It has been a rather exciting week. I received several emails from Pitch Perfect graduates sharing their successes. One of my students landed a piece in an upcoming issue of Food and Wine. I’m thinking he could teach me a thing or two…I mean, that’s huge! Another student sent along her first published article, which appeared in the March issue of The Simple Things. It is a beautifully written article, and I couldn’t be prouder. Finally, I had a nice chat over the weekend with one of my students who had her book proposal accepted by a major publishing house. She was thrilled, but had so many questions as she began to navigate the world of advances and contracts. I felt honored to act as a sounding board. Those are just a few of the many Pitch Perfect success stories (below are a few more of the magazines that Pitch Perfect students have written for in the past months), and I couldn’t be more excited for my students as they continue on their publishing journeys. I’d like to think it has a bit to do with my teaching, but in all honesty, I had such a smart, driven and enthusiastic class that I’m pretty sure I could have just sat back and watched them all succeed on their own. But of course it is always helpful to have the proper tools in your publishing tool belt. And that is what the class is all about. I’m gearing up to teach the online course again this May and there is still time to sign up. There’s nothing like seeing your name in print…trust me, it is such a thrill… and if it’s something you have ever dreamed about, I do hope you’ll consider joining me.
I’ve been single parenting for the past ten days. To say I’m a little burnt out would be an understatement. My husband arrived home Wednesday evening after the kids had already gone to bed. They were ecstatic when they woke up to discover that their dad was home. I slept in a bit and then came downstairs to get Vijay ready for school, and upon seeing me coming downstairs, he said to me rather casually, “I wish you weren’t home, mama.” My heart broke.
I know what he meant- in his 4 year old way he was trying to tell me that he wanted to be with his dad all day. He wanted to be in “dad zone” where there are no rules, and meals don’t include vegetables, and the day is made up of “special treats.” But after ten days of nothing but home cooking, snuggling under blankets to read books, epic cookie baking, trips to gymnastics, the library and the children’s museum, and countless hours playing trains in the playroom, I felt like I deserved more. This is the hard thing about motherhood- it is often thankless. Do I know that my kids adore me? Yes, of course. I have two very affectionate, sweet boys who are usually wonderful about showering me with love, but they are also toddlers, and they often don’t know how to properly voice their feelings and frustrations. Many times, their frustrations get aimed at good ole’ mom.
I am hoping to reboot this weekend, perhaps visit the farmer’s market and take a Bikrim yoga class or two. My husband has a babysitter lined up for tonight so I’m looking forward to date night. I’m also finishing up my latest home project, which you can see taking shape above. Since the boys are now sharing a room, I’m turning Vik’s old room into an office for my husband (mainly to get his damn computer off the kitchen table, which drives me crazy). I was so pumped to find that beautiful, six-foot bench for sale on craigslist for $100. What a steal! The rest of the room came together with things we had laying around the house including pillows and rugs from our travels abroad. I’m planning on sneaking in a few hours to watch Fixer Upper, my new obsession, and work on my latest knitting project. As much as I love my boys, I need a break. And perhaps they feel the same. A weekend spent in the “dad zone” might just be the very thing we all need to reboot and refresh. See you on the flip side!
I am so honored to be featured over on Fringe Association this week as part of Karen’s Our Tools, Ourselves series. Her blog is one of my absolute favorite so it feels like quite the knitter-ly stamp of approval. I’m sharing details about my knitting and sewing, including the tools that I use, how I organize my crafting materials and my deepest, darkest knitting secret!
(all photos, except of my studio shelves, were taken by the exceptionally talented Forrest Elliott)
Two weeks ago we moved Vik’s crib into Vijay’s room. The boys have been asking to share a room for the past few months, and with everyone having established solid sleep habits, we decided to give it a shot. It has been one of the sweetest things I have witnessed as a mother. Once I tuck them both in, I often stand outside their door for a few minutes and listen to their conversations, which mostly revolve around potty humor. It usually takes at least two or three warnings before they finally settle in and fall asleep- first they have to chat, then they toss things from the bed to the crib, occasionally we hear the patter of little feet as Vijay sneaks out of bed to grab more books or retrieve a pillow he tossed at Vik. When they hear us coming up the stairs to tell them to quiet down, they dive under their covers and hide, giggling non-stop.
The truth is that these boys have a special relationship. It’s as close-knit as I’ve seen between siblings, and I think that is due to two things: being so close in age and always being together. It’s also due to their personalities; Vijay loves being a big brother and has never, not even once, displayed signs of jealousy towards Vik. He seemed to understand as soon as Vik was born that his job was to be an older brother, and take care of him. He takes that job seriously. Vijay started school this past fall, and only attends two mornings a week. So other than that, the boys are always, always together and have been since the moment Vik was born. I’m not great at organizing playdates or meeting up with other moms- we kind of make our days up as we go. We are always out and about, at the children’s museum, library or gymnastics, but it’s always the three of us, which means the boys have become their own best friends. Things will be changing soon enough as Vijay’s school days ramp up next year, and Vik starts preschool. My emotions are running high these days as it feels like we are nearing the end of an era. I’ve been at home with the boys for over four years now and that might be changing in the near future as well. Things are shifting- it is all good- but I’m holding on to this time we have together, appreciative of every moment, even the frustrating and tiring moments.
The boy’s room is a work in progress- it’s very simple, just Vijay’s bed, Vik’s crib, a small shared dresser, and a bookshelf. I’d love to get bunk beds once they are big enough- I know they’d have a blast with that. But for now…it is perfect.
P.S. For those of you in other parts of the country flaunting pictures of blooming trees and bright sunny skies, I’m going to need you to cut that out. Here’s a little snapshot of what we’re enjoying here on the East Coast. I know….life isn’t fair, but do you have to rub it in? :) We had another epic snowstorm last week, though this weekend the sun peeked through and started melting the snow. Though we’ve got a long way to go until spring.
I just handed in the manuscript for my THIRD book. Now there is sentence I never dreamed I would be writing when I began my freelance career seven years ago. It is another cookbook and this time I was responsible creating, testing and photographing all of the recipes, as well as all the writing. Whew! It is going to be a beauty, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it. But first, we’ll soon be talking about Little Bites (the cover is now on the sidebar of the blog for your viewing pleasure!) which releases in July. I feel comfortable calling myself a writer now. Not a day goes by that I don’t write in some capacity, whether it is working on a book, article or blog post.
What makes you a writer is the act of writing. It doesn’t matter if you never see a word published. If you write, you are a writer. If writing is something you must do, you are a writer. But just in case you are a writer that does indeed want to see their work published, I have the class for you. I’m teaching Pitch Perfect again this year. The class was a wonderful success last year and my students have gone on to see their work published in a variety of magazines. Two of my students landed themselves columns in regional publications. I mean….! Wow.
Pitch Perfect is all about learning to craft a winning query letter. Editors, agents and publishers get thousands of emails every week from wonderful, creative people whose work does NOT get chosen. I’d love to teach you how to make your pitch stand out from the crowd. And this skill isn’t limited to writers seeking publication. Knowing how to write the perfect query letter is a skill you will be grateful to have simply when trying to land a job interview.
The class runs for the month of May- four weeks jam packed with information. There will be interviews with magazine editors, freelance writers, authors and book editors (including my editor at Roost, and Melanie Falick, who is responsible for bringing into being some of the most beloved craft books in existence!). It’s going to be incredible, and I’d love to have you join me.
Week by Week we’ll be covering the following topics:
Week One: Introduction to Magazine Writing
Week Two: Diving into the Query Letter
Week Three: Editing and Refining Query Letters
Week Four: Editor Etiquette, Books, Agents and more
Finally, I’d love to share some of the feedback I received from my first class of students:
“Before the course began, I had a dream, a journal and a folder full of ideas, but no clue as to how to implement any of it. Pitch Perfect gave me the tools to turn my dream into a reality! For those contemplating being a part of spring’s Pitch Perfect, wherever your writing dreams fall, I can guarantee you will gain so much from this course. In years to come I will look back upon my experience with Christine and my fellow classmates as being the catalyst for turning my dream into reality.” – Xan Holyoak
“With the confidence and knowledge I gained from Pitch Perfect, I pitched to Minnesota Parent Magazine, my ideas were well received and several feature articles were published. Since that additional contact I have continued to write for this publication and I recently was offered a position to write a column!” – Megan Devine
“What a fantastic experience! I can’t believe how quickly these 4 weeks rolled by. I feel like I’ve finally taken solid steps towards a “real” writing career. Thank you Christine! You are a natural at teaching. If you offer future courses, I’m in!” – Indiana Lori
“Christine, I appreciated how well organized this workshop was. Your message and ideas were so focused, and clearly communicated. You are an encouraging teacher, and inspiring mentor.” – Anita
“The information in this class was fantastic, while the assignments forced me to do the homework of looking up submission guidelines and writing an actual query letter (which I submitted!). I feel EQUIPPED as a result of this class. Thank you, Christine! You are a brilliant teacher. I would jump at the chance to take another class with you.” – Jennifer
Winter saps me of my creative drive. Every single winter I start to worry that I’ve lost my mojo…I swear it. And then spring comes around in all her glory and I can’t stop babbling on about the blossoms and the beauty as I reenter the world with my camera in hand. I suppose winter would be different if I were out everyday experiencing its cool, serene beauty. But in reality, I am pretty much locked in the house with the two boys wondering which one of us will make it out alive come spring. It’s like a (much less entertaining) cross between Survivor and Gladiator around here. I keep coming here hoping to find words but end up snapping my computer shut and retreating to bed to read. On that note, I have loads of great reading recommendations to share (and not much else!). I hope you too are in the mood to curl up with a good read, because there are some amazing titles here…
Everything I Never Told You : This is a hauntingly beautiful book, written in fast, sharp prose. It’s an intimate peek into a family that is falling apart at the seams, and when the eldest daughter turns up dead, the pressure and secrets start to spill over. This is not a fast paced murder mystery, rather a careful look at the ways in which a mother and father can allow their own histories to weigh down their children beyond saving.
Us: A Novel: Equally heartbreaking and hysterical this novel explores a marriage that is crumbling at its seams. The husband narrates the story, and he is such a rich and wonderful character, full of hilarious insights and quirks. Along with his wife and son, he is taking a family holiday in Europe with the hope of saving his marriage along the way. Like I said; hilarious and heartbreaking.
Still Life With Bread Crumbs: When a famous photographer finds herself broke and divorced, she decides to rent out her expensive NYC apartment and flee for the (cheaper) countryside. She rents a dilapidated cabin in a small town filled with nosy neighbors and spotty cell service. On her own for the first time in decades, she is forced to rediscover what really makes her tic. A fabulous, warming read.
The Secret Place: I have loved almost everything Tana French has written. Her writing is fast-paced and casual, like you’d expect out of a bunch of hardened Dublin Murder Squad detectives. When a boy is found murdered on the grounds of an exclusive all-girls boarding school, the squad comes out in force to find his killer. They come up empty handed. A year passes and a new clue brings a pair of detectives back to the scene of the crime where they begin piecing together what went down. Tana French does a great job depicting the highly emotional world of teenage girls- the characters and dialogue are spot on.
The Girl on the Train: This book is everywhere right now. It has been popping up on every bestseller list around. I liked it and I sped right through it, but it wasn’t a read that will stay with me. The main character is so utterly depressing that I had a hard time warming up to the book, to be honest. But it was a nice whodunnit- a fast and entertaining read.
My Sunshine Away: I found this book via the Indie Next List, which almost never steers me wrong. Again, I liked it and I sped right through it, but there were a few things that bothered me about the book. The story focuses around the narrator, a teenage boy who is so lovestruck by his neighbor that he can think of little else. Seriously. His whole obsession seemed a bit too much, and it eventually led me to tire of the plot a bit. There were elements of this book that I enjoyed, but it wasn’t at the top of this here list.
Fire Shot Up My Bones: I’ve had this on my radar for a while as I usually love memoirs. And I loved the beginning of this one, the parts that focused on Charles’ childhood in rural Louisiana. However once he started in on his college years, and the ridiculousness of his fraternity, he totally lost me. I had a hard time finishing the book because I lost interest in his life story. The whole fraternity, drink-til-you-puke, haze your brothers into submission, thing is so not entertaining, which is a shame, because he is a great writer.
Station Eleven: This is one of those apocalyptic books that I always walk right past at the bookstore. I’ve watched a few episodes of The Walking Dead and read The Road and that’s enough of that. But this book feels different- it follows the lives of its characters both before and after the “Georgian Flu” wipes out 99% of the Earth’s population. It caught me completely by surprise but I ended up loving this book wholeheartedly. I read it in a single (very late) night.
If you were headed to the beach and had a weekend of lounging and reading stretched out before you and I had to recommend my top four picks, I would go with Station Eleven, Us: A Novel, The Secret Place and Everything I Never Told You. If you were stuck inside during the Snowpocalypse I would recommend the same! ;) I hope you’ll share what your reading!
Wishing you so much love and laughter this weekend. Whether you celebrate with candy and cards, or in a more quiet fashion, I hope you have a lovely Valentine’s Day. I feel incredibly blessed to have these boys in my life, all three of them! They shower me with love on the daily. I’m a lucky girl. xo
I taught our babysitter, Liz, how to knit this summer and she took off with it like a shot. She’s already knitting cables. Seriously she blows me away! She completed four gorgeous, chunky, cable hats for her two brothers and two roommates for Christmas. Now she’s itching to start a baby project- a tiny sweater so that she can learn about knitted garment construction. As we were scrolling through Ravelry she mentioned how overwhelming it is to choose a pattern. I couldn’t agree more. In fact, it is something I still struggle with every time I choose a new project. But I am getting better, and I tried to share with her the top three tips I’ve learned when choosing a pattern. This really applies to knitting for yourself, but I suppose you could apply it to projects for your kids, or gifted projects:
1. Will it fit my style? This is huge. I made a really cute, open cardigan last year and I have never worn it. I don’t wear cardigans, especially those that don’t button or zip. No matter how cute the color or gorgeous the yarn, I’m not going to wear it. So I can cross cardigans off my list. I dress like a tomboy, as I’m sure I’ve said before. Jeans, tees, anything that is comfortable and easy to wear. In terms of sweaters that means simple pullovers.
2. What do I really need? Maybe this is the minimalist in me talking, but I don’t need 20 pullovers to get me through the winter. At the most I need 2-3. So before casting on another pullover, I’ll take a good look at my wardrobe and see if I really have a need for another (though I am eying this at the moment). Same goes for hats, shawls, cowls, and fingerless gloves. Wait, then what should I knit? See some of the helpful comments and suggestions in this post. Luckily, I have some pregnant friends, so I’ve got enough baby knitting to keep me happy for the moment being. After that, I’m starting to think about socks. I’ve never knit a sock and Lord knows I could use a few new pairs. And little ole’ Vijay has come around and started asking for a sweater. After his refusal to wear the last masterpiece I knit for him, I don’t know if I can trust him, but we’ll see :) In all fairness, I’m beginning to think that he has a slight sensory issue as he insists on only wearing “soft” clothes. He’s never even worn jeans, so sweaters might just be too itchy for him. Either that or he’s just a really stubborn little bugger. But I digress…
3. Will it look good on my body type? Take a look at your closet. You probably have a good idea of what looks nice on your body type. Do you like loose, flow-y clothes? Do you like fitted, structured clothes? Make sure the knit project that you have your eye on will look good on you (and don’t be fooled by the pretty gal modeling the sweater in the press shots!).
This sweater, Kynance Cove, perfectly illustrates a well-chosen pattern. I finished it up last week and wore it all weekend. I started this sweater back in October, though I purchased the yarn in Northern Michigan this past summer. It feels as though I’ve been knitting it forever, and it didn’t help that once I was finished it felt like there were 2 million ends to be sewed in. I would seriously clean your entire house top to bottom if while I was cleaning you’d be willing to sew in my ends for me- it’s my least favorite part of knitting. Anyway, this sweater… I love it. It’s comfortable, has clean-lines, fits just the way I like and is easy to wear. It still can’t compare to my Antler. *Sigh* My knitting career peaked too early with that beauty! But I’m still chasing that high.
A few of my favorite knitting blogs often talk about this very subject and they offer a wealth of knowledge way beyond my scattered thoughts, so I suggest you take a read: The Craft Sessions and Fringe Association. Also I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject, and perhaps you’d like to share a few of your favorite patterns.
As I’m writing I’m looking out my window at a 4-foot snow bank. The plows came through again last night and added even more snow onto the mound. I feel as though I might have to dig some kind of elaborate tunnel system just to get out the door. Quite a change from a few days ago when we were swimming in the turquoise water pictured above (pictures here taken at The Baths on Virgin Gorda, a daytrip from Tortola). But in all honesty it feels great to be home. The first night in my own bed I was practically giddy. The sheets felt extra soft, and my old-timer Tempur-Pedic pillow felt amazing! Getting home, well that was a different story. My husband had to stay in the islands for another week, so the boys and I were on our own. Three flights, two delays, a computer left at airport security, two lost bags and 14 hours later, we dragged our sorry bones into our house and collapsed. Never again will I take on a trip of that magnitude by myself. Lesson learned. And it wasn’t that the boys were difficult- they were actually incredible- it was just the sheer physicality of it. At one point I had three bags slung over my shoulders, and a sleeping boy in each arm. I totaled up the approximate weight and realized I was carrying about 100+ pounds through the airport- running no less- to catch a flight. But we made it, we’re home. I’ve been cooking and cleaning, knitting and sewing. Basically, I’m nesting…that’s how happy I am to be home. I talked about struggling to feel at home in Providence earlier this year so I can’t tell you how amazing it was to arrive home and feel overwhelming gratitude for our bright, cheerful house, our supportive preschool community, our incredible friends (who made sure I came home to a homemade dinner), and our wonderful, snow-covered town. I’ll be back here next week with a few exciting posts- including my recently finished epic sweater project! Until then, enjoy your weekend, whether it brings you sunshine or snow.
Normally when you go on vacation you stay for a week or two, at the most. Rarely do you get three whole weeks to sink into island mode. It’s amazing what can happen when you strip away all the distractions of normal life- no internet, no cell service, no meetings, errands, or appointments, minimal belongings to attend to (we packed so light and have been staying in a one room cottage). Just days spent at the beach, being active and exploring. Before we left home I turned in a few big projects, which freed me up to not have to work while we traveled. I knew I would have no time- I’m with the kids from the moment they wake up to the moment I put them to bed- and since we’re all sharing a room, I go to bed when they do. That’s the funny thing about tropical island time with kids- it is far from relaxing. But it is amazingly invigorating.
Our daily routine is simple, but very active, and the boys are sun-drenched and exhausted at the end of each day- to see them so healthy and active is amazing. In the midst of our time on Tortola, we also had the chance to visit Virgin Gorda with my mom, who came to see us for a week. That was beyond fabulous. Beyond. And the size of the hermit crabs there….well it pretty much blew our minds!
But here’s what I’ve realized after two weeks on the island- down time makes me a bit squirmy. I’m wired to be “productive.” Always working on some project, always juggling things at home and work, always multitasking. All in all our time here has opened my eyes to what life might look like when the busyness is striped away. I’m not sure I could stay at this pace forever (I mean, one can only ‘hang out’ for so long before losing one’s mind!) but it has been a wonderful and welcomed change. I’m hoping to bring back a bit of the island attitude when we return home in a week or so. I’m hoping I can remember to put down my making/ doing and simply be with my family, without allowing my mind to wander to my to-do list or the unfolded laundry. I have never wanted a busy life, or a life that the outside world might define as high-powered or important. I want to live a life of beauty, purpose, faith and love. It’s nice to step away and be reminded of what’s really important, even if you knew it all along.