Tuesday, December 27, 2011

40 for 40

Wow, I haven't posted since September?? Yikes! I guess I have a baby around here!

As the calendar year is coming to an end, I have been contemplating this next year a bit more than usual. It's gonna be a biggie. In fact, I'm so looking forward to it, I feel like a kid about to become a teenager, or get my driver's license, or move into my own apartment. I'm gonna be 40 next year. I feel so lucky. It's a privilege that so many people don't get. And I want to be intentional about how I celebrate this fortieth year of my life. It's special.

Inspired by ESPN's 30 for 30 series, I decided to make a 40 for 40 list: 40 things I want to accomplish in my fortieth year. Some are small, some not so small. Some will be easy, some will take time. But I believe this is a reasonable list for a girl like me. And I honestly can't wait to get started! Once I made my list, I realized it fit into 4 categories: Go, Enjoy, Create & Reclaim. I didn't intend for that to be the case, it just happened. But I think that's a perfect mantra for the year. It suits me.

I toyed with how public I wanted this list to be, but then realized that if any of my friends and family wanted to participate with me in any of these adventures, that would make them even better. (And if you're struggling to find a birthday gift this year, why not choose something on the list and we'll do it together? I'd LOVE it.)

So here it is, Amy's 40 for 40 list:

Get ready, 40; here I come!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I Loved The Summit

Sock summit was everything I hoped it would be and so much more. I loved my 3 hour class in casting-on. I know. I'm a knitting geek of the highest magnitude. But there was (& is) so much to learn.

And for the record, I was not the only person there with pink hair. Not even close. And this particular group of people, the sock knitters, are big sci-fi fans. BIG. There was an actual "sockgate" to walk through. If you know what I'm talking about, you might be a sock knitter too. I really have found my people.

While in the land of the sock people, I found the most beautiful sock yarns. I even found one with real silver running through it. It was the yarn I had been waiting for, exactly the thing I needed to cast-on my first pair of viper pilot socks. And you know what the best part of that is? I actually met the author of the pattern, and she let me make a cameo appearance on her blog! Over the moon, I was.

So without further gushing, I give you my viper pilot socks!

These were definitely the hardest thing I've done to date. And most definitely in my top 5 favorite knits. I'm not used to having to pay such close attention to a pattern. But when the stars align there's nothing to be done but to start knitting.

Here are a few more shots from Portland (my new favorite city).

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Help (the novel)

I just finished reading The Help, by Katherine Stokette. The movie is coming out and I confess, it was the tipping point for me to pick up the book (even though I have a strict rule about not seeing movies made from books I've read, as they are always disappointing). I'd been hearing about this book for some time. Diane Rehm had a Readers Review of it last February, and I remember thinking then, "I should read that."

Well, I finally did. And I just loved it. So much of it is what I love reading about: the civil rights movement, the south, relationships among women, "the rules" of living. I think the best part of reading it was getting swept up in their world. I felt like I was there, living in Jackson, Mississippi. I felt like I knew these women and their struggles, their reasons, their lives. I kept thinking about the women in my life and how the different characters reminded me of them (Minnie seems to be well represented). I am always fascinated by those who can write about the universalities of friendship among women; how we make rules about things and think very little about them sometimes; about how we remember the wrongs done to us for forever, even when we wish we didn't; and about how we find a way, even in the worst of circumstances.

And the ending was just right, believable. I won't spoil it for those who have not read it, but it was hopeful, and I always like that. This book will go on the shelf next to The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, and Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe; my go to reading when life gets to be too much. Thank you, Katherine Stockette, for such a beautiful piece of writing.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Penultimate Day

"Penultimate" is one of my favorite words. We tend to use the more common phrase "next to last" here in the midwest, but "penultimate" conveys so much more I think. There's a sense of the impending end. Today is the penultimate day before travel. Tomorrow, I shall do a final load of laundry ("can you say baby?"), pack the last minute items (such as toiletries, et. al.), and get my hair done (that will have to be a whole different blog post). And then bright and early Wednesday, Jack and I will be on our way to see a dear, dear friend in Portland.

I love to travel and I have never been to Oregon. I can't wait to see it! Oh, and there's this little gathering I'll be attending as well: Sock Summit 2011. And while I won't be participating in the sheep-to-sock contest, I am thrilled to be in a building full of people with a passion for knitting that far out-knits my own. And that's saying something! In fact, the city of Portland has declared this Sock Knitting Week. Seriously - I think I'm in love.

So the blog will likely be dark for a while as I experience sock-love and everlasting-friendship (and perhaps a jet-lagged baby). But at least you'll know where I am & what I'm up to. If I get the chance, I'll try to post some pictures of the Summit while I'm there. Can't wait!

Sunday, July 10, 2011


The worst part about vacation is the coming home. It's like the Sunday Blues multiplied by the days you were gone, plus the number of miles it took you to get home. It's compounded if you're driving. I call it the Home-Agian-Doldrums. I usually try to stem the tide by making sure we have clean laundry before we leave, and that things are not packed pell-mell into suitcases so that when we get home, the unpacking is as stress-free as possible. If we're driving, NPR helps, and having lots of snacks is always good too.

As you might suspect, my plan was thwarted in the largest of ways.

My darling baby has been fighting a rash for several days. The ride home was fractious, and although my oldest was helpful, the wee one just couldn't stay happy for long. This made listening to NPR rather near impossible, and much yoga breathing was necessary to keep my head from shooting straight off my body. And, perhaps to comfort himself, my eldest ate all the Chex Mix! Now that was just downright dirty. As were the grapes I packed, dirty I mean. Inedibly dirty.

Finally, upon arriving home, we were able to see a doctor - without breaking the bank. (Try finding a pediatrician in rural northern Michigan who's in your plan, or an Urgent Care for that matter.) And thankfully, it's nothing serious, just a bout of contact dermatitis, which means something we used on his skin, or our skin, or in the laundry made him breakout. He is now feeling (and sleeping) much better with the hydrocortisone cream the good doctor prescribed.

Unfortunately, this means I have to rewash everything. Not just the baby's items, which took 2 loads alone. No, we have to rewash all of OUR things as well. I am just now digging out of the 4 loads of laundry it took to rid our household of the mystery chemical.

We are home, and the garden still needs attention, there are random baby items that still need to be put away, the mail needs to be attended to, and the bedrooms have been ransacked by a series of back-to-back sleepovers for the big kid. But the kitchen is clean and the laundry is done and I even canned my kid some sweet pickles today. Perhaps the winds are picking up.

Monday, July 04, 2011

My Sacred Place

I love it up here at the lake, Up North.

I especially love an early morning with the fog coming off the lake, cool enough to need a sweatshirt with your coffee on the deck. This place is my church. Here is where I feel the presence of God and nature so strongly I can believe I am a part of it. In fact, Up North is really more like Due North, a purposeful direction, pulling me in the way I am meant to go. Up here I become more of myself. I feel more creative, more of an environmentalist, more active, more holistic. I believe more in myself when I am here.

This place is reliable. The sun always comes up with stunning beauty. The sleeping is always good. And the majesty of nature's sculpture is everywhere: the lakes, the dunes, the vast forests, the wildlife. Syncing up to that - it restores me in a way nothing else can.

I wonder if it will be the same when we live up here. Will it still hold that same pull, the same mystery? Will the everydayness lessen that feeling? I hope not. Because I love who I am here, and who my family is here too. I hope that never fades away.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Vanilla extract is something we use a lot of around here. In fact, I am a big believer that you should always add more to the recipe than called for. Especially in waffles and chocolate chip cookies. That being said, it's hard to be extravagant with something that costs so much.

A few years ago, I spotted an article in a Martha Stewart magazine with a surprisingly simple tutorial on making your own vanilla extract. You split 3 vanilla beans, drop them in 1 cup of vodka (unflavored here, of course), and wait 3 months. We have discovered that the longer you let the extract steep, the more intense the flavor. Voila! Homemade vanilla extract! But I wondered if we were really saving any money. Here's the break down:

The price of pure vanilla extract can vary widely. I've priced it at anywhere from $0.81 to $3.25 a fluid ounce, with an average cost of $0.88 a fl. oz. Of course, this is one area where I firmly believe you get what you pay for. We spent a total of $33.00 for vanilla beans and vodka. I purchased Madagascar beans this time, which were a bit more than the mexican beans we used last time. We'll have to wait and see if the flavor is noticeably different. So for our $33.00 we got 50 fl. oz. of extract (or will have come October); that's $0.66 a fl. oz. I'd say that's a great deal, considering I know exactly what's in it (and NOT in it). At that price, and with 50 fl. oz. hanging around, I feel like I can afford to be extravagant in my baking. Well worth it.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Strawberry Season & the Plethora of Mint

So this year we haven't been out picking our own berries. Instead we unloaded the freezer of most of LAST YEAR'S berries and made jam. A perfect thing for frozen berries, I might add. And this year's strawberry jam is a little different than last year's.

We have a mint explosion in the back yard. I hate to call it a "problem," as I love the mint and find it is useful (unlike the grass). But you know how mint is, right? It takes over. Like now. And so I find myself pulling up mint every time I go out into the garden. I've been drying it like crazy, and if you happen to be on our Christmas list, I dare say you might be receiving some mint flakes this year. (We'll try to include ways for you to use it.) Then I had a brainstorm. What about Minted Strawberry Jam? It sounded good to me, so I did a wee little Google search, and low and behold, many others feel the same way! I added a tablespoon of fresh, finely chopped mint to the berries, and oh my word, it's heavenly!

And since it's been a while since I've done any design work, I went ahead and designed a faux vintage label for our jam, a la Trader Joe's:

I'm going to have to start getting the smooth sided jars if I want to keep labeling them this way, and as far as I'm concerned, that's just what I'm going to be doing! *Sigh* I love the start of canning season.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Wacky Wednesday: International Clothesline Week (Not Easy Being Green -5-)

I love the idea of the clothesline, the wash flapping in the summer breeze, the sun bleaching out the impurities in my linens, the fresh smell of the laundered clothes. But somehow, I never actually get out there and do it. True confession: we don't even have a clothesline in Indy. I'm not sure where we'd put it. And we tend to do our laundry at night; not too conducive to line-drying. And let's face it, if its not convenient, we more than likely won't do it.

But in researching this, and doing the math, in reality, we would only save $9 a month. (It seems like there are other things we could do that would make a bigger dent.) Honestly, it's worth it to me to use the dryer with such slim savings. Especially since I decided to practice Clothesline Week one week early, as we were up at the lake and would have the opportunity. Here's the deal: It took all afternoon (7 hours) for my clothes to be dry and then they were mostly dry. That $9.00 a month seems to be the cost of doing business with all the baby wash we do around here. I can't imagine using the line every day - and what do you do when it rains, or gets so humid your clothes won't dry?

To be frank, I'm more concerned with the impact of using all that energy on future generations. I was recently reminded of the Great Law of the Iroquois - which holds that any decision made must take into consideration the children seven generations in the future. It's a worthy world view, and high time the "white man" take this sort of thinking to heart. What will the use of all this energy mean for those people 200 years in the future? I shudder to think of what the world will look like then if we continue to use our resources as we do now. We could be bleeding ourselves into extinction.

Yeah, it's not easy being green.

Friday, May 20, 2011

It's Not Easy Being Green (4) - The Question of Grass

I have a confession. No, I didn't smoke grass in my youth. But as a girl dedicated to shrinking my carbon footprint, I have a love/hate relationship with the grass in our yard. I like having a place for my dog to play, for me to spread a blanket and enjoy the weather, and I like the color, but the hassle of the upkeep, not to mention the mowing drive me a little wild. Did you know, According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a new gas powered lawn mower produces volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides emissions air pollution in one hour of operation as 11 new cars each being driven for one hour? Yeah, gross. And the EPA also estimates that 17 million gallons of fuel (mostly gasoline) are spilled by backyard gardeners. That's more than the Exxon Valdez spill every year.

So I've made it my mission to remove as much grass in the backyard as possible. (I think our HOA would croak if we tried this with the front.) Over the last 8 summers we have put in four garden areas, planted trees, added raised beds for veggies, put in a patio, and now, I've finally laid out our garden path. I'll be the first to admit, I am hoping the grass will grow up between the stones (as you can see it has on the right side of the photo), but that can easily be taken care of with the weed-wacker, and it's electric. It's been a LOT of hard work to get the yard to this point, but for the first time, it's really shaping up the way I've envisioned it. We still have a sweet potato box to build, and mulch to put down, and plants to get in the ground and pots, but over all, I am so proud of what we have done. It's not carbon free, but our back yard is chemical-free, food producing, and low-carbon; and that is certainly a step in the right direction.

For a more detailed look, click on the photo.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Don't Be So Sure (of yourself)

There are many things about RJH being gone that don't phase me. I can get dinner on the table, get a kid to cub scouts, get a shower, keep up with the laundry, clean and make enough bottles to make it smoothly through the day. It's just not a big deal.

But there are things that shake my part-time-single-mom confidence and they always happen when he's traveling; like when the pilot light went out for the first time; or the time my oldest decided to spray the garage down with water; or all the time I spent battling with the school two years ago.

I had another moment.

Sunday RJH left for a trade show, returning on Thursday. This is some of the longest travel at one time that he does. I'm not bothered by it. Until I start hearing what sounds like a bird building a nest in the eaves above my studio. And then it starts to sound like it's in the laundry room. And finally it sounds like it's somewhere in the foyer. You know what this means. We have a critter somewhere in the duct-work. Shit. If there is one thing I absolutely hate, it's mice. And we seem to stir them up all the time. I'm sure all the digging in the yard didn't help matters.

So I call RJH, because really, I don't know what to do. We devise a plan to call the exterminator on Monday. I barely slept on Sunday night, and I don't mind admitting I brought the baby to bed with me as I had convinced myself the critter was in the kid's room.

Monday I went out to breakfast with some family that was in town and got them all packed up and on their way north. It was great to see them. In fact, I had forgotten all about the little critter. I went downstairs to retrieve my phone and call the exterminator when, I saw it. Dead on the foyer floor, as if it had fallen out of the ceiling vent, was a tiny little grey mouse. Blurg! This means I have to dispose of it (and before my whippet becomes aware that gifts of mice are falling from heaven). I poked it with the broom to be sure it was dead, praying that it wouldn't move. It didn't. It took all my courage to scoop up that carcass and toss it outside. Why do these things make me so wiggy?! But I did it. And there has been no more skittering in the ducts, which means I am able breathe and sleep again.

As RJH said, at least now I know where it is. There has to be an easier way.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Best Mother's Day Ever

So, I didn't get to sleep in - but I DID get a baby who slept for 9 straight hours. I'll take it!

And even better than that (which is hard to do right now), I got to spend most of the afternoon in the backyard gardening! I cannot begin to tell you how refreshing and nurturing it is to my soul to get out into nature again. So the revised lists look like this:

Done Today:
  1. moved formerly shaded box to new very sunny location
  2. planted 8 tomato plants (will have to wait until freshly moved box is filled to plant the rest)
  3. weeded container on side of patio (which was FULL of taproots!) and planted a dozen Peruvian Wonderflowers.
  4. planted 4 sweet pepper plants
  5. continued to enlarge shade garden under pear trees to original size
  6. chopped out scores of dandelions from the back yard (thank you Richard!) by hand so as not to contaminate our yard (and food) with chemicals
  7. weeded garden area for the asters to get planted
Yet To Do:
  1. plant the asters
  2. plant the beans, butternut squash, and cukes
  3. plant to flowering fern tubers
  4. plant the Virginia Bluebells
  5. weed garden area under the bay window
  6. fill recently moved container with dirt (to arrive by Wednesday)
  7. enlarge garden by the maple tree to include blueberry bushes
  8. weed & spread mulch in said enlarged garden
  9. divide Stella d'Oro lilies and replant around mailbox
  10. find some purple and/or orange annuals to fill our empty flower pots
Not bad for a day's work. Hoping for some more sunny days to see this list dwindle. (Ok, to see it change. There will always be more to do in the garden, and that's just the way we like it!)

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Back in the Garden

Ah Spring. This year you decided to shower us with almost 4 straight weeks of rain. You know I'm getting desperate to get in the garden when I'm out in the rain (as I was this morning). But it's time to get out there and get planting! And this year we are not just committed to having a fantastic edible garden, we are also beautifying and removing more grass. Huzzah!

So far we have:
  1. filled in the herb garden with parsley, lemon verbena (as requested by the 9-year-old), rosemary, and two types of basil, among the already thriving sage, and two types of thyme. Also noticed some wild dill and mint making it's way up!
  2. planted two bottom boxes with onions, Copra to be precise. Should make great storage onions. If you're unfamiliar with raised bed planting, I HIGHLY recommend Bountiful Container, by McGee and Stuckey.
  3. planted a whiskey barrel of beets
  4. planted a whiskey barrel of carrots
  5. planted 2 whiskey barrels with green chiles - hoping for a bountiful harvest to freeze.
  6. planted a complete shade garden under our pear trees which includes: Wild Ginger, Royal Helleborus, and Spiderwort, and removed encroaching grass, putting bed back to rightful size
  7. planted a new peony, Queen Wilhelmina, in the pink garden
  8. planted 6 azalea bushes, two in the pink garden, and the rest on the sunny side of the house
  9. transplanted briar rose from wild common area of neighborhood to our pergola.
Yet to do:
  1. put in 10 tomato plants (which arrived yesterday)
  2. plant two asters we picked up at a garden sale at the local Art Museum
  3. move one of our boxes into sunny spot as our Maple has now grown so tall it is in complete shade.
  4. plant green beans, fava beans, limas, and edamame
  5. plant butternut squash
  6. plant peruvian wonderflowers on side of patio (after that container is completely weeded)
  7. plant flowering fern in front shade garden
  8. plant Virgina Bluebells (from same Art Museum sale) in side shade garden
  9. get and plant cukes and sweet peppers
We've got our work cut out for us, but in truth, I'm just happy to be getting outside! Here's to some sunny days so the work can get done.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

It's Not Easy Being Green (3) - Diapering Dilemma

This is quite possibly the biggest debate in the realm of green parenting: Cloth or Single-Use Diapers? And it's not easy. Are cloth diapers really that much greener, once you factor in all the washing and chemicals used to keep them clean? Do you really want to put enough plastic, sewage, and chemicals into the landfill to take you to the moon and back? For my money, the reality is that using single-use diapers is equivalent to this scene from Mad Men (they won't allow it to be embedded). No one today would dream of leaving that much trash at a picnic site, and if they did, they would be roundly criticized. And yet, the alternatives for diapering are so time consuming (and messy), right?

There is a learning curve, but the use of the hybrid diaper has been the best thing since, well, since the last time we were diapering a child. We use gDiapers. They look like this:

There is a cloth outer pant, and inside plastic liner, and a cloth or compostable soaker. We've opted for the disposable inserts, as they can be composted, or simply flushed. Even if they do wind up in the landfill - let's face it, we will be out and about and not always able to get to a potty - they will biodegrade leaving no plastic or chemicals in the earth. We do find we have a fair amount of laundry with them, but as anyone who has ever lived with a baby can attest, that comes with the territory, with or without cloth diapers.

As I said, this has been an easy decision for us. They are convenient enough for us to use regularly and simple enough to launder that it doesn't take more time than doing the regular wash (you can even put the plastic liner in the washer). I'd recommend this hybrid system to anyone wanting to get away from the single-use system. It's brilliant.

Monday, April 25, 2011

It's Not Easy Being Green (2) - Greenest Shipping Methods

I've noticed when ordering from Diapers.com (who is currently having a sale on their green products!) that they offer a green shipping method. So it begs the question, what is that? I did a bit of research and here's what I discovered.

One of the best ways to help the environment stay “green” and become “greener” is to reduce our carbon footprint. As many families know, it is now possible to buy green foods, green cleaning supplies, and even green vehicles. Green shipping, however, is not something we hear much about.

There are several ways in which you can choose greener shipping options. First of all, you can try to reuse packing material whenever possible. If you need to send a package and do not have packing material that you can recycle, try to buy materials made from recycled products. Consider popping popcorn and using it in place of packing peanuts or newspaper wads. In addition, when you need to send a gift that you've ordered online, choose to have the gift wrapped and sent directly to the recipient rather than having it shipped to you first. It is much better for the environment if the package is shipped only once. Finally, you should choose ground shipping whenever possible. Sending packages via an aircraft is harder on the environment than sending them via ground shipping.

After taking all the measures you can to lessen the environmental impact of shipping, you should consider which carrier you should use. The two major shipping contenders in the United States are UPS and FedEx. So which one is greener? Well, according to UPS, its services are greener than those of FedEx. UPS claims that it operates more alternative fuel vehicles than does FedEx. UPS also states that its airline fleet is at least 30% more efficient than that of FedEx. In addition, UPS has set company goals to decrease its carbon footprint including emissions reduction and community outreach.

On the other hand, FedEx claims that its services are greener. In fact, in April 2010, FedEx launched a new program entitled EarthSmart, which was designed to minimize the company's impact on the environment. Since then, FedEx has been working to increase vehicle efficiency, decrease aircraft emissions, and add to its ability to produce and utilize solar energy. EarthSmart can be divided into three separate focus areas: workplace culture, business solutions, and community outreach.

It is not yet known for sure which of these two companies is the greenest. However, it is inspiring to know that both FedEx and UPS are setting goals for reducing their impact on the environment. Each company is attempting to improve the efficiency of their vehicles and aircrafts. They are also both attempting to utilize more alternative sources of fuel and energy.

It should also be noted that many of the smaller shipping entities, including DHL, are implementing greener shipping methods as well. If you choose to use one of these companies instead, simply search its website for information on the environmental impact of the company's practices. Choosing to work only with companies that care about the environment will entice other companies to follow suit.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

It's Not Easy Being Green (1)

I'm the sort of girl who's committed to a greener, healthier, less polluted, more peaceful earth. Our family tries to do what we can to make a difference in reducing waste, reducing the amount of chemicals emitted into the environment, and promoting growth and education within our small realm of influence. Sometimes it's easy, other times, not so much. Let's face it, if it's not convenient, we probably won't do it. In light of all of this, I'm beginning an occasional series of posts entitled "It's Not Easy Being Green." The goal is to share with you the ways our family is attempting to be kinder to the planet, and to ourselves, and perhaps to inspire you to consider being a bit greener too. If you have ways that your family is being green, I'd love to share them here on the blog. Please let me know about them!

Additionally, my summer reading theme this year (and it's been a while since I've been inspired to select a summer reading theme) is Being Green. Big surprise, no? Here are some of the titles I've already purchased. (Yes, I realize it would be greener to use the library, or audio books I can just download. Perhaps I will give myself that goal this year.) If you have suggestions, I'd be happy to add them to my list.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Reflections on Motherhood (In No Particular Order)

  1. Having a second child is a gift I give myself: I am less stressed, more knowledgeable, less strapped for cash, and more flexible than the first time around. I publicly apologize to my first born. We were crazy young people when you were born. We didn't know.
  2. Breast feeding is the single most isolating thing I can think of doing. And as my sister so ironically pointed out, you're with someone the entire time. For a women who struggles with depression anyway, it was a poor choice. I LOVE bottle feeding. And I enjoy the time with my little man all the more for it.
  3. I am a baby-wearer; no doubt about it.
  4. Bed rest is not for the faint of heart. It can break you. Fortunately I have Netflix and Facebook and a new iPhone. I survived. ::Roar!::
  5. There really is an app for that.
  6. I still feel the need to do it all myself. Big surprise. Letting others help has been a learning experience. I shall be happy when I can, in fact, do it all myself. Even if it is an illusion.
  7. Having a baby in February is not too bad, especially when you can get to the hospital without incident. The weather has been crap, but who cares? We can't go outside anyway. And there won't be any pressure to have a backyard birthday party as he gets older.
  8. My children make me a better person.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Time Marches On

Amidst all the preparing for new life we've been doing around here, there's been another sort of preparation quietly penetrating our lives, spinning circles around our sweet little hats, and booties, and nursery rhymes; aging has been rearing it's ugly head. And ugly, it is.

I've said it before and I'll say it again; I never saw myself as a dog person. Of course I have loved pets as a child, felt attached to them, longed for them to sleep in my bed. But the woman I am today would shock the daylights out of the woman I thought I was becoming (in oh so many ways). Nevertheless, Jezzy is my girl. She is my Paris girl, the perfect companion for my fantasy life in Paris: slim and lovely, head held high, strutting her stuff because she belongs there. She's blended in perfectly with our family, behaved better than any other dog we've owned, converted my son into being a dog lover, convinced my niece she need not be frightened (at least of Jezzy), and comforted both Grandmothers who've known her. And now, she's aging.

I feel a bit like the old woman at the cosmetic counter believing desperately that Ponce De Leon did in fact find the fountain of youth and it has been bottled in that newest expensive night cream. I am constantly reading books, searching the Web, consulting our breeder (thanks a million Mary!) for the next thing to help our girl feel better. We've been to the vet more times than I ever anticipated, first removing some teeth, then to check on thyroid levels, and then again, and again, and finally to confirm that she does have arthritis in her hips. And I am giving my dog medication, a probiotic, changing her food, purchasing her a new bed, lifting her onto mine on the days she's reluctant to jump up there on her own. All with the deep, dark, nagging feeling that this is just the beginning of losing her.

I keep a hawkish eye on her watching as she climbs the stairs (did she trip?), monitoring that she's actually eating enough (did Luna bully her or is she not hungry?), counting her medications (did she get then all?), discouraging her constant licking. And just when I think we've finally addressed everything, something else creeps in and I start worrying about that too. But what alternative do I have, really? I love her fiercely and she deserves the best we can give her to make her comfortable and happy. I realize the inevitable end to this story. I'm not that much in denial. But I wonder how much longer I have with her. I can only hope she and I can both be as comfortable as possible until then.

Friday, January 14, 2011

First Original Hat Pattern

I have to admit, I am rather proud of myself for figuring this out! I created this hat pattern using a master pattern and a bobble cable pattern from The Knitting Stitch Bible. figuring out those cabled decreased was not the easiest thing I've ever done! As I mentioned in a previous post, I am trying to knit up several hats for little Jack, as he will be needing them this blustery winter. And I am currently in love with these cabled stocking caps. They are just so sweet!

Being so self satisfied, I thought I'd share the pattern with you. This is the Ravelry link, or if you are just interested in the PDF, you can find it here. And if you do decide to knit it up, please, please, please, tell me how it goes. I'd love to see what you do!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


The last time we had a little one, we were living in a one bedroom apartment. This meant that Hayes's space (with all the paraphernalia a little one accumulates) was limited to a corner of our living room and the tiny little coat closet. Getting it ready wasn't really as satisfying as it has been for Jack. This time, we have an entire room for our little bug. Deciding what to do with it has been a lot of fun, and finally, I have some photos of the just-about-finished project:

I used Photoshop to merge several photos, I think you get the idea here. I found a wonderful vendor on Etsy who was willing to comb through her supply of books and send me all the pages she had with "Jack" rhymes on them. I had no idea there would be so many! I originally thought I'd do a collage of some sort, but when she announced she had over 70 pages, I knew I wanted to make a bigger statement. I mean, how many kids have so much written about them already?

So after consulting with many a friend, I settled on this wall treatment. I used pre-mixed wallpaper paste to adhere the pages with very good effect.

There is not a peeling edge, nor any visible sign of the paste on the walls. Exactly what I was hoping for. The older pages required much more paste than I anticipated, but once I figured out the quantity needed, I was off and running. Here's a closer look at the pages:

I couldn't be happier with my decision. Yesterday the electrician came and installed an overhead light for the room. We're ready to welcome our Jack to the world.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Little Newsie Cap

It occurs to me that unlike my first child, who was born in the blistering heat of an Indiana summer, this baby will have the opportunity to wear lots of cute little baby caps. I thought I might want to address that issue while I still have a wee bit of time. Fortunately, a wee little hat needs very little time indeed! When I saw this pattern, I just couldn't resist. And it took all of an hour from start to finish. I used stash yarn from Grandmom, and the buttons are hers as well (of course). I can't wait to see it on little Jack's head!

Monday, January 03, 2011

To Hover or Not To Hover, That Is The Question

Lately, it seems that there have been a number of instances in my "mama" life that have pointed directly to the question of how much freedom to allow my child; my answer to that question, it seems, is a bit out of the neighborhood norm. It's not all that unusual for me to be in this category, as my parenting philosophy tends to border on the more liberal side (i.e. I should be living somewhere on the west coast) and I live in a rather conservative (read, midwestern) community. That being said, it's still tough to be the family that does it differently.

Recently we've had a parent come to the door tattling on my child, that he was wrestling with another kid (NOT HER CHILD) after the bus stop dropped them off, and she felt it was out of hand. And by the way, her kid was being pushed around by my kid too, just not today when she was there to observe. (I have my doubts, as her child tends to want to dominate my kid, and then seems to lie to his folks to get his way. There's history there.) I think it's reasonable to expect my kid to walk home from the bus stop on his own. He's 9, for heaven's sake.

Then, there is the boy scout policy that insisting we discuss "good touch, bad touch" with our children so they can earn a badge, as well as the safety lesson led by the den mother who told them (4th graders, mind you) to never, never, never open the door when your parents aren't home. Really? In the burbs? At 10 years old? I mean, the odds of someone coming to the door to take them away or politely rob the place are less than them being struck by lightening twice. Seems a bit extreme to me. And really, if you haven't talked to your kid about sex and touching by now, it's a bit late. They are already experimenting. Trust me.

And then there is our policy of not doing much monitoring of our child's screen time. He plays lots of games on line and watches myriad YouTube videos. Don't get me wrong, we have rules about what is and is not allowed, and if discovered breaking the rules, the computer is mine. But we don't use any "computer nanny" software to prevent him from going/doing/seeing on line. Instead, we've discussed what to do if . . . if you wind up somewhere you weren't expecting to be, if someone tries to solicit information from you, etc. I don't want him to think there's something evil lurking just behind that next link.

Recently, all of this seems to be on the "disapproved of" list. And it makes me wonder, what are we trying to do for our kids anyway? Are we trying to teach them to be responsible and make good decisions? Or are we trying to hide them under a rock and hope for the best (a very tempting choice, believe me)? As hard as it is, I'm going for responsibility. And I appreciate those who are trying to hoe the same row. Lisa Greville wrote a great article in the latest issue of my favorite publication, Brain, Child, dealing with this very topic. I highly recommend reading it. It's so much easier to be a helicopter parent, do all the defending and thinking for our kids, but in the end, it just doesn't seem to serve them as well as helping them make good decisions for themselves. So no matter how hard it is for me, I'm choosing to teach responsibility and respect, send my kid out into the big wide world, and be here for him when he needs me.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Knitting Wrap Up

According to my KnitMeter I knit 104 yards of knitted goods in 2010. Sounds about right. There was much to be done in the baby department, as well as some goodies here and there for myself. It feels good to see them all in one place. I'm pretty sure I missed a couple pair of socks, but nonetheless, here's my 2010 Knitting Projects Photo Collage: