Saturday, August 5, 2017

Saturday, August 5: Waiting for rain!

I finally have blocked and pinned out my shawl, and of course it's dim and humid. We desperately need rain, but it's one of those days when we could easily miss it but still have this nasty patch of weather. . . . so I sure hope we get some.

August has "incentivized" me into action: I have painted the door and closet in Lyle's/Vianney's room:

I love the blue! The room has a nice fresh touch and yet it took only about four hours. I am a terrible painter, but I do enjoy the end result!

I have also been deep into my shawl project, learning a ton about wet-blocking lace with wires (thank you to Jen and Dawn, my knitting buddies, one who lent the wires and the other who picked them up for me). So far, so good:

 And the last shot is of my *edited* cast-off, of which I am extremely proud, since it took a risk and it turned out just as I'd hoped:

The study is full of fans, which I hope will keep the cats off the futon and the shawl while speeding up the drying process. 

We. Shall. See. 

The rest of August has featured another Shakespeare event ("Merry Wives of Windsor" at Fort Knox yesterday--always a treat!), a lovely time buying L a new, long-promised Pfaff "Select 4.2" which seems perfect for his needs: 

We got it at Sewing by the Sea, and he was made much of there, and it was a great, celebratory time, smiled over by the spirit of Joan Stephenson, my beloved mother-in-law, who always maintained that high quality tools made projects much better. We followed that up with my first-ever meal at the Luau BBQ where we both had delicious lunches, and then a trip to Marden's to look at fabric, and for me to convince L to buy a 3.99 quilting book. . . . :) 

Feeling lucky and happy and excited about our new boy arriving on Thursday. Time continues. Let's hope for rain to top it all off! 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Sunday, July 30: Top. Ten. Day!

Truly, it's the kind of day to store up against a February or March sneezing, flat, nasty stretch of gloom and rawness. Blue, gold, green, breeziness. Wow. Can't think of a better day to go watch "The Tempest" on the lawn of the Saltair Inn in Bar Harbor. Ahhhhhhh.

And I am near to the final bind-off for my alpaca shawl project, and I am thinking I might take a risky step and change the pattern for a more elegant finish: instead of the garter stitch stop, I'd like to add an eyelet row before I bind off so that the top mirrors the sides. I've found a tutorial:

 and her basic product matches my basic idea, so that's a step in the right direction

For me, inveterate rule-follower, this is a Very Big Deal. More to come. My goal is to be done by July 31, though the blocking may not happen till later, since I need to borrow blocking wires.

Here's a link to my ravelry page with my pattern info and musings on it.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Saturday, July 29: Work in the morning, loll in the afternoon

It is a lovely July afternoon!  Some pictures from past lovely days (it also rained on Wed. night into Thursday, which was a real gift.) of the cats enjoying the weather:

A and I headed out early this am for a work day at church, and spent four hours working on the garden/yard/outside. It was nice communal work--for me, the kind of gardening of a hugely-overgrown-but-potentially-lovely garden that can be completely overwhelming if you don't have a really good group of people behind you--which we did, and so the garden has improved immensely. Lots of witch grass, overgrown phlox, widely spreading lamb's ears, and happy irises that were nevertheless in need of a spa treatment and relocation all got dug up--satisfying but hard and dirty labor.

Then the ladies gave us lunch, we did about another 1/2 hour of planting, a few errands downtown, and then jumped in the lake for a cool-down/clean off (though I am realizing I will need a real shower: the combo of dirt, sunscreen, sweat, and bug spray is a bit more resistant than mere lake water can handle).

Soon I want to break out my shawl as I am in danger of not meeting my "done by July" deadline, and I will plug into an audibook--probably A Useful Woman so I can finish it off and give the reader the low rating she deserves.

This past week featured a great hike with Cathi G--here are some pictures to commemorate our Acadia/St. Saveur hike!

a fun evening/book lecture/dinner out with Heather, and the victorious completion of prepping L's room for V's arrival. (Picture to follow, probably!) I'm also, once again, stunned by how wonderful small town living is: N is working full-time at Flexit with good people, many of whom he went to high school with, greeted by (and hired by, actually) many people who've watched him grow up, meeting other new people he really likes too. We are lucky.

And I am going to change out of my damp bathing suit and get my audiobook and my knitting. Here's my setting. How lucky am I?

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Tuesday, July 25: Just Read This One

Belgian Waffling. .  . she just about nails my summer, but she is far, far funnier than I could ever hope to be! This post is especially on target.

Yesterday rained! YAY! And we remembered a meeting we had to go to, and it turned out to be a very important one. Good for us.

Today is mixed sun/clouds and cool. The road guys are actually addressing the washed out road that occurred last month. I did two hours of school work in the am (earning my time off), plan to go for a rehab jog/walk/jog and then tackle the room that will be our AFS boy's. Much stuff there that L has generously said, "You can just put it in a box." Challenge #1. But I do know what we're having for dinner!

Sourdough bread/avocado/provolone/neighbor's lettuce/tomato/bacon sandwiches. Probably ice cream for dessert. 6:30 pm here we come!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Sunday, July 23: Slightly out of focus!

A sense of our lake. . .

A lovely weekend: Lyle up for three days of river/lake floating with friends, Nate off enjoying his time with Ben, A and I down for the twins' b'day and a wonderful visit with various of his relatives whom we haven't seen for . . . 10 years to 1 year! 

Today A and I swam the lake for 45 minutes after a nice church service: I used my "Sporti Safety Buoy" (close to the item in the link) for the first time, and it was perfect, providing just the right blend of security, visibility, and freedom that my open-water swims have needed. We came home, and I ate lunch and zipped through a wonderful book, Ms. Bixby's Last Day, by John David Anderson, and I am just about to go downtown to see Ursa Beckford's senior movie project (wrong showing, but topic is same)--what a great day! 

Friday, July 21, 2017

July 21: Friday! Already?

Another hot, hot, hot day: we got up and went out to breakfast prior to Nate's trip to Littleton MA to see his friend Ben, and then I started working on stuff, and basically didn't stop till after dinner. Well, I did stop for a WONDERFUL half hour swim/loll in the river--heaven! Yesterday Andy, Nate and I had a river time: we took the kayak, the paddle board, and a lifejacket down and spent two splashy hours falling off, paddling, floating, hitch-hiking, fishing (Andy, in life jacket and flippers. He loved it!). . . . We are so lucky to be so close to the river!

And today I made the Thai rainbow noodle sesame salad, which was delicious--I doubled the dressing recipe, just in case, and we used some of the extra, but we have more zesty goodness for future salads. I subbed in a few items, but overall, it is a keeper, and maybe a potluck special. So that's one item off my to do list!

Tomorrow A and I drive downstate to his twin nieces' b'day gathering. I will knit on my shawl at least en route down--probably have to drive on the way back, and I haven't cracked knitting and driving yet. Probably not safe!

I did wash my linen/cotton blend for a potential dress, but it was too darn hot and I was really too busy with b'fast out--bank--post office--library--bread--food shopping--four loads of laundry--salad dressing--tons of salad chopping--making iced tea--making dessert (these, with berries instead of icing). . . . to actually fulfill my dream of sewing today. Sunday, maybe. We'll see.

Lyle is here for his annual day of floating down the river with Sam--what a great day they picked! They both got a bit burned (he's 24. I offered sunscreen. . . ) but had a terrific time. A and L are now watching "Kong." I'm in my study and about to do my toe nails after a week of thinking I should!

Onwards into the summer.

Here's how hot it was: cat pictures.

Oh, they're downstairs, so they'll wait. Let's settle for a dessert picture:

Thursday, July 20, 2017

July 20, 2017: Well, hello!

Hard to wrap my head around the passage of time since my last post! Today is a hot, still, humid, sunny day, and Andrew, Nate and I are planning a "float on the river" day once we get our acts in gear, and deal with the fact that there is very little food in the house but also very little motivation to do anything in particular about it. The half and half (I have just realized what a weird title that is--it always makes me think of my grandparents, for whom we would buy it specially when they visited) is nearly gone, so I, at least, am hyper-focused on the need to get to the store before 7 am-ish tomorrow. Some fruit would be nice as well.

So: I am a month into summer vacation. As usual, I have not been as focused or productive as I'd hoped: have not finished the shawl I'm knitting, have not finished or started any sewing projects, have not finalized any of my writing pieces nor completed my summer teaching prep tasks. I feel that I've spent a lot of my summer imitating Katniss:

or the deer who's starting coming around to our smorgasbord--errr, garden: 

(look closely. She's there, digesting.)

However, much good has unfolded:

I had an excellent (mostly-train-based) trip to CT to see Julie and her family and then to PA to see my mom's family down there. I was gone from June 23 to July 1, did a lot of visiting, saw this wonderful adaptation of Pride and Prejudice AND watched "Wonder Woman" as well, met several new baby and spousal additions to the PA family, knitted, read, and listened to audiobooks, and generally had a great adventure to kick off my summer.

Nate came home from France/Russia (6 months and 6 weeks, respectively)! He also turned 21 in short order, and we had a double celebration last weekend with a lunch in Windham with family on Saturday and a lawn party/Game of Thrones season opener party for his friends on Sunday. Camnesia was widespread, but I did take these stealth photos of the friend gang playing Kubb before dinner:

So. Now I am bugging him to get money-making jobs doing yardwork and / or catering support. . . . so clearly he's enjoying his vacation. :)

I have also read a lot (I may insert a pic of my books-read-to-date from Goodreads), slept a lot (I do think I would like to sleep from 10 pm to 7 am every single night of my life: life goal), had a fun "staycation" day with Andy and a lovely anniversary dinner at the Crocker House to celebrate 28!!!! years together, hiked Bernard Mt. and swum at Echo Lake with Cathi, picked strawberries with Lyn and Heather and made jam, watched several good movies at the Grand ("A Man Called Ove," and "A United Kingdom" to date; plan to see two more next week), gotten good exercise, and done a bit of knitting nearly every day, often while watching the Sox: my rule is that if I'm watching TV, I need to be knitting. I've done some school stuff, switched the ownership of this blog over to my personal gmail account (I think) and helped demonstrate in favor of the ACA on Tuesday. . . . . 

Here are some plans/hopes/ideas/goals for the future: 

1. finish and block the shawl by the end of July. 
2. start the body of my knock-off J. Crew sweater by Aug. 1. 
3. have at least one beach day in July and another in Aug. with our boy.  
4. make some good new dinner recipes. I have this book and this idea
6. finish and submit the family food memory piece for Zest. 
7. fix up Lyle's room for our incoming AFS student: paint the door, tidy up. 
8. start doing four hours of school stuff Tues, Wed, Thurs.
10. finish reading The Book of Joy

That's enough to be going on with, yes? 

I also want to organize an activities jar for when our boy arrives. So far I think we'd include: 
--trip to the water park
--beach day
--cooking adventure
--road trip up to Jasper Beach in Machias
--real-deal kayaking trip
--trip to Portland (he wants to get an iphone)
--hike up Cadillac (maybe the South Ridge as I haven't done that one)
--something oceany like a boat trip to the Cranberries or to Swan's? 
--breakfast out. . . 

Amazing: the list is not simply made up of eating activities! Progress!

Okay. I think I will save this fascinating entry and begin to do some basic stuff: laundry and cleaning up the kitchen. First steps first, after all! 

Feb. 27, Monday: Ways to Make Yourself Crazy, GUARANTEED.

First of all, look how we've glommed onto the word/concept "hygge", part of which, I think, means not really trying very hard to be comfortable and cozy. And now we're trying really hard to get that!

So open your mind to the infernal crazy-making options of even opening this post: Look at the list of books: not stories that make us feel cozy or take us to an ordered, reassuring universe, but books designed to make us focus, be "zen", etc.

Then click on this one:
"A Year of Mornings: 3191 Miles Apart is a celebration of remote togetherness, of the routines and rituals that shape our days. It’s a meditation on the kind of connection, remembrance and impermanence that characterize hygge. In photographs that spontaneously share an uncontrived visual language, the two friends and photographers pause and to notice and appreciate details of everyday life in the morning hours before the day begins. Humble and full of quiet vitality and generosity, this book is now echoed by so many blogs and Instagram posts that have appeared in the years that followed its publication.
Their new book, A Year Between Friends has just been published."

Really? REALLY? I can't even consider the mind-blowingly intimidating aspect of reading a book full of one picture for each morning: how are they "spontaneous" and "uncontrived" if the photographers set out to take them and then choose to share them? I laugh when I think about a book of actual moments taken by, say, an automated camera set unforgivingly in my kitchen, set to go off at 5:30 am during school and 7:30 am during the summer. . . . No flowers here, baby. 

And, lastly, read this description of the woman who came up with this whole post: . . . . "was born in Uganda to a Danish mother and English father. Louisa is a mother of four, an amateur naturalist and wild swimmer. She has been a radio restaurant and arts critic and a tribal bellydance teacher. Louisa is interested in the overlooked details of ordinary lives, liminal places, community and craft. She writes about the art of living, the nature of things, our common life and the rhythms and rituals that unite and define us all."

How nice. Can I get that job, too? 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Monday, February 13: Reflections

It's about 6:30 on The Day of The Big Blizzard--school was called off Sunday afternoon, so Andy and I have been happily busy on various things all day. It is/was a whopper of a storm: we had at least a foot around noon, and it snowed hard all afternoon, though it has eased up now. I'm delighted I have a snow blower operator in house.

I mostly want to reflect on the Postcard Potluck that we hosted on Saturday night. I've thought a lot about it, and a lot of people have asked me about it, so I am going to seize the snow day chance to share my thoughts––and a picture of The Event Itself.

In some ways, it was a non-event: the "flurries" forecast turned into steady, fluffy snow on top of Thursday's offerings, rendering the driving buttery at best, so we got a steady stream of phone calls saying people had (wisely) decided to stay home. To our delight, however, five hardy souls made it, bringing an exciting variety of food (all of it delicious) and drink (ditto). We met each other, chatted about life, ate, then settled down to the actual work of the evening: writing postcards to our elected officials. By the time folk headed back to their respective houses around 7:15, the snow had stopped, Ellsworth's Winter Carnival Fireworks had lit up the sky, and we'd written forty-five specific, personalized, heartfelt postcards. *That* felt great. 

A lot of the people who couldn't make it or cancelled due to weather asked us to let them know when we rescheduled, so I've been thinking about what worked and what I'd change up, because I do feel like doing it again in a month or so (Mother Nature, I'm looking at you!). I read the Indivisible Guide in preparation for the evening, and it emphasizes sharing what we're all doing, so here goes: Lessons from a Preliminary Postcard Potluck. 

1. Just do it. We picked a date, Andy printed up little business cards with a summary of what we had planned, and we set about distributing them to various friends and colleagues. I posted on Facebook, eventually tagging people, especially ones I hadn't seen in person--and people thought it was great! My son boasted us up on Facebook (!!!) and several of his friends shared our post. Suddenly I felt like Pete Seeger or something. . . but it was really easy and quite mellow. With an activity as a center, it was actually less stressful than planning a dinner party! 

2. Ask for advice and input from people who've done it. One of my friends had been distributing postcards, addresses, and stamps, so I talked to her about what she recommended that we do. She reminded me about the one issue/card suggestion, and she helped me arrange to get suitable postcards printed at a local shop. She also told me that there are Forever stamps for postcards––a money-saving fact I did not know. I didn't manage to contact two other friends who had done similar events on MDI, but I bet they would've had helpful suggestions, too. 

3. Provide supplies. We set out postcards, address labels, and stamps. At the last minute I corralled a bundle of pens, and we had a good laugh about the quality of my teacher pens, but the moral of the story is that a nice gel pen makes writing a postcard that much easier! 

4. Provide name tags. Though we invited a cross-section of people and only a fraction of them came, we did have name tags and people wore them! It made it easier to know that Dawn was actually Dawn, not Donna, and alleviated the whole "I'm really sorry, but I forgot your name!" awkwardness. If we'd had a bigger group, I was planning to ask people to add a word saying how they knew us as an ice breaker, but with our group of seven, it wasn't necessary. 

5. Provide a list of potential talking points, organized by area of concern. I didn't do this, but I plan to do it in the future! In our small group, we featured scientists, a minister, three teachers, and two nurses, so we had a lot of specialized knowledge. Even so, we needed to talk about what to write about, and why. In a larger group, I think people might've felt shy about saying, "I'm pissed off, but I have no idea what to say or to whom!" A list of specifics––offered as suggestions, of course––would avoid that dry period. 

6. Take pictures! Ask first, especially if anyone might be vulnerable in any way, but if they say yes, take and share pictures! If they'd prefer not to have their faces recorded, an artsy shot of hands holding pens might be just the thing. Let other people know what you're doing––maybe you could even send a copy to your elected officials as your next postcard. 

7. Finally, again: just do it, having asked a variety of people in a variety of ways. The evening was heartening, fun, interesting, positive, communal, warm, and distracting. Moving from worrying to action was a huge relief, and hanging out with people I don't often hang out with (or had never hung out with!) was a great antidote to any winter's cabin fever, let alone 2017's. I felt a great surge of pride, similar to that I'd felt at the Women's March in Augusta, in "us." That sense of accomplishment and unity is there to be tapped when I see the pictures I took, when I see the people who came, when I think of the evening.  It's a far cry, and a nice change, from the lonely devastation of the past few months. 

I will probably come back and edit this a few times as new ideas pop into my head, but these are my insights so far. We are planning to do another evening, probably in March, but I'm also feeling a deep need to gather with people and to sing (church has been a great outlet for that lately). The Wailin' Jennys "One Voice" is my anthem lately, and I'm considering asking some friends of ours to help us organize a "sing out for justice, even if your voice shakes" evening soon. Coming together, especially with people whom I don't see often (or know very well, in fact), especially in the middle of winter in Maine, feels blessed, important, and completely contrary to the Trump agenda. Onwards.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

February! 4th: Saturday late afternoon

After the busyness of last weekend, this weekend is the calm. My week was busy, as I have started with a course of chiropracter visits to address some issues in my midback, neck/shoulders, and feet, and I also went to our new dentist for the preliminary exam before my cleaning in a few weeks. A. was conference-bound for Thurs night and Friday, and then at his brother's on Friday night, so I had some solo time--last night featured a lateish arrival home post library and chiro, then a walk w/ Zeus and a run out for pizza. . . Yay!

This afternoon I sewed for the first time in a long time, and it was a pleasure, even though (partly because?) I had to figure out a new sewing machine as my beloved PFaff has headed down to Lyle for a few months. He has "sewn out" the basic one we bought this summer, and I have less time/drive to sew than he does, so we're switching it up for a bit. We have a forgotten one here, and I just managed to get it to make two buttonholes and sew some basic pocket seams on some pj pants I cut out in August. They are long but cotton ones, so if I finish them by, say, May, that will be great! Last night, I finished the Caret and Chevron socks from the pattern I downloaded long ago from Interweave Knits , so I have a chance to decide on another portable project. . .  should be booties, really--I am a few pairs behind!

It was fun to move away from the crazy of the internet and sew for a bit as the sun moved through the snowy winter trees and the sky and clouds shifted. I finished listening to The Turner House, by ??? Flournoy, which was interesting overall, and, in general, it was a nice, mellow, creative weekend. I even resisted the urge to go to Marden's to get more blue batiks for a second table runner! I am hoping to "sew down" my project pile for a bit first.. . .especially since my sewing machine is on lend!

The socks--eyed by the dog. 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Saturday, Jan. 28: Ends and Beginnings

A quiet Saturday morning in late January chez Leamon/Stephenson. . . . I realized this morning that N. has been in Nantes for less than a month, though it feels like he's a native! He's happy, busy, learning, and also planning for his six week Moscow City Theater experience in May/June right after. Amazing.

I am ending one semester and beginning another: despite the day off we're allotted (and that's a rare gift in public schools that switch semesters!), it's a stressful time, but also a time of reflection and consideration: what did students learn? What skills can they show? How can I tweak my approach next term? How can I keep contact with students who need it as my responsibilities change?

This year, the personal questions are even deeper and more pressing. How can I protest most effectively? How can I resist the hate-filled, ignorant actions and speech pouring from the White House? How can I insure that, no matter what the outcome, I can feel that I have done my best to stand up for what is right, what is ethical, what is compassionate?

Well, last Saturday I marched in Augusta, which was an amazing, restorative, and empowering experience. Over 5000 other people were there, plus neutral estimates of over 1million marchers in DC alone. Nate marched in Nantes--he's the tall guy w/ a blue hat on the left in the picture. I met up with Mom in the crowd in Augusta. My brother marched with his daughter. My sister went to DC. Julie and her daughter did too.

My mama, Anita, and me, representing! 

Becky squared. . . .
And here's the pic. from Nate's article:
He's the tall guy in the blue hat in the middle left.
So there is much good and much to worry about. I am deeply disappointed in the lack of commentary by my elected officials about the actions taken by our president. Yup, I can't say he's "not my president," because, de facto, he is. So we need to be responsive and outspoken. I've been, but Collins? Not so much.

Deep breath, though, and onwards. Into February. Into the light. Towards a world where people are alert to the importance of actions and words.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Sunday, Jan. 8: Cold!

It's been a quiet, routine weekend, but, once again, it's zoomed by! Yesterday was steely grey, cold, and still, feeling like it was desperate to snow all day. The snow did start around 7 pm, and we got about 4 fluffy inches, then today was clear, cold, and sunny. Tonight is due to be brutally cold.  We filled the bird feeders as a sign of solidarity, I guess. . . . Wow. So lucky to have a warm, roomy, comfortable house and lots of good food.

So: I have
*packed up the three watches and one lap counter that need new batteries;
*written to Senator Collins (ahem);
*gotten Officially Started on my Cafe Bastille cable pullover;
*watched a movie (!!!): "Begin Again," which I enjoyed;
*had two good workouts;
*made two interesting bread experiments;
*gone to church;
*talked to Julie for over an hour on Saturday;
*read various things;
*finished writing and editing a professional article. . . .

Not so bad.

More to do, but that felt good.

A five day week ahead! Both of my sons are in their places: N. in Nantes after a weekend in Tours, and L. back in Portland, ready to start back at his building job (brrrrrrr) after a week of vacation in NYC. Onwards!

Closing with a view of my present from N!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Friday, Jan. 6: Friday, Friday, Friday!

A. and I are settling into our empty nesting phase: N. is in Nantes with his host family and his Euros, getting his life arranged for a stretch; L. has taken a week off and is in NYC visiting friends but still communicado and very happy; school has restarted w/ a busy four-day week featuring a hair cut, an eye dr's app't (my eye is fine, despite the Weiss dot, etc.), and the general malaise and flatness of coming back to school. That will fade as we all reconnect, get motivated, and move on, but I am still ecstatic that it's FRIDAY!

*Great yoga class yesterday, AND I was given a massage certificate by a Secret Santa !!!!

Goals for the weekend:
*potting another amaryllis, this one for school
*knitting on my sweater and watching a movie.
*thank you/holiday notes.
*church--trying to get back into that mode.

Some pics. . . . because. . . .

Sparkly toes from stocking polish! 

Nate's magnum opus, stage one complete!


New Year's Eve: penne a la vodka

A rare sight.. . . 2017 detente? 

So. . . Matt's no Knead Artisanal bread is rising, I have some laundry to do and Christmas boxes to put down stairs, a run and a shower, and then. . .KNITTIN' TO START! Yikers! 

N is settled in Nantes, and now off to Tours for a weekend group bonding activity. Into January!