July 11, 2016


For the first time in several years, I am growing food for myself again. We have a ten by ten plot in a community garden about a mile from our house. We have planted and tended this little plot as a family and I wanted to share a bit about the satisfaction and joy of growing some of our own food. But, at the same time, I have been thinking and feeling a lot about the state of the world and the heartbreaking events that seem to happen again and again. 

I am sure that much of the heartbreak doesn't even make the news but so many people are suffering, so many people losing loved ones unnecessarily, so many people unable to find a better way.  I have always always believed in the importance of finding joy and peace in the small things I can do with my own hands. But I also believe that we must be the change we wish to see in the world. Sometimes this means planting seeds and taking a moment to appreciate that you know exactly where your salad came from and who grew it. Other times it means educating yourself and your children on how to be better citizens of the world and this country and finding ways to take action instead of feeling like you don't know what to do or say. 

There is hope in these tiny seeds that become so much more. But we have to nurture the things that we want to grow.






July 7, 2016

Cherry Vanilla Popsicles



Summer Summer Summer.

I really am trying to soak it all in. Windows open all the time, a hint of salt in the air. The morning and evening light. The heat of the day and the cool night air. Trips to our community garden plot before the sun gets too high when we marvel at how much the plants have grown in just a few days. Salads that taste better than anything we eat in the winter. Lying in grass in the shade enjoying the cool breezes. Amos' constant in and out, digging holes in the front yard and making mud puddles. He rings the doorbell and leaves mud on the floor. Trips to the beach for wading in the water, watching snails, more digging in the sand. Sandy feet and sandy floors. Letting go of the clutter and things undone, reminding myself that it's just summer taking over, or the new baby in the house. Berries and cherries as much as we can. Popsicles on the porch almost every afternoon. Sticky fingers and faces.

I make most of our popsicles by throwing any fruit into a jar with yogurt or coconut milk and whirring it with the immersion blender until it can be poured into the mold. I was inspired, though, by the many great recipes in Icy Creamy Healthy Sweet, Christine Chitnis' beautiful book of frozen treats, all of which can be made free of dairy or refined sugar. Cherries are a sweet treat in themselves, but I used her recipe for a simple cherry compote and then went off book, swirling them with yogurt and vanilla. I sometimes question Amos' popsicle a day routine, but then I decide that fruit and yogurt with a touch of honey is as good a snack as any.

Sweet, cold, melty, sticky, summer summer summer.


Cherry Vanilla Popsicles
Inspired by Icy Creamy Healthy Sweet by Christine Chitnis
You can, and should adjust the amount of honey and vanilla to your taste

2 cups pitted fresh sweet cherries, cut in half
2 teaspoons honey
2 cups plain yogurt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Combine the cherries and honey in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and let it cook for a minute or so. Remove from heat and let the cherry compote cool. 

Mix the yogurt and vanilla together. When the cherry compote is cool, swirl it into the vanilla yogurt. Pour into your popsicle mold and freeze.

Makes 8 large popsicles.




July 1, 2016

Exploring



Summer has finally arrived in Maine, filling the sky with blue, warming the air to the perfect temperature, and leaving everything else astoundingly green. It is such a short season here, sometimes I start to panic (it's already July!!) and worry that we won't get to do all of the things that seem essential to a wonderful summer. Luckily, we've already made it to the beach a few times, picked piles of strawberries, and taken a spontaneous trip on the mail boat run around the sparkling water and islands of Casco Bay. That leaves plenty of days for walking and biking to a playground, eating popsicles, working in our community garden plot and feeling the perfect breezes through open windows.




Here on the Maine coast, not all summer days are sunny and warm. Foggy days give us a break from slathering on sunscreen and a chance to be enveloped in a completely different palette of colors. We welcome the sun when it returns.

I try to get Amos, Eowyn, and myself out on a small adventure most mornings. Adventure is probably too strong a word for simply getting out of the house and going somewhere. Although we aren't really out in the wild, we can easily reach many beautiful trails, parks, and beaches. We find pockets, patches, and swaths of nature all around.




Amos is happy exploring anywhere outside. We watch birds and ants, throw rocks, dig in the sand or soil. He often hands me the flowers, rocks or pine cones he collects and I quickly lose them. My solution was to sew a collecting pouch that he can bring on adventures to carry the treasures he might find. I used a bit of muslin from my dyeing experiments and appliqued it with some wool felt that I got on a visit to Purl Soho. I'm sure it will see many more adventures before the summer is over. Where are you exploring these days?





June 17, 2016

Here


Our daughter, Eowyn, was born on May 3. She's growing so fast.  Amos is madly in love with his little sister and we have been getting the hang of life as a family of four.

I am eager to get back to writing and creating but, except for some cooking and baking, I have found less and less time when I can do these things. But, as I sit on the porch under the big maple tree, rocking one baby and watching the other dig in the dirt, I am so very aware that this period of time is finite. It is not easy, but when I can appreciate what I have, I do.

Most days feel as exhausting as a long day of planting seedlings in a field, bent over, moving awkwardly down the rows. As soon as I close my eyes I am in a deep sleep but if somebody needs me, I'll be up and going. This feeling of physical endurance is accompanied by the small satisfaction that, more or less, I can handle the task. Rarely is it pretty or graceful but we make it through the days mostly intact.

Eowyn has only been here for a little over six weeks but I have come to know her sounds, her expressions, and her rhythms almost without realizing it. It surprises me to know her so well since I can't often give her the full focus that I could with my first child. While I am in no hurry for her to grow up, I do wonder about what this little seed of a human holds and how she will sprout and grow and blossom, what she will be like and look like.

I will say it one more time and you don't have to believe it or feel it, but right now I do: this time is so fleeting. It is the longest shortest. I want capture every moment and my many many thoughts before they disappear in a cloud of exhaustion and I want to be in it without trying to pin anything down, knowing it really will never happen again. Inevitably, I will be left with blurred memories but for now I try to mostly feel grateful that I am here.

April 21, 2016

Blueberry Oat Scones


How do you like your scones? I like mine sturdy, craggy, and a little bit chewy. They don't need eggs or cream, sugary glaze or extra adornment. I have, of course, found many great bakery made scones, but I love them best when I can mix them up on a morning's whim. That's exactly what I did today. 

Perhaps it is misguided of me to think that something freshly baked, sweetening the air as it rises and browns, could make the day more special. But, giving just a few extra minutes to pop them in the oven on a regular morning is a nice way to stray from the ordinary. My mornings don't usually reach a level of hectic. Considering it can take hours to convince, cajole and encourage Amos to pick out clothes and get dressed, I can get a few other things done.  If, for you, time is ever precious, these are ideal for a weekend or day off, too.


Blueberry Oat Scones
This is based on a recipe from the bakery where I used to work. There are many many variations and additions you could try (dried fruit or nuts instead of berries, buttermilk instead of regular milk etc). I used frozen wild blueberries but when the season comes these would be great with fresh berries, too. 

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup sugar plus more for sprinkling
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter
3/4 cup blueberries
3/4 cup milk or buttermilk plus more for glazing

Preheat the oven to 375'  Combine flour, oats, 1/3 cup sugar, salt and baking powder in a medium bowl. Cut the butter into small pieces, toss with flour mixture and use your finger tips to break up the butter and work it into the flour. Continue working until the butter and flour make small crumbs with a few larger chunks of butter. Add the blueberries and toss with a fork to distribute. Pour in the 3/4 cup of milk and toss again with a fork to evenly wet the flour. Knead in the bowl, folding over the dough several times. 

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lift up the mass of dough and dump any dry flour from the bottom of the bowl into the middle of the baking sheet. Place the mass of dough on top. Pat into a circle about 7 inches wide and an inch thick. If your hands are sticking, rinse them in cold water and, with wet hands, press the dough so it comes together and is mostly smooth on top. 

Use a knife to cut the circle into 6 even pieces and separate them onto the baking sheet. Brush the top of each scone with milk and sprinkle them with sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until they are a nice golden brown on top (this will insure that they are not underbaked on the inside). Let cool for 10 minutes before eating.

April 13, 2016

The Small Things, Always the Small Things









I am in that time of trying to slow down while also tying up loose ends and checking off the last things I want to accomplish. I am accepting that I won't have everything perfect before the baby comes which is fine because no matter how much I clean or prepare, it will be a mess again in a moment. I am glad that I am able to reflect a bit and do my best to enjoy these last weeks and days before our new family member arrives.

I was lucky enough to have a few days to myself recently. As in, no husband, no child, just me at home doing whatever I wanted. Although I have had many days and weekends like this before, I have not had a stretch of time like that in the past 3 years and it will be many years before I have a stretch like that to myself again. At times, I felt like I was wearing a an old favorite sweater that, although it had been long forgotten in the back of a drawer, fit well enough to remind me of the person I was the last time I put it on.

A few days free from taking care for another person nudged my thoughts toward the ideas, goals, and dreams that I have when I am not consumed by parenting. For now, I'm tucking them back in the drawer but in several months or a year I will make sure that they are a part of every day. In the mean time, it is the small things, the short term goals and the satisfaction of getting rid of clutter, making a few things for babies to wear, finishing knitting projects without interruption, or doing nothing more than watch the sunlight creep along the bedroom wall.


P.S. That sweet little dress is the little geranium dress from Made By Rae, free on her website, if you are interested. I made up the other pattern.


March 25, 2016

Cloth Covered Rope Basket





Where did it come from? Who made it? Amos asks these questions all the time. My answers range from: I don't know to A farm or A cow or, often, probably a factory. Sometimes the answer seems simple, I made it. As I've gradually sewn things for our home, I can look around and see many things I've stitched together for the place that I spend most of my time. It is gratifying to make things I love for the place and people that I love, but sometimes it seems like so much patchwork!

As someone who rarely measures and often cuts more than once, I have a huge basket of small scraps of fabric. Many of these are from trimming off an edge or a little extra fabric, others have found their way there when they are not big enough to iron and fold neatly on the shelf. Cloth covered rope baskets are currently my favorite way to turn many of these scraps into something that is as useful as it is lovely to look at. I have often wanted to be able to make more baskets and containers for storage and was delighted to discover a kind of basket that I could sew instead of learning the more complicated skill of basket weaving. Making fabric covered rope baskets is a slower process with a few extra steps than just coiling and sewing the rope alone but it is a fun way to choose color combinations and use up scraps.

I have a lot to learn about shaping the baskets and I still can't be sure they will turn out exactly as I envision. This one was headed away from what I had hoped, but adding the little handles made all the difference and I am quite happy with the final result. This basket will be just the spot for keeping a few toys for the baby separate from all the other toys in baskets, drawers and strewn about.