Friday, August 30, 2013


This may very well be my favorite word. To me, it trumps any other maternal name, and I prefer the M-A-M-A spelling. I call my mama Mama to this day.


I was a pushover kind of kid. My mother was bossy, my siblings were bossy, and my best buds were B-O-S-S-Y, bossy. I pretty much did what I was told to do. I remember, or I have created the memory, that I didn't mind doing my friends' bidding. Complying seemed easier than the confrontation that would arise from refusing. Now that I write that, it seems the very definition of a doormat.

However, I also always knew there was a limit, and I had a very strong sense of integrity based on some pretty nit-picky elements. That limit was reached and that integrity was under attack when one morning Amy said to me:
"Sarah, you need to stop calling your mother Mama. We're growing up, and you're supposed to call your mother Mom."
We were all of eight or nine, maybe ten, by the way. I can picture just where we were on Booker T. Washington's campus, under the awning in which open-air "hallway," when my integrity was thus attacked. Completely out of character (and I remember this clearly), I responded,
"That's the stupidest thing I ever heard. I will call my mother Mama for the rest of my life!"

And so I have. For the same reason, I have never smoked a cigarette in my life. But the Mama rule is based on more that just a random declaration one day. I've never liked the name Mom much. It sounds harsh, rebellious, distancing. Mama sounds like love. (The one exception--I had a great-grandmother that everyone, I mean everyone, called Mom. That was sweet.)

And so, to bring this circle round, Maggie has started calling me Mom. I will not lie and say this doesn't break my heart a little bit. Or alotta bit. I knew it would happen (though not at age four!!!), and I had resolved that I would just let it be. But then when it did, I corrected her. It slipped out. Sort of.

I know better: I'm showing her exactly how to push my buttons; I'm giving her fuel for rebellious acts; I can't control her, and I need to let her be herself. So I don't correct her any more, but the other day, when she said Mama, I told her liked that name best. Maybe that was an act of control, too...OK, I admit it was an act of control.

I know to choose my battles, and this one, let's face it, it far less important than battles we will face down the road. But it's a hard thing to let go.

Sigh. (I guess I'll never have a Zipperumpazoo of my davy own.)

Any other mamas feel this way? Do you have any personally important preferences you've had to let go?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Five Favorites August 28, 2013

Joining everyone at Moxie Wife for Five Favorites for the first time this week!

1. Hello, my name is Sarah, and I am addicted to Ruzzle. Have you played this game? It's Boggle on steroids, and I've been on the Words With Friends bandwagon, but the truth is...that game takes too much strategizing. I find strategizing boring. I like fast, fast, fast, and Ruzzle is it. Each game consists of three rounds, and you and the person you are playing (friend, stranger, whatever) see the same three boards even if you play at different times. You make words by swiping over the letters with a finger. But wait! There's more! Some of the letters are marked double letter, triple letter, double word, or triple word. My highest word score so far was 200-something (braggart). So, download Ruzzle (for free) today! And then play me; I need more Ruzzle partners to play with while my children scrounge for crumbs in the kitchen.

2. This weather. Grace, I share a little of your concern about the seasons changing a bit too quickly. How can we truly appreciate cool weather in the fall if we haven't gotten good and hot in the summer? But then I remember how much I hate to sweat. And how much more pleasant it is to take the kids to the park when you don't have to sweat.

3. This magazine:
And more specifically, this activity page in this month's issue:
I don't know if you can tell, but the activity is to find five animals out of place, and I have hardly ever seen Maggie so delighted. "Just look at that sizzy (silly) octopus! He should not be out of the water! (...excitement growing...) Look at that turtle flying and that rhinoceros in the tree! (...greater excitement...) And that giraffe in the water and the panda on the rock! That is not right! (...excitement can no longer be contained...) And just look at that sizzy octopus!" The girl has shown this picture to every single human who has walked in our door in the last week, and we've had quite a few visitors. Utterly charming.

4. And this interview, which I have already shared this week:
But I'm not over my Joss Whedon appreciation yet.

5. Breck's. Do you get as many emails from them as I do? Clearly, they mean business now that it's approaching spring bulb planting time. I passed up their orange tulip giveaway and now I'm passing up their pink iris giveaway, but sometime before September 6 (when a big sale ends) I'm going to take advantage of one of their giveaways and purchase some spring bulbs at a great price. Because there is nothing like crocuses and daffodils to cheer you up in February and March when everything is gray, cold, wet, and gloomy.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Creature Comforts Weekend

I've taken on a volunteer position with my local Learning Disabilities Association (this is the field in which I have worked and plan to work again someday); I now coordinate and format the monthly newsletter. It's not a terribly challenging or time-consuming role, but this week was the first time in a long time that I was dealing with serious demands outside my home and family. I wanted to please the executive board, and I may have stressed out about the process more than was necessary. As a result, I headed into this weekend tired in more ways than one.

Saturday morning was a highlight because Brian took the kids to the National Harbor, and I stayed home and read.

I'm about halfway through In the Kingdom of Men. I put down the book after the main character did something so stupidly naive that I couldn't stand to read anymore for a little while. But, overall, I am enjoying this book. It's set in Saudi Arabia in the 1960s, and the main character is a young (at most, twenty) American woman. She and her husband have moved there for her husband's job with an oil company. It's definitely a coming of age story for this woman who had an impoverished (in more ways than one) childhood; she is introduced to all sorts of ways of life in this American expat culture. But she's different than most of the women: she wants to know the people who wait on her and understand the different cultures in which she's immersed, yet kept separate, from. Her husband has high ideals about workers' rights, and at this point in the book, is starting to get in to trouble with higher-ups for his "meddling" (no surprise I like this book). In a way, they're both meddlers. But naive, well-meaning ones. The whole story is suffused with foreboding, which I would have imagined would have bothered me enough not to keep on going, but I'm pretty interested in this woman, so I'll stick with it.

Brian and I were both super excited about this Joss Whedon interview. EW is our guilty pleasure, and we're both fans of Joss. The interview was great: he came across as humble and likeable and totally committed to his work. Here's my favorite question and answer from the entire article:
We also prodded Whedon, who pioneered the modern teenage vampire saga with The WB’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, for how he felt about the Twilight films and The CW’s The Vampire Diaries.
“A small part of you is like: ‘Well, you know, I did that first. I liked that band before they were popular,’” he says. “The thing about Buffy for me is–on a show-by-show basis–are there female characters who are being empowered, who are driving the narrative? The Twilight thing and a lot of these franchise attempts coming out, everything rests on what this girl will do, but she’s completely passive, or not really knowing what the hell is going on. And that’s incredibly frustrating to me because a lot of what’s taking on the oeuvre of Buffy, is actually a reaction against it. Everything is there — except for the Buffy. A lot of things aimed at the younger kids is just Choosing Boyfriends: The Movie.”
How can you not love that? I guess he doesn't sound as humble there as he does overall, but come on, he has a valid point.

But, the weekend was not all reading. We had family over (twice!), lots of yard work, and a sick boy.

Also, I made this drink, which is quite wonderful for the waning days of summer and for our neighbors' party around their fire pit:

1/2-1 teaspoon sugar, muddled with four or five basil leaves in the bottom of a glass
1 shot vodka
3/4 shot lime juice (about 1/2 a lime)
Club soda to taste
Basil sprig for garnish if you want to do it up

And then we finished off the weekend with these because I was craving a little something sweet.

Nothing like plain old chocolate chip cookies to satisfy a sweet tooth.

Linked up at Atelier.

Saturday, August 24, 2013


We have a really lovely Shaker-style dining room table (thanks, Mama and Dad!) and chairs that were wedding presents. I love the simplicity of the design, the silky-smooth wood, and the small details where pieces join. We used to eat at it sans any kind of cover...

And then we had kids. My mother was the first one to point out we needed a table pad on it for starters (again, thanks), but then it also needed a tablecloth. And we owned a whole one tablecloth. And have you checked out tablecloth prices? They're insane for the nice cotton or linen ones! I didn't want polyester tablecloths; I didn't want vinyl. So I set out to make myself a couple.

Armed with my Etsy account and my new (to me) sewing machine, I tackled the problem and found that extra wide upholstery fabric and bias tape made some super easy, washable, attractive tablecloths. Seriously, you can whip one of these up in about ten minutes (with a sewing machine, that is). And I love that I got to pick the fabrics myself.

So, four years later, those two tablecloths I made (plus the original) have gotten some serious wear and tear. The flannel one is stained and faded, the batik one has holes, and my very favorite one (pictured) got somehow ruined with some sort of corrosive material that both bleached it in one spot and cause it to start fraying around the bleached area. I have no idea what was spilled on it. I tried my best to fix the fraying, but since we moved in to our new house, it's gained both paint drips and superglue spills. Hard to admit thought it was, it was time to say goodbye.

So, back to Etsy, which is a fabulous place to shop for fabric, in case you didn't already know this. I've found most places will even send you a swatch if you ask nicely. Here is my newest tablecloth:

Some say ginseng, some says shells.

Did I mention I'm more of a "more is more" decorator, especially when it comes to color? I am loving this orange, especially paired with the red bias tape. So warm. And, because I am so very pleased with my repurposeful self, I want you to know that that bias tape is the same as was on the old tablecloth. I ripped it off and reused it. So, this tablecloth cost a total of $19.97 (fabric and shipping).

If you're interested in doing this project yourself, you start by washing, drying, and ironing (probably the one and only time, if you're me) your fabric. I ordered 2 1/2 yards of 55" fabric and cut a little off the end (less than a 1/4 of a yard). Then, sew the bias tape around the whole thing, narrow side on top (I didn't even bother pinning because it's pretty easy to situate and hold as you're going along and, as my sister and husband might point out, I like to get things done fast).

The first time I made tablecloths, I did this on the corners:

Not lovely, but I thought mitering was beyond me, and it was before I realized I could find a tutorial for any skill I needed to possess on the Internet. This time, I used this tutorial and made prettier corners that were actually a ton easier. Go figure.

Never mind that selvage edge that's a little wider than the bias tape.

Here's a place setting on the table. I love all the color!

Not sure why it looks splotchy in this photo. This part is actually undamaged.

Finally, what should I do with the usable parts of my old ragged tablecloth? I still love the fabric. I'm thinking throw pillow covers. It's past time for an update. But I'm tempted by the idea of a pair of pants for Maggie. Too much look? I don't think so.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Four Under Four Weekend

I read several blogs originating in households with at least four under four. Not that I did not respect these parents before, but I have a new understanding of just how much commotion that can create.

We had cousins in town for the weekend, and though chaos was common, we had a fabulous time. It's so fun to have cousins pretty close in age who at least tolerate each other most of the time.

My nephew is on a princess kick and prefers to dress in feminine clothing and be called Rapunzel. We all got princess names (I was Cinderella), but Maggie was not OK with this. She got teary insisting she was "just a girl" every time my nephew told her she was "White Snow."

Our best adventures were outdoors, even if that meant playing in the rain or getting soaked in the creek (as you will see). This post is dedicated to the grandparents, who I know wish they could have been here too.

Believe it or not, Leo is seven months older.

Rapunzel and Uncle Brian play basketball.

Rainy adventures

A good team, though damp

A hike in the woods
Linked up at Atelier.

Thursday, August 15, 2013


I've been busy sewing, and Maggie has been busy making necklaces. I am super impressed with her persistence and fine motor skills, not to mention her courage to thread beads on to yarn with the help of a needle. We discussed how the end is sharp but she doesn't need to touch it at length.

The only hiccup in the process was the evening we mistakenly left the upstairs gate open while Brian and I both thought the other was keeping an eye on Leo. Maggie and I had laid out L-I-L-A beads in the office, but she had not strung them on yarn yet. When we found Leo, I was only able to fish L, L, and A out of his mouth...I retrieved I the next day and sanitized it before Maggie returned to Lila's necklace.

Janet Horse, Lila, Mouse, Violet, and Puppy

Sunday, August 11, 2013

All About Maggie Weekend

I did not mean for my boy to get the short end of the photography stick this weekend, but so it goes. Anyone checking out my weekend pics would think we had only one child. Poor neglected boy.

And so, Maggie's weekend adventures:

Adventure One: Left unattended, Maggie puts on some "lip balm." It may or may not have been red Do-A-Dot marker. Does not she look gorgeous?

By the way, Brian was quite taken aback when Maggie first asked to wear make-up. He was genuinely surprised how quickly she fell into that stereotype and, I think, he momentarily considered dispelling her hopes for another decade or two (if he could). But I don't mind. I wanted to wear make-up as a little girl, and Maggie watches me apply make-up. So I pretend to put a little on her from time to time and let her wear lip balm whenever she wants. I read this article just this afternoon, and I felt it captured how I feel about the girly-girl issue.
Adventure Two: picnic with friends. And Maggie finally got to wear her new baby carrier! And...

May I mention that I made that baby carrier? It was a major undertaking since the feed system on my sewing machine went caput soon after starting, but I didn't figure this out for awhile, and (according to the repair guy) nearly damaged the shuttle. I wish I knew what this meant.

Anyhow, I loosely followed this tutorial I found on pinterest. You have to free draw that "fish" shape, and I think I'd make mine with less "tail" another time. But I also made the straps way longer and added buttons and buttons holes (another use for those thousands of buttons) on either end of the straps. If we do need to adjust it, I'll have to move the button that holds the top up, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it (as Caroline Ingalls was wont to say).

Did you want to see more pictures of the baby carrier? I thought so.

Adenture Three: Storytime at the nature center. I have nothing but praise for this event and the setting. This was our first trip to the nature center, and it is beautifully created. A lovely space and highly welcoming to children, indoors and out. The storytime lady clearly knew how to give children space to develop within necessary boundaries and was encouraging to each in appropriate ways. A highlight of the experience was the monarch caterpillars we got to observe on the milkweed plants. Maggie and I also had a great time playing in the playground (all natural materials) after the book and nature hike.

Jumping stump to stump

Just pretend to eat it, Mama

Another great weekend with my girl! Maybe we'll let Leo join the shenanigans next week!

Thursday, August 8, 2013


I am the proud owner of a 25-30 year old Bernina sewing machine. It's a really good machine, and a friend of mine gave it to me when she wanted to upgrade several years ago. Every time I bring it in for maintenance, I am told how lucky I am to have such a great machine.

Anyhow, I've used it off and on for various non-wearable sewing projects and minor mending, but I really want to use it to alter clothing. I hate paying for alterations, but I do not feel at all confident adjusting fit by myself.

Enter this green skirt:

I bought it at a thrift store because I liked the color and the detail. I did not like the length. At a shorter length, I figured it could be a great summer mom skirt: easy to toss on with a top but still cute.

And I figured that would be a pretty easy alteration project for starters.


I simply cut off the drawstring top and put in an elastic waist. In spite of the trial and error that an accomplished sewist (seamstress is so outdated, and sewer really doesn't work) could have avoided, I would still say it was a pretty easy project. And I even took in the sides a bit.

It's still pretty shapeless, though, so I thought adding a belt might help.

This is me attempting photos with the self-timer.

All in all, I call my first alteration attempt a success!

Now on to something more complex.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Weekend Images

Damn varmints! I thought I'd successfully fenced off my tomatoes, but the plant behind the hardware cloth was still vulnerable. I've got deer cloth around it now since that seems to be working around the other plants.

So sweet! Maggie was a book lover nearly from birth, but it's taken Leo a little longer to get into them. He's smitten now, and loves to select books and bring them to Brian or me. Like Maggie at this age, Maisy books are favorites.

He also loves his shoes and prefers to have them on at all times. I'm not saying the hand-me-down Keens are not great, but I prefer to be barefoot as much as possible so this shoe-love attitude seems strange to me.

Saturday morning was rainy, and I got kitchen motivated. Voila: watermelon lemonade and blueberry muffins! My sister-in-law came over on Sunday, and we had the watermelon lemonade with a little vodka. A treat for grown-ups, too!

Cook-out at some friends', and my contribution to How We Wear It this month. I opted for the maxi skirt as a dress since I often feel hot in a long skirt. I liked the look, and the belt was enough to make me feel it would stay on, but now that I look back on these photos, I think I look pregnant. Just a food baby, I assure you.

Sunday afternoon games with Brian's best friend. Ticket To Ride makes me so anxious, I had to stop after one game. But I won in spite of that rude interruption to my fabulous northern route.

Linked up to Ain't No Mom Jeans, Life in Mod, Glamamom, and Not Dead Yet Style. Whew!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Good Day

I'm pretty excited tonight. I ran a bunch of errands today, kids in tow, with only one mishap (when Leo emptied a dozen eggs into the shopping basket), I cleaned the house (mostly), I found a new blog I'm interested in (and I'm linking up), and I'm wearing a new piece of jewelry.

First of all, bless you, Trader Joe's for not making me pay for the eggs. I was puzzled when I returned to my cart with an elusive jar of capers to find Maggie picking up an empty egg carton off the floor near our basket. It didn't take me long to discover that guilty little Meddler McMeddlesome had turned around, picked up the carton by the top (it opened), and emptied the eggs all over the basket. The good news is only two cracked, and there was very little mess. I fessed up to an employee and offered to pay, but they simply discarded the eggs.

Secondly, house nearly clean. Woohoo!

Third, I was happily alerted to the existence of Freckles in April by Mrs. Grace Patton this evening, and lo and behold, she (Kayla) was doing a style link-up today hairstyles! What, what? I did my hair in a new style today! So, I ignored The Dude's martyr-like sighs and got him to snap a few photos. It's the end of a long day, the picture quality's terrible (per usual), and I'm not sure the hairstyle was super to begin with, but here I am, joining in. All I did was create two braids (semi-french), tie them together, and pin. And I added a headband (thanks, Ali!).

Finally, I've been whiling away my late nights when I should be sleeping, pinteresting button ideas for the full quart jar of buttons I've inherited and collected over the years. See here?

Anyhow, I found this bracelet idea, and I had elastic on hand, so I Netflixed some Scandal and got busy. I'm pretty excited about how it turned out! I don't think it looks too crafty, especially in a mixed set (from Target), and I doublechecked this with my style consultants this morning who texted their approval. Plus, most of these buttons are from the collection I inherited from my grandmother's house when she moved out, so it has a little more significance. What do you think?

P.S. In between Sherlock Holmes and Scandal, I devoured Call the Midwife and highly recommend it.