Friday, August 22, 2014

Lavender Sachets Smell Like Summer

While William works on sewing his waistcoat, I've been playing with fabric scraps, and dabbling in small projects to share with Maria. I settled on an idea that brought several crafts and projects into one activity. I cut small muslin panels... 2.5" x 4", so we could sew sachets. Then I found the two stamps that Maria and I learned to make at Maker Faire.

Maria's is a flower, and mine a... can you guess? Yeah, a chicken!

We stamped our muslin pieces. We're talking home-grown and folksy, here.

This is the part that got Maria really excited, because we were using our own stamps, and now we were collecting the lavender from our very own garden, and we tried to remember the first time we dried lavender. It was two summers ago, when we started our CandleLight tradition! So, now our own garden, and our own preserving, were helping us to do a new activity. All of our earlier efforts were coming together to make sachets all our very own.

The lavender smells lovely, warm, soothing, like a summer afternoon.

Maria filled the small pouches, and we thought how ideal it was that our black ink pad had faded to a lovely lavender shade.

And just to make the circle complete... leftovers went to our compost aids, the goats! The goats are regular contributors to enrich our garden soil.

Ada and Tasha love dried herbs. We brought them pine needles, and dried leaves, too. We call it trail-mix. Those two are so funny. Any leftover herbs, like Rosemary and lavender can also go in the nest boxes, where they help ward off pests, and give the hens a lovely fragrance to nestle in.

Besides sachets, Maria and I have been making other things with fabric scraps, like the snack bags we use around here all the time. Those are not just handy, but easy to make. And they are a fun way to make use of small and pretty bits of leftover fabric. We have a vision... we are working up to hosting a craft~lemonade~bakery sale to benefit the Little Free Library. The Library is doing very well, our neighbors are terrific contributors, the pups love the water dish, and enjoy the biscuits we leave out. Only one thing is missing... a reading bench! Since some families cannot wait to read their books, we think it would be great to have a sturdy and comfortable spot, beneath the pines, where a person could enjoy reading a chapter, or two. Our sale would be fun, and perhaps interactive, and all the proceeds would go toward the purchase of an outdoor bench. {Only "one thing missing?" Well, actually, I have more plans in mind, so maybe if our little sale makes big sales, we can see about a deck and shade, too. It never hurts to dream, right?}

{this moment}

A single photo, capturing a moment from the week.
A special moment. A moment I want to remember.

:: Inspired by Soule Mama ::

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments, for all to find and see.

The egg bread loaves William baked for Movie Night... and thinking of all the friends who broke bread with us.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Garden Journal

This garden update is about luck, more than green thumbs, or diligence and management. Pure, dumb luck. My last garden update was a painful confession of all things neglected, stuff gone wrong. I lamented the slow progress of the tomatoes, and the return of our garden nemesis, the Harlequin Beetle. Then we took off on an epic road trip and camping adventure and left the garden to fate and drip irrigation, which is a lovely option when gardening is a hobby, and not our main source of provisions, our winter larder. Thank God our garden is not our main source of provisions!

Some of you may follow SouleMama and her weekly garden updates. They are a family gardening and farming in earnest. They are counting on their crops, and preparing for real winter. Amanda's garden posts are gorgeous displays of bounty, lush fruitfulness, heaping harvests. They're canning, roasting, preserving, freezing, and feasting out there, in Maine. Readers are invited to share their garden updates, and this morning... I couldn't do it. I thought it better to spare anyone pictures of things withered on vines, and languishing in our droughty soil. This isn't a pity party, because I know there is a lot I could do to boost our ratings, improve our topsoil, and increase the yields. I've just been in another mind space this summer, I suppose. It's not so bad turning away from my garden and admiring all the other gardens, enjoying the amazing local resources, without busting my turf to be just as successful. But despite my mild indifference, and paying attention to other activities, and demands, our garden is still being generous...

I only have to look past the fading parts, the overgrown bits, the weeds etc... and lo! We have tomatoes. We have figs. The Fuji apple tree is full, the lemon tree, too. Our first pomegranates are still on the tree, looking promising. Our onions are curing in the barn, and those are tasty! Check out the gourds, and more on the way. We even managed to collect a few pumpkins, and we ate a peach from our new tree. I can find chives, thyme, rosemary, and lavender... anytime of the year! And our Feijoa, those pineapple guavas we planted? If we don't learn to make and can jam from those, it will be a travesty. We'll share them, for sure. We are looking at a Feijoa treasure trove! Lucky, right? I shouldn't dismiss what we have, just because I feel like I haven't done enough for the garden, this year. I shouldn't call it a disaster.

I should collect those tomatoes, and figs, add more lemons to the Free Little Library attic, and cut some Lavender for my nightstand. And I should be very grateful that this winter Southern California farmers and local gardeners will keep us well-fed. How is your garden faring? Do you enjoy summer rain showers and flower beds, had your fill of zucchini, yet, are you growing herbs at your windowsill?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Wonderful Albany Carousel and Workshop

There were a lot of sights and activities that we looked forward to on the Oregon Trail, but there was one place, one experience that we did not anticipate... and it was easily a great highlight of our entire adventure. I'm talking about visiting the Historic Carousel & Museum in Albany, Oregon. Ron and Delia took us to downtown Albany after dinner, and we walked to the Willamette River along the Dave Clark Trail, to Monteith Riverpark, up and down First Avenue and Second Avenue. All the shops were closed, so was the Carousel Museum, but we pressed our noses against the windows, peering into a maker-artist wonderland! Across the street, at Sybaris Bistro, Janel and her daughters were busy putting things in order, but invited us in to meet Hope, one of the carousel figures, on display in the restaurant. All over downtown there are hints and glimpses, and thoughtful supporters of this amazing project. This meeting absolutely confirmed our plans for Monday: We had to visit the museum, see all of the Carousel figures, get as close as possible to the tools, illustrations, works in progress, and meet the people in the workshop!

All of the details, the history of the project, the plans, hopes, and accomplishments are explained on their website. Basically, they are ten years into a fifteen year project to build an historically inspired carousel, with 52 unique and original hand carved and painted animals. Their vision statement: "To enchant young and old alike with the finest carousel in the world, promote the artistry of carousel building by sharing our skills and talents, and build community by opening our venue to events and activities”. Awesome! This is being accomplished with an all volunteer craftsman, woodcarving, painting, and artist team, and donations. And when we walked inside, met the people and saw their work, we were definitely enchanted.

No two animals are alike. In fact there are sixty-six total animals... fifty-two of them will be in use, with six alternates for days when a figure is getting repaired, or maintained, as well as five more animals for holiday and seasonal themes. A black cat for Halloween! Our Chango approves. And to my delight, how about a Christmas Rooster? He looks amazing! In addition to these there will be two chariots. Following the link to the Animals page will show you a list of all the creations, with illustrations, and details about their inspiration. Each concept is a heartfelt and creative masterpiece... some completed, some in progress, each awe-inspiring.

Harriette! What a darling. This picture show's the romance side of Harriette, this is the more elaborate and detailed face that will be seen when facing the carousel from outside. I love this word and meaning, and when lead painter Gwenn Marchese explained it to me it was an aha! moment for me as I realized that of course a carousel figure might be more interesting on the showing side, where the carvers' and painters' work would enjoy more attention! Harriette the frog is spectacularly whimsical all the way around, and it's fun to read about the meanings and significance of each detail.

Soon this entire workshop, plus the carousel itself, will be in a specially designed and constructed building. Until then, you can visit the Museum and studio, free of charge, and there is a gift shop, too. In the front we saw the animal figures waiting to be painted. Each figure will be stipple painted in at least eight coats of oil paint. This means no brush strokes! It also means a lot of time for drying is necessary between coats of paint. The finish is glossy, smooth, and the colors are rich, and vibrant.

To protect the paint, and to prepare the animals for all those happy riders, each figure will be finished with 3 layers of automotive clear coat. This carousel is a working art piece, and letting people enjoy their ride will be as important as protecting the artistry of the animals. In the paint studio it was important for us to stay behind the barrier, for the pieces to not get touched. That's understandable considering how vulnerable wet oil paints, and drying figures are. We admired the works in progress from a safe distance, then stepped into the wood carving studio!

Here we met woodcarvers, men and women who chip by chip are taking roughed out forms and cutting out the details and features that will turn basswood into a bear, a quail, horses, and chariots. David showed William basic carving techniques, and talked about the forgiveness of working with wood... it's not impossible to fix an error and make adjustments to the plan. In fact some mistakes can turn into something quite lovely. David's wife, Linda, is a painter, but she's been branching out and taking on some carving jobs, too. I love how they've carved grapevines and the basket into the saddle on Martha's back.

Here is a mustang, and you can see the artist's rendering hanging on the wall.

Here's Lady Sophia, with her cat and mouse traveling companions.

The concept art is charming, and so pretty. I love all the details, and personal touches, like the gnome at the back of the reindeer's saddle, and bespectacled Grizzly Berry's optometry basket.

Inspired by a family cow, in Switzerland... I just adore Sally, the darling Brown Swiss cow.

And it's fascinating to see the animal come to life, to see the inspiration on the wall begin to take shape in the wood.

Every stage of development in this project is compelling, and a treat to observe. The finished pieces, like Daisy the elephant, are even more impressive and awe inspiring once you can appreciate all the steps and phases that brought her to life. The new Carousel home will be more than a beautiful attraction and ride; it will be a place to witness the living history of carousels, a working studio where craftsmanship and art can continue to be taught and passed on for new generations.

Hello, Sampson!

I want to return. For sure when the Carousel is operational, and we can see all the animals in their fullest splendor, but I would enjoy another visit, when everything is still coming along, when things are being put together, and people are figuring things out. This isn't a kit, the parts aren't waiting in a warehouse, there are fewer and fewer experts who can provide all the answers. They still need donors, sponsors, supporters, even just people who care about uniquely compelling projects. Challenges. Wonderful challenges... the kind that bring talented people together, and rally communities. I love those kinds of opportunities. I love the tools laid out for use, and people in a circle, thinking and tinkering, and making.

And I deeply admire anyone who wants to make something, who is willing to see what can come of holding a new tool, finding some material, asking questions, and diving in. Every contribution matters. Every part will make a whole, and I think the pleasure of partaking must be gratifying and good.

This is the romance side of The Guardian. {Oh, and also Harriette's adorable backside!} The Guardian is a Hippocampus, a mythological animal. Someone imagined a creature, half fish, half horse. Someone made sketches, and drew lines, developed a saddle concept. Wood carvers pulled The Guardian out of the wood, and painters shaded forms, colored fish and seaweed, and a mermaid's smile. Engineers will come in and add this piece, and all the others, to the fully restored 1909 Carousel mechanism. My favorite places are where art and engineering meet. A carousel is a wonder of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Music, Math... and imagination.

Even if you cannot visit in person, please visit the Albany Historic Carousel and Museum website.
You can also Like them on FaceBook. I am sure those volunteers would love to hear our oohs and ahhs!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Five Good Things

Next time let me be a stag beetle,
lumbering with dignity
under my great horns, encased
in a carapace to balance
the weapons I can't fight with
but can't put down.

~Cecelia Hagen
The alley marquee, near the river walk, Corvallis, Oregon.

We went through Corvallis, between our stay in Albany and our return to the coast, but it was a whirlwind visit. More like a stretch your legs-find a bathroom-grab a cookie-fuel up the car-stop. Corvallis is worthy of a more studied and leisurely visit than this! This is the town where Ron and Delia visit often, to enjoy sights, and for Ron to do his his research and dragonfly work at the University. This is where they brought Alex for Da Vinci Days, for the Mud Bog, and the River Race. I've been keen to visit for years, even before my mom sent us her photographs of the greatest statue ever. And now that I've had a small taste of Corvallis, I am more certain than ever that I will be back. And not just because I found a my favorite franchise bakery: Great Harvest! Seems, I can choose between two great cities... Minneapolis, and Corvallis, when I am hungry for delicious bakery fare. If we return in winter, even late spring, there's a chance we'll be in snow. I actually like this possibility.

Good Things...

1. No bumps or delays... Maria and Alex are back to school, prepared, willing, ready.

2. Google, the Internet, wifi, computers, Wikipedia... I didn't have to limit myself to wondering who's Cecelia Hagen? I found her, and information about her, in just moments.

3. Art, poetry, food, beauty, inspiration, and time to enjoy the unexpected, in new, and usual, places.

4. The laundromat. Quarters. And a dirty laundry, wash, spin, dry, fold partner.

5. Watching The Lego Movie on our big screen, with friends, sharing the laughs, and delighting in all those great they get it moments! Well done, Lego. Well done.