Happy New Year! Okay, so it’s a little bit later than New Year’s. If it helps, I only just this Friday hung up our January page of the new calendar. It’s taking a bit of time to glue all the bits of paper together, and I’ve discovered that if I want us to make our calendar from scratch, planning to make it during the week before New Year’s just isn’t going to work. It has to be, say, November. Or August.

However, I became tired of looking over to see what day it was and finding that it was still December, because I know that this is not true and I don’t like my calendar to lie to me.

I hung up the new January page and voila! It was 2013! Try it sometime when the novelty of the new year is fading. It’s surprising how startling it is to see “January” on the wall, the first few days that it’s up. And, because I’ve only just hung it up even though it is now, admittedly, more than halfway over, it is refreshingly free of calendrical items. It looks so bare and clean after December. It looks… relaxed.

I spent some time in the early part of the year making kitchen towels.

Kitchen towels

Why, you ask? Well, many of ours had gone the way of overused fabric, and my beloved kitchen towel shelf, the one that gives me hopes of living in a Brambly Hedge cottage (sans mice) someday, was threatening to empty. I didn’t like most of what I found, so I made some. It feels good to put in supplies for the new year. New pens, new calendar, new socks, and kitchen towels. Piles of plaid and stripy goodness that are just the right size to use as a bread towel.

I am continuing the quest to blanket our house, or at least our home. I finished the Little House quilt and laid it on the bed to photograph, back in November. It has just stayed there. I mean, it gets used and taken off when I strip the bed and such, but its home is now on the bed and it makes the room very happy. I enjoyed it so much that I started another one, this time based on The Hobbit.

Now, I am not going to comment on the film. I have very strong feelings about it. Enough said.

But I love the book.

And so, I started a Hobbit quilt. And I’ve been rather pleased with it so far. All of the fabric for the top has come from my stash, so it may not have been what I envisioned when I first began, but it’s turning into such a warm and inviting little quilt. Now to embroider on the spiders and the dragon…



Keeping warm.

Over the spring and summer I worked on a quilt that I’d had in mind for quite a while.  I’d bought far too much Japanese quilting fabric in shades of blue, white, and mustard gold and finally started on a double Irish chain quilt, something I’d wanted to do for some time.

I loved working on this quilt, and it turned out as I wanted it to, but for some reason it was not happy here, and once the thought came to me as to whom it should be with there was no having it until that quilt went off to live with its new family.  So as I finished it, I put a lot of love into it for them, and delivered it in August.

But finishing this quilt made me realize what a dearth of warm blankets we have.  Yes, I know we live in Southern California, the land of Warm.  But despite our reputation, it can get cold here, especially at night and in winter, cold enough that blankets are a really good idea.  Our paucity of blankets larger than three-food square kindled a fire in my brain.  I launched upon the project of Making Blankets to Keep Us Warm.

But I needed something to inspire me and keep me interested long enough to get out of summer.  A few years ago, I made a Trip Around the World quilt as a wedding gift for some dear friends.  It was great fun, the most fun part being that it was inspired by Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  All the fabrics were chosen with this in mind.   I loved making it, and decided to make a literature-inspired quilt for us.  But what book to use?

We were finishing the Little House books at the time, and, as I am often visited by the spirit of Caroline Ingalls in other projects, I decided to let her be my guide in this one.  I began my first Log Cabin quilt, and I decided to use all fabric already existing in my stash (excluding the backing) and all colors that reminded me somehow of the Little House books.

So I chose reds, pinks, and oranges for one side, and fawns and browns for the other side, vintage-look fabrics whenever I could.  I chose fruits whenever possible, because Laura has lovely descriptions of her aunt’s dress with buttons that look like blackberries, and other descriptions of food that make me hungry.  I chose reds because of Laura’s red-print dress in Little House In the Big Woods;  because of Pa threatening to buy the turkey-red print for Ma’s apron if she didn’t choose for herself.  There are rose prints, for Laura’s wedding dress (a soft pink lawn) and for the name of her daughter.  Laura’s pink cheeks, Pa’s red fingers after twisting hay during the Long Winter.  The browns were chosen for the wood of all the houses Pa built, the brown poplin dress Laura wears in These Happy Golden Years, the dirt of the sod house and the golden brown of dried grasses on the prairie.  The deer he doesn’t shoot in the moonlight.  And there’s a coffee-bean print in the browns, for the coffee grinder they used to grind wheat during the Long Winter.

I chose the center to be blue, like Pa’s eyes.  And then I quilted it, but not in a traditional in-the-ditch fashion.  Rather, I quilted it in wavy lines, to represent the paths they took as they traveled, meandering lines like streams and dry riverbeds.  Although this photo doesn’t show it, I bound it in the same blue as the centers.  When it was done, I quite liked it.

So I decided to make another.


Oh, so lucky am I. The boy has been sick (much better now, so far so good) and I have been wealthy in friendship. Thank you, and you know who you are. Distraction, kind words and offers, and really wonderful ginger-honey syrup (for which I want the recipe) is doing us both good.

So now I sit, preparing for CampFire on Friday, at which time we will (I hope) explore some aspects of Chinese New Year. I am currently sucking down that most Chinese of beverages, lemon-echinacea throat coat herbal tea with a generous dosage of the aforementioned ginger-honey syrup. I’m not sick, and I don’t plan to be. I’ve just been doing a lot of reading aloud.

I find myself with wandering eyes… and oh, the loveliest things do tempt me! I’m currently reading a biography of Stephen Hawking (who has absolutely nothing to do with me, numerologically, astrologically, or otherwise, unfortunately–it’s such fun to draw those links, as he himself was born on the 300th anniversary of the death of Galileo, for example) which makes me want to know more physics; and then there is my usual late-night eye candy, M.F.K. Fisher’s The Art of Eating. It’s a compilation of several of her books. My favorite right now is How To Cook A Wolf, published in 1942, during a time of great shortages during war. The idea, of course, is that if the wolf is at the door… eat the wolf. Pages into semi-derogatory, semi-respectful lists of economies one might make to save food and fuel (baking: fill every inch of space in the oven to warrant the use of fuel; add bread crumbs to make scrambled eggs go further, etc.) she notes,

“Or you can roast some walnuts in their shells, and eat them while they are still pretty hot, with fresh cold apples and a glass of port if possible, for one of the desserts most conducive in this world to good conversation.” (p.203)


Recent daily makings:
Sunday: Worked on dressing the loom. Woo! Esme’s feeling neglected. Had to do some mental math to figure out how to redistribute warp from the long-as-the-5-Freeway warp to one a little more manageable.
Monday: Knit on boy’s sweater. Made up stories about Mrs. Chickadee and the downed tree, Mrs. Chickadee and the orphaned bird, Mrs. Chickadee’s birthday.
Tuesday: Made birthday gifts (watercolor-washed card and knitting bag with handspun) for a dear friend. Cut lavender and maraschino sage from the garden for our table. Knit on my sweater.
Wednesday: Wrote poems and illustrated them with Geeklet. Made candles together to celebrate Imbolc. Made Brigid’s fire out of beeswax. (Yes, I know Imbolc was yesterday and/or Monday but Boy was sick, remember?) Imagined that the cloud people had worked all day to create the lovely white clouds that covered our sky, but were opening them like arms to allow us a glimpse of our favorite stars–Orion’s belt and Betelgeuse, Sirius.

Deep rumblings bode not well

I have been baking for four hours now. I shouldn’t have been. Really. But my oven hates me and I can hear its happy low rumbles of pleasure as it maintains its current 350 degrees of nanny boo boo at me.

Let me explain.

I decided to make brownies for the Boy’s CampFire club tomorrow. It’s almost his birthday and I thought it would be nice to celebrate with a little treat. That’s what we do, right? So I know the oven is sometimes… slow to respond, as it were, and so I come out from putting him to bed (the Boy, not the oven) and I immediately turn on the oven to 350. It’s a good bet that the temperature will be somewhere in that area. Then I go looking for a recipe that is both dairy- and gluten-free, because that’s what I needed. It’s 8:30p.m. La la la…

I find a recipe and by 9:00 I’m making the brownies–grinding the almonds into meal, melting the chocolate–everything is beginning to smell appropriately chocolately. (I like “chocolately.” I’m a spelling Mrs. Danvers*, I will cut you with my sharpened-steel gaze if you mentally use the wrong “your/you’re/yore”, but this mistake I find charming and usable. I need to sleep on the contradiction.)

By the time I’m ready to put the brownies into the oven, it’s 11:00p.m. (There was a lot of specific steps to the recipe and it’s the first time I’d baked specifically gluten-free; I wanted to be careful and the darn chocolate just wouldn’t melt.) I looked at the oven, which had been preheating for two-and-a-half hours now.

It wasn’t cold. Oh, no. (That might indicate a problem.) It was at 150. It was pleasantly warm. It was socks-on-the-radiator warm. It was toast. It was not, after two-and-a-half hours, 350 degrees hot.

A few choice words might have deflated my brownie batter then and there. I contemplated my toaster oven. I turned the oven knob to off, turned it back on, up to 450 degrees (to get it started). Twenty minutes later? No dice. My independent internally-placed hardware store oven thermometer read 125. It was going down.

Fifteen minutes later it was at 400. I jumped at my chance. I turned down the oven slightly, put the brownies in, closed the door.

Now the recipe stated that I should underbake them to keep them gooey and not let them get crumbly. Well… not a problem. Fifteen minutes into the baking time, the temp was down to 300 and I could hear the faint laughter as of a round belly of evil jiggling with untoward mirth. Like Jabba the Hutt when Princess Leia, dressed as a bounty hunter, comes down in the gloom of night(ish) to gently touch the face of the imprisoned Han Solo.

Like that. Only in my oven. “HO Ho ho.

I tried to put it up to 400 again. By now it was down to 225. I left it for another 15 minutes. It was up to 275 and the brownies were steep valleys, waiting for bighorn sheep and a trickle of water to indicate perspective in this perfect third-grader’s model of water erosion.

Now it’s 12:47. I took the brownies out at 12:20 and turned the oven off, finally giving up, hoping they are gooey and yet still edible, this experiment completely unrepeatable due to far too many fluctuating variables in temperature. It’s now 12:47.

And the oven, chuckling softly, is at 350 degrees. Ho ho ho.

p.s. Why am I still up? Someone will ask. Because, because, because, the recipe states that I need to let the brownies cool, then chill them. So I have to wait for the cooling and then do the chilling. It may be a disaster, but I will see my disaster through to the end.

*From Wikipedia: “Mrs. Danvers, who was profoundly devoted to Rebecca, tries to undermine the second Mrs. de Winter, suggesting to her that she will never attain the urbanity and charm that Rebecca possessed. Whenever Mrs. de Winter attempts changes at Manderley, Mrs. Danvers points out how Rebecca ran Manderley when she was alive. Each time Mrs. Danvers does this, she implies that the new Mrs. de Winter is lacking in experience and knowledge and understanding of the complexities of the management of an important estate such as Manderley. The second Mrs. de Winter is cowed by Mrs. Danvers’ imposing manner and complies with the housekeeper’s suggestions.” See? Just like me. Only with spelling instead of housekeeping and murdered wives.

Making things makes me happy.

art drying on the line

art drying on the line

Making things makes me happy. So I get so excited when Boy Geeklet shows interest. He started painting one day and just kept going, so I threw fabric at him and he painted all over it. This is it, drying on the mini-clothesline in the front of the house. I don’t know what to do with them now, but they’re beautiful.

Avery's quilt

Avery's quilt

My niece, whom TMoTh has nicknamed Alien, was born in the fall, and I don’t think I posted a picture of her quilt. It was fun to make, and so easy to design.

Funny–I’m posting because I’m still too sick to be expending too much energy to do the other things that usually keep me from remembering to post. But that means that my brain doesn’t work very well right now!

G and I have begun George MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin, and he is intrigued.
Me: So, are you enjoying it so far?
G: Ye…esss. [Thoughtful pause.] I like Princess Irene, and I like Curdie. I’m not too happy about the Goblins. But we can keep going.

This is big for him. It used to be that if there was any scary element, we just could not continue. It took us months to return to The Wind in the Willows after reading Chapter 4, relating Ratty and Mole’s scary adventure in the Wild Wood. So either he really likes it, or he’s changing some big way. (Probably both.) So I wonder if we can return to Grimm’s? He has historically refused to let me read them to him. Hmm…

[On a side note, I have discovered The Well-Trained Mind and Classical approach homeschooling. It’s becoming part of the Process. But evidently I’ve been incorporating W-TM techniques as a matter of course for years and didn’t even know it. It’s kind of empowering.]

Baby Beluga bunting

Or Badoufa, I should say. I finished it, three and a half months after he was born:

The Badoufa quilt!
Badoufa quilt
Baby Badoufa in the deep blue sea
Swim so wild and you swim so free
Heaven above
Sea below
And an intrepid wee Badoufa on the go!

I like the puffins:

Okay, and the crab too:
crab & star

There are more close-ups over at Flickr.

I hope that years and years from now, when he takes it out and sees the worn patches, the puffins with no eyes and the dirty flannel whales, that he will feel that he was loved and wanted and anticipated with joy. Every baby deserves that, and if a bit of fabric to wrap the baby ‘doufa in can give him warm fuzzies, then I’m happy to oblige. But I only make quilts for my favorite babies. (You know who you are.)

Oh! And G and I made raisins!
We made raisins!
Because, when you have a multitude of tiny tiny grapes, and hot dry weather, you make raisins, right? They were going along fine and then it turned cold and damp (yay!) on about day 4, so into the oven they went before they could get moldy. I left them in a bit long and they ended up slightly crusty/chewy, which wasn’t so good for regular raisin use but had a caramelly kind of flavor that I liked. I’d make them again. But I hope we don’t have the weather for it for a while.

Today was our first Camp Fire club meeting. It went really well, and we were lucky enough to be able to meet at the camp’s grounds (walking distance from our apartment, yay, with a multitude of rambunctious squirrels to keep the small fry distracted). We have grand plans for future gatherings. I could tell you some of them, but then I’d have to knock you over the head unconscious or give you a BWG club jacket, and well, I don’t know if you’re ready.

Confused? Not a Trixie Belden fan? Sigh. I had such hopes.

Routine bad, routine good

Wash on Monday
Iron on Tuesday
Mend on Wednesday
Churn on Thursday
Clean on Friday
Bake on Saturday
Rest on Sunday

That’s the routine as presented by Ma Ingalls in Little House in the Big Woods. The guy and I have talked about this a few times, and this week, trying to regain the keen and altogether handy atmosphere of calm and serenity that comes with most attempts to follow a Waldorf approach to homeschooling, I’ve made real efforts to re-establish the most mighty of important things, Rhythm.

First we decided to set up our own week-a-day task list. For instance, Thursday. We don’t regularly churn butter (though we did try it last week! And we did make butter. It was sobering in its reality), so Thursday as churning day was out. I don’t iron anything that usually contain body parts, so Tuesday had to change. And so forth. So here’s our modified list:

Wash on Monday
Vacuum on Tuesday
Mend on Wednesday
Mop and Dust on Thursday
Clean on Friday
Bake on Saturday
Rest on Sunday (except Daddy, who cleans the bathroom)

You see the logic, I’m sure. Yes, of course I sometimes (okay, two cats? often) vacuum more than once a week. But Tuesday is The Day for Vacuuming. The modifications had to be gentle; not too far off from Ma’s etched-in-stone listing, so Wednesday had to stay Mending. That one turned out to be acceptable, actually, because “mending,” it turns out, means “a catchall that includes reaffixing torn-off button eyes to Birthday Cat, hemming the new bathroom curtains or weaving in the ends of the most recent knitting project.”

This has been a hard week, but I think the routine/rhythm thing has actually helped, as evinced by his grasping at my intimating the advent of more rhythm and regularity in the form of regular breakfasts. (Yes, we feed him. Routinely, even.) This is my sneaky way of getting him to eat something other than cold cereal for breakfast. (This is an inordinate source of stress for me.) We’ve established foods for each breakfast of the week to go along with French Toast Sunday, and wee boy is so happy.

Which is good this week, because poor Geeklet has come down off of having his toddler cousin in the house for four days (oh joy, oh holy joyous joy! is his response to anything Baby Amelia related, so… yeah, coming down has been hard). He has thence rushed headlong into a cold that, while minor in the daylight hours, has turned his nighttimes into bronchial croupy nightmares. So, lots of odd and disturbed sleep patterns. Colds mean not visiting with friends, nor dance class, so the only regular activity this week was forest Monday, which wasn’t even normal, considering that TMoTH had the day off and joined us. Frabjous, certainly, but irregular.

TMoTH is on a business trip today, so even Saturday feels off; but the activities I normally reach for to engage him are evidently weekday activities. After trying all morning to engage the guy in any activity and having him be petulant, I wandered into the kitchen and practically yelled, “Hey! What day is it?”

“I don’t know.”

“What day is it?”


“And what day is Saturday?”

Blank stare. C’mon, I’m excited, work with me…

“What day is Saturday? I wash on Monday…”

Saturday is baking day. You know what’s regular? What is routine? Baking on Saturday. That’s routine. Ma Ingalls says so. Her rhythms have provenance. So the boy and I spent a few hours in the kitchen, mostly him talking to me while I baked, but with some interaction. We made a spiced applesauce cake and we made two very small apple pies, one about 5″ across (his) and another about 7-8″ across (mine). I was requested to make “apple pie that we can cut into wedges,” a reference to Almanzo Wilder in Farmer Boy quite often taking a wedge of apple pie with him when work made him leave his copious breakfasts early. I made them my favorite way, with no pie plate but with a rustic crust that turns up at the edge and partially enfolds the spicy-sweet inhabitants. I told him that it was the non-fancy way to make a crust, quick and useful.

Making the pie, and promising it for his tea in the afternoon, really sweetened the rest of the day. It seemed to flow pretty well, despite the Giant Looming Pile of Dishes that promised to eat my hands and one arm after boyo went to bed. I like to think that it helped him, knowing that this was the kind of thing we do on Saturday, and we will each Saturday, just like Ma and her family, from eating scrambled eggs to making bread or cake or whatever. He happily didn’t eat more than the crust from his pie, and as he nibbled that he says (inspired by our recent reading of Charlotte’s Web, no doubt, and happy to compliment our work):

“Mama, these are humble pies, aren’t they?”

Um, yes. I think they qualify.