Archive for March, 2010

This Week in March

Posted by laura on Mar 25 2010 | Fun, School, Uncategorized

Here’s a little of what’s going on around here:

I have this one scrappy lilac bush in back that pops out about seven clumps of blossoms every spring and then spends the rest of the year feeling just a bit sorry for itself. It ain’t pretty, most of the time, but it sure is worth it for these two weeks in March, when I can bury my nose in those tiny purple blossoms and transport myself back in time. I’m usually about six, tangled in the stalky base of that lilac at the front corner of our house, surrounded by lush, leafy sweetness and the drone of bees and distant lawn mowers. Sometimes I’m older and in the kitchen, and Mum has just brought in an armful of lilac branches to put in a big vase, and the room is filled with that incomparable relief of spring.

We’re marching inevitably closer to our Sutter’s Fort day, now just a week away. I’ve been stitching up the bags for the students and writing this letter to Honey. They have a surprise mail call up at the fort, and all the parents are meant to submit letters to their children, written in a style appropriate to the time and their children’s characters. Honey’s character is Ellen Murphy (appropriately enough) and I managed to dig up a little bit about the party she traveled with across the frontier, so I was able to send her a letter from a pretend friend back in Missouri.

She probably won’t be able to read a third of the letter, due to my erratic calligraphy and some vocabulary that’s a touch past its expiration date. Although I should not, I’m just going to say now that it’s a pretty fine letter. My first go at fourth grade may have been a bit shaky, but this time I’m nailing it.

Honey, on the other hand… seriously. She’s a week away from portraying a young woman from the 1840s, and she goes and gets braces put on her teeth. Where’s the commitment to authenticity, people?! Sheesh. I told her she’s simply not allowed to smile that day. Or eat. Or talk, for that matter.

No, but really. She has braces now. In fact, she has so much paraphernalia in her mouth, I shudder to think of her next trip through the metal detectors. (Ok, so I just spent 10 minutes trying to spell paraphernalia. Somebody tell me what that ‘r’ is doing in there.) She’s in good spirits, though.

Of course there’s always a lot of this going on around the house. We were particularly fond of this arrangement. Hot Wheels is being his usual goofy self. Yesterday he played himself in a game of Go Fish – open hand. It was so funny to listen to that a couple of times I had to write down what he said. Here’s a little glimpse (now I realize it can be annoying to write the way kids pronounce words instead of the proper word, so I’m just throwing it out there that the whole game, Hot Wheels said “fiss” instead of “fish”):

“Do you have a 4?

Nope – go fish.

Do you have a queen?

Aauugh – you are the master of this game!!

No I’m not – you’re still winning!

Do you have a 6?

Go fish.

Do you have an 8?

Haw, man!  You’re beating me up!”

That’s the way it went. Not sure yet whether this warrants creative writing class or therapy.

So there you have it – March Madness.

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The Good Life

Posted by laura on Mar 19 2010 | Awesome, Tasty

Last Sunday, Honey and one of our friends from across the street took their cooking interest up a notch. They took it to a… whole… ‘notha… level and made dinner for our families All By Themselves. We have discovered a new land out here, and it is good.

Tom was hanging out in the kitchen with them in case they needed help, but he had very little to do. Joan and I were in the art room catching up and being neighborly – Joan hand stitched dress cuffs for me while I put together an apron for the Sutter’s Fort adventure. That’s old-school neighborly, for sure. Too bad we don’t share a fence.

The girls cooked up pasta

and an incredible salad, while Hot Wheels dashed back and forth taking orders for his ’special drink’ – a lemon-lime concoction with so much sugar it’d make your teeth curl. (Suggesting that he rethink the sugar levels, though, brings you the same arch look I imagine you’d receive from the sommelier were you to suggest an ice cube in your wine.)

All the while, our other younger neighbor friend was working across the street with her father to make a lemon meringue pie. Now that’s ambitious. As Joan was walking out the door to come over to our house, she heard the following exchange between her husband and her daughter:

Husband: Now what does it say?

Daughter: Stir over low heat until translucent.

H: Ok – it’s translucent. What’s next?

D: Add the egg yolks.

H: What egg yolks??

Joan: [closes the door quietly behind her]

What a cliffhanger! Don’t worry, the green archer doesn’t actually get crushed by the… oh wait, wrong cliffhanger. The pie was delicious. As was the dinner itself – bruschetta, mixed green salad and pesto pasta. Now we’re getting somewhere.

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Did You Hear

Posted by laura on Mar 17 2010 | Making, School

a muffled cry for help?

That would have been me, calling out from under an avalanche of cotton and muslin. Honey’s fourth grade class goes to Sutter’s Fort on the first of April, and we’ve been in full production mode, putting together her outfit, my outfit, and a pile of bags for the kids to use for their lunches and notebooks.

Overall, it’s been really fun. I’ve spent a couple of sunny Sundays cutting and adjusting and stitching away, listening to the Blind Boys of Alabama and learning a good deal. For example, I learned how to grade my seams! (I gave most of them Bs and one B+.)

I also discovered that had I been alive in the 184os, I would have been sunk. I have a hard enough time with patterns and a sewing machine – the idea of cutting the material freestyle and sewing it up by hand just gives me hives.

See that sleeve on the right there? My pattern called for an elastic cuff, but that would be a no-go for this time period, so I figured, no worries – I’ll just stitch up a cuff to cap the end of that sleeve. I wanted it to be a bit adjustable, since we’ll pass this dress down to our friends next year, and just working it out burned up a good section of my brain cells. They were nice ones, too – I’ll miss ‘em.

Of course, typical me, I ended up pacing myself pretty well for a while and then staying up into the night last night finishing all the button holes and hems, since they needed to wear their outfits to school today for a costume check. So by the time I realized I really needed to lop off a good 8 inches off the bottoms of the apron and the dress, it was just too late, so I hemmed them sloppily and will have to go back. Bah. I still hate hemming. I certainly wasn’t doing myself any favors, though – look at that hem! It’s like a foot high!! No wonder it’s wonky. It never had a chance.

The good news? She likes it anyway.

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So Proud

Posted by laura on Mar 08 2010 | Awesome, Fun, Tasty

As predicted, our friend Russell didn’t end up making an acceptance speech at the Oscars last night, but we are all still psyched for him. Our friends Susie and Finn came over with their gorgeous baby girl, winner for best performance in a leading role for her work in “Birth – The Next Generation.” Our friend Mark joined us as well – he brought a container of cookies he called “Starship Gingerprises” that were unbelievably tasty. Honey made Russell-inspired sandwiches with roasted turkey, gruyere and cranberry sauce that were fantastic, and we tried a new Cooking Light recipe for apple/raisin compote on toasts with brie. It was delicious, but we bought light brie accidentally (heavens!) and it just doesn’t melt properly. It was still tasty and easy to make, so a win in my book.

It was a great night, although we only got one quick glimpse of our friends during the broadcast. If you go to the Oscars website, you can see them at the very beginning of the Visual Effects acceptance speech clip.

The place to go, though is to the Access Hollywood site, and check out the clip of Sandra Bullock talking about how much she loves Gabourey Sidibe. Keep watching, because as the interview goes on there are some awesome moments of Courtney and Russell in the background. I’m sorry Sandra, you were gorgeous and funny too, but there’s this moment when Courtney turns around and you see the cool layered detail of her dress in the back… it’s fabulous. And what a beautiful woman!! It’s not every couple who can just step into a situation like the Oscars red carpet and look so thoroughly at home.

There’s another photo of them on the Huffington Post site, which I love because they’re smiling at each other. That prankster Sandra hopped into the photo in front of them again in this one – she’s such a card.

Well done guys!! We’re all so happy for you.

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Downhill is Usually So Much Fun

Posted by laura on Mar 03 2010 | Not So Fun

It all started back in the fall when I had to have my license renewed. I was a little bummed about that because my license actually had a good picture on it and you know that photographer at the DMV has kept his job all the years since, just waiting for his chance to correct the error. It was pointless, but I still turned up that day with my hair washed, ready to thwart the laws of the universe once again.

No dice. Let’s just say the DMV took their title back, and in a flash I went from 90210 to Desperate Housewives. (And that’s even the ‘you wish’ scenario. It was actually a bit more like Reality Bites to Thirtysomething.)

Then, a month ago, I went in for my decennial physical, and they said I was an inch shorter. To be clear, the height they gave me was an inch shorter than any other time I’ve been measured as an adult. Are you feeling the downward rolling sensation here?

Now we arrive at this afternoon, when I was attempting to be a good citizen and donate blood. I actually don’t mind donating blood – needles don’t bug me and I like Lorna Doones, so it’s all good. Except for today when they told me, for the first time ever, that my veins were kind of hard to find. Then once I was all hooked up, it wasn’t going fast enough and the blood speedometer kept beeping. The ladies told me that my vein was deflated. Seriously. They said it with this slightly sorry tone like I was about to dry up.

Lots of great things go downhill – roller coasters, snowboards, the part of the bike ride where you can breathe again. But Thirtysomething is threatening to turn into the Golden Girls out here, people, and all this wind in my face is starting to make my eyes water. I’d better tuck a tissue into the sleeve of my cardigan.

(If you don’t have great aunts, you might not get that last joke.)

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All In A Day

Posted by laura on Mar 02 2010 | Bicycle, Uncategorized

This morning

This afternoon

This morning was more than grey and rainy. This morning was downright surly. The rain sheeted down and gusts slapped at our legs. It wasn’t pretty. This afternoon, the day was all, “I’m so, so sorry! I just – I don’t know what got into me. Honest, I didn’t mean it – here, I made this bright sparkly for you.” And just like that, we forgave it, like it won’t do the same thing again tomorrow. We’re such suckers sometimes.

My bike had a new first today – check it out!

As I rolled away from school, a dad called out, “Hey, is it legal to have a volcano on your bike?”

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These Days

Posted by laura on Mar 01 2010 | Fun, Making, Ruth Days

It’s been a month of technical delays, but it looks like we’re up and running again. DSL was touch and go for a little while there but it’s all good again.

Everything else has been rolling along nicely, I’m happy to say. We’ve been keeping up our Friday afternoon art days – I always think of them as the Ruth Days, after my neighbor and mentor, Ruth Bowen. She was a brilliant mother, teacher and artist who also relished having people, kids and grownups alike, making art in her home. I wish so much that she could join us; I think she’d really have fun with this gang. I still use her materials though, and try to channel her great optimistic spirit every week. So the Ruthies benefit from all that talent and kindness one way or another.

Still Life Abstracts

For our second session, we kept things pretty open with some still life abstract paintings, touching on negative space, composition and layering. I asked the girls to look at a few basic forms – a teapot, a vase, some scientific glass – and do some sketches of those forms intersecting on the paper. We played with leaving out sections of line, looking for shapes that appealed to us, and I encouraged them to think about the whole page. That is always such a tough thing to do.

Once they came up with sketches they liked, they penciled their compositions onto watercolor paper and drew in some of the lines with crayon to act as a resist for the watercolor. Then it was time to paint. We looked at limited palettes and balancing color across the page.

After working on these paintings for a while, they branched out into all kinds of painting.

I’ve known these kids for years now, but it amazes me how different it is to be working side by side with them. By trying to keep the concept simple – exposure and experience – I think we’re getting into a nice groove.

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