July 29, 2011

snippets from the week

Short but sweet, that's the name of this week. Having missed Monday due to travel, I've felt slightly off kilter all week but I'm hoping that the weekend will rectify that. This morning we are off to the zoo, and tomorrow a play if all goes well. Sunday our boy comes home and some of our dearest friends are coming for a visit. I can't wait.

While the drawing and art gazing was fun, Evelyn's favorite part of our museum trip of definitely that dress up room.

So many outfits to try.
We finally got a chance to visit the Discovery Room at the Natural History Museum. This hands on space for kids always seems to be closed when we visit but luckily this time we made it in. Trey limit kids to a 45 minute stay which is smart because Evie could have stayed there all day looking at frogs and toads, building a full sized dinosaur skeleton, digging or fossils (this was really cool, I assumed it was just a little sand over plastic to brush away but it actually requires chisels and some elbow grease. The staff said it takes two weeks of kids working on it to "dig it out") playing memory with minerals and shells and building a totem pole. I think we have a new favorite museum spot!

Yesterday I was mopping the floors and decided to tackle a sticky spot on our greige linoleum near the garbage cans with a Magic Eraser (I love those things) When I was done I found that our floors are not a nasty grey beige but instead are actually white, under years of grime. That's the good news. The bad news is that now I have to scrub the whole floor so that I don't have one weird white square in the middle of the kitchen. Nothing like making work for yourself.

We have discovered tire swings. And we love them. She loves them, at least. I, on the other hand, sit on a near by bench watching her being hurled in the air, spinning so fast she blurs calling out "Hold on tight Evie!" every few minutes. Can watching your child spinning on a swing cause a heart attack?

Off to see the seals and the turtles and the monkeys! Hope you all have a lovely and cool weekend!

July 28, 2011

back in the fabric (pencil skirt tutorial)

One of the biggest challenges for me living in this city is, believe it or not, the lack of fabric stores. You wouldn't think that would be a make or break kind of thing for a person but for me, it just might be. Craft supply stores I can deal without. Sure it's handy to have an (overpriced but still handily down the bus line a few stops) Michael's. But in the end, craft supplies I can order, fabric, eh, not so much. Yes, I know, you can order fabric, but I'm not a big fan of doing it unless I've already bought the same fabric, or at least the same type of fabric from the same company before. I'm tactile. I like to touch it before I buy it. What can I say?
So it might not surprise you to hear that I brought an entire suitcase of fabric home with me from Missouri, with a good sprinkling of interesting or harder to find craft supplies tucked in here and there. I started out on a mission to find some navy blue wool suiting or twill to make a few uniform dresses for Miss Evelyn. Since her school doesn't have specific dresses/skirts/pants just a color scheme to stick with (navy blue dresses or bottoms, light blue tops) I thought it would be more economical (and fun) to use some of my beloved Oliver + S patterns to make her uniforms. But since I was at the fabric store anyway and had a whole empty suitcase just waiting to be filled, well, I stocked up. So now I'm feeling very fabric rich. I'm not really sure where I want to start. Uniforms? Doll clothes for Eliza? Wool felt wallet? Lisette Tunic?

Maybe just another pencil skirt. Especially since my table is currently covered with various wooden items that I painted with chalkboard paint for work projects leaving me nowhere to cut and pin more complicated patterns.

Remember that pencil skirt I mentioned? Well I love it. I've worn it a gazillion times since that day and picked out some nice kelly green knit while I was fabric shopping specifically to make another. This time around it took me, maybe ten minutes, but most of that was stopping to take photos along the way.

Because it's knit and because knit doesn't fray (remember when I was scared of sewing knits? What was I thinking? I LOVE knits!) this is unhemmed, so you have to make sure your cuts are clean, at least along the bottom edge. It uses the same fold over/yoga waistband that I used with Evie's leggings which makes it very, very comfortable. In fact, now I'm kind of wishing I'd picked up more knit fabric so that I could make a whole rainbow of these puppies.

Super Quick Pencil Skirt

You'll need a little more than a yard of fabric for this. Measure from your waist to just below your knees and then add 14 inches to get an exact amount of fabric. And keep that measurement, you'll need it in a sec.


Wrap a cloth tape measure around the narrowest part of your waist and record that number. Divide it by two. This will be Measurement A (so, my waist was 30 inches, my Measurement A is 15)

Now take that original number and divide by three, this will be Measurement B (Again, my waist was 30 so Measurement B for me was 10)

Finally, think back to that length you took to get your fabric amounts. Natural waist to just below the knee (or where ever you want the hemline to fall) This is Measurement C.

Fold your fabric (right sides together) lengthwise so the fabric stretches across the fold rather than up and down it. You'll need to cut two rectangles. One will be Measurement A by Measurement C, the other will be Measurement B by 12 inches. See below.

Without unfolding, sew along the edge opposite the fold using a zig zag stitch on both rectangles.

Take the smaller rectangle and fold it in half, pulling the inside over, so that the raw edges meet.

Tuck this into the larger rectangle so that the back hems line up. The waistband piece will be much smaller, you want this. You could stretch and pin it before you sew, but for me it was much easier to just stretch as I sewed. Slip the fabric under the foot of your machine and, with a zig zag stitch, sew back and forth over that center hem line a few times. Now, working slowly, pull the waistband out as you sew along the edge. Keep pulling, not overly tight, but pretty firmly, so that the waistband stretches as you sew it to the top edge of the larger rectangle.

When it's done and you turn it right side out, it should look like this.

And that's about it. The waist band is of the fold over variety and you can fold it more or less or not at all to adjust the length of the skirt.

Now, humm, what to sew next.

July 27, 2011

two girls on the town

As I mentioned yesterday, Evelyn is not terribly pleased that we left her brother behind in Missouri for another week of Camp Nana and Poppa. To try and make up for the loss of fishing/swimming/lounging on the floor getting to watch cable TV, I'm giving over the week to Things that Evie wants to do. Normally I try to balance what Briton wants to see with what she wants to do (and what I want to see) when we go places, but this week it's all her.
Yesterday we dressed up in our favorite dresses and fancy shoes and went to see the Maria Kalman exhibit at the Jewish Museum before it closes at the end of the week. We discovered her by accident during the Museum Mile Festival and I've been wanting to go back ever since with paper and crayons for some art fun.
Dog Reads Book - Maria Kalman
Dog Reads Book - Evelyn

Self Portrait (with Pete) - Maria Kalman
Self Portrait (with Nigella) - Evelyn (she's the one with the antenna sticking up out of her head - pigtails I guess)

The gallery was almost empty so we sat on the floor and the benches and Evie drew her version of her favorite pieces. We also visited the dress up room and tried to count all of the dogs that appeared in the paintings but gave up somewhere in the 40's.
I've never really been a go and look at art kind of person. I like art, I just don't really feel like I'm that knowledgeable about it. But it's funny how different looking at art can be with kids. Before we left we went down to the main gallery which is filled with French Impressionist paintings. There was one painting, a ocean scene by Renoir I think, that showed a sailboat and a rocky outcropping. I asked Evie where she thought the boat was going and she launched into a long story about the boat running away from the giant (the rocks looked a little like giants legs) and how the giant was wearing his pajamas and holding them over his knees so that they wouldn't get wet. I never would have seen that myself, looking at that painting. To me it was just a boat, sailing away. I think I like Evie's version better.

Today she has chosen the Natural History Museum so she can see the big whale and tomorrow she wants to go to a "playground that we've never been to" preferably with sand and water and also on a picnic. Will is on the hunt for some theatre tickets for a Saturday matinee to round off the Evie week.

I miss having Briton here but it's also nice to be able to focus just on Evelyn this week. When school starts it will be Briton and I off on adventures each day while Evie is in Kindergarten, so having this week of my girl is such a treat.

July 26, 2011

a huck finn kind of summer

Well, it's Tuesday. How did that happen? Actually I know exactly how it happened.
When I was growing up, I spent a week or so each summer with my grandparents. Both sets happened to live in the same town which meant that I could bounce back and forth between their houses - building, baking, exploring, swimming and generally having a grand old time. I looked forward to those weeks all year long and I'm pretty sure that much of my personality was formed, or at least influenced heavily, by all of the things I learned from my grandparents during those visits.
Briton has been heading off to my parents for a week every summer since he was five and Evie and I usually tag along for the first part but this summer we stayed for a longer visit before leaving him behind for some special Nana and Poppa time. Lucky us. It's also the first summer that Evie has really gotten to be part of the gang. Will and I contemplated sending her for some time on her own there, since she is five as well, but in the end it seemed like it was better to wait another year. Plus, I like getting to be there with everyone. It's like getting to be Huck Finn for a week.
Briton started off the visit by forming a plan to try out a different ice cream shop every day and rating them. While we didn't make it every day, we did end up eat more ice cream during the week than I've eaten in a year (such a hard life, I know). He's still on the job and I'm looking froward to seeing the results of his poll. (For the record, the frozen yogurt place was my favorite!)
It was kid (of all ages) heaven. There was fishing and bowling, fishing and painting, fishing and cooking, fishing and swimming. We went to the lake and the pool and the never to be missed City Museum in St. Louis. And, oh, there was more fishing. Briton and Evie were always game for fishing at the creek that runs through my parent's property. Even when it was 104.
So instead of blogging or checking email or reading facebook I played and swam and cooked and read two whole books and watched the tiny toad that lives in a flowerpot on the deck and knitted (more on that later) and yes, fished.
Yesterday Evie and I got on a plane to come home to a much cooler city and a very happy daddy and dog (until Evie decided the dog needed some accessories, then I'm not sure the dog was as happy to see us. Thank goodness for patient pups!) and Briton went off with his Poppa for a day's adventure at the Science Museum and the Zoo in St. Louis which he told me on the phone tonight was the best day ever.

Ah summer...

Now I just have to convince my girl that she can, in fact, survive for six days without her brother. It might even be fun. Museums, museums, here we come!

July 15, 2011

snippets from the week

I seem to have taken a larger than normal amount of pictures this week. I've been reading through a digital photography tutorial so some of it has been practicing different settings and angles, but also, we've just had a busy, fun week. I'm off to my parent's house for ten days so I'll be mostly away next week but I'm sure I'll at least have some photos to share by next Friday! Have a great week everyone!

Remember when I said I saw a cat waiting for the bus? That's ok, no one around here believed me either. But then we had to catch the bus one afternoon this week and as we stood there who should wander up to wait with us but this sweet thing. Evie was in love. We almost missed getting on the bus because she was so busy snuggling him.

Briton learned a trick or two from the circus people at the park this weekend. Like, how to balance a plate on a stick.
And how to use one of those giant yo-yo things.
Evelyn did not have much luck with the circus tricks so she just made faces at me.
And then found a hole in a rock which she thought was way cooler than either the concert of the circus people. She might have been right.
Humm, I think it might be genetic.

It was hard to resist sticking my hand into this fountain to see where some of the cool coins were from. Lots of different shapes and sizes and colors, but this frilly edged one was my favorite.
This is the second funniest sign I saw this week. The first I did not manage to get a photo of because I was carrying a very, very tired little girl and her scooter and my bag and a bag full of wet play in the fountain clothes and holding the hand of a tired not-so-little boy. But for the record, it said:

"It's only going to get hotter out there.
You should probably just come inside where
there is A/C and cold beer.
The only thing hot in here
is the Bartender. "

I actually went back the next day to take a picture of the sign but they had changed it to something about the world cup. Oh well. I've decided that, on the strength of that sign alone, that will be my go-to bar. If I ever get a chance to go to a bar while we live here. Which is unlikely, but, you know, a girl can dream.

Trying to count the tiles in the mosaic. Thank goodness she got bored with that or we could have been there a long, long time.

I managed to get some sewing done this week. This was the beginning of my new bag (yay! a bag that does not have hole in the lining that my phone and keys always seem to be drawn to) but I also recovered my camera strap and made myself the worlds most comfy pencil skirt. It was also the fastest piece of clothing I've ever made. Three minutes. Maybe. I said "Ok, get your shoes on, we're going to the park!" before I started and I still beat them to the door, with my new skirt on, before Evie had both shoes buckled. I'll be sharing that one soon. Promise.

July 14, 2011

planning, or not

Last weekend I made myself a little to do list in my planner. Along with my regular craft writing gigs, our Wednesday homeschool get together and the normal chores of the week I wrote

Book kids back to school check ups
Sort and pay bills
Plan school year
Which, looking back, seems pretty preposterous. I didn't actually intend to plan the whole school year, of course, but I had hoped to make a good start.

The good news is that I got the back to school check ups knocked out of the park and in the process found a new doctor, dealt with the bills and am, as I write, doing laundry so that I can pack to take the kids to visit my parents tomorrow. But the school year. Well, not so much.

I keep staring at the planning book that I bought before we left Charlottesville. All those blank pages for all those weeks and months in which I will be responsible for teaching my son. I'm not really even sure where to start.

For months I've kept a notebook for ideas about homeschooling. Websites that I've run across, books that have been recommended to me. And most of all, thoughts I've had about the things that I'd like to do this year. They are mostly half thoughts, incomplete sentences that I've jotted down as they come out of my head.

"Artists and Musicians could be tied by a time period"

"Pick Large science theme - flight, electricity, etc."

"Start the day reading the newspaper
-where are the biggest stories
- find the location on the globe
-why does it impact us?
-what do you think might happen?
-track/graph sports stats

The lists went on and on, and then slowed down when we moved. And then stopped completely while we got to know the apartment and the building and the neighborhood and the city. But now it's time to get sorted, and I just stare at all those ideas, wondering how to make that into a year of homeschooling.

I'm tempted by the unschooling route, the lets just do things and see where they get us route. But in New York, this is hard. Not because there isn't a plethora of things to learn from all around, obviously this city is full of teachable moments, but because the state requires a lot of paperwork with a lot of specifics on what you are going to teach your child. Or at least that's what it seems to require. At the moment, I'm a little overwhelmed by the paperwork.

Also, I'm a planner. I like to plan and make lists and have things set out for me in an orderly way. So I need to organize our year for me, so that I know where we are going, even if I don't know exactly how we are getting there.

I remember facing this dilemma every year when it came time to fill our my class planbook. It is at once frightening and thrilling. All those days. All those opportunities to fill little minds. But then I had a pretty strict curriculum to stick to so I at least had an outline. Here, by choice, I'm not working towards any pre-planned curriculum. I wanted that freedom, to choose what we would learn, to take what was happening in the city and the world around us and use that as my guide. Still, it's a little scary. All that time to fill, and not just with worksheets and math problems.

Every Wednesday I meet with a group of homeschooling moms for a playdate. Most of them have been homeschooling for years and many of them have boys Briton's age so it's a great chance for us to jump into the community around here and to ask questions. Lots of questions. No one does the same things, obviously, but it's given me a few ideas on structure. It's also been eye opening, to hear about the struggles, the frustrations, especially from one mom (of a boy Briton's age) who just started homeschooling last year and isn't sure she is going to stick with it.

While I knew, of course, that homeschooling Briton for the year would not be simple and easy, it's easy to get lulled into a "this is a piece of cake" attitude during the summer. An M and M graph here, a discussion about the workings of a sky tram there and bam, your homeschooling. And that is homeschooling, but only the beginning of it.

I do have the start of a plan in my head, at least. In fact, there is a book waiting at the library about the History of New York (a really cool book!) that I hope will help me plan out history, and hopefully that will help anchor some of the other subjects. Hopefully. Fingers crossed.

Yay, this is going to be fun! Right?

July 13, 2011

day by day, little by little

During the course of the morning I realized that we have now been here for six weeks. It's an important number, six weeks. After eight moves during our married life, nine if you count moving across the street in Charlottesville and thirteen if you go back to our pre-married days (I wont even give you the number of times I've moved in my whole life, it might make me look a little crazy) I've learned that six weeks is a turning point. The boxes are long gone, or, in this case, long since stuffed behind the couch. You've stopped saying "I just moved here" and know where all the important things are: the post office, the go-to grocery store, the when you have more time grocery store, the schools and parks and playgrounds. The Michael's (this is me, after all) and yarn stores and fabric stores (or lack there of). After six weeks, you stop feeling like your moving and start feeling like your living.
New York to entirely different than I expected. I looked forward to the adventure of life in the city but what I really expected was that this year away would give our family a chance to circle the wagons, so to speak. To spend more time together away from fixing up houses and PTO meeting and school concerts and community events. Not that I didn't love all of those things. I did. But taking a break from it just to be a family was appealing. I worried about getting around, about cramming into a small apartment about having no yard to play in or best friends just up the street.

The reality has been very different from all of my fears and concerns and even my expectations. I love the city. I love that there are so many parks we'll never get bored of them. I love that I haven't, even once, missed having a car. Our apartment is small, yes, but surprisingly well thought out for a family. There are places to escape to and sound proofed walls that mean that quiet time is possible, even when a legendary and complicated Angry Birds-esque Lego/Calico Critters battle is being waged in the other room.

But it is also hard at times. Will is busier than he has ever been. Busier than when he was an intern at his first job, busier than when he worked for himself and seemed to eat, drink and sleep his projects, busier than when he led projects on the other side of the world and had meetings at weird hours. It's no fault of his, or mine, or even the program he is in. It's just how it is. Busy. And we make it work. Hours and tasks are shuffled so that he is home for the important things. Our sleep schedule has shifted, with all of us staying up later and sleeping in later than we normally would because it means more time together. And that's fine. It works for us. And just as we used to fall into a alternate routine when Will was out of town, I've gotten us into a pseudo single parent schedule so that life cranks along pretty smoothly.

It's a good life. It's harder on poor Will than it is on us. He is missing most of the fun stuff, but he gets enough of it to make it worth while. And he loves school, which makes the busy days and nights worth while for me (most of the time ;)).
My Aunt recently passed on a piece of advice, to enjoy even the hard stuff. And that's what I keep reminding myself. Some nights the kids will not fall asleep, even when I'm so desperate for some peace and quiet that I could cry. But that's ok. It's life. It's motherhood. And it will be gone in a flash. Pretty soon I'll have to beg them to come out of their room and talk to me. Some days I want to scream at stalled subways or late buses or lines to get into museums or long walks home. But that's ok too. Because before I know it, this year will be gone and we'll be back in a car, driving thorough a normal small town life, and I'll miss buses and subways. Even the M11 which always seems to be ten minutes late, except when I'm running late, and then it's early. Some days I would kill to not have to wash every dish by hand. But that's ok because one day I'll have a dishwasher again and I'll miss....actually, no, I'll never miss not having a dishwasher.

There are days that I cant remember our old life. Almost like it's a dream that I can't quiet bring into focus. It seems like we've been here forever. Other days it's this life that seems more of a dream. Regardless of if the day has been good or bad I often look up and think "Do we really live here? In New York?" Almost as though this is a vacation, as if we are just pretending to live here.

I know we are no where near to being "New Yorkers". That would take years, a lifetime. But I'm enjoying that fact that I don't feel so much like a tourist anymore. My daughter has stopped (for the most part) licking the subway windows, I can come up out of a station and almost always walk the right direction without having to consult the GPS dot on Google Maps. my kids have found friends in our building and traipse up and down the stairs, running from one apartment back to the other to play. I saw Larry Davis walking down the street in front of Tom's Restaurant and was totally unfazed by it (no really, it was weird, but I kept walking because , eh, famous people, whatever) I've even been asked for directions a few times, and once I was actually helpful with my answer.

Day by day, little by little, we are settling into this new life and finding that it suits us. Even the hard parts.

July 11, 2011

(brooklyn) wild

There are wild parrots in Brooklyn. Did you know that? And not just one or two, whole huge colonies of them. I stumbled across this website back when I was researching neighborhoods to live in before our move and noticed that they offered a parrot safari. Unfortunately, I then totally forgot about it. Fortunately though, my iphone did not. Friday morning I got an alert, "Parrot Safari Tomorrow!" Honestly, I shudder to think what I would forget if I couldn't have alerts on my phone to remind me. Not that I would remember that I'd forgotten.
So Saturday morning we took a Brooklyn bound train all the way to the end of the line. It's a long trip, my friends. More than an hour sitting on the hard plastic seats of a subway car. Will often wonders why I always seem to bring so much stuff when I head out the door : sudoku book, Highlights magazine, various pens and colored pencils, charged phone, two water bottles, spare grocery bags, camera, baggies of graham crackers and goldfish and trailmix. But the thing is,if we were heading out for a days adventure in the car, I would have brought much more (and had a place to leave them when we were doing our adventuring) so I think I've pared things down pretty nicely. Enough to keep the kids busy on longer rides without killing my shoulder with too much weight.
When we finally got to Brooklyn College, late, due to six unscheduled and unexplained stops along the way, and grumpy because we were late we found the group a few minutes into the tour and looked up in wonder. Parrots. No really. Parrots! Big, green, loud parrots!
They are transplants, of course. The descendants of a crate of birds from Argentina that broke open at the airport in the 1960's. They have defied attempts to eradicate them and poachers traps and have become solid, cherished members of the neighborhood. As we watched them a car drove by and shouted "leave them alone!".
It's mating season and so they few in pairs, nuzzling each other on the branches above us and chirping in what the guide said was their "contented sound". And we watched from below as the big green birds swooped from branch to branch, nest to nest, in the leafy trees of a quiet neighborhood.
Sometimes, I'm just flat out amazed at what you find, if you look, in New York.