Within the past two or three years, the options for home sewists wanting to make well-fitting, stylish clothing have exploded.  Gone are the days when I flipped through a Simplicity catalog, picked out the least horrible item and then made it about halfway through the pattern before giving up.  (Ok, that was in middle school, but I doubt patterns in those giant books are much improved).   I have at least 6 sources I can turn to for excellent, accurate patterns and more things I want to sew than I realistically have time to complete.   My collection of hand-sewn garments that I wear on a regular basis is starting to look substantial in my closet: 

The latest is from the Deer and Doe collection -- a pattern company based in Paris that has fabulous frocks and a nicely curvaceous model.  I think that part of the reason that my dress came out so well is that my body proportions are actually the same as those the pattern was drafted for.  The pattern itself is the Aubepine, which translates to Hawthorne in English.  It has a pleated bodice and sleeves and I opted for the short sleeve version.   I was very intimidated by the pleats, but think they came out nicely and add some personality to the finished dress.

The waist is empire style, gathered with a casing for a ribbon.  A lovely detail that also makes the dress quite comfortable.  It is fully lined as well.   I used Cotton + Steel lawn for the main fabric and a blue cotton voile for the lining.

The Cotton + Steel fabric was amazing to sew with and I just bought some more for my next project, along with an eggplant colored double gauze and a fun batik in tomato red. 

I bought the fabric from one of my favorite fabric shops/sewing studios in Seattle, Dry Good Designs.  Its an airy location to spend an afternoon sewing or to browse around in a nicely curated collection of fabrics.  I hope to have a few more garments hanging in my closet by the end of summer!




For the past month, Jonas has been telling everyone who will listen that he's 4 and 5/12.  To the excitement of everyone, our precocious child will be officially 4 and 1/2 this Friday.  He's come a long way in the first half of this year -- he can ride his 2-wheel bike almost entirely by himself (those hills are tough!), he mastered Uno and has been learning the nuances of penny-ante poker (the art of bluffing is hard to convey to a child) and has navigated 3 different summer preschools with aplomb.  However, the half year mark usually brings a little discord with it, and this year is no exception.   At least daily we have a crying meltdown over some small injustice (the wrong spoon!  mom helping with something he can do on his own!).   


 Despite some emotional overloads, Jonas has been a good helper around the house and in the garden.  This is the first year of our new garden area and I've enjoyed having more space for edibles.  We had the upper lawn removed in the spring and built 3 raised beds from our old fence.

 A few new crops we tried out this year were kohlrabi (excellent!), gem lettuce (iffy germination, but great lettuce when it gets going) and sweet peppers (from starts).   The peas and beans did well, as usual, despite the relentless heat and summer drought.   We put in asparagus crowns that we hope to enjoy in a few years.  Some of the more decorative edibles I put in were a artichoke and cardoon plant.  Cardoon is a relative of artichoke and the stems of the plant are edible.   My plan is to fill in the area around those plants with herbs this fall and make the garden area feel less bare.  We'll also do some winter greens and favas for cover crop.   The garden always takes a lot of work, but it's a nice place to spend a few hours in the afternoon when the shade sets in.   


We've been staying close to home this summer, but have a road trip to California planned for the end of August as well as family visits.   Nick and I used to take road trips quite a bit in the early days, and hopefully this trip will be just as enjoyable.   We're hitting Oregon City, Eugene, Florence, Eureka, Bend and Portland -- territory we've covered before but that will feel fresh with Jonas along for the ride.   


This past weekend we had another new experience: family group camping.   Usually we do more backpacking than car camping, but we thought camping with a bunch of other families would be fun for Jonas and a nice way to socialize.  We spent 2 nights at Coal Creek Campground with 5 other families and it was very enjoyable.  The kids ruled our camping area; running, playing and exploring to their hearts' content.   We did a short kid-hike on Saturday following by a swim in the Stilaguamish River before dinner.  Each family took a turn cooking, so there was time for relaxing and chatting.  The group is already planning a trip for next summer!   


We hope to do at least one backpacking trip before the weather turns to fall and we will camp out near the Oregon dunes at the end of the month.   Camping was a highlight of my childhood (except the moldy-oldy tent my brother and I shared) and Jonas loves the experience as well.  He's really coming into his own this year and it is fun to watch the expression of his personality.   Yesterday he did a few paintings for our niece's 10th birthday -- one of a rainbow in the California sky and another of Seattle rain and sidewalks.  I thought the rendering was perfect. 






Mid-summer is here with long days, parched lawns and ripe blackberries.  Mid-summer is also triathlon time and this year put me at the 5 mark.  I decided to go for the Olympic distance course again, hoping to improve my time from last year.  My good friend Bronwen, whom I met through Jonas' co-operative preschool, was also doing the Olympic at Seafair, so I had a friendly face to look for on the big day. We actually ended up with similar bib numbers and set up on the same rack in the staging area.  


I still had my goal in mind of finishing in under 3 hours and felt that I had a decent chance given that I actually did adhere to a training program this year.   I also was able to bike commute to work quite a bit starting in June, which gave me more bike time than I usually get for training.   The day of the event was forecast for quite hot, but it has been a hot summer in general and I did many runs in hot and humid weather.  It was 77 degrees in the water when our wave started at 6:45am.   By the time I was in the running segment it was easily 85 degrees out.  

2015 - Olympic

Finished in 3 hours 11 minutes.  Almost 10 minutes better than my finish last year.  Not quite to my goal time of less than 3 hours overall.   I managed to cut 3 minutes from the swim time and 5 from the bike, but my run time was exactly the same.  I was really feeling the heat fatigue at that point and my legs were feeling shot from pushing myself in the bike section. Perhaps if I do the Olympic next year, it will be a nice cool morning.   Still, I'm happy to be making progress and getting better.  Bronwen was doing her first Olympic distance and placed 5th in our age division.  Nicely done!  I was 15th in our division and 318 out of 350 finishers.  Moving up, slowly, but surely. 

Bronwen and I carpooled in the morning and then our husbands came later with the kids to cheer us on.  Nick was able to be my trusty photog again and get a few action shots and our traditional post-race shot with Jonas. 

He was not so pleased me picking him up, given how sweaty I was -- but we managed to get a good shot for posterity.  And eventually I even got a sweet little kiss.  

Future triathlete?  Keep working on those swim skills, kid.  

I'm debating on whether to do an Olympic again next year or see how much my Sprint time has improved since 2013.  For now, I'm enjoying my recovery week and glad to have another year under my belt.  


over and out

At the beginning of May, we embarked on an adventurous undertaking.   A few months prior, my dad had invited us to join him on one of his semi-regular excursions to France.  Intrigued, we sat on the idea for many weeks trying to decide if international travel was something we wanted to try with a four year old kid.  I had been to Europe roughly 15 years ago after studying abroad in Ireland and longed to return.   Nick had never been overseas, limiting his travel to the countries of North America.   Jonas is quite the homebody and would possibly be completely disinterested in the trip.   Eventually we decided to take the plunge and hope for the best.   Fortunately, we were not disappointed.   

Iceland:  Snaefellsnes Penninsula 

We planned our journey to France with a 4-day stopover in Iceland.   Icelandair flies direct from Seattle and offers up to seven days of stopover with no extra charge (and in our case, the tickets were actually cheaper!).  This idea was a stroke of genius.  We embarked for Keflavik on a Saturday afternoon and after a 7-hour flight, we found ourselves in the rugged wind-swept country of Iceland.   Luckily, Jonas slept 4 hours on the flight and was rested enough for the time being.   We picked up our rental car and began driving north towards the capital of Rekjavik.  

Lesson 1:   No matter how simple the roads in a country look, one should always stop and get a map.   

After many turns, roundabouts and explorations of the suburbs, we navigated closer to the city center.   We really had no destination in mind, except perhaps a cafe serving breakfast.   However, after much searching, we found very little open on a Sunday morning.   The skies were bright and sunny, but the wind was chilling us as we walked the street of Laugavegur.   Eventually, shops began to open their doors and we found a place to get some eggs, bacon and bread.    I had spied a good looking bakery under some scaffolding, and stopped after our breakfast to get some bread for the road.   The Sandholt Bakeri was amazing and I wish I had bought more.   It was bustling with Icelanders and I picked up a loaf of seedy bread, a piece of apple cake and some hazelnut sables.  

We had decided to stay up on the Snaefellsnes Pennisula rather than in the city, so our next stop was a grocery store to get supplies.   Since the majority of the population live in Rekjavik, we weren't sure how many opportunities we would have to stock up on food once we were out in the country.  Eventually we located a Bonus shopping center and waited patiently until noon for the store to open.  

Lesson 2:   Nothing opens until noon on Sunday in Iceland.  

Once inside, we navigated the aisles to find some simple foods for our two nights in a cabin.  All of the labels were in Icelanic (or another scandanavian language), so it took a little bit of time to find what we wanted.  We got some cheddar, smjor (butter), mjolk (milk), a dried sausage, dried apricots, muesli and black tea.  Our lone piece of produce was a cucumber.  Now we were ready to hit the road.   Nick knew we should be on Highway 1 and eventually we found it.  Unfortunately, we headed in the wrong direction.  For an hour.   We immediately found a gas station, picked up a map and got back on track.   Our plan was to do a hike at the back of one of the fjords about halfway to our destination.   At this point, neither Nick nor I had had any sleep.   I managed to nap an hour on the drive to Glymurfoss, the waterfall we were hiking to.  Nick kept himself awake navigating the dirt roads and looking at the scenery.  

The hike up to the waterfall was just what we needed to make it through the day and get ourselves over jet lag.  Jonas was a great sport, despite the wind and cold.  The landscape was rough and uneven, with golden grass covering the rocks.  Parts of the waterfall were still frozen and a large snow-covered mountain loomed in the near distance.  And, at the same time, we could still see the sea, sparkling in the sun.   In some ways, the landscape reminded us of the parts of the big island of Hawai'i, minus the tropical feel.   Ultimately, Iceland was really like no place we had been before.  



Reaching our home for the evening, we settled in to our cabin at Snorrastaðir.   Many of the working farms in the country have lodgings for tourists and we had found this place through Icelandic Farm Holidays.   The family that owned the farm lived in their house across a small inlet and we had run of one of the small cabins.  The cabin was perfectly equipped for our needs, very cozy and had great blackout curtains.  We fried up some grilled cheese sandwiches and then all stumbled into bed.   

Jonas had an amazing 14 hour sleep and Nick and I had a pretty restful night as well.  Nick went out over the frozen ground in the morning to explore the volcanic Eldborg crater nearby while I read and drank tea.   Close to noon, Jonas emerged from his room, and we soon left to drive round the pennisula and explore.   

We had picked this area out of all of Iceland because Jonas had pointed it out on a map when Nick asked, "Where do you want to go in Iceland?" Snaefellsnes is part of a larger area called the Vesturland.  We drove empty roads through small fishing towns, walked a coastal hike between the two villages of Hellnar and Arnastapi (warming ourselves with fish soup at a small cafe afterwards), watched the waves at an deserted black sand beach and drove home through the mountain pass at twilight.  

Before we left Snorrastaðir the next day, we stopped in the barn to visit with the animals.  The woman who lives and works the farm was doing the feeding and we discovered that the sheep and goats had recently given birth to their young.   Jonas was enthralled with all of the animals and we spent some quiet time watching them before heading off to our next destination on the island.   



desk overhaul

There is something about a nice desk that makes a room feel lived in.  Both Nick and I had desks in our rooms growing up and I loved having so many drawers at my disposal for stashing art supplies, treasures and journals. Although Jonas might be a little young still to take full advantage of a desk, we happened upon a nearly discarded desk with "good bones' so to speak, and I decided to re-finish it to make it suitable for our boy's room.

The desk how we found it had some crude stencil painting on the wood top (with several layers of yellowing varnish) and the rest of the desk was painted black and mint green. I say the desk was very nearly discarded, and it was, by us.  It belonged to Nick's dad and when we were going through his house, the desk ended up on the curb with the ubiquitous "FREE" sign attached.   In the moment, we had so much to deal with that neither of us could envision fixing up the desk.  However, the next day the desk was still sadly sitting at the curb and I decided it should be preserved after all.  

The desk sat in our garage in its black and mint glory for a year, plus or minus, in various stages of refinishing.  I sanded the top of the desk into submission with my orbital sander and did a light sanding on the rest of the painted wood before priming it with an oil based primer.  I like the look of the unpainted wood top and wanted to get down to bare wood again for staining.  The drawers had suffered from use and aren't in the greatest condition, but i didn't have time or patience to fill any of the imperfections with wood putty.  We'll just say that desk is a bit broken in.

The colors on the desk might look familiar, since they are the same colors I used for Jonas' play stove a year ago (which is getting lots of use these days).  I used some stain we had left over from staining his bedroom dresser.  The only thing I think I spent money on for this project were the new pulls.  Overall, I was pleased with the makeover and glad the trusty old desk will get more years of use.