Tag Archives: mamablog

Field Trip: Hokusai

Hokusai. amyhoodarts.com

Hokusai is the featured artist in the printmaking issue of Art Together, and the kids and I really enjoyed learning about him, his life, and the times he lived in. So when I saw that the Boston Museum of Fine Arts was opening a Hokusai exhibit in April, of course I wanted to go. My husband wanted to come, too, and between his travel and weekend activities and trips to Maryland, it looked like Memorial Day Weekend would be our best chance to get there before we moved and Boston became out of easy reach. And when I got an email announcing that admission was free on Memorial Day itself, it was decided. We’d go to the MFA, and we’d say goodbye-for-now to Boston, a city we all love and will miss.

Our local commuter train doesn’t run on weekends or holidays, so we drove to the end of the red line, left the car, and took the T into the city. G loves taking the train, but the boys weren’t so thrilled once we switched to the green line and it was standing room only–they may have inherited a little bit of their mama’s claustrophobia. As we approached the MFA stop, we could see the line of people extending from the museum entrance, down the stairs, along the street, and around the corner. Whoa! But free admission is a bargain–it saved us $100.

line into the MFA. amyhoodarts.com

Our view from the back of the line.

We ate some of our lunch while we waited, and the line moved quickly. The MFA has open houses regularly and I figured they’d be prepared and organized, and they were. It was a nice day, not raining, not too warm, and the lilacs smelled lovely. I don’t think we were in line more than a half hour.

Hokusai created more than 30,000 artworks in his lifetime, and it seemed, by the end of our time in the exhibit, that the MFA included most of them. I learned it was the first museum in the US to exhibit any of Hokusai’s works, in the late 1800s, and its collection is impressive. Ideally, we’d visit several times, focusing on one or two rooms at a time, because by the end, it was hard to absorb it all. Even the adults were tired. N explained it well when he said, towards the end, that he liked the art and was interested in it, but he was losing energy.

Hokusai quote. amyhoodarts.com

One of my favorite quotes by Hokusai.

Despite all our reading on Hokusai, the exhibit contained areas of his art that were new to us. (30,000 artworks, after all!) One such area were depictions of demons and ghosts–some of which were fairly disturbing, such as the demon lady with the bloody severed head of a child in her hand. (N: “Gee, how do you think he felt the day he drew that?“) Another was surimono. I had to snap a picture of this exhibit text. It sounds like a zine to me, 18th century style.

Hokusai exhibit text. amyhoodarts.com

The original zine? Sounds like it to me.

And there were many artworks I’d love to still be staring at. I do wish we lived close enough to visit this exhibit several times, but I’m glad we made it. We took our energy-depleted selves to the museum courtyard and ate the rest of our packed lunch to perk us up, then decided to walk in the city for a bit. I know we’ll enjoy exploring Washington, DC, but Boston holds a special place in my heart. We wandered from the museum, through a park, watched some geese and bunnies, visited the war memorial (sobering to my children, the sheer number of names of dead Boston boys on the World War II memorial). We walked some more, past the back of Fenway Park, down Boylston. We had some dinner, got back on the T, got into our car, and drove home.

Good-bye for now, Boston. We’ll be back some day (I promised my 6yo, after all).

The End of Limbo

Finally, I have specific, rather than vague, answers to the questions “Where are you moving to?” and “When?” We are moving to Annapolis the last week of June. Yay!!

This is a story of a whole lot of waiting followed by DO EVERYTHING ALL AT ONCE AND FROM SEVERAL STATES AWAY. We went down to Maryland last week with the aim of coming home with an address. My husband needs to be down there, our house hasn’t sold, so we were looking for rentals. We identified 16 houses to see on Monday, and our realtor could only get us into four of them on Thursday. Some didn’t accept pets, but most were either closed to showings or already rented. That’s the state of the rental market there. By the end of the day, the grown-ups in the family were trying to figure out which qualities to prioritize, because we weren’t finding a house with good space in a good location for a good price. That night we identified four more houses and decided to drive by them on Friday (we also spent some time walking around downtown Annapolis, to add some fun to this work trip). We wanted to see two, but again, couldn’t get into them. A third house required 24-hour notice, and we were leaving the next day. We found a park with a playground and while the kids played, we parents assessed. My husband finagled his tech (phone, app, computer) to set up a little wifi spot for himself and tried to do some work and checked the rental sites, too. Something new had shown up. We decided to drive by.

Since it was vacant, we got out of the car to peek in. We drove through the neighborhood and saw three boys selling lemonade, so we pulled over and I bought five cups of lemonade and asked them if lots of kids lived there, and did they like the neighborhood? (Yes, and yes. Also, it’s good karma to buy lemonade from kids.) Our realtor met us there at 6:30.

Nothing like slipping in right under the wire! Our realtor called the listing realtor from the driveway. Meanwhile, our kids were playing with the next door neighbor, who’d invited them to bounce on his trampoline. We spent quite a while talking to his dad, and everything we learned about the neighborhood made us want to rent this house more. Husband and I filled out the rental application in the hotel room late that night so we could drop it all off in person Saturday morning before driving home again. It’s been a very long time since we had to go through a rental application process! Suffice to say the parents were a little overtired and strung out by the end of this trip.

But we have a house! We finally got word on Tuesday that our application had been approved and accepted–what a relief! (Nearly a year of uncertainty, I dealt with just fine. The final 72 hours of waiting? Were incredibly stressful.) The neighborhood is full of kids, so my kids will start school already knowing some classmates. Annapolis is full of things to do and see, and I won’t feel isolated at all. And the neighborhood sounds like a community. Everybody we met was so open and friendly. The next six weeks will be very very busy but by July we will all be together in the same house, enjoying our first Chesapeake Bay summer.

(And as for selling our house, things were happening on that end while we were down in Maryland–of course–but I’ve had enough real estate experience that I won’t say the house is sold until the papers are signed, the keys are handed over, and we have the check in hand. Just keep your fingers crossed.)

April Reading List

daffodils at amyhoodarts.com

The daffodils are finally blooming around here.

Here we are, another month, another list of books. The house still hasn’t sold, we are getting things rolling for moving within two months anyway, my jaw aches constantly, and my attention span is wavery. I began and abandoned three books this month–that might be a record. Here is the list of books I read all the way through in April, with the ones I really liked/would recommend starred.

Rainey Royal, by Dylan Landis*
Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn*
Lost and Found, by Brooke Davis
Happy are the Happy, by Yasmina Reza, translated by John Cullen
Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande*
Dr. Mütter’s Marvels, by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz
How to Build a Girl, by Caitlin Moran*

Did you read anything especially good in April?

Juggling

I can only keep so many balls going at once, and lately the one I’ve been letting sit is posting here. See, there are so many things I like to do. That’s why when I decided to participate in The 100 Day Project on Instagram, I didn’t choose to make 100 of one thing alone. I decided to make time for drawing, painting, or carving every day. Because if I’m making a drawing a day, when would I have time to carve any of them? If I’m painting every day, will I still have time to run? How about sewing and knitting? (And of course any of those things have to be fit around mama duties.) Any time I’ve tried to do one thing every single day for any length of time, other things I like get squeezed out. I could look at it as a lack of focus, but I prefer to view it as the product of an interesting and interested mind instead.

At any rate, if you’re interested, I’m posting photos like these on Instagram.

linocut test print at amyhoodarts.com

Testing a tree linocut to see what still needs to be cleaned up.

Besides drawing and carving and sewing and knitting, I’ve been making sure we get outside. Oh, we are so happy for spring. We recently visited the local pond after dinner to watch the sun go down and listen to the spring peepers.

sunset at the pond at amyhoodarts.com

Photo by my husband.

We were hoping we’d see the beavers come out for a crepuscular swim, and we finally did! And then–then we realized the creatures wheeling and dipping over the pond as the sun fully set were most likely bats. How exciting! They moved too fast to get a good look at with binoculars. Their wings fairly vibrated. I’ve never seen bats outside of a zoo before.

We also have horses in our neighborhood, which is convenient, since my 10yo mentioned he wished he were better at drawing horses. Excellent–let’s go right to the source.

Drawing horses at amyhoodarts.com

After that, we crossed the street to walk the path through the meadow (not very meadowish yet) and the woods, on some open land property owned by the town. My youngest is delighted that it’s spring.

happy spring at amyhoodarts.com

She’s wearing a mama-made dress, natch.

My favorite bird, the towhee, has been singing his heart out. I heard a barred owl again last night. I feel so grateful for where I live during the spring and summer, for this patch of land we share with so many critters–birds and insects, reptiles and amphibians, mammals too. For close access to farms, ponds, seashores, meadows, and woods.

Which is why it’s so ironic we still haven’t sold this house. I’ve been cleaning again lately too. It’s been six months since I deep cleaned and decluttered, and several areas need another pass, and yes I’m a little resentful I’m still cleaning this house. Also stressed out. So many houses are for sale. My advice is never to try to sell a house in an economically depressed state that is losing population. We’re going down to Maryland in a couple of weeks to look for a rental, and most likely my husband will be down there while I’m up here with the kids as the school year finishes. This is exactly what I didn’t want, but what can I do? That’s where we are. So I will open the windows when temperatures allow and listen to the birds I love and enjoy my deck while it’s still mine–while crossing my fingers every day that the house sells soon.

March Reading List

Maybe we'll get spring after all! I found these on my walk this afternoon in Providence.

Maybe we’ll get spring after all! I found these on my walk this afternoon in Providence.

Every single book I read in March was well worth it. Isn’t that great? More snow, family illness, husband travel–but the reading was terrific. I liked them all, but I marked the ones you should go read right now with a double asterisk.

Carry On, Warrior, by Glennon Doyle Melton
The Night of the Gun, by David Carr **
The Boy Who Lost Fairyland, by Catherynne M. Valente **
Disgruntled, by Asali Solomon **
Lillian on Life, by Alison Jean Lester
Egg and Spoon, by Gregory Maguire **
The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher (Short Stories), by Hilary Mantel
Sparrow Road, by Sheila O’Connor
Missing Reels, by Farran Smith Nehme **
Boy, Snow, Bird, by Helen Oyeyemi

Sewing, Mostly

March has been much like February, but with family-wide sickness along with cold and snow. My main symptoms were cough and narcolepsy, so I’m glad I had the worst of it last week, because my husband left this past Tuesday and won’t be back until next Friday. When I haven’t been sick or taking care of sick people or all my other humdrum responsibilities, I’ve been sewing, mostly.

Remember my machine was in for routine service. When I got it back, I began with this custom order, then moved onto a bag for myself using Charley Harper canvas.

giraffe bag at amyhoodarts.com

Looking at it, I can’t remember why I decided to put the giraffes going from side to side rather than up and down. Maybe the dimensions fit my piece of fabric better than way? They’re up and down on the side pockets. Anyway, it’s hard to photograph an empty bag, but I don’t have anything in it, because I didn’t really need a new bag, I just needed to sew one. If you follow. The canvas was lighter weight than I thought it would be, too. I had enough brown linen left over from my pants to use as lining, too.

giraffe bag at amyhoodarts.com

They go together nicely, don’t they? When the bag was done, I was back to knits, making myself a tee shirt out of Charley Harper elephants.

elephant tee at amyhoodarts.com

It didn’t take much sewing with knits until I got good at it. This is a tee to be proud of, and it will look nice with those brown linen pants, too. (If it ever stops snowing!)

Then it was on to three spring dresses for my daughter. I tackled them assembly-line style, which I’m sure is faster in the long run, but it does seem a tiny bit tedious when you’ve been doing pockets for an entire sewing session.

knit dresses at amyhoodarts.com

These dresses are sewn so much better than the first two I made her, and those were pretty darn good, actually. They are basically this dress from Lands End, but for less money and in the exact fabrics my daughter chose. They’re comfy, she can easily move around and play in them, and they’re adorable. Oh and speaking of pockets, I’ve got those down now.

pocket! at amyhoodarts.com

That is a very neat pocket indeed. When the dresses were done, I sewed her two more pairs of leggings. Here she is, on the first day of Spring (on which it snowed!), in the dim morning light before school (thanks, DST), wearing an entirely made-by-mama outfit.

mama-made outfit at amyhoodarts.com

It’s the rare day when she goes to school without wearing at least one thing I made her. She also picked out fabric for two skirts. They’re woven cotton, straight line stitching, so she and I will be making them together. She’s got quite the spring wardrobe; now we just need spring.

February Reading List

State of the snow pile next to the stairs as of this morning.

State of the snow pile next to the stairs as of this morning.

February included some very meh books, including one I gave up on after 30 pages (One Step Too Far, by Tina Seskis), but it finished strong. Again, books I especially liked are marked by **.

Real Santa, by William Hazelgrove
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo
Doll Bones, by Holly Black
The Arsonist, by Sue Miller
The Solitude of Prime Numbers, by Paolo Giordano (re-read)
Dear Committee Members, by Julie Schumacher
Lisette’s List, by Susan Vreeland
Guests on Earth, by Lee Smith**
Happenstance: Two Novels in One About a Marriage in Transition, by Carol Shields**

I read books two and three of the Penderwicks series out loud to my daughter, followed by Ribsy, and we are halfway through Little House in the Big Woods. And I have a stack of library books to dive into in between shoveling. Snow last night and two more storms in the forecast for this week. Please don’t tell me March means spring. Not here.

Coping By Sewing

I’m not doing well with this winter, with all the snow and the bitter cold and the limbo-ness of life right now. It has always been cold and snowy, it always will be, and we will never sell this house. That’s how it feels. I am cranky and resentful. Every forecast causes husband and I to swear at the TV. Are things blooming where you live? I really don’t want to see pictures. Is it above freezing? Please don’t complain. Freezing is warm to us. See? I am cranky. And to make things even better, our (now former) Realtor spends a couple-three months in Florida every winter. No, we didn’t know this before we hired her, nor did we know some other things that, sigh, don’t matter anymore because I’m sure she’s an excellent Realtor (she told me so constantly), but not for us.

And so, I sew. Last week I made myself a skirt out of thermal knit fabric.

layered thermal skirt at amyhoodarts.com

When I ordered the fabric to make the thermal knit shirt in this post, I also ordered black. Although both colors had the same description and were the same price, the black was thinner; too thin, I thought, for a shirt. But I thought I could double it over and maybe add in some of the olive grey…. and it sat as an idea for a month or three until last week.

I am still (always) learning. I continue to make skirts too big for my waist. I’m not sure if I don’t trust my measurements or I’m taking them wrong (some of both, probably). I knew enough not to follow the directions for drafting an A-line skirt in Sew What! Skirts, because that book only deals with woven fabrics. I used the measurement guidelines in this maxi-skirt tutorial instead. The errors are mine; I should have made the fold-over waistband smaller around. The skirt still works, though, because I intended to wear it over jeans. I’ve found that wearing a skirt over my jeans keeps me warmer. This black thermal knit fabric, by the way, was by far the fuzziest thing I’ve sewn with. Lint was fairly jumping out at me as I sewed.

Sunday morning I sewed my daughter the most cheerful pair of leggings ever, using this Oliver + S pattern.

cheerful leggings at amyhoodarts.com

These are for no particular reason than that I liked the fabric and recognized it needed to be turned into leggings for my color-loving girl. She wore them to school Monday with her ladybug dress. Her wardrobe palette has never been sedate.

Sunday afternoon and Monday, I sewed a pair of linen pants for myself, for when it’s linen-wearing season again.

linen pants at amyhoodarts.com

The pattern is from Simple Modern Sewing, and the fabric was a pre-Christmas on-sale purchase. It’s a nice, opaque linen, although I’m hoping a few more washings will soften it up a little more. The pattern sheets that come with the book are printed with multiple, overlapping pieces on each sheet, so it took me a while (and another cup of coffee) before I could untangle the pattern lines I was trying to trace. (Did M. C. Escher draw these pattern sheets? It seemed so.) Then I thought I’d done it wrong after all because the back pieces are wider than the fronts. This fabric, too, created much fuzz in the machine, and for the first time, I broke a needle while sewing, trying to sew a tri-fold belt loop onto a seam line of the waistband. But lo, the pants are complete, well before I’ll have any chance of wearing them.

Tuesday I dropped my machine off for a cleaning. It’s been almost three years, and I can see cushions of fuzz in places I can’t reach with my little brush. Best to get it cleaned before it’s a problem, is my thought. However, my coping method is now out of my hands for the next week. I plan to cut out lots of pattern pieces so I’m ready to start sewing again once I get it back. I shall sew spring dresses for the girl, as an offering of faith that someday–someday–the snow will melt.

A Couple of Sewn Things

I have lots of fabric waiting to be turned into sewn things, but most of them are spring sewn things and I just can’t yet. The snow, it is piled up, and it’s so cold with wind chill that I can’t in good conscience send my stir-crazy energy-filled kids outside. We all hate snow by now, even the kids.

Anyway. I sewed some things.

kindle cover at amyhoodarts.com

I finally got a Kindle, so of course I needed to make it a cover. I used this tutorial and canvas upholstery fabric from stash. I consider this my starter cover, something to keep it safe and protected until I make one with a bit more personality.

It slides into a pocket for protection in a bag:

kindle case at amyhoodarts.com

And it slips into these nifty corner tabs when I’m reading it.

kindle cover at amyhoodarts.com

Cute, huh? My husband said, “Most people buy a Kindle and then just buy a case, you know.” I said, No, most people who sew make their own. Slightly different worlds! I like my sewn Kindle case.

I also finally sewed the DNA apron I had in mind when I saw this DNA fabric, which I just had to buy, because DNA is so beautiful–not just its structure but the elegance of its construction as a solution to the problem of how to replicate itself.  Nature is a superb designer.

DNA apron at amyhoodarts.com

Kind of a fuzzy picture, taken by my 6yo, but you get the drift. I intend this for an art-work apron, especially while teaching, as I’m constantly needing more hands than I have. Pockets! Hopefully I will someday teach again. If we lose another Monday to snow I’m afraid we’ll never be able to make them all up.

My favorite part is the bias trim, I think.

DNA apron bias trim at amyhoodarts.com

I have some of each fabric left over, too, so I’m sure it’ll show up as a pouch lining or something sooner or later.

I’ll be sewing more soon. Sewing therapy!

Candy Cane Mittens

candy cane mittens at amyhoodarts.com

“Mama,” said my middle child last winter, “can I have mittens striped like candy canes?”

“Sure,” says I, and I began to knit. He didn’t like the striping. There was no talking about it, and so I quit knitting the mittens.

This fall: Lather, rinse, repeat. “I don’t knit for tyrants,” I told him. After a while–and some other, non-tyrant-related knitting–I told him I’d happily knit him solid mittens, but I wasn’t fooling with all those loose ends from striping. But he wanted red and white striped mittens. And then I signed up to offer an after-school program and enlisted him as a helper and offered to pay him in knits–specifically, striped mittens, even though they’re a big pain with all those ends to weave in. The class began January 5 and was slated to end February 9 after five sessions; however, we’ve only managed two because school keeps getting cancelled on Mondays due to snow. It didn’t seem fair to make him wait for the mittens though, so there they are, with all those annoying ends woven in and everything.

He loves them.

And thus ends a rather quick post. What else to say? February sucks my soul. Snow, grey days, snow, shoveling, cold, snow. Why haven’t we moved yet? Why, indeed. I tell myself that all the many annoyances would feel less so if it weren’t February, cold, and snowy. I try to hold my tongue and keep perspective. What seems overwhelming in February is merely a trifle in July. July will come.