Thursday, April 15, 2010


I thought I'd take a moment to write what's on the project roster right now. Here goes:

*There are some mommy crafts that I'd like to finish for a baby shower this Saturday. I'm one of the organizers of the shower, and since I've been thinking a lot about baby showers, I'd also like to write a pseudo-ethnographic blog entry on how they function as life phase rituals.

*I'm collaborating with friends on a kids' book--the illustrations will be my next big creative endeavor.

*Completing my counselors training for the WCN. Still need to finish reading the manual.

*Create a plan for processing our books--Don bought me Delicious Monster personal library software for Christmas. I'd like to enter our books. I'd also like to remove some books to storage in order to free some more space for craft supplies and also to make the shelves more aesthetic.

*Cleaning C0-op --Maria and I will attend weekly cleaning co-op meetings. (Kellie wrote up our first meeting in her wonderful blog, the Life Pursuit)

*Implement a daily cleaning regimen.

*We have some artworks that needs to be framed and hung. I'd also like to rearrange some of pictures and hang some of the pictures that are currently sitting on tables or leaning against walls

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Work of Our Hands: Easter Crafts

A friend recently told me that one of the tenets of the Montessori method is to create "a home that is rich with culture." This kept coming back to me as I prepared our first Easter tree. Growing up, I loved my family's Easter trees. Nana, my paternal grandmother, decorated one of her houseplants with wooden ornaments, silk flowers and craft birds. After mass we'd find our Easter baskets sitting at the plants base. My mother put flowering branches in a vase and hung them with painted eggs.

I didn't think I'd have time to make and paint ausgeblasene eggs like we did growing up, so I tried to recreate paper ornaments that I'd seen at Pottery Barn. I used vintage images from the Graphicsfairy. (Thank you so much, Jennie, for introducing me to the site!) I poached forsythia branches from one of our local parks. We had scambled eggs for dinner on Good Friday, so I decided to make ausgeblasene eggs after all--I painted them a simple gold and hung them with red, white and pink ribbons.

I'm very pleased with how it turned out and look forward to adding to our trove of ornaments in years to come.

Happy Eastertide

"Christ our Lord is arisen"

"That is a true truth. Hallelujah, hallelujah!"

Nature knew it was Easter and put on a sweet face. New leaves came out on the trees and the cherry blossoms and magnolias were at their zenith. We woke at the usual time and had a breakfast of homemade bread and chocolate malt balls. We washed the baby and even got her to take a morning nap before heading out to the Oratory for Mass. Marimar felt properly jubilant during mass and crooned along with the scola. During the homily, her croons turned to full-out crowing, so I moved to the back. (I was sorry not to hear the end of the homily--Fr. Drew was speaking about the meaning of the the empty grave--the need to encounter a kind of existential emptiness before fully understanding the glory of the risen Lord.)

After mass, we took pictures in front of Oratory's flower beds. We saw a number of friends, including Eva and Nate; Niki and Peter; Lynn, David, and Gracie; and the Memole clan. Everyone looked wonderful in their Easter outfits, especially the children. Lynn has some lovely pictures on her camera. I hope to share them soon.

We went home and prepared to spend the afternoon feasting. How great it was to have all the food prep done and have nothing to do except lay the table and make the salad! Our friends arrived--Ritesh, Josh, Lynn, David, Grace, Brian, and Fr. Mike. Their wonderful contributions made an opulent meal. The menu included three beautiful quiches (Brian), sausage and pepper empanaditas (Lynn), pasta salad, seafood salad, braided egg bread, a fruit platter (Josh), strawberry-rhubarb pie (David), tiramasu (Fr. Mike), and maple candies (Ritesh). After the meal Don and Brian went outside to juggle. Ritesh, Marimar and I were their audience.

It was a glorious day and a wonderful beginning to the Easter season!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Work of Our Hands: Easter Shoes (for next Easter)

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Here's my latest completed craft project--a pair of soft-soled leather shoes for Maria. I intended them to go with her Easter outfit, but misjudged the size--they're way too big. Still, aside from the size issue, I'm rather pleased with how they turned out. I consider them the fulfillment of my first grade dreams to make shoes.

The pattern and instructions for the shoes came from Tacky Living. (Praise be for wonderful Internet citizens who post helpful material online! Surely they will inherit the Earth.) The leather came from a purse I bought at a thrift store for $4. In the future, I'll try to find a thinner leather (maybe from a skirt or jacket).

Friday, March 19, 2010

Journeys to Flat Places

Last week was our spring break. We drove to Illinois to visit friends, drove back to Pittsburgh, then piled onto a plane and traveled to Florida for some beach time with Muschi and Paschi (Marimar's maternal grandparents). The common element in our two destinations? Both places were flat.

The flatness was unexpectedly bracing--it was so good to commune with the open sky and sea. The landscape was a great reminder of how our little lives touch the immensity of creation and how our greatness lies that we witness great things. All in all, a very nice vacation.

Modesty and Joy in Fashion

I'm fascinated by my friends' clothing, hair and makeup. More than once I've tried to ask them about it--how did you learn to put on eyeshadow? Where do you shop? I dance around what I'd really like to know: how did these lovely women come to be at peace with appearance? For me, it's an ongoing crisis--how to give due attention to how I look without becoming surface-centered? How to find the line between the attractive and the immodest. For fashion--as a culture and commercial venture--is quicksand. Money and hours disappear; vanity thrives.

Now that I have a daughter, I want an answer--a prescription for dressing well and modestly. Marimar is only 9 months, but soon she'll be 14 and I'll need a reason for why this skirt is inappropriate and that piercing is offensive. I'm working on some guidelines---I'd love your input.

First, I'd want to address whether we ought to give up claims to beauty and dress plainly for warmth and cover. Take the model of the fashion ascetic. This is a person who doesn't give much thought to her appearance. She doesn't wrangle beauty for herself. Her eyebrows go un-plucked and her legs unshaven. Her wardrobe is all tee shirts and cargo pants. This is a fine model to follow. Many would benefit from its simplicity. But it suits a lifestyle that's removed from the world--a life of relative solitude. Think of the religious orders in their habits.

Living in the world, being defined by our relationships, it makes sense to mind our appearance out of Charity for our fellows. (I might wish to abandon the razor and trips to the mall but I'm sure that D would be depressed by it.) After all, fashion comes down to color and form and these things can communicate God's cheer. Accepting this, what are some rules to help us stay on the straight and narrow?

I've come up with some criteria for choosing fashion items and styles. It's not rigid. I'm trying to arrive at something that prohibits both the lewd and the puritanical--the miniskirt and the burka. Here goes.

Question to Ask Yourself When Considering a New Style or Article of Clothing:

*Does the article obscure my personality? Is it so distracting that another person might have a difficulty concentrating on what I'm saying or doing? (Dyed hair, heavy make-up, facial piercings.)

*Does the item advertise my fertility by throwing emphasis on sex organs or erogenous areas of the body? (This is the obvious one: Low-cut shirts, string-bikinis, etc.)

*Does the article/style require a high level of upkeep or hamper my ability to perform my duties? (High-heeled shoes, finicky make-up regimes, anything that makes you a slave to the mirror)

*Does the article/style make reference to a person or culture that is known for his/her/its immoral behavior? (If someone says you have porn-star hair, you may need to rethink the look)

*Does the article/style advertise its own expense? (If the item's main attraction is a brand name or logo, then it probably isn't modest.)

Now, her are some positive and fairly "safe" ways of adding to visual appeal without threatening modesty:

*Rejoice in color and texture.
*Rejoice in the seasons--find patterns and colors that harmonize with your surroundings.
*Do homage to admirable people and cultures by imitating them.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Grubby, Beautiful Child

It's baby is one of those a snotty-nosed anklebiters. I used to see babies with dirty faces and wonder why their mothers didn't wipe them. Now I know--babies think that nose-wiping is a form of water-boarding. The kind choice is to let the baby be grubby, and take the hit to the maternal ego. Yes, that's my baby--my grubby, beautiful baby. (Still, a bath now an then is good.)