A Sunny SoCal Sojourn, or Why I'm Thankful

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As we've now done every other since 2008, the Cleaver clan (now expanded!) took our bi-annual trip down to Southern California for Thanksgiving. It's a long trip cobbled together on buses to/from Boston and long plane flights, but the travel is worth it to see my now-distant family.

A few nights before we left Mr. Cleaver and I tried to figure out how many times we had done this Thanksgiving trip (this was the 4th): there was the year I have memorialized in a photo on my desk, when my mom  and her mom came and my cousin Preston was there and my grandmother Leota was still alive and there was only one wee member of the next generation.

Then there was the year my grandfather, now a widower, had my brother and I cook an entire Thanksgiving dinner two days before Thanksgiving and when we visited my Great Aunt Betty at her house and she gave me a little brass bird to take with me to look at and think of her. She's since moved to a senior living community and I haven't seen her since.

Then most recently, the year we met my little red-headed first cousin once removed, while I was pregnant with my own little red-headed girl, and we stayed with my Aunt and Uncle and went to Disneyland.

This year there was one less member of the eldest generation and two more members of the youngest.  All reminders of why its so important to make the trip, if only every other year. My uncle said it best this year  - "traditions like this don't just happen, you have to put in the work and everyone has to pitch in."

I'll admit that this year, with LMC as part of the group, made for a very different experience for me - not to say she was trouble - she was spectacular on the all the travel and in adjusting to the new people and surroundings, but it really struck me how much more your attention is divided when you're the parent of a small child. When a half an hour conversation turns into 10 minutes because she needs you in another room, or the shift in times from up late and sleeping in to early to bed, early to rise. But I loved seeing LMC read a book with her Great Aunt, or sit in her Great-Uncle's lap to watch the Polar Express or for her to play kitchen with her cousin and try to be like the big girl. Not to mention her first experiences seeing a baby hippo, chowing down on In-N-Out fries, or taking her first pass at big-ball bowling.

To some extent, visits to my family during the Holidays have always felt a little bit nostalgic - going back to the places I loved as kid and remembering all the things we did in those backyards and houses, but this year I was reminded how great families (and I have some great family), allow you to change and grow and love you all the more for it.

And for that, I'm thankful.

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Opa! The Greek Food Festival


Faux Dome - Christ Pantocrator


Trying Spanakopita

Trying Spanakopita

Saints Icons

Baptism of Christ Icon Loukoumades

Dancing & Loukoumades

Dancing & Loukoumades

Entry into Jersusalem Icon

One of the tastiest days on the Cleaver family calendar is the day we visit the Greek Food Festival. Hosted annually by the Holy Trinity Church in Portland on the last full week of June, we start anticipating our visit as soon as the weather gets warm.

It's not that you can't get good Greek food in the area other times of the year, it's  just that there's something about the food that you get at the Festival that makes it extra delicious. We eat light in the morning so we have plenty of room to stuff ourselves with dolmades (lamb and rice-stuffed grape leaves), spanakopita, gyros, and loukoumades. And oh the loukoumades - the Greek equivalent of a light crispy doughnut hole, made fresh and served in a honey-nut syrup.

Despite being rather full, I gave Mr. Cleaver some serious stink-eye when he suggested only getting one serving of loukoumades this year.  It only comes once a year! Even LMC, who for the most part was too busy taking it all in to pay much attention to the food, loved the loukoumades. She ate her little snack and danced her little toddler dance to the Greek music playing on the loudspeakers. Happily swaying back and forth with the taste of honey on her lips. We usually go in the mid-afternoon on a weekday to avoid the crowds and lines, but it would be fun to go see the live music and dancing one of these years.

We did however take the opportunity to get a  private tour of the church from Father Sarantides himself. If you ever get a chance to see the inside, I'd highly recommend it. Holy Trinity features a number of stunning small and large scale icons throughout the sanctuary.  All we had to do was ask one of the volunteers and they set it up. They're truly beautiful.

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Bubble BlasterBubble Blaster Rhododendron Snuggle Time Irises Untitled Steiny Juliet Untitled Sand Play Old Port Festival Parade

Old Port Festival Parade Old Port Festival Parade

With the arrival of good weather and the Annual Old Port Festival in Portland, it's really starting to feel like summer here. And with summer comes copious amounts of sunscreen, bug-spray and activity for the Cleaver clan.

LMC got to take in her first parade, which featured beautiful large-scale puppets from Shoestring Theatre and sampled a bit of fair food. We also visited her first farmer's market and picked out plants to go into the new raised beds, which despite her efforts to pluck them back out have been firmly planted into their new homes.

The boxes are approximately 4 ft x 8 ft x 6 inches. We got a yard and half of loam delivered from O'Donals in Gorham, which we combined with some of our Garbage to Garden compost from last year.  We probably could have gotten away with a yard of dirt, but the leftovers will go into additional boxes we hope to have in place for planting next year.  Because, obviously two boxes aren't gonna cut it. :)

As for this year's plantings, I kept the plant list fairly similar to my first garden attempt, with the addition of lettuce:

  • Plum tomatoes for salsa and sauce (3)
  • Sweet bell peppers (2)
  • Broccoli (6)
  • Lettuce (6)
  • Basil (4)
  • Thyme (1)
  • Rosemary(1)

I think I'll probably pick up a few more herbs (I'm thinking cilantro and maybe parsley and mint) and I also planted 4 strawberry plants around the deck in addition to our existing blueberry bush.

Growing up I lived in a house on a corner lot with a huge backyard that my parents filled with all sorts of edible plants. We had cherries, granny smith apples, boysenberries, strawberries and cherry tomatoes most of time. As a kid, my friends and I would spend our summer afternoons out there, reenacting dance routines from Newsies over the sprinkler and eating our fill of the backyard bounty. It was bliss.

Now as a grownup, I live in a house on a corner lot with a huge backyard, that I'm slowly filling with edibles, so my daughter too can eat sun-warmed fruits and veggies to her heart's content.

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Minoru Jacket and Cargo Pocket Tutorial

Minoru Jacket
Minoru Sleeve Mod
Minoru Jacket
Minoru Cargo Pocket Mod
Minoru Jacket
Minoru Jacket

I finally made something for myself and it's a doozy! I loved the Minoru Jacket pattern from the moment it came out (back in late 2011), so much so that I bought the pattern, the fabric, the lining, and special ordered the zippers shortly after it came out.

Three years of sitting in my stash and five weekends of sewing later, I have a bright and beautiful new jacket that does some much-needed filling of a long-outstanding hole in my wardrobe. Of course I finished it just in time for summer, but being as I live in Maine with it's often cool nights and mornings, I'm sure it'll still get plenty of wear before getting a real workout in the Fall and Spring.

The jacket is a spring green twill of forgotten origins, lined with some silky polka dots purchased at JoAnn's, and riri metal zippers. I made the pattern in a straight size 14, which is a little bit roomy, but it means I can wear it over sweaters come Fall. It's comfy and the right amount of warm for the in-between seasons.  I found the instructions clear and concise (though missing a few metric to imperial measurement conversions in the text and there's something funky about the placket length/hem length). I pretty much made it exactly as described, with the exception of the following modifications:

  • Flat felled all the seams noted as top-stitched in the pattern - seam finishing and top-stitching in one!
  • Lined the hood
  • Moved the waist elastic up 1"/2.5 cm from pattern marking
  • Removed the cuffs
  • Made the hood zipper opening shorter
  • Added cargo pockets
  • Accidentally placed the interior pockets about 5/8 inch too low

One of the great things about sewing a pattern three years after it came out is that by then, a ton of other people have made it and you can steal their ideas and learn from their problems. About half these mods were inspired by other blogger. Case in point, I can no longer remember the blogger who mentioned it, but the hood zipper opening was indeed too long for my zipper, which I was able to check, before cutting it out. I do wish  I had headed the warnings to reduce the hood, as it is overly large. Some more direct copy-cats include borrowing Lladybird's idea to lose the cuffs (which were way long, even on me) and after I flat-felled my side seams before I inserted the side seam pockets I had planned on, I stole cutcutsew's cargo pockets idea.

The cargo pockets were a happy accident, as I love the way they turned out and they really make the jacket. I constructed my pockets largely based on this tutorial by 21 Wale. Should anyone want to copy me in my copy-catting, I've made up a PDF Cargo Pocket Pattern and Instruction Sheet  (tiled for US Letter-sized printing).

As with any coat/jacket, this was a time-consuming project. All said, it probably took me somewhere in the realm of 16 or so  hours to complete, but I love the outcome and consider it time well-spent as I can see myself wearing this coat all the time.

Speaking of wearing me-made things, I've completely missed Me-Made May, but I realized after I took the photos that everything in my outfit in these shots (not including underthings) was handmade either by me (cardigan, skirt, tank) or someone else (necklace, shoes). The fact that I didn't realize it until I took the photos is a nice nod to how the right handmade items can really become an intrinsic part of our wardrobes.

Continuing on the theme of handmade wardrobes, there's a neat little story behind the striped sweater LMC's wearing. When we first moved back to Maine, my mother-in-law gave me a bag with some random knitting stuff in it: a few sets of straight needles, some old yarn, and all the pieces to a blue and white striped baby sweater.  When I was pregnant, one of the first things I did was seam the otherwise complete sweater together, so now LMC has a Memere-made sweater, even though her Memere hasn't knit in years. The original yarn and ball bands (Reynolds Giselle) came with the sweater, but I've been unable to definitively date them and my MIL has no recollection of making the thing, so my best guess is that it was originally made for either one of her three sons, or my nephew - meaning it could be anywhere from 20 to 50 years old (quite the range, I know).  The best my google-fu can find is that the yarn was at a minimum available from 1981-1984. Doesn't look too shabby for some never-worn 30 year old yarn, does it?

The 4th in Four





I finished up so many projects in the past week, but haven't had the time to really photograph them. It's been a full week: Monday was Steinbeck's "Gotcha Day" - one year since we first brought him home, Tuesday was Mr. Cleaver's birthday and we enjoyed stuffed deep dish pizza straight from Giordano's in Chicago. On the fourth, Mother Nature outdid any fireworks with an intense thunderstorm, so we stayed inside and watched the last three episodes of Freaks and Geeks instead.

Yesterday, we took the day off and ran errands, bought a Johnny Cash CD, and checked out a bunch of comic books (the Runaways, where have you been all my life?) and the first season of Arrested Development from the library. In the interim, I've been chugging away at my tour de fleece spinning including the yellow lace-weight, which Mr. Cleaver termed "a lot of yarn." I finished my cookie-monster cardigan and I've been swatching like crazy for new projects. I even managed to sew on the bias binding on my second sorbetto.

I'm back to work today, but it's been a fun few days off. Even better, I'm just hours away from the weekend!

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Sorbetto and Soft Serve

Mags and I got together for some sewing fun on Saturday and had a surprising role-reversal, in which she worked on a detailed wrap-dress and I whipped out two shirts (and a muslin for some pants, which need a lot of work), one of which ended up as a pajama top because the fabric was crummy, and then there's this one: Sorbetto

The Little Folks voile was the perfect weight and drape for this top. The pattern is the Colette patterns freebie, Sorbetto, which has been making the sewing blog rounds for good reason, as it's quick, easy, and flattering.

SorbettoA few pattern notes:

  • With some careful cutting, I got this out of less than a yard of 54" fabric near the top end of the size range.
  • I added about 2 inches to the hem when I cut it out
  • Like others have mentioned, the bust dart could probably be 1/2 inch lower.

I think this pattern would look great in a silky solid too. Pretty much anything drapey will work well.

In other ice-cream related news that I'm mostly posting about for my brother, at Maggie's instistance I grabbed a Blizzard at the local Dairy Queen (DQ) this weekend (and supported a local dog rescue).

For the first time in 15 years.

The Return to DQ

I've avoided DQ's for the the past decade and half due to a overload on an extended roadtrip through the heartlands with my Grandparents at age 12.

So how was the break fast Blizzard? Not bad.  Not great. But not bad.

Just don't make me get the "Hot Eats" ;)

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