Friday, December 31, 2010


We just can't get enough of Christmas this year.

The sun came out on Wednesday 12/29 so Anna, Sam and I got out for a neighborhood walk. Sun in December in Cleveland is as rare as hen's teeth. Just as we arrived back home, our guests pulled into the driveway.

With weather delays (and delays... and delays!) flying out of Maine, they finally took matters into their own hands, rented a car, and drove from Portland, ME to CLE, via I-95, I-84 and I-80. Having spent Tuesday night in central Pennsylvania, they made it to Cleveland just after lunch on Wednesday. We were glad to see them!

Sam took the opportunity to play while we waited for gift exchange number three.

First up: stockings. Maggie sports excellent technique for emptying hers.

Doug is enjoying the 2011 Claspy Photo calendar (a sure hit with grandparents) while Pam shows off a nice new set of Shaker boxes.

We've been eating, taking walks, eating, spa trip for the ladies, eating, museum visit, eating and catching up with each other.

Tonight we'll ring the old year out and the new year in. Pam and Doug fly back to Washington tomorrow afternoon, while Dorothy is L.A. bound on Monday.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas, part deux

Christmas number two for the household began on Monday morning. It was supposed to include the Grandma Pam, Grandpa Doug and Aunt Dorothy who were to arrive from Maine on Sunday night, but Mother Nature had other plans. After a nightmare of flight logistics (first flight out is not until FRIDAY?) they've found other means of travel and should arrive today. Just means there will be not one, not two, but THREE Christmases for us. No problem!

There were cookies as far as the eyes could see.

Sam FINALLY got to open some presents. He loved it so much he wanted to eat the wrapping paper.

Maggie loves being fashionable. Thank you to Aunt Jane and cousin Gabi.

It was all so much fun that Sammy was bathing in it!

Tuesday we had a day out. "Let's go bowling" for us means more than bowling. It is in fact code for "let's eat Indian food at Udupi, buy some groceries at the Indian grocery store, and then bowl." Sometimes we fit even more into this outing. We bowled at Bradnan's Recreation, a real throwback of a place (in the basement of a strip mall in Middleburg Heights) and one that is full of memories for me. This is where we usually bowled when I was a kid.

The rolling was good. Anna got a strike! YUSSSSS!

Maggie showed rare form while Sam looked on. He did NOT want to roll that pink ball.

Here are the kids showing off their Aunt Jane hats.

Stay tuned for Xmasx3!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Happy Christmas, part 1!

This is but part 1 of a Christmas post. We are extending the holiday in absolutely un-holy ways here in Cleveland. Daughters, parents and aunts arrive soon, so much of the celebrating (that is, present opening) will wait until we have critical mass. In the mean time, our core group of three have had a wonderful holiday so far.

I've enjoyed my annual read of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, something I've done for probably 30 years now. As we unpacked the box of Christmas books while we were decorating, my mother's copy of Delbert Lean's transcript of the version he would orate in Wooster every year (for over 50 years!) appeared. Lean was a professor of speech at Wooster for the first half of the last century. That was probably the first version I read as a young boy.

We also listened to Dylan Thomas reading A Child's Christmas in Wales, another tradition I've followed for years.

I'm also reading- for the first time- E.T.A. Hoffman's The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. It is wild and fantastic! I'm reading Maurice Sendak's illustrated translation.

Christmas Eve we spent distracting Sam from his newly-erupting tooth. One thing we did was to try out his backpack. We loaded him up and walked up to the library to return some books. Despite his look of slight unease at being loaded into the contraption, he seemed to be awfully comfortable once we started walking- enough so to fall asleep!

Christmas dinner was roast duck. I followed Julia's recipe and it was delicious. Accompanying was maple bacon Brussels sprouts and a wild rice medley. (Christmas brekkers was Svenska pannkakor, lunch was leftover homemade pizza from Xmas eve!)

The tree and presents are being guarded carefully (though the guard does nap from time to time.)

Today we visited the Cleveland Museum of Art. Sam and I have seen the Treasures of Heaven exhibit several times, but Kim hadn't. We wandered some of the galleries, then saw the new exhibit of illuminated manuscripts, "The Glory of the Painted Page", from the permanent collection- really super! This one we'll come back to.

Our traveling guests are pinned down by snow on the east coast, but we hope to see them sometime late tomorrow. Stay tuned for Christmas, part 2!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

'Tis the Season

With birthdays come and gone, we're starting to get into the holiday feeling. While Maggie was entertaining the shoppers at Bremecs with Christmas music last weekend, Kim and I picked out a small tree. With lots of baby paraphernalia and 8 people in the house this year, small is good. Today we put on some Christmas music and got the tree set up and decorated.

Earlier this week, we got a lovely gift in the mail from my sister- a bird food wreath. I hung it out back on a shepherd's crook, and it didn't take long for the wildlife to find it. Let's hope the birds get some!

Before any decorating could start, the men folk had to get out some barbaric YAWPs.

Sam enjoyed festooning the tree. Some old classics were hung with care (a glass ball, "Paul & Lois, 1957") and so many others. This skiing Santa went front and center.

Helping Mommy!

A cardinal keeping watch near the top of the tree.

We'll not set any records for size with this tree- it's not nearly 12 feet tall!-, but it sure is pretty and smells beautiful. And the rituals of choosing a tree, bringing it into the house, stringing the wires and hanging the ornaments somehow ties us together, from Paul and Lois in 1957 to Sam in 2010.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 13, 2010

From the Shop

Colder weather makes for more time for indoor projects, and as such, I'm back at work in the shop. I've not done much in the way of furniture building for more than a year, and am itching to get back at it. Construction and household projects are satisfying, but cabinetmaking is more so for me.

I've got three sets of plans up on the wall. First are two smaller projects: a pair of saw benches, and a long-overdue triple frame for three watercolors by my brother-in-law. Finally, a bigger project, a glass door book case.

This fall I've been building Shaker boxes. These are fun to make and can be done with small chunks of time. Their form and utility are wonderful. My friend Daniel was interested in learning how to make them, so we worked together. I've made two sets of sizes #0 through #5, which are all done but for finish.

A nested set, sizes #0 through #4, sans tops and bottoms.

Stacked #0 through #4, on top of a pair of bigger #5s.

Stack of pine (saw benches) and cherry (picture frame and bookcase) awaiting their fate.

"Don't make something unless it is both necessary and useful;
but if it is both necessary and useful,
don't hesitate to make it beautiful."

Sunday, December 12, 2010


The Thanksgiving to Christmas weeks are a whirlwind for us, perhaps moreso than for some, as we've got three birthdays to fit in between there. And all in one weekend!

We were so excited that Sammy decided to dance a jig:

Here are the birthday action shots.

Maggie got a nice new case for her violin.

Anna got cash money- in Euros!- from more than one generous gift giver. Tres bien!

Kim got help opening her gifts. We didn't have to worry about cleaning up ribbons and paper- Sam ate it for us.

Saturday was music day. Maggie had two performances, one with her orchestra at the Cleveland Institute of Music, the other at a local garden store, where she and her friend Oona played Christmas carol duets.

Here's a video of her performing with the orchestra:

And here are the two carol players:

It was a busy and fun weekend!

Friday, November 26, 2010


We gave thanks on a dreary, rainy day yesterday, but despite the weather the inside of the house was cheerful and steeped in the smells of cooking onions, sage, and garlic.

Squash, corn sticks, cranberry sauce and turkey brine was prepared on Wednesday. The rest we prepared on the day itself- mashed potatoes with butter and garlic; green beans; turkey gravy; giblet stuffing; and of course the bird itself.

We had a wide variety of squash to choose from. We ended up eating the Hubbard on our plates and the pumpkin in a pie.

Sam enjoyed his new Johnny jump up. He loves being able to "stand" and watch what is going on. And of course the jumping.

The family poses before digging in.

And afterwards, feeling full with delicious food and the warmth of family.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Making Wood Smaller

With rain in the forecast for the afternoon, I knocked off a little bit of painting before breakfast, and then after my second cup of coffee, headed outside to make big pieces of wood smaller. I've got two projects in my sights- a quick build of a pair of saw benches, and then a piece of furniture that should give me plenty to work on through the winter. It's a small bookcase with glass doors, out of cherry.

Making big wood smaller. The wood I am using started out looking like this:

Prunus Serotina (Black cherry)
(c) 2002 Steven J. Baskauf

I bought it milled from a man who lives just a mile or two from Louis Bromfield's Malabar Farm in central Ohio. This guy owns a small mill and saws lumber from trees on his own farm and those nearby.

I rough cut the pieces I will need and then fired up one of my few nods to modernity, a Dewalt surface planer. Most of the wood I use is either straight from the sawmill or sometimes rough planed, oversize. I spent about two hours planing up the pieces of wood to nearly-finish dimension. All finish work will be done by hand.

Here is the prodigious pile of shavings created by the Dewalt. This tool is used outside only!

And here is the resulting stack of lumber. It is now in my shop, where the moisture content will adjust from being outside in the garage to that of the house. I likely won't do much work between now and the holidays, but it's nice to know this beautiful cherry lumber is waiting for me in the shop.

This bookcase will be built along the lines of one built by Christian Becksvoort, which he detailed in an issue of Fine Woodworking magazine many years ago and which was reprinted in his book In the Shaker Style: Building Furniture Inspired by the Shaker Tradition (below).

Thursday, November 11, 2010


This photograph is of an uncle I never knew.

Arthur Ohman, my maternal grandmother's big brother, grew up the older son in a large family of Swedish immigrants in the cold northern reaches of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, along the shore of Lake Superior. He came in the middle of a pack of 8 siblings. Born in 1894, ten years before my grandmother, he was of age to register for service when the United States entered World War I in 1917. Though he did not die in the war, I thought today, the eleventh day of the eleventh month, would be a fitting time to honor him with a few remembrances of who he was.

Despite his service away from his small village home of Skanee, he returned there and remained there his whole life, and seemed satisfied to do so. He never spoke much about his service during the war- at least not to his young nieces. Perhaps not surprising, and also perhaps typical of his generation. But the result is, I don't know how he served. He could have been driving an ambulance in France or filing papers in Chicago. He could have been like Hemingway's Nick Adams, returning to Michigan to find something within himself.

He was a smart man, and good with figures. He became the manager of a bank in the nearby town of L'Anse. Somehow he managed to commute the 15 miles between home and L'Anse, even through the deep snows of winter.

He liked quiet pursuits. He was a fly fisherman, and owned a small cabin on the banks of the Huron River near his home. He preferred the quiet contemplation of trout fishing to his brother Walter's hunting. He also ran a sugar camp in the late winter. Drawing sap from the maple trees, he spent his spare time in February and March making syrup which he would share with friends and neighbors. This photo shows him fishing on the East Branch of the Huron River near his camp.

Uncle Art, as my mother and her cousins knew him, also enjoyed singing, and particularly liked humorous songs, many of them in Swedish, which he would sing to amuse the youngsters at holiday gatherings. He also recited poetry, and my mother's earliest memories of Robert Service's "The Shooting of Dan McGrew" were from her uncle.

We still have Harry & David boxes that Uncle Art sent for Christmas to my parents when they were first married. He was thoughtful like that, and had a quiet sense of humor.

This final photo was taken within a year of his death in 1960. He died while on a fishing trip in Canada, drowned in a canoeing accident which I think was brought on by a heart attack or aneurysm. My grandmother kept very few paper documents in her life, but among her collection is a small bundle of letters- condolences sent to her after her brother died, from people who knew Arthur Ohman.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Awesome Aunties

We had a visit from my sisters Jane and Ellen this weekend. Ellen was attending an education conference in town, so I encouraged Jane to come too. We had a great time visiting, although the weather was downright miserable. The first snow of the season came early and we ended up with a couple of sloppy inches of wet snow.

That didn't stop us from ice cream at Malley's, lunch at the Biermarkt, and plenty of time for them to spend with Sam. He didn't mind at all!

Sam and Jane, Sam sporting a new bib to catch the dribbles.

Sam and Ellen getting a workout.

Pumpkin pie! Grandma's recipe (prepared by me), Mom's crust (prepared by Jane). Yum!

Jasmine helped out too.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Sitting in Anticipation

Sam is in great anticipation of a visit from his Aunt Ellen and Aunt Jane this weekend. So he thought he would try to sit up straight.

So he tried...

And he tried...

And he tried again.

Until he finally got it.

YAY for aunties!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Trick or Treat!

Happy Halloween, one and all!

Sam's sew-tastic grandmother sent him a fantastic pumpkin costume for Halloween. Here is is, decked out for the big day. His matching cap was crocheted by Aunt Jane.

The fleece jumpsuit is going to come in handy now that it is getting colder. Even without the pumpkin life preserver, it'll be a toasty warm layer for outings in the stroller, bjorn, or backpack.

Black and orange? Might as well add some Tiger gear! Here his is with a Princeton cap.