Life's Little Details: Knitting, Sewing, Green Living, Frugal Living and Cooking In A Little Corner of Southern French Countryside.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

So Hard to Say Good-bye

I've been here at this blog for quite a while now. Given the fact that I'm in Europe and not in the same time zone as most Blogger users, I've never really experienced any of the huge problems others run into. Blogger has mostly been good to me. Having said that, it kind of bugs me to advertise for blogger in my site address. So, I decided I'd attach my blog to my husband's wine site instead. I'd much rather advertise for him. It took me a while to get the site the way I like it (and, it'll surely need some adjustments here and there). It's now up and running, though, and I'll stop posting here. This site will remain up for access to old posts and things, but I will post everything new over there. So, update your subscriptions or your bookmarks or whatever. I'd love to see you over at the new site.

I'm moving to...

Come on over and say hello.

Monday, June 25, 2007


I tend to look pretty much everything up on the internet. I can't even tell you how many things I look up per week just out of curiosity. Last night, I was researching something or other and stumbled across an interesting idea for any parent to keep in mind. The article I was reading mentioned that people tend to recall events that are unique and/or infrequent occurrences in their lives (I believe the context was that because of this fact, it's not the expense that matters but the uniqueness when planning special outings).

I frequently wonder what memories my children will look back upon with special fondness. After reading that article last night, I think I might have a better clue. Thinking back on my own life, I do realize that nostalgia is a very funny thing. I may not have tons of vivid memories from early childhood, but those that I do have are in fact quite unique. One of my favorites involves my mom ironing while watching Hawaii 5-0 (which, I feel like she did often, but maybe it was actually a one time thing). While she ironed away, I sat in an inflatable yellow plastic raft (that we had apparently just bought and had blown up to test) eating a bowl of vanilla ice cream with chocolate sprinkled over the top. Given the fact that this all took place in our livingroom, it doesn't get much more unusual that that.

As a parent, I want memories like that one for my own kids. Of course, I can't select what they will recall later on in life, but as a stay-at-home mom, I can do my best to fill their young lives with potentially great memories. This is actually the number one reason I chose not to work especially while they're little. And, armed with this new information, maybe I can do a little better at choosing fun/unique activities that they will remember for years to come.

Activities like the pizza making from a few nights ago. Daddy was out of town, and if I know how to do anything, it's bread baking. I don't often make pizza, though they do love it. The other night, I had the appropriate ingredients and offered to let them make their own. They jumped at the chance to dig into the dough. They made the entire pizza dough from scratch themselves. The only thing I did was measure the ingredients and show them the proper way to knead. They had a ball (of dough! hee hee!) and were so proud to learn how delicious their very own homemade pizzas could turn out (and, they were perfect). Just take a look at how yummy they were...

Oh, and in case anyone would like to know...

The recipe for their mini-pizzas was pretty simple. I gave them each a cup of flour, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp yeast. They mixed that with a fork and then we started adding warm water. Once the mixture was a little moist, we added about 1 tbsp of olive oil. Then, we continued adding water till the dough was workable but not too wet. When it was a tiny bit sticky we just added a bit more flour to help get the kneading going. They kneaded for quite a while (adding more flour when necessary). This kept them both busy while I breastfed/got the baby down for a nap. When they were done, we let it rise for a while and then rolled it out and added the toppings.

You might notice there is no tomato sauce on this pizza. It was really good that way. It does have tomatoes, but I didn't just chop them up and toss them on there. I used to do that but found that the dough gets soggy in places when the tomato juices are released in cooking. This time, I chopped the tomatoes into chucks (slices would work too) and sprinkled salt over them. I let them sit for about 1/2 an hour in a collander placed over the sink (or a bowl to collect the juice if you want to use it for something else). This got just the right consistency for the pizza. So tasty, and they weren't sautéed in oil, so they'd definitely be lower fat (and, did I mention this was really easy?).

Still in keeping with the feel of nostalgia we've got going here... I made an apron. It took me forever to get it done. I used a man's button-down I got at the thrift shop for a euro in January. It was this shirt originally. I chopped it up to make it into this halter top apron. I can't get away with halter dresses, which are kind of sexy (but picture your grandma without a bra and that's what it'd be like on me), but I can do a halter apron. I love the look of this apron. It feels so very retro and kitcheny to me. I'm going to love it.

And, one last thought on nostalgia before I go. You might have noticed that I tend to take lots of pictures of my kids. You actually only see a small portion of those that I take. I try to select the best so that my family overseas can share the happy bits of our lives here. I took one photography course at the age of 19 (we won't get into how very long ago that was), and I didn't learn as much as I should have. I've got some of the basics down, but I recently stumbled across the text book I had for that class (which I'm almost certain I never actually read). I pulled it out and have begun to study it. I live in one of the most beautiful places on earth (I'm fully aware this is relative) surrounded by four of the most beautiful people on earth (Nope, this is not relative - it's just a fact). They are the ideal inspiration and subject matter for picture taking and have inspired me to improve my photography skills.

What I would really love is to be able to actually take pictures for a living. To get paid for doing something I find that fun would be amazing. For now, I just have a tourist digital camera. It is at least capable of being set on "manual" so that I can control all of its different functions, but I can't change it's lenses or anything fancy like that. I can't afford to go out and buy my dream camera, though, so I've decided to work on my framing and composition until the time that I will be able to afford a new one. Today, Lambchop #3 and I played around with some soft back lighting by putting a sheet over our heads. She found this to be great fun, but it might have been a little hard to snap the shot before she pulled the sheet off (I may or may not have erased more shots than I kept, which is the real beauty of digital cameras). I don't think our efforts were in vain, though (Mom and Aunt Dis and Uncle B, let me know if you'd like these sent via email so they're more printable)...

She's a keeper. That much is for sure.

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Punk Rock Preschooler

Apparently, we're back to the stage of needing to make sure we're noticed. We've started decorating things we shouldn't with permanent markers again. **SIGH** Thank goodness he's cute...

This is his Marilyn Manson imitation.
As long as he doesn't start putting on fake boobs and red contact lenses (clicking here is not for the faint of heart), I'm okay with this.

This is what I see when I look up from my bed. It's the ceiling over the loft area we sleep in, which stretches over above the kitchen as well. I find it pretty. It's especially cool lit up only by moonlight or the blue light that my computer speakers emit when they're on.

It also makes a pretty cool background for portrait taking, I think...

And, one last little thing that isn't at all related to children or my house...

I died (yep, killed it dead - woops, I meant dyed) some wool the other day. I wanted to try out dyeing fabric with natural dyes. This was done with hibiscus flowers, which, according to the book I used, should have given the yarn a light mauve or pink color. Hmmm. Okay. Perhaps we should try again some other time. I'm sure that part of the problem is the fact that I needed 100g of petals for every 100g of yarn. I only had 75g of flowers, but decided to try it out and see what happened. This is also just some very cheap Knit Picks dye-your-own laceweight merino, which doesn't absorb colors as well as better quality yarns (as far as I've heard).

It started out looking like the yarn I'm using for this long lost baby shawl - just natural. Then, I threw it in the dye pot, which looked like this...

which led me to believe it would turn out a lot more pink than this...

I even let the mix sit for several days, hoping it would absorb a lot more color. I don't know why it didn't. Obviously, I'm no expert on the matter, but there was a lot of color left in the liquid when I strained it a couple of days later. I'm not sure how much is supposed to be left. I imagine the liquid wouldn't be clear in the end, but I was hoping for a bit of pink on the yarn. It's current color reminds me of Knit Picks' fawn colorway, even if it's possibly a bit lighter. It definitely took some color - just not the one I was expecting. Either way, I do kind of like the color it has. It's very antique looking, and it would make a lovely shawl, I would think. That or a lacey sweater, maybe. I'll have to think about that for a while.

Before I start in on that, I guess that baby shawl does deserve a little attention. But, before I do that, I'd like to sneak downstairs and attempt to finally finish the apron I've been working on in bits and pieces for the last week. It's taken entirely too long, because of other obligations and little set-backs like children needing my attention or lengthy hours of kitchen duty after making pizzas (from scratch) with the kids - more on that tomorrow, perhaps (because, like a good daughter to a grandmother far from her grandkids, I took pictures).

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Friday, June 22, 2007

I Wish I Had One

They say you always give people gifts you wish you owned. I kind of pride myself on trying to give thoughtful gifts that are something the recipient would love to have. This time, though, I'd kind of like to keep it for myself...

Yesterday my husband mentioned that tomorrow is my mother-in-law's birthday. Normally, they don't make a big fuss about that kind of thing in his family. This time, though, since both my husband and his mother are leaving early tomorrow morning for a short business trip (he happened to be able to hitch a ride with her), she's staying the night at our place. I feel a bit funny about seeing someone on their birthday and practically ignoring it. So, I threw an easy apricot pie in the oven while our bread was baking. Then, it occurred to me that I could pretty easily make something I know she has been wanting out of some fabric I'm certain she would like.

I know all this, because the fabric is some beautiful batik (cotton or maybe linen) that she bought back in the 70's when my husband's family was living in Africa (he has fond memories of jumping from one dried elephant patty to the next). The last time I saw her, she gave it to me, happy to know it would finally be put to good use. She had seen how much I have been sewing lately and decided that I should have it. It was a spur-of-the-moment kindness, and I really wanted to make her something out of it, since she had said she had originally wanted to make something with it but never ended up doing so (she doesn't really sew much).

She may not be a seamstress, but she's an excellent knitter who always has something on her needles. She tends to stick to kids' sweaters for all her many grandchildren, but she still has amassed an amazing collection of various needles (big and small). She tends to jam them all into a glass jar (which we've probably all heard isn't great for their tips). What she really needed was a handy cloth needle case. So, I sat down and made one for her today. It got in the way of me finishing an apron I'm making for myself, but it's a sacrifice I was willing to make. Oh, woe is me, I was forced to use that nice, old sewing machine of mine (whose brand is Luxor, by the way - it's French made and dates from at least the early 50's, I'd say by the date on the needles that were in the box). Not to mention this batik fabric. So pretty, and I happened to have a pink corduroy that matched it perfectly (My husband seems to think that given the size of my fabric stash, this really isn't much of a coincidence, but he knows nothing when it comes to real fabric stashes - mine is meager, I assure you.).

The lining is the batik (from Kenya, since I forgot to mention it earlier) and the outside is the corduroy I had leftover from some pants for Lambchop #1 that didn't turn out all that well. I also had the idea that it would be pretty to add a patch of the batik (because I love it so much) to the outside as well as making the ties with it. The only problem with that is that in order for it to show nicely, it had to be placed where I needed to also sew lines for the needles to have little pockets. So, that part is not quite as nice as I had hoped, but she really liked it and was happy to receive such a practical gift (now I see where her son gets it). She isn't one for keeping many objects around, which explains why buying birthday gifts isn't a big thing in this family. But if the object in question has a really good purpose, she's happy to receive it, so I chose well.

Now that I take another look at the pictures of that patch of batik on the outside of it, I don't think it's that bad. You would never have it laying open like that, and it looks very nice rolled up with its patch. You don't see the lines I had to sew all that much.

And, now, just because my mom is having yet another of those days at the office, I'll give you a couple of baby pictures. This little one is a live wire, let me tell you. The other two walked at a pretty early age, so it doesn't surprise me to see her wanting to get around now. She's 9-and-a-half months, and for the past few weeks she's been able to make her way around the rooms of our house a little too well. She loves to pull herself up into a standing position now. Even though she can't walk yet, that doesn't seem to phase her. She's perfectly comfortable climbing things anyway. Yeah, you read right. Climbing things. Like stairs or my sewing box. You know, just whatever might help her get higher. Have to keep an eye on this girl.

Like a caged animal. "Somebody please let me out of here!"

"Better yet, my feet are little. Maybe I could learn to climb this thing."

It is hard work, though. She's just beside herself with... fatigue?

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

A Thing of Beauty

I think it was about five years ago that I got a sewing machine for my birthday. At the time, I really wanted to make curtains for the temporary house we were living in. The machine is a white plastic no-name brand with a variety of stitches available. I have enjoyed using it for years, even if, aside from the one that covered the open area under the kitchen sink, the curtains never got made.

Five years have passed, and here we are in our new house, finally (that temporary home turned into the most permanent home I've ever known), and I find myself sewing curtains again. I've still got that same sewing machine. It runs well, but it could probably use a little TLC that I don't fully know how to give. Not long after I bought it, the instruction manual disappeared somewhere in the house. I figure I'll find it in a box some day. Until then, I'm always a little nervous my machine needs some oiling in places I'm not familiar with.

Luckily for me, I have a back-up machine. It's a complete fluke that I even have it. The year I got a machine for my birthday, my sister-in-law also bought me one for Christmas (a lack of communication, I suppose). There are many people in my husband's family, so we tend to draw names for the adults. One person to shop for usually means one very nice gift. That year, my sister-in-law really outdid herself. She bought one of the most lovely sewing machines I have ever laid eyes on. Thing is, though, I have never actually used it. It's only able to straight sew, and I kind of like my bells and whistles. Plus, the weight of all that metal made it a chore to lug it out of its hiding place.

I'm not sure what prompted it, but I decided to give the old girl (or is it a guy?) a go today. I spent some time fiddling with it and its manual in order to familiarize myself with it. Imagine my surprise when I found a funny little extra foot in the box. I had no clue of its use, so I whipped out my trusty sewing handbook. As it turns out, I am the proud owner of a narrow hemming foot or rolled hemmer, which is a handy-dandy thing to own. It folds and sews narrow hems all in one step without too much effort from me (If you look at the picture below, you'll notice it even works on some pretty badly frayed edges - I had done some zigzagging close to the edge a while back, but didn't even trim, and it made a much nicer edge after the hemming. I'm not being too particular with this hem, because it's just curtains for under the bathroom sink.). No more burning my hands on the iron trying to press out those narrow seams. This is a happy day, indeed.

The machine itself is so beautiful, I decided to take several pictures to show it off. Somehow in all the visits my mom has made to my house, I never managed to pull this beauty out to show it to her. Now, she'll finally see it over the net. I can't even tell you what brand it is. There's no brand on the manual and the only brand on the entire machine is on the motor, which isn't necessarily the same brand as the machine itself. Doesn't matter. I've fallen in love. It hums pleasantly while it sews. And, it sews quickly and smoothly. Despite its age, I suspect that it will outlast my other, more modern machine by far.

Look at that green! Isn't that a wonderful color? They just don't make things like they used to. I feel like I'm traveling back in time (though I still get to use my computer to tell you about it) every time I sit down in front of this machine. It's just a thing of beauty.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Here's To Brighter Days

In France, kids don't go to school on Wednesdays. They are often forced to go on Saturday morning to make up for it, but they get a free day in the middle of the week. It's a remnant of the days when schools became secular and the Catholic church apparently negotiated Wednesdays for learning about God and the church (do they capitalize "The Church"?). Anyway, France isn't really much of a religious country these days, and I guess anyone so inclined could just send their kids to parochial school. So, most kids do sports or other extra curricular activities on Wednesdays. Lambchop #1 will probably start dance next year or something. Until then, though, I have to figure out what to do with the kids every Wednesday so they don't destroy the house.

Since the weather got nice, I've been driving them over to the beach every Wednesday (okay, since last week, but I plan to keep doing it) and Saturday. I've decided it's a really good way to kill several hours, since it's only a 20-25 minute drive from here (nothing is less than 10 minutes, so that's pretty close). I'm considering spending most of our summer mornings there, too. That way they won't be too bored. They seem to wreck the house when they get too imaginative. I don't want to stifle their creativity, but when they build "a house" - watch out. Today the water was particularly wonderful. We just waded in a little, since I've got all three of them to watch, but it sure felt great, and the kids love playing in the sand and water.

Knowing I'm not at a size I plan to stay at, I haven't bought myself a bathing suit in years. I'm kind of figuring I could just make myself one when I get to the size I want to be at. Until then, I have an ugly suit I bought in between Lambchop #1 and Lambchop #2. It was the only thing in the entire store that fit my chest size (always a problem here in France). I have another one, too, but it was a maternity horror show (again, the only thing in the store that fit my chest - though it was in the US). It's blue and white gingham, which I could live with, but the top was like a skirt/dress thing. Not a pretty sight unless your under 4 years old, and in a place where women frequently go topless, it looks a bit absurd. Seemed like a waste to just throw it away, though, because even if I took it to the charity shop, no one would want it. So, I modified it to fit me now. It worked pretty well, and is very comfy since it has a bit of a boob shelf (unlike the one I bought here), which I really do need. I'll try to get a picture of it sometime to show you what I did.

Until then, I'll have to just show off our sleeping beauty. I decided to take a few shots in Sepia mode today. I guess I was feeling a little whimsical or something. The real reason I took this picture, though, is that my mom sounded like she was having a rough time at work these days, so I figured she could use a little pick-me-up (you know, since coming into work drunk off margaritas is probably frowned upon). Hope this brightens your day, Mom.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Another Sewing Frenzy

I seem to do things in spurts. One day, I'll wake up in the mood to have a clean house, so I'll clean like mad for a while. Another day, I'll really want to sew, so I'll do that for several days. It's been a while since I've really knit. Maybe it's the warm weather. Or, maybe it's the fact that my favorite recipient (me) is at an awkward size and doesn't intend to stay there. It's also at least partially due to the fact that all of my current knitting projects are at stages where any progress on them would involve actual thinking on my part. Apparently, I'm just not in the mood for that. So, I've been sewing instead. I've got a nice pile of projects that need my attention, so the sewing machine will keep me busy for a little while. None of these projects really entails much thinking, either, so I'm free to let my mind wander a bit while I work on them... wander toward possible knitting projects, perhaps... a knitting project involving some naturally dyed lace weight merino, perhaps (more on that soon).

For now, let's concentrate on the sewing. I did a little mending on the split crotch of some pants. Is my husband really that well-endowed? Impressive. Either that, or he needs to stop lifting his leg on stuff (oh, wait, that would be the dog I left behind with my parents when I moved to France - he now wears a diaper around the house... anyway, back to the sewing).

I also converted a homemade tank top into a dress (before shot is at the right, after is modeled by our sweetie). The fabric was a very small amount of those leftover cuts they often sell at the fabric store. So, it was really cheap, though I don't recall how much I paid for it. I really liked the stripes, so I made a little Burda pattern tank out of it (can't remember the pattern number) for Lambchop #1 a while back. It never did get much use, though, because if it's not pink or purple... I wasn't sure what I should do with it, but I've apparently gotten my husband into the habit of thinking about refashioning clothes, because he suggested a dress for Lambchop #3. Perfect idea. The color suits her well, and she's not going to complain that it's not pink.

I just did a little shirring around the collar to make it more her size and then did some around the chest, as well. After that, I added some rickrack around the bottom hem (something I'm still not so great at). It took me about 30 minutes in all, and I think it turned out well, though I'm considering adding a little more shirring on the back. It's a bit puffy back there, and I haven't decided if I like that yet. It's 100% cotton, and not particularly thick fabric, so it'll be a great summer dress for her.

The other sewing project I finished since my bag yesterday was the coin purse to match it. I whipped that one out pretty quickly before dinner. I decided I definitely didn't feel like waiting around till I had the time to go buy a zipper. I made a drawstring bag, instead. I really like it, and the construction of it was extremely simple.

I used the same fabrics for the lining and the outside as I had used for the purse itself, so everything matches. That's a first for me. It's kind of fun. The little coin purse fits nicely into the purse, and it's large enough for a few bills as well as some coins.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

I Have Needs

Sometimes a girl just needs a new purse (or handbag, if you prefer). You know what I mean. I'm really picky about purses, though, so I don't even remember the last time I bought one. I hate thinking I got really suckered, and that's what I always think when I see the price of purses. They're never exactly what I want them to be, and they're too expensive. And, since I'm trying to make all the clothes and other goodies for the family, I figured I'd give designing my own purse a shot.

There are several reasons I decided to do this now. First, there's just no better time than the present, right? Then, there's the fact that I've misplaced the checkbook and my credit card holder several times lately. That's generally a bad thing. This fact makes the present a really, really good time to have a new purse. I actually haven't bought one in years. The last couple I had were hand-me-downs from my mom. She likes her purses. We don't have identical tastes, though. She prefers them larger than I do. I'd be perfectly happy with something that would fit in my front pocket, if that were possible. I think my favorite purse ever was a coin purse shaped like a backpack that had a key chain on it (Scooby Doo on the front, too). The backpack was the perfect size for my credit card, driver's license, some change and a few bills. There was even a little hook/clasp thing on it that allowed me to attach it to belt buckle if I wanted. It was ideal for the student lifestyle I had at the time.

Then children came. I haven't had a purse I loved since. I've got plenty of bags. They're all great for knitting projects, but my other necessities tend to get lost in the yarn and needles. What I really needed was a smallish purse with compartments and pockets to keep things organized. So, that's what I made. It's like a mini-messenger bag. I can just sling it over my shoulder or I can hold it like a messenger bag is usually held. It holds everything I need on an everyday basis, and it's just my size. Why didn't it occur to me before to make my own purse?

It's made of mauve corduroy that was leftover from a bag I made for a friend. The inner lining is some fabric that my mother and great aunt gave me recently. I'm pretty sure my great aunt must of gotten it from a garage sale. That, or it's some leftover fabric from a quilt my mother made. Either way, it was free to me, and the ideal match for the corduroy.

Every other bag I've ever made had very few embellishments and maybe one pocket. This one has two on the outside (front and back), two inner compartments and four little interior pockets (two of which have elastic on the top to hold their contents in a bit). I also had some fun trying out some new techniques. I've never really done any stripes on a bag before, though I do like the look. So, I cut some strips of the lining fabric and made a little design on the back pocket. I also sewed some pin tucks on the front pocket before sewing it to its lining. They aren't perfect, but I think it's a fun look, and it's definitely something I'd like to try again on a garment some time.

I've worked on it bit by bit over the past week, since I've had very little time to myself. I hadn't gotten much done till today. When we got the kids off to school, I put the baby to sleep and got to work. It took me many more hours than I suspected it would (what with all the pockets and embellishments), so maybe it makes a little more sense that purses can be pricey. I probably spent about 5-6 hours on the sewing and ironing of all the little pieces. The planning and cutting stage was significantly shorter.

So far, I'd have to say I like it. It fits a packet of Kleenex, my credit card holder, a checkbook, a diaper and some cotton wipies with extra room for other possibilities. There's even leftover fabric to make a coin purse. I thought I'd need a zipper to make it, but I'm now toying with the idea of using elastic or a drawstring so I can avoid a trip to the fabric store. We'll see how that turns out.

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Shopping, Anyone?

Look what I found at the local farmer's market. Looks to be quite ripe, too. I'm thinking it'll need a good rinsing (may have to throw in a little soap for good measure), but I'm quite certain once cleaned up, it'll be very sweet.

This will be a post formulated of lots of odds and ends from our week. I haven't had much time to blog, because my husband has been sick with some throat virus that has had him in bed since Tuesday. He's just starting to bounce back, but he's pretty tired. Taking care of the kids, as well as him has kept me on my toes.

There is one positive aspect to it, though. I think I've learned the key to marital bliss (or at least satisfaction). No, I don't recommend poisoning your spouse so that they're constantly sick in bed (How cruel do you think I am?). His being in bed all week and unable to help out is what has helped me to learn this. So, are you ready? Get out your pens and paper to jot this down...

The key to marital bliss is to act like your not actually married. Don't actually depend on your partner for things. Please don't take that the wrong way. I don't mean it to sound cynical. What I mean is that in the last week, I've done every chore around the house without complaint, because I knew he wasn't up for any of it. In most families, there is some kind of division of labor (she does the laundry, he takes out the trash - or whatever). It's the same in our family. There are certain chores I kind of expect him to do. The problem is he's really busy running his own business. I'm pretty busy taking care of the kids, too, but I don't have special expectations for the things I want me to do for me. If some chore of his doesn't get accomplished for a while, I have to start nagging, and then I get irritated. If it goes on long enough, you know I'll get resentful. If you remove the expectations, though, there's not much chance you'll get resentful. And, my guess is if you're married to a decent person, and you're not asking much of them around the house, at some point, they're bound to help you on their own. If you're not married to a decent person, well, that's a whole other problem you may want a therapist for.

Then, there's another way to understand this idea (pretending you're not married, I mean). This could be taken to mean you should pretend you're dating. Most people would agree it's an exciting time they'd like to get back from time to time. I'd have to agreed I like to think back on those days. They were nice. He always seems pretty hot to me, but he seems quite a bit hotter when I've sat for a while thinking about the good ole days.

Another little side effect of this pretending I'm not married (actually acting like a single mommy much of the time) is that I run a tighter ship but without the exasperation that often comes with a day when I've been longing for him to take over my job in the evening. The kids get fed earlier, which means there's actually time for a puzzle and a story before bed. And, they're even clean, because I found time to slip in a bath. I'll admit I get a little less time for myself, but I somehow get that worked into my day most of the time, too. I'm going to try to continue and see if this pretending I'm sort of single has more benefits to it (don't worry, I have no intentions of cruising the local bars for some action). I've already noticed that it seems to make him much more likely to help me when I ask. I got some help with housecleaning a bit yesterday, and this afternoon, he happily hung some clothes on the line when I gave him the choice of either doing that or taking over the iChat with my parents and the kids for a few minutes (Hmmm, you don't think there's some other reason he'd prefer to hang clothes instead of talking to his in-laws, do you???).

Okay, enough of the self-help chatter. What else is there going on around here? Well, I'm making a purse. It's a bit slow, because it'll have lots of pockets and features that I've never made in a bag. I'm hoping it'll turn into the ideal purse for me. So, there's a lot of planning going into it. I'll post pictures once there is something interesting to look at.

We've also spent lots of time at the beach this week. There's a nice one only 20 minutes from our house (considering it takes us 10 minutes to get to school, that's pretty close). I've taken the big kids there twice this week in the mornings when they didn't have school. They can be pretty loud, and that's not really what you're after when you've got a splitting virus-induced headache and can think of nothing better than a nap. So, I shoved them out the door and onto the sand so Daddy could take a nap with the baby. I suspect we'll be doing much more of this once school lets out for the summer. It's a great way to keep them busy for part of the day, not to mention an apparently wonderful way to meet the parents of their friends. Both times we went this week, we bumped into kids from Lambchop #2's class. They were each with their daddies, and it was really nice to get to meet the fathers of my boy's friends. Today was actually a real treat, because one of Lambchop #2's favorite people was there, and the kids had a blast while I got to learn a bit about the girl's family. Maybe, if we're lucky we'll be seeing some of Lambchop #1's friends too someday.

This is getting a bit lengthy, which should come as no real surprise to you if you've read this blog for any amount of time, but I'll try to stop for now. I'll leave you with this image...

The baby bed mysteriously never made it over from the old house. I've not had any complaints about it, because I don't really mind sleeping with babies and neither does my husband. I'm thinking it's nearing time to make it happen, though, because this awaited me the other night. Don't you think it looks suspiciously like she's actually trying to take up the entire bed? Not sure about that? Take a closer look...

... at the clearly triumphant fist raising action. She obviously thinks she's won some kind of battle here. Is it time to teach her a lesson by sticking her in her own bed... with bars and all?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A Horrible End


I've recently been finding large ants in our bed. I only come across one at a time, so I never know where they're coming from. I usually just squash them when I feel them crawling on my skin at night. Not fun, but what else can I do? There's at least some amount of justice in this world, though.

One of them met a very gruesome end this morning. It apparently crawled into the baby's nose, got tangled in snot and could not escape. It must have been ugly, so where's my sympathy? Ask me that again the next time you're awakened by a car-sized black ant nibbling on your knee. Besides, it most likely bit my sweet, angelic sleeping baby, so it surely deserved what it got, right?

On a lighter note... or maybe not. I'm not sure. On a different note at least...

I've figured out why kids' songs really aren't for Mommy and Daddy. You might think it's just because they're irritating and repetitive, but it's the content we should avoid thinking to hard on. Take this one as an example:

This old man, he played one
He played knick-knack on my thumb [some versions use "drum"]
With a knick-knack paddywhack, give a dog a bone
This old man came rolling home

This old man, he played two
He played knick-knack on my shoe
With a knick-knack paddywhack, give a dog a bone
This old man came rolling home

This old man, he played three
He played knick-knack on my knee
With a knick-knack paddywhack, give a dog a bone
This old man came rolling home

This old man, he played four
He played knick-knack on my door
With a knick-knack paddywhack, give a dog a bone
This old man came rolling home

This old man, he played five
He played knick-knack on my hive
With a knick-knack paddywhack, give a dog a bone This old man came rolling home

This old man, he played six
He played knick-knack on my sticks
With a knick-knack paddywhack, give a dog a bone
This old man came rolling home

This old man, he played seven
He played knick-knack up in heaven
With a knick-knack paddywhack, give a dog a bone
This old man came rolling home

This old man, he played eight
He played knick-knack on my gate
With a knick-knack paddywhack, give a dog a bone
This old man came rolling home

This old man, he played nine
He played knick-knack on my spine [some versions use "line" here]
With a knick-knack paddywhack, give a dog a bone
This old man came rolling home

This old man, he played ten
He played knick-knack once ag'n [some versions use "on my hen" here]
With a knick-knack paddywhack, give a dog a bone
This old man came rolling home
We all know it well, but have we ever really analyzed its lyrics? I sing it to my kids all the time, but yesterday, I saw it for what it really is for the very time ever. And, I was disturbed. Yeah, take a look at it a second time....

Who is this perverted old man, anyway? I'm not sure what knick-knack paddywhacking is, but it sounds suspicious to me. The old perv starts out innocently enough with doing his paddywhacking on my thumb and my shoe, but he soon works his way up to my knee. The old dog - we all know what a bone is. And, then you just can't get rid of the geezer. He starts stalking me. He's at the door. The gate. He's even worked his way up to my spine. Apparently, though, by the count of seven somebody's getting a bit fed up and tries to knock him off (though, I'd doubt with his behavior that he's heading off to heaven). It didn't really seem to work all that well, though, because by the count of ten, he's back at it again.

And, we're singing this too our kids. Between that and Hansel and Gretel, it's amazing they're not all in therapy by the age of 6.

Catchy tune, though, don't you think?

Anyone just completely unsettled by my mind's random wanderings? What can I say? I spend hours upon hours with kids' music and tv in the background. A mom's got to have a little fun. Anyway, I blame my parents. This kind of humor runs in the family - a family where the game of pool (where technical words like "stroke," "balls" and "stick" are said with a straight face) is really popular.

Oh, and for those who are concerned about the state of my house... I made some real progress on the baker's rack. It got mostly emptied (though much more organized piles of things still awaiting a home can be found on two shelves), and two of the shelves now have nice arrangements of pots and pans on them. Maybe we should make a little challenge for ourselves to post pictures of our worst clutter spots and vow to clean them up and then post the after shots. A little support group for those who tend to bury their heads in their knitting so as not to see the mess around them? Anybody with me on that one? I know it might take away from your knitting time for a while, but it'll be worth it if you can find those extra yarn balls hiding under a pile of old newspapers.

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Saturday, June 09, 2007

Banging Your Head Against A Wall

This evening, I found two bumble bees smacking their little heads and their probiscus (is probisci the plural there?) against a metal pole. There was apparently an odor that attracted them to it, but I don't know if they were able to get any of that lovely iron nectar they were after. It was pretty funny to me, so I took a little picture of one. Plus, they're unlike any bumble bees I've ever seen in the US, so I figured I'd show them off for my American readers (some day, I'll get a nice shot of the huge all black bees they have here - fascinating). After taking pictures of them, I realized how appropriate it was for my current mood. I feel a little like I'm banging my head against a metal pole, too. Here's why...

Having the duty of taking care of laundry and dishes and other miscellaneous messes for five is a daunting task. They work so much faster than I do. First, they outnumber me by far. And, then, they are so efficient at what they do. It can take me days to thoroughly clean a room, yet during the time it takes me to take an afternoon nap, they can not only undo all my hard work, but they can also rearrange the furniture and other things they hadn't thought to do before I cleaned. It's quite impressive, really, and if I weren't so busy trying to pick up after them, I'd been in awe of their talent. They're just that good.

The kitchen is the room I would most like to get under control (or at least some semblance of control). Like in many households, our kitchen somehow ends up being the command center of the house. There is so much more than eating and cooking going on in this room. They color at the table, even though they have a desk in their playroom. They play on the floor there sometimes. And, we can't forget that the kitchen is often turned into my sewing room while a cake or a loaf of bread bakes in the oven. Naturally, every time someone does a non-food related task in the kitchen, bits and pieces of their project (my sewing included) seem to find a semi-permanent home there. It's frustrating, and I never even come close to fully controlling this room. I think the thing I have the most difficulty with is the fact that (through no fault of the kids), every horizontal surface in the room becomes a junk space. We don't have a junk drawer, and since my husband still hasn't gotten around to making the majority of the closets and shelves that should be in our new house, I'm left with few storage options.

Tonight before dinner, I had a very strong desire to clean the kitchen from top to bottom. After dinner, I scanned the room to take stock. That's when I became paralyzed by a sense of being overwhelmed by the mess and all motivation drained from my body in a matter of seconds. Well, that's not really true. I still have a strong desire - a need really - to clean that room. I just don't know where to start. I always have trouble putting my blinders on and zeroing in on one section of the room at a time. Then, there's the very real issue that most of the things I see lying around don't have a real home of their own. So, I stand there aimlessly shifting objects from one pile to the next. Needless to say, none of this helps either my mood or the general appearance of the house.

I'm a little down now after wanting to dive in and get something done but spending too long standing around lost in my own home. And, when faced with this sort of problem what do all bloggers do to tackle it? Why, we blog, of course. I don't tend to talk much about this part of my life. It's a little too depressing, and I'd rather show off the kids and my sewing or knitting projects. Call it denial. I don't care. You'd most likely be right. After all, staring into this 14 or so inch box as I type these words certainly prevents me from looking around the room at the chaos around me.

Now, I generally choose not to be 100% honest about this part of my life. Well, I don't really lie. I just conveniently omit it when I blog. Some of you recently were amazed at all the sewing I seem to get done. It's largely due to the fact that I can ignore messes much like the one pictured here when my nose is buried in a bunch of fabric. This is a satisfactory solution as long as I continue to sew (hence the amazing productivity). Again some may refer to this behavior as denial, but I prefer to call it attention displacement. Sounds fancier that way.

It may seem a bit perverse or silly for me to snap a picture of this mess and post it on the internet (my mom is surely hanging her head in shame at the sight of it). My reasons are valid, though. First, I figure I'm not the only one out there with some section of their home that looks this way. It can only be comforting to those people to know they are not alone. Second, if I post a picture and claim I'm going to clean this mess up, I just might stick to it and show you the finished picture, where my lovely pots and pans might find a neat and tidy home here on the rack they used to love back before I had kids and a husband. And, third, I think taking a picture could help me to better focus on just this small area long enough to clean it without feeling overwhelmed. Just looking at it here as I write this post, I see a few items whose homes would be easy enough to find. I could clear them pretty easily. Standing in the kitchen looking at this rack, I was too shocked by the mess in its entirety to see the individual parts that could easily be dealt with. I just might have found a new decluttering method here. My camera's lens isn't wide enough to take everything in, and I just might be able to deal with the small sections of the chaos it presents me with.

Okay, I've talked myself into. The kids are in bed, and the men (husband and father-in-law) are engrossed in a rugby match on tv (I might even get them each a beer to nurse while I work, so I can feel all 1950's this evening), so I think I'll get to work. Before I go, I'll give you some happy thoughts to tide you over. Look at these clowns. This is why I still love them despite the messes they leave me to deal with.

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Friday, June 08, 2007

Yeah, Shir

I haven't had much time to write any blog posts in the past few days, but I can happily say that the little bag I made for the birthday party on Wednesday went over well. Lambchop #2 embarrassed his mommy a tiny bit, though. My intention was not to make it known that the gift was homemade. I'm proud of making things for my family, but sometimes, people don't appreciate handmade gifts the way they should. He was proud, though, and the second the little girl opened it, he blurted out, "And, and, and, my mommy made it, too!" Nobody heard him the first time, so he was forced to say it louder for everyone to really know how happy he was about it. Very sweet, and I do hope they all continue to be proud when mommy makes them things (though, I have a sneaking suspicion the pride will turn to shame some day at least while they're going through their teen years - we'll see). And, the ladies in the room actually seemed pleased and impressed by a handmade gift, so the world is not lost after all.

Oh, and I learned something about my son while at the party. He appears to have some success with the little ladies. There were mostly girls at the party (Lili-Rose, Lola, Lili and Lila - if you can believe that) with a couple of boys. When we arrived, the boys were in one room playing with boy stuff and the girls were in another playing a game we have here at home that Lambchop #2 loves. He went right in and sat down to play with the girls. They seemed quite happy with his presence. I had already noticed that he gets the Beatles treatment when he arrives at school, with the girls smiling and screaming his name (no fainting, though). The birthday party pretty much confirmed it for me. He's a lady's man. I guess it pays to have two sisters at home.

Though the blog has been silent the past few days, I have been keeping myself busy. I did a little remake of a piece of clothing I've had for over 10 years. It was one of those crinkle skirts that were so popular in the 90's. I've always loved the fabric, but the elastic on the skirt was never very forgiving, and though it fit without me sucking my stomach in, it always gave me a stomach ache some how. Needless to say, it never got much wear. This week, I decided to give it a new life.

I have been fascinated by the idea of shirring for quite some time, but I hadn't found the appropriate project to try it out for myself. Then, a post over at Wardrobe Refashion got me thinking it'd be the perfect way to change this skirt into a shirt to wear this summer. I like the end result, but the best thing about shirring is that as my body shrinks a little here and there (I tend to lose weight gradually while breastfeeding till it mostly all melts away), the shirt will continue to fit. It even fits Lambchop #1's tiny chest size because of the elastic used in shirring.

The skirt looked like this in the beginning:

Nothing very special, but I always loved the roses on the fabric. I have never been a very frilly girl. I always tended toward t-shirts and jeans or simple skirts. As it turns out, though, I really do love flowers. I'm realizing this now, because the things I seem to have trouble parting with all have flowers (I've got another flowered skirt like this to mess with later).

I spent about a half and hour detaching the waistband with my seam ripper and got to shirring on the top section. Later, I added the black band around the top and the straps. I needed thick ones, because I'm not one who can go braless even with the elasticity provided by the shirring.

The shirt has gotten mixed reviews around here. Lambchop #1 loves it, mostly likely because it's the kind of thing that is in style these days. The hubbie isn't quite so fond of it, most likely for the same reasons Lambchop #1 loves it. I'm not 100% certain for several reasons. First, it's not my usual style, so it'll take some getting used to. Second, I'm a little afraid the high waist makes me look a little preggers. That's not the look I'm going for after having given birth 9 months ago, but if I suck my gut in to the point that I can no longer breathe, I admit, I look pretty hot. It's just a shame it's not convenient for that whole will to survive thing I've got going these days. I'll shrink into it, and for now, it's very comfy. The last reason I'm not too sure about this shirt is the slip factor. It might have a tendency to slip down a bit in the front, possibly exposing my girlimajigs (Or, should I say "girlimajugs"?). I think it'll be alright. I just need to watch when I bend forward. It's light and airy, though, so it'll be good for summer. and with all the shirring, it doesn't seem nearly as see-through as it did as a skirt.

Here's one last shot of it, taken by Lambchop #1. She's home sick from school and did a little photography for Mommy. Not bad, actually. A little blurry, but at least she didn't make me look fat like Daddy usually does.

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Birthday Bag

Yesterday was Mother's Day here in France, and I had a wonderful one. I was awakened at 7:30 am by a very excited Lambchop #1 bearing gifts. She had been hiding them all week long and couldn't hold her secret in any longer. Lambchop #2 followed soon after with an offering of his own. Very sweet. I loved the gifts, too. When do kids stop making things for Mommy and Daddy at school? That will be a sad day, I think. Anybody who enjoys crafting as much as I do can certainly appreciate a hand-made gift from their own kids.

Speaking of hand-made gifts, Lambchop #2 was invited to the birthday party of a little girl in his class. I'm not a big fan of buying junky plastic toys for kids that age. They get broken with amazing speed and efficiency, and since the kid in question is female, I figure a little hand-made bag would be better. I let Lambchop #2 raid my fabric stash, and he picked out some blue fabric with stars. My great-aunt gave me this fabric, which she most likely picked up at someone's yard sale. It's cute, and just masculine enough that my boy could get on board with it. That became the inner lining, the straps (which, as my husband pointed out, at their length, only one would have been necessary) and the front pocket. The outside of the bag is a portion of a jean leg. It already had the side seams, which I was happy about. Less work for both me and my machine, who likes to jam up on me when the fabric is very thick like that. All I had to do to the jean part was add an oval bottom to give the bag some roominess and a fun shape.

Since all the fabric was either given to me or taken from something old I no longer use, this was an amazingly cheap project. I'd say it cost me mere cents to make (because of the cost of the thread used to sew it). It's not perfect, since I didn't feel like measuring anything to make it. Lambchop #2 is very proud of it, though, and wanted to take it to school with him this morning to give it to the birthday girl right way (though her party is on Wednesday afternoon). I think we can fill it with candy before then just in case she doesn't find a bag very exciting.

And, this morning I couldn't help but snap a few shots of Lambchop #3 sleeping. I took way more than necessary, but that's the beauty of digital cameras - one is bound to turn out right. Here's the one I liked best (oh, and for you thrift shoppers, this is a thrift shop shirt she's wearing - it was in perfect condition).

Now I'm off to do some actual chores. Our dryer's heating element seems to have given out, so I'm forced to be both more frugal and more environmentally friendly. With a baby, it can be hard to make it out to hang clothes. I need to take advantage of Lambchop #3's nap really fast before she wakes up. Maybe I should consider installing some kind of baby swing in a nearby tree, because I really do enjoy hanging clothes (except when we've got high winds and I have to fight the line to hang them).

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Friday, June 01, 2007

Happy Birthday!

It is now 12:01 am, so that means my husband has just turned... well, a little older. I never did figure out what to make with that elephant, and he told me he doesn't really do the apron thing at wine shows. Why? Would that make him a sissy? Nope, they're just for klutzes, according to him. Oh well. He says I could sew it to the bag he already has. I'm not overly excited about that, though, so I might just wait till inspiration strikes some day.

Soooo, instead of making something for him for his birthday, I finished my blue dress (installed the zipper and did the hem). It took me a while to get the zipper area just right. I should really take a course in zipper installation and blind hem sewing. Those two tasks always take me too long. Anyway, at least it's done, and when the weather decides to allow it, I'll wear it and feel pretty and really attention-getting (because of the color, mostly).

The other picture I'm going to show you is a little modification I did today on an old-lady skirt I got at the thrift shop yesterday (went shopping with Lambchop #1 for a mother-daughter outing - hit the thrift shop and the used bookstore). I paid 1 euro for this skirt. When I showed it to my mother-in-law in its original form, she looked at me like I was nuts. She's a lot closer to being an actual "old lady" than I am, and even she wouldn't consider wearing it. It was just a simple straight skirt several sizes too large for me. I suppose even I should have wondered why on earth I bought it. Perhaps the seersucker got me again. Or, perhaps, I saw the potential to do this to it. It was actually a pretty quick presto-changeo job. I chopped it off just above the knees. Then, I took a decent amount off the sides to make it fit me. Then, I sewed the little pleats in the bottom section and reattached it. After that, I removed the waist band and sized it down before reattaching it. A little ironing job, and it was done. I love it. I also got the shirt I have on with it on another thrift shop expedition. It cost me 1 euro, and I was really excited to see it's a Banana Republic shirt. I've kind of always liked that brand but never could convince myself it was worth the price.

Some other goodies were bought yesterday at the thrift shop, including a Hawaiian shirt to play with and a polka dot shirt I fell in love with, which is odd considering my past hate of polka dots. I'm working on changing my personal style (if you can call t-shirts and jeans that), because I'm tired of feeling frumpy. Before having three kids pop out of me after blowing me up like a balloon, I had a decent enough figure that I still felt feminine wearing t-shirts and jeans. Now, thanks to the jelly roll they left around my mid-section, I need a little help. Skirts and dresses will be a good start.

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