Friday, July 31, 2009

July 31: Progress? What Progress?

Last day of July, and a rainy one it's been. . . I am on the verge of my first ever yard sale (to benefit our church's effort to raise $5000 for a Heifer International Ark--two of each of the animals Heifer provides for families in need around the world). We'll see how it goes, but I am blown away by the help and support everyone is offering, crowned by my BH but ably supported by Elder. . !!!

However, the heading refers to my February Lady sweater. HOW do people crank it out in one month or less? I have been knitting A. LOT. Every evening I knit at least an hour, and I have NOT had to take out major swathes or anything. I am about one or two lace repeats away from starting the garter edging, and that's great! I even tried it on last night and am cautiously optimistic, given that virtually everyone who's made it says it grows when blocked ("What ees dis blocking you spik of?"). Wearing this creation, the most complicated sweater I've made I think ever, seemed within my reach. . . but then suddenly I realized:


Long sleeves.

TWO of 'em.

All gull patterned lace.

This could take some time.

"More books on cd, Jeeves!"

Saturday, July 25, 2009

July 26: Mornin'!

The show was great fun: I was amazed at how smoothly it ran after only five weeks of work, and delighted by how much fun they were all having. Younger went off for a late dinner/celebration after the show: a huge step forward for him socially!

Now I am browsing knitting blogs, all the while feeling that more knitting and less browsing might mean more progress. Certainly the infernal "it's too hot to knit this summer" problem has not raised its head so far! I did do several lace repeats (3, maybe?) last night while waiting for the show to start, during intermission, and then at home, waiting for Younger to appear (and to get to go to SLEEP!). I may finagle the sleeve stitches so I can try it on and make a decision about length soon.

The skies are only mostly cloudy, not pouring rain, today, so my spirits and energy are higher. Cleaning? Finishing the Skirt? Etc? We shall see! Let's hope at least that my brother and BH have great fishing!

Friday, July 24, 2009

July 24: Opening Day/Night!

Today Younger's theater camp opens "Bye Bye, Birdie!" with a 12 noon showing for the YMCA camp as a dress rehearsal, which BH will attend. I'll go tonight "for real" and then again tomorrow night for closing. Younger is very excited, and I'm proud of him in a complicated and mushy way: he has dealt with some stress (practices every day since school ended, riding himself up and down the hill on his bike, not getting a big part, being part of a show with older kids, etc) and has really thrived (throve? thriven??) and been increasingly independent and happy. He sings around the house and practices dance steps and retells terrible jokes the cast enjoys. . . . He's making his own way and loving it, so I'm proud and delighted and touched.

Today is also a day of heavy rain, though I'm watching to see if the old "rain before seven, stop before eleven" saw holds true. It's 11:03 and raining less heavily, so maybe that counts, at least for this soggy summer! I am still in my jammies, and have read and then played about on Ravelry for a bit. I'm pondering making the free skirt pattern I got from Sewing by the Sea using the funky rayon print I got at Marden's yesterday (3 bucks and change), but I might also want to really neaten up my study before that, and I had considered cleaning at least half the house today and doing the rest tomorrow. I could ALSO plop myself down on the couch with a movie and do some serious repeats on the FLS. . . but I just. don't. seem. to. be. able. to. muster. up. the. energy.


Younger and I did make luscious millionaire's shortbread yesterday, and I did finish reading The Private Patient, a classically well-written and enthralling Adam Dalgleish novel by PD James, and I am very close to finishing the Nicolar book for my class. . . . so I have been doing stuff, but I am definitely in a quagmire of sorts--bored, moldy, lethargic, flat.

However: this post has been written over a span of about 2 hours, as several people have stopped by, BH and I have loaded Younger's old bike into BH's car for its delivery to my younger brother's older son (!!) this weekend, and I have begun and stopped a few things, like cleaning off the dining room table to cut out the skirt, etc. When I told him I was out of solar energy, BH also said to me, "So have a lazy day in your pajamas. No harm done." And he's absolutely right: what difference does it make? I don't really have to always be "a human doing": sometimes I can be a human BEING! So: whatever gets done, gets done. Inspired by his insight and given a burst of well being by it, I have brushed my teeth and changed out of my pjs. Plans (!!) include maybe cutting material, taking Zeus for a walk if the rain subsides, and maybe watching some "Columbo" and knitting. OR MAYBE NONE OF THE ABOVE!!!!


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

JULY 21: Lest You Think. . .

that I am a rain-hater, I thought I'd write about the lovely rainy afternoon/evening I'm enjoying. Younger and BH have gone to see the latest HP, but I am happy to spend the evening pottering about, watching my latest Netflix (had it for at least a week now!), knitting on my sweater, and enjoying the rain. Elder is going to a swim meet (his last for the season) in Canada this weekend: unfortunately BH and my younger brother have planned a fishing weekend and Younger's show is this weekend, so none of us can attend. . . but we can send food. Elder doesn't have a remarkable sweet tooth (Younger inherited mine, I think) but he does love some things I bake, and one of them is a family standby: Choca-Dotta Pumpkin Cake. If my sister--I think my only reader, in fact!--reads this, she will cringe, since she hated the name when we were kids, tho I don't remember her minding the cake at all. It's a dense, heavy cake, one I often make in the fall and winter, and I thought it would be great for (fairly) healthy breakfasts or snacking for the four days the team will be in St. John. Elder himself is exhausted and sleeping right now (or texting Swimgirl. . . once I'm done this I'll shut off the router, just to check), but it adds to my cozying in feeling of this evening to have the cake in the oven.

AND here's the recipe. Ann, if you've forgotten it. . . have at it! You can call it whatever you want!

Choca-Dotta Pumpkin Cake
(my version)

For starters, mix the "wets" so the bran flakes can dissolve. In a large bowl,
beat 4 eggs and mix with
2 cups or one can of pumpkin (probably not the pie filling, tho I've never tried it)
1 cup of oil
1 1/2 cups of bran flakes (yeah, weird. But this way you can justify eating it for b'fast or sending it on a swim trip). Let that sit.

Then: sift together
2 cups of flour
2 tsp baking pwdr
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves (be sure to take a nice sniff--what smells better?)
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp ginger
2 cups of sugar (don't really need to sift that, but it makes it easy to keep the dries together)

Mix the dries into the wet, and add 1+ cup of chocolate chips and, if you so desire, 1 cup of nuts. Elder does not desire the nuts but does desire 1.5 cups of chips. SO!

Then: spoon into pans: if you do it in the one tube pan it calls for, grease it well and put the oven on 325 for one hour and a quarter and maybe you'll still need to put tinfoil on the top. I like to do a tube pan AND a small loaf so they don't get brown on top AND so the family can have some for b'fast and still send a nice tube cake to Canada. In that case, I start at 350 and then turn it down to 325; the loaf takes about 45 mins and the cake. . . an hour? But overall: bake till it seems done: some crumbs but no goo on the tester, pulling away from edges, etc.

Enjoy!!!!! My brother loves it with oranges and chocolate sauce. Go figure!

Monday, July 20, 2009

July 20: Progress (or lack thereof)

Lately our family evenings have featured watching at least one episode of the Jeeves and Wooster set that I gave BH for a belated Father's Day gift. Each show lasts about an hour or so, and while we watch it, I knit on the body of the February Lady Sweater (adapted by Pamela ?? [too lazy to get off porch and check] of Flint Knits), and I must say 1. I am enjoying the gull lace pattern, and 2. I am stunned by how slow the process is! So many bloggers I read seem to have finished projects to show off every day or so--lace shawls, sweaters, shrugs in ornate lace patterns, complete pairs of socks! When I'm teaching and thus tied to evenings of correcting or prep that precludes knitting, I thought that was the difference. "Humph," said I, "those professionals have the whole evening from 7 to at least 10 pm, maybe with a ride on the train or bus home, for knitting! Hence the progress!" Now, however, I am changing my opinion, and wondering what is up: I knit at least an hour nearly every evening, but I still think my sole project for the whole summer might end up being one. sweater. (and that's assuming enough for me to look like an old Italian lady as I cross myself and spit over my shoulder to ward off the Evil Eye). What gives? I knit "fast", with a modified continental style (I think it's called "English"), holding the yarn in my right hand but not dropping the needle to wrap it, and I use good tools. . .

But, as I run my mind's eye over my fuzzy (I fear my Cricket will pill like the devil but it's a pretty yarn nonetheless), lacy bodice-to-date, I guess I just have to accept this: I'm making progress. And progress is really what knitting's all about!

If I get my "gotta do's" done, I might post a pic of the sweater so far! It has come a ways, I do admit!

Edited to add promised picture of "Feb. Lady Sweater with Controller and Plant Pot". . .

Sunday, July 19, 2009

July 19: Pic Coming. . . Lovely Maine Day

Wow--it's summer! Breezy, warm, sunny, even a few fluffy and some black clouds didn't interfere with that ambiance. Sometimes it just happens. And today was summer. Wonderful! I drank my coffee on the cleaned front porch without a fleece or a sweatshirt, and the day continued in that vein. Amazingly, it was the church picnic out on Newberry Neck, and we decided to go, though we knew we'd be the only family with children (child, really: Elder had to life guard and then mow two lawns, so Younger was it). The weather was such a clear sign that we couldn't ignore it--and BH suggested deli sandwiches instead of grilling, which made it fun and easy. And we had a wonderful time: everyone was tickled that we'd come, Younger brought his b'day origami books from my mom, and someone had also brought bocce, which is the perfect intergenerational game with a big group: it's fun to watch, it's easy to play, it's fast moving, it's very low stress, and it got us out into the sunshine. What a nice time we had--and of course the view of Blue Hill Bay didn't hurt anything, either! There were a good number of sailboats whizzing up and down (and we saw one washed ashore, unfortunately, after a broken mooring), white caps, and deep, gorgeous blue water. Ahhhhhhh.

Then we came back and Younger started to do his yardwork chores, only getting through most of the mowing part as the weedwhacker didn't work. . . but I did some major clearing and brushcutting, wreaking havoc against the bushes that had crept back into our walls, hedges, and washline. It was good sweaty dirty work (break to go admire the large black mouse that Swipe the cat has caught and is announcing proudly on the porch. Apparently we won't go hungry if he has anything to say about it. . . Nice kitty! Good boy!): I put on lots of sunscreen and bug spray and had at it! The yard looks better (the weedwhacker's ailment means it doesn't look great yet) and my shower felt TERRIFIC!

Shall I say it again? What a nice day!

Friday, July 17, 2009

July 17: Family and, at last, a ZIPPY BOOK!

Just finished Dick Francis's Under Orders--wow! I used to like him a great deal, and then just fell out of reading him, but having listened to one of his at the very end of the school year, I thought I'd try another, and Under Orders was great: fast moving, suspenseful, informative, and a lot of fun! Nice to read a really zippy book! I also started another book for my Wabanaki course, Joseph Nicolar's book about the Penobscot, The Life and Times of the Red Man, and it is fascinating, though I haven't even read his work yet, only various intros and discussions and historical backgrounds. BUT: hopeful nonetheless. AND I have the newest P D James to read as well!

And we have spent some lovely time these three days with BH's cousin, cousin's wife, their four kids, and BH's uncle. What great people! I wish the weather had been better for them, but the upside is that we got to see them more! Today they came to Ellsworth and we got Thai food for lunch, after which they headed off to watch the new Harry Potter. How terrific to see them and to enjoy them so much. Family: always a crapshoot, but sometimes you win!

We're due for heavy rain and maybe t'storms tomorrow, then . . . . clearing, we hope! In case we're denied, I DO have some good reading.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

July 16: Happy Birthday, Younger Son!


The young man in question is modeling his new ORANGE CROCS on our deck before heading happily off to theater camp. What a blithe spirit he is!

Seems like we may be embarking on another stretch of grey weather. Glad I am not on the boat in NE Harbor with BH's uncle and cousin and their family: four teens, two parents, one granddad. Yikes. If it continues grim, they may come over to . . . oh, take hot showers, do some laundry, and go see Harry Potter #6, just as a change.

Off to eat steak tips, caesar salad, garlic bread, and german chocolate cake!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

July 14: Book Review

Well, yesterday was a sort of loose-endy day, with the result that I was grumpy and bored by day's end. However, I did do some good stuff, including finishing Leeway Cottage by Beth Gutcheon. I'd picked it up at the Friends' book sale in April and it had kicked around in the back of the car, but I finally started it, then put it down, then picked it up. . .and I finished it last night.

I've noticed that I've been noncommittal about a lot of the books I've read lately, and I wondered about that, so maybe it's a good thing that I feel pretty strongly about this novel: it's not good. Gutcheon is a good writer, I think--it's not the style or the structure that make Leeway Cottage less-than-satisfying--but she has tried to do too much. The book seesaws between being a "the rich are people too, but their parties are better and houses are nicer" book a la Anne Siddons and being a human interest/historical insight novel a la. . . well. . . Geraldine Brooks, maybe? It doesn't work. There are no likable characters except for Laurus Moss, the dad/husband/main character, and he is essentially a closed book--we're told he's calm, we're told he loves people, but we don't see or understand much about him. His wife/the other main character, Sydney, is spoiled and obnoxious, but she morphs from being the most sympathetic character in the book into that beast without explanation except that she's away from Laurus for four years during the war. Finally, and most grievously, the character of Nina, Laurus's sister, is fully explained in a searing description of sexual abuse at a concentration camp that appears so randomly (well after her death and even after the deaths of Sydney and Laurus) that I thought it was a publisher error. I think (on reflection) that Gutcheon was providing explanation for Nina's behavior in the metaphor of "after you die, you see The Movie that explains everything you didn't understand in life", but I don't think it works. None of the main characters suffer trauma--even bad boy Jimmy is saved from drug abuse or car accidents, which he surely deserves!--so the detailed Holocaust imagery is grating.

Couple all those objections with the fact that the major narration of the book occurs in a rapid fire general summarizing voice
and that Gutcheon has half-changed the geography of this area to disguise it while leaving a good deal of it intact--a pet peeve of mine!--and you've got a book I can feel strongly about. Why call it "Union" but refer to Main Street and the malls on High Street and also refer to the actual Ellsworth, Bar Harbor, and Northeast Harbor? I think Leeway Cottage is an effort to take a standard beach book and give it enough content to warrant a section in the back with author's insight and some heavy war/heroism discussion. I think I'd prefer the unadorned beach book, myself!

Anyway: I'd call this a don't-bother book. It's going back to the library today to be put into the book sale pile, and the miraculous cycle of book sale recycling will move onward!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

July 12: Shakestonington, Indeed!

Today Younger and I (pictured at scenic overlook at Caterpillar Hill, en route; pic taken with my limited camera's limited timer option so the scenic overlook aspect was pretty much. . .overlooked) went to see "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at the Stonington Opera House and it was TERRIFIC. ALL the actors were amazing, the set was creative, fascinating and variable, and the action was non-stop. . .oh, and the music, done by a live band supplemented by Puck/Philostrate and Theseus/Oberon, was wonderful too. We were in the second row, and we simply lapped it up--I was delighted that Younger got it so much, so well, and so fast--on the way home he said, "I thought it would be harder to understand! I got everything!" and he surely did. He even got me a delicious dark chocolate and coconut candy bar at intermission that was good, so talk about your rave review! The costumes and setting were very interesting in that this production really emphasized Hippolyta as captured warrior queen, and actually left that aspect unresolved at the end, with her still leery of Theseus; the four lovers became the four rustics and were absolutely terrific. Younger and I were unsure as to which actor we thought was best, but the woman who played Helena, the first-scorned-and-then-adored maiden, was my favorite. The production was really physical, too, opening with a sort of shadow play of the war against the Amazons, and throughout there was lots of wrestling, leaping, smacking, kneeing, falling, etc. Bottom/Demetrius stretched his final death scene in Pyramis and Thisbe ("the most lamentable comical tragedy of. . .") into nearly 10 mins, dying at least six times. It was pure, unadulterated pleasure. Yay, Stonington! I will surely be checking to see what's on for next year, and Younger will be right next to me, too!

What a fun/busy/varied weekend we had. I am ready for Monday so I can catch my breath!!!!!

July 12: Our Busy Weekend

It's been fun: yesterday Elder, his friend, Younger and I hit the car at 8:45 to drive to Westbrook for the older boys' swim meet. It was an easy, fast drive down, and a gorgeous day, so having to wait for Mom to show up (she got lost, which surprised me: I'm not sure if she's getting worse about following directions or if I'm getting better, as we both looked at the posted web directions but she didn't follow them!) in the sun and nice warm breeze was a pleasure! We had plenty of time for a nice lunch--thanks, Mom!--and then a return to find that the events were an hour behind those printed in the schedule: not sure how that happened, but other than that, things went well. Elder swam very well, dropping time in both his events, and was a little more outgoing to us, coming over to chat and even waving from the blocks. THAT is a welcome change, even though I decided to go to this meet for myself rather than for him.

It amazes me how the parents tell me, "Prepare to lose any life of your own if your kid swims!" I had a good conversation about that with Elder's friend's mom, who was feeling guilty that her son was hitching a ride with us since they had company coming, and I said that I was doing "my turn" and it was great! I just think that having Elder fall in love with swimming shouldn't mean that the rest of the family loses every weekend and spends hundreds of dollars on food and hotels so we can follow him around New England (and into Canada. More on that later!). We will pay his freight, yes, and help out when we can, but I think he's fine with us not being at every meet (in fact, I know he's fine with it. He has TOLD me he's fine with it!)--and we DO have two children, one of whom is, understandably, not entranced by sitting in humid, dark pool galleries to watch his brother in the water for 1.08 minutes. So I am fascinated/horrified by this very American/21st century/kid-centered phenomenon of "The Swim Family" (often, of course, the swim MOM, just like the soccer mom or the lacrosse mom): while my desire to pull our own weight/raise our own child mandates that we do play a role, my equally strong sense that we are a family which has four members, not one, mandates that we keep everyone's interests and needs in mind.

But Younger and I had a nice day, ending up our trip to southern Maine with a nice stop at Target and then dinner at Applebee's (I usually aim for non-chain restaurants, but I was hungry enough to eat my own elbow, and there it was. . .), and he kept saying, "I had such a nice day!" Not a bad outcome. Today we have church and then a trip to Stonington to see "Midsummer Night's Dream," if we can get the tickets figured out (website issues). What a whirlwind of cultcha and sport!

Friday, July 10, 2009

July 10: Look What WE'VE Got!

The sun is back! Zeus the dog and the old cat have been lolling around in it, clearly enjoying it. Yesterday was lovely but cool, and today is truly a Maine summer day--hot in the sun, perfect in the shade, and possessing a lively, warm breeze to dry my laundry. . .

of which I have hung four loads! I did my "every ten days or so" deep clean of the house, so that's done, and since then the animals and I have just been enjoying the soft air, the wonderful smell, the light playing through the skylights and the leaves, and the welcome reminder of what summer is all about. Happy days!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

July 5: We are NOT talking about the weather.

Just so you know.

But I just finished reading The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley, a mystery that I've been hearing about from every direction lately, and that I found, to my surprise, at our library right off the bat!

The main character, Flavia de Luce, is an 11 year old British girl living in 1950, and she sounds like a holy terror. . . but I ended up liking her nonetheless. The narration is a little abrupt and choppy, but it does help create a strong sense of this girl, her intelligence, and her view of the world. All in all, I liked it a great deal, and am disappointed to discover that even though this won an award for first novel in a detective series in 2007, the second book in the series isn't due out till 2010. Get writing, I sez!

Am pondering a bike ride. . . also had a terrific trip to Silveridge Farm in Bucksport to pick berries for a church fundraiser. We slid in between a torrential down pour on Thursday night and a spectacular rainstorm on Saturday afternoon. Oops. . . no weather talk, right? But the berries were lovely, and we got 36 quarts in little time. Look at us!

So: good stuff. And a good time at Swimgirl's house for the Fourth, too.

Friday, July 3, 2009

July 3: Making the Best of It!

Well. It is still mostly grey and mostly wet, with a few breaks of sun, like the ten minute one we got moments ago. I've been doing okay, although when we had a HUGE thunderstorm that lasted about an hour and a half last night, complete with torrential rains that postponed our fundraising trip to pick strawberries to sell at church and necessitated about 15 phone calls. . . . I was a tad pissed off about that. Incredibly enough, it didn't seem to make a difference.

As usual, we're at loose ends for the holiday tomorrow. With no family around, we're usually reluctant to call other people to ask them over, because often it turns out that those people have a family or neighborhood tradition, and we don't want to make them feel like they have to invite us. . .etc. etc. So far BH doesn't want to do any of the things the boys and I think are fun (going to Bar Harbor and walking around, going to see the fireworks, etc) and he doesn't have any great replacement ideas. . . so we'll just see what, besides strawberrying, unfolds! ETA: HA! New discovery: when mother tells son that he may not go to girlfriend's house because the Fourth is a family occasion, girlfriend's family invites family to their house! Win-win all around!

Today, though, I got onto my cooking horse and we're having a luxuriously toothsome dinner: pulled pork in the slow cooker and then coconut cupcakes for dessert. There are enough cupcakes that we should be able to take extras with us for a snack when we pick tomorrow, thus enabling us to try them with fresh strawberries, too! I also got stubborn and hung out two loads of laundry. After all, there IS a breeze, so. . . . we'll see.

I have also done two pattern repeats and separated for the arms on my Feb. Lady sweater (pattern adapted by Pamela Wynne, I will add since she had a long entry on her blog about how no one was giving her credit. Since I would have NO IDEA how to adapt such a pattern [and don't yet know if I can even follow the directions correctly], I give her all credit. ALL. ). The gull wing lace pattern makes sense, but I can't yet do it easily. A few more reps and I bet I'll have it, though!

Dinner was great and I am hankering for coconut cupcakes (ala Barefoot Contessa, a cookbook I love but don't use a lot, partly because it calls for tons of butter and eggs and stuff. Both cupcakes and icing called for 3/4 lb butter. EACH. On the upside, it made twenty four cupcakes, and I have icing enough for the carrot cake I'm bringing to Swimgirl's house tomorrow.) which I will light into at 7 pm (boundaries are good). We will also watch at least one of the Jeeves and Wooster cds that I got on big time sale from Daedalus Books for BH's belated Dad's Day gift. And I'll aim for another pattern repeat on the sweater. I'm on a roll (which is good, as I tore out the 4 hour scarf I started in a meeting this week. Needs bigger needles for more laciness, I think)!

AND the sun came out a bit. Just a bit, and exactly when I was elbows-deep in pulled pork defatting it and unable to go out. But we'll take it.