Fall Family Fun

While I spent a lot of time in October working hard to get the WOODLAND collection ready for release (and fighting a a few colds), I also made sure to I made time to enjoy my favorite season with my favorite people. So there were leaf piles, and ballet classes (I just die every time I see her in that uniform), pumpkin carving, painting and decorating. 

One of my favorite things to do at Halloween is make themed family costumes (see 20152016  and pre-LMC, 2011), which I will continue to do as long as LMC puts up with it. So about 10 days before Halloween when she decided to be a butterfly instead of an owl, I had to do a little creative thinking, but I think the garden costume I came up with worked out great. Mr. Cleaver was supposed to be a gardener originally, but since I was laid low with a sinus infection on Halloween night, I let him take the better costume out on the town, which he was a great sport about.  

Either way we gave out and received loads of candy and LMC went to bed wishing everyday could be Halloween. All-in-all, a pretty good October.


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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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December is for Dabbling

For Christmas, I gave Mr. Cleaver a skein of sock yarn. 

"I am supposed to learn to knit?" He asked, eyebrow raised.

"No," I replied, "This gift is two-fold. 1) Sometime this year you'll get a new pair of socks and 2) I didn't try to knit them before Christmas."

As creatives and makers, it's easy to get overwhelmed with a desire to try to make our holidays as handmade as possible. I've definitely stayed up far too late many a December trying to finish a gift or two before that deadline on the 24th. 

In 2016, my creative life was ruled by deadlines more than ever before, and it was incredibly stressful. So when I had a month of no deadlines and over two weeks of vacation from my day job planned, I decided that I wasn't going to give myself any new deadlines. 

So I gave my husband a skein of yarn for Christmas and I didn't make my daughter a thing. And I'm okay with that. 

Instead, I decided to play. 

I spun yarn for the first time since LMC was born. I baked my way through a 5 pound bag of flour with whatever inspiration struck my fancy. I needle-felted, and needle-felted some more. I wet-felted a pair of slippers for the first time. I was able to sew for the first time in months. I crocheted snowflakes and learned how to steek. I picked out yarn for a sweater, for me, from someone else's pattern and have knit most of it. I made snowmen and ice skated and took naps with my daughter. 

It was like summer camp in the winter and it was glorious. 

I want to make this a new holiday tradition for myself. December is for dabbling. It's the best gift I could receive. 


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The Work of My Hands

Vintage Embroidery Pillowcase by Ms. Cleaver
Vintage Embroidery Pillowcase by Ms. Cleaver
Making Ice Cream
Portable Ballet Barre by Ms. Cleaver
Portable Ballet Barre made by Ms. Cleaver

I'm always astonished when I meet people who are one-craft only people, they only quilt, or crochet, or knit - and that's it. I'm constantly having to stop myself from picking up yet another creative pursuit. In some ways I'm jealous of their devotion to a single art - when it's just one you can really dive deep and get really good, really creative.

But I have always been a generalist, polymath, utility player - call it what you will. I love trying out new things, giving them a go and I think it's served me well. When I was deep into theatre, I did a lot of things within the theatrre, writing, directing, set design, etc., but it was mostly just theatre (and a little dance). When I reached a point where theatre didn't really work for my life anymore, I found fabric and yarn made a good outlet for my creative needs. In 5 years, painting may fit right. 

I made my Memorial Day weekend extra long by taking Friday off and filled it with multiple trips to the park, food, family, and a wide variety of creating. I prepped my raised beds and planted seedlings; I learned to use a racheting pipe cutter (!!) and made LMC a portable ballet barre; I sewed an old table runner into a throw pillow; I made peppermint ice cream for our BBQ; and wore a recently finished dirndl skirt that had been hanging around in my to fix pile for too long. Not to mention all the furious knitting I did on a deadline project while watching The Time Machine and Anne of Green Gables.

After a long weekend of creating, my hands are weary, but my heart is full.

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Works in Progress

Tea and Quilting
Quilt Top
Hand-Quilting
Fort Building
Good Night Sleep Tight Embroidery in Progress by Ms. Cleaver
Sock in Progress
Banana Bread
One Bowl Banana Bread with Two Spatulas
Cleaning Up
Mommy's "Ballet Shoes"

Between the snow and the seemingly never-ending stream of sickness in the Cleaver household, there's been a lot of indoor days. Some with just enough energy to build a fort to "nap" in, others of a more productive sort. 

I finished piecing my quilt top, made my "sandwich" and have begun the actual quilting of my quilt. Huzzah!

I decided to hand-quilt it. I'm enjoying the ever-so handmade nature of my uneven stitches and since there's no deadline to be finished (I started it over 2 years ago after all), there's no need to rush. I haven't done much beyond those few test circles, as my hand-work time (read: evening tv time) has been filled, as it most usually is, with knitting.

I've finished one sample sock for a new pattern (and if you're interested in being a tester, let me know!) and have been working on a number of swatches for all kinds of different designs. I sat yesterday with a stack of stitch dictionaries and post-it notes and came up with at least one idea I really adore for a submission call. I had to tell myself to bind off the swatch because I wanted to keep knitting it.

On days I've been home with LMC, for illness or weekending reasons, she keeps me on my toes- sometimes literally, as she's become very interested in ballet, which to her means yelling BALLET! and doing something akin to an arabesque attitude. I have since taught her to plié as well.

I'm not sure where she picked it up, as the only ballet I can recall showing her prior to this was bits of the nutcracker at Christmas and the occasional SYTYCD clip.But perhaps it stuck as the other day she found and insisted on wearing mommy's "ballet shoes."  Then again it could be something from daycare, as it took me a while to figure out her "ski" impression from school - there's only so much those daily report sheets tell you.

In there anything you've been working on lately?

 

 

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Yard Work

We took advantage of decent weather and a long weekend to get some yard work done. Mr. Cleaver mowed the lawn, Little Miss did lawn mower maintenance (it's electric and I'd highly recommend it), and Steinbeck keep guard. Meanwhile, I put on my best Bobby C. shirt, pulled out the tools, and put together two very long overdue frame for raised beds.

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A Spring Stroll

Ready for a Stroll

Sand Cherry in Bloom

Creeping Phlox

Ready for a Stroll

Birch and Bleeding Heart

Tulips

Tulips

Steinbeck

Bleeding Heart

Violets

Having grown up in California, and gone to college in the Oregon, I have a slew of friends who still reside in those more temperate climes. So while we still had snow on the ground, my Facebook feed was filled with West Coast photos of freshly bloomed daffodils. Now, June is in sight, the snow is but a memory and the daffodils have come and gone, but it feels as if Spring has just arrived in Maine. Suddenly the grass is green, the trees have leaves, and everything is in bloom.

In my own little garden, the sand cherry is in bloom, the violets are out, the bleeding heart has grown to massive proportions and the tulips are starting to fade.  My perennial bed, now in its third year,  is starting to fill in and I may have to start doing some dividing come fall.

Now that the weather is nicer, LMC and I have started taking a little stroll together before I head to work in the mornings, giving me a chance to scope out the neighbors yards for ideas. The phlox that's everywhere? Totally want some of my own. That perennial bed around that birch tree? Divine!

When we first moved into our little house, I  started my flower beds with no real plan or knowledge. I got the gift of some plants from friend's gardens, picked up a few of my own and started digging out red brick mulch, tearing out layers of landscape fabric, and plopping plants down and crossing my fingers. Three years later, between some experience and episodes of This Old House, I'm starting to learn more about this gardening thing. Or at least paying more attention. I know enough to know that moving plants is pretty easy, dark mulch makes everything look better and if something doesn't work out you can always plant something new in its place.

It's good to be out in the garden again.

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Bits and Pieces

Our first nursery furniture purchase

Choices

Painting done!

Nursery painted

A baby thing or two

Planning

The nesting instinct is strong in the Cleaver household these days.

Things are beginning to come together in bits and pieces. The nursery got painted this weekend, we've ordered new carpet to replace the mismatched (and smelly!) carpet in all the bedrooms, and have even purchased (or made!) a few things for the Wee Babe. Once the carpet is installed next week, we'll be able to start setting up the nursery for reals, and not just on paper.

With about 9 weeks to go before my due date, it seems both like time is going by way too fast and not nearly fast enough. I've definitely hit the tired and uncomfy part of the third trimester, but there's still so much to do! That said, one thing I've learned to appreciate about this pregnancy is that it's forced me to just SLOW DOWN and rest when I need to, something I've never been terribly good at.

After all, my most important job these days is gestating, and I seem to be doing pretty well there. :)

30 week, 3 day bump

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Contractors, Chaos, Colds, and Christmas

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Yes, I just made a spreadsheet for my holiday baking

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Back when I first started blogging, I made a promise to myself that I'd never apologize for my blogging, particularly for not blogging for a while. Because as we all know, life happens and sometimes that gets in the way of the best intentions of a twice-weekly posting schedule.

That said, every since this summer there seems to have been a lot of LIFE happening and this past month has been no exception.

Since Thanksgiving, the Cleaver household has experienced a total of the following:

  • 1 holiday dinner hosted;
  • 2 full days of holiday baking and a pair of second-degree burns;
  • 2 1/2 hours in a semi-frozen field shooting photos for an upcoming design collaboration;
  • 3 knitted items finished being finished at 11:30pm the evening prior to said photo shoot;
  • 3 weeks of contractors installing, among other things, insulation in our attic and a new ceiling in our living room;
  • 4 colds (2 for me and 2 for the mister, and maybe even one for the dog!);
  • Watched Skyfall, The Hobbit, Les Mis, and a handful of Harry Potter films; and
  • 17 boxes of stuff from my mother's house in California arrived and were sorted and stored.

Mr. Cleaver and I had both agreed that we would just get through all of this and enjoy our Christmas to the fullest extent possible. We had a great time with Mr. Cleaver's family on Christmas Eve and Christmas.

Now that we've had a few days to breathe (and a grateful snow day home from work for me) - we at the Cleaver camp are turning our attentions to that next most important of projects: preparing for the Wee Baby Cleaver!

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