Saturday, August 22, 2009

Nothing Ventured

I finally finished making roman blinds for Oliver and Sam's bedroom. This is a major accomplishment for me because I hardly ever finish anything. Ideas come and go, most of which never evolve into anything more because of my ineptitude for decision making. So many fabrics, so many directions to take things stylistically! Then there is the issue of mistake making. I never thought of myself as a perfectionist until I made the connection that most projects I begin sit around for months and never get finished. My subconscious logic went something like this: If projects aren't finished, then I can't critique the final product and see all the ways it could be better or more professional (or more factory churned?). I realized the flaw in this thinking, as well as the hope I was operating on, that I would somehow learn all these skills I'm interested in through some kind of cosmic osmosis. Now that I am firmly (never mind how firmly) entrenched in my 30's, I figure it's time to buck up and actually take some risks with my interests.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained, isn't that how the old adage goes? And speaking of old adages, a plethora of them keep cropping up into my brain in regards to different situations around me. "Marry in haste, repent at leisure." "The Rich man gets his ice in the Summer, the poor man gets his ice in the winter." "Many hands make light the labor." Ryan probably thinks I sound like a Laura Ingalls Wilder version of Mr. Myugai. I'm beginning to realize the full spectrum of how repeated readings of the Little House on the Prairie series made an indelible mark on my psyche. There was that time I tried to dye our butter with carrot juice, and the failed attempt at making candy out of boiling molasses and a cast iron skillet full of snow. But never mind that. I had a brilliant pattern from the French General book Blythe gave me for my birthday and I've been sitting on yards and yards of ticking stripe fabric I bought for a song (I think it was 'Wind Beneath My Wings') at Sweet Petunia seven years ago. In order to have enough width for 3 shades, I ripped up an old Pottery Barn curtain and gave each shade a nice solid border. Early on in the project, I was getting into full seamstress stance, remembering my mother at the table, straight pins dangling coolly out of her mouth, like a beatnik with a cigarette. I tried this and all was going well until something made me cough and I nearly inhaled a straight pin. Fortunately I sort of spit it out before it wreaked havoc on my esophagus. I looked furtively over my shoulder and was elated to see that no one was around to witness. Later, there was the panic over my missing tape measure. At a critical juncture, I of course, couldn't find it anywhere, which is not surprising for someone suffering from a rare type of amnesia called "Nursing Mother Brain"...I found it, 15 minutes later, after an exhaustive search of the entire house, draped around my neck like the pros on Project Runway. Lining them with black out fabric was tricky but I finally figured it out. Ryan helped me install them today and I think they are a nice change from the blankets-over-windows-to-keep-light-out look that we had going for the last 3 years. Now that these are done, perhaps I can finish that sweater I began knitting for Ryan back in 2001?

Fireflies and Firelight

My favorite thing all summer has been going for runs in the evening, with Sam riding beside me. We start when the sun is just beginning to set and by the time we get to the country roads, the fields beside us are dancing with a million little firefly lights, one of the most magical things I've experienced. With a full moon over head and your first boy beside you, it's lump-in-your-throat inducing and somehow melts all the stresses of the day. A few of these same evenings, we've built a fire in the backyard and stayed up late eating Cherry Heart Piettes and ice cream, or roasting marshmallows. The boys regale Ryan and I with tales of their days' adventures, their dreams for the future (always involving Legos!), and their new-found love of knock-knock jokes and riddles.
If I look exhausted, it's because I was. Plus, campfires have a way of being hypnotic.
Sam suggested we throw an end of Summer bash at our house, complete with Baughn fire. I think he's on to something...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Cinnamon Girl

We are big Neil Young fans here in our home. He's kind of our go-to music when no one else will do. I love the song Cinnamon Girl, but to be honest, I haven't listened closely enough to all the lyrics to tell you if it's an appropriate song to like, but for a girl who bakes, the chorus alone feels appropriate. We go through what seems like pounds and pounds of cinnamon that we replenish from the bulk section of our local co-op. One of the biggest uses for lots of cinnamon is a sticky bun that shares the same name. Made with a simple cream cheese frosting, these puppies give Cinnabon a run for their money.

We've been having an uncharacteristically cool summer here in Southern Wisconsin, and one day last week found us in our pj's all day long. By afternoon, the overcast sky and cool breeze made the boys think making Cinnamon Rolls would be a good accompaniment to our plan of piling on our bed and reading aloud from our stash of library books. Unfortunately, my camera died before the final product could be photographed- not that it really matters- it was an out-of-focus blur from cooling rack to eager mouths...


Saturday, August 8, 2009


Winston-Salem, N.C. just got a whole lot cooler.

A dear friend of our family just moved there about a month ago and we miss her terribly. She's the kind of girl who is thoughtful and sweet, creative and crafty, and just plain awesome. The kind of girl who decides one day, "hmm, I think I want to learn to needle felt animals" and then buys a book and next thing you know, is handing you this incredibly cute sea creatures mobile for your new baby.

The kind of girl who knows just what a 7 year old would want for his birthday.
The kind of girl who knows just how to dive into a big pile of french toast, laden with butter and maple syrup and not blink an eye over the calories. Or the amount of noise coming from the 3 crazy boys across the table. The kind of girl who can speak seriously and than has you laughing your butt off at some wisecrack. A girl with limitless creativity who you are excited to watch to see what she takes on next.

A girl who has taught me that great friendships can come from the most unlikely circumstances.

We miss you, Kate. And your little dog, too.

Friday, August 7, 2009


Last week was a very solitary week. I've been feeling low on account of a nagging sore throat and sinus pressure that comes and goes, leaving me tired and, well, low. Much has been made (including movies) of the plight of cubicle workers, who push pencils around (but not much else), and end up chucking it all to become something truly great or else going crazy trying to wait it out until retirement, and sometimes I feel just as futile in my chosen job of stay at home mom. A friend and I were comparing notes on how no job is ever completely done. You finish making, eating, and cleaning up from one meal only to find, oops! it's lunchtime. Mounds of dirty clothes (didn't I just wash and fold these?) that then turn into mounds of clean clothes that need to be folded and put away, disorganized piles of who-knows-what taking up valuable counter space, the mind-numbing amount of small tasks to be done that even when finished, don't seem to amount to much. Tack this on to a week where I'm physically not at my best and it's easy to feel discouraged and more than a little used up.

But then there was a moment, a shining light on the monotony of my duties, folding the umpteenth load of clean clothes in my more than a little messy living room. Arcade Fire. Wake Up. Unable to stand still, there I was, onesie in hand, shaking my head, legs pumping, heart swelling, tears welling, feeling
this is it. I felt recognized, as if Win Butler and company somehow knew me, and translated all I've been thinking about - (married love, the bitter-sweet joy of watching my kids grow up, friend relationships, the inherent struggle/sorrow/joy of being a human on planet earth) all into this brilliant song.

Isn't that what great art is?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

I love how some of the best meals are the simplest. A few nights ago Sam, Felix, Jasper and I were keeping the home fires burning while Ryan and Oliver were out fixing an espresso machine together late. By the time dinner time rolled around I needed a second wind and some inspiration. I found the latter in the beautiful tomatoes sitting on the counter, freshly picked the night before from our garden. Luckily, I had some local Crave Brothers fresh mozzarella in the fridge. Sam rode his bike to the co-op by himself (kind of a big deal)to purchase a baguette and some local ham. When he got home, we set to work putting together ingredients. Sam sliced the tomatoes and baguette while I picked basil and found the last of the 2 yr. white cheddar. We assembled ham and cheese on buttered baguette, which reminded me so much of being in Paris, and of course the insalata, the ubiquitous first course at any restaurant in Italy. Eating leisurely outside, talking and watching the sunset - after 45 minutes of this, I realized we had gorged ourselves on two of the above salads. The tomatoes were amazing- I know they are literally a fruit, but I don't think I've ever tasted anything so sweet and flavorful in my life. I can't wait to get to work canning these - it'll be like preserving Summer for the rest of the year. When it's January and -17 degrees out, I'll pop open a jar of these glorious beauties and remember basking in the evening sun with my boys.

Take Another Little Piece of My Heart

Cherries are finally in season and we've been buying pounds and pounds of them. Ryan bought me my new favorite seasonal kitchen gadget, this Oxo cherry pitter from Williams-Sonoma after I exhausted Target and our local groceries for one and came up empty-handed. It's well worth the $13 investment to pit cherries with ease, especially if you're eager to make your own pie filling. While browsing in the store, I saw a contraption that allowed you to make individual pie-ettes in either a star or heart shape. I couldn't stop thinking about how fun those desserts looked so when we came home, I decided to try it without any fancy gadgetry. Guess what? It's super easy and the kids loved helping almost as much as eating them. The best part is cutting out any shape that suits your fancy and personalizing your pie. Someone asked for one shaped like Darth Vader...maybe next time.

Monday, August 3, 2009


How awesome is this? The Frank Lloyd Wright Collection(R) collaborated with LEGO(R) to make this Architectural set. What better way to introduce modern architecture's most famous son (and Wisconsin native) to Lego obsessed Sam?