Summer Idyll

I don't know if it's the 4th of July, or summer in Maine, or a week off with family, but this time of year gets almost ridiculously idyllic this time of year.

I bought Mr. Cleaver a pair of chaise lounges for the backyard as a Father's Day gift, and I'm starting to think that this made have been my best gift given to date. My brother and his family visited for 4th of July week, and we spent a good portion of that time, parents and kids all cuddled up on those chaises. I'm generally not great at relaxing, but give me a chaise, a cool drink, and a good magazine and I'm content for hours. 

My brother had never been to Maine in the summer before, and my adopted home did a great job of showing why Maine is so wonderful. We had sunshine for days and strawberries warm off the vine; we had seafood feasts and fresh strawberry ice cream; we played candlepin and wiffle-ball in the golden hour. We celebrated Steinbeck's gotcha day and Mr. Cleaver's birthday and Independence Day.

It was a warm, wonderful week and it makes me glad to live in Maine.  

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The Big 4, Oh!

As the end of March nears, the weather is generally still cold and crummy, but we are in full celebration mode at the Cleaver household. 

When I was a kid, I was big into birthday parties. As early as nine, I would plan my own birthday party, devise games, and make decorations (usually modeled after a recent issue of American Girl Magazine) and thrill at the thought that I'd get to see all my friends in one place. So it's strange that when it comes to Little Miss Cleaver, I'm all about the simple. And fortunately for me, she seems to be pretty content with that as well.

I took the day off work for her actual birthday, which was a Wednesday. We opened presents and then headed into Portland to visit the dinosaur exhibit at the Portland Science Center. The animatronic dinosaurs were a bit loud, but she enjoyed the exhibit overall, then we had a lovely lunch with a great view at RiRa's. Then it was home for nap and then cake and more presents with Memere in the afternoon. 

On the weekend we headed to Gorham to celebrate our other March tradition, Maine Maple Sunday, with some ice cream, maple cotton candy, and a strangely large amount of cows. We did have a small friend party at the house this most recent Saturday, but even that was limited to our neighbors because of a major April 1st snowstorm. But kudos to LMC, who didn't skip a beat and played party games with her parents anyway. 

And honestly, for as much as I loved big birthday parties as a kid, as a parent, these are moments I love. So while I'm sure we'll follow the lead of the other parents we know with a shindig at some third-party location where the kids can run wild, I will treasure the turning of this year, the big 4, as something oh so special..

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Craving Spring

You might have heard we had a blizzard in Maine last week. My town ended up with 16" inches and while the shoveled spots have melted nicely since, the piles are still quite large. 

But I'm thinking about spring anyway. 

I mentioned to a friend the other day that starting seeds is what gets me through March. Right now my Instagram feed is full of crocuses and blossoming trees. My yard is full of snow. In reality, I won't really be able to plant much outdoors until May, but since the growing season is short, I try to give my plants (particularly the peppers and tomatoes) a leg up. So I ordered my seeds, purchased my flats and Little Miss Cleaver and I got to planting.

If there's one thing I'm particularly proud of as a parent, it's that LMC is really excited about gardening.

For months she's been saving the seeds out of whatever food she finds them in (I had to explain that we couldn't plant seeds from a pickle). So we've got a few random apple seeds in those flats next to the basil and zinnias. She also cheerfully picked the wildflower packets with the bees and butterflies on them, because she wants to help them (thank you Nature Cat!).

Everyday, we've both been checking the progress of our little seedlings, and while I have to remind her that over-watering is just as bad as under-watering, she's an excellent co-gardener. Having every flat surface in my living room covered with flats of soil is a small price to pay. :)

I've also been embracing the coming spring in my crafts, with sheep and ducks and linen making notable appearances. I've also been working furiously behind the scenes to pull together some new kits for spring. If you want to be the first to hear about them when they go on sale, subscribe to my newsletter, which now comes out monthly and includes new releases, sneak peaks and a recipe! 


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Quick Winter Knits and a Pop-Up Shop!!

West Branch Cowl by Leah B. Thibault
Bradac Polar Bear Kit
Ms. Cleaver Creations Project Bag
Eiswasser by Leah B. Thibault
West Branch Cowl by Leah B. Thibault
Eiswasser by Leah B. Thibault
West Branch Cowl by Leah B. Thibault
Eiswasser by Leah B. Thibault
Ms. Cleaver Creations Project Bag
Bradac Polar Bear design by Leah B. Thibault

I've been a busy little beaver of late. Without any looming deadlines, I've had time to just play with my knitting design, and in doing so, I've come up with a lot of fun, quick accessories to share with you, just in time for your own holiday knitting.

First up is Eiswasser: this spiraling knit toque is inspired by the snowpack on top of the mountains that melts into rivulets, which turns into streams and rivers. Eiswasser (or ice water in German) recreates those streams in a densely-cabled toque that is incredibly warm, despite its name and lighter-weight yarn. Top it off with a fluffy (faux) fur pompom or leave the spiraling crown open to view. The sample is knit in Manos Del Uruguay Milo in Lisboa a Merino/Linen blend that is divine to knit with and has a beautiful rustic look, but soft feel. Never have I been more sad to hand a sample off than I was when I dropped this off at Knitwit last week.

Next in the quick-knit accessory line is the West Branch cowl. Designed to show off a special skein of handspun or hand-dyed yarn, this simple, but gracefully cozy cowl is the perfect knit for those looking to learn lace or who just want to use a special skein. A few big buttons add an extra fun with minimal effort. This cowl works in a variety of fiber weights. The pink sample, shown in One Lupine’s West Branch in Berry, is a worsted weight wool/silk blend available Exclusively at Knitwit, while the white sample is an all-wool Aran weight yarn of my own handspun. Very different in drape, but equally beautiful.

Pop-Up Shop

In other big news, if you've been poking around the website, you may have noticed I now sell a curated range of craft supplies and kits! I'm very excited to share this new endeavor with you all and will be adding more items in the coming months. If you're in the Southern Maine area, I'd invite you to join me at Knitwit in Portland this Saturday from 1-3, where I'll be having a mini pop-up shop as part of their holiday knitting kick-off event. I'll be selling project bags and polar bear kits, and have sample of several designs to try on. 


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Those Last Days of Summer

Those last precious days of summer.

In reality, our schedule doesn't really change all that much between the seasons, but there's something about the marker of Labor Day weekend that kicks us into gear to finally get to our favorite beach soda fountain and make the trip to the Drive-In movies. Because even if our schedule doesn't change, those things pretty much shut down come September. So we got our ice cream cones and popcorn and wore our glow bracelets and sunscreen for one last summer fling. 

And it was fabulous.


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Summer

It takes a while for summer to arrive in Maine, but is it ever worth the wait.

Strawberries and splash pads and sunshine. Home runs and wading pools and little owl nests. Yes, please, and thank you.


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Small City, Big Future

Summer, at least unofficially, has finally come to Maine. Which in these parts means parade season! The Memorial day parade got cancelled on account of rain, but fortunately in our little town the next weekend is Together Days and another parade.

When the parade features marching bands, Shriners in tiny cars, your next door neighbor, and copious amounts of candy, it's a good parade. :)

At lot of people in the area tend to look down on this little former mill town: it's not as hip as Portland, or as posh as Cape, and our realtor famously said "at least it doesn't smell anymore" when we put the city on our short list. People ask me all the time if we're planning to move.

The town's not perfect (putting a highway through the middle of downtown is pretty poor civic planning), but it's a good town filled with good people. It's not fancy, but it suits me and family just fine.


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December

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If I had to describe December in a word, it'd be full.

Full calendar, full bellies, full hearts. 

Some highlights for me were decorating cookies for Santa and taking LMC to see Portland Ballet's Nutcracker, where she was totally engrossed in Act I and conked out and slept her way through Act II (though not for lack of interest).

In the midst of a hectic baking schedule (2 types of cookies, gingerbread cake and peanut brittle), I managed to make several gifts too, including my bi-annual cross-stitch family portrait (inspired by this year's Halloween costumes), a knit hat for LMC in the hopes of seeing something other than the doggie hat on her head, an ornament for my knitting group's annual swap and  two tutus, because you can never have too much tutu. But the gift that I'm most proud of making is my little Children's book, which I wrote and illustrated for LMC.

As I said, it was a full month, and while I wouldn't call January "empty" I am looking forward to getting back into a quieter rhythm. 

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Pecan Oatmeal Apple Crisp (and Apple Abundance)

Pecan Apple Crisp
Apple Cider Doughnuts
Apple Cider Doughnuts
Pecan Oatmeal Apple Crisp

So we went a little overboard on the apple picking this year and picked a ton on our annual trip to Ricker Hill a few weeks back. (also we went on a weekday, so we had the full run of the bounce houses to ourselves and had to take advantage of that!) So even after two sizable pies, I still had about a bushel left and no gumption to make more pie, and so, enter crisp! This recipe is a mashup of three different ones, so it has a little bit of everything in it, which makes it totally delicious.And it's a big batch recipe (3 Qt baking pan), so it means that I'm down to only 2 dozen apples now!!

Filling

  • ~10 apples, peeled and chopped
  • 3 Tbl sugar
  • 1.5 Tbl cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 Tbl orange juice

Topping

  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups flour (Up to 1/2 cup can be whole wheat)
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 Tbl white sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1.5 sticks salted butter, softened
  • 1 cup chopped pecans 

Preheat oven to 350 Degrees F

Place all filling ingredients into a 9x13 (3 QT) baking pan and mix together. Adding more apples as needed to fill pan.

In a separate bowl, mix all topping ingredients, except nuts, together until they make a consistency like wet sand. Mix in nuts as desired. Sprinkle topping loosely over apple mixture.

Bake for ~ 50 minutes until topping is browned and apples are soft.

Serve warm with ice cream 


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Pumpkins at Smiling Hill Farm

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We got a late start on our fall activities thanks to some serious colds, but we're getting there! We made it to the pumpkin patch on Sunday, and the apple orchard on Wednesday, so we're all set on Autumnal produce. 

We Cleavers are creatures of habit and tend to go to the same places every year - so this is LMC's third year at the Smiling Hill Farm pumpkin patch. It's always interesting to see what's different with each round - what is she most interested in? (Answer: rainbow ice cream), what isn't she digging? (Answer: that incident with the turkey has made her nervous about all barnyard fowl).

It's also fun to get the random recaps that she'll spout out days or even weeks later, when she sees something that reminds her of her little adventure. 

I'm hesitant about pulling out the carving knives just yet, so we painted our pumpkins again this year. I didn't put on any sealant first, so they're already peeling, but I think they're beautiful anyway.

We've hung our bat lights and have been watching Curious George A Boo Fest on repeat, which means she goes around wishing everyone "Happy Halloween, hold on to your hat!" We're thinking about making a No-Noggin scarecrow this weekend. I have to admit of all the children's programming, I like Curious George the best (which is good, because LMC loves him).

 I've also been prepping LMC for costume wearing in the hopes that she'll actually wear her costume I'm making (since the wear rate of things I make for her is dismally low). What are you going to be for Halloween? Alice! What's mommy going to be? The queen. What's daddy going to be? The hatter dance! (Close enough).

I love prepping for Halloween.



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