Saturday, June 30, 2012

you think it is hot?

Try running 10 miles in it. 

I swear, you would think that it never got above 50 degrees in Maine in the summer by listening to people's conversations today. The line in front of Gifford's ice cream shop (some great ice cream, made right here in Skowhegan, Maine) had at least 10 people standing in line all day. 

But little old me, with a hurt hip all week, rose at 5am to drive to Bucksport to run my 2nd Tour de Lac, the 3rd oldest road race in the state. I prepared for the race by overdosing on Motrin and rubbing 5 layers of Icy-Hot on said hip. Luckily there were 5 water stops along the course since I took one gulp at each and dumped the rest right on my head. I almost quit at mile 3, but found my groove and then started slowing down around mile 6, but the last 2 miles I was dragging. Final time: 1:19:31, a 7:58/mile pace. I have never been so glad to finish a race, but the best part was that the outdoor pool opened up early just for us and we could swim in our race clothes (I brought a change of clothes, but no bathing suit) before the awards were announced. The cool water just sucked every degree of heat right out of my muscles, it was just lovely. I won a jar of homemade blackberry jelly for winning my age bracket. 

Next race is the pre-4th of July parade race on Wednesday in Bangor. The 2 mile course has thousands of spectators lining the route, but with no pool to plunge into afterwards, it could be a very sweaty walk back to the car. If Giffords is open on the 4th, I will take the kids there for ice cream afterwards, no matter how long the line.      

Thursday, June 28, 2012

quilting up a storm

 After crying this morning in the car after hearing the Supreme Court ruling and listening to Rush Limbaugh's analysis, I decided to take a break and think about something else today. After all, it is my youngest son's birthday today and Mary and I had a blue cake to bake. 

I also wanted to progress onto the next portion of my latest quilting project, Shiloh, a pattern found in Scrap Quilts by Julie Larsen. Here is a photo taken from the book: 

Her very easy method of making pineapple blocks with squares sewn diagonally in the corners instead of triangles made the top go together very quickly. Here is my top finished, the black flannel backing is currently making its way through the dryer. I bought 7 yards of backing, almost double the yardage stated in the directions because flannel shrinks so much. It does make for a much warmer quilt, something that I'm going to appreciate come December. I wish I had made the dark triangles connecting the black squares darker for more contrast, but I guess I can always make another. I haven't decided exactly how to quilt it, but after seeing the dramatic results in heavily free-motion quilting, I think I'm now a convert to the technique.  Speaking of my next project, since I have free time each morning to sew before the children awake, if any sister-in-laws would like a quilt under their tree this year, they better speak up now. (hint, hint)    


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

our pink princess

Julia Ellen's favorite color is pink. She just looooves anything pink, from dresses to a photo of a pink Jeep she spotted in a book. Her favorite footwear right now are pink Hello Kitty rubber boots with white polka dots, which are practical since they keep her feet dry and the slugs away from her feet during the very wet Maine spring and summer we have been having. But she hit the pinnacle of her fervor when we went to Target to pick out some new bathing suits and found a bright pink Hello Kitty suit with a little ruffle round the bottom. She was so proud of her new suit that she wore it playing outside for 2 days before we had a chance to go to the pool. Yesterday she ran with it inside to the front desk and threw it up on the counter in front of Jordan, her favorite staff member whom she flirts with mercilessly, so he could admire it. 

 Sometimes she walks around saying, "I want a pink Jeep, I want a pink car, I want a pink bike." Usually we just go along, but I just had to laugh out loud when we were at the park the other evening and she found a sit on toy, the kind that scoops dirt with hand levers. When it was time to leave she was overly tired and sobbing, before wailing, "I want one. I want a pink steam shovel." 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

are homeschooled kids the only ones who still read?

I was listening to Howie Carr the other day, the Boston talk radio host, discuss how hard it is this summer for teens to find summer jobs. One comment he made really stuck with me, "It would be different if these kids were otherwise reading books, but they don't anymore. My girls don't read except for school." I don't know if this is true or not, perhaps it is like saying "All teens are bad drivers," but perhaps it is closer to the truth than it was 20 years ago. 

My children love to go to the library, if I don't let them pick out a stack to take home at least once a week then they mope and complain and I constantly see other homeschool families there (it is pretty obvious when they have kids over the age of 6 with them during the day). Now that the big kids are older I let them have more of a say over what they check out, but I keep a strict eye on the younger ones. Maggie just yesterday pouted when I took off several Goosebumps books and some inner city teen junk novel that was on her pile at the counter. 

It is interesting to see what sorts of things they come up with, occasionally it really lets me see a bit deeper into their psyche. I noticed Mary's bag of books on her bed and snuck a peek inside. It is obvious that she is a bit nervous about entering Catholic school this fall. Her choices include: Exploring Math with books kids love, Writing With Style, Reading Roundups, Spelling K-8, Word Smart, Math Puzzles and Brainteasers Grades 6-8, and Improve Your Spelling and Vocabulary. Her academic weaknesses are spelling and writing, after numerous years of struggle and crying she is just finishing up the 4th grade spelling book and I have had to help her extensively with her book reports every quarter since 2nd grade. She loves to read and she does pretty well in math if she carefully thinks through the problems, so I don't see why she thinks she needs to further study these subjects over the summer. Seeing these books on Mary's bed is a wonderful testament to homeschooling, in that she can see for herself weaknesses in her academic skills and is attempting to overcome them on her own.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

feminist war on women

 "I have to admit that when I meet a woman who I know is a graduate of, say, Princeton -- one who has read The Second Sex and therefore ought to know better -- but is still a full-time wife, I feel betrayed. I'm not much of a moralist -- I have absolutely no right to be -- but in the interest of doing what's right both for me personally and for women generally, I have been strict with myself about earning my keep. For the longest time I would not date anyone who would now be called a one-percenter because money and power are such a potent combination, and if I am going to be bossed around, I don't want that to be the reason. When it's come up, I have chosen not to get married. Over and over again, I have opted for my integrity and independence over what was easy or obvious. And I am happy. I don't want everyone to live like me, but I do expect educated and able-bodied women to be holding their own in the world of work." Elizabeth Wurtzel
 This screed from The Atlantic magazine has been discussed much in the blogosphere lately, but as I have been on a Jane Austen spin-off kick lately, it struck me how perfectly perceptive the early 19th century English author was in portraying specific personalities. Ms. Wurtzel wants to define feminists as women who work and are financially self sufficient, not allowing them the choice to stay at home. She is the perfect Miss Bingley, jealous of Elizabeth Bennet's beauty and attention from Mr. Darcy, a 1%er if there ever was one. Since she has no chance of attracting the affections of such a man, Ms. Wurtzel and Miss Bingley both do all they can to disparage those they feel have stolen their rightful place of consequence in the world.   

"All young ladies are accomplished. They sing, they draw, they dance, speak French and German, cover screens and I know not what." (Mr.Bingley)
"But not half a dozen would satisfy my notion of an accomplished woman." (Mr. Darcy)
"Oh, certainly. No woman can be really esteemed accomplished who does not also possess a certain something in her air, in her manner of walking, in the tone of her voice, her address and expressions." (Miss Bingley) (I apologize for a non faithful quote, my copy of P&P seems to be at the other house)
 The best commenter after the article, of which I pasted a portion: 
I think what strikes me as the most ridiculous part of this author's position is that a female is telling other females that they are ruining the feminist movement by choosing to be full time mothers despite being educated and able-bodied. It used to be that men condescended to women who weren't in the business world, now this female author is doing the same thing. Once upon a time, women who worked brought shame to their gender. Now women who don't work bring shame to their gender? Who, again, is waging a war on women? Seems like this author is - more than anyone I've heard from in years. lawdawg97
 The other point that struck me was that if Ms. Wurtzel had her way and all educated women worked and were more like her, then there would be so many hate-filled writers out there that she would likely not be able to get her work published and be out of a job. I feel sorry for Ms. Wurtzel. She doesn't sound like a happy person who is needed and loved and it comes out in her air, in the tone of her voice, her address and expressions.  

Sunday, June 17, 2012

fly away little birdies

A week or two ago the little boys pointed out a bird's nest on our farm. A barn swallow mama took advantage of the fact that one of the very last things to finish on our house is the porch ceiling and flew under the eaves to raise her young in our garage. 

We have been watching the baby's growth via binoculars, which is interesting, but Tim was grossed out by the sheer volume of bird poop 5 birds make on our garage floor. He scrubbed it out with the hose, but after only 24 hours the floor was a mess again. 

The only solutions were to take down the nest, killing the babies, or just wait it out until they learn to fly and leave the nest. Since he is such a softy the birds stayed and will likely be gone before the ceiling is installed in about 2 weeks, blocking their egress. 

The other critter problem didn't end well. When I went over to the garage apartment last week to take some boxes upstairs I found water dripping from the second floor. Turns out after 2 trips from the plumber and 1 from the builder than we had mice living between the floors during the winter and they had eaten a hole in the hot water line. The pipes and the drywall will be replaced soon, but something permanent will have to be done about invading critters. It is almost humorous to be discussing how best to discourage/kill the mice in our buildings at the same time we tempt Butter and Cream, Mary's pet mice, with special treats for their enjoyment. 

Looking at aerial photos from the early 1900's and today it is worth noting that 100 years ago 85% of our area was cleared for farms and today only 15% is still open space.  Between our little animal control issues and trying to keep the edges of the fields free of tree seedlings, I understand the old farmers who say that living in the country is a battle to keep what we have created from turning back to its natural state.  

Saturday, June 16, 2012


This past week Tim was on vacation up at the farm, doing what he loves best, mowing grass and moving stuff around with his big John Deere tractor. He and Will left yesterday to drop Will off at his Boy Scout ordeal weekend. The yard looks pristine with everything trimmed, the wood stacked just so all ready for winter, and the trampoline set up after a year hiatus. When my husband is here things tend to run with a military precision, but once his truck is out of sight, meals are a little more haphazard, the dishwasher doesn't get run until it is full, and the laundry doesn't get folded right away. After all, I'm running the household ship by myself and it is my summer vacation.

We didn't have many things on our agenda this past week, but that is going to change next week and the following week as our summer activities really crank into gear. Somehow I have signed up all the children for swimming lessons, 4 for piano lessons, 3 for riding lessons, 3 are going away to camp, Maggie is going to theater day camp for 3 weeks, and Charlie is going to day science camp for a week. And I don't even know if sailing is going to happen this year. I guess this is practice for this fall when I will have to get everyone out of bed and drive the big kids to school every day, homeschool the boys, keep the house tidy, organize every one's activities and appointments, and pick them up in the afternoon before making dinner and supervising homework and baths. I sure do hope that the next few months won't be all chauffeuring and life guarding duty, after all, it is my summer vacation too. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

swift feet

Between the 5 members of our family who ran in the Garelick Milk Run 1 mile we cleaned up with two gift certificates totaling $40 and a cooler full of dairy products. I wanted to beat last year's time and did so by 15 seconds for a time of 6:04. Charlie came in 2nd in the 12 and under age bracket with a time of 7:26( 10 seconds faster than last year), Maggie was the next family member with a time of 7:54 and Timmy ran his first mile race (in Crocs no less) with an impressive time for a 5 year old of 8:04. Mary ran with her friend and didn't really attempt a decent time, finishing in 9:15.

I've been going to the track workouts on Wednesday evenings, Charlie and Maggie have participated and been invited to return, perhaps that was what gave us all an extra boost on Saturday. Next race is the Tour de Lac, a 10 miler in Bucksport in 2 weeks. I'm hoping to repeat last year's performance with 1:15, but the weather has to cooperate, a lovely cool 55F morning would be perfect.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

a few stones strewn in my path

Since many of my vegetable seeds are in the ground, the fruit trees thriving, and the onions growing taller, I was at a loss of something to do outside. Apparently keeping the place from looking like we are hosting a yard sale with all the bikes, toys, and other assorted debris that appears each and every day isn't enough. I can't mow the grass because something broke on the riding mower and it is out of commission until our neighbor fixes it. So, with nothing better to do, I tackled my ongoing project to make the farm look like a home and no longer a construction site. Officially it still is since the porch has no classic pale blue ceiling or light fixtures yet, but we are closing in on the completion of the house. Last fall I dumped several truckloads of wood chips on the area in front of the front porch to kill the grass where I eventually wanted a flower bed. Since the porch is fairly low and doesn't have a railing, the plants there must be short so as to not impede the view. 

Last Saturday I hit a local nursery, buying some shade loving perennials, wildflowers such as white bleeding heart, columbine, and bloodroot, and a small Amur maple tree. Since then, between massive rainstorms, I have been digging out bucket after bucket of rocks and hauling them to the treeline. I have felt much in common this week with the early settlers of our town who cleared the woods and hauled so many rocks that they created stone walls at the edge of all our fields. 

Yesterday I finished digging and hopefully today after a trip to get some blue hydrangeas I will get the last plants put in the ground. I already have some future planting ideas, but this will do for now until I find myself again with "nothing to do." 

Monday, June 04, 2012

I'm an author!

If you happen to be a subscriber to Spider Magazine, then check out the May/June edition, my article about beachcombing that I submitted 4 years ago was finally published. I hope it doesn't take another 4 years for them to pay me.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

school choice

Louisiana has passed legislation that I had hoped would happen in Maine this year, but our teacher's unions were too powerful to allow true school choice. All Americans at one time were homeschooled or went to private schools in one of their neighbor's home and it seems that more were literate at that time then they are today. Hurricane Katrina was a horrible, deadly disaster, but it seems that it blew away more than homes and trees, it blew out some of the entrenched liberalism and brought reform of the government and the educational system. Despite the doom and gloom predictions of the biased reporter in this Reuters story, the opportunities of Louisiana's schoolchildren seem to have gotten considerably brighter. I do wonder if some of the accredited homeschool programs like Abeka and Seton are included? If so, then homeschooling might just be the next wave in the Bayou State.  

Louisiana is embarking on the nation's boldest experiment in privatizing public education, with the state preparing to shift tens of millions in tax dollars out of the public schools to pay private industry, businesses owners and church pastors to educate children.
Starting this fall, thousands of poor and middle-class kids will get vouchers covering the full cost of tuition at more than 120 private schools across Louisiana, including small, Bible-based church schools.
"We are changing the way we deliver education," said Governor Bobby Jindal, a Republican who muscled the plan through the legislature this spring over fierce objections from Democrats and teachers unions. "We are letting parents decide what's best for their children, not government."

Friday, June 01, 2012

summer project finished before summer?

About 6 weeks ago I took two machine quilting classes taught by machine quilter extraordinaire Teri Lucas. After listening to her advice as to how to proceed, I took on a huge project that had been sitting on my shelf for about 2 years, a king-size double 9 patch in red/white. After basting it on the quilt frame, I have been using every spare moment to work on it, especially those quiet early, early morning hours before any children arise. 

Pink thread on red fabric sounds dreadful, but it allows the teardrop stitches to be visible (I tried red thread at first and realized you couldn't see any of my lovely quilting!), but not garishly so, had I used white thread. The cream/white pathways are quilted in a red variegated thread with freehand leaves and vines. The dense stitching of the red pathways really makes the fabric visually recede and the variation in all the fabrics I chose appear more uniform. 

I've got to finish that last red border and the outer border, but I figure at this rate I'll have used up 7 spools of thread in a matter of a month. My finished winter bed quilt will certainly before the snow flies, and quite possibly before it gets hot enough to not need a blanket on the bed.