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 ...


  1. I am very inspired by your traveling with young kids. Mine are four and three. We've never done it except for a wedding we had to go to when they were 1 and a couple months old. Now we are discussing going camping for one night with them. We live in a small two bedroom condo and the four of us all sleep in the same room too. We are planing on moving them shortly to share the other room. Your hexies look great. I really enjoy making hexies too though it takes time away from my knitting and cross stitch. But it is nice to have a bunch of projects to chose from when I don't feel like getting my sewing machine out.

    1. Well, one advantage to sharing a room with your kids at home is that they are used to it when you travel! So train sleeper cars, hotel rooms, friends' futons, tents ... no significant change in routine is required to bed them down with you. This is a surprising advantage, as my friends report that their kids, who are used to sleeping alone, really struggle when traveling. So that's one issue we didn't have, although I can't say this trip was characterized by awesome sleep for me!

  2. Holiday sounds great - hectic but great. Coming back home can be a good time to look at your space with fresh eyes and move stuff around a bit!

  3. That sounds like such a whirlwind trip! You did so much! It's got to feel good to be home!
    And I still can't get over that both kids have been sleeping with you all this time. I'm a very particular sleeper and it killed my sleep habits to have them in my bed. Although I will admit that when ben goes out of town I do love nothing better than having o sleep in the bed with me...

    1. For the record, Joe sleeps in his own bed, just in our room! Definitely could not fit two adults and two kids in our QUEEN sized bed! Just Maggie is pretty crowded. Joe has slept in a separate bed since Maggie was born, and I think he's basically ready for his own room now, although I know he's enjoyed the comfort of having us near at night.

  4. Oh Inder, I thought I commented on this already. New baby brain, I guess. :) I give you so much credit for taking this on. It sounds so exhausting and yet so good. And wow, your hexie flowers are just amazing! You have an eclectic skill set. I love it!

  5. Wow that's some trip! And I can totally relate to the last moment crazy cutting out things in a chaotic mess while fabric LITERALLY explodes out of it's storage spaces... sigh. Don't you just love it? ;)

  6. Nothing wrong with room sharing, we play musical beds every night here.
    And everyone sleeps really well.

    Tildy was as happy as could be home with her siblings when I was having Trixie.


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