Sprouts and sprouts


A beautiful day! On our neighborhood walks, there’s always a new plant or flower to look at; today we saw yellow dandelions, lots of daffodils, some tulips, hyacinth, grape hyacinth, and violets.

The barrels of berries remained more or less unbothered by critters overnight, but I’m planning to add some cedar mulch soon – to prevent weeds, hold in moisture, and add a little acidity.


The seedlings in peat trays at a south-facing window seemed to have stalled, so I transplanted some tomatoes and marigolds into four-inch pots and some basil into a rectangular planter. I also dared, slightly ahead of schedule, to plant the pumpkin seedlings outside. They won’t get as much sun as they’d like, but the tomatoes and berries are my priority. For now I’m hoping we won’t have a late frost…

Pumpkin patch, with daffodils (right) and struggling grape hyacinth (front)

I planted the honeysuckle right in the middle of the back fence. It’s already the tallest thing there – there are some daylilies to one side and some herbs to the other, but there’s not a lot of height in the back yard yet so I hope it grows up and out.

Last year’s three abbotswood shrubs have come back really nicely and have plenty of green. When they bloom, they have small pale yellow flowers.


Abbotswood shrub



And we’re back…and it’s spring!

Jean skirt, front.

My new sewing machine is wonderful! I got it at a local shop that offers one-on-one lessons for free if you get your machine there, so I was able to learn the basics right away, and I’ve already completed my jean skirt project (just in time for some springlike weather) and started making some fabric cards.

The latter were inspired by an archivist friend of mine; we’re pen pals and she always sends her letters on the most interesting “stationery.” Part of her most recent letter came on a card that was fabric on one side and paper on the other, sewn together at the edges (and, I suspect, with some type of adhesive between). My first two attempts – without adhesive, using a double stitch – were a bit wrinkly. The second two were marginally better – I used PVA glue, which I had from bookmaking, and tried a different stitch – but there is still room for improvement.

Fabric card, black and white polka dots with blue thread

Spring garden update: the indoor seeds (basil, tomato, pumpkin, marigold) are still doing well, with the addition of some seed starter mix to the peat trays. Outside, my daffodils have just popped, and other bulbs are emerging as well – tulips, grape hyacinth (muscari), and narcissus. (The tulips look a little munched, thanks to the backyard bunnies, but I think at least some will survive.)

IMG_20180427_131817We found barrel-type planters for berries – last year’s “Raspberry Shortcake” thornless raspberry, which I transplanted from a 12″ terra cotta pot, and a new “Peach Sorbet” blueberry bush, which I brought home today. I was able to (trans)plant this morning while the weather was still gorgeous, and didn’t have to water because it rained this afternoon. I ran out of time to plant the honeysuckle vine, but that gives me a little more time to decide where it should go, because option #1 turned out to have a giant tree root about 8 inches down.

Around the neighborhood, snowdrops and crocuses have come and gone, daffodils are up, forsythia is blooming, and I’ve seen a few hyacinths in the past few days.

It’s still too early to move the seedlings outside or plant the strawberries, marigolds (good for repelling critters and bugs), and mint I got today…but soon.

Daffodils and tulips
New blueberry bush
Raspberry bush (need to prune dead canes)
“Appletini” mint

What we’ve read so far, two and a half

I regularly have nearly thirty library books checked out on my card, and more of them are picture books than not. Below is a sample stack of ten, including some favorites (There Might Be Lobsters; Some Bugs). Often I choose books based on reviews, other librarians’ recommendations, or new books by known author/illustrators, but serendipity plays a role: for example, Ben found Do You Know Which Ones Will Grow? because he was looking for Bob Shea books, and so we discovered Susan Shea.

Stack of ten library books

L likes to pick books from the paperback bins at the library (there are a lot of Arthur books there), and she still loves Maisy. She can identify every letter of the alphabet now, as long as it’s in uppercase and a reasonably clear font – elaborate serifs can trip her up. But she can spell out most titles and words, which is so exciting!

A few other books she’s liked a lot recently:

  • The Little Red Hen and the Passover Matzah by Leslie Kimmelman was a million times better than I expected it to be. (True, my expectations for overtly religious-themed books are low, but this one is absolutely fabulous.) It’s funny, full of Yiddish, perfect for relatives to read aloud at the holiday, and I love the slight, fresh twist at the end.
  • Do Cows Meow? by Selina Soon is a simple lift-the-flap book that one of the children’s librarians I admire most recommended, so I brought it home. It’s bright and engaging and has storytime star quality written all over it.
  • Fairy Tales for Mr. Barker by Jessica Ahlberg is a wonderful peek at many classic fairy tales – older kids, who are more familiar with them all (Three Little Pigs, Jack and the Beanstalk, Sleeping Beauty, etc.) will enjoy it too, and it has clever cutout elements.
  • Speaking of “The Three Little Pigs,” Huff & Puff by Claudie Rueda is a non-traumatic retelling of the tale, perfect for storytime for the little ones.
  • When Spring Comes by Kevin Henkes explains spring to those too young to remember the previous year’s change of seasons. I especially like the line “[Spring] changes its mind a lot,” accompanied by a picture of a daffodil under snow.
  • Flyaway Katie by Polly Dunbar is delightful – another one I’ll be using at storytime as well as at home. It’ll brighten up any day you’re feeling gray.Book cover of Henry & Leo
  • Henry & Leo by Pamela Zagarenski is magical. This came to us by way of a friend, who found it in a bookstore remainder bin, and we promptly bought another copy to gift to someone else. “I guess we can never really know what makes one particular toy more special than another…” but Leo is definitely special.
  • Likewise, Journey, Quest, and Return by Aaron Becker, which I’ve loved since first laying eyes on Journey, are a trio of wordless picture books that tap into the essence of childhood fantasy: a Harold And the Purple Crayon-esque entry into another world, full of adventure, imagination, importance, and wonder.

Sewing projects: curtain, jean skirt, and…curtains

Twinkle swaddle curtain
Curtain from repurposed “twinkle” swaddle

Having the sewing machine in the basement has made it so much easier to do little projects on a whim, and bit by bit. Early last week I whipped up a curtain to cover some shelves in L’s room – I used an old swaddle blanket, so I only needed to sew one side.

After patching my two pairs of maternity jeans repeatedly, I came to the sad conclusion that they could be jeans no more…but they could be jean skirts! I found decent step-by-step instructions from WikiHow, and an even better set (with pictures) from Creative Green Living. I was almost done, and very pleased, when my machine ceased to work. I’ve been able to troubleshoot everything so far, but this time the machine (an approximately 60-year-old Singer) was out of alignment – not something I could fix. Now I’m deciding whether to have it repaired, or trade it in for a newer one that will be able to handle knit fabrics. With some regret, I’m leaning toward the latter.

All that’s left to do for the jean skirt is the hem, and then it’ll be good enough for weekend wear. Pictures when it’s finished!