Thursday, December 10, 2015

Update

Hello friends.

It's been a while, so let's do a little combination day-late-yarn-along/life-dump, shall we?




I finally--FINALLY--finished knitting the last of the boys' Christmas stockings. Holy cow. That's four inches of stockinette that just gets tucked INSIDE the stocking to give the cuff a little substance. Pure torture at the end of such a frickin' huge sock. I still have blocking to do, and little i-cord loops for hanging, and maybe, maybe they will get their names embroidered on the cuffs before Christmas. But I realized that all the names in the pattern are 3-4 letters--"Emma" is the longest--whereas our kids all have seven letter names. This is going to be interesting.

The book--I am greatly, greatly enjoying it. It had been on my to-read list for some time and when I saw Karen reading it that pushed me over the edge into buying it, and honestly it is worth every penny.





So, life.

On Saturday I fell down the stairs holding Gregory. It wasn't as dramatic as it sounds--my feet slipped, I slid down a few steps and landed backwards on my bum. It has happened before. (Usually when I'm wearing socks ...) But this time my elbow landed on Gregory's foot, and now he has a cast on his whole leg, and will for about a month.

If you are looking for a way to slow down your Advent, physical injury works. But I would not recommend it.

We've been lighting our Advent wreath and singing "O Come Emmanuel" at dinnertime. And opening doors on our advent calendars. And I have been reading a story a day out of this book with Michael, as well as other books from our seasonal book basket.

And our unoccupied stable is out on the mantle, as well as our Little People nativity, with Baby Jesus who gets put to bed with a binky in Dominic's crib for his nap by helpful little hands.

That's it.

And it is more than enough.

I decided that wrangling three kids--one no longer mobile--plus cookies to our local Catholic mom's cookie exchange was a bit much, but a sweet friend is stopping to pick up cookies from me this evening AND bring me some back from the exchange. Such a kindness!

And this weekend, on Gaudete Sunday, we will get our tree.

So really, we want for nothing in this season of preparation.

And I? I need this advent so much. My heart is crying out for Jesus to come, to be with us, and for the grace to keep the door open for him. He will find no humbler home than this, but He is more than welcome here.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Yarn Along

I type this riding on a writing high.

After receiving an email about it from a dear friend, I have decided to jump in with both feet and participate in NaNoWriMo this year.

Two days ago I wrote. And I hated it. And it made me so depressed. Like, incredibly melodramatically depressed. I won't even go into it. So I turned around, jumped ahead in the story, and inflicted those feelings upon my main character. End Day 1 of writing.

Yesterday I continued from that point in the story rather than the beginning. And while I would tremble to go back and look at that writing, it left me feeling excited, and happy. I guess tormenting your characters can lead to good things? ;)

And all of these things are just emotions, dangerous things to ride without caution. But after two days of writing and meeting the daily word goals (although I'm still one day behind), I feel like I am legitimately "doing" NaNoWriMo for the first time in years, and that makes me very happy. It seems that naptime is usually just enough time to pound out 1500-1600 words. So we'll see.


Right now I am working on a test knit for Little Woolens. It's worked up in chunky yarn and thus flies by very quickly! Malabrigo Mecha is delicious, and I find myself calculating how expensive it would be to knit a sweater for myself out of it ...

If it weren't for a knit-by-Christmas list as long as my arm I'd immediately cast on for all of Annie and Ashley's other designs, because seriously, how cute are those little knits?? Especially the Winter Hoodie and Trane Vest.

I set aside Possession for a bit to read a Catholic book about a teenage vampire for Halloween. (Yes. Maybe a review forthcoming?) So I'm still not that far in, but I'm enjoying it and stayed up far too late to read it last night.

Linking up with Ginny.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Refreshment

The other day, I had a day that was ... not bad. But halfway through I realized: I really needed to get out of the house. Without kids. Everything I confronted--not just bad or difficult things!--filled me with a sense of, "I CAN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE."

(I realized later that I'd had way too much caffeine that day. I'm pretty sure that helped fuel my angst.)

So I texted a friend to ask if she wanted to get together that evening. (The exact text was something like "Margaritas tonight????") We crashed a Mexican place and ate wonderful food and reveled in being ourselves together, just the two of us--even if most of what we talked about was still our children. ;)

Then we hung out in the car for an hour and just talked. (And saw a pair of stormtroopers ride past on bikes. For real. Pretty sure that was not the margaritas.)


The next morning, my mom came down and I took Michael out to breakfast while she watched the twins. I've been meaning to do something one-on-one with him for a while. I think it did a lot to lift up both of us.


Coloring is serious business. 

I've come to realize that I'm not very good at self-care. It took me a while to discover, because the typical picture of lack of self-care is a mom who spends all her time pouring herself out for others: caring for the children to the extent that she doesn't eat, take a shower, make any sort of space for herself, until finally she burns out. 

That isn't me.

I possibly make too much space for myself. Often in little bits throughout the day. But I also have about an hour to myself each day for naptime, and plenty of time after the kids go to bed. Throughout the day I hide in the bathroom and read. Or, more likely, I check my phone, since bathroom breaks don't last long enough to sink into a book. I follow rabbit trails on the internet, catch up on Instagram. I indulge far too often in treats while the kids are napping.

In short, I spend a fair amount of time on myself, but much of it isn't on things that fill me up. That takes a little more work. A little more intentionality. It's easy to pull up Facebook for a few minutes--a few minutes that extend into a longer period of time until a child interrupts you and you get grumpy because sheesh, they interrupted my me time. 

I do knit, and that fills me up. I think blogging more regularly would too. Or actually calling someone or writing a letter during naptime, rather than spending the whole time scrolling through Facebook groups filled with too many women to make real connections with. (Wonderful women, mind you. People I probably could connect with if I invested beyond the scrolling.) Or setting aside a little more time each day for prayer, conversation with God over a cup of tea.

But unless you have some solid routines, it takes work to do something healthy that refreshes and renews your spirit rather than just consuming an empty spot in your day. I am not good at working up that mental energy, and I really stink at routine maintenance. (I don't blame this on motherhood. I've always stunk at routine maintenance.)

So I'm trying to give those things that really feed my soul their proper place. The Instagram and Netflix (or their equivalent) will always be there to fill in the cracks, I'm sure; but I'm making an effort to use naptime, bedtime, the times when I'm actually free, on things that ask a little more of me, but give back in return. And I'm trying to be willing to make time for myself for things that matter. For prayer, for connecting with friends.

Every day's a new opportunity to try.

:) 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Aaaah, that's better.


I am about to start the ears on the third and final fox hat. Hurrah! My children are excited. :) A lovely friend lent me her set of DPNs so I could knit this final hat without frustration. I'd been using two sets of circulars and it was getting very tiresome!  

I am almost wishing the boys were going to be foxes for Halloween. I would make them little tails to match! But their costumes are already underway. Michael has his heart set on being the Cat in the Hat, so the twins, of course, will be Thing 1 and Thing 2. (But who knows? The tails may make an appearance under the Christmas tree!)


I am still in the first pages of this book, which I first heard of on the Fountains of Carrots podcast. Any recommendations from those ladies are generally a good bet. Since then I've seen it written about in a few other places, so when we made a spur-of-the-moment visit to our favorite city library after Mass on Sunday, I took the opportunity to pick it up.

Linking up at Ginny's place.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Hats!


Fox hat #1--complete! Just in need of some button eyes. The construction of this is very interesting. It starts from the bottom up until you reach the end of the face, then you break the white and continue knitting up around the back, top, and then down the front again for the nose. Not exactly TV knitting, but lots of fun.

Right now I'm taking a break from foxes to knit a little something for a friend. And I just finished reading Howl's Moving Castle. I really enjoyed it! An easy, enjoyable read that is also very clever. It's a book I'll happily hand to my children when they're old enough to read it. Keith and I watched the Studio Gibli movie based on this book a year or two ago, and while my memories of it are a bit hazy, I remember enjoying it ... but I think it was quite a bit different than the book in terms of plot?

Linking up with Ginny!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Autumn Yarn Along



Knitting: a fox hat for winter. The first of three, because there's no way I could knit just one without a war breaking out once it was on someone's head. There would be blood shed over that hat.


Reading: a book that has been on my to-read list since its release. I am very much enjoying the literary fairy-tale feel going on here.


The book and the yarn arrived on the same day. I think they go quite well together! :) Fairy-tales and a foxy orange ("Allspice") both speak to me of fall. And also something more about the book ... the atmosphere of forgetfulness and search for memory seems to me very autumnal.

Linking up with Ginny.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Tea and Honey on a Chilly Day


A few weeks ago I asked some fellow-moms on Facebook about buying local honey in Pittsburgh. It was something I'd thought about ever since reading this article, but had been too lazy to pursue. It wasn't until I found myself swallowing spoonfuls of honey at a time that I thought, "It would really be better if I knew where this was coming from."

Today on our way back from the homeschool co-op, Michael and I stopped by a local tea shop that I'd passed the sign for many times. Getting there is a little funky--it's in a very industrial sort of plaza, and you have to go through a warehouse to get to it, but as soon as you open the door the wonderuful smell of tea drifts down the stairs to greet you. It's a cozy little loft filled with lovely teacups, handknit cozies, and an entire cabinet full of honey. (I almost bought one of the little wooden honey dippers, but stopped myself after the jar of honey and a box of tea samples ... maybe next time?) There was even a little table painted with chalkboard paint and chalk for scribbling--a handy way to keep little hands away from breakables!

Among the samples I bought are two kinds of chai. Today is quite chilly, and it seems a good day to drink it! I haven't drunk much chai in a few years, and am looking for the perfect blend--not too spicy, just a touch of sweetness. I have high hopes for these! (Any recommendations? I'm also open to mixing my own!)



(It may be that my reentry to blogging will consist of elaborations on Instagram pictures. I guess I'm okay with that!)

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Of Mice and Motorcycles


Keith starting reading The Mouse and the Motorcycle to Michael a few weeks ago. I wouldn't have thought he was ready for it, and I think there are lots of things he misses or doesn't follow. But he understands the story. He loves the idea of a mouse riding a tiny, mouse-sized motorcycle that moves by making an engine noise. He loves the interaction between the a mouse and a boy, and he loves the threat of owls outside.

We've been reading it before his nap, and sometimes afterwards over a cup of tea. Today I came down from putting his brothers to bed, and he'd opened it and found the chapter where we'd left off. We read two, because he asked for another (happy Mama heart!), and now there is just one left.

I am so pleased that this world has opened for him, for us, especially just as the seasons start to turn. How wonderful to settle in to read when the winter is all outdoors; to be cooped up inside and enter the wider world of a story.



(I may be thinking of doing 31 posts in 31 days? Or some version of it, just to get blogging again? Just noticing/reflecting on/documenting moments from our daily life? Not sure I have the guts to commit ... but we'll see. :) )

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Stocking Progress



I just realized that in addition to not being very well-lit, you can totally see where Michael scribbled all over the couch with a ball point pen in this picture.

But I'm trying to participate in the yarn along regularly again, and it's this or nothing.

So there's your dose of realism for the day. ;)

I've been hearing about The Penderwicks a lot lately and bought myself an inexpensive copy to read. So we'll see! I am about halfway through the leg of the stocking. I know I will have Second Sock Syndrome when it comes to knitting the next one. I don't hate knitting these, but I don't particularly enjoy it either.

I will probably take a break to knit myself some birthday socks.

Linking up with the Yarn Along.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A yarn along!

Wow. It's been ... a long time.

Well. I have been knitting quite a lot these days. Mostly hats. (And painting. But that is for another post.)

Seedling and Lucy

Not pictured: a purple beret (this pattern) I already mailed off to a cousin, and a brown cloche-style hat (this pattern) for her sister who entered a Carmelite monastery last month and need "a brown woolen hat."


And I finished Michael's leaf blanket. I need to take proper pictures, but here is a quick shot of it in its natural habitat.



I went on the Steel Valley Yarn Crawl and managed to make it to all eleven shops (!!!), which is where I picked up yarn for the hats and a future shawl.



And now I have settled down to a Christmas stocking. I forgot what slow knitting this is--a huge sock with not-so-huge yarn. And I've made a mistake. I forgot to continue the pattern on the sole while doing the gusset increases ... I still haven't decided what to do about it. I tried knitting back on just those stitches, but discovered it to be well nigh impossible when dealing with the strands at the back. So it's either pull out five whole rows, or just move forward with a new "design element."



This is the first book I've read by Chaim Potok, at the recommendation of my *other* cousin (brother to the two mentioned above). I am really enjoying it. And in fact, it is making me think about visual art in a way that I love. A way that excites me rather than exhausting me. ;) (I asked my cousin if this was a read that required one to think. He responded with praise for the book. I don't think he understood the question, not being a mom of three whose brain space is limited. ;) )

Linking up with Ginny.

Friday, July 24, 2015

And then she said ... (miscellany)

(mostly written on Monday morning, sitting in my drafts folder since ... I am going to post because it's this or nothing!)


I had (have?) Big Plans this week to start a new habit. (Maybe because I've been reading this book?) I want to get up a smidge earlier--giving myself a half an hour before my kids usual wake time rather than my 10-15 minutes--and write letters and emails, keep in touch with those I love who are far away. (I love the old-fashioned-ness of letter-writing, but it is also immensely practical when one can't talk without multiple little hands and voices pulling at you and insisting on attention whenever you pick up the phone.) And then, caught up on all my correspondence, I would blog.

Welllll, getting up early. Such an easy resolution to make before you go to sleep, right? ;) Also it seems that getting up earlier entails going to bed earlier. Hm.



Anyway.

I think the moths are living in my air ducts.

One of the previous owners had a dog, and my theory is that they are munching happily on dog hair somewhere inaccessible. Or thriving in a bird nest in our chimney. Those are the only two explanations I can think of for why moths keeps fluttering through my living room and kitchen despite every last bit of everything having been vacuumed, laundered, etc. Repeatedly. As I work my way through the house I've even found them dead in my kitchen drawers. (And yes, they are CLOTHES moths in those drawers and in my bathroom, not pantry moths. I have double-checked more times than I can count.)

My house is very clean. I am very exhausted. I am going to call a professional sometime this week. I hope to avoid anything chemical; even exterminators say on their websites that this isn't a pest you generally spray for. The vacuuming, dry-cleaning, and baking of yarn should be enough. But it isn't.

And I am over this.

[Note: no moths spotted since Sunday. Fingers crossed. Will call exterminator if I see another one!!]



Happier things ... our fourth anniversary was last Thursday. :)

On Friday, my parents came over to spend the night with the kids, and we got away together, on our own, for the first night since having children! Keith planned it all and kept things a surprise. We stayed in a very nice hotel, had our pictures taken at the Point--the place in Pittsburgh where the three rivers meet, ate dinner at a nice restaurant, and watched a ballet. It was perfect and wonderful and I hope we do it again before another four years pass. :) It was also very nice to come back to where our children were waiting--to have that time to focus just on each other, to renew the roots of our love and then come back to its fruit.



It is not naptime. My children are happily wreaking havoc upstairs, and I have another room to vacuum (sigh). Until next time!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Knitting in the Time of Moths?



Hey look! I'm sewing leaves together!! Yay!

Or at least, I was up until a few days ago. I decided I've found a few too many moths in my pheromone traps and am now in full-throttle de-mothing mode. Which is exhausting. And despite having thoroughly cleaned the upstairs and moving all potentially affected laundry out to be laundered ... I caught ANOTHER moth last night. I feel like this either means that I don't actually have a moth problem--that they are just flittering in from the outside and that is why I'm not actually finding much damage--or else ... it means I have a major problem somewhere. Argh.

So the only times I've been touching this blanket lately have been to pull it out of the basket and give it a good shake. Just in case someone decides to munch on it.

I've also found carpet beetles, so I guess deep-cleaning is a good thing right now. But so stressful.

Anyway, the blanket is a little less than halfway put together. It will hibernate until after I finish cleaning, and then I need to knit a hat for my cousin who is entering Carmel in August ... and then I will finish this beastie. It is turning out beautifully--I'm half-tempted to keep it for myself, except Michael would never let me get away with it--but I am not enjoying the seaming process. Oh well.



Reading: Better Than Before, a book about habits that wasn't quite what I thought it would be, but the writing is engaging enough to keep me going. The Green Ember is a book much loved on this blog and so I thought I'd give it a read and keep it for the boys to grow into.


Linking up with Ginny!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Getting Close ...



I've bought the last of the yarn for Michael's blanket. After knitting up these skeins, I'll add as needed from a few odd and ends to make up the full count.

I almost didn't pick this book up because I felt the need for something narrative, but it turns out that this is basically a memoir, rather than a parenting handbook. I'm enjoying it. I've fallen into some bad habits of using food as motivation for good behavior ... Gregory in particular is addicted to "cackies" (Graham crackers). Time to change that!

Linking up with Ginny.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Naptime Miscellany--Moths and Other Oddities

This is what I get for offering to write a moth post.

One of the things I was/am going to mention in said post--you're never really rid of them. I think they can go dormant or something when the weather's cold, because they've been popping up now and then since April. All in our bedroom, which has almost zero wool in it, so I wasn't too concerned.

But it just keeps happening. Two or three males flying around that I squish or get caught in the traps.

Only this time I've found TWO downstairs. Deep breaths.

I am, once again, examining my yarn and other woolens from top to bottom, and STILL no traces of damage. They are like moth ninjas with a secret base somewhere, and it is stressing me out.

The fact is that moths are almost an inevitable part of life for any lover of natural fibers who lives in a certain climate. I was in the yarn store yesterday looking for something green, and I found a dead moth on a skein. In the yarn store! Once you know what you're looking for--and are paranoid enough to expect it everywhere--you will find them.

I'm not sure if that's encouraging or discouraging, but there it is.

It makes you wonder how old woolen textiles have survived so long. I guess it's a combination of climate control (winters without heat surely killed off many pests) and the fact that people didn't own an excess of clothes that were put into storage; most things were in regular use.


In other knitting-related weirdness ... my mother-in-law hadn't knit for years and years, but she had a canvas bag with some yarn and needles that Keith brought back from San Francisco. In it I found this odd tool, and I couldn't for the life of me figure out what it was. An unusual cable needle? Something for a craft other than knitting?

I posted the picture on Ravelry, and most of those people were just as stumped ... until a veterinarian came along and said it's a grooved director, or incision guide. A surgical tool used for guiding scalpels and other instruments where they need to go without cutting other tissues.

My MIL was never a vet, or a nurse, so I'm not sure why she even owned one of these, let alone how it ended up in her knitting bag! How funny, right? I wish I could ask her for the story behind it. I wish in general that knitting was something that we could have bonded over. There are a lot of things I wish, and I am realizing, a lot of hurts that I still have to process. But I hope, someday, we will meet again, and be able to know and love each other in a way that wasn't possible in this life.

And she can tell me why she had a surgical tool with her knitting needles. :)

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Life-Changing Magic, and other things

You know the deal. Even when I can't keep up with anything else I can manage a yarn along post.** ;) I was a bit under the weather last week as I recovered from my first ever case of mastitis after almost 3.5 years of nursing. I have so much admiration for mothers who struggle with this on a regular basis early in their nursing relationship ... I think I may have given up if I hadn't so much experience behind me already.

Anyway.

Are you bored of leaves yet? ;) I pulled a skein of Tosh from my freezer , baked it in the oven, shook it vigorously to make sure no moth eggs came tumbling out, and ... it seems to be fine. No damage that I have noticed! Fingers crossed.

(I'm thinking of typing up a post--hopefully with pictures--about how to survive a moth infestation with your sanity intact ... helpful? Or have I talked about moths too much already?)



So many thoughts about this book. As I read it, I always picture a single person living on their own--or at least in a child-free household. I don't think her ideal really encompasses the necessary and healthy level of not being in control that comes from living with several little people who are figuring themselves and the world out. She writes of how tidiness can transform our lives by helping us make decisions about not just what we own, but who we are. I think this is great, but if you're living with people who are still figuring that out in the most basic of ways ... there's going to be some messiness. :) (Also, is it just me, or do her descriptions of herself as a cleanliness-obsessed child make anyone else a little sad??)

But I really love her philosophy about possessions. They are not bad. Your home is not a thing to be conquered, but love, and the things you own can and should bring you joy. But you shouldn't be so attached to things that you can't let them go. The material things around us are good and meant for our benefit and happiness. But they should not determine or own us. I love it.

Also I really need to try out her folding technique and see if it helps my husband's t-shirts fit in his dresser, because none of those are getting discarded anytime soon ... much to his wife's chagrin. (If there is one recurring disagreement in our marriage, it is about the number of t-shirts that's reasonable for one person to own. ;) )


I also just finished What Happened to Sophie Wilder. Oh my goodness. It took a bit of patience on my part because there was just a touch too much of the "jaded literary people living an immature lifestyle" stuff that can plague literary fiction. But I could tell it was going somewhere different. And it didn't disappoint. The ending of this book pulled the rug out from under my feet, in such a good and heart-aching way. I am still a little bit in shock. And still thinking about Sophie. As though she were a real person, who truly did wrestle with the truth as she knew it to be, versus the lived truth of suffering in mind and body. It is not a hard or a thick read, but it truly does seek truth, and it is excellent fiction, and so I recommend it highly.

Linking up with Ginny.


**Although I am loving Instagram lately. If you're on there, we should hook up! :)

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Stacking up!

After hearing an interview with the author on the Read-Aloud Revival podcast, I just finished The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma. What an excellent book! A well-written memoir is one of my favorite things to read, and I can highly recommend this one.

(I am loving podcasts these days, by the way. Now that I have a smartphone I can listen to them in the car! I use the Stitcher app, but I don't know much about what else is out there. How do you listen to podcasts?)

Michael has attempted to stack books like this for the purpose of standing. It doesn't usually turn out well.
Thank you all for the feedback about colors for Michael's leaf blanket! A few of you were unsure what the final concept was. The pattern I'm using is the Family Tree Afghan. The leaves all get stitched together to form the blanket, and right now the plan is to spread out the colors as evenly as possible. :)

Last Saturday I bought some more green and blue yarn in shades close to those I've already used. I really, really love this yarn in DK weight, and the colors are just perfect.

Big stack of nonfiction from the library!
On days where we mostly stay at home and nothing crazy happens (ha), I can usually knit a leaf and a half. This is leaf number 65 of 110. (Or possibly 62. There are three leaves I've decided I don't like. But even though there's not that much difference between having 62 and 65 leaves, it's really hard for me to see that number go backwards ... so, right now I'm still including them in the final count!)


There's a layer of shawls under those leaves that I will have to block soon, just to make room for more. 

Sadly, somebody (don't know who for sure but I have my theories) got into my knitting basket and used one of my needles as a drumstick. It took me a while to find all the pieces. This pair belonged to my grandmother, and were among my favorites to use, so ... sadness. :( Luckily my bamboo needles get about the same gauge. 



Linking up with Ginny!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Leaves and Colors


I have been parenting solo since Friday, so, not much time for knitting or reading this week. But I met with the webcomic Namesake a few days ago, and ... well, that consumed my life for a few days. Now I'm caught up and have to wait for each page like a normal person. If you like fairy-tales, fanasy, and stories that are very meta ... you should read it. :) (Also if you like Oz. And super cute, not too sappy romance.)

I also recently read Eleanor & Park, which was ... okay. I really liked the beginning, which I thought was very original; not so much the second half. 

I've knit a few more leaves for Michael's blanket. Number 48 is on the needles out of 110, according to the pattern. I might stop at 100, depending on how big it is. (Although when you've come that far and only have ten left, I guess you might as well keep going!) 

My original idea was to stick only to leaf colors--green, brown, orange, red, yellow, plus some blue for the sky peaking through the leaves. But I'm wondering if maybe I should branch out? Maybe try some teal or some other jewel tone? I'm not sure. What do you think? I don't want it to look too "scrappy" ... perhaps I should buy more yarn in some of the colors I already have to keep it unified? 

A skein of teal?
Linking up with Ginny.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Naptime Miscellany


I am eating a taro bun right now, with coconut cream. Occasionally Keith stops by an Asian grocery and picks up all sorts of goodies for our freezer and pantry--pocky and potstickers and panda cookies and seaweed. I'm kind of addicted to the light-yet-chewy texture of these things. (Taro is also our favorite flavor of frozen yogurt at Razzy Fresh. I guess it's some sort of tuber?)


While I'm showing you pictures of my bookshelf (Tolkien is just to the left in that picture), this is our poetry shelf. It is a frequent victim of baby attacks because Dominic can easily reach it while standing on the armchair. And he always, always goes for this book. Never Browning, never Eliot, never Auden. I guess he has very modern tastes. (Also he likes yellow.)



Keith is currently away in San Franciso, for a wedding and to finish going through his mom's belongings. He left on Friday and comes back Thursday morning.

That's six solo bedtimes, people.

It's actually not so bad. (Knock on wood?) Every night once everyone's in bed I've been rewarding myself with ice cream and a glass of wine. Although the ice cream is all gone. The wine helps me sleep. Also at night I've been binge-reading this webcomic (recommended by Molly--thank you!!), but now I've caught up, which is awful. Truly. I hate catching up to webcomics! To be reading pages and pages each day and then suddenly you get three pages a week! It's torture.

Monday, May 11, 2015

I was there, and now I'm here--a CWBN Mid-Atlantic Conference recap

Julie just posted her CWBN Mid-Atlantic recap, so I am finally going to hit publish on this. :)


Photo by Rosie Hill
I've been blogging for ten years.

That's a little embarrassing. I think I've covered my tracks well enough that you won't find the super-old stuff. (Please ... don't try. ;) )

When I started this particular blog, I wasn't quite clued in to the whole blog scene. I was burnt out from grad school, from self-conscious writing for workshops, and wanted a place where I could use my writing to express delight in things.

But I always write for an audience. I've never successfully kept a private journal. I want my words to be read. And as I followed more bloggers, gained followers I'd never met in "real life," and absorbed the blogging culture, I thought: what am I aiming for exactly? Am I just writing for friends, people who are already interested in me for my own sake? Or am I trying to gain an audience of some sort? Do I want to be a "real" blogger, and if I'm not, does it even matter if I only post once a month or less?

When Julie emailed to invite me to the CWBN Mid-Atlantic Conference, it was so validating. I may not have a header on my blog, or an "About Me" page, or even any photos in half my posts. But Julie had remembered my blog! And even where I lived! That meant something, right?

So I signed up and decided this would be my line in the sand. After this I would write again ... and be a "real" blogger.



God blessed me so much through that day, and I feel like I could type on for pages--about Julie and her wonderful hospitality, and how great it was just to sit and chat with her at her kitchen table in her beautiful home; about finally meeting fellow twin-moms Rosie and Abbey in person; about meeting and talking to so many wonderful women; about Leah and Cristina's great presentations, and Meg's talk on prayer that brought tears to my eyes. If I tried to go more in depth about these things, I would never finish this post.



But during lunch we sat in our assigned small groups, and mine was perfect. Abbey and Marie Bernadette have written about it. We were all in the same place--wondering if blogging was something that really belonged in our lives right now, and what it meant for us aside from "branding" and all that stuff that seemed to be for bigger bloggers. Having that conversation openly with others was such an encouraging experience, and I came away from it feeling very refreshed.



I admit I felt a bit sad leaving. There was talk of getting together again during the summer, which is something I couldn't do without it being a genuine road trip; and going back to "just blogging" together was a bit rough.

But ultimately, two words sum up my experience of the conference: refreshment and affirmation. The immediate community I experienced there was a reminder--this is why I blog. I have my communities here in Pittsburgh, which are vital to me. But connections made online are very real for me, too. This blog is a place where genuine companionship, even intimacy, can exist. And I want to be here.

So for me, right now, blogging doesn't look like "branding" myself. But it does look like making this page a more welcoming space (an "About Me" page and updated profile pic?), and engaging more often and more promptly with the comments you all are so generous with, and hopefully posting more often--inviting people in, asking them to stay awhile, to share a part of my life over tea and knitting, conversing about the wonder and beauty and struggle that is a part of our lives.

So thanks for being here. :)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Yarn Along

I took a break from blogging.

I signed up for the CWBN's Mid-Atlantic Conference, which was last Saturday, and gave myself until then. Until then to just let it go, not try to write or even think about writing. (I am always thinking about writing.) Partly because a break just seemed to make sense in light of the last post. And partly because I'd been struggling a bit about writing here.

The conference was wonderful! I feel refreshed and a bit more purposeful about blogging; I've been reminded why I do it, which was something I really needed. I have a half-completed post about it in my drafts folder as I type this. (Which may mean nothing. Sometimes the draft folder might as well be the garbage bin. ;) But I have determination!! And exclamation points!!!)

In the meantime, I am, of course, knitting and reading.




The blanket is for a baby (not mine!), gender unknown. The book is Dorothy Sayer's Gaudy Night, picked up because Haley and and Christy talked about it on Fountains of Carrots, and the other books they've read together have all been ones I love. I am probably committing some sort of book crime, because I haven't read the other books in the series first; I can tell I am missing out on the depth of Harriet Vane and Lord Peter Wimsey's relationship, but it hasn't really given me much trouble. I am enjoying it quite a bit.

Linking up with Ginny as usual.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

I've been thinking and meaning to write about Lent for ... well, I guess about 40 days. But Lent has been deeply personal for me this year, hard to write about without writing about everything in my heart. I never got around to distilling it in any way.

I will just say that God has planned our Lent in ways we never imagined, doing any and all work Himself; and then came Passiontide.

In the wee hours of the morning on the 22nd--Passion Sunday--the police knocked on our door.

My mother-in-law died in a tragic accident on the evening of Saturday, March 21. It was the most unexpected of deaths.

Michael got sick and started throwing up while the police were there. Keith was already suffering from health issues. And several hours before our family left for the airport, Dominic started throwing up with the same illness Michael had just gotten over, meaning that I had to unexpectedly leave my nursing babies behind for six days while we went to San Francisco. Keith was so ill when we got there that he spent the first day in bed.

And then, the suffering that comes with the death of a parent. With any violent and unexpected death.


I haven't been sure what to write here, in part because I wasn't sure why I'd be writing it. There is so much I cannot say on this blog. But I am telling you for the obvious reasons, I guess--we tell our friends when family members die. And also to ask for your prayers for the repose of her soul, particularly as we approach Easter and Mercy Sunday. There is so much hope in the face of death in this time of the liturgical year. I have so much trust in His timing, and we have encountered much goodness in the face of our sadness.


But please, as you finish reading this, say a prayer for us, and pray for the repose of the soul of Nancy Blum.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Comfrey


Still crocheting flowers! I'm working on purple now--a lovely lavender color called Comfrey. It goes a little slower for me than knitting, because crochet seems to be much less friendly to multi-tasking. You have to look at it. No reading, or watching television (at least not without a lot of pauses to look up). However, I suspect it might just prove perfect for listening to podcasts, so perhaps I should do that today.

I finished Story of a Soul and am now focusing on The Hidden Face. I'm also reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn before bed. I started it a few weeks ago and couldn't get into it, but now am enjoying it quite a bit. Funny that this is the second work of fiction in a row for me that takes place in New York.

This is the first time I've read it, but for some reason I've always thought of this book as one that everyone's supposed to read in high school. Like Catcher in the Rye, or Animal Farm, or what have you. So ... do people read this in high school? Because it seems a bit old to me. Which I guess may not be a bad thing ... but I feel like so many books are read in high school and then never again, which means that so much is missed in them.

The oven timer is beeping at me, and so I must pull my cookies out of the oven. They are Michael's consolation prize for not going to the library today, since I looked at the clock as we started getting socks on everyone and realized it was far to close to naptime. :( Given the choice he would still have preferred the library.

Linking up with Ginny's yarn along.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Seven Quick Takes (23)

1. Well, this has been an exciting week. On Monday Michael tripped and split open his forehead on the corner of a wall. There was blood everywhere. I have a vivid image of him standing in the kitchen trying to wipe blood out of his eyes but not being able to keep up with it as it dripped off his chin onto the floor.

We were able to stop the bleeding pretty quickly, and my mom stayed with the babies while Michael and I rode in the ambulance--a trip he did NOT enjoy. Luckily Keith arrived just in time to help me restrain him while they cleaned and glued the wound. Ugh. :(

Then the next day he picked the glue off. So he's had a huge band-aid every since, and it bleeds a bit every time I change it, but according to the doctor there's not much more to be done about it.


2. The next day we said "bye-bye" to binky. Ever since then Michael refuses to nap, and "quiet time" has been ... not so quiet. I am not ready for this!! I already knew and appreciated how much sanity naptime gave to my day, so this week has been really frustrating. I've had so many projects I'm itching to start and now no time to do anything. Hopefully a new normal works itself out soon.


3. I've been letting him bring books into bed, but what Michael would really love to do is build things with his door shut. And I would totally let him, except that his palaces of blocks and magnetiles or long looping tracks inevitably crash on his wooden floor, waking up his brothers. He is really good at building and puzzles ... I think he's a very spatial thinker.

At my parent's house, and with a little help, but in his signature style.


4. I've been knitting a lot lately but in a very non-committal way, jumping between hexipuffs and crochet flowers and leaves for Michael's blanket. All little parts of larger projects.


5. I've also had some non-knitting projects in the works ... I bought lumber for this table (before naptime ended ...), written up a spring-cleaning to-do list, and hung up teal paint samples in various places ... But it's all mostly on hold until this naptime/quiet time thing is sorted out.



Apparently Keith and I had an agreement some time ago that our kitchen would be white with teal accents, maybe a backsplash. He reminded me of this in dismay when he saw those swatches up on the wall. But I've definitely developed a taste for more color and would like to experiment a little. I think he's right that anything except, perhaps, a very light teal on the walls would be too much. What I'd really like is painted cabinets ... but since ours are laminate, that doesn't make sense. (Well, 75% of them are laminate. This section is wood; another is metal.) Which makes me a little sad. I'm determined to paint something though. Maybe the door frames?


6. I forgot to post about what we ate last week. On Friday and Saturday we had this curry with homemade naan, and other nights we had frozen ravioli with pesto, a quiche with broccoli and carmelized onions, and mushroom soup.


7. This week's meals:

Monday: Honey Lime Sweet Potato Tacos
Tuesday: Clam chowder
Wendesday: Broccoli pizza and mushroom and carmelized onion pizza
Thursday: Out to dinner at Burgatory with my family ... not particularly Lenten ;)
Friday: Fish tacos

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Little Things


I had an idea that I would crochet an Easter garland, and ordered some lovely colors in this yarn. But it's clear that crochet is largely foreign to me. As I happily perused patterns and pictures of various crochet flowers, the one thing that didn't cross my mind was gauge. When the thread arrived and I realized how small a hook I'd be using, my vision had to be revised. The flowers are smaller than I'd like, but they work up quickly and I intend to make a lot of them.

However, lately I've been drawn to my hexipuffs. Another quick and dirty project, and one I don't even have to look at much while knitting. I do need to buckle down on the flowers if I want a garland by Easter, though.

I've been reading a little of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn at night, but mostly I've been rereading Story of a Soul and The Hidden Face . I think I will read about Therese's family next, especially since her parents are being canonized soon, and her sister Leonie's cause for canonization was just opened. I've been on a Therese "kick" since reading Shirt of Flame, and I think her autobiography was perfect for me to read right now.

Linking up with Ginny's yarn along.

Friday, February 27, 2015

This Week's Meatless Meals

Another week of (almost) meatless eating!

Twice we ate with other people this week, so we ate what they served us, including the leftovers (my father-in-law sent us home with a HUGE amount of lasagna that made lunches for four days). Rather than being legalistic I simply have focused on preparing meatless dinners on the weekdays when we're home, and avoiding meat myself for lunch unless there are leftovers or something that needs to be eaten. (We often eat meatless lunches around here anyway.)



Saturday: Lasagna at Keith's dad's house.

Sunday: French dip sandwiches (loosely based on the Pioneer Woman's recipe) and a salad.

Monday: Tortellini with alfredo sauce, asparagus.

Tuesday: Cream of broccoli soup from this cookbook, with bread from Loafer's.

Wednesday: Chinese takeout with my family, for my brother's birthday. And birthday cake of course. ;) (I made it from a mix, which I basically never do, but I made chocolate swiss meringue buttercream to go with it, and it was delicious.)

Thursday: Salmon en papillote, with spinach and cream, served over couscous with feta. This sounds super complicated but it's so simple! I learned how to cook salmon this way while I had this cookbook out from the library, and none of the recipes I found online were quite what I remembered, so I fudged it and it turned out fine.

Friday: Enchilada pie. Was planning on making clam chowder, but I decided 1) I need more potatoes to go in it, and 2) I'd like to serve it with bread, and it was too late in the day to make it. So change of plans!

Saturday: We are having guests! The french dip sandwiches were a trial run for serving them, so we'll be repeating those.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Winter Knitting


Oh my goodness, but this is a long book. I stopped by the library today to renew it. I didn't expect to take so long to get through it. But it seems fitting, since I picked it up during the coldest part of winter--it has been so bitter these past few weeks. This book unfolds in a way that is vast and majestic--a particular sort of movement that is well suited to magical realism, I think, although that genre can also be smart and zippy--so it is hard to zip through, but I am certainly enjoying it. I'm hoping to finish it this week ... and maybe it will mean the end of winter? (Yes, friends, winter is still here and strong because I am reading this book. I am sorry.)

These socks. Today is my brother's birthday, and I'd hoped to hand them to him today. It would totally be possible if the kids slept for another two hours. But they have been in bed two hours already and are ready to get up. Sorry, Anthony!

Linking up with Ginny.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Lenten Eating: Meatless Meals and Penitential Shopping.

This Lent, I am trying to do two things with our eating. First, I am only shopping at Aldi, which is ... not my favorite. I love the Market District, with its huge selection of international foods, gourmet chocolate, and massive produce section. (And people who bag your groceries for you.) What I don't get at Aldi, I will try to buy locally--bread from the baker's, coffee from the local roaster, fresh fish from Wholey's. And my beloved Market District will be a last resort for things I can't get elsewhere.

I meant to go to a local market this afternoon but found that I'd forgotten my shopping list, so rather than getting all the kids out of the car into severely cold weather with certain knowledge I'd forget half the things I needed ...I got some fresh challah at the bakery (and a free slice of cinnamon bread for Michael!), and then some whole bean coffee from a local chain in the same plaza. The coffee I remembered, because my coffee jar looked like this.



And that was yesterday. I don't think it's a coincidence I took a long nap today while the kids slept ... something I never do!


I'm also trying to cook mostly meatless meals this Lent. Right now my plans are to cook with meat on Sundays, and perhaps one other day during the week.

I'm going to try not to rely too heavily on dairy, partly because Keith is sensitive to it, but when I typed out the meals we've had this week they all included cheese or cream in some form.

Here's what we've eaten so far:


Ash Wednesday: homemade tomato soup and grilled cheese on sourdough

Thursday: risotto with peas and mushrooms

Friday: carrot, apple, and ginger soup with salad and fresh challah :)



Some old standbys I anticipate using (some of which are also listed in this post):


Sweet potato and black bean tacos (this recipe makes a lot and everyone here loves it)

Mujadara

Meatless pizza (I know! Dairy! But there's also this which is completely amazing)

Enchilada pie

Fried rice



And some new recipes I'm looking forward to trying:


Squash, lentils, and goat cheese

French onion soup

Clam chowder

Soups from this cookbook



Thursday, February 19, 2015

Kitchen Daydreams--a tentative "before"

Recently I started a Pinterest board devoted entirely to my kitchen daydreams. Painting that kitchen cart has only given me a taste for more. My brain is full of terracotta floors, teal cabinets, open shelving full of teacups, and pretty tiles. Right now my mom is borrowing our wallpaper remover to strip her bathrooms, but when she gets it back I am going to town on this yellow stuff. It's pretty, but not what I want. And then there's that bare spot. 

More than a year ago, I posted a picture of this kitchen from the real estate listing. There was a big (pink) hutch right there, and behind it ... a hole in the wall with the insulation spilling out. They fixed the hole, but I'm sorry to say we've just been sort of ignoring that eyesore for a year and a half. I wouldn't mind putting a hutch there, or some open shelving. Right now it's just our trash bin and the little Ikea cart I painted. 


There is so much to love about this kitchen. Two ovens! So much cabinet space! (There is more of it out of this picture, as you'll see, plus a huge closet with sliding doors.) Enough floor space to waltz in! 

But also: concrete right underneath the tile (no subflooring=a hard surface that dishes shatter upon on contact, and COLD cold cold in the winter). And a huge bare patch in the wall. And the colors ... I think they made the previous owner very happy. Me, not so much. Except for the greyish countertops, there is not a thing in this kitchen that isn't pink or yellow. 

Blurry. Sorry.
Back out into the dining room. My view as I cook dinner most nights.

(If you know me in person you've probably already heard this story, but: Keith brought that pretty blue tea kettle into the marriage. When we were first dating I saw it and loved it and asked where he'd gotten it. But before buying my own I thought--wait. What if we get married someday? So I held off. And we did. And now it's mine too. ;) )


This counter is the site of a perpetual battle. I recently moved the coffee maker and tea basket here so we could have a little beverage corner; the wine rack and bucket have always been there. It looks nice and clean now, but tomorrow? There will be something on it--papers from Keith's backpack, some mail, pages Michael has colored. And by this time next week there will be no free counter space, except perhaps where I've forcefully evacuated things from in front of my coffeemaker. I set up the little basket on the far left for papers that can't be thrown out or immediately filed, and it helps, but only so much. 

(That little door is an ice maker. The previous owner suggested we renew the warranty of $100 a month when we bought the house ... we don't even ever turn it on. It would be nice for a cocktail party, though.) 


 Another angle. Keith's plant life taking over a corner of the counter. ;) I would love to have potted herbs there but I'm not sure the light is enough?


The counter just keeps on going!


Other side--refrigerator, sink, etc. There's a bathroom to the left of the fridge.

I wouldn't have chosen stainless steel appliances, especially with young children; I don't even try to keep the fingerprints off. But all the appliances are new, which is such a blessing.


My view over the sink. :)


 Pretty things that make me happy.


I had to show you the chandelier up close. She painted this herself! She put so much attention into little handcrafted details, but her tastes were so specific. I wouldn't mind painting this another color but Keith says that someday it has to go. He is adamant. 


Sometime in the next week or two I am going to Home Depot and Lowe's--dragging all my kids along if need be--and loading up on primer and paint samples. Keith is reluctant to change anything until we know what we're doing with everything. But I disagree, at least in terms of paint. Paint is so easy to change! (If a bit more time-consuming when you have kids.) And I discovered while painting that cart that painting gives me energy. I enjoy it, and even if I spend all of naptime doing it, when the kids wake up I am refreshed and content.