spring is here…finally!

After a long winter of unrelenting gray broken only by heaps and heaps of snow, spring has come. The flowers are out, the ducks are on their nests, the bikes are out and the kids are kicking up their heels like little lambs. And the colors — oh, how I’m loving the colors!

What fun we’re having in this luscious, long-awaited springtime!

But I’ll let Spring speak for itself….

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drawing costumed kids

{Lizzy dressed as a character she’s calling “Hindabella.”}

My friend Lisa has been taking a “Costumed Figure” class at the Hyde Park Art Center. When she told me about drawing her own kids in costume, I got very excited: What a great idea! and Why didn’t I think of that?

Over at their house for a play date, a few days later, the girls came out in costume and hollered, “We’re ready for you to draw us! Draw our pictures, Mama!”

What followed was a quick and hilarious drawing session. Kids perched on each mama’s shoulder, commenting on the works in progress. And yet the kids were such patient models, choosing difficult wavy-arms poses.

Drawing them made me really look at them, these cherished kids, the shapes of them, and the ways their expressions are so unique. What a gift to have this special time to really see them and try to recreate their vivid little selves on paper.Wonderful!

Maybe we can fit another costumed figure “class” in soon —  they say they want to draw me next! More soon…

Catherine dressed as a queen.

Cinder Zoe.

dressed for the weather

Lizzy’s favorite knitted cotton bunny — made for her by Mama for Easter a few years ago (where is that post?) — got some warm clothes thanks to a couple of old, mismatched wool socks. I’ve got to do a tutorial soon about doll clothes and odd socks. There are so many fun ways to transform your odd socks! In fact, this fall Bunny got the first clothes she’s ever had. I knitted her this white cotton nightgown, and a red “party” dress from the same pattern. Well, my winging-it design, which I’ll share here as soon as I manage to write it down. Hee.

Clothes have made a big difference in Lizzy and Bunny’s relationship. Lizzy plays with her so much more now that she’s got clothing.

And Emily, who you may remember from this post, got some cold weather gear as well, in the form of a hat, a poncho and some woolly leggings, also made from odd socks. She looks bundled up, doesn’t she? Boots are still needed, Lizzy told me.

So when the next odd sock comes out of the laundry — shout out, “Hurray! Time to make some doll clothes!”

Look for the step-by-step here soon.

rehearsals and sugar plum dreams

My daughter is in the local Hyde Park School of Dance’s Annual Nutcracker production. Catherine is a party girl in the magical scene in which Herr Drosselmeyer presents Clara with the Nutcracker. Which has meant many rehearsals and much hard work.

What’s been unusual for us this year is that, I, too, have rehearsals, and much hard work. I’m dancing in the Nutcracker, as one of the parents in the party scene! (I’ll pause here…. so you can gasp or faint or bust out laughing and then collect yourself). Ever since I was a little girl, reading the book A Very Young Dancer about a young girl’s chance to be Clara in the George Balanchine Nutcracker in New York City, I’ve wanted to be in this ballet. And now, against all the odds, as a grown woman, I’ve got my chance.


You can imagine the excitement around here.

We had our first dress rehearsal last Friday and we have just one more to go before the first performance this Friday.

It’s been amazing going off to dance with my daughter. To be in a production with her. I’ve been so proud of her — and so delighted for me at my good fortune to be included in this show, which is really a Hyde Park tradition and a show that brings the whole community together. So lovely. And so much in keeping with the spirit of the holidays.

All that to say, wish us luck this weekend — or maybe, better yet, break a leg. And if you don’t see much of me here for the next few days, I might just be dancing. Stop by again next week for many updates celebrating the season.

weekending :: the piano lesson

In the midst of one of the busiest weekends we’ve had lately, Catherine gave her little sister a piano lesson today. It was very spontaneous — suddenly they were sitting side by side on the piano bench. “Every time I practice, I’m going to help you practice,” Catherine said.

“Take an apple, cut it in half. Put one half down. Now remember,” said Catherine, “you have an apple under your hand,” by way of teaching the correct way to hold your hands curved while you play.

I felt my heart swell at the patience of the teacher and the earnest attention of the student. It was a moment when we were supposed to be getting ready to start a very busy day. A day full of family, friends, a piano recital, a birthday party. But these two grabbed the moment and got engaged in play, in sharing and learning. Even though time was short and Mom and Dad were bustling around them. It made me feel proud and humble. As grown-ups I think we need to see these moments more clearly, like kids do. Not moments always to be rushed through on the way to something else. They are themselves the Moment. Life. Sweet, beautiful, short.

Watching this piano lesson reminded me to treasure each moment and fill it up with as much love and gratitude as possible. I felt a new perspective and calm on my busy day, which is only made up of moments, after all.

Hoping there were many moments to treasure in your busy weekend, too.

Outings :: Magical Miniatures and Chagall

Recently we went to Chicago’s Art Institute as a family. It’s just a short electric train ride from our house, but it had been a while. We felt ready to go again. The Thorne Miniature Rooms have been decorated this year for the holidays for the first time, so we loved that! If you haven’t seen these rooms and you live in the Chicago area, you really should take a look. The workmanship is incredible! As a knitter, I was delighted to see how many rooms featured teeny, tiny knitting baskets. Unfortunately, my no-flash pictures of those baskets did not come out — you’ll have to imagine them (or visit!). You peek through little framed windows to see inside the miniature decorated rooms. It’s quite magical.

And we did all our other favorite things…. rubbings from medieval carvings….

Looking at picture books in the children’s book illustrators gallery….

But the other lovely surprise was that the Chagall’s America windows were back on display after a long-time renovation…

We spent a long time looking at them….

And then in the Children’s area, there was an art activity to make your own “stained glass” using vellum sandwiched between sheets of black paper. Such a simple project, but they came out beautifully.

A lovely way to bring memories of the Art Institute and all its miraculous artwork home with us.

quilt love

So it took quite a while to get this quilt finished. The idea for it came years ago, drawn by a sweet little four-year-old, who picked the fabrics and made the key. If you are a very long-time reader of this space, you may remember it. Now that girl is seven and we’re in a different house and so many other things have changed.

But I finally found the fabrics again and did the work of planning, cutting, sewing, quilting, binding and whew….now finally, we have  a new quilt friend. Catherine’s sunrise quilt of so many years ago — come to life!

And just in time for some serious snuggling.