Monday, April 23, 2012

quilted mug rugs

The local quilt group I belong to made adorable large coasters during our bimonthly meeting and I was so excited about them that I decided to make them for thank you gifts for the children's teachers. This is their last week of gym and art classes at the local public school before we go to the farm for the "summer" (yes, I know it is only April, but the garden beckons). I bought some large mugs at Target and plan on putting some fancy hot cocoa packets inside to finish each gift. 

First you cut four 5" squares of contrasting fabrics (if they are too similar the effect will be lost) surrounded by a 3 1/2" border. Then you cut a 3 1/2" template out of clear plastic with lines drawn in 3/4" from the corners to form a kite shape. You can actually make the square any size you want to vary the pinwheel size. The Twister ruler can be purchased. Line up the template on each intersection (make sure they are all facing the same direction by putting your initials in one corner and always have that corner in the bottom right) and draw a line around before cutting out. The result are 4 pinwheels. Here is another blogger's tutorial to  visually follow.  

 I made 3 mugrugs with the same fabrics, quilting each in a slightly different way.  Then I decided that Mary's male gym teacher needed something a little less floral, hence a black and white color scheme. Both Saturday and Sunday I attended a machine quilting class at the local quilt shop and came home so excited about to practice that I quilted the last coaster a little fancier than the others.

 With this project completed, I am anxious to start quilting a huge king-size red double 9 patch that mimics this blue quilt I sent out several years ago to be finished by a long-arm quilter. My plan is to baste it on my frame and take it up to the farm and work on it at the machine over the summer. I'll back it with red flannel to be my winter bed quilt and save the muslin-backed blue one for summer.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Will summed up the odd weather this year in 4 words: early winter, early spring. It never gets this warm in Maine this early, low 80's in April is unheard of, this is July weather. My body hasn't really been able to gradually acclimate and I've gotten a little overheated during my runs prepping for several 10Ks next month. I tried bringing along a bottle of water, but it gets warm really fast and the chugging sound makes me need to go... well you know. 

Last summer I was running a 7 mile loop and the battery of my walkman died so I stopped at the minimart a few miles from home and asked if I could have a AAA battery and come back to pay them after I finished running and showered. They said yes and with that thought in mind, I walked in the other day inquiring if I could run a credit to get bottled water. She kindly pulled out an envelope and wrote my name and phone number on it and stuck it with my enclosed $10 under the cash drawer. During yesterday's run I stopped in, grabbed a cold bottle out of the cooler, chugged half before getting to the register, and told the girl my name before continuing my run. 

Now this is not something I could imagine doing anywhere else I have lived, suburban retailers would have looked at me like I had 2 heads and said, "Can't do that," and a urban store would have likely just pocketed the money and said innocently when I came in, "What $10?" Yea, sometimes the cars (and school buses) get a little too close, and dead porcupines in the middle of the road aren't my idea of pretty scenery, but living in rural Maine certainly has its perks. Come July and August when I really ramp up the training for the County 1/2 marathon, I'm going to be really grateful for that ice cold bottle of aqua mineral senza gas (no bubbles) waiting for me.      

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

have I got a deal for you!

The other night I was tossing and turning at 2am because of the realization that comes to me every year around April; that we have been getting up and hitting the books every morning for 7 months and we aren't even close to finishing school for the year. While some subjects are completed, the workbooks thrown in the trash, others are only 1/2 way completed. 

At this point, no child will finish by the beginning of June, Mary has to catch up in spelling, Maggie just took her 2nd quarter math test, Charlie just finished his book report for 2nd quarter (we had to start the whole Faith and Freedom reader series over again), and Timmy needs to basically cover all the K phonics and math again. 

Instead of agonizing over it and becoming angry that July and August will again consist of sitting inside every morning supervising the little slackers (Maggie was supposed to do 2 pages of math each day), I thought of an incentive for them to pick up the pace: tie their finishing to something they want to do but I don't mind missing. I presented my plan at dinner the other night. "I will call Miss Lisa and schedule each of you to start riding lessons as soon as you finish all your subjects for the year." While there were moans and groans, Maggie then finished her phonics workbook and test in 2 days.

Summer will officially be here before I know it, filled with swimming lessons, sailing camp, sleep-away camp, piano lessons, and trips to the lake. A little push so we can do those things without the extra burden of book reports and spelling tests hopefully will do the trick.   

Saturday, April 14, 2012

farmer Katherine

Yesterday morning was the beginning of Will's (and therefore everyone's) spring break. After a slightly frenzied day of driving and unpacking, I awoke to sunrise on the farm. Tim can only be here for a few days so if I wanted him to till part of the garden I had to get cracking. By 8am I had 8 holes dug for my new fruit trees coming later this month, the compost bin dismantled (4 wooden pallets connected with hook and eyes) and all that black gold evenly distributed onto each hole (nothing will work up a sweat like digging up sod and rocks), and 6 perennials transplanted to their permanent bed.

 Tim then moved the huge pile of manure and wood shavings a small farmer has been delivering all winter onto the garden and tilled in the future home for my raspberry plants while I worked with several children on their schoolwork. An hour or so carved out for lunch and running, Charlie rode 7 miles on his bike right behind me, and while I mapped out my errand strategy. I don't know how, but I just can never seem to catch up on all the things that need to be fetched or purchased each week. Mary and Julia Ellen ran 11 errands with me in Bangor, from getting my eyebrows waxed (hadn't done that in 8 months!) to picking up soil amendments at the farm store. 

Luckily today's agenda involves less driving, but not any less digging. I've a whole flower bed in front of the porch that last fall I covered with cardboard and wood chips to prepare for shade loving perennials. I want our place here to look more like a home and less like a construction site, but that involves lots of work. The sun is already peering between the trees outside, I better get out of my jammies and get cracking.      

Thursday, April 12, 2012

so stay at home moms don't work, eh?

Now that we apparently have a nominee, Mitt Romney, the Obama machine can start attacking just one candidate with guns blazing. Today's message from the President, who is failing miserably at handling his first real job, is that Ann Romney has never held a real job. Just raising 5 boys, while battling several major health issues apparently is not enough. But look at who the Democrats have as their base: welfare cheats, illegal immigrants, the dissatisfied college graduates with loads of student debt living in their parents' basements, and those who want others to pay for their birth control so they can afford beer. These are not exactly the type of folks who work from dawn to dusk taking care of or providing for their families. This attack is offensive to the core of those of us who do either of these things, because we know intimately the sacrifice involved in staying home in this age and culture.

My average day involves multi-tasking to the the nth degree: cleaning, cooking, homeschooling, dropping off and picking up of children, doing laundry, shopping, taking kids to the doctor/dentist/Scouts, wiping noses and fannies, reading aloud while keeping the older ones supervised on the computer,  mowing the grass, feeding the pets, growing a garden, balancing the checkbook, nagging teens to practice the piano... I could go on for pages at all the things I do, but that is the life I chose. I could have more status in the "world" and less grief from strangers if I worked outside the home for pay (even if I only took care of or taught other people's children) or had fewer children, but to be a mom who stays home with her large family is an unappreciated job.

I challenge any one of the Obama administration to attempt Ann Romney's or my job for 30 days and see how fast they are back in their cubicle sighing with relief at the reduction in their workload when they return to their "real job." 

Monday, April 09, 2012

uncle henry's

At every gas station and convenience store up here in Maine right next to the register is a fat paperback available for $2. A snappy jingle on the cover that changes each week entices shoppers to flip through and find a bargain inside its pages. Since Maine is such a large and rural state with the Yankee notion of never throwing or giving anything away if you can get a buck for it, Uncle Henry's is the perfect means of selling anything from an antique car to old pallets to homemade potholders. 

Thinking back, we haven't bought many things out of its pages other than a couple of pairs of ballet shoes and our farm. After a summer of scouring the MLS listings and seeing so much raw land with not an electric pole within 1/2 mile, I had about given up on finding anything suitable. Then I looked one week in the real estate/land section and found, "40 acres of fields and woods, driveway and well in place, electric 800 feet onto property." I hauled the kids up to look over the place and called Tim on my cell phone, "How much do you love me? I want this land." We made an offer without him even seeing the place.

Mary loves reading the pet section and we play "find the most expensive dog/cat" game. "I can't believe someone would pay $1000 for a dog!" she calls out from the back seat of the car on the way home. Then she tries to convince me to buy her yet another pet, "Free ferrets and cage. Pleeeease?" I like looking in the free section and wondering how many upright pianos are in the state of Maine when there is at least one available every week, "Heavy, bring lots of strong men, I'm not available to help carry," one ad warns. My friend Jennifer scours the digest and has brought home 3 pianos, one is now for parts due to not tying it down well enough in the back of a pickup truck on the way home. I also like reading the livestock section and fantasize about being able to purchase a Jersey cow and a flock of laying chickens. Tim likes to pull it out of the basket in the bathroom and read the farm section filled with 50 year old John Deere tractors available for under $3000. 

All in all, the amount of entertainment we are able to glean is well worth the $2. Despite Craig's List popularity, I don't think Uncle Henry's has anything to worry about, even in the age of the internet.   


Saturday, April 07, 2012

Happy Easter!

I know that many parts of the country have had a very early spring. The daffodils down in Virginia are already fading, but up here in Maine our bulbs are just coming out. The weather forecasters are even calling for snow tonight. Luckily I didn't buy the children cute Easter clothes because it would all be covered up with sweaters and coats, even inside because our church is made of stone and the temperature never seems to rise above 50F. 

Some of the children and I went to Mass on Maundy Thursday and then on Friday morning attended the Stations of the Cross. Each station was acted out by students in a respectful manner and the entire student body was quiet and prayerful. 

So, while it is warm and sunny for Easter in other parts of the country, we will still be wearing our mittens to celebrate Christ's Resurrection. 

At least our chocolate bunnies won't melt.      

Monday, April 02, 2012

IRL update

I've been on a self-imposed hiatus to spend more time doing school, quilting, and reading. This post is a short attempt to "catch up" since winter break when I not only lost a library book (which was found at the farm under the sofa), but my pink Ipod I bought myself after my first (and so far only) 1/2 marathon.  

Since then I have joined a local quilt group and finished a bed quilt, a quilt challenge, and several blocks for charity. I'm signed up for a machine quilting class in an attempt to get the hang of quilting on a shortarm frame, but part of me thinks it is a lost cause and the purchase was a total waste of money. I quilted about 3/4 of this Union quilt on the frame, but finished it on the machine sitting down. The throat space of only 5-8 inches to work with as well as my lack of dexterity quilting using handles instead of having hands on the quilt is proving frustrating.  

Will was in the play Beauty and the Beast at school as a townsperson, a wolf, and a fork. He also made honor roll his first quarter in Catholic school, proving that homeschooling is academically equivalent to a college prep curriculum. 

After several cancellations, Julia Ellen, Timmy, and I finally visited Amy Dacyczyn, of Tightwad Gazette fame for several playdates (her grandson is 2). 

An article on beachcoming I wrote over 3 years ago for a children's literature course is to be published in Spider magazine in the May/June edition. Perhaps finally getting paid for my writing will inspire me to attempt another article, but I don't envision making much money on the "publish something every 4 years" plan. 

Finally, 3 of the kids and I drove up to the farm this past weekend to take part in another Sub5 race. Speeding toward the finish with Danger Zone from the movie Top Gun blasting from my Ipod (I bought a blue one only to find the original pink hidden in a tote bag at the farm), I thought I did very well (22:18), but apparently this year I might have some stiff competition in the middle-age lady category as I came in 3rd in my bracket. The kids did well, Charlie came in 5th overall in the mile only being beat by 11 and 12 year olds, Maggie won the 9-10 age bracket, and Mary came in right behind her sister claiming a hurt foot.           

Spring is almost here and despite the snowfall this morning, the daffodils are blooming, the sap flow from the sugar maples has ceased, and the peepers are making lots of noise in wet spots all over Maine. I've planted my peas and spinach and hopefully will see some sprouts when we go back up to the farm for Easter break. As far as I know I will be hosting the Carnival of Homeschooling in a few weeks so I'll be asking for submissions and thinking up a carnival theme. 

I do hope you have a very blessed Holy Week and a very happy Easter.