Sunday, June 28, 2009

packing light backfire

So I forgot to mention that when we left Arlington that Art left our bag of dirty laundry behind, leaving the children with half their clothes. There's been a lot of laundry here in North Garden. Shu Shu gave Eli a box of Art's old T-shirts as he was left without a single one, he's been walking around in UVA Basketball shirts from '81, Parks 'n Rec shirts, old elementary school gym shirts.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

tubing down the mighty James River

Yesterday we took an epic trip tubing down the James River. We did not go until 11:00 which put us under the mid-day sun and had me a little crazed when I realized that our suntan lotion is only "water resistant." No surprise to me, Eva took right to the event, she swam most of the way, at least 2.5 of the 4 mile trip (the water was 4 feet at most points but was shallow enough to stand along the way.) She could not be stopped. At one point she left our family and swam so far ahead of us that she joined the Park 'n Rec team. They gave her a ride until I urged Art to retrieve her.

At first, Eli was like putting a cat in the sink for a bath, straddling the inner tube ensuring he'd not get wet. He was not off in his judgment as it was cloudy and the water was a refreshing temperature. My little optimist kept saying, "I think the sky is gong to blue-up soon." He was right, by the end of the second mile, we were under blue, warm skies.

I started out in a pissy mood. I've yet to sleep more than 5 hours this trip for many different reasons, most recently going to bed too late and missing my window to sleep. I was definitely the wet-rag on the trip. My citiness came out when we pulled up to a log to lunch upon and I was freaked by two LARGE wood bugs, caught in a snuggle, by a large brown spider who came up, wrapped his furry brown arms around their bodies and bit them. I was squimish and urged the party to another spot. This would not have happened in my early, river youth. I decided to keep my mouth closed most of the trip and let the river wash the sour mood off me. By the end, I was gazing at the beautiful trees lining the river, staring eye to eye with dragon flies, and contemplating the abstract patterns of grass and rock rolling underneath me.

Dial-up woes

Every day there are stories and photos that I would love to share but I've been using the dail-up service as an excuse. I think I'm really just having such a relaxed time in North Garden I just don't want to pause to be at the computer. My cell phone is now AWALL.


Two nights ago, Eva went with Shu Shu to gather arugula flowers for our salad and told her grandmother all about the conversation/pep-talk she gave her plants before we left. Evidently Eva let the plants know that they needed to hang-0n until Daddy got home from Virginia and then he would be there to water them, they did not need to produce tomatoes until she got back which was not going to be for six weeks. My fingers are crossed that those little plants are haning in there.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

watching the clouds roll by

This afternoon while the children were swimming in the lake, I just laid there on the towel, hat propped on my head, watching the big billowing clouds roll by. I felt at home.

Monday, June 22, 2009

finished first leg of our tour

Here it is Monday morning and our time in Arlington is winding down. While there is low energy from the late nights and early mornings, there is still a flutter of activity, Eli working on the rain forest puzzle, Sarah and Eva wrapping gifts for Shu Shu, Art lying on the small sofa, having just read yet another book to Eli. It's a lovely morning here, crisp in the shade warm in the sun, I just came in from sitting on the front porch listening to and watching the trees blowing in the breeze, all some-kinda-of-beautiful. Sam is off to Pokemon Camp, Jacqui, old au pair, to her final plans before returning to Germany tonight and Miriam, new au pair, dizzily driving with Penelope around her new homeland for the next 18 months, Bob jogging across the bridge to work, we've all found our rhythm together. We've had a full visit in a full house. We arrived the night Bob returned from Ethiopia, the new au pair from Germany and the old au pair full of good-bye plans. There's not a spot in the house untouched by a sleeping Bender. Yesterday was operation Good-bye Jacqui, centered around baking, cooking, cleaning, preparing for an au pair BBQ. The spread of food was an eye-full and the results a belly-full. I'm sticking to tea for most of the day after such a feast.

Saturday we headed to D.C. and were able to eek out a full-filling visit with the Simpson-Bonney clan amongst the hoards of cost-conscious vacationers, like us, visiting the free museums on the Mall. Our first hugs were with raindrops dripping down our necks but found shelter amongst the dinosaurs, gems, butterflies and sea creatures in the Natural History Museum, Jack's interested driving us forward. As soon as the adults started feeling agoraphobic we were saved by the children's empty belly's. Our soggy attitudes were warmed right up by our primo dining under the umbrellas of the pavilion in the sculpture garden. The food was tasty but merely fuel to get the children up dancing to the blaring Cuban salsa music and a raucous game of Monster. Granted every child emerged from the game wet from head-to-toe and a little muddy but with beaming smiles. The sun came out for the rest of the hot, humid D.C. day. Anna joined us at the Air and Space Museum, carousel, and American History Museum. She is taking D.C. by storm herself. Working at Booz Allen this summer seems to suit her and is entertaining thoughts of working here after graduation. A satisfying picture of the day was Anna holding her two little cousins hands, they would have followed her anywhere she wanted to lead them. After good-bye at the Metro, our family journeyed on to meet up again with the clan at their hotel. We decided to move on for dinner and drinks after being asked to keep it down by a friendly security guard, my guess, someone wanted to nap below us. Yummy Indian food and tasty fruity drinks were a reward for a day well lived. I'd have paid a bundle to be transported to Arlington via a magic carpet but alas, it was the Metro for us.

I'm ready to head south now.

Photos to come when I have access to wireless - tomorrow maybe

Sunday, June 21, 2009

happy to be traveling light

I did it, I'm still shocked as I write this how much economy I used in packing. I realize this is a boring subject but when one takes on a challenge publicly on a blog, it becomes a topic all unto itself. On Thursday morning when readying to leave, I started to get the nervous tick I alway experience when leaving home, I began pacing around the house, snapping at the children and wishing I had not made plans to leave for the summer. I ususally calm myself down by adding all the extras I think will help me out of all the unforeseen binds on my travels, thus becoming the burden I kick myself for in the first place. This time I walked out the door and ran one last errand. Our freedom came in many forms, we took BART to the airport, checked only two bags, and simplified the morning dressing routine as there really is not much to choose from. The downside is yesterday when greeted with a rainstorm we had to go buy 2 $10 umbrellas as I did not pack them this year but hey, thus far it's worth it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

it's here already

I really can't believe it's time to go. By this time in the year, I'm usually longing to go. A few weeks ago this feeling hit me, the urban was getting on my nerves and the VA spring was calling. I'm pleased to say that I this year I've been busy and full-filled up to the point of departure. Certainly I feel that much of this comfort comes from knowing I get to go back there. Helen, Rowena and I went to see Goodbye Solo the other night. Throughout the entire film my heart was tempted by the JR Reynolds factories, peanut cafe, southern accents with a twist of the immigrant story. The final scene takes place in Boone, N.C., as the car with the protagonists wends towards the Blue Ridge, my heart was a flutter, it began to ache as the first patch of color burst on the trees and the familiar low stone guardrail of the Parkway emerges. I almost had to hold back a tear but instead I leaned over and whispered in to Ro's ear, "I grew up near those mountains," and I heard my echo as she passed my declaration on to Helen. It felt good to say it and even better that I knew I was leaving in 4 days to become part of the life of those mountains.

I hope to keep posts coming, though more sporadic as I'll be in the land of dial-up part of the time. My list of projects is a bit unrealistic - sewing a shirt and shorts for Eva, pants for Eli, interview parents, drive to Blackstone, VA to visit the historical society to see what information I can find on my grandparent's property and life of Ft. Pickett, run, yoga (solo), family portraiture, blog so on and so forth, all while parenting my children in other people's homes and doing all the activities like swimming in lakes, tubing down a river, picking peaches and visiting with a long list of folks. Hmmmm not sure how it'll work but here I go.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

all I want to do is sew again....

I think I'm starting to see a trend. Here I go again, the house is a wreck from top to bottom, I'm leaving in less than two days for a 5 week journey to VA and all I want to do is sew a top for Eva. I'm sorting through my material to see which I want to take with me and I'm matching patterns, thinking to myself, "It wouldn't take me that long..." I have to resist this urge and focus on my task here to get the 4 of us across the country with clean underwear, swimwear, sandals, and hats.

I've been a bit harried today running all over the city but I'm so proud that I stuck to my guns and did not think of trip-prep while friends were in town. I enjoyed their company, cooked good meals, and played at being a tourist in this fair city. Now the race is on, it's time.

I'm a consummate over-packer, I will layout clothes and all the things I need and for some reason, I seem to add 30% more to my luggage just before walking out the door. Can I rise the challenge I've posed for myself? Can I put to rest the "what if's" really only bring two pair of sandals and running shoes for myself or will the fabulous green and red ones I purchased for a large sum of money postpartum scream out to me,"this is why you purchased me, to wear in the hot weather of VA." I just got an itch on my neck thinking of it. I was talking with my mom this afternoon and dad offered the background, "remember you're not going to Africa, you'll be in civilized place where you can get what you need."

Good night diversion, I need to fold some laundry, lay out some clothes, make my list for tomorrow.

Desert Discovery Box

My friend Pat Quest tempted me last week with news that she may make it to SF for visit. She asked what kind of toy my children would like. I immediately said a rock from the desert would do. Pat's creative mind started spinning. When I got the news she would not make it for the visit, she was determined to get the children their discovery box before we departed. This morning we opened the box. Inside were two magnificent boxes with decorated tops and insides filled with treasures from the desert: rattle snake tail, buffalo teeth, petrified fish gills, stones, feathers, dried gourds. It is amazing. She also scanned the pieces and uploaded corresponding references to what the item is. The best part, for me, was the dedication:

Sonoran Desert Discovery for Eva and Eli Dedicated to your mother Jan for loving my children and me. Created by Pat Quest June 2009 so that I could share my love of the Sonoran Desert with two special young people Eva and Eli who also like rocks. And possibly you will love the beauty and wonder of the bones too. Hope you enjoy your treasures (and they do.)

Friday, June 12, 2009

mission cupcake complete

whew, my lovely friend Nina asked me to make the cupcakes for her husband's birthday. It was not the best time to take on this mission as its the last week of school, pending 5 week trip to VA, house-guests just left, and I was out to midnight last night on a triple couples yoga/dinner date -- but for Nina, anything. She was like a little girl at Art's birthday when she saw and then tasted the caramel cupcakes. She too is from the South and has memories of this delicacy. Thanks to Sydney, I can bake. I've never had a luck with cakes, she turned me on to The Cake Doctor using an organic white cake mix, doctoring it up, adding a homemade caramel icing and voila.

But boy was I draggn' my sorry self through the kitchen today and this evening. I had mixed them up while the children took on another felting project. Eva turned out to be such a help, she filled many of the tiny cups for me. At the end of the process, I was getting crabby and thought I'd loose it when I saw that the batter was all over the pan....these were after all for a party. I snapped out of it and in-turn became very appreciative of her help. After they were in bed, I made the icing and dipped 70 cupcakes, wrapped 'um up and I'm off to watch a movie or read my M.F.K Fischer.

I wish I wasn't even born yet

Eva just said, "I wish I wasn't even born yet." I asked her why? She said, "It was so much more fun before I was born." I asked what did you do when you were a baby? She responded, "I was already an adult in heaven. Well, you really get to be pretty up there, you get a pretty home, you get free vegetables and you get the same job you get as a child on earth."

Eva makes a convincing story.

mmmmm Sidewalk Juice

Imagine this in a cup: almond butter, almond milk, almond extract, bananas, frozen yogurt. It's got its hooks in us. About a month ago, Art and I met one afternoon while the children were in school and had our first. It's not uncommon now for me to say once a week, "I have a confession, I went to Sidewalk Juice today." I'll look at Art as he responds, "so did I." I'm just glad it's broken his McDonald's shake cravings.

Today I took the children for their first experience after the last day of school. I started telling the woman behind the counter the story from above, she asked what their dad looks like, she guessed like them with blue eyes, Eva piped-in, "No he has black hair, brown eyes." She looked at me and said that she never recalled seeing me with anyone. I had my camera, showed her a picture and she exclaimed, "I know him!" Eli asked me how many of smoothies the woman gets to eat, Eva boldly inquired for her brother to find out she can eat the remainder of any smoothie she makes - what a job.

finished dress on last day of school

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

sewing wins

so, my own blog motivated me. I finished reading a chapter of Misty of Chincoteague to the children, walked down the hall strewn with clothes, towels, shoes, passing through the kitchen piled high with a full day of dishes to the sewing machine. I made the right decision. I was able to make the second dress in one night, not repeating any of the mistakes I made (making a few different) and go to bed with another dress waiting for Eva when she awoke. this dress speaks to me. I'll post a photo soon, she's wearing it on the last day of school tomorrow.

I can't believe the school year is over. E + E will never be in the same class again. it's been lovely seeing how Eva takes care of her little brother, well of course that come with some torture as well. Eli completely looks up to his sister. they share the same friends, work side-by-side on the same projects. when they retell the story Dagmar has filled their heads with they can speak in unison and when one drops a word the other fills-in. there is an ease to it all.

it is time however for them to part. Eva has moment of not connecting to the 5 year old in Eli. She wants MORE. she's ready to sit and learn at a desk. I've loved Eva as a kindergartener, look forward to seeing the first-grader she is to become.

Dagmar said that Eli was the perfect dreamy kindergartener. He listens, is completely creative but is under his sisiter's spell. she reaffirms it is time for him to be on his own and looks forward to it greatly.

how did I digress from sewing? this happens to me always.

Monday, June 08, 2009

crafting quandry

Argh, I've got dishes piling up, most rooms have slowly fallen apart in the last 12 hours, a shrinking larder, house guests arriving in two days and all I want to do is sew the next dress for Eva while all the mistakes and corrections are still fresh in my mind.

wet felting

The children found the felting wool in the craft cabinet and started designing a piece on Saturday. Today after school, they asked to be set up to finish the piece. I boiled the water , added soap and they waited until the water cooled and then started felting.

apricots - arranged by children


This morning I came out finding Eva trying on the almost complete dress. She asked me to take her to the mirror, she was so excited to see her dress. This afternoon we completed it. I made it big so she can wear it for two years. It's certainly not perfect but wearable for sure.

I'm so happy I can make her dresses now. I've always purchased her summer dresses from Target, H&M, and maybe a Gap. Now that she's out of the toddler size I've had to move up the "Girls" and I'm so disappointed with styles, she still a little girl and the clothes are the same as for teens.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

weekend sewing indeed

Instead of tackling the aforementioned list of to-do's I sewed Saturday afternoon, evening and a little this evening. Eva picked out some material for me for Mother's Day. It is not my style, polyester, purple with flowers. She immediately asked me to make her something. The only clothes I've sewed was her Halloween costume. I looked through all my new sewing books and decided to make the Flower Girl Dress from Weekend Sewing by Heather Ross. I kept delaying the project, realizing that the material was the problem, not mention it'd be too hot to even wear this summer in humid Virginia. I took the children to Discount Fabric a few weeks ago and I got some cute Heather Baily fabric on clearance (great coordinating polka dot and striped.) I told Eva on Friday that was what I was going to make her dress out of, unlike her, she did not question me. The pattern from the book only went up to a size 4 and Eva is a 6/7 at least. I took tracing paper and decided to just enlarge it, knowing this is not recommended for beginner sewers but I did not want to pay for a new pattern when I had this one here. It took a few iterations to get what I thought to be the right size. When I held the Baily fabric in my hand, I realized, discounted or not, I'm not going to cut in to this when I do not know if the pattern will work. So, Eva is getting two dresses, the first one made from the purple material. The material posed many of the challenges and I made several errors reading the pattern but here is the dress for me to fit the straps and hem on Eva tomorrow, and indeed it was a weekend project, even for a beginner. Hopefully I'll get the other one together quickly for our trip in less then two weeks.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

dig in

one of those mornings

I'm writing as a batch of ginger, walnut scones are in the oven (adapted from the New Joy of Cooking, Oatmeal Date - I use whole wheat pastry flour, oats, crystallized ginger + walnuts. Easy peasy since they use melted butter and are drop-scones.) Naomi, Leon and Marcel are coming over for breakfast soon so it felt like one of those mornings for scones. I'm a bit hazy from a bout of insomnia last night so I put some coffee on, well decaf, but that's enough for me. It must be time for breakfast as the quiet children I woke up to are more animated. I just heard Eva singing, "I had a beer for breakfast..." - thanks Johnny Cash. Top of the morning.

Friday, June 05, 2009

To do list

I really want to start Eva's dress project but I really need to think about what it's going to take to get me out of here for over five weeks back in my homeland - Virginia. We have guests staying off and on for a week, menus to plan, packing to do, cleaning the garage for Leslie to sell her apartment...the list is endless. Ah, maybe I'll at least trace the pattern tomorrow night!


Susan and Stella came over for fun in the backyard. Unlike most SF afternoons here in baja Noe, as we like to all our hood, the wind/fog stayed away. Even now at 7:30 at night, I have the south-facing windows open and the curtains are not moving. The children had fun finding treasures (little iridescent vase stones) and re-hiding them for each other for a long time. Meanwhile under the arbor we were creating a mobile from the goodies we'd collected with S/S in February (see post Sea Ranch Heaven, February 20, 2009.) One of the rafters in the Sea Ranch house has an amazing mobile balancing upon it. Eva, Susan and I worked on it. I'm more a simple-is-better kinda girl but the powers that be (Susan and Eva) found the yard to be inspiring and kept adding more pieces of the yard.

We'll hang the finished piece above the stairwell soon.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Pillow complete

See entry: Art's birthday sewing, April, 25, 2009 to see the process. I adapted a pattern from Amy Butler's INSTICHES. Using a 16 inch pillow form, I made the pillow cover from this great stiff linen by Charles Craft on clearance. This was my first time using the machine for applique - I'm hooked. Eva was proud though she did not want the sun on the cloud!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Backyard girl

Eva finds her way to the backyard many times a day. I can hear her singing to herself. This a place for recharge.


A proper table

Eva loves to set the table. Some days it's a bit too much when I'm trying to get dinner on the table. We've woken up to kitchen tables draped in linen. One Thursday night last month, I went in to put dinner on the table to find this waiting for me! The girl has style.

Career options

So Eva's head is spinning with what she wants to be when she grows up. I hear artist, dancer, astronaut most of the time. Sunday Eva and Eli had their first chance at singing in front of the congregation. The church has no budget for a formal children's music program but budgeted three rehearsals and this particular singing. Eva is a good student she goes right next to the director Britt and gives her all in learning the song. Throughout the last few weeks I've heard her humming, whistling the piece. Eli will have nothing to do with choir practice. While all the other children are gathered around the piano singing, Eli is laying on the bench, trying to distract everyone or running across the room.

On the way to church on Sunday I asked if they knew the song. Eva started singing the piece and Eli promptly started correcting her, adding words or rearranging them for her. Then to prove his point he just started singing the entire piece. I was surprised, a little that he knew it. Well actually he remembered all the songs from round-singing I attend at school last year. Anyway, I asked if he was going to sing today, he replied negative. I told him I was proud he knew all the words. He said, "songs are just him to keep in his heart." I then replied with the church-lady response, "but God would like you to share what is in your heart." Ah my good Virginia background came in handy in this argument. I then switched back to the "proud" part and he really seemed taken in by this one. Eli did in fact sing in church, he knew all the words, all it took was me kneeling in front of him to do it.

In the way home, Eva announced that she was going to add singing to her occupation. Eli piped-in, " I want to be one of those people you vote for like Barack Obama! I said, "Do you mean a politition and he said, looking out the window as the city rolled by, "yeah."