Monday, December 21, 2009

The Naughty and The Nice

A Christmas Riddle:
What is funny the first time, makes you get the camera the second time, and by the thirtieth time makes you want to say "oh please, can't Christmas be over so I can put all this away?"

Answer: A cat climbing the Christmas tree.
Over and over and over...

This poor tree has been through enough as it is. I spent fifteen futile minutes trying to correct its terrible lean (now it just leans the other way), and I am praying it makes it to Christmas. I've already decided to take all the ornaments off right after the big day so if Ollie manages to take out the whole tree while we are gone at least nothing else will break. The worst part is that the more I scold, the more he climbs - Naughty!

Now for the Nice: My darling helper and I baked [some of the] Christmas cookies this afternoon. Amy helped with the whole operation: rolling, cutting, and sprinkling - that was her favorite part. I had to keep a hand on the sprinkle shakers to prevent huge blobs of color on each cookie. But she did a really good job and I'm proud of her for helping!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Zoo Keeping

Juliett would like to tell you about two very big improvements made around here: Nice new white ceramic bowls for the cats' food, to replace the plastic dishes that got chased all over the kitchen and smelled permanently like, well, cat food. Bowls from Target, $0.89 - when I found out the price I went back and bought four more to keep up a nice rotation.

New and improved litter box accommodations: Mega-huge box to replace the two smaller ones, and one giant tray to catch some of the scattered litter. Here's hoping those high sides catch all the, um, overshoots. My goal here: make daily poop-scooping (which I'm not even supposed to be doing right now) take less than the current ten solid minutes of scooping, sweeping, wiping, etc. The tray is from Lowe's; it's meant to go under a washing machine to catch leaks (thanks, Mom, for the idea).

So, I know it's not Christmas-related, but that's what I accomplished today!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Take Two

A picture of our tree, fresh out of the box and ready to be set up, perhaps?

No, try a picture of our tree after it fell over. Twice. I couldn't even blame the cats for this one. We put the tree up and decorated it on Thursday, and on Saturday afternoon while reading to Amy before naptime I heard a very unremarkable clank-thunk. Like the sound of a table-top picture frame being knocked over. I thought for sure it was Mr. Knocks-Off-Everything-That-Weighs-Less-Than-Himself (that would be the small orange one in the foreground), but both he and Juliett were sleeping innocently on the bed at the time.

I had forgotten to look around after Amy went to sleep, and it was only as I scurried downstairs to grab something necessary for the project I was working on upstairs that I realized the tree was down. At first it looked like one of the feet hadn't been in the right position, and therefore popped out of the base. So I pushed the sucker back up and thought I had fixed it. As I'm crawling around straightening the skirt the whole thing falls over again. On top of me.

I just about broke down in tears at this point. I had been working so hard for several days, desperately trying to get up to speed with the whole Christmas-thing (see previous post) and felt that I was finally getting somewhere, and then my Christmas tree gave me the middle finger.

As it turns out, it wasn't the tree's fault, exactly... looks like that stupid plastic foot simply split through the stupid plastic slot where it attaches to the stupid plastic base. That's what I get for only spending $40. And the thing is, until last year I have never been a fake-tree person. But last year we had a freshly minted toddler, minimal extra space, and a holiday season we were going to be away for most of, so it simply made sense to not get a real tree. Add an extra cat and the same is more or less is true for this year (though the toddler has gotten a good deal more trustworthy).

Anyway, I tearfully took off every single ornament (only one broke), unwrapped all the lights, left the tree in pieces on the floor and wondered what to tell Amy who I knew would wake up asking to put candy canes on the tree, as I had just promised her she could.

Thankfully my knight in shining armor came home from work a few hours later, ignored my pleads to just go get a real tree, and promptly went to work sawing up some scraps of wood and zip-tying them to the tree base so that it could fit in the regular tree stand. I really didn't think it would work, but should have known that my boatswain's mate husband would come through for me.

So, a happy ending. Amy and I redecorated the whole thing (because really, who doesn't want to string Christmas lights twice in the same year?- oh wait, me!). It has a bit of a lean to it... but I can overlook that for now. All that matters is that the tree is up, the halls are decked, and I'm back on track.

And lastly, here's a closeup of Amy's decorating... this collection of non-breakables comes on and off the lower branches several times a day. My little helper!

PS - Don wanted me to give him due credit for saving all the random bits of wood that he does. I contend that I have never really objected to this, but when one moves frequently it becomes slightly awkward to ask movers to yes, please pack up and label this box of quasi-garbage and bring it to our nice new home. That's all. I love having extra pieces of wood around, Don, really I do! ;)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Wait Up, Santa!

I'm so terribly behind!!

We've long ago decided that this is going to be a low-budget and fairly simple Christmas, gift-wise, so it's not like I have tons of shopping to do, but somehow it's December 10th and I feel like the Christmas-prep train is leaving the station without me.

October and November (months during which I would normally be getting things organized and getting handmade projects underway) were spent feeling rather ill, quite tired, and generally lacking in enthusiasm. The last week or so of November brought big improvement, but also took us to Connecticut for Thanksgiving with Don's family and then a bonus week spent at my parents' house. While it was a wonderful getaway and much-needed change of scenery, two weeks away at this time of year made for a major seasonal time warp.

But enough excuses. With two weeks to work with I must get Christmas cards in the mail, borrow my friend's sewing machine to churn out a few quick (I hope) presents, spend some time with my crochet hook, place a few strategic online orders, finish with the tree and other decorations, and do some baking (I'm most looking forward to that). Oh, and then get ready for yet another trip north the week after Christmas!

Tomorrow I will finish with my post-vacation housekeeping and general catch-up and then be ready to put my elf hat on and start feeling festive. That's the plan, anyway.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


... an upcoming addition to our family!

Officially out of my first trimester, and with the Thanksgiving season upon us, it seems like the time is right to finally "go public" with our big news. My hands are shaking a bit as I type this, as making a whole-hearted announcement makes this really real.

For any who don't know, I had a miscarriage this spring. While it was the type of miscarriage that was simply a "luck of the draw" situation it still made me quite reserved about this pregnancy. But with two doctor's visits under my belt and a couple of glimpses of that tiny heartbeat and rapidly growing little body I think I can feel okay. Prayers will still be welcome for the next six months! (Oh wait, better make that the next 18 years...)

Anyway, my due date is May 26th, right around Don's birthday. My first trimester brought the classic complaints of fatigue and nausea, but I am finally getting some energy back and feeling more and more like myself, and any nausea has retreated to the very end of the day. The picture above is from my 10-week ultrasound.

So we have lots and lots to be thankful for this Thanksgiving! Here's wishing you all a wonderful holiday surrounded by family and everything you are thankful for.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

To Clarify

A reader very near and dear to my heart suggested that perhaps I had divulged too much private family information in my last post, with my references to money. I need to clarify that my post was meant to be a general pondering about "life these days" - as in, don't we all have too much stuff and too little money?

My writing was NOT a reflection on our financial security, and any angst and frustration I expressed is purely with myself - since I am the one who does 90% of the spending. The questions posed were to myself: how can I be a better home economist and make better use of our family resources? I certainly meant no disrespect to the income-earner, nor did I mean to alarm any family members who might take what was only an exercise in putting thoughts on paper (albeit in a very modern, super-public forum) as an indication that we are in some sort of financial disarray. That is certainly not the case.

So, there. Thanks for listening!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Wee Little Venting

In keeping with the style of the bloggers who inspire me, I try to keep my personal angst out of what I write here. I'd rather this be a forum to share Amy stories, kitty escapades, home and gardening victories, and creative endeavors. However, I've had something "On My Mind" and I hope you won't mind a small rambling vent session from me today.

Money. Debt. Stuff. Too little of the first, two much of the latter. How do I change this? My husband is in the military, enlisted. We don't make much, but we make more than some. We live in a two-bedroom townhouse. Yard, garage, big storage closet. Not a huge house, but enough space for our little family. We are NOT extravagant people. Eating out is rare. We do not indulge in expensive gadgets or fancy clothes. I buy things on sale. Our cars are paid off. So WHY do I study my meticulously maintained budget sheet and find that EVERY MONTH our "out" is more than our "in"? The stress of this is enormous - I feel as though I am failing as family CFO.

Similarly, I am constantly weeding out books, clothes, STUFF to give away and yet I look around our house and garage and still feel overwhelmed by how much STUFF is everywhere. Neat, clean, organized, useful, pretty stuff, but STUFF all the same.

As Don and I think about our options in the coming year I would love to approach any big life changes with as little overhead as possible. The opening chapter of Little House on the Prairie comes to mind, where the Ingalls family puts all their possessions in a covered wagon and sets off for a new home. I wish all my stuff fit in a covered wagon. I wish we could feel confident enough in our financial situation to be okay with taking a risk to try something new.

How do I get there? Does anyone have the secret to the simple life? Not one devoid of life's small pleasures, but one where there is more room for them. How do I get from here to there?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Someone Is Two!

Miss Amy turned two years old on Friday. I would say, "time flies, I can hardly believe it, they grow up so fast, etc" - which is all true. But at the same time it has been two FULL years of joy and work and growth and patience and happiness, so to say that it's gone so quickly really isn't fair either.

But either way, to celebrate the blessing that Amy has been in our lives for these past two years we planned a whole weekend of birthday fun. On the big day itself I took Amy out to breakfast at IHOP - just us girls, as Don wasn't out of work yet. We ran some quick errands, did some housework, then went outside to meet Daddy when he got home. The afternoon was spent opening presents with Grandma and Grandpa R via the modern magic of Skype, and then a mostly quiet evening, just the three of us, with a few remaining presents, dinner, and a birthday ice cream cake. The cake and the balloons were probably the highlights for Amy, in addition of course to all the nice gifts she received. She really seemed quite delighted with everything.

We left first thing Saturday morning to drive to Baltimore for a day at the National Aquarium. This was a repeat of last year's birthday outing - we had such a fun time we had to do it again. Being a weekend, it was crowded, but we slipped in before the worst of the crowd and had a wonderful time. I continue to be so pleased and impressed and grateful at what an easygoing kid Amy is, and how happy she is to go along with all sorts of new activities and appreciate new experiences. It was a blast all around. After getting home in the afternoon we were all pretty tired, but still enjoyed a pizza dinner in front of the TV - always a treat.

Sunday was warm and beautiful, and we were happy to be home and have a simple day of cleaning up the yard and garage while Amy ran around outside. It was a peaceful and productive day and a nice way to cap a fun but busy weekend.

So now, as my Granddaddy always says about birthdays, we begin year three!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

October Weekend

We've had a lovely weekend here. Saturday was warm and wet and weird but we made the most of it with a lot of inside-outside housework, and Amy spent some quality time with a bucket of water.

Today was much more seasonable, so we bundled up and went to Bowles Farm for some autumn fun. Amy loved the petting zoo, and the giant "sandbox" filled with dried corn kernels (I think she'd still be playing there if we didn't bribe her away with a wheelbarrow ride). And we brought home two pumpkins (three if you count the one in the red jacket).

The weekends are always too short, but this was a particularly nice one. Hope yours was, too!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Why I Can't Get Anything Done

Yesterday I finally had a window of sewing time - my machine is back in working order, Don was putting Amy down for a nap, both cats were outside, housework was done - YES, I think, maybe I can actually whip off a row of quilting. I had no sooner sat down than the cats were crying at the door and practically stampeded each other to get on top of my project as fast as they possibly could.

Ollie was the worse offender... he eventually got banished to the garage because even the moving needle didn't deter him from trying to grab my hands.

This particular quilt is one of those "I can't believe I'm still working on this" -type projects. I've had the fabric FOREVER. Took me ages to decide how to use it. Months passed between completing the blocks and assembling the top. Then I actually was nearly done with the machine quilting when I got busy with all the pillow making and such, and by the time I was done with that my machine busted. And even now it seems like there is so little left to do, and yet it just won't get done.

Perhaps after our CT trip I will feel enough need to get into Christmas sewing mode that I'll hurry it along and actually be done. Right now I am in one of those little valleys between the waves of creative motivation... been there?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Just Saying Hi

It's been awhile since I've made an update here, for several reasons. My sewing machine has been in the shop getting a tune up (just got it back on Friday, and while there had an offer made to me on a new Pfaff that I MIGHT not be able to refuse - we'll see), so my projects have been on hold. Our camera has been having problems with the auto focus ever since our trip to Assateague. I suspect that some sand got blown into the lens (only the lens is AF, not the camera itself - in manual focus it works fine). But that is another one of those bugaboo things that is probably going to cost money to fix, if I can even find a place nearby to take it, and so I've been avoiding dealing with it. As a result we've been short on pictures these days.

Mainly, life has just been simple and easy around here these days. Don's back in the swing of things at work and my days home with Amy are so pleasurable now. She's always been a pal, but now that she's almost 2 our whole routine and the way the day unfolds is just, well, easy. It's a pleasant time for our family - just enjoying our precocious little girl, the still-warmish fall weather, playing at the park, reading, taking little outings here and there...

In less than two weeks we'll be headed north to see friends and family, and after that I am all too aware of how quickly the weeks will snowball right into the holiday season complete with more travel and general busyness.

So for now, I will enjoy the lull!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Have You Met My Pillows?

Oh my, nearly a week has gone by since their completion and I have not mentioned a word about my new living room pillows. And I know you all have been anxiously awaiting a decorating update (ha!).

This project was of course kicked off by the great living room rearrangement back in August. With the new setup you can see all the furniture more from the rest of the house, and it irked me that nothing really matched. So after at least a dozen trips to and from the fabric store with samples (and one time with an entire bolt of fabric), I finally settled on the cheapest option of all (yay for that) and the one that is the most "neutral" as far as overall decorating style.

My "inspiration piece" was the very first quilt I ever made, shown here up close and on the back of our big blue couch.

This quilt is rather small, and I did not do the greatest job with the binding so it is a touch on the fragile side. As a result it has remained folded up in the blanket chest since its completion four years ago. But I have always loved it and it matches the couch very nicely, so up it went. The next obstacle was deciding how to complement the quilt without going too much in the "country" direction. I found the dark brown curtains at Target, which helped put some color on the wall, and for the pillows I decided on a basic red and cream check, and coordinating solid red and cream fabrics. I still have a couple of ideas in mind for some other accent pillows but those are on hold until I have my sewing machine back.

I'm really pleased with how they turned out. I even made my own piping for the pillows on the couch and installed zippers in all of them. I think the best part of this project was the time spent sewing, and thinking about my mom. I have to give her huge credit for my ability to tackle projects like this. She never really "taught" me to sew, and any time she tried I often got frustrated, but somehow all those years of hanging around the sewing room while she worked on curtains and slipcovers, and making trips to the fabric store with her, and studying the things she made really seeped into my brain and came flowing out on my first attempt at home-dec sewing.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Guilty as charged.

This post falls in the "need to get it off my mind" category. Bear with me.

My well-intentioned but often cantankerous sewing machine is currently in the shop getting a tune up and fixing a problem with the pressure foot adjuster dial. This recently-discovered sewing machine shop is also a Pfaff dealer, and after taking a quick look at their machines in the store I came home and did a little research on my usual haunt, eBay, where I found this: Everything I am looking for in a sewing machine: not made in China, sturdy, simple, dependable, with better stitch and feed control for quilting and sewing thick fabrics.

Oh, but wait, 24 hours ago I was not looking for a sewing machine! Never mind that the repair and service to my Simplicity is going to cost half the purchase price, I still HAVE a sewing machine that, in theory, should run beautifully when I get it back next week.

So why did I spend most of the afternoon coveting this $500+ piece of machinery, and trying to work through in my head how I could possibly justify its purchase? Why, when my husband works hugely long hours doing often dangerous work to earn all the precious money we have? Why, when I have a daughter who deserves every spare penny directed to ensuring her immediate comfort and security?

Because I am a perfectionist, and I think that comes into play in my shopping habits. While I am not an extravagant person, I am always looking for the perfect system. If I just had this machine, everything about my sewing life would be perfect. Etc. I need to get over that.

After a hot shower and a little time away from the computer I have backed off my earnest desire for a new machine and am filing it away for some point in the future when I truly have the money to spend and truly need to replace my current machine. So there, self!

I feel much better now.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Ocean City, in Pictures

As promised, I'm finally getting to a recap of our trip to Ocean City and Assateague National Seashore this past week. We are still riding high from the fun of it all, and so as to not make this a mile-long post I'll hit the highlights, then share a few pictures that tell it all much better than I would be able to anyway.

We spent two nights away, and stayed at the Atlantic Hotel right on the boardwalk. The drive took less than four hours and Amy was an angel for all of it. Not one complaint. We spent two mornings on Assateague Island, a short drive from Ocean City. There we took several toddler-friendly hikes through dunes, marsh, woods, and beach. And of course we saw the horses! One even walked right past us on the beach. Amazing. We ate out at restaurants on the water both nights, explored the boardwalk (just a little), and took a ride on the Ferris Wheel. We hit the beach, but with so much wind and huge waves it was not swimming weather. Still a thrill for all! Oh and those rocking chairs - on the deck of our hotel - beautiful place to watch the melee below from a pleasant distance.

I think that hits the high points (actually the whole trip was high points). Now, relax and enjoy a few pictures. Can we go back now?

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Cats in High Places

It was a beautiful, sunny, and dry day today and perfect weather for the half dozen tag sales taking place in our neighborhood. We happened upon one when we made our usual stop at the playground this morning. I spotted this guy from afar:

...and since I know a certain someone who is very fond of Tigger these days I went over to check him out. I also picked up this little print in a nothing-special frame but I totally dig it, and hey, it's already up on the wall!

But the very best score of all was a like-new fold-away cutting table for $10. While my dining room table is adequate for sewing, I've been considering a table like this because it is much higher and more comfortable to work at while standing, and it folds to about 12" wide and is on wheels, so I can tuck it away when not in use. My mom pointed this particular version out to me but it cost upwards of $100 at Joann's. Now I could not be more thrilled to have this baby as my very own, at about a tenth of the cost! I was so inspired that it's already been put to use today, as I finally am getting started on the pillows for the living room. Of course the table also seems to be a feline magnet.

One other satisfying bit - that lamp on the right: Dirt cheap at Walmart years ago, used it all the time in my college apartment and in our Rhode Island houses but it never found a home here. With the new furniture setup we needed a little more light on that side of the couch and I brought it out of storage, only to realize that the harp and finial were missing. No where to be found. And I usually know where to find things. But once again, eBay to the rescue, and my replacement pieces arrived in today's mail, all for less than $5.

It's these small victories that really make me tick.

Friday, September 4, 2009

So Much to Share...

... and so many pictures to sort through. I am dying to tell all about our wonderful mini-vacation to Ocean City, Maryland. But of course the whole day has gone by without a good opportunity to sit down and capture in a few words just what did make our trip so special. Now a cup of tea and a movie with my husband are beckoning. So, here's to making time for this tomorrow!