Monday, April 25, 2016

Pretty, Happy - April 23, 2016

The girls were off from school this past week.  We got a lot out of our free days.  On Monday, we had two playdates and adoration.  On Tuesday, Old Sturbridge Village.  Wednesday, Meme came to us. Thursday, we met Auntie C, Uncle Steve and Caitlyn at Kidcity, and later had homemade pizza in our tree house.  Friday was a recuperation morning and our last session of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd for the year.

{pretty and happy}

When Meme came, she brought three bags of mulch, two bags of potting soil, a Mantauck daisy, two flats of pansies, a small rhododendron and a potted hollyhock.  She brought tools, including a something wonderful called an edger.  We had a lovely morning of raking out the azaleas, putting plants in the ground, laying down mulch and generally tidying. Meme did a lot.  I did what little I could between making sure that Pip wasn't in the tree house, taking care of potty accidents, and trying (and failing) to get Pippa to take a nap. I'm very grateful to Meme and so pleased with the results.  How very helpful it is to have someone come and get you started.  I was worrying about soil testing and researching compatible plants--i.e making things so complex that I couldn't start...but really, it's better to throw a few things in the ground and have a go at it.  It's so good to feel that we're no longer playing chicken with the garden beds!   And now that we've set things out, I'm realizing that we have so much to hope for and anticipate garden-wise--irises and daisies, azaleas, rhododendrons, hollyhocks, peonies, and purple gladiolas.

After Meme headed for home, the girls and I headed to the University Dairy Bar. UConn has an excellent school of agriculture and the cows in the University's herd are happy and pasture-fed.  The Dairy Bar ice cream is made from their milk.   The quality is excellent.  The portions are ample.

We discovered a wonderful magnolia tree near the Dairy Bar; perfect for the littles to climb.

{pretty and happy}

On Tuesday, we went to Old Sturbridge Village.   Every time we visit, I mention to the girls that they may want to have their wedding receptions there some day--it's so lovely.  There's weathered wood, and blossoming trees, wood smoke and pine scent in the air. The village is large---we still haven't seen it in its entirety, despite having visited four or five times.  With each visit, we're happy  to take home just a few tidbits of information and a few impressions.  This time, we arrived just in time to ask questions of a Laura Ingalls Wilder impersonator.   I asked about Laura's relationship with  her mother-in-law.  In Farmer Boy, LIW describes her husband's youth, and goes into extensive detail on all the wonderful things that Mrs. Wilder cooked for her family.  The book leaves the impression that doughnuts, cookies, and apple pie were daily fare---just what they had on hand for snacks.  Then there were the multi-course meals.  I wondered if there  was something a little passive aggressive in this over-the-top account of the the Mrs. Wilder's plentiful kitchen.  Perhaps Laura's husband had praised his mother's cooking a few too many times, and Laura exacted a tender revenge by writing it down in the same hyperbolic terms that her husband described it.   The actress said "no," Mrs. Wilder was just that productive and formidable a cook. Laura admired Mrs. Wilder and aspired to be like her.  So much for my pet theory.

We saw the lambs.   It was the first time that the girls seemed to take an interest in the animals.  Maria was particularly delighted by  a mother chicken and her chicks scratching in their pen.  She thought it was hilarious how the hen bustled about, heedlessly showering her offspring with sawdust.

The replica dress shown aboce was highly adjustable.  It could fit both Pippa and Louisa thanks to it's many drawstrings.  Now, why don't we make clothing like this anymore---a dress that could easily be worn by a child for three years straight!

In the house interiors, there are so many rich colors and patterns.  How very dull is our modern decorating, with our gray and beige and carefully coordinated prints!

{also happy}

This week, we did a fair amount reading and  listening to audiobooks.  We finished listening to  The Mouse and the Motorcycle and Freddy the Detective.  I also finished reading The Trumpet of the Swan aloud to the girls.  That makes three intelligent animal stories!  All of them were great.

I will have to do my funny and real sections later, once I've had a chance to get pictures off Don's camera.  Stay tuned...

Saturday, April 16, 2016

{pretty, happy, funny, real} April 15, 2016


I find myself wanting to talk about the weather lately---really wanting to talk about it, not simply as a way of starting conversation--because this weather begs discussion.  There were those few, exhilarating, balmy days in March, when groundhogs and seasoned New Englanders alike were saying that we'd have an early spring.  Then came the snows that ripped the better part of the forsythia blossoms off the bushes, and then the slow, grudging side-step towards spring.  Now we have sunshine, but things its still brisk, and there's only a little bit of green haze in the wood.  I'm surprised that spring isn't a little further on.

But here we have some pretty flowers in our flower beds.  I planted these bulbs last fall and fairly dote on them, visiting them each day.  They are few and far between.  Somehow, I didn't realize that one bulb produces one flower--so profound are the depths of my gardening ignorance.  I sort of thought one bulb might produce several flower stalks.  My bulbs are haphazardly scattered through the beds.  My mother-in-law is coming next week, to spiff things up, garden-wise

Tea parties.  
Three little girls, three tea preferences.

Let's enjoy the haircut once again, shall we?

Homemade whole-wheat cutter cookies, a tulip from the garden, Pomegranate Pizazz tea.

Miss Shell

I brought the Ikea kids dishes from the playroom to the kitchen.  This lead to several impromptu tea parties this week.  We gave ourselves special names.  At this occasion, Maria was Miss Shell, Pippa was Miss Pippa, and Louisa was Miss Challawalla.  These pictures look fairly civilized, but shortly after this, things got out of hand with the yogurt (don't they always!)  We read Reschenka's Egg as we had our tea.

{happy and funny}

My opera singer friend just started rehearsals for a production of Salome.  Her husband was out of town this week, so she needed somewhere to stash their brilliant, active boys during her Tuesday evening rehearsal.  We had them over for a sleepover.  It's wonderful when doing a little baby sitting for a friend makes you a patron of the arts!

A curtsey amidst the rubble. 
The girls were very excited.  As soon as the boys appeared, things got musical---well, if not musical, then certainly very loud.  Here are some pictures of the kids' band for their album cover.  I love how James looks every inch the melancholic artist, despite the hubbub that surrounds him.

The sleepover was great fun.  The boys introduced our girls to the charm of rice with catsup.  We introduced them to beet and blueberry popsicles.

We camped out in the living room and read the Silver Chair (book 4 of the Chronicles of Narnia).  Maria and James are entering the age when they can really get the Narnia books.  It was a wonderful thing to behold their rapt faces looking up at me from a tumult of pillows and blankets, and to go with them to the court of Cair Paravel.  Louisa and Dominic enjoyed the book, but didn't apprehend so much or listen so eagerly.  Understandably, they fell asleep first, while the oldsters, Maria and James, hung in there as Pole and Eustace embarked on their adventure.

My friend returned from rehearsal around eleven and James had just fallen asleep.  He had been keeping watch for her.  The boys have a chivalrous regard for their mother that pulls on my heartstrings.

So our sleepover went well!  The boys had a good time, but woke up raring to get home.  It goes to show---nighttime adventures are all well and good, but we all want a little familiarity when it comes to breakfast!


Birthday Bullying

My friends who have boys live in a state of heightened vigilance least their boys hurl themselves off high structure or manage to drop mattresses onto each others' heads.  For those of us with daughters, it's the social landscape that is fraught with the greatest perils.  Right now, birthdays are looming large in that landscape.

We've always  had a lot of talk of birthdays in our house, but lately, the talk has been getting out of hand.  Our girls, especially Lulu,  see their birthdays as zones where they wield absolute power.  This power may be wielded charitably, as when Louisa promises Pippa breakfast in bed and two treats from the Easter candy stash on her birthday.  But, more often than not, Birthday-girl power is used to mete out retribution.  This week, Lulu, in a fit of temper, told her her preschool teacher, KC,  that on her Birthday she may not have any jelly beans.  KC's replied that on her birthday, Louisa could have all the jellybeans she wanted.  Louisa, for once, was speechless.

For more Pretty, Happy, Funny Real, go on over to Like Mother, Like Daughter.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Pretty, happy, funny, real - April 10, 2016


Some Easter peg doll angels that are intended from my Catechesis of the Good Shepherd class.

 How I like a good bob!  Lulu once again looks like the cheeky French girl that she is.


The girls have been enjoying duplos.  They all like them, even Maria, who feels a little overwhelmed by the smaller legos.

This week was  Maria's first science fair.  Donnie and Maria searched the house for objects and built a snap circuit to find out whether or not the objects would conduct electricity.  Throughout the process I found myself oscillating violently between exasperation (Why are six-year-olds doing the science fair?  Do I really have to go out and buy a poster board?) And satisfaction (Well, this is pretty much how six-year-old science should look.  We can probably reuse the posterboard next year.)  Now that it's done, I we're all glad that we took part.
QUESTION: What is the resistance of a grape?


Pippa is at a great age.  She has taken to copying my yoga moves.  The cuteness of her low warrior pose is staggering.  She has also taken to stripping off her clothing and roaming the house under the cover of a canvas bin.  We call it "being a box turtle."

She also has the funny habit of telling us that we've forgotten something.  Only, when she says "forgot" it sounds more like "fog" or a certain four letter word that starts with "f."  She's usually quite worked up when she is telling us of our forgetfulness.

"F--- Weeza!  F--- Weeza!"  (We forgot Louisa!  We forgot Louisa!)

This shouldn't be so amusing, but it is!


Lately, for the first time in my adult life, I've been thinking that it would be nice to have a pet.  Donnie is not enthusiastic, and really, I'm not sure I'm ready for the commitment of a cat or dog (or even a rabbit or guinea pig).  Luckily, our house is not devoid of furry inhabitants.  We have plenty of mice, and I have the excitement of clearing the live traps! We may well reach a point of desperation and get some deadly traps, but for now we are having success with our Victor Tin Cat.  I walk the mice out to the bog that's down the road and across the street from us.  I have rubber gloves and a cardboard box all set up for mouse transport.

I was hoping to get a shot of one of our little invaders, but this one was an older mouse, and raced off as soon as I opened the trap.  So here's the sad, soiled, empty trap.

Head over to Like Mother, Like Daughter, for more {pretty, happy, funny, real}!

Oasis of Prettiness - The Girls' Room

At last, we have moved out of the "shipwrecked" phase of decorating.  The shipwrecked phase of decorating is when you have just moved into a place, and you need to insulate yourself from expectations of having a showplace home.  You tell yourself, "It's okay that the books are piled, pell-mell on the office shelves--we've just been through a shipwreck!  It's okay that the upholstery on the dining room chairs is torn--we've just been through a shipwreck!" Meanwhile, you studiously avoid the home decorating blog that you once avidly followed, and steer your eyes away from the home and garden magazines at the grocery check-out isle.  After all, those publications are not intended for people who have just survived a shipwreck.  When you have just survived a shipwreck, you are thankful to have tea cups and running water and beds for each of the children.  You are intensely grateful for your sister-in-law's hand-me-down couch, and the foot mats that your parents parked in your basement after they downsized their household.  You are not to think critically about said couch or foot mats--because they were providentially saved from the waters of oblivion and landed on your shore to become useful items.

At last there comes a times, when you have stowed the items that fortune provided and find yourself more or less surviving.  It is now that you begin to seek a higher level of sophistication.    Perhaps you've even made small corners of order around the house--the spice shelf and the bathroom closets actually contain spices and toiletries respectively.  This is when you begin seeking small oasises of prettiness around the domicile.  In your search, you find boxes of unhung art. No longer protected by the shipwreck defense, these boxes have become offensive and onerous to hide.  It is now that you find the hammer and, in short fits of recklessness and impatience, you actually hang things on the walls.

And so  I thought I'd share the current state of the girls room.   When the beds have been made, and the piles of discarded clothing, toys, and paper craft have been pushed out of the frame, it is one of our larger oases of prettiness in our homely house.

This is the view that presents from our second floor landing.  

Louisa's side of the room has ended up being the more brightly colored, while Maria's is more subdued.  I learned from our rental apartment in France, that when selecting colors for a child's room, it is good to include bold colors, hence the inclusion of the red.  If you try for a subdued or muted palette, then practically every toy or book that enters the room, will violate your color scheme.  Choose some nice primaries, and save frustration. 

On the wall in the little silver frame is the Infant of Prague illustration that I made while in France.  The large picture is made from two Japanese paper dolls that my mum had framed while we lived in Korea in 1988.  I still remember visiting the framing shop and choosing the colors.  (In particular, I remember the black under the craftsman's fingernails, and how it contrasted with the bright silk that he was handling.)  I love that this picture now hangs in my girls' bedroom.  Aside from memories of my girlhood, the dolls remind me of Rumer Godden's wonderful book, Miss Happiness and Miss Flower.  The light wood frame and the the red plaque have banker clips attached so the girls can easily switch out the artwork.  The larger of the two clip frames came from Ikea.  It had a yellow background, which I covered over with scrapbook paper.  The letter "L" is actually a book that has been cut into that shape.  (It came from Michaels.) We plan to use the book to write little notes to Louisa through the years.  Right now, it has one note from Donnie.  The gist of the note is that Lulu should use her power for good, not evil.  

Here's Maria's side of of the room.  I love that her name is hanging again.  Those letters were decorated at a baby shower that a friend threw for me while I was pregnant with Maria.  I love to look at the letters and remember the lovely ladies who decorated them.  Below the letters are more clip frames (from Ikea, with added scrapbook paper background.)  On the right, hangs a mirror that my parents brought from a trip to Italy, along with some illustrations from the girls' baby books and one landscape from Dominic's Gift.
 A green exercise mat from Ikea serves as a landing rug.  It's also good for pre-bedtime summersaults and for when the girls want to camp on the floor.  The wall-mounted reading lights are also from Ikea and and were presents in the girls' Easter baskets.  We are enthusiastic about these lamps; Donnie and I have a pair in our bedroom.  It's easier to get into bed when there a cozy pool of light waiting for you.
This wall still looks neglected.  The huge clock was part of the optimistic "a clock in every room" project that I hoped would make us more punctual as a family.  The punctuality thing hasn't materialized, but it is nice to have a clock in every room.  Perhaps after the girls learn to tell time... The stars were from the same baby shower that produced the "Maria" letters.  The clipboards on the right have morning chore lists; another project embarked upon with great optimism that has produced mixedresults.  The battle for order is always uphill, is it not?

And that is our little oasis of prettiness!  Thank you for stopping by.

This is the bedroom, as it was when we moved in.