Sunday, August 17, 2014

Home sweet home.

We are home! We spent ten days on an epic train/taxi/ferry/car/light rail tour of the Pacific Northwest, visiting Portland, Seattle, Bellingham, and Victoria B.C. There were ups and downs, delayed trains and missed trains, nice hotels and awful motor inns, beautiful drives and carsickness, happy kids and massive meltdowns, lovely hot weather and a few characteristic dark and moody days that reminded me of why I love California so much. We spent time with family and friends all along the way, and ate a lot of blackberries. (Washington blackberries are sweeter than ours, I swear!)

It was awesome. And I'm exhausted. Traveling with two small children is great fun, but it's not exactly relaxing. Still, I'm so glad I broke through the psychological barriers, got out of our comfort zone, and decided to travel with the kids. They got to see new places and people, connect with distant family members, and while traveling with kids may be a lot of work, I realized it is definitely rewarding and worthwhile.

My little homebody Joe definitely struggled a bit with the constant change in scene. At one point he said, "My tummy hurts from visiting too many houses." Awwww!!! We all knew exactly what he meant (and we may have felt the same from time to time). But when he was bouncing on a giant trampoline or picking berries at my mom's house, or running in my aunt's garden, or taking a bubble bath in the giant hotel tub, he was so happy and carefree and excited to be in a new place.

And my family members commented on how bonded my kids are and how protective and solicitous Joe is towards his sister, which did my heart good.

Despite some delays and issues, I recommend train travel! The pace of travel is relaxing, the kids can move around freely, and the 22 hour journeys didn't feel that long. Honest. Also, you can bring all the sharp things you want - I took three pairs of scissors with me, including my big fabric sheers, and never even had to go through a metal detector.

I didn't take my nice camera with me (traveling light), so the best photos of the trip were taken by other people. If I can get their permission to share, perhaps I'll be back with a big "vacation photos" post. Right now that seems a bit overwhelming! So instead of procrastinating that post, I figured I'd come here and share a few moments from our homecoming. As relaxing as the Pacific Northwest is (and the pace of life really does seem just a bit less frenetic, especially in Bellingham and Victoria), I think we all shared Joe's delight in coming back to "the pink house" as he calls it.

We don't live in a beautiful area, or in a gorgeous and well-decorated house, but it's our home. Oakland's graffiti-covered walls and gritty run-down buildings never looked so good as when we were pulling into the station after all that time away!

We came home to a messy house (there was some crazy packing action happening before we left) and a ridiculous number of tomatoes! So I set about cleaning up and making pasta with roasted cherry tomatoes. Washington may have sweeter blackberries, but I think I have my PNW family beat when it comes to tomatoes.

Late summer tomato overload

And this is what I have to show for 10 days of train, car, and ferry travel (and some afternoons spent on the land around my mom's house: The beginnings of a Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt!

Grandmother's Flower Garden

It's official. I have been bitten by the hexie bug. These are crazy-time-consuming but strangely fun and addictive. And if I finish this quilt, it will feel like quite an accomplishment!

Grandmother's Flower Garden

These are 1 1/2" hexagons - on the big side. I am feeling drawn towards lots of bright and unexpected color combinations for this project (like this inspiration) for a bright and cheerful 1940s meets 1970s vibe.

Of course, this is one reason the house was such a mess. Before I left, I created quite the craft-astrophe yanking fabrics out of my stash and cutting five gugillion 3" squares to make hexagons. Doesn't everyone do this before a big trip? I cut out enough for 19 flowers, drastically underestimating just how long it takes to sew even one. At a rate of one flower every two days, I would not call this an instant gratification project.


Um ... I really need to do something about my sewing space. It is literally exploding fabric these days. Literally.

(I guess I could consider not buying fabric and using up what I have, but when it comes to quilting fabric, it almost seems to expand the more you cut into it. One problem with hexie fever is that it makes saving even tiny scraps seem like a good idea. While this appeals to my hoarding frugal instincts, it could be disastrous in my small sewing space.)

Right now I can barely get to my sewing machine ... all the more reason to hand sew, right?

But I need a better space to work on hand projects at home. For years I've done most of my hand-sewing in the dining room, mostly due to the lack of good light in our living room. But this means I can't sew while I watch television or hang out with the kids in the evening, and that's no good. So yesterday I bought a basic Ikea floor lamp, culled the kids' toys a bit and rearranged some furniture to create a little handsewing corner in our living room. Now I can work on my hexies while I watch Magnum P.I. with the family! It was such a simple fix - I don't know what took me so long!

Handsewing corner

I have other house plans in store as well. Our housemate Rebecca left us about a month ago to move into a cute apartment down the way, freeing up her bedroom for my brother Harpal to move into. After painting over the glossy oil-based tomato red in that room with a nice gray (a big project!), Harpal is now fully moved into that room. And in our game of housemate musical bedrooms, that means that the small bedroom upstairs is now available to become a kids' bedroom.

If you haven't been following my blog forever, it may be news to you that yes, both of our children have been sleeping in our master bedroom since birth! This has actually been a good arrangement overall, and our kids definitely find it comforting to be close to us, but, needless to say, they are growing and things are getting more crowded! I am so glad to finally have a bedroom for my kids even if getting them to actually sleep in it may be a long term project!

And more changes on the horizon: Maggie starts preschool in a couple weeks! Since we've decided to hold Joe back from kindergarten for a year, Joe and Maggie will both be attending the super-awesome Peter Pan Co-op this year.  And you all know what that means: I need to get cracking on a toddler backpack for Maggie! Better unearth that sewing machine ...

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Plantain, meet Mabel.

Why, hello, readers. How are you doing?  I admit, KCW and Shorts on the Line kicked my behind, and I sent most of the last week recovering (and, you know, catching up at home and at work). When I finally came out of recovery mode, I couldn't face the unfinished KCW projects that piled up last week. After all of that kid-sewing, I wanted to sew something fast, fun, and for me.

We are getting ready to go on an epic train journey to the Pacific Northwest to visit friends and family, so I am wanting some easy pieces for traveling with kids during a heat wave. Knits, knits, knits, right?
Plantain, meet Mabel

I have wanted to try a sleeveless version of the Plantain T-Shirt ever since the weather warmed up, so I went ahead and used up the rest of the really-truly-lovely paisley knit I used for my first Briar Top (I still wear that shirt more often than any of my other Briar tops, and the fabric is holding up wonderfully; I bought it at Britex and it was probably really expensive but in this case worth it). I wanted to do something different with the hem, so I added "shirttail" curves along the front and back of the hem.

Plantain, meet Mabel

I used a RTW tank top to figure out how much to cut out the back neck and armholes, and then I bound the armholes just like the neckline. I was so pleased that the final result shows just the right amount of skin - enough, but not too much. And this fabric has the perfect drape for the flowy Plantain shirt; very flattering.

Plantain, meet Mabel

This is what my face looks like when I get tired of smiling for the camera! You know, posing for blog photos gives me a newfound respect for fashion models. Who knew it was so hard to pose for a camera? Don't worry, I have no plans to quit my day job.

(BTW, those are our two hops plants growing on the aluminum wall behind me. Cascade and Golden, if you were wondering. Right now we're just growing the hops - they are such pretty plants! - and giving the hops to friends who brew beer, but ultimately we hope to learn to brew ourselves!)

Plantain, meet Mabel

The skirt is the Colette Mabel Skirt, Version 3 (longer, with front panels and a kick pleat) made up in the same teal knit ponte I used for Joe's Sketchbook Shorts. I managed to get this skirt and the shorts out of a yard and a half of this knit, and all I had left were a couple of scraps! I love using up every bit of a piece of fabric - especially here, as I have no idea what I would do with scraps of ponte, but I would probably feel obligated to keep them anyway.

So ... brace yourself ... I sewed this up in a size Medium, and made no changes whatsoever. I tried it on before I sewed the waistband on, and it fit perfectly. That never happens. Gotta love knits - so forgiving.

Plantain, meet Mabel

I love the length, and the kick pleat. The fabric is sturdy enough not to show your underthings, but as comfortable as sweatpants. Perfect for travelling. And it was so easy to make with a serger (but completely doable without one too). I'm stoked! I want another one, in black, and maybe mustard yellow, or maroon? All. The. Colors. Seriously. Most practical garment ever.

Plantain, meet Mabel

Steve told me to shake my booty. Here you go. You're welcome.

Plantain, meet Mabel

And because no photo shoot would be complete without the "styled-with-a-cardigan" shot, here's the outfit with a cardy, which I'm sure I'll be wearing as much in the PNW as I do here in Oakland.

If you don't hear from me for a couple weeks, never fear! I will be back in mid-August to bore you to tears with photos from our trip!