Saturday, July 30, 2011


An important part of a thrifty, frugal, and simple lifestyle is seeing the potential of things. You need to be able to look beyond chipped paint and dirt smudges. Our house is a case in point.

Other couples might have passed up the chance to purchase a house covered in unattractive asbestos shingles painted baby blue. Coupled with bright pink trim, the house hurt my eyes. Ugh! But the view, the yard, and oh, just the potential of it all! And now, thanks to lots of work (my husband can do pretty much anything, I'm convinced!) that blue and pink monstrosity now  looks like this!

And our yard looks like this!

 And our view (oh, that view) looks like this!

It's all about the potential!

So when I spied a raggedy looking wooden bookcase at my local thrift shop, I did a double take. First of all, I'm always on the lookout for wooden bookcases. They are so handy, and so hard to find. This one looked a little rough, but the size was perfect.  When I gave it the "lift and wobble" test to see how sturdy it was, I was pleasantly surprised by the heft of it. It appeared extremely sturdy and quite heavy. After consulting with my two girlfriends, we decided that it was indeed worth the ten dollar asking price. Not as good a deal as my two dollar chair, but a reasonable asking price, nonetheless.

Now, along with the ability to see the potential in something, you must be willing to follow through with a little elbow grease as well. So, when I got the bookcase home I immediately set to work (which is highly unusual for me, but I had an afternoon's worth of free time). I enlisted Heron's help to screw the beadboard-like backing more securely into place. Then I sanded and scraped down the areas of flaking paint (being careful to catch it all on a tarp in case any of the paint was lead-based). On to priming.

I had some yellow tinted primer left over from another household project.
I decided that this bookcase would live in our bedroom, at least for the time being. So I painted it the same color as all the other furniture in the room, a deep purple.

Transformed! In the span of an afternoon I had a very cool bookcase!
Keeping my eyes open for things that I want or need has become sort of a game for me. It almost never fails that when I 'm looking for that specific item, it will appear to me at one of my thrift store haunts, or a friend or neighbor is looking to rid themselves of that item. I never feel that I settle for items of inferior quality or things that I don't really care for. On the contrary. I just have to do a little more legwork, use a little more elbow grease, and be a little more patient. 

The life of a frugal, thrifty, and crafty housewife. Such an adventure!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Matroyoshkas, Masks, and One Proud Mama

Please meet my first set of Matroyoshka dolls.

Aren't these ladies sweet?
A month or two ago, I was browsing in a little junk/antique shop downtown called Really Bad Antiques (!). I spotted this set of nesting dolls in the glass case. After playing around with them for a bit, I decided to put them back. It was around the same time that I had developed an interest in the matroyoshka and had created a couple of items based on them (this, this, and this). But, I decided I could live without them. 

On a stroll downtown this week, I happened to be in the shop again doing some browsing. Lo and behold, my girls were still in their glass case. I had thought about them often, and decided I'd give them another look. They are certainly not the flashiest matryoshkas I've ever seen. Far from it, in fact. They're a little faded. But those faces. So sweet! And I love their swirly spirals of hair, too. At any rate, you guessed it! They are now enjoying their new home on my kitchen windowsill above the sink. They seem quite content, and their serene faces silently encourage me when I'm doing some of my least favorite chores. When it comes to cleaning the kitchen, I need all the encouragement I can get!

 Today being Wednesday, Kieran and I followed our usual routine of heading over to the Peavy Library for Story Time. Our lovely librarian (and one of my bestest buds), Dana, reads a story then conducts some sort of art project. Today the story was Dandelion by Don Freeman. The kids then made lion masks. Well, they made masks, but they sort of listened to their own artistic muses when it came to the mask making. Fortunately, our Dana, a brilliant artist in her own rite, never adheres to any hard and fast rules when it comes to art making with our kids. Unfortunately, I think Kieran's artistic muse was Jason from the Friday the 13th movies! Eek!

See what I mean?  
 Last night, Heron has the opportunity to play at a Music on the Green series in Calais. Each Tuesday a different band performs at the lovely gazebo right in the middle of town. There's always an enthusiastic crowd gathered on the large green lawn, and the kids are generally running wild and having a ball.

Last night, Kieran and I decided we'd tag along and see Heron play with his band, High Tide (yeah, yeah, I know...). Usually when we attend an event like this we have plenty of friends floating around. But not last night. As we settled down to listen to the music, I could tell Kieran was a little disappointed. He quickly decided he would scope the place out to see if in fact any of his friends were there. I watched him wander the perimeter, scanning for familiar faces. Unsuccessful in his search, he sat back down and listened to the music for a bit. By this time, kids has started to form their usual gang and were running around playing tag. It wasn't long before Kieran said to me, "I'm going to go ask them if I can play." And off he went. There was no hesitation. He didn't discuss it with me, or agonize over whether or not he should or shouldn't join those kids. He simply did it. Within a minute, he was one of those kids running and having a great time, a huge smile on his face.

I must tell you that I may never have been so proud of Kieran as at that moment. As much as it hurts to let him go (as I lamented in this post) this is the kind of behavior that a parent dreams about. Or at least, I do. He showed a confidence and bravery I'm not sure I possessed at his age. And I love the fact that when he saw other kids having fun, he didn't just sit there. He took action. It was just me and Patrick for the rest of the night. Luckily, having a dog is a great ice breaker, so I made some friends, too!

In other news, I ordered a new camera yesterday! I'm so excited! The one I'm using was purchased for me by my sweet dad way back in 2003. It has served me well, but it's time for an upgrade. I'm looking forward to learning how to use this new gizmo. I'm getting a little less techno-phobic with age, I think. I must be developing that thing called "patience" I've heard so much about. Go figure! Maybe I'm actually growing up, too!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Life is Sweet at the Beach

Life has been simple here on Moose Island this week. We've been keeping ourselves at the beach pretty much nonstop. We're on a role here with this blissful weather. It was even downright sticky at times. But I barely noticed, cause I was at the beach.

Primarily, we hang out at the beach directly across the road and down the hill from our house. We are blessed with wonderful neighbors who are happy for us to hang out there. We refer to this beach always as "Reggie's Beach", named after one of said neighbors (who will never, ever be allowed to move if I have anything to say about it!). And the other beach we frequent is on the South End of the island. We refer to this as "Chris and Connie's Beach", named after good friends of ours who live right next door to this lovely little stretch of sandy coastline. Many folks in town bring their dogs to run on this beach, or search for sand dollars or beach glass. Or maybe just while away a pleasant afternoon with friends, as I am lucky to do so often, watching our children make up their own seaside games, create sculptures from beach clay, and dig for clams.  

This summer, I have pretty much forsaken most regular household routines and creative pursuits to hang out at the beach and spend time with my friends. The dishes are often left till later. Laundry in its various stages is left in piles. But Mother Nature is speaking to me. She wants us to enjoy what she has to offer. And I am listening!

Heron has been taking quite a few dips at Reggie's Beach this season. This past week the tide has been cooperating quite nicely, its high mark coming right around three or so in the afternoon. It's the perfect time to take a swim. On one of these particular late afternoon dips this week, as the three of us slowly, slowly walked up the hill back to the house, I remarked that this slow, easy march felt so much like the pace of our summer.  We talked of how lucky Kieran is to have these sunny beachside days spent with family and good friends. We are helping to create special, and maybe even magical, childhood memories for him. I have such wonderful childhood memories of days spent near water. I love the idea that he will be able to look back on his own childhood and remember that when he wanted to go to the beach, Mama and Daddy were (almost always) happy to oblige!

Kieran at Chris & Connie's Beach
Patrick actually swims! What a champ!
Lindy's shadow

Kieran is creating a foundation for who-knows-what with beach clay and beach bricks.
Lindy's toes and her other shadow of the furry variety.
On this particular day we were observing a sailboat race. Heron was crewing on one of the boats.
My beach-loving boy.
I am not spending my summer surrounded by or steeped in any sort of serious conflict. I am unconcerned with trying to challenge myself or matters of personal growth.  Quite simply, I just want to have FUN! I want to do the things that please me. To take absolute pleasure in my family and friends. To help my son make beautiful, beachside memories. Ahhhh. How I just dearly love this summer.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

put a bird on it!

Okay, so I've got a thing for skirts lately. But it is summer, after all. And I honestly don't remember the last time I wore jeans. Well, that's not completely true. But they didn't stay on for very long. It's just been too warm in these here parts, believe it or not! Yes, this simply dreamy weather is positively, absolutely conducive to skirt wearing. And while I have thrifted many cute little tops this summer, I'm not as well stocked in the "bottoms" department. So, why not make my own? I've already had success with this little number.  Why not duplicate it with fabric I found at Marden's (for a mere $1.99/yard)? And, why not put a bird on it?!

Not a great picture, but you get the general idea!

"Put a bird on it!"
At  the expense of making my obsession with bird motifs seem absolutely lame, I beg you to watch this clip from Portlandia. It is amusing.
Lots of artsy things going on around the island this weekend (actually, when AREN'T artsy things going on in Eastport?). In addition to the artwalk and concert (music by The Fieldguides) at the gorgeous new downtown amphitheater,  Kieran and I attended the Noel Paul Stookey show at the Eastport Arts Center. He did a special kids concert in the afternoon, which really was fun. What song rounded out the show? You guessed it. Good 'ole "Puff the Magic Dragon"! Heron had the opportunity to act as Stookey's sound engineer for the evening show and thoroughly enjoyed himself. Stookey was a cool guy, and Heron thought his music was pretty amazing.

On another, and possibly equally pathetic note as my bird motif fetish, is my obsession with Moose Island Bakery. My near daily pilgrimage to this new downtown establishment has become a little ridiculous. I'm almost embarrassed when I swing that heavy door open and immediately start drooling as I ogle the goods yet again! On a more positive note, I've really picked up my running schedule. Eat a danish, run four miles...

Now, go put a bird on something!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Sweater for Raven

As I mentioned in my last post, I spent a wonderfully lazy day knitting a wee baby cardigan. I thought some of you might like to see how it turned out.

For those of you who are interested, this is the Easy Baby Cardigan from the book More Last-Minute Knitted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson.
I love the seed stitch detailing on the button band and cuffs. I found these sweet mother-of-pearl vintage buttons at my local thrift shop.

A did a little steam blocking of the sweater today. While lounging on the beach with my friends this afternoon, I attached the buttons. It will go into a box and be shipped off to the the newborn babe it was created for, little Raven Pearl. Isn't that the best name?!

There's something so wonderful about making something FOR someone. Sure, it's great to just make something. I love just making stuff. But when you make a gift for someone, you have lots of time to think about that special someone. You might think about good times you've spent together. Or how much you love that person and what they mean to you. It's almost a way of praying for that person, or meditating on that person. It is my hope that with each stitch, your best intentions and wishes for those that will make use of the gift are magically transferred into whatever it is you are making. "Made with love" doesn't sound so corny to me anymore.

So while I was knitting up this little sweater for a girl I had yet to meet and had yet to be born, I thought about how very fond I am of her parents, what a wonderful life she will have, how she will be absolutely loved and adored by so many. And just for a little bit, I can help to keep her cozy and warm. 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The View from Here

This has not been a typical day for me. In fact, as I write this, I'm still in my jammies, and both my hair and my teeth are unbrushed. Yikes!

But when I awoke this morning, it was overcast. I felt that this was a good excuse for me to stay in bed a wee bit longer. I decided I would work on my latest knitting project and enjoy the delicious morning coffee my husband brewed and then delivered to me in bed. Am I a little princess or what?! The coffee was accompanied by a variety of yummy treats that Heron and Kieran purchased (while I was still slumbering) from my new favorite downtown establishment, Mousse Island Bakery.  Leanne's homemade fruit pastries are out of this world! Actually, having the bakery in town has really helped me to step up my running regimen...

There's Kieran's coloring book on the left. My current knitting pattern comes from the book pictured, More Last- Minute Knitted Gifts. You can just see my little Patrick peeking out over the book. He stuck to me like glue all day,  never once chastising me for choosing to spend my day lounging in bed rather then tending to all those dirty dishes and piles of laundry. He makes such an agreeable companion.
While munching, sipping, and knitting, I listened some of my favorite radio shows on NPR, including Car Talk and Wait Wait Don't Tell Me. After those shows came to a close, I switched it over to CBC One and listened to Definitely Not the Opera. During which time I had refreshed my coffee cup and made lots of progress with my newest knitting project. Kieran and I even did a little coloring. Well, I did a little coloring. He did a lot of coloring. What was Heron doing? Oh, just rubbing up some ribs with some sort of absolutely scrumptious concoction that he made from scratch, then grilled on the barbecue for hours. Have I ever mentioned that I am, most possibly, the luckiest girl in the world?

Kieran stuck with me for a good portion of my self-imposed bed-in, coloring away.
Even with two cups of java under my belt (or actually, the stretchy waistband of my yoga pants) I was not in the least bit inclined to make my way into the world, even when the sun popped out from behind the clouds. I was happy to be taking a breather. These past couple weeks have been filled with all kinds of fun activity. but at the moment, I was feeling thankful to be cocooned in the coziness of my bed, my son and my furry little beastie at my side.

My latest knitting project for a special baby that should be entering this world any minute. Easy Baby Cardigan  by Joelle Hoverson, found in the aforementioned book More Last-Minute Knitted Gifts. A beautiful and easy little sweater. Knit entirely in one piece (yay, no icky seams!) this would be a great first sweater for a beginning knitter. My sweater is a soft, pretty green wool. If I keep going at this rate, I'll have this little beauty done by tomorrow! I have some sweet mother-of-pearl button I think will suit this cardi very nicely.

Kieran has wholeheartedly joined the latest upcycling/refashion craze by turning a bait bag he discovered on the beach into an everyday hat. I quite like it.
 Ahh. What a lovely way to spend the day. Wishing all of you a little bit of peace and quiet this weekend.