Monday, January 22, 2018


I am just back from a funeral.  In fact, I sang a Leonard Cohen song at the funeral.  And I agree with my pastor, who said some time ago that it's important to go to funerals to step back from our busyness and look at the witness of our brother or sister who died and ask ourselves if we are truly focused on what's important.

Here on the blog, I am writing about the mundane, over and over and over again. You'll see that I put hearts on Phoebe's jeans just like I did four years ago for her big sister.

People are not talking about the mundane at a funeral; they are talking about more unique acts in peoples' lives, and yet we must eat, wear clothing, and be sheltered in hopefully clean houses. Somebody is working behind the scenes.

In this season in my life, I am deep in the mundane work behind the scenes.  I'm sure it's holy work, it's mostly loving work (sometimes I hate it), and I know it's only for a season and then my children will be out from under my wing.  Will I be ready to fly up high again and get some glory?  Well, I don't know. 

In the meantime, this discipline of blogging is going to help me step back and reflect, to exchange ideas and encouragement with you, dear readers.  Perhaps you've noticed that my posts the last few months are bare-bones and heavy on the mundane details.  I wondered, in fact, if I should stop blogging.  But I think.  The funeral today broke my heart a little, and I am back with a softer heart and a willingness to keep at it, the mundane, the endless food, laundry, vacuuming, tidying, the chaos.  Onward!

Friday, January 19, 2018

Prettying Up the Puffer Coat

Before I bought Phoebe's plain navy coat on eBay, I looked at the photos closely.  I wanted to add ribbon down the placket and at the zipper pulls on the pocket.  

I think this was meant to be a boys' coat, with rugged orange tape at the pockets, but I took it off and replaced with something a bit more like a Scandinavian girl.  It was easy to topstitch the ribbon on the placket and re-make the zipper pulls with the same ribbon. 

This coat pleases me.  Navy is one of my favorite colors just now looks and great with Phoebe's blue eyes.  We are going out in the cold in style and with mitten clips - such a sanity-saver with kids in the winter.

Phoebe is not in pain in this photo; she is smiling for the camera!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

A Clever Zippered Pocket

My aunt Esther got me this handwork bag and I love it.  But the metal zipper on the pocket developed bent teeth that could not be fixed by orthodontia.  I looked at it more closely, and marveled at the clever design of this zippered pocket.

The zipper is topstitched on one side to the top of the pocket flap, and then topstitched on the other side to the bag itself, with both ends sewn down.  So simple and functional.  It was easy to remove the broken zipper and put in a new one.

This is my knitting bag, so I keep little items in the pocket like a measuring tape, rubber needle tips, yarn needle, etc.

Currently, I'm working on a Nola Cloche for myself that I fell in love with from the photos.  I hope my version turns out just as beautifully.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Phoebe's House

Genevieve seized the big box that her Christmas beanbag chair came in and made it into a house for Phoebe.  She did it swiftly with a box cutter and so effectively with the fold-up door and a handhold. Let us not overlook the curtain, either.

Phoebe was thrilled. She wore her new red socks, fresh off my knitting needles, and sat down for a good play with her doctor kit.  I used the same pattern as before, with thrift-store red wool.

Flushed with success, Genevieve made a more ambitious cardboard structure, a boat of sorts, for her little cousin.  I am afraid it may have gotten smashed in the presents' melee at my parents' house, but no one seemed upset.

Friday, January 5, 2018

A Real Winter Soup

Happy New Year, everybody! I am done with cookies and meat and cheese balls.  Let's put a pot of real old-fashioned soup on the stove because it is so cold outside that school has been canceled for the day (yes, really, how ridiculous).

I love making a pot of soup that stays on the stove for a long time, throwing in some more veggies as I run through the kitchen, tasting a bit later and adding more something.  Worcestershire sauce or fish sauce is a bit of soup magic.  Or freshly ground pepper or a bay leaf.  I love building the flavors of soup over a few hours.  Throw in a loaf of fresh bread because I'm home all day out of the cold, and that is why I love winter suppers.

I had some radish tops, so I put them in the borsch too.  And look at Phoebe, just totally happy with her new easel in the winter sun. Her big thing these days is dressing and undressing; it's rarely appropriate to the circumstances, which cracks us all up.

Russian Borsch - from the More With Less with tweaks by me, and please taste and tweak as you go along; I tried to accurately record what I did, but ultimately, soup-making is an art which varies with mood and pantry realities

If you have a beef bone, preferably a meaty, fatty bone, from roast beef, simmer it in 2 quarts water in a soup pot for at least 12 hours with 1 tsp. salt and 1 Tbsp. vinegar. I did mine 18 hours, starting the night before. (More With Less recommends a mutton neck or lamb bones - good for you if you can get those). And if your cupboard is bare and you have no bone, use whatever meat stock or broth you have.

Take out and discard the bone. Add to the stock:
1 large onion, chopped
2 big potatoes, diced
1 medium red beet, shredded
1 cup pureed tomatoes
1 tsp. fresh-ground pepper
1 dried red pepper
3 bay leaves
1 Tbsp. dill seed

Simmer covered for 1 hour or so. Taste, and if the broth seems thin, I like to add some powdered beef bouillon instead of just salt.

4 cups shredded green cabbage
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 tsp. dillweed

Simmer another 30 minutes or so.  Taste and add more salt if needed (or a splash of Worcestershire!). Serve with dollops of plain yogurt or several tablespoons of heavy cream in each bowl. When you stir it in, the borsch will turn creamy red-purple, which is exactly what I remember from Russia.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

"The Savior promised long"

"Rejoice, rejoice! the Savior comes, the Savior promised long. . . He comes the broken heart to bind, the bleeding soul to cure. . . and heav'n's eternal arches ring with your beloved name!"

from the hymn text by James Montgomery, early 1800s

 Our modern-day nativity on Christmas Eve, fulfilling one of my mother-wishes to see my children in tinsel halos.  There's my soccer-angel and farmer-angel.  Merry Christmas, all!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Using Curly Girl Method for my Wavy Hair

For about 10 years, I've been wearing my hair up and frizzy in the summer, and then in the winter I straighten it with product and blow dryer and wear it down. For the last few years, I've had to fight it considerably to get it straight in the winter.  After reading Jennifer's post, Rebecca texted me:  "your hair would do that!"  So I bought some new products, poked around on the Curly Girl website (totally overwhelming!), checked the Curly Girl book out of the library (less overwhelming), and tried some things.

Here's what I've been doing for 3 weeks now.

To wash my hair, I put a quarter-size amount of sulfate-free shampoo on my fingertips and put it only on my roots.  I scrub my scalp with my fingertips and ignore the rest of my hair.  I rinse it well with cool water by standing under the stream of water and just lifting and scrunching my hair to get all the soapy parts rinsed. I usually count to 60 to make sure I'm really getting it rinsed.  I do not swirl, rub, or otherwise roughly disturb my hair.  My reasons:  shampoo, even sulfate-free, can still be drying to hair and curly hair needs so much more moisture than I ever imagined. Cool water is less drying than hot water. Even while wet, curly hair is trying to keep its curl pattern, so I don't want to mess it up unduly.

Then I squirt apple cider vinegar directly on my scalp and give it a quick rinse. My reasons: my scalp likes to get itchy and flaky quickly, and the vinegar helps to disrupt that pattern.  Plus, it removes any product build-up on my hair.

To condition, I use a half-dollar size amount of sulfate-free conditioner.  This time, I ignore my scalp and scrunch it through my ends, getting to within an inch or two of my head. Then, I run my hands lightly over the top of my head, to hit the "hair canopy" where most of the frizz would be. I let the conditioner soak in for the rest of my shower ablutions. Then I stand under the water, cool again, for just a few quick rinses. My reasons: conditioner is going to moisturize my hair, not my scalp.

Just done putting on gel: drowned rat look.
As soon as I'm out of the shower, I squeeze the ends of my hair in a towel - no rubbing whatsoever! But no special towel, either, as Curly Girl would have me use.  I just blot the water out of the ends. 

Immediately, I flip over my head and scrunch DevaCurl Light Defining Gel through the ends and up to about an inch from my scalp. I stand up and ignore my hair as much as possible until it's thoroughly dry, several hours. It will look fairly crunchy and 1980s gelled, which is a scary look, but Curly Girl calls this a "gel cast" and says you can break it by shaking your head and shuffling the roots.  I find that just general living with kids breaks my gel cast before I get around to it.

The next two days, in the morning, I spray my hair generously with water with a few drops of lavender essential oil in it.  When it's quite wet and the curls are springing back, I flip my head over and scrunch in One and Only Argan Oil Styling Cream. Then let it alone completely until it dries.

Some issues, notes, and questions I have:
1. Lorraine Massey (Curly Girl method) says frizz is just parched hair reaching out into the atmosphere for moisture; it's a curl-in-waiting.  My hair is hardly frizzy at all anymore!

2. I'm not sure if I actually love how my hair looks.  I can see it's healthier and I'm not fighting its natural wave, but do I actually like it?  Thinking this might be a reason to seek out a Deva salon to get a good cut.

3. Apparently my wavy hair will adjust and develop more the longer I stay on this routine.  I'm curious to see if I like the looks more, or if it gets more curly?  I know it will be more curly in the summer humidity.

4. If sulfates are so drying for hair, should I ditch all the sudsy sulfate shampoos in our house?

5. My scalp is less itchy, but more flaky than pre-Curly Girl method.  Not sure I have the stamina to brave the Curly Girl forums and do research.

Please chime in with what you know about curly hair, wavy hair, or hair care in general.


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