Monday, March 31, 2008

Back home

My apologies for my long absence from blogging land, but Husband and I took all three girls to Atlanta while Sister was out of school on spring break. We were visiting Husband's uncle and aunt one night, then going on to spend time with his elderly aunt and cousin (who used to be a professional opera singer in Germany).

I still have a ton of getting home work to do--the usual mountains of laundry and replenishing of groceries, not to mention getting the little girls reacquainted with the concept of a daily routine which they act like they've never heard of before. So more on our trip tomorrow when I can find more time and also the cable to upload a photo or two to Flickr...

Until then, I'll tell you about a conversation with my ex-husband who came to get Sister last night upon our return. He walks in and looks stressed. I ask if he's okay and he says, "Well, I've been taking care of my dad for the last 4 days. Mom's in Hawaii visiting her sisters. (Long pause.) He's sick a lot lately. (Long pause.) It's hard work. (Long pause.) You know, marriage."

Um yeah. 'Cause you definitely didn't know that when we were married 10 years ago, didja?

Bless his heart, as we say down South.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Not doing what I should be doing

At Heather's wedding, originally uploaded by Secretsugar.

What I should be doing is packing for our trip to Atlanta tomorrow to visit Husband's aunt and cousin. Instead, I am finding all these old pictures on our old computer and uploading them to Flickr. I'm getting all nostalgic and stuff here! What a way to lose an afternoon, huh?

This is Husband and I five years ago at the wedding of a dear friend. (Happy coming-soon-anniversary, dear friend!) I can't get over how young and alert we look just five years ago! I'm such a frigging fat, stressed, tired toad now. Whatever I might have had once, it sure is going quick in these days of sleep deprivation and baking projects with toddlers. Oy!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Easter begins early

Bean and Sister very much enjoy doing seasonal baking projects with me. We make decorated sugar cookies for nearly every holiday. (My collection of colored sprinkles takes up an entire cabinet shelf.) We make pumpkin cupcakes for Halloween, blueberry muffins in the early summer, candy cane ice cream after I undecorate the Christmas tree--you get the drift. So when I saw this idea on Angry Chicken I knew it was perfect for my girls.

Easter baking project, originally uploaded by Secretsugar.

Aren't these adorable? They're super easy, too, even for toddlers. Just watch out for little girls who like to lick their fingers while doing the nest shaping. 'Cause you don't want a spitty nest.

Happy Easter! Happy spring!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

In the garden again

Willow wigwam, originally uploaded by Secretsugar.

Check out our new "willow wigwam!" I love this bit of garden art. It's much more my taste than concrete gnomes or pagodas or plastic whirligigs or what have you.

With the early--but typical--onset of spring weather here in Chapel Hill, I've been using naptimes for a little gardening lately. I can't tell you how good this feels (and looks! and smells!). It's been a long time since I was able to get outside to do some digging, being vastly pregnant and hot during the prime fall planting season.

Yesterday I transplanted a fancy dogwood that I had put in the wrong spot last spring. The first site got WAY more sun that I thought it did, resulting in utterly scorched leaves by the time the summer ended. But bless it's dogwoody heart, it has valiantly begun leafing back out again now so I moved it into my shade garden where I can enjoy it from the back porch. This new sculpture and some tough old Carolina jessamine will make a more scorching-hot-sun-tolerant combination there instead.

Anyone else got their gardening groove on yet?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tasty at home

In my weekly quest for domestic coziness, I've begun making my own bread. I say that as if it were a permanent decision to always bake my own bread, but it's not really. In fact, I've only made two batches so far but it was so gratifying, I thought to myself, "I really should do this more often." So I'm going to try.

I've never been much of a bread baker because I just naturally lack the proper temperament to do it well. Which is to say that I'm impatient as hell, want to get things done NOW, and bread just doesn't work that way. The other day I used a whole wheat loaf bread recipe that explained the first rise would take about an hour and a half. Actually, it took six and that was just the first rise. But I just tried to forget about it and let it do its thing and everything came out well. See?

Two beautiful loaves, originally uploaded by Secretsugar.

But my original motivation--lest you begin believing that I'm motivated by just sweet domestic coziness and a back-to-the-land, homemade whole grain thing--was a trip to a local chocolate shop with Bean while Sister was having her piano class. The adorable European owner informed me that the big bag of real, dark chocolate sprinkles on the shelf next to me were what European children have sprinkled on their toast in the mornings to get them to eat their bread. He himself, he said, had this for breakfast til he was 15 years old, after which he was presumably too old for such a childish breakfast and switched to espresso and cigarettes, I guess. I'm a sucker. I bought the sprinkles. And needed to make fresh bread to put them on.

Bean with toast, originally uploaded by Secretsugar.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Town and country

Yesterday, Husband and I took the little girls to Saxapahaw, a very tiny town on the Haw River that's about a 20 minute drive from our house in Chapel Hill. It was a field trip of sorts to check out a renovated mill building that Husband and his business partner are considering for the site of Spoonflower. (I mentioned his new business venture awhile back. It's really cooking along all of a sudden.)

Saxapahaw was empty, there being no downtown to speak of and it being the hour when most God-fearing Southerners are in church. We're not particularly God-fearing, so we took a stroll down to the river. I sat at a picnic table and nursed Sweet P while Husband took Bean further down to chuck rocks in the water.

As Sweet P and I sat there together I realized I couldn't hear a thing but the water rushing by, birds in the trees, and the distant voices of Husband and Bean playing. I just sat there nursing and quiet.

When Sweet P had a nice bellyful, we walked down to where Husband and Bean were and I said to Husband, "I know how we can get the first round of funding for Spoonflower. Let's sell our house in Chapel Hill and use part of the equity to put a down payment on a house here and the rest to get Spoonflower going."

We talked about this a little, a new mortgage, business loans, venture capitalists being involved, etc. The one thing neither of us questioned was the trade-off between good Chapel Hill schools for the girls and a life with abundant time spent outdoors in the woods and fields and by a river for them.

Would I really trade our townie Chapel Hill life with its organic grocery stores and top-rated schools and nearby piano lessons, play groups, soccer leagues, and public access pools for a move to some land and an old house out in the country?

You know, I think I would.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

I don't know about where the rest of you are...

Back porch, originally uploaded by Secretsugar.

...but here in NC it's porch season! Happy weekend, everyone!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Sister growing up

Sister has all of a sudden begun to care about her appearance. She's requested that I get a book about hairstyles so she can begin experimenting with her hair which she's decided to grow long. She enjoys mixing up beauty potions from a kit she received for Christmas--toners and bath oils and such. The other day she wrote up a list of her ideal spa day which cracked me up. My 9-year old! Daydreaming about her perfect spa day! The damn list was, like, a dozen items long! Hilarious. (And where can I sign up?)

But she's still a little kid, really, and doesn't quite know how to do this stuff yet. I can't wait to see how she'll come down the stairs in the morning these days. The other day, she came down with a small pigtail jutting out of the side of her head at a 60 degree angle. Just one of them, and definitely had NOT used a brush to smooth it out first. This morning she came down in leopard print capri pants, a blue sequin shirt, blue kitty-printed socks pulled HIGH up her legs, and pink and white sneakers. Bless her heart. I think I love this phase of her growing up.

Better than the super low-rise jeans and belly shirts that she'll want to wear soon, huh? Yeah.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Sore legs

I woke up with pleasantly sore leg muscles this morning. See this?

Vegetable garden to be, originally uploaded by Secretsugar.

And this?

And here are my two big girls:

Girls ready to garden, originally uploaded by Secretsugar.

We planted our vegetable garden yesterday!
I, of course, started out with visions of mama and big girl bonding, Bean incidentally learning a lesson about where food comes from, and just wholesome good fun for all. I should know better by now because it ended up with Bean trying to gouge out freshly planted lettuce with a stick when my back was turned, Sister taking all the broccoli seedlings out of their cells to chill and dry and be stepped on, a bit of worm murder, and me trying to keep the girls from walking all over the freshly turned (and very moist) ground. But it all eventually got planted! And here's the result:

Lots o' lettuce, originally uploaded by Secretsugar.

Salad anyone?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Why I hate having a guest room

It's anti-American, right? To have a bit more house than you need and find it annoying rather than desirable? Nevertheless, the guest room is beginning to piss me off.

When we first bought this house almost two years ago, the "upgrade" from three bedrooms to four seemed to make sense. Knowing that we wanted three kids meant that someday we'd have the option of giving them all their own rooms. Sister wanted to share a room with Bean then which meant that we wouldn't need this configuration right away, but someday the girls would want their own space. In the meantime, we had visions of hosting out-of-state friends in our fourth bedroom and we outfitted it accordingly. We bought a new mattress set to go on the bed frame that had once belonged to Husband's mother when she was growing up. We moved her entire suite of furniture from Atlanta to here--the bed frame, two large dressers, a night table, and a wall mirror. I added a quilt rack with vintage quilts, some toiletries that our imminent guests could use if they forgot theirs, a framed picture, some knick-knacks...

Who have we hosted in the almost two years in this house? Exactly three sets of guests. And one of them was one of my local college girlfriends here for a grown-up slumber party I hosted once when Husband was out of town.

What our guest room is really used for is storage of a lot of unnecessary shit. For example:
--a three-foot square box of unopened mail that is now two years old! I'm not exaggerating here! But Husband doesn't want to throw it away because there might (still!) be something important in there. The cats use the box as a scratching post, though. Perhaps that keeps them from using the sofa arms quite so much for the same purpose? Fucking cats. Fucking box.
--a turntable and two massively heavy boxes of record albums. Will we ever listen to them again? I know I won't listen to my portion of that ancient vinyl, not least because to do so would mean replacing the turntable's needle, lugging the thing downstairs, and routing it through our receiver somehow. Can we get rid of the turntable and the albums? Husband says no. He might want to listen to them someday.
--other electronic stuff. A couple of computers, a couple of old telephones, bundles of wires that belong to god-knows-what.
--a hideously ugly woven blanket that traveled with Husband from Guatemala that he wants to keep as a souvenir. Never mind that we never use it because it's entirely too scratchy to be comfortable and is suspiciously hairy. And did I say super ugly?
--a large plastic box of family memorabilia that doesn't belong to us, that we've been charged with looking through, scanning if we want, and mailing back to the cousin who loaned it to us. She sent it when Bean was born because it contained items belonging to Bean's namesake, the cousin's mother. That was almost three years ago and I'm guessing she'd want it back...oh, 2-1/2 years ago?
--a closet full of out-of-season vintage dresses. If I'm being fair here, I should admit that some of the stuff is mine. I keep telling myself that once my little kids are big, I can wear my gorgeous frocks again without risking spit-up, "washable" paint, and peanut butter destroying them. Maybe I should let this little dream go?

Humph. Maybe we can get rid of the other crap first and then we'll talk.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

The weekend, the sewing projects

This weekend was a pretty nice one despite losing a precious hour of sleep. I finished up brunch at Crook's Corner with two of my good college girlfriends a few hours ago. Conversation with them is always so comfortable, but on top of that there was a plate full of biscuits and sausage gravy and a big, spicy bloody Mary all for me. Yum! Makes my mouth water all over again, just thinking about it. We're going to try to make it a once a month thing now. Not much time to spend together considering that we were all once living together and going to the same parties and drinking coffee around the same kitchen tables and (ahem) dating the same men. But it's time nevertheless, and I'm going to start looking forward to it every month.

I also managed to finish making my new skirt, complete with invisible zipper. It's composed of four unhemmed tiers that will start to get frayed and fringey after washing and wearing it a few times. I'd post a picture here, but I had no idea how frigging hard it was to photograph a skirt not on your body, or ON your body while you're the one holding the camera. So some other time maybe, when Husband is home and I can wear it, or after I've made a few things and can just photograph them hanging all together. It fits me perfectly, which is, of course, the great thing about making your own clothes. That is, if you can get past the fact that sewing pattern sizes are WAY bigger than the one you wear off the rack at, say, Ann Taylor Loft or what-have-you. You just have to not take that insulting little fact personally.

And speaking of sewing--which I'm kinda doing a lot lately, huh?--I read this great article by Susie Bright today in Craft magazine about making handmade gifts for others who may not appreciate them. For those who don't know, Ms. Bright is much more famous for her writing on sex and porn than for her sewing. But sew she apparently does! I'm just going to quote her verbatim here because I love this:
So why do we all ignore this hard-won bit of advice [to handmake gifts only for other crafters who know what you put into them]? Because we're showoffs. We know modesty is supposed to go hand in hand with our steady stitches, but we yearn for people's jaws to drop open at our handiwork. We like making things for our beloveds and watching their hearts melt. We're sentimental fools who want only to be adored for our talents. Is that too much to ask?

You must be a subscriber--or a holder in your hand of a hard copy--to actually read the article, but this is a link to the projects and resources she suggests should you decide to make up a little something for a non-crafty type anyway. And good luck with that. I know it doesn't always work out so great, right Kat?

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Nice morning

I was grocery shopping a couple days ago and saw rhubarb and strawberries, both on the shelves looking all luscious and ruby-like. I bought enough of both to make a large pie and, while the strawberries weren't as good as they'll likely be in another couple of weeks, they made a beautiful mama and baby pie. Not to mention that it was a lovely way for Bean and I to while away the morning hours today. Sweet P lay contentedly in her bouncy chair, watching us and listening to us chat.

Mixing the fruit, originally uploaded by Secretsugar.

Preparing her crust, originally uploaded by Secretsugar.

More fruit, originally uploaded by Secretsugar.

Proud Bean, originally uploaded by Secretsugar.

Beautiful finished pies, originally uploaded by Secretsugar.

Now, this is what I thought being a stay-at-home mama would be all about for me!

Too good to be true?

I've fallen off the weight loss wagon lately, indulging in Thin Mints, pork dumplings, chocolate chip cookies, and just any old thing I felt like eating. It's just easier not to think about food these days. Plus, Bean and I do at least one baking project together each week which, while it keeps her happy and busy and proud, is a real killer for me. Can't.resist.the.sweets.

I renewed my determination a couple of days ago, though, and spent all day yesterday feeling very virtuous about my eating choices--bran cereal with strawberries! Grilled chicken salad with dressing on the side! Snacks of apples and raw baby carrots! I mean, is that virtuous as hell or what? (And I wonder why I was so freakin' cranky...?)

But get this. I weighed myself this morning and was a full three pounds lighter than when I went to bed! Woo-hoo! Only 6 more pregnancy pounds to go!

(Note to readers: I know this is probably not a permanent 3-pound weight loss, but humor me, okay? I need to seize my small successes where I can this week!)

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

A mama stuck

Oy vey! as my Jewish mama friend would say. It's been a rough week over here in the cave. Bean's been so wild and contrary I'm beginning to take it personally. What am I doing to my poor almost-3-year old child to make her so enraged nearly every hour of the day? Why does she spurn my love in favor of her dear papa's? Why does she scream at me if I come to get her up from her nap if I happen to also have Sweet P with me? Sigh. I just can't seem to make her happy these days, and she's still requiring SO much entertainment out of me. WAY more than her tiny baby sister, which makes me kind of sad. I keep thinking we're going to turn a corner any day now and Bean will be happy to hang out with me, happy to do her own thing at least a little during the day, just happy. But maybe I've got a girl whose default mood is more restless than happy. I dunno.

New skirt project stymied by the prospect of installing an invisible zipper. Gardening is on hold after last night's big, big thunderstorm turned our yard into a bog. Meh.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Vintage dress love

All of a sudden I find myself without sewing projects! Sister's silent auction has come and gone. The wall hanging I put on hold for awhile is done and on the wall. My Japanese girl clothes sewing books are out for translation. I have nothing to do! I mean, other than take care of three little girls, of course.

But a mama needs projects, no? For those few minutes here and there where both little girls are sleeping at the same time? So the sewing project vacuum and the just-around-the-corner arrival of spring--not to mention my shrinking post-pregnancy body--have conspired to induce a new obsession in me. Here's a clue:

Favorite dresses, originally uploaded by Secretsugar.

And another:

Lovely repro vintage prints, originally uploaded by Secretsugar.

I do love my old vintage cotton and rayon print dresses, but at mt age I find myself unwilling to ignore the armpit stains, holes, and poochy boob area. (Is it just my tiny chest, or did everyone stuff their bras back then?!) I should also say that I find the greasy feel and almost slimy texture of my former favorites unacceptable. "Greasy and slimy?" I hear you wondering. Greasy and slimy indeed, from their many years spent as work dresses during my baking years. (I used to joke that I would get white lung one day from all the flour thrown into the air while mixing gigantic batches of chocolate chip cookies and gingersnaps. But it's my wardrobe that has suffered. Who knew?)

The solution I've come up with is to try to recreate my favorite frocks in vintage reproduction prints. Brilliant, right? Except that I have very little clothing sewing experience and absolutely no clue how to make a pattern from an existing dress. Do you have to take apart the dress in question first? Can you just sorta...I don't know trace the dress onto some wrapping paper or something? Any advice from any sewers out there would be greatly appreciated. I promise to post photos of any cute items I'm able to make up!