I've planted some seeds in pots and have delighted when they miraculously sprouted a week later.
I've learned how to fly fish with my aunt, and even caught a few.
I've hung out with my cousin-in-law and her sweet old lady pooch. I hope I get this many years with my pup and that she mellows into such a lovely lu.
I've taken a nap on a quilt in a park by the Chesapeake Bay while my family played bocce ball.
I've visited our nation's capital on Memorial Day and had a picnic on the grass under the Washington monument.
I've come home to baby arugula that's starting to look edible.
I've bought the first-of-the-season local produce and tasted the first summer strawberries.
I've been knitting again, roasting asparagus, reading fiction, laughing with friends over mojitos and cookies, and dreaming up plans and projects. Like dresses, mini-albums, an etsy shop full of minialbums, sushi parties and even a road trip to Charlotte with a friend who is moving away from Boston.
I've also discovered reblogging and have started a tumblr called wandercraft. I'm using it as an inspiration wall - a place to better understand what I respond to. Apparently I like browns, blues, greens, and dots of bright color against crisp white backgrounds.
Basically, for the last few days I've had a lot more free time. I'm looking forward to a wonderful summer filled with travel, fresh food, crafts, family and friends.
This year we headed down to Austin, TX, for an early Christmas celebration with my brother, his wife, and my 7-week old niece. Grandma and grandpa (my mom and dad) from Michigan headed down too. It was a special time welcoming the first grandchild on my side of the family. On our last night together, we headed to the Trail of Lights in Zilker Park.
The fun starts out at the large Christmas tree of lights. Since we went on a Saturday night, we were joined by a a few thousand other families who first gathered around the tree, then started down the trail.
I especially enjoyed watching my dad holding his granddaughter.
And seeing my brother and sister-in-law transform from newlyweds to new parents. They are doing a beautiful job.
True to form, Austin provided a lot of funky charm.
My sister-in-law, who moved to Austin after high school, has a good connection of friends around town. She scored us a giant bag of kettle corn. With four of the six of us over-indulging throughout our walk, we only made it through half the bag.
Back in the day, she used to drive the train. She said she was a little grease monkey, pulling out the tools and crawling underneath it to make repairs.
Matt in his tree t-shirt, taking a breather from the crowds. Soaking up the Christmas lights.
The final stretch...
A little family fun for our newly expanding family.
We haven't gone home for Thanksgiving for several years, because the drive back to Massachusetts was so horrendous the first year we lived here. This year, we were able to travel on Tuesday and Saturday, so we sailed home in record time with little traffic. For that we were thankful.
Matt's aunt traditionally hosts Thanksgiving on Matt's side of the family, so we decided to keep it simple and stay there for the four nights we were home. It was a good decision. There was very good food and drink, including freshly baked pies and cookies, fresh cranberry and champaign cocktails, Mexican beer, Italian sausages, turkey, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, and all that good stuff. His aunt and uncle were wonderful hosts, and everybody was able to relax in each other's company. There were babies to ogle over. Games to play. Music to enjoy. For all of this, we were very thankful.
I found a little time to knit, which fascinates our nieces. A few hours to knit helped shed some stress before heading into my two final weeks of this semester.
We enjoyed time outside. Our puppy played in snow for the first time in Ontario, burying her nose in snow piles. Matt played disc golf at a local park with his cousin and brother-in-law. I took a long walk down muddy dirt roads with my oldest niece, talking about our camping adventures along the way.
We also spent a few hours with my mom's family. My grandma, despite her advanced memory loss, still lights up when I tell her again that Matt is my husband. She said, "Oh, you married him? I always thought he was..." and then after watching his face for a minute, "...so calm and kind". For him, his family, and my family, I am very very thankful.
Unfortunately, our adolescent pooch did not relax as we'd hoped. Long days in the car, food laid out, little dogs to harass, and little girls who wanted to play with our "bad puppy" was a bit too much for her right now. She spent most of her time outside, which she enjoys, or inside on a leash learning to be a good girl. During her time outside, we discovered that when rabbits and dogs were nearby, she was strong and crafty enough to break free from backyard fences and outdoor leads that have easily contained other dogs. In all instances, she returned very quickly. For her return to us time and again, we are very thankful.
After another long day of travel yesterday, she, like us, is thankful to be out of the car and home safe again. There is a lot of post-Thanksgiving relaxing going on over here today. Hope you are relaxing too.
This week has been all about waiting for our niece Ella Mae to arrive. She has been taking her time, resting up in the womb until a little too close to the two weeks past due date deadline.
I got the first call that my sister-in-law Liz was in labor. Contractions had
started. They went to the birthing center and were sent home to wait until the
Then time passed. No progress. I woke up Thursday morning and realized first thing that there was no call in the middle of the night, and I said to Matt, "Oh, poor Liz."
More time passed. Friday morning, I woke up again, and again, "Poor Liz!!!"
But Friday morning and afternoon we got some updates that things were moving along as they should. It looked like we would have a Halloween baby. Friday evening, I was sitting outside on the stairs at a neighbor's house while she passed out candy, and I got the call from my brother. Our niece was here, after long last. Ella arrived just as the trick-or-treaters were making their rounds.
Obviously, we're smitten, and we haven't even met her yet. My parents are grandparents. My dad says he's not quite owning up to the grandpa identity yet, unlike my mom who has been in grandma mode for months, but I don't think it'll take him long. He's fond of babies, even though he wouldn't admit it. We're in awe of Liz, who endured three days of on and off contractions and 26 hours of natural labor. We are very excited that my little brother is a daddy. He and Liz are going to be such fun parents. :)
I went to work, then took some self-portraits on my last day as a 20-something, while I waited for my parents to arrive from Michigan.
The evening started out our 4-day Democratic National Convention watching marathon. Tonight was Ted Kennedy and Michelle Obama. As we were glued to MSNBC, I remembered how much watching the nightly news was a part of our family routine when I was growing up. We didn't sit around and debate the issues, but we watched it, often together over dinner.
I hung out around the house with my parents, hemming and hawing about where I wanted to go eat dinner. After too much searching, I settled on Henrietta's Table near Harvard Square which uses a lot of local produce. I ordered the duck. Birthdays are good opportunities to try new things.Turns out, my folks had never been to Harvard Square, so it was a good pick.
We came home, had a little dessert and watched more of the convention.
We were going to go to Martha's Vineyard, but we decided to postpone. So, we worked some more on unpacking and I got some work work done. My mom, quite the productive one, finished organizing my kitchen. I helped, but the credit goes to her. My dad hung shelves and pictures. The heightened level of organization around here is possibly the best birthday gift I could have gotten.
In the afternoon, we introduced my folks to the world of Ikea. We all restrained ourselves, and only bought a few things. While there, I took a new picture for Matt's Facebook account. Get it?
In the evening, we took the dog to the big dog park by the water, and then we made prosciutto pizzas for dinner. And you guessed it, watched more of the convention.
I started my last year of classes. Unless the school addict in me goes for an associates degree in art or something. ;) In the morning my dad dropped me off at the T, as I've decided I can't face sitting in traffic for an hour every morning. Spending more time in a crowded train is somehow less stressful. Classes are going to be better, since we get to choose them this year, and it was great seeing people again after the summer break. A friend and I had a lovely lunch on the lawn.
In the evening, Matt played hockey and was asked to join a hockey team for the winter. Free for goalies. It's been over 5 years since he had the time to join a league. Hockey makes him happy. While he played, my parents and I went to eat up at a restaurant that overlooks the Boston skyline.
For my dad and me -- burgers, beers -- and for my mom, finally some good clam chowder. Have you seen or read Gone Baby Gone? That creepy scene in the quarry at night? This restaurant is up the hill from there, and not too far from where we live.
We made it home in time for Obama's speech. I have a clear memory of driving down Lake Shore Drive in Chicago after we first moved there and seeing Obama signs for the US Senate campaign along the way. I thought a guy with that name is not going to get elected. This was 2002. I'm glad I was wrong.
We went to Martha's Vineyard for the day, just barely dropping off the dog at Doggieritaville in time, and just barely making the ferry. We rode the bus around the island with hour-long visits at each destination. It was a full day. We withstood the 2-hour round trip bus ride to see the Aquinnah Cliffs. They are beautiful, but much smaller in person than expected (at least for someone raised near Sleeping Bear Dunes). All you can do is stand by a fence and peer over at them. So after 2 minutes of looking, we found a picnic bench and ate our lunch. We were entertained by two skunks taunting the tourists.
Then we boarded the bus for the hour-long trip to Vineyard Haven. It took 4 years, but we finally took my mom could see the Black Dog Tavern. It's been on her to-do-list.
It was a good day.
We ate deluxe omelets for breakfast, deluxe quesadillas for lunch, did some more unpacking, ran some errands, my mom repaired the three holes our little monster chewed in her beautiful quilt, I took a hike with my dad in the Blue Hills, we had pasta with fresh tomato and basil for dinner, and we finished up with caramelized local peaches, Vermont blueberries, and vanilla ice cream.
Recipe: Caramelized peaches (or nectarines)
Adapted from: Fresh Choices by David Joachim and Rochelle Davis
Start a saute pan over medium low heat and melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Not margarine, people, this requires butter. Cut a ripe peach in half longways, removing the pit. Dip the cut side of the peach in white sugar. Place the peach halves in the saute pan, and do not move them at all until the syrup that forms around the peaches starts to turn a light caramel brown. The sugar syrup should bubble for awhile. Watch it so it doesn't burn, but if things are taking too long, you can bump up the heat very slowly. Serve over vanilla ice cream, with blueberries if available, and eat before it melts!
A sweet ending to a lovely birthday week with my parents.
My parents left at 5:30am. We slept in. Today we are dog sitting this guy -- Russo, aka Rooster.
Our living room has been transformed into a wrestling pit. Which is perfect, because I can just sit here on the couch and recover.
Last Saturday was a good day. My mom and I spent the day crafting together. Rummaging through the fabric closet, sewing on machine, sewing by hand. Coming up with ideas for many many more projects.
And it was even better because she finished the ultimate project -- a queen size quilt of her own design. It is based on a star pattern, and includes hand-embroidered leafs, which if I remember correctly, I helped sketch back when this project was in its infancy. Maple, oak, elm, sycamore, poplar, and ash.
Here she is in all her glory.
Now, our bed is appropriately adorned. And just in time to brighten our room for spring and summer. This means that the much more basic, and by now, threadbare quilt I made for Matt when we were both still in high school, all those years ago, is going to need to be stored away and only brought out for cold winter nights and cold weather guests.
Instead, we can cozy up with a real quilt.
There are few things better than sleeping under a handmade quilt, especially one made by your mother. Amen.
And if that wasn't enough to send me home with, I also got to take home a wall hanging she made. The pattern was one of my Christmas gifts, the purchase of which was inspired by my night with the kamikaze bears of Yosemite last summer.
While the bed-sized quilt above took awhile to finish, as such projects do, this applique wall hanging she made in like one day. Maybe two. When we first got to Michigan for our visit, she showed it to me in pieces and when I came back a couple days later, it was done. Thanks to my mom I dabble in sewing, and have since at least the fourth grade, but it would have taken me months to pull something like this off. All I can say is the woman has skills. And an impressive fabric stash.
Clearly, I'm reaping the benefits.
And if that wasn't enough quilt love to come back to Boston with, I walked away with my very own handmade beach blanket. Something I've been yearning to own. This lovely pile of color came from my grandma's stash -- we think -- but we're also pretty sure she didn't make it. It's made of scraps, and very random scraps at that, including a bright yellow and black leopard print. I would bet money that my grandma, my quilting grandma at least, would never sew leopard print into a quilt. I can imagine my other grandma loving a leopard print quilt.
So, whoever cut up these scraps, pieced them together, and sewed them up with lovely machine embroidery -- Bless you! This summer, I will lay on your handiwork, soak up the sun, and wonder who you are.
We left Massachusetts at the crack of dawn Friday. I finished my final term paper on the way, making a longer than expected layover at Panera in Schenectady, NY, to finish up the final edits and to take advantage of the free wi-fi. Turns out there was wi-fi at every service station for the next 200 miles. Still, by the time we left Schenectady, I was free! As far was I'm concerned, summer arrived!
When we finally crossed over the Bluewater Bridge from Ontario to Michigan, at 2:30am, we sang along to Sufjan Stevens' "Say Yes! To Michigan".
"If I ever meant to go away, I was raised, I was raised
In the place, in the place. Still I often think of going back
To the farms, to the farms, golden arms, golden arms
start to remind me.
If the lakes took the place of the sea.
If the cars drove themselves, way to be!
Opposite to the trains moving in
Rivers run, interstate, Michigan!
Still I never meant to go away
I was raised, I was raised, in the place, in the place.
Still I often think of going back
To the farms, to the farms, golden arms, golden arms.
Tried to change the Made in Michigan
I was raised, I was raised, in the place, in the place,
part to remind me"
The song's been in my head all week, as I've been savoring the freedom from school and work. This is what freedom looks like to me...
Lots of celebrating the lives of our moms and grandmoms.
Spending time in the sun and the grass. Especially introducing the new pupsky to her extended family.
Playing around with our nieces in the springtime.
Going on scouting adventures together.
Writing down everything we see along the way.
Kaia, along for the adventure, did just fine with three little girls clamoring over her, taking her toys, and poking her in the face.
Her favorite part of this week was going to Auntie Stephanie's to play with her new pals Heidi and George.
She also has been very fond of running the basement obstacle course (stairwell, ping pong table, water softener) at my parent's house, going for walks in the woods, trying to chase birds, and playing with a whole box of new dog toys at Matt's parent's house.
And our favorite part has been seeing more family and friends than we generally see at Christmas. And meeting two new members of our family, baby Evan and baby Ruthie.
Coming home is always a wonderful thing. Especially lovely in the springtime, after a long winter and a very long stretch of busting my brain to the limit. Freedom is a wonderful thing!
Just a few tidbits I want to remember about our trip home for Christmas this year:
1) Making my black beans and rice and some mojitos for my parents. Also, Matt's frittas, my mom's cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning, my mother-in-law's yummy fruit plate of New Year's Eve, and lots of cookies.
2) My grandma Terry remembered me right away when we went to get her for Christmas eve. A blessing because this isn't always the case anymore. My other grandma (a character indeed) told me that Sex in the City is her favorite show right now, and asked me if I liked it too. I also got a kick out of the look on her face when she got a new TV for Christmas from all of us. She's so frugal that I'm not sure she knew what to think about it. We also spent a couple nights with Matt's grandma, which we always enjoy. Whenever we drive her anywhere, she always jokes about how Matt, years ago when he first got his license, wouldn't drive until she put on her seatbelt. Seeing all the grandparents is a highlight of every trip home.
3) Ice skating with our nieces, which is something Matt's been really looking forward to. So much so, that I decided to get them outfits they could wear skating. I wasn't expecting them to really want to wear them (what child wants clothes for Christmas?), but luckily they did. It was a great activity for the day after opening presents, when they needed to get out of the house and burn off some energy. Both girls did a great job out on the ice.
4. Trips into Detroit are becoming a tradition. This year was our second year going to the Great Lakes Hockey Invitational. This year we were joined by my parents and Matt's family, including our nieces who saw their first hockey game. Kady kept sticking her fingers in her ears when a goal was scored (6 times total). Afterward we rode the People Mover (first time in my life!) to meet up with Matt's cousin, Mike and his wife Kari for dinner. We were glad to see them before their first little one arrives this spring. We and the girls loved the People Mover. We were also glad their dad swiftly grabbed Kady after she followed her older sister off the train at our first stop (not our stop!). It was a total Home Alone 2 moment, luckily averted. On our way back to the cars after dinner, three-year-old Kady declared "Downtown is delicious!"
5) Matt's mom reminded me on New Year's Eve that it was the anniversary of Matt's marriage proposal. When did that become so long ago (9 years - yoinks)! She also reminded me that Matt's grandpa gave us a lovely toast that night. Since all of this slipped from my memory, this truly was a reminder of why I scrapbook (and why I'm writing this post).
6) I got to do a quick oral history interview with Matt's mom and his grandma about their family history of game playing. We got to hear about fabled games such as "Bum bum bum, Here I Come". One of my gifts to my mother-in-law is a scrapbook we are going to put together over the next year about her family's love of games.
7) After a solid week of depressing grey skies (I learned my mom and I both get depressed by this most winters), Michigan was blessed with a lot of snow. It was glorious! The blue skies returned and the trees were decorated with white for most of last week. Matt and I even enjoyed shoveling the driveway, since we aren't burdened with this at our apartment complex.
8) My dad took an afternoon off work so we could go snowshoeing together in the Brighton Recreation Area. We made it about 4.5 miles we think. After all my pining for snowshoeing last winter, I'm glad my first time out was in Michigan with my dad. My friend Stephanie came up for dinner and she, Matt and I also strapped on the snowshoes for a quick trip out before dark. Fun stuff to try it out together.
9) On our last full day home, my mom, her friend and I went back to the D to visit the newly renovated Detroit Institute of Arts. Its amazing. Can't believe I've never gone. If you're in Detroit, it's a must. My favorite part was the Diego Rivera murals. So good. We went home and rented Frida.
10) As usual, we couldn't do everything we wanted, and this time, we gave up going up north, going to Chicago, and seeing some friends in order to enjoy a slower pace for a change. I also left many planned projects (knitting, sewing, & reading) uncompleted. I'm slowly learning the fine art of not overplanning every trip and just waiting to see where things land. Have to say, it was a nice change of pace.
Yes, Christmas is over but here are a few pictures worth sharing.
This little one is my muse lately. My personal favorite picture this Christmas. I promise someday I will get a child of my own of whom to take pictures.
Love the Amy Sedaris-ishness of this one. Thanks to my mom for the cookie making supplies and our nieces for their skills.