Monthly Archives: May 2014

summer! summer! summer!

Today is the last day of school, and even though it doesn’t mean long, lazy days ahead for me, it’s still a completely different mindset. I’m particularly excited for E – she graduated from elementary school on Wednesday and she has the whole summer to look forward to. Trips to grandparents’ and cousins’ houses, a slew of fun summer camps like swimming, soccer, Girl Scout camp, clay camp, classes in comedy and calligraphy and gouache and mixed media and traditional photography techniques and stop motion animation… her summers are so different than the summers I had as a kid. They sound busy, but they aren’t. Well, busy in the way that two working parents have to juggle transportation and logistics, but relaxed and creative and joyful in the way that this girl likes to operate.

She’ll be in middle school in a few short months, and I have a feeling time is going to speed up even more at that point. I’m excited for this summer for her, and I’m glad for the deep breath it means for our family as well.

Here are some photos of the Spring Violin Concert and her graduation.

Teachers

Above: E and her teachers. She’s been really fortunate to have such fantastic teachers- they’ve challenged her, but they’ve also loved her, and that combination is a lucky, lucky thing. She sat down and wrote them letters last night, and when she read them aloud to me I secretly cried at the counter, mixing and rolling out cookies for these two very special people.

Violin

E had lots of special guests as well – grandparents that came in for the event, and helped set up and serve the 200+ people that attended.

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My mom even brought huge containers full of cut flowers from her garden for the event – and left a few with me to enjoy!

Peonies

A surprise visit from a best friend from the very first day of school…

Friend

..and another surprise visit from a special teacher along the way.

Past Teachers

The principal read a few things aloud about each graduate – and when it was E’s turn the tears started flowing. She is creative, funny, smart, talented, artistic and kind, and I’m so incredibly proud of her journey for this first half of her primary education. But when her principal added that she is so very huggable and  “a friend to all”, it made my heart sing. What a gift these years have been.

(story)time: The Keeping Quilt and This is the Rope

This week I’ve been thinking about (and missing) my grandmother. It started when F was playing with her dolls over the weekend, and she was making them a bed with a quilted iris wall hanging my grandmother made for me many years ago, and later that night when I found her snuggled up under another quilt of my grandmother’s making. And now we are moving into another season around these parts, and so there are winter clothes to pack away and summer clothes to pull back out – both girls have been sorting through hand-me-downs from cousins, and packing away too small clothes to share with other cousins and friends. These acts of shifting and sorting and saving remind me of two books F received for Christmas this past year that feature family heirlooms – intricate and simple and adaptable items around which the story of a family is told, and retold.

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The first book is Patricia Polacco’s The Keeping Quilt, the story of Polacco’s own family, and the quilt made several generations before from scraps of clothing of beloved family members. The quilt becomes a way to keep those people and memories close after immigrating from Russia to America, and through the years the quilt is incorporated into the most important family celebrations and traditions – each design and fabric piece telling a part of the family’s story. Polacco uses the illustrative technique of juxtaposing sepia toned or charcoal sketches with the vibrant colorwork of fabric accents. In The Keeping Quilt it is particularly successful – the full page spreads of family members gathered together provide the backdrop for little glimpses of the quilt. My girls scan each new page for the quilt’s location, and study the various designs as they are repeated across the story.

This is the Rope

The second book is This is the Rope: A Story from the Great Migration by Jacqueline Woodson. A young girl finds a rope under a tree that she uses for skipping, and that rope joins the family in a three generation journey from South Carolina to New York City – tying the family’s belongings to the roof of the car or hanging dried flowers at the window of their city apartment to remind them of home. I love how the rope becomes this symbol of the “old home”, and how, with each generation, it helps to forge new friendships on the sidewalks of a strange place, or lashes the few treasured belongings to a car heading off (again) for a new journey forward.

Both books are visual feasts with richly woven tales about family. Home shifts, in both stories, in monumental ways. Home is recalled, in both stories, by an object that has passed through the hands of many, and is made softer, and sweeter, and more useful, and more important, by those very hands.

Do you have a favorite family item that reminds you of home? I highly recommend both of these books for young readers – they would also make a wonderful gift, tied up with a photo of one of your treasured family heirlooms that starts the storytelling of your own family.

Wrapping myself in quilts this week, and remembering the hands of my grandmother.

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Find these titles at your favorite local independent bookstore. Happy reading!

let’s eat: on the menu

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Everything’s starting to get back into a bit of a rhythm, which is nice – even a busy rhythm is welcome. Mother’s Day weekend I was feeling pretty overwhelmed with the magnitude of all the things I needed to do in the upcoming weeks, coupled with the fact that I had let so many other things slide for so long. But M and I really buckled down and knocked a lot of things off the list each night, and all through the weekend (and managed to squeeze in a lot of fun and relaxing things as well). Cooking and eating well certainly helps.

We’ll lump Monday night in with last weekend because we had a Girl Scout banquet – and as nice as it was to participate, it was still a church basement full of boisterous girls and a buffet with little for the vegetarian minded to eat. I left with a killer headache that lingered into Tuesday and Wednesday. But then we rallied and things turned up from there.

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Tuesday I made a Pea, Scallion and Gruyere Quiche that I saw when flipping through Real Simple. It was very simple – you can even use a frozen pie shell if so inclined. Be warned – whether you make your own or buy a premade one – use a deep dish pie pan. There’s enough filling for two shallow ones. I served this up with lightly dressed field greens and roasted corn and everyone devoured it – particularly the girls. It was a good start to a good eating week for them. I also made the Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp Bars from Smitten Kitchen that popped up this week because we had an overabundance of strawberries on our hands.

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Wednesday I made a repeat recipe from Smitten Kitchen – the Broccoli, Cheddar and Wild Rice Casserole. This seems more like comfort food to me – but it was perfect because it was raining and freezing cold that day, and I had been driving in that nasty weather for four hours that day. I needed this dish.

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Thursday I made Zucchini Fritters – and assumed that ten nice sized ones would be enough – the girls could each have one to pick at. Except they devoured multiple ones and we ran out quickly. I also made a riff on the Tomato and Mozzarella Salad from The Splendid Table, and they ate those up too.

Friday we decided, rather at the last minute, to catch a show at The Fox, so M and the girls brought home Dewey’s for dinner. Saturday night I made Friday’s dinner – Breakfast Burritos plus Asparagus with Thyme Butter on the side. Another meal where everyone out-ate the offerings – I think we have some growth spurts happening, and I’m catching a glimpse of the upcoming teenage years. Recipe portion adjustment happening now.

I hope you had an enjoyable weekend. It’s going to be hard to top the weather and general balance of productiveness / restorativeness (I know that’s not a word) around here. Man, we needed it. If you ate something good – please share!