Fall Break 2017


This past weekend was Philip’s Fall Break. We filled up our long weekend with lots of cozy projects around the house, which is just how I like my vacations best. Philip did some scraping and repainting work on the outside of our house, we did a little reorganizing inside (Alice moved into her big-girl bedroom this past week!), and we all got some extra time to play.

I was very excited to finally try some sourdough baking. I made my own starter last week and was thrilled that I caught some nice wild yeast in the first few days. The internet is great for learning new things, but in looking for information on sourdough I quickly discovered that people are pretty serious about their sourdough and I found all the technical terms and, dare I say, snobbery, discouraging, so I just followed the friendly directions in my trusty King Arthur Flour cookbook. They were much simpler and less anxiety-inducing. As it turns out, it wasn’t that hard! I made my first loaf over Saturday and Sunday (I let my sponge work a good 24 hours) and it turned out reasonably attractive and super tasty. I’m excited to try either more bread- or perhaps some pizza dough- with my starter this coming weekend.


Alice spent lots of time during her Fall Break bothering Charley, taking her wooden caterpillar pull-toy on “neighborhood walks,” and playing with her paints and play-dough. Alice no longer naps (sigh….) and so also spent time each afternoon in her big girl room practicing “rest time”- not her favorite.


I also got some time to start a new sewing project- a winter coat for Alice- and to get quite a bit done on a new sweater for Philip. I had hoped to make it for our 5th anniversary, which we celebrated last week, but my new goal is Christmas. I’ve only been working on it about a week and am already almost to the underarms, so I think it’s a goal I can accomplish. I also began reading a very interesting book by Bill Bryson called At Home: A Short History of Private Life. After a string of disappointing novels it’s great to be reading something really good.


With the exception of a few chilly mornings it’s still been very warm here, but I can’t complain. We’re having a lovely autumn- hope you are too!




Garden Notes- September 2017


We’ve been having a brutal heatwave, the only silver lining of which is that my flowers still think it’s August. My garden had a slow start this year due to a cold spring and record rain, but I’m very pleased that it has still provided me with lots of armfuls of flowers during the later part of August and September. A few notes I want to remember for next year:

#1. Dahlias: This year I grew Cafe au Lait again, which were splendid. Last year they turned out pure white, but this year they were a mix of creams and pinks with a tinge of brown…gorgeous. I also grew Penhill Dark Monarch, which wasn’t as prolific but was stunning when I did get a few blooms. I’m going to try to save my tubers properly this year, but of course I also want to try some new varieties next summer….clearly I need more space (more on that later…)


#2. Zinnias: Goodness I love them. So easy! So cheap! So glorious! I went with Benary Giants again along with a Thumbelina mix that was (disappointingly) basically all the same shade of pink. I also grew Zinderella Lilac, not all of which were scabiosa types but which turned out to be prolific and very pretty. I’ll save some seed but I don’t think I’ll buy any more. I grew a couple cactus-type zinnias this year, which I don’t really love. The spiny petals are interesting, but to me they already look like spent blossoms as soon as they bloom. I’ll axe them in favor of another variety next year.

#3. Cosmos: I grew Pop Socks and a Double Click Mix. The pop socks made nice, shorter, bushy plants and I like the little bullseye in the center. My Double Click Mix seemed to mostly wash away in all the rain, but I did get a few nice plants and of course the blossoms are lovely.


#4. Palette: Clearly I love pinks and purples. I need a few more yellows and whites and greens next summer though. I’m thinking Queen Lime Zinnias and I want some white pom-pom type dahlias, but I’m not sure about yellows…any suggestions?


#5. Edibles… I miss not having any tomatoes and greens and squash from the backyard. We have very limited space but Philip and I are planning to add in a very small raised bed along the grassy side of our house (currently I garden in the front beds and along the driveway) with the intent of growing some food next summer. We’re hoping to get that in this fall so I can plant the garlic. I think it will be fun for Alice to grow veggies too…and if there happens to be some extra square footage, I might just have to plant an extra dahlia or two!

#6. Seeds: I bought all my seed from Swallowtail Garden Seeds and I bought my dahlias from American Meadows. I heartily recommend both- I particularly like Swallowtail Seeds because they don’t send me junk emails all the time. I direct seeded everything this year.

I’ll miss all the flowers once summer really ends, but it’s also such fun to plan out the next year in blooms.

Antler Cardigan


As sad as I will be to wash and pack away Alice’s standby cardigan from last year, the arms are getting too short and she really needed a new everyday sweater. I got some hand-me-down yarn from my aunt by way of my mother and decided on the Antler Cardigan, designed by Tin Can Knits.


The yarn, which I’m happy to report I have lots of left over, is absolutely fabulous. It is called Kathmandu Aran Tweed, made by Queensland Collection, and is a blend of wool, silk, and cashmere. I’m so sorry it’s no longer available because it really is lovely. It looks sturdy and tweedy, which I love, but is super soft (especially after washing), which Alice appreciates. I actually knit myself a beret years ago out of the same type of yarn (different colorway) but lost it on my honeymoon and have mourned its loss ever since.

As a complete aside, I know that everyone thinks of browns and oranges as the colors of Autumn, but I really think that purple deserves a spot the fall palette. We got married in early October and many people assumed I would want to dress the bridesmaids in goldenrod or orange and seemed surprised by my choice of purple…BUT! I was thinking of wild asters and mums, and I maintain that purple can be plenty autumnal.


I always appreciate when patterns offer a broad sizing range and the Antler Cardigan is a pattern for babies through adult sizes. I can definitely imagine knitting one for myself at some point but will be very careful about the sizing. Alice at age two is pretty small, so I was hesitant to cast on for the 2-4 year size, but I had read several reviewers noting that the pattern runs slim so decided to go for it. My gauge was right on, but somehow this sweater came out snug across the middle for my 8th percentile toddler. I deliberately shortened the arms to the correct length for her, otherwise the proportions would have been even stranger.


The cardigan is knit back and forth on a circular needle from the bottom up in a fairly standard sort of way. The pattern is clear and easy to follow and the antler cables are easy and satisfying. I feel that there are too many stitches in the buttonhole bands causing it to ruffle a bit, but clearly it wasn’t so bad that I bothered to fix it.


While I’m not thrilled with the fit, I am generally happy with the sweater. It’s a good weight, it’s cute, Alice called it “cozy,” and it was fun to make. Things always get a bit bigger with washing, so I expect that it will last her a while even if it is a bit snug around the middle.


We’re having such a good late summer/early fall this year…I’m hoping to squeeze in a general update post sometime soon.



Alice Virginia, 2 Years Old


On Friday Alice turned two! The night before, as Philip and I were hanging balloons and wrapping gifts, we got a little sad about how fast she’s growing up, but two year old Alice is such a delightful, chatty, capable little person that it’s impossible to stay sad about that for long.

Two years old is the perfect age for birthday appreciation. Alice had been looking forward to it for weeks and had told us exactly what she wanted to have happen on her birthday…balloons,  party hats, friends, cake, birthday song. Happily, she got exactly what she had been hoping for. Alice helped make the cupcakes (chocolate zucchini with blueberry cream cheese frosting) the day before, and on Friday morning all her friends came over to help eat them up and celebrate with hats and balloons. After her friends went home we walked to the park, which is a daily occurrence but which she still thinks is the best thing ever, and then spent the late afternoon and evening opening her gifts and watching her enthusiastically playing with them. I made pizza for supper, and Alice had an early bedtime after which Philip and I drank our coffee and ate her birthday cake for her. It was a great day.


Alice second year was such a good one, and we’re looking forward to another great year with our big little girl.


A New Sweater for a New Baby!


We’re very excited to be expecting a new family member in December! While in Maine I cast onto the 0-3 month size of a sweater pattern I’ve been wanting to make for a while: Livingston, designed by Nadia Cretin-Lechenne. I used yarn I purchased in Maine a few weeks ago and I’ve since lost the label and don’t remember the brand, but it’s a lovely, super soft merino sport weight. I went for a misty tonal grey which I thought went nicely with the little seagull stitch pattern and which coordinated with the landscape…


My favorite aspect of this sweater is the way the front unbuttons at the top to accommodate large baby noggins and I am very fond of the simple stitch pattern that looks like flying birds.

This sweater is knit from the bottom up, and while I think it was a well-written pattern I will say that joining the sleeves to the body on a circular needle (per instructions) is next to impossible. No stitches are cast off on the underarms prior to joining, so it’s simply too tight to knit on a circular. I put the whole thing on two sets of double-pointed needles (one was a size down, but I had to make do) and that worked okay. I wish there was a way to adapt the pattern to top-down, but I think it wouldn’t work with the stitch pattern.


If this baby is anything like Alice was then the 0-3 month size will probably fit for a long time but likely will be much too large initially…and December babies really need itsy sweaters right away, so next up I’m going to make a truly tiny newborn size garment. Before that, however, I have a cardigan on my needles for Alice who kept coming over and asking “Sweater for Alice?” We don’t want sweaters to be the cause of any sibling rivalry!





Maine & New Brunswick 2017


We spent almost two weeks with family in Maine and New Brunswick this month. Alice was shockingly sweet tempered on the 10 hour drive, we had beautiful weather, and we had plenty of time to see many extended family members and hang out with my parents. We found treasures at yard sales, I made no fewer than three blueberry pies, Alice developed an interest in antique sports cars, we played on beaches and rocks and had picnics and tea parties. Philip celebrated his 30th birthday in St. Andrews where we spent several days exploring, relaxing, and feeling like rusticators.

I love living in town- the walking and parks and neighbors- but I admittedly do often dream of antique farmhouses and oceans and woods and more room for Alice to romp. I’m so glad that Alice will get all those things every time we visit her Maine family…and it’s always nice to get to wake up in the same room you slept in for the first 18 years of your life too.

Vacation pictures can be a bit deceiving…Alice spent her fair share of time not napping and being grouchy…but by in large our trip really was as lovely as the photos would lead you to believe:


Now we’ve been home for a few days and I’m so happy to be back to my own little house and rhythms. As nice as vacation is, I think one of the best parts is coming home and feeling a renewed interest in your daily life. I’ve been picking armfuls of flowers, cutting out autumn dresses for Alice, planning new sweaters for the whole family, and have hauled out my paints with the best of intentions. Hope everyone is enjoying the last few weeks of summer!

Alice’s Chunky Lace


Last week we visited with family in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, where August evenings were chilly enough for Alice to sport her new sweater. I finished this sweater right before we left for our trip, but I had been working on it in fits and spurts for a couple of months. I knew it was going to be huge, so I felt no rush to finish it. Alice currently wears it with sleeves rolled, so I think it will last her at least a year.

The pattern, Olive’s Chunky Lace , was one I have been waiting to knit since Alice was a newborn, as the smallest size is 2 years. I’m not generally one for bulky yarns and chunky knits, but loved this pattern instantly…which is why I copied it right down to the light pink color. I chose to knit it up in Drops Eskimo, a single ply roving-type wool yarn, and I used the Light Powder Pink. The yarn broke on me a few times, but I ended up being quite happy with it, particularly at only $2.60 per ball!


I thought the pattern was generally well-written and easy enough to follow. Alice is small for her age so while it’s clearly large on her, I think the sizing was pretty good. If I were to knit this again I think I’d knit the sleeves down from the top instead of knitting them separately and setting them in. For whatever reason I had trouble making them fit in neatly.


I’m very happy with the finished product- it seems to me to be a comfortable yet pretty play sweater, which is exactly what I was going for. I saw that the designer recently wrote the pattern in adult sizes in lighter weight yarn…perhaps I’ll have to add it to my ever-growing list of sweaters to knit.



Garden Notes- July


I’m a bit disappointed with my flowers this year, which I am blaming on our ridiculously long, cold, and rainy spring and early summer. Everything is pretty far behind, so I’m still hopeful that in a few more weeks I’ll have some more color. My dahlias have yet to bloom but the plants look gorgeous, so maybe August and September will be beautiful…dahlias are my absolute favorite.

#1. I had a terrible germination rate on my cosmos (I’m talking like three plants out of 30 seeded), which did so well last year. Perhaps the seed all washed away? I bought a “pop socks” variety, and based on the few itsy blooms I’ve had so far, it looks like they aren’t going to live up to the description of a scabiosa-flowered blossom. Speaking of which….

#2. I bought “Zinderella Lilac” zinnia seed, which is also supposed to be a scabiosa-type flower. Well, so far they are miniature single-blossom zinnias in a super pale pink. Sigh. But! My Benary giants haven’t started blooming- they might be gorgeous!- and my little Liliput zinnias are bright and cheerful.


#3. My gladiolas are just now blooming, but they were a very happy and surprising success story. Here in upstate NY we are supposed to lift gladiolas in the fall, which I dutifully did….for the most part. Well! It turns out that those I left behind survived the winter, multiplied, and came roaring back. I particularly love this ruffly pale yellow/green with pink variety. I barely remember it from last year, I think I maybe got one spear, but it’s going great guns this summer. Maybe the location along the house foundation kept them toasty enough all winter? Either way, I’m going to leave them be this fall. Or perhaps I should divide them? I guess a bit of research is in order.


Here’s hoping that I’ll be back later this summer with gorgeous dahlias!



A Wee Summer Sweater & A Summer Adventure


Hello! After a little blogging hiatus I’m back with yet another version of my favorite small cardigan, the Wee Liesl. I find this pattern unparalleled for its adorableness and ease of knitting, although I’ve decided that next summer I should probably branch out and make Alice a different short-sleeved sweater.

This is the first thing I’ve knitted for Alice where she’s been aware of the fact that I’m making something for her. When I was working on it around her there was lots of chatter on her part about “yarn ball” and “knitting” and “Mama sweater Alice.” She wanted to try it on as soon as the buttons were on, which was very sweet.  I really enjoy that, especially as I know the time may come when she won’t want to wear sweaters I make her (although I still wear sweaters my mother makes me with great pleasure, so maybe not!)


I used my very favorite fingering weight yarn, Finch by Quince and Co. in the colorway Chanterelle. Now, I understand most people think it’s just beige, but I love the slight purple/pink cast and find it quite enchanting. At any rate, it goes with everything and is less prone to showing stains than lighter shades.

This time around I had three pearl buttons from Philip’s great-aunt’s button box I specifically wanted to use, so I cut down on the number of buttonholes. I rarely button Alice’s sweaters all the way so am happy with my decision. I also made it shorter than the 18-24 month size called for, mostly because I wanted to hurry up and be done and also because I thought it seemed fine at this length.


I finished up this sweater right before we went on a trip to the big city last week, and I’m happy to say that while Alice’s stroller costs an average of $700 less than the strollers of those Brooklyn tots, her handmade getup was unrivaled (in my humble opinion…)


We had a great time in the city. Alice loved riding all the “choo-choo trains,” enjoyed our “new house” (an airbnb in Brooklyn), and appreciated all the parks and playgrounds and friendly city dogs. On our way back we stayed with friends of ours in Connecticut, and she is still talking about “friend Miranda and Mister Cam.” I do like to travel, but I particularly like coming home. Despite living just hours away for the past two years, I had never been to NYC, and while I did like it, I’m so glad I don’t  have to live there! Living in a small town suits us well.


I hope to be back soon with some further updates…but no promises! Summer has us pretty busy with weeding and kiddie pools and sandboxes and bike rides and guests and general summertime fun.

p.s. Should you be curious to see previous versions of this sweater, or if you’d like to see heartbreaking pictures of Alice being a baby, see here and here.

Easter 2017 & an Easter Dress


We were lucky to have an absolutely gorgeous Easter weekend. We invited over several families on Saturday morning for an Easter brunch and it was so warm we were able to eat on the deck. Brunch is really the perfect meal to invite people with kids over for, too. I’ll have to remember that. I filled the house with flowers and we had baked oatmeal, little cakes in the shape of chicks, deviled eggs, and all kinds of lovely offerings from our friends. I filled plastic eggs with yogurt covered raisins and hid them (in plain sight) around the house for all the kiddos, and Alice was waaaay more into it than any of the other toddlers. Once she realized there were treats inside the eggs she began systematically searching out the eggs, emptying them of the raisins, and collecting the raisins in a plastic cup.


On Sunday, after leftovers for breakfast (Alice decided she’s wild about deviled eggs) and the ceremonial opening of the Easter Basket, we dressed in our Easter finest, went off to church, and then spent the afternoon outside enjoying the weather. Alice is endlessly enthusiastic about the park these days, so even though we take her almost every day she still treated it like a special occasion. I can hardly believe what a big girl Alice is this Easter when compared to last years’ pictures.


I made Alice’s Easter dress several weeks ago from the loveliest little pattern: Apple-Picking Dress by Oliver+S. I chose to make the 3/4 length sleeve version and made the double-flounced skirt. The fabric is a piece of Liberty of London that I bought on sale before Alice was born.


The pattern went together beautifully and hopefully it will last her a while, since I made the 18-24 month size. My pictures of it aren’t fantastic- it’s much harder to photograph a toddler than a baby!- but you’ll have to take my word for it that’s it’s really adorable on her and fits well.



I hope everyone else had a good holiday weekend. We’re having a busy and fun Spring here at Bellrose Cottage…more updates hopefully coming soon.