Friday, May 29, 2009

Flossing Every Day

Embroidery floss that is... I should remind myself to play with some every day. I love the seemingly limitless color options and all the possibilities of scenes and images waiting to be stitched to life. As far back as grade school I have liked to pull a needle with thread or yarn. And whenever I go to Alicia Paulson's blog or open her book, "Stitched In Time," I am reminded of lovely and creative pastimes I could be enjoying. "Posie Gets Cozy" has many posts dedicated to embroidery and look for her free embroidery patterns... whimsical images for dishtowels.

Usually I sketch my own images to embroider, but sometimes I find one that I cannot pass up. I could not resist printing the patterns offered at "Turkey Feathers..." you never know what you'll find when you click on the button "Sweet Surprises." This is another wonderful blog for endless inspiration, in the garden, in the kitchen, with needle and thread. This is another blogger that has published a book! Vicki Haninger's "Blanket Statement" is a personal narrative, as well as a guide for sewing with wool felt and making the most of a thrifted treasure.

I wish there were more opportunities to make all the things I am inspired to make. I think it's a matter of habits... trading bad habits for fun ones. Less time channel surfing = more time to sew. Of course sometimes I go to the other extreme, ignoring everything so I can finish stitching a cute bunny with an appliqued apron. I get obsessed! Vicki shared several animals in aprons to copy and embroider, and she gave instructions for using them to make a quilt. Maria chose the bunny when I asked her which I should make. When it was finished I knew I had to add it to something, but what?

Introducing Maria's Bunny Apron! I traced the front half of one of her dresses and made my own pattern for a two sided apron with pockets. It has a drawstring tie that slides from the waist, up around her neck and back down to the other side... does that make sense? Well, however badly I describe it, the method works.

Sometimes aprons get dirty and wash day does not always come around soon enough, so we have a solution for that: Flip!

A different pocket, just for fun. Room to collect things.

Maria likes her aprons. She wears them for doing art and eating yogurt. She wears them in the garden and to the farmer's market. I think this could be a fun one to bring on our trip... she can have two looks for one when we "pack lightly."

Don't worry... I wouldn't do it, but looking at this picture I cannot help but imagine Betty in a smart little apron. Grin.

My own design... inspired by what? I wonder. Grin.
It needs somewhere to go...

And do not miss this terrific chance to win your own apron from Missy of Spring Bean Things!
I Think You Should Know

"Spring Bean Things" is having a wonderful apron giveaway! Missy is a seamstress and a generous blogger, and if you leave a comment mentioning the word "apron" in her giveaway post, then you may attain super-powers! Okay. The super-powers are not guaranteed, but you really could win a beautifully made, custom ordered apron, and if you are lucky, like me, your new apron may inspire sweet heroic skills.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

She Loves To Dance

Maria loves to dance. She's got moves and when she hears music she's up and swaying or tapping or twirling. If there is no music, she can make her own. She's at this wonderful time in her life when she has little or no inhibitions. Expression is her paintbrush and she makes the whole world her canvas, and for paint... everything around her... flowers, yarn, cookie cutters, scarves and hats, seashells, trinkets... she thinks all things beautiful are worthy of notice and exclamation and she loves to add them to her collage.

She loves her dance class. She loves her tap shoes and her pink bag that she uses to carry her ballet slippers. She loves to demonstrate new steps she's learned. She knows where dance class is and when it is time to go to dance class and she reminds me "we cannot be late, because I don't want to miss any of it, because I love my dance class."

Now that she is four years old, parents wait outside the studio, otherwise some of the girls get distracted. I thought this might be hard for Maria, but it's never been a problem... not for her. She goes in and never looks back. She dances for a full hour.

Half way through the hour she takes her slippers from her bag and puts them on by herself. She puts her tap shoes in the pink princess bag I made for her birthday party. It's her beanerina bag now.

Some of the moms sit in the front room to watch the children dance on a closed circuit monitor. We can hear their shoes... click-tapping away. Two weeks ago we laughed-sighed-laughed, because all the dancing girls were actually tapping in rhythm, at the same time!

I'm glad I never leave to run errands, for a coffee or pedicure, because yesterday Maria fell.

I heard the crying and was already crossing the small room when the door opened and the teacher was asking for "Maria's mommy." That's me, Maria's mommy, and this time she did need me. If I didn't know that any mouth injury will bleed a lot, I would have been a wreck. It took a tissue and a quick peek to see that her top lip was split from hitting her teeth, which I assume happened when she hit the floor. She was having a good cry about it and I could see it hurt. Class was nearly through and I knew this called for ice, so I picked her up, but between sobs and with blood and tears mingling she said most insistently, "I want to dance. I have to dance." She was already moving for the door. Other moms gasped audibly..."She really loves dance class," I heard them say proudly. Even I was realizing just how much she really loves dance class. She went back in, tried one somersault and cried even harder, because she could not stop crying long enough to do it right.

I scooped her up and took her home. She cried all the way... in the way that told me she was really hurting. She asked if her lip was broken. She asked when it would stop hurting. At the stoplight, I looked back to see her lip swollen like a grape. I worried about her teeth and debated stopping at the peds. At home I plucked an ice cube from the freezer (that's right... I keep ice cubes in the freezer lol) She applied the cold remedy to her lip, and asked if this would make it all better. I said yes, and then she sat up and said, "Okay then, let's get back there."

I am still not sure what hurt her more... the split lip or missing the last five minutes of beanerina class. And really, at this point, she is fully recovered, but I am still a bit traumatized. Typical.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Lost and Found Betty

Every story has a beginning, and this story begins with a chick named Lady Betty Orpington. She came to live at Garage Mahal when she was only a few days old. In less than a few days she became everyone's sweetheart, a small and docile girl with a disposition as sunny as her feathers. And easy to catch. Being easy to catch makes any hen a favorite.

Sweet little Betty. And we remember Lola and Pip and Amelia... each with their own chica tale.

Fun little Betty.

Regal Betty.

Betty even became a feature model in Calamity Kim's original art pieces and a lovely apron.

We were so sad as we slowly realized that Betty's best friend, Amelia, was actually a hombre.

Oh dear.
What are these?
Fantam the Bantam and Buttercup, aka Frida. We brought them home to fill the void left by Lola's death, and Pip and Amelia's parting to Rooster Ranch.
What a pair of freaky fowl.
What was I thinking?

I could have left well enough alone. We could have let Betty reign supreme, queen of her coop. But I thought she would be lonesome. I thought she would crave the company of feathered sisters.

Fast forward. We are living in this very unranchy rental home, with too small a yard for farming and livestock. The three hens are large and energetic. They like to get out and roam, scratch, peck, hunt, forage, dig, excavate, vocalize. They make their presence known, believe me. I have been troubleshooting and patiently, hopefully managing, keeping things under control until we can get in to our own place... a dream home where nothing too difficult ever happens.

The latest antics has been full blown cock hen-fighting in the coop and even out in the yard. It's become so brazen that I have finally witnessed the main event: Frida and Fantam tag team wrestling against Lady Betty Orpington. It's way more than establishing a pecking order. It's ugly. It's mean and unlady-like. And I think it's why we could not find Betty last Saturday. We looked for hours. We walked the neighborhood, calling her name. We shook the scratch can. We eyed the cats suspiciously and searched the sky for fat hawks.

I cried. I know stuff happens to chickens. I know a farmer has to come to terms with these sort of things, but I cried anyway. I had spent the entire day working on the yard, reseeding the lawn and clearing out junk... coping with our Garage Mahal Rental fate and it was very defeating to think I had lost our best chica.

Maria found Betty.

Maria and Betty are likes peas in a pod. Sort of. Maria is very good at catching hold of Betty. Betty has been hiding, when she can, from those dear feathered sisters of hers.

Oh look out!
Here comes Frida now!
She's mean.
She pecks.
She chases me, going for my ankles.
I tell her "I'm going to park your booty in a KFC bucket!" but she don't care.

And here is Fantam, hogging the nest. She doesn't peck me or chase me, but she is not sharing the nest for anything and she is the most aggressive in the all chica wrestling showdowns. She pulls Betty's feathers, jumps on her and chases her. I figured all of this selfish and mean behavior accounted for the low egg count. I figured wrong.

Maria could not tell us where she found Betty, but yesterday I found a clue. Up on the wall, where the blackberries and tropical plants grow, I saw a lovely egg. Obvious... of course Betty is still laying. She's laying and hiding... herself and her cache.

Another clue, and...


Hello Betty.
All clear?
No sisters around?
Yes, I locked them up, so you can relax.

Who let you out?
Back you freaky fowl!

Hey Frida! Come here. I wanna show you something. How would you like to live with April at Coal Creek Farm?

Yeah. I thought that would get your attention.

Don't worry Betty. We'll figure something out.
Tuesday is the New Monday

I should have posted yesterday or Saturday. I should of posted when I was full of 3-day weekend joy, when I was full of anticipation for what might be possible. But now it's Monday Tuesday morning and I am full of panic and the vaguely uneasy feeling that I wasted precious time and now everything is due and I have too much to do.

Who ate all the bread?! Sorry. That's how the mind works. It's just typical Monday Tuesday morning grappling with reality. The reality that I did not restock the larder, so we have nothing to pack for school lunches. The reality that my skinny pants don't work any more and that once again I have forgotten my earnest vow to diet and exercise like an anorexic supermodel. The reality that Operation Chickens Abroad commences pretty darned soon and we still need to book four different nights in hotels. The reality that my dear, well informed brother confirms that they do drive really fast on the Autobahn. The reality that there is still always too much to do and not enough aprons to do it! It's no wonder the skinny pants don't fit, all this reality makes me eat like a chicken... pecking at whatever is in front of me.

It was a good weekend. We did accomplish quite a bit, and Geoff even spent some of the time at home. The children had a friend over, and we found Betty. What? You didn't know Betty was missing? That's a whole other post. I stashed my stash... that's fabric for you non-quilter-crafter types. The children and I spent a little time with Hans and Gretchen; very pleasant. Last night when I was trying to figure out something, Maria said "You should ask aunt Gretchen, because she knows about everything... like polishing nails and making soap and making her house clean. Everything." You should have heard the awe and wonder in her voice. She loves her totally capable aunt Gretchen.

Speaking of capable, I reseeded the whole backyard. Notice my use of the word "whole," which is an emphasis on the great square footage of my endeavor, which means for the purposes of this story I want you to forget that I usually emphasize the smallness of our yard. lol So, yes, I raked, and raked and raked and then I spread amended soil and then I spread seeds and raked again and I have been watering too. In So Cal this is normally Manuel labor, but this particular chore I have taken on myself. Hopefully we can have a full head of green before the landlord asks where the first lawn went. It's never been a pretty, healthy, field of turf, but it did exist, until three chicas came to town.

We wrapped the weekend up with a welcome tradition... an invitation to a cook-out. Our social calendar could fit on a post it, but sometimes we get out and have a very good time. The children cheered and bounced and rejoiced when they heard that we were spending the afternoon with Tutu and Nick and Izzy and Rich and Holly. w00ts!

I do appreciate Memorial day and not just because it makes the weekend longer. I pause and reflect on the courage it takes to serve, to leave the comfort of home and normal sorts of things like commuting and pulling weeds, kicking back with friends. I like to include not just military service, but volunteers in the Peace Corp or people making quilts for children in need. I admire people that make time to share their skills and hearts for the betterment of others. So, when I was raking and raking and raking, and this morning when I was panicking about the missing bread, I was also grateful to be confronted with such minor hassles, with the luxury of enjoying or enduring normal things, and I am aware that these freedoms and opportunities do not come free. Thank You.

And now I must boogie... there is too much to do!