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Today I got started on an exciting project for the nursery! I’m going to be restoring and refinishing the oak cradle that my maternal grandfather slept in as a baby. It’s from the early 1900s (originally bought for his much older sisters) and it’s been languishing in storage in a pretty bad state for many, many years.
I’m not going to be doing this alone, but rather with the generous help, advice and expertise of my talented dad, an expert woodworker. His help is quite necessary because, as you can tell from this picture, it’s missing some legs! Two of the legs were sadly and rudely broken off at some point. The mortise joints on one end are in bad shape:
This one was originally covered by a rough T-shaped metal brace.
Here is my dad holding up the broken legs:
You can see in the above photo that the original legs (quite short) are screwed on to some longer legs. These longer spliced-on legs had wheels on them, presumably so some unknown relation could wheel the baby bassinett around instead of bending down and rocking it.
Our plan is to take it apart, sand it (that’s my job) and then fashion a new mortise joint to replace the broken part and splint the new joint onto the existing leg in order to preserve it (that’s Dad’s job). Other assorted projects include replacing the bottom slats with something a little more supportive and full-coverage to hold up the mattress and blankets, and filling in the old screw holes with wood in order to drill new holes to replace the stripped ones. Oh yeah, then we have to attach some antique rockers that Dad happens to have, so it actually rocks again.
Whew! Did I mention I’m also planning to make a mattress-cover-plus-bumpers bassinet set? To prevent squirmy babies from squirming out between non-regulation-spaced spindles? Well, I’m trying to focus on first steps first…
Dad got me some specialty sanding tools to deal with some of the ancient, thick, dried-up white paint hiding in the nooks and crannies of all those beautiful oak spindles:
The “tadpoles” are neat little curved rubber widgets that hold sandpaper and allow you to sand curved bits easier, and the abrasive cord will allow me to floss around the tightest bits of the spindles without going crazy. I also brought my rubberized gardening gloves so my hands wouldn’t get eaten up by the sanding cord.
Once I used a stiff brush to get rid of all the cobwebs, we applied some intense force (ahem, I held on while Dad winched like hell) in order to remove the ancient screws that hold the ends to the sides. As you can see above, I’ve already got one side piece off and ready for sanding, which I then worked on while it was held upright in a sanding vise:
And then I went to work! With my gloves, my sanding floss, my tadpole, a brush to remove the grit, a knife…
And then after about 45 minutes I started to see the beauty of paint. Friends, these spindles are ridiculous. Beautiful, but ridiculous. There are so many of them! And the tiny bits of paint left are so ridiculously stubborn. I don’t know if it’s possible to get everything clean enough. Paint would cover over all these problems quite nicely, you know.
So, for now the plan is to work on this side piece for a while longer, and then test it with an oak stain and see what the spindles look like. If they look passable, then hooray! If not, hooray! because we will then skip the intense prep and just paint them with white paint. I think it might look kind of cool to have the spindles white and the rails a wood stain. Hopefully not too mismatchy. I am not a big fan of matchy-matchy stuff, but I don’t want it to look like we got bored painting the cradle and skipped the rails!
I’m very excited about this project, even though it was a little bit discouraging to start today and be temporarily thwarted by stubborn paint. It’s a small and more portable solution to my earlier to-crib-or-not-to-crib dilemma, and it restores a precious family heirloom to a useful and beautiful state. Our baby will be the fourth generation of Barnard family descendents to sleep in this cradle, and snuggle in with all about all the happy ghosts sending their sweet blessings.
We woke up to a beautiful, sunny, warm Spring day. The mister mowed the lawn with our push mower while I tried to weed our two raised garden beds. (I say try because although I filled our giant lawn debris bin over halfway, the beds are still FILLED with weeds.)
We only have a couple more weeks left in our rental house, and I have this idea that when we move out, the lawn and the garden beds should be in a fairly acceptable state. But then, it is a lot of exhausting, back-breaking labour. The yard is not enormous, but it has so many trouble spots, what to tackle first? The grape arbor that didn’t get pruned? The fence border beds that are filled with dandelions? The overgrown lilacs? The prickly blackberry vine that has taken over one corner of the front yard, or the raspberry vine that has taken over the other corner of the front yard?
Maybe we should just ignore them and eat more delicous berries…
Other things from today: wearing my silly rubber shoes outside and realizing I can’t walk on the lawn with them:
Why? Because our lawns are filled with tiny, fat black spiders, and the holes in my silly rubber shoes are exactly the right size for spiders to slip in! Eep.
Aside from weeding and mowing, this morning we did a fun thing, which was to make the Pioneer Woman’s Breakfast Burritos. What a treat for my husband, who used to eat these in Texas and sadly doesn’t get them in Oregon that much. (Let’s not talk about the sad days of searching for decent Texas-style food when we lived in Massachusetts!)
As it turns out, the secret to making a breakfast burrito just like his mom used to is generous application of Jimmy Dean sausage in a tube, and soooooo much cheese. Yum. We made what seemed like a small batch — the potatoes, sausage, eggs, and peppers filled our 10-inch skillet — but it was still enough to eat three and save four for Kirk to take to work for breakfasts and (he says with a straight face) snacks. Now listen, when the Pioneer Woman tells you these will stick to your ribs, she is not even joking a tiny bit. We almost had to take a nap to digest. I’m still not quite sure why Kirk sees these as a “snack,” but then I don’t think I need to know. What I do know is that I think we will have to make these more often — they would be perfect to take on a hike, perfect for those work emergencies when Kirk has to run off early in the morning. Perfect when you want a one-skillet breakfast. With hot sauce.
Anyway, we did take a nap, later. After our brunch of rib-sticking burritos. After the lawn and the weeds. I think I slept for nearly two delicious hours. That’s the best thing on a beautiful spring day…don’t do much, and then take a nap afterward.
Hi there. We’ve had a lovely Easter weekend, did you? First there was a trip out to Oxbow Park on the Sandy River, a place I haven’t visited since I was a wee one. Unlike Portland, where all the flowering trees are in full bloom and the daffodils are starting to give way to the tulips, out in the Columbia Gorge it is still pretty chilly and most of the trees have just barely started to put out their red buds, never mind their tiny new green leaves.
Down on the river we met only a few lone flyfishers as we walked along the few trails and up and down the sandy and stony beaches. I picked up a driftwood stick to help pick through the rocks. Kirk collected a few interesting striated rocks among the river-smooth rocks. I made a little cairn:
We took a backpack full of sandwiches and apples down the beach and ate sitting on a huge fallen tree. We watched a group of kayakers put in across the river, going fast downstream with the current.
All through the woods around the river you see evidence of the torrential floods that come along in June, when the snowmelt on Mount Hood starts to melt in tremendous quantities. That’s the time of year when you want to go down to the river on the first hot hot day and stick your toes in, but it’s precisely when the water is bone-chillingly cold and tinged a strange white-green color from the minerals coming down off the mountain and the foothills. That’s also when the current is strong enough to drown swimmers, knock down massive trees, and wrap debris and branches and grasses around tree trunks. It looks like there are nests everywhere, but they’re just flood-borne flotsam stranded where the water left it.
But mostly this time of the year is pretty peaceful. Just enough wind that I wanted my bandana to cover my ears, but warm enough that once you stand still, out of the wind, you want to unzip your jacket.
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At my family’s Easter dinner, I cleverly forgot my camera in the car, so I can’t show you how nice the table looked with its ceramic bunnies and spring-green plates and dishes of new potatoes and asparagus and ham. But I can show you the vintage family baby clothes my mom found for me in a forgotten box in the shed, even though the pictures are dark. They are just too adorable!
Some of these are tiny sweaters knit by great-aunts and great-grandmothers who have long passed; some of them were knit or bought and cherished for my mom and her brothers in the 1950s before they were passed down to me and my siblings in the early 1980s. The top left photo shows two of my cherished Polly Flinders dresses, that are smocked and ruffled and so cute. I have another one somewhere that is pink. I loved wearing these when I was little, though my mother was more of the mind that kids should mainly stay in tshirts and blue jeans, anything that wears well and washes easy!
Here are two sweaters:
The blue one was definitely worn by all three of us kids, and seems to have picked up some rust-like stains in storage. Or maybe it’s just dirt? I think it just needs a good general washing. But the white sweater my mom doesn’t recall dressing us in — it is so tiny it probably will only fit the baby for a short time anyway. But it is made of an incredibly fine guage knit, and at the hem there are tiny pale pink flowers and pale blue edging embroidered with yarn. It needs some repairs at the neck, where there is supposed to be a narrow ribbon tie, and it needs its tiny buttons resewn and possibly a new button found. Truly a precious item.
In any case, these pictures were taken in the dark and they are barely visible, but I promise once they have been washed and aired out I will take better pictures. There are lots more I didn’t even get photos of, too. And hopefully I will end up with some pictures of them on the baby, eventually! As a friend recommended, sometimes when you have precious vintage baby clothes they’re really only good to slip on, take a picture, then slip them off quick, before they get mired in stains and drool and other bits of living. But there’s something so wonderful about using these clothes that have been loved and lovingly saved for so long, passed through so many hands to us.
This past weekend in Portland was obscenely, perfectly Spring-like, and the weekend was one of those where we did everything, but nothing in particular, and it felt so nice. Mundane things, like a magically uncrowded grocery store trip, like cleaning up the kitchen, like putting out the recycling when it’s been a while. And then there were beautiful things, too, like seeing the first green buds on the lilac tree, and clipping back the roses where they’ve just about taken over the bedroom window, and brunch and a stroll through the antique mall, and making a beautiful and simple cake to share with family:
On Sunday we always have dinner with family, and though I’m trying my best not to eat sugar these days, I couldn’t resist this apple cake in Heirloom Baking with the Brass Sisters. This book is just packed with beautiful vintage recipes, many of which you can toss together using just what you have in the cupboards. (During the memorable Christmas snow storm this year, crazed with cabin fever and running out of nearly everything, I turned to this book and made Maple Syrup cookies with lemon cream filling.)
I love baking for my family and trying new recipes (especially ones that don’t contain chocolate, to appease a certain picky sibling), so off we went. I made this using my mother’s vintage tin pie plate, since it had mysteriously migrated over to our house and was long due to be returned. It’s meant to be done in a 9″ cake pan, but nobody really cares about that when we’re just going to eat it right out the dish anyway!
Verdict: tasty with a bit of ice cream or whipped cream. Heavenly when warm, too. It’s basically a coffee cake with three sliced apples shoved into the batter haphazardly, instead of a crumble topping. We all agreed it needed a little something extra in the batter, though. Next time I am going to make a bit of brown sugar/cinnamon/butter and mix it into the batter, so it has a ribbon of sweetness inside the dough. But if you don’t like your baked goods bursting with sugar (I do, but only when it’s just right), this recipe is perfect as is. You can find a great version of it in the Lemon Almond archives, where it’s been adapted into muffins. I love the idea of chopping the apples, though I love using our apple peeler, too, which gave us perfect 1/4″ slices to put in the batter.
Meanwhile, when we’re not playing in the kitchen and haphazardly trimming back the blooming yard from encroaching on our rental house, my husband and I have been dreaming of our new house. We are another week or so away from setting the closing date, but we can practically taste it. This will be our very first real house, a house we own instead of rent, even though it’s a townhouse and doesn’t have its own yard. It’s a special thing to think of owning the four walls, the roof, the doors and the countertops. We can’t wait to make it our own. Sometimes we just randomly turn to each other and say excitedly, “New house!” It’s the expression of so many wonderful things for us. A place where our family will start. A place that’s bright and spacious and new (compared to our little cave of a rental). A place where our baby will join us in the bright wonderful world, too.
So of course I’ve been thinking a lot about the nursery, because I’m conflicted. We made a compromise with this house, choosing to buy a thriftier two-bedroom rather than the three-bedroom we would have preferred. With the baby on the way, part of me would love to throw myself headlong into making the baby’s room perfect and lovely, but part of me is thinking practically about things like, say, guests. Where do guests stay if the second bedroom is dedicated to babyland? And if we plan to have the baby sleep in our room, and in our bed with us, do we really need to buy a crib?
I can’t decide if it’s silly or practical to not buy a crib. We will have the bassinet that my mother slept in as a baby. We will have tons of pillows to create a baby-buffer for times when the baby sleeps on our bed without us during the day (I am sure I will be snoozing right alongside a lot of the time, too!). So is a crib important? I’m starting to think not.
Here’s my alternate scenario: in the baby’s room will be the heirloom family rocking chair, and a dresser with a changing table pad on top. In place of a crib, there will be a daybed, where guests can sleep (while the baby is in our room) and where we can also crash as an alternate napping space. But no crib, unless we suddenly decide we need one. Why go to the expense if it will just be a piece of scenery?
I’m especially thinking about this because my wonderful mother in law is coming to stay with us for a time, hopefully right after the birth. I would love for her to have a room to sleep in, rather than a spot on our couch. But it’s not just that I want to give her a place to sleep, it’s that I don’t see much point in preparing a fancy nursery that won’t actually get used for quite some time. I wonder if other mamas have faced this issue, and how they’ve handled it?
So that’s me, lately. Dreamy about spring, dreamy about the baby (we’re at 16 weeks now), dreamy about a new house and how to make it all work best for us.
I am: an enthusiastic cook, an amateur gardener, a family-maker, a passionate lover of farmer’s markets, a beginning sewer, an avid journal-writer, a hunter of lovely antique and vintage things, a cat person though I do love a soppy rowdy dog now and then, someone who always gets a little pink-cheeked when I smile, living back in Oregon after a decade’s hiatus in Massachusetts, always happier to eat from a bowl than a plate, a canner of jams and sauces, a bit of an introvert, and someone who will always take you up on that offer to meet for brunch.
I am right now: pregnant with my first child, planning a homebirth, married to a wonderful man, about to move into our first non-rented home, a full-time grantwriter, excited to set up a dedicated sewing space in the new house, both excited and nervous about starting a family, and marveling at the slow Northwest spring and all the lovely daffodils it brings up in the lawn.
Hi, my name is Jesse. This is my first foray into the land of blogging about home-making and family-making, and I want to write about the beautiful things I find along the way.