currently we are devouring the Little House books. We spend about an hour on homeschool every morning.

Then she plays her heart out and talks our ears off the rest of the day. She keenly misses peers as her older siblings are so much older - another reason we want to send her back to in-person school. 

As for Genevieve and Ben, they are doing their virtual school thing with their district-issued iPads. Each class has two Zooms a week and the rest of the work is asynchronous. Fortunately, they can still play their sports because these are outside and can be mostly socially distant. I'm grateful they have that fresh air, exercise, excitement, and teamwork. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Orange Linen Pants

I've been wanting wide-leg pants for a while, but I loathe pants shopping. I knew I would sew some wide-leg pants eventually, but I was held back by the complicated fitting and finding the right fabric weight.
But then my sister showed up to our (socially distanced!) backyard firepit fun wearing flowy black linen pants and that is exactly the right outfit on a muggy evening when the mosquitos are out. I actually started down the online pants shopping path until it occurred to me that these are not fitted pants: they are essentially pajama pants and I have made lots of pajama pants! I found this heavy, soft orange linen in my stash; it was enough for a dress, but orange is not a color I wear next to my face. I used my standard pajama pants pattern, modifying the crotch to be higher and cutting the legs to fall straight and wide instead of taper.  I added patch pockets and a paper bag waist, using a casing of bias tape inside. The drawstring has 20" of elastic for comfort. I also finished the hems with orange bias tape because they were just the right length and proper length pants are so important. These photos were taken by my husband on a (socially distanced!) beach family getaway. The beach in the evening means fewer people, no sunscreen, fabulous light, and (ugh) biting flies. The pants kept my legs protected - my husband, wearing shorts, spent a lot of time whacking flies off his legs with my flip flops. 
I'm  really happy with these pants! I plan to wear them with tops of all colors.
Are you wearing wide-leg (public pajama) pants? Do tell!

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Swedish Summer Pillow

We are fine. We are coping.  My silence on the blog is just due to underlying pandemic stress sapping my energy (amen?).

Due to some people in this house whacking each other with the living room throw pillows, I needed to replace a pillow cover.  I have a pillow cover for hot weather and one for cold weather.  That is about as seasonal as my decorating gets! They ruined the hot weather cover.

I made a pillow cover of reds and greens, with the colors lightening up into the middle of the pillow.  Normally I love the surprise of patchwork, but this time, the results lacked the gravitas I wanted in the living room.  It looked like a little girl's bedroom to me, and I could not unsee it.

I kept turning this problem over in my mind at odd moments, poking through my fabric stash at other odd moments, and then I came up this red striped fabric and doily. No patchwork this time!

Ah, now this fits my vision of a summer I want to have: a little cottage by a lake, with tall trees and wildflowers and blue pitchers of milk, whitewashed walls in the sunshine, and a rocker creaking on the porch. Probably I would be alone. I love my people dearly and am very grateful for the community support we give and get. . . .but oh, my, I am a little fried from my people home all the time.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

The Week in Suppers: end of April, pandemic-style

Monday: baked Boston blue fish using Aunt Maggie's recipe; lemony mashed potatoes (recipe below); green salad; oatmeal jam bars made with spiced grape butter)

Tuesday: Pierogies sauteed with radish tops + garlic, German red cabbage, sourdough crackers with cream cheese + pepper jam
Notes: I do not boil frozen commercial pierogies anymore.  Just thaw them for an hour or few at room temperature, then saute until they get some nicely browned edges and are hot through.  I like to saute them with onions and apples, but here I had some radish tops and was short on onions.  So I improvised!

Wednesday: polenta & eggs from Smitten Kitchen Everyday, French bread + olive oil, sauteed kale with garlic & lime, black bean brownies + the last little bit of mint choc chip ice cream
Notes: It took almost 30 minutes to bake the eggs when the recipe implied it would take only a few minutes. No evening commitments tonight, so it didn't matter.  Flavor was worth it, though!
Also, if you chop the kale stems very thinly and put them in the hot pan for 5-10 minutes by themselves with the lid on, they will be tender enough to eat with the sauteed leaves.  It's a small thing I do to cut down on food waste.
Thawing for supper.

Thursday: chicken tikka masala in the slow cooker from Stock the Crock with swiss chard as well; turmeric brown rice; nigella seed naan; pear chutney; pickled lemons
Notes: If I'm making a saucy stew with a flavorful sauce, I usually bulk it up with vegetables to capture the sauce.
Also, I mixed the nigella seed directly into the naan dough this time because it kept falling off when I sprinkled it on top in previous batches.  Success!
I'm working on using my little jars of canned goodness.  Hence the spiced grape butter on Monday, pepper jam on Tuesday, and chutney here.

Friday: pepperoni/onion pizza, fancy mushroom pizza with white sauce and truffle oil, radish top and green olive pizza; chips!!! frozen peaches
Notes: The fancy mushrooms are from a local farm who normally sells to restaurants. My husband gave me truffle oil and truffle salt for Christmas - I am totally hooked. I tried to recreate a mushroom pizza from a local restaurant I love and I'm very pleased with my version - except that I forgot to put salt in the dough when I mixed it up which shows the state of my brain these days.

Saturday: take-out Chinese!
Notes: We rarely buy take-out or go to restaurants as a family, but we wanted to support our favorite local Chinese place. It was a total treat - a break from the heavy-duty cooking I do and so delicious.

Lemony Mashed Potatoes
I got the recipe from Jennifer, who got it from Melissa Clark.  I don't really consider it a salad, and this is how I make it.

Boil until very tender:
2 1/2 -3 lbs. chopped potatoes with skin on

While they are cooking, mix together in bowl:
zest & juice of 1 lemon
1/3 c. olive oil
2 Tbsp. mayo
1 Tbsp. grainy mustard
1 tsp. dried rosemary
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/2 c. sliced scallions

Drain potatoes. Gently pour hot potatoes on mixture and mash with a potato masher until thoroughly mixed.  Serve immediately while hot or let sit and serve at room temperature.

Thursday, April 23, 2020


I do not have swaths of time for projects.  If anything, I have more editing than usual, and now my people are home all the time, so I cannot count on chunks of work time like I could before COVID-19 hit.

I am sewing masks  - have made about 50 and am glad I have skills and materials for this, but wish everyone would get masked already. I want to start a quilt for my sister who has a big birthday in a few weeks, but instead, I sewed her masks.

My mom loaned me The Chilbury Ladies Choir by Jennifer Grey, which is set in World War II England. I really liked it! It helps me to calm down to think of people living through wars where they wanted to carry on with normal life, wanted to "do their bit" to help the situation, and could not make plans for the future. That's how I feel right now, even though I acknowledge how fortunate I am that I am not deprived of any comforts of a first-world existence.  Really.  Sometimes the store does not have the exact groceries that I have on my list, but come on, I have lived in other countries where the store selection was spotty.  I do not think we will starve.
For a while now, I have kept a well-stocked, deep pantry.  I have flour and yeast!  Now I am not sure if we should eat to the bottom of my stores, or if I should replace my replacements.  I am confused.  I recognize this as a sign of the underlying grief and stress that COVID-19 brings and I just chug along, limiting grocery shopping to one market trip a week and the grocery store to 2-3 weeks. 

I am extremely proud of my menus, my resourcefulness with the food we do have on hand.  I know how to make do with odds and ends! I think my family is less impressed and wishes to know where I've hidden the chips. I am messing around with my sourdough as I have been since before Christmas, learning new ways and studying various methods.  When the library abruptly shut down lending, I won the jackpot with a full library basket that includes no less than four cookbooks, two on bread! Not that I have actually been reading them.  My big kids have been reading Harry Potter for the first time and coaxed me into reading along after I read the first book out loud to them. 

This is Phoebe's desk, her Christmas present; she loves it.
I have gradually come to expect nothing from the future, except that I can't wait to hug dear ones outside my family again and sing in groups again. Oh, I miss singing so badly! I am really not making any future plans so that COVID-19 can't steal my plans again. When I remember to look at my calendar, I usually see something that I need to delete. Sometimes I rage, sometimes I cry.

I like to walk the estate (we live in the city; we have a yard) and revel in all my growing plants: the three types of raspberries growing back, our little tiny oak tree, my big rhubarb, the persistent meadow tea, the peas and spinach coming up strong in the new raised bed.  Inside, I found a grow-light lightbulb and a lamp and trained it on my sweet little herb seedlings in the windowsill. All this green, growing hope.  I crave it.


How are you doing these strange, strange days?

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

A Garden Kneeler

I used to have a little foam mat that I would grab to kneel on as I reached into my garden beds in spring when the ground is typically muddy.  Last year, the mat finally became trash; I can't even quite recall how, but I think it involved the children's play.

I would never buy such a thing now, so I made one with materials I had on hand (not going anywhere or buying anything much besides food because pandemic). I had a scrap of shower curtain, some outdoor fabric pieces, and an old life-preserver my father-in-law gave me filled with kapok. Kapok, I learned, is fluffy stuff from a tree that grows in the rainforest.

I first sewed a bag out of the shower curtain and filled it minimally with kapok.  I wanted some softness, but not a fat pillow.  Then I encased the whole thing in the striped outdoor fabric.  I meant to put a loop on one end for easier grabbing and carrying, but oh well: such is the state of my brain these days.

My rhubarb is coming out strong.  I just planted it last summer, so this is the first spring I will be able to harvest it.  I am thrilled!

I babied an expensive little clematis last year, and it appeared to die in August.  Oh, I was mad.  Now, something green and viney is coming in that space and I think it's the clematis! In this strange spring, I want all the green, growing hope I can find.

Here is Genevieve's new bunny, just a few months old, a mischievous little sweetie.  Genevieve named her Daisy Augusta Saoirse Diamond, and is entirely responsible for her.  There is so much joy in this relationship!  Daisy's poop is going be great in the garden.

I've planted spinach and snow peas in the raised bed, as well as spinach in some containers out front. I also snagged some basil and parsley seeds at the grocery store.   This is really all the room I have to start seeds in a sunny location; the rightful occupants of this windowsill are visiting other windows in the house. 
I'm relieved that my summer seeds arrived yesterday - I had gotten an email saying they would be delayed indefinitely - so I am trying to be on track with the garden and trying to continue learning. Seems like a good year to grow more of our food.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

My Florida Skirt

This post has literally nothing to do with COVID-19; it is just me getting around to blogging this skirt I made in January.

The best everyday tablecloths I have found are twin sheets from thrift stores.  And one day in November, I came across this ridiculously wonderful queen-size flat sheet with lemon trees, orange groves, egrets, bunnies, and red-roofed Spanish-style villas.  I held it in my hands and could not even guess what I wanted to do with it, but it had to come home with me.  

In December, my husband wangled a way for me to go to Florida with him on a business trip in January.  Suddenly, I realized that I needed to wear that sheet somehow.  I chose a full circle skirt to get as much of that declarative, whimsical print on display as possible. 

I've made half-circle skirts before, but the volume of a full circle skirt really gave me the giggles.  I used an entire package of "spruce green" bias tape on the hem and had to finish with a scrap of blue, which means the bottom circumference of this skirt is about 6 yards.  Six yards of swish at my legs!  Delicious.
The little scraps left from hemming.

I really like the side closure on this skirt that includes the pocket.  It was fairly easy to do. I had some difficulty getting the waistband just the right size - first it was too tight, then I pieced in some ease and it was too big.  But this print serenely disguises lots of things and keeps up the blue sky.

I got to wear my circle skirt for a beach walk and dinner on the deck, although I was shivering by the end because Florida in January is not really balmy and there was a sharp breeze off the Tampa Bay.  But I'm a Northerner and I wanted to wear my Florida skirt in Florida.  Spring is gently rising around us, and I am eager wear this skirt soon again.