Strawberries & Daisy Chains

Strawberries & Daisy Chains

Strawberries & Daisy Chains

Ripe Strawberry on the Vine

Sunny Day Shorts

Sunny Day Shorts


Sunny Day Shorts

Oh sweet summer, you are officially here and I waffle between trying to cram three days of activity into one weekend day and being completely lazy and just soaking it all in. Being lazy should win an awful lot more than it actually does.

I am amazed at how rapidly a garden can grow once you get your plants in. Some of my leaf lettuce is almost ready to start picking, I’ll likely be making some fresh basil pesto soon, and we’ve sampled the first sweet, sweet strawberries warm off the vine. This little girl of mine loves fruit. Any kind, all the time. So it was such a joy to see her eat that first strawberry and point at the plants looking for more and the heartbreak of having to wait another day for some more to be ripe. As these plants are young and small, I’ll be surprised if we get even two dozen berries off of them this year, but each one is worth it, so long as we can beat the critters to them.

Early last week, we had a visitor to the garden beds. My guess is either a woodchuck, which we’ve spotted in the neighborhood, or a skunk that our neighbors saw. Either way it gnawed the leaves off of three of my six broccoli plants. So it was off to the home improvement store and some quick installation of fencing. I’m using that green plastic hex mesh (chicken wire) and thus far we’ve had no additional midnight-snackers.  One of the broccolis seems to be recovering nicely, but I’ll likely have to swap out the other two. Live and learn.

In my efforts to supply LMC with some appropriate play clothes I sewed two pairs of the new Oliver + S freebie pattern, the Sunny Day Shorts. One in some Birch Fabrics Jay-Cyn fishy print I had in my stash and a second pair in some blue twill leftover from my Beignet skirt. I didn’t do anything fancy other than add top-stitching to both pairs. It’s a freebie pattern, so there’s not a lot to it and the drafting is a teensy bit off (one side of the legs seem to have a sharp point where you turn the hem, the other side is more of a curve, so it doesn’t exactly line up). Also, the rise isn’t quite long enough to cover the whole diapered bum, but for nice looking shorts that whip up quickly? They get the job done. Next up, I’ve got another t-shirt cut out and ready to go, after which I’ll probably take another selfish sewing break to try a go at making my first swimsuit. Because we just got LMC a kiddie pool and I’m gonna need something fabulous for splashing around in that! ;)

Love You S'More Tee
Love You S'More Tee


Love You S'More Tee

Love You S'More Tee

As much as I love sewing tiny dresses, my very active little girl needed some more items in the way of summer basics suitable for playing in the dirt and sitting on sidewalk chalk and generally being a toddler.  So I made my first of what shall certainly be many Flashback Skinny Tees. It’s a great basic - I’ve already got a second one cut out and at least two more variations planned in my brain.

For this first go-around, I sewed it exactly to the pattern specifications (except for the short sleeves) in the 18-24 month size for my tall almost-15 month old.  For the next go around I’ll to drop the front neck a bit to make it a bit easier to pull it over LMC’s head, but other than that, I’ve no complaints. The shirt is made in a 100% cotton sun-protective fabric from Rockywoods, which feels like a very substantive interlock. It was a breeze to work with, but it’s definitively a thick knit. This is a sturdy and not a breezy tee. I  imagine, that the fit will look a bit different in a regular jersey. That said, I’m hoping I have enough of this white leftover to make myself a tee from it, because fair-skinned mamas need sun-protection too.

While I’d make a plain white tee for myself, I thought LMC’s needed to be a little more fun, so after surveying my collection of camp-themed Dear Charlotte stencils leftover from Ms. Maggie’s baby shower, I came up with the s’more idea. I could have been a little straighter with the lettering, but all in all it turned out nicely. It’s only been washed once thus far, so we’ll see how it holds up over the long run, but I imagine it’ll be fine for the length of time kid clothes last before they’re outgrown.

Bubble Blaster
Bubble Blaster
Snuggle Time
Sand Play
Old Port Festival Parade

Old Port Festival Parade
Old Port Festival Parade

With the arrival of good weather and the Annual Old Port Festival in Portland, it’s really starting to feel like summer here. And with summer comes copious amounts of sunscreen, bug-spray and activity for the Cleaver clan.

LMC got to take in her first parade, which featured beautiful large-scale puppets from Shoestring Theatre and sampled a bit of fair food. We also visited her first farmer’s market and picked out plants to go into the new raised beds, which despite her efforts to pluck them back out have been firmly planted into their new homes.

The boxes are approximately 4 ft x 8 ft x 6 inches. We got a yard and half of loam delivered from O’Donals in Gorham, which we combined with some of our Garbage to Garden compost from last year.  We probably could have gotten away with a yard of dirt, but the leftovers will go into additional boxes we hope to have in place for planting next year.  Because, obviously two boxes aren’t gonna cut it. :)

As for this year’s plantings, I kept the plant list fairly similar to my first garden attempt, with the addition of lettuce:

  • Plum tomatoes for salsa and sauce (3)
  • Sweet bell peppers (2)
  • Broccoli (6)
  • Lettuce (6)
  • Basil (4)
  • Thyme (1)
  • Rosemary(1)

I think I’ll probably pick up a few more herbs (I’m thinking cilantro and maybe parsley and mint) and I also planted 4 strawberry plants around the deck in addition to our existing blueberry bush.

Growing up I lived in a house on a corner lot with a huge backyard that my parents filled with all sorts of edible plants. We had cherries, granny smith apples, boysenberries, strawberries and cherry tomatoes most of time. As a kid, my friends and I would spend our summer afternoons out there, reenacting dance routines from Newsies over the sprinkler and eating our fill of the backyard bounty. It was bliss.

Now as a grownup, I live in a house on a corner lot with a huge backyard, that I’m slowly filling with edibles, so my daughter too can eat sun-warmed fruits and veggies to her heart’s content.

Minoru Jacket

Minoru Sleeve Mod

Minoru Jacket

Minoru Cargo Pocket Mod

Minoru Jacket

Minoru Jacket

I finally made something for myself and it’s a doozy! I loved the Minoru Jacket pattern from the moment it came out (back in late 2011), so much so that I bought the pattern, the fabric, the lining, and special ordered the zippers shortly after it came out.

Three years of sitting in my stash and five weekends of sewing later, I have a bright and beautiful new jacket that does some much-needed filling of a long-outstanding hole in my wardrobe. Of course I finished it just in time for summer, but being as I live in Maine with it’s often cool nights and mornings, I’m sure it’ll still get plenty of wear before getting a real workout in the Fall and Spring.

The jacket is a spring green twill of forgotten origins, lined with some silky polka dots purchased at JoAnn’s, and riri metal zippers. I made the pattern in a straight size 14, which is a little bit roomy, but it means I can wear it over sweaters come Fall. It’s comfy and the right amount of warm for the in-between seasons.  I found the instructions clear and concise (though missing a few metric to imperial measurement conversions in the text and there’s something funky about the placket length/hem length). I pretty much made it exactly as described, with the exception of the following modifications:

  • Flat felled all the seams noted as top-stitched in the pattern – seam finishing and top-stitching in one!
  • Lined the hood
  • Moved the waist elastic up 1″/2.5 cm from pattern marking
  • Removed the cuffs
  • Made the hood zipper opening shorter
  • Added cargo pockets
  • Accidentally placed the interior pockets about 5/8 inch too low

One of the great things about sewing a pattern three years after it came out is that by then, a ton of other people have made it and you can steal their ideas and learn from their problems. About half these mods were inspired by other blogger. Case in point, I can no longer remember the blogger who mentioned it, but the hood zipper opening was indeed too long for my zipper, which I was able to check, before cutting it out. I do wish  I had headed the warnings to reduce the hood, as it is overly large. Some more direct copy-cats include borrowing Lladybird‘s idea to lose the cuffs (which were way long, even on me) and after I flat-felled my side seams before I inserted the side seam pockets I had planned on, I stole cutcutsew‘s cargo pockets idea.

The cargo pockets were a happy accident, as I love the way they turned out and they really make the jacket. I constructed my pockets largely based on this tutorial by 21 Wale. Should anyone want to copy me in my copy-catting, I’ve made up a PDF Cargo Pocket Pattern and Instruction Sheet  (tiled for US Letter-sized printing).

As with any coat/jacket, this was a time-consuming project. All said, it probably took me somewhere in the realm of 16 or so  hours to complete, but I love the outcome and consider it time well-spent as I can see myself wearing this coat all the time.

Speaking of wearing me-made things, I’ve completely missed Me-Made May, but I realized after I took the photos that everything in my outfit in these shots (not including underthings) was handmade either by me (cardigan, skirt, tank) or someone else (necklace, shoes). The fact that I didn’t realize it until I took the photos is a nice nod to how the right handmade items can really become an intrinsic part of our wardrobes.

Continuing on the theme of handmade wardrobes, there’s a neat little story behind the striped sweater LMC’s wearing. When we first moved back to Maine, my mother-in-law gave me a bag with some random knitting stuff in it: a few sets of straight needles, some old yarn, and all the pieces to a blue and white striped baby sweater.  When I was pregnant, one of the first things I did was seam the otherwise complete sweater together, so now LMC has a Memere-made sweater, even though her Memere hasn’t knit in years. The original yarn and ball bands (Reynolds Giselle) came with the sweater, but I’ve been unable to definitively date them and my MIL has no recollection of making the thing, so my best guess is that it was originally made for either one of her three sons, or my nephew – meaning it could be anywhere from 20 to 50 years old (quite the range, I know).  The best my google-fu can find is that the yarn was at a minimum available from 1981-1984. Doesn’t look too shabby for some never-worn 30 year old yarn, does it?

Anything need persuading out there?

Gathering up her Tools

What's a Level?

Little Mechanic

Little Mechanic

Little Mechanic

Raised Garden Bed Frames

A Dog in his Domain

Raised Garden Bed Frames

We Can Do It!

We took advantage of decent weather and a long weekend to get some yard work done. Mr. Cleaver mowed the lawn, Little Miss did lawn mower maintenance (it’s electric and I’d highly recommend it), and Steinbeck keep guard. Meanwhile, I put on my best Bobby C. shirt,  pulled out the tools, and put together two very long overdue frame for raised beds.

When we first bought our home 3 1/2 years ago it came with a big above ground pool and accompanying deck. As much as I love to swim, neither Mr. Cleaver or I had any desire to maintain an above-ground pool, so in our first year of ownership we put the pool and the deck up for free on Craigslist and got someone to take them off our hands. We cut back the weeds and (mostly) leveled the soil. Then with pregnancy and new babies, I didn’t do much in the garden at all.

But this year, with a helpful little assistant to keep tract of all the hand tools, we finally got it done. At least the frame building bit. Now I just need to get some dirt, and plants – but oh to have a vegetable garden again! I so enjoyed it back when I had a community garden plot. It’s a bit late to start anything from seed, but if memory (and a blog post) serve me well, I’ve still got time to put some plants in the ground and get a decent harvest. Now to decide what to plant!


Ready for a Stroll

Sand Cherry in Bloom

Creeping Phlox

Ready for a Stroll

Birch and Bleeding Heart




Bleeding Heart


Having grown up in California, and gone to college in the Oregon, I have a slew of friends who still reside in those more temperate climes. So while we still had snow on the ground, my Facebook feed was filled with West Coast photos of freshly bloomed daffodils. Now, June is in sight, the snow is but a memory and the daffodils have come and gone, but it feels as if Spring has just arrived in Maine. Suddenly the grass is green, the trees have leaves, and everything is in bloom.

In my own little garden, the sand cherry is in bloom, the violets are out, the bleeding heart has grown to massive proportions and the tulips are starting to fade.  My perennial bed, now in its third year,  is starting to fill in and I may have to start doing some dividing come fall.

Now that the weather is nicer, LMC and I have started taking a little stroll together before I head to work in the mornings, giving me a chance to scope out the neighbors yards for ideas. The phlox that’s everywhere? Totally want some of my own. That perennial bed around that birch tree? Divine!

When we first moved into our little house, I  started my flower beds with no real plan or knowledge. I got the gift of some plants from friend’s gardens, picked up a few of my own and started digging out red brick mulch, tearing out layers of landscape fabric, and plopping plants down and crossing my fingers. Three years later, between some experience and episodes of This Old House, I’m starting to learn more about this gardening thing. Or at least paying more attention. I know enough to know that moving plants is pretty easy, dark mulch makes everything look better and if something doesn’t work out you can always plant something new in its place.

It’s good to be out in the garden again.


On the Slide

Saying hello to the goats

On the run

Mini Donkey

Who knew mulch was so fun?

Checking out the Chicks

Sheep noms

Pat the Goat

Got any nibbles?

Ice Cream!

For my second Mother’s Day we celebrated with a delicious homemade brunch (french toast! strawberries! bacon! mimosas!) and followed it up with a late morning trip to the The Barnyard at Smiling Hill Farm and an afternoon of sewing for me while LMC napped.

We knew the Barnyard was going to be a hit as soon as she squealed with delight at the first animal she saw (a ferret). Little Miss is very much into animals these days – she knows dogs say woof woof and lions roar and snakes sssssssssss and she wanted to touch everything in sight. Of course the mulch was equally as interesting as all the furry creatures. Everything is new and interesting and it’s such a joy to see LMC discover.

And she’s moving and grooving now too, walking everywhere, and she’s thankfully decided all of a sudden to accept shoes like it’s no big deal, as if she wasn’t turning into jelly legs and a pile of tears a few weeks ago. How quickly things change.

Of course, now that spring has finally arrived in Maine it means I’m working on perfecting my stealth sunscreen applying skills and that more accessories are required for my little red-headed girl. Which means time for another Peakaboo Bonnet. This one featured some solid yellow Kona Cotton and a Lisette ice cream print trimmed with pink piping, all from JoAnn’s. I imagine it’ll be showing up in photos from now through September. But is there ever really enough of babies in bonnets? In my book, never. And I’ve got enough left over fabric to make a matching dress, just as soon as I finish a little sewing project for me!


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