May 29, 2012

we have our heading

For a long time, Will and I have had a sort of a mantra. I've probably mentioned it before, and maybe mantra is to grand a word for it, maybe it's just a thing we tell ourselves when life seems too changeable.

You cannot plan, you can only prepare.

Because plans change, go awry, turn upside down. So it's better to prepare. Prepare to stay, prepare to go, prepare to have a spanner thrown into the works, prepare to pack furiously over a holiday weekend so that we can move to a teeny tiny town in Vermont in three days.



If someone had told me two years ago that we would find ourselves in New York, I would probably have laughed. If they'd told me that I would be, this week, finishing up a year of homeschooling my wonderful, energetic, occasionally maddening son, I would have laughed even more. And yet here we are.

Likewise I would never have guessed, on the weekend we moved here, one year ago exactly, that we would be heading next to Vermont. In fact, I'm pretty sure I'd never really thought much about Vermont at that point. On that weekend, I was just hoping we'd make it though the year and then go home, either to Charlottesville, or back to Portland. And yet, as before, here we are.

Living in this city for a year has taught me many things, and I'm sure that, in time, I'll reflect back on all of them. But the main thing that I've learned is that, while New York is beautiful and exciting and thrilling, it's not for us. Or perhaps, we are not for it. We can exist here. We made friends and saw wonderful things and had a great deal of fun, but in the end, we are not living the life that we want. And existing isn't enough. It's time to live.

I have so many things that I hope for the year, years, ahead of us. As much fun as I've had this year, I feel a little bit lost in myself. I think all of us feel that way. So it's time to get back. To start over. To live the inverse of this year. And believe me, where we are going is about as different from Manhattan as it could possibly get. We couldn't be more thrilled. Honestly, I keep dancing in the kitchen. I think the neighbors across the way think I'm a little nuts, but that's ok, they only have to see my mad midnight dancing for a few more days.

You'll have to excuse me from this space for a bit, however. The move that was supposed to take a month has now been compressed into a few days. And ready or not, we pick up the keys to the moving truck Thursday morning and turn in our keys to the apartment at the end of the day. So we'd better be ready.

May 25, 2012

snippits of the week

This is going to be a bit of an abbreviated post here. I didn't take many pictures this week. Not because it wasn't an exciting week, it was, but I'll tell you more about that later. I just didn't take many pictures. Except for these.

When I say you really never know what you are going to see on the streets of New York, I mean it.

I actually know what this is. It's a couch. Yes. A couch. It was part of the architectural exhibit that the students set up for graduation. But I'm pretty sure 99.9% of the folks on the street that day had no idea. Not that anyone seemed phased by it.

Also, the guy was talking on his phone while he walked with it balanced on his head.


May 22, 2012

on the needles

In knitting, an in life, sometimes, everything goes wrong. Your gauge may be perfect and even, your yarn consumption right on target, your cables flawless. But when you put the sweater on for the first time you stare in horror as the garment that was supposed to fall just above the hips hangs down to your knees.

Heavy yarn. That was my problem. The yarn was different than the pattern, which is generally no big deal, except that this time the pattern's yarn was unbelievable light and the yarn I chose was really, really dense. I washed, I blocked, I dried, I tried it on again. This time it hit my shins. I kid you not. So now we are felting. In the hopes that a little (lot) of shrinkage will render the sweater wearable.

That was the half spectacular knitting fail. Half because it might, might, be salvageable. The full on, throw in in with the pile-o-shame project, however, is a 100% total fail. I won't bore you with more particulars, let's just say that lace yarn and I don't mesh. 
But it's all good. Because the cure for a spectacular knitting fail (or two) is a no fail project. I've had my eye on the Strip Study Shawl for months. I've never been much of a shawl person but I kept coming back to stare at the finished projects of this beauty. And then when Briton scavenged a nice wool shawl from the magic basement for me which turned out to be perfect for chilly mornings, I moved Strip Study to the top of my to do list.

It's breezing by so far. This was yesterday morning's photo but some knitting while supervising math time combined with Monday Knitting Night has be twice as far along. I love it. I love that it can be whatever size it ends up and it will still be good. Small?. Whatever, it's a scarf then. Huge? Awesome, I need a huge shawl. Medium, great, right on target. As long as it ends with success, I'm happy. Then, once I'm finished and over my knitting fail hump, I can start on a pair of mittens with that handspun. Or maybe this shawl from the same designer as Stripe Study. Or this one. So pretty, it's hard to decide. I might have to make them all.

What's in your workbasket this week?

May 21, 2012

make and mend

Last week I discovered, and then became slightly obsessed with the blog Fashion on a Ration. Britain during World War Two is a sort of an interest of mine, particularly what the women of Britain were up to during those years. If you looked at the basket of books beside my bed, you might think I read only WAAF diaries and stories about the blitz. My grandmother, who was an endlessly fascinating woman and who passed away when I was a baby, was both a WAAF and a Londoner during the blitz and that's a big part of where the interest stems from, but in general, I'm absolutely fascinated by the era, the bravery and the way life carried on. So Fashion on a Ration, which tracked a year in the life of a London girl who decided to follow the clothing rationing system from the war, sewing and mending her way through the year, is right up my ally. It's got sewing, it's got history, it's got heaps of random bits of information that I fine interesting. (For example, did you know that the government had laws about how many buttons different kinds of garments could have? Can you imagine that now?)
I read her entire year's worth of entries over the course of a few days and it's given me the sewing bug again. Actually reading the blog combined with one and a half spectacular knitting fails (more later) and finishing the hem of my dress in the nick of time for graduation all combined to put me on a little bit of a sewing high. One of the things that I found most interesting was a pamphlet that she scanned that was put out by the US government about reusing clothing. It's full of all sorts of ideas for altering the look of dresses, whipping up little details that can be added to old clothes for interest and using disassembled men's suits and shirts for the fabric for women's pieces. I love that idea. But since Will doesn't have any spare suits hanging around, I decided a trip to the giant Salvation Army in Midtown was in order.
This isn't about making over a suit, however. That will come, but it's a big project that requires a) time, b) an appropriate suit and c) an appropriate pattern, none of which I have at the moment. I did pick up a pair of lightweight wool slacks from the men's rack to try the idea out on when I find a good pattern. But in the spirit of the make do and mend idea, and because I found a skirt that was too small and too full but too cute to pass up, I took a stab at making over something and I'm hooked.
This skirt was just the project I needed. Quick - I finished the whole thing while watching Millions Like Us (what can I say, I'm obsessed) and successful - which after my knitting fails I really needed, it made me almost giddy to see it come together.
Because the skirt was one big loop, I didn't need to re-hem or sew up any seams, except for the spot that I ripped while pulling off the waistband. Woops.

With no pockets and just a simple placket where the waistband buttoned, all I needed to do was take out some of the fullness so that the waist was bigger. It sounds more complicated than it was, I promise. 

The secret here was the pleats. There were LOTS of pleats in the original skirt. The fabric was stitched down the length of the skirt to form small folds, then pleated forwards and backwards. I took out the forwards and backwards pleats but left the stitched down the length ones and the size 0 skirt ended up being more than 100 inches around. That's a lot of skirt. To bring it back down to my size I pinned larger, single pleats all around. This took me two tries, the first time it was still way too big, the second it was still slightly big, but adjusting the waistband made it work.
For the new waistband I used red grosgrain ribbon which, I think, looks better than the original. Much more interesting to have that punch or red there, right?

Yesterday we bummed around the park most of the day and it was the perfect light weight, easy to wear skirt. Just what I needed. And now it's got me all excited to make over some more things. There was an interesting pair of seersucker mens pants on the rack that would make some cute pedal pushers. Wonder if they are still there...

What do you think? What's the best kind of thing to alter? Anyone ever make a woman's suit out of a man's? Tips?

May 18, 2012

snippits of the week - the graduation edition

This week has careened by in a blue and white blur. So much so that last night I kept reminding myself to watch Mystery, then had to remind myself that it was Thursday, not Sunday. I still feel a little discombobulated, but life is winding back toward normal, whatever normal will be for the next few weeks.
I keep catching myself wishing things would hurry up and be done with already instead of being content to just enjoy this moment. Will walking across the stage (and getting an award! Woop!) Sunny days and cool nights where he doesn't need to hunker down in studio, or stay glued to the computer, or prep for a presentation.
In a few weeks (I hope) we'll be settled, somewhere, back in an ordinary life, so right now is the time to just hang out, enjoy, and recover. I just have to remind myself of that in my rush to what's next.
Graduation was lovely. Sunny, maybe a little too warm, but beautiful. The speakers were excellent, and funny which, for some reason, surprised me and the kids, miraculously, sat (mostly) quietly for the whole six hour ceremony.
And now we are through. We made it. We still don't know what's on the other side, but that will come (patience, Gillian, patience)

May 14, 2012

green as far as the eye can see

My apologies for the radio silence there last week. We took a spur of the moment, post finals/per-graduation get the heck out of dodge trip up to New England last week. Now that graduation week is officially upon us (YAY!) I may be in and out this week too. So many things to do and people to say goodbye to and end of year events to attend. It's shaping up to be a busy week.

Which makes last week all the more appreciated. Trees trees trees. Mountains and water and little towns with one stoplight. The kids rolled in grass and picked dandelions and got their shoes wet and climbed every tree they could (no Central Park Rangers in sight to tell them there is NO CLIMBING TREES IN THE PARK! Phew)

We all needed that. A little bit of nothing. No crowds, no horns honking, grass underfoot, leaves overhead. Perfect.

May 7, 2012

and green shoes to match

I'm not really much of a fashionista. I like clothes, don't get me wrong. And I try to look as if I put at least a smidgen of effort into getting dressed in the morning, but I'm not especially good at that all pulled together look. For one thing I've never been able, or had a strong desire, to spend a lot of money on clothes and for another, I don't have a really strong sense of my own personal style. It depends a lot on my mood. Sometimes I like girly, sometimes I like sleek, sometimes I like jeans and t-shirts (actually my default is jeans and a t-shirt. What can I say, I've been at home with my kids for ten years)

But living in New York has given me the opportunity to observe a lot of fashionable, and not so fashionable people on a daily basis. Who can forget the tights are not pants phase which, now that the weather is warming up, I have to tell you, is back. And while black is definitely the color of choice here - just check out the racks in the thrift stores with their acres of black pants, tops, sweaters and shoes and you'll see it's true - I've noticed a trend in the outfits I like as they pass on the street. The name of the game is coordination. Specifically shoes that match your jacket or sweater.

This is perfect for me because I love a good cardigan. I hate weather that makes layering uncomfortable because I feel strange in just a shirt. I want a cardigan or a sweater or a something over it. It's so ingrained that I regularly step out with a sweater on when it's way too hot to wear one and end up spending the day overheated. So this has become my new thing. Cardigans and matching flats. Because heels bother my ankles after a while and flip flops are disgusting in the city. Unless you like black grimy toes.

Being on a wife-of-a-grad-student budget means that I can't go crazy with this. I started with one set. In red. From Target. Which was cheap, but not cheap enough to add in multiples. But since then I've done some thrifting and TJ Maxxing and have gathered myself a few more cardigans and shoes. It's become a sort of a uniform, but I'm ok with that. Less thinking in the morning is always a good thing.

My favorite color is green and I've been on the hunt for a green duo for a while. I scored a sweater a few weeks ago but green must be out of style because there were no green flats to be found. At least not of the as cheap as possible while still being comfortable variety. So I decided to make some.

I found these canvas espadrille type flats on the clearance rack at Marshall's. Actually I found a blue stripy pair first and then when they turned out to be ridiculously comfy I went back and found the plain white ones.

Using masking tape, I blocked off the rubber sole, wrapping the edge around to cover where canvas meets rubber and smoothing it down with my fingernail.

I mixed up equal parts acrylic paint that matched my sweater and fabric medium. I'm really liking the new Martha Stewart mediums, they seem to do a good job and are easier to find than some of the other brands.

While I could have gone with just plain green, I wanted something a little more fun so I tried my hand at an ombre effect. Starting at the bottom edge, I brushed the green on, letting it fade out as I went up.
Once I'd painted around both shoes, I added a little more medium and some white paint to the mix to lighten up the color. This I painted on from the top edge down.

Before the lighter paint dried, I rubbed the shoes down with a damp paper towel to blend the colors where the paint meets. This way there is no "line" and the colors simply fade into one another. Once they were dry, I set the paint with some puffs of steam from the iron.

I'm hoping the paint holds up in the wash, we'll see in a few weeks when, inevitably, they will get grungy from walking all over the city. If not I suppose I can repaint them. Although so far my experience with using the fabric medium has been great, so I'm pretty sure they'll be in it for the long haul. Which is good, because I love them.

So now I'm set. With green shoes to match.

May 4, 2012

snippits of the week

Although we had lovely sunny days early on, most of the week has been rainy and grey and today there are supposed to be thunderstorms. Ahh spring.
It gives us a good excuse to wear our shiny red rainboots though.
Before the rain came, however, we were able to get in some good, outdoor play time, It's funny how the rings at Hudson Beach never fail to entertain my kids, even though they quickly tire of actually going on the rings. It's still their favorite place in Riverside Park. And will be mine again soon when the cafe/wine bar open up again.

Spotted, for Nana. from Briton

Farmer's Market goat cheese and honey on bread. I forgot how yummy it is. And how it never fails to give me a stomach ache, darn those soft cheeses. Not that it means I'll stop eating it. 

While he loved the trains, LOVED the trains, the highlight of our trip to the Transit Museum was actually this little lady. Sadie the Cat has lived at the museum since she was a kitten, roaming the cars and displays.  We found her chilling in a subway car at the end of the tracks. Just hanging out.

You just never know what you're going to see in this town, I tell ya.

May 3, 2012

field trip: new york transit museum

If Briton had still been two or three, the New York Transit Museum would have been the holy grail of places to go for him. Trains, trains, trains. And buses! And trolleys! And more trains! Even at nine, I can see the lingering train love in him when faced with an entire platform full of historic subway cars to explore.

I found it interesting as well, especially seeing the different styles of subway cars through time. I think a lot of the older cars are nicer, and brighter, than the bulk of the subway cars that are running today. I noticed that the nice bright cars from the fifties are very similar, right down to the color of the seats, to the new cars that they are putting to work these days. It was also the perfect trip for our history lessons as we have been discussing how transportation shaped the growth of the city (he's not an urban designers kid for nothing, after all) so it was fun to look at old pictures of horse drawn trolley's and see how the subway tunnels were built. And also to take some photos for a stop action video he has in mind of course.

The cars were filled with vintage ads, including a notice in every single car for fire prevention week, which was a little odd, but whatever. There were also lots of Subway Manners ads which were funny (and perhaps need to be brought back)
 The museum is in an actual subway station that is no longer being used, although, as the many, many signs around the museum warned, the tracks are still connected to the system so the third rail is still live. But it means that to get in, you go down a set of subway steps which is cool, and a little confusing. I guess people miss the museum entrance all the time when they come. It would be easy to do. I was kind of surprised to find that it wasn't filled with toddler boys the way the Intrepid was. Maybe it was the rain. I know if my boy had been a toddler here we would have spent a LOT of time in this museum. It's not wham bang wow cool the way the Children's Museum for the Arts is, but it's still fun, especially if you have a recovering train addict in your family.

Did I say recovering?
"Hey Mom, I think I need to get out my Playmobil train. And maybe we can get some extra track. And also do you think Evelyn would like a train for her birthday? That way we could play with them together! Maybe we could find her a pink one! I wonder if we could find some flexible track so I could build a HUGE hill that climbs up to my bunk!"

Annnnnnd trains are back.

May 1, 2012

another month, another handspun

I've done less spinning this month than I have the last two. With Will having a smidgen more free time, I've had less sit-by-myself-of-an-evening-and-spin time, which, much as I love spinning, is fine by me. It's nice to have him home more.
For the second month in a row I've participated in a month-long spinning challenge over at the Spindlers Group on Ravelry. There's no reward to the challenge, no prize, the winner is chosen at random, but having a theme and a deadline helps me keep at it. This months theme was Snips and Snails from the old poem, which perfectly fit a braid of fiber I bought with socks for Briton in mind.
When I was plying up the two strands last   I felt a little dissapointed by the muted colors.

I had expected more contrast, the varied colors were what drew me to the fiber in the first place. I washed it, fulled it and hung it to dry, not expecting to like it much more in the morning. But whether it was the washing or the better light, today, I'm loving it. This is only half of the 4 oz braid I bought and at 300 yards so far, I should have enough for a pair of socks, or maybe mittens, for my boy-o. He is, after all, the one who seems to appreciate mommy-knits the most in the family. I think he deserves something warm and fuzzy and boy colored.

I haven't decided if I'll do another challenge next month, between graduation and end of the year and starting to pack and possible real, solid free time with my husband, I suspect I may be a bit busy. Instead I'll probably continue on with the rest of the boy-yarn. We'll see. Something may tempt me away and onto a new project. Or maybe, just maybe, I'll find myself with a spinning wheel in my living room and then packing and touristing will, I fear, go by the wayside for a few weeks while I play. Humm, maybe I should wait on that wheel until after we've moved to...wherever we are going to move to (still no news there).