Friday, April 17, 2015

{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 see.

Bambi, Alex, and Maria... lunchtime.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

En Plein Air

Not just painting outside, but sculpture, fiber arts, woodworking, bonsai, ikebana, too. The Art Festival was so much fun, so engaging, Maria and I went back the next day, with Bambi and Alex. The first day there was a contest called a Quick Draw, participants were found throughout the gardens, plying their crafts with paints, charcoals, silk, and pencil, and they had three hours to complete a work for judging. We were thrilled for Toni Williams receiving a blue ribbon, and the sale of her oil painting. We'd enjoyed such a friendly visit with her, while she discussed her work, and encouraged Maria in her own art. Having seen the changes she made, her thoughtful application of light and shadow to her painting, it made the finished work even more beautiful, familiar.

We found another kindred spirit in Jan Greenwald, a wood turner, and patient teacher. He also has a mischievous humor, which added to the fun of watching him work, and waiting for Maria's turn at finishing her ginkgo branch turned mushroom. Jan has a gift for giving each child all the time in the world to make their choices, and finish the lathed piece with markers... all complimentary, all with his amusing remarks. And when he's not turning tops and mushrooms on his lathe, he is making much bigger, more elaborate bowls, urns, and chalices from locally found wood. Each piece is so carefully, painstakingly finished, it feels like the smoothness of warm silk, timeworn wood, buttery, comforting.

In the gardens we saw spring, and growth, changes. It was nice to be back, nice to see friends, and make new ones, nice to walk for hours and feel reinvigorated for it. When we returned the next day, Alex and Maria came with their own art supplies... being creative en plein air is irresistible.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Sewing Makes Me Happy

This is a cheap flour cloth dish towel thing. Very big, but very thin. It's almost a waste to add so much time and effort to it, but I love cheap flour cloth dish towel things, and I love sewing. While Maria was was in her Java class, I passed the time by either adding rows to a thing I am crocheting, or embroidering dish towels. I try to stay in the habit of carrying a basket, or bag, keeping it well stocked with works in progress, and supplies, like threads, needles, floss, a hoop, a pencil, fabric, hooks, and yarn... all handy for the ten minutes or two hours when I don't have much else to do. My down time bag saves me... it occupies my hands and thoughts, it gives me purpose, it makes me happy. Strangely, sadly, I never feel like this is an adequate excuse or explanation for my pastimes. So much of what we learn to value or praise is meant to have a higher purpose, to have a net worth, or an ultimate significance, and I struggle to justify sitting in a corner pulling colored threads through cheap flour cloth.

When someone asks about the lilac yarn I am crocheting, I know it's not good to answer apologetically, "I don't know... it's a thing I started, and I'm not sure how much yarn I have, so I guess I'll know what it is when I run out... " and I probably add: "It's nothing." It's not good to be embarrassed, to feel desperate for a solid rationale for wanting to sew, for spending time doing something that has no deep meaning, or patron, that isn't going to a gallery, or Regretsy. I am not with Etsy. Heck, I haven't even mustered the confidence to believe I make Etsy-worthy stuff. I only know, I like to sew. I want to have fabric nearby, and too many shades of floss to choose from, and a new idea to try out, a sketch to stitch. And I want to not feel silly-goofy-apologetic about it.

Ah, cheese wiz, it's even silly to feel goofy about being silly... time to watch Adam Savage's Maker Faire address, the one when he implores us to make what we can't not make! He adds the Art in STEM: "Art is where it begins! Make what you want. It starts with what you want to have."

I want to put a bird on it. I want to have a little red work creation from my own hands, with my own design,

I want to build on picture books I've seen, stories I have imagined, and I want to make another part of a whimsical place, where mice trek with knapsacks, and carry charts.

I want to feel calm, and content, to be occupied with the feel of cotton, colors, even tangled floss.

I want to be amused.

I want to have an escape from the everyday, from worries, from stress, from things I cannot manage, but must live with. I want to see what I can do with what I have in my bag.

I want to be one of the makers who demonstrates that it's good to play, to tinker, to mess up, and try again, to teach, to inspire. I want to share a skill, encourage silliness, and feel good about enjoying the feel of crocheted rows, wool sheep, pointless things, like hen's teeth.

Time and materials are riches, luxuries, some of the best resources in my life, and it may very well be disrespectful, a squandering waste, to not enjoy them heartily.

Sewing makes me happy. My needles, and hooks, threads, and fabric make me happy. Sharing makes me happy.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Five Good Things

La Mano, again.

Artist: Karin Grow

Well, it's happened. We are here, Monday, and the long anticipated and deeply appreciated spring break is behind us. Done and gone. Kapoot.


Deep deep sigh.

I think this is the first time that Geoff's comp-time, earned during crunch-time, coincided with the children's school break. It meant more family time, more liberty, and togetherness. That was nice. It was also nice that Max could have three, or more, game days, and a sleepover, with friends. It was nice that family was in town, and we had a rousing game of Apples to Apples with cousin Elias... his marketing degree serves him quite well. It was nice seeing some movies, playing music, sharing silly videos from the Internet, staring blankly into space from the comfort of our lovely porch. It was nice visiting art shows, galleries, gardens, walking through parks. It was nice that no one got sick, or injured, or carried away by mosquitos. And it was very, very nice to only pack lunches for picnics, to have no mornings rushed, and afternoons harried by driving through school traffic! Thank goodness for breaks, for something different, for a change of pace.

Now we count the days 'til summer break? Too soon? It's about 68. Sometimes I think it's necessary to maintain two countdowns... one includes school days only, and the other for every single day between us and freedom! Well, there are forty-eight days in school, more or less.

The other day we were counting something else, too. Blog posts. Chickenblog posts since May 2002: 2,932. Maria was impressed, and she remarked how interesting it is that it began with one... 1 post, a single blog post, and I picked it up from there, noting how I doubled my posts in no time at all. From 1 or 4, even 10, it's not too difficult to double up, to make twice as many postings, eat twice as many chips, walk twice as many feet. But now... to write 2,932 more posts to Chickenblog? That would be quite a feat. Aloud, I pondered what if I wanted to double the number of posts written for Chickenblog, in one year... how many posts per day would that take? Alex paused a moment, then replied "About 8. Eight posts a day would do it."
{Don't worry. I have no intention of even trying for that record.}

Good Things...

1. Max did well on his SAT exam, which is a good thing, because he is adamant about not taking that again.

2. Alex found a dowel, which he used to attach the chicken he carved, to add to my walking stick that he made me for mother's day many years ago... now my walking stick is even more awesome.

3. Geoff wants to visit the Salton Sea, and Alex and I want to stop at the International Banana Museum, which we hope isn't too far from the World Famous Crochet Museum. So, obviously our summer plans are looking quite awesome thankyouverymuch.

4. We have four bottles of white glue, a bucket of brushes, boxes of paint, loads of glitter, and more... we are blessed, and quite a bit overstocked, but mostly blessed.

5. Perhaps we should take all of our good things and make more art, which would mean even more good things.

Are you counting down to something good? Are you in the middle of something good right now? Please share... we'd love to hear from you.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Frankenrouter Is Alive

Fridays at Chickenblog are usually about a Moment during the week, a special moment. Today, it's about the moment Frankenrouter came to life, a moment we've anticipated for quite some time. Frankenrouter is the very large CnC router that Geoff imagined, designed, and built from the concrete and up. For a couple of years Geoff's taken time to tinker, experiment, research, cut, weld, wire, rummage, salvage, and create. He's had long breaks, time away for work, and other projects. Geoff's been challenged and stumped, taken some do-overs, and endured some long days. William has been a frequent assistant and supporter, and we've all been waiting to see, and hear, Frankenrouter come to life...

One more part is on order, and may take a month to arrive... a spindle. With it, and router bits, the three axis router will be carving cool things, making what we can design and envision in wood and foam, aluminum, too. In the meantime, Geoff and William made an ingenious little pvc tool to hold a sharpie, so we could give Frankenrouter his first assignment: Draw something pretty, Frank!

Video, right?

I know. I'll get on it.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

A Cat's Life

Naps. Stretches. Yawns. Purrs. Scratches.
Scratches. Purrs. Yawns. Stretches. Naps.
And repeat.

This cat, our Mister Washburn Foo, has a good life.
A very good life.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

The Young Game Developer

First day in JAVA.

And... she's hooked.

World Domination

It's a JAVA smile. She is a programmer, now.

This morning Maria was at the computer developing a game with Scratch. {Do you Scratch? It's programming made accessible for young/beginning programmers, from MIT.} Maria illustrates, animates, and writes programs for games, puzzles, and fun animations. This has been going on for about three months, ever since Amira shared the site with her, and Maria loves it! She shares it. And she's added programming to her list of things she wants to do when she grows up. Anyway... enough background. This morning she made a fish catching game, with a hungry cat who catches fish falling from the sky, before they hit the water and swim away. She wrote it so the cat's belly grows and he moves more slowly the more fish he catches, so the game play gets more challenging. It's clever and hilarious. And evidently, it's challenging. Geoff cannot beat her high score... not yet!

Turns out, you don't have to "grow up" to do what you love. When Maria tells us about a new interest, a new "I want to be a ______, when I grow up," my response is: "Cool. You'll need to learn about that, and practice it." And then I look for ways for her to begin, now, like cooking with her, and taking care of the garden with her so she can open her own restaurant, and sharing the joys, and heartaches, of keeping chickens and goats, because she wants to be a farmer. Maybe it stems from our home schooling days, but mostly I think it's just our family's irrepressible curiosity and need to make, tinker, play, explore, build, take apart, fail-try-again, and share that pushes us to do the things that spark our imaginations, to jump into the projects and ideas that form in our heads, our hearts. So, we make things, and go to Maker Faire, and dabble in crafts, with lasers and routers, and epoxy. You never know when something begins, like an interest in robots that may lead to passing along interests and skills, that could eventually take you to competitions, and championship events. And it doesn't really matter if that interest ever leads you to the "job," to being "that thing when you grow-up," because the real point, the actual gift, is in the journey, in the doing and tinkering, and failing, and trying again, and following another idea, new interest, doing more, and sharing it.

Maria is programming with Scratch, and in JAVA. She's begun. And she loves it. It's inspiring Geoff and me to host another tinkering day with Arduinos, soldering, code writing... we don't want to wait until we've grown-up to follow our interests, either.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Countless Good Things

Before I sweep, or put away dishes, before I eat one more jelly bean... I had to sort just a few pictures, wonderful moments from a very good Easter gathering, and share them... to keep the memories, to remind ourselves of life's simple pleasures, to connect and reconnect with each other. {Warning: There are a lot of pictures, and my heart is bursting with lots to say. I cannot help myself.}

The day was one good thing after another...
Dominic and Marissa, with Antonia, their Bisabuela... 95 year old great-grandmother.

With Lisa and her camera there, I felt a tremendous relief and gratitude, because I knew I could let her work her magic taking good family pictures. I hope everyone will be sharing all of their pictures!

Bill and Alison, their children, and our Abuela.

Our grandmother lives for family, for her faith, for extending her love and blessings on everyone. I am sure each of us grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, has a myriad of good memories of her, and the loving things she has said and done for us.

Abuela never fails to make us feel loved.

Between the delicious potluck foods, the gorgeous weather, the Viking tent, goats, chickens, and fun-loving guests... it was impossible for it to not be a good day. We were missing some (many in our considerably sized family,) and I think this only serves to inspire us to get together again.

Goats and chickens always amuse me, but it's even more fun to share them! All the cousins were such enthused and gentle farmers. Someone (Kyle or Keaton? Maybe Landon?) brought me a whole clutch of eggs that the hens had been hiding in a shrub! Then Dom brought an egg, and Marissa another, and they breathlessly proclaimed them to be very fresh eggs that they saw being laid! The eggs were warm and my nephew and niece were glowing with the thrill of their finds. It never gets old for me, finding the eggs, and seeing Dom and Marissa enjoy the wonder of it makes me giddy.

Our Abuela took us on some of the longest and most adventurous hikes of my childhood... to canyons, and rivers, up mesas, to distant places that are magical to recall. She seemed tireless, on the trail, and in her patience and affection. Today, it was the great grandchildren, and nasturtiums that lured her into the garden.

Marissa, and Maria, and Emma's sweet selfie skills.

Priscilla, if you only get one picture, it's awesome that it's as good as this one!

Alex and Bambi were the waffle masters, and Lisa was with me and helping, every step of the way from start to finish. Look at Alison's scrumptious fruit salad. And I adore that happy gaze from Dominic. A bit later, I was perched at the corner of the table, enjoying one of Tim's cinnamon roll, and a bit of everything else, and looking around the kitchen, I felt joy... joy at the sight of cousins, and siblings, and friends, and the flurry and buzz of a busy home. The best... a bustling home, full, and engaged.

A teachable moment... with tips and suggestions from just about everyone around the table, Maria advised Emma about how to use the whipped cream dispenser.

Success... another vital life skill mastered!

My dear cousin Priscilla made this visit possible. We were both marveling at how sometimes life lets you be spontaneous, how things can work out, even better than imagined or hoped for.

Dom, Maria, Marissa, and Emma

Once again proving that cousins make the best friends. Simple, and darling.

Lisa, Priscilla, Natalie, and Emma

Proving, once again, that even when they've grown up, and the visits are less frequent, cousins can still make the best friends.

Bisabuela Antonia, and her first great-grandchild, William. Good people, good souls.

Dom, Kyle, Keaton, Marissa, Landon

We weren't about to skip the egg hunt, but the day was so full, the children so easy to entertain themselves, that it was nearly overlooked. Lisa came well-stocked with eggs, and we had some here, too. Bill, Lisa, and I covered the yard with treasure, while the chickens looked on, puzzled. Inside, the children were amusing themselves with magic and sleight of hand games... something that we all enjoyed for most of the rest of the day!

I think everyone found good things in the garden.

The happy hunters! Dom, Maria, Marissa, Keaton with Landon, and Kyle beside Emma

I still remember the spring smell of fresh grass, sun, and chocolates, and the fun of swapping, sorting, and carrying a basketful of goodies. It was a fun to see their pleasure in the day.

Bill, you have your equipment. You know what to do. And remember, I am an investor, so when you fill your gold pan, don't forget your favorite sister.

Good chocolates... those ones in the white wrappers... just saying.

I love being an aunt.

I love that Lisa and Tim took so many pictures, that they're sharing. I love that their boys enjoyed the goats and chickens, that they were happy to play.

Keaton, Lisa, and Alison

My brothers are dear to me, in ways I cannot find words for. My abuela, too... and this picture is a treasure.

We simply could not pass the day without the Eggbot; our robo contribution to many celebrations and gatherings never disappoints.

Besides finding eggs, real and candy-filled, besides feasting merrily, we became deeply immersed in games... magic, illusion, stunts, pranks, clever tricks, and funny talents. I am glad I had some cards on hand.

Both Bill and Keaton have skills with sleight of hand.

The entertainment was ongoing, and good natured.

Maria and Marissa left the room, and returned to guess which state we picked, while Bill rattled off geographical places (seemingly at random?) With Kyle's help, Maria was able to teach the secret of the game to Marissa, and now they are both master illusionists.

Bill, Tim, Keaton, Kyle, and the deck of cards... magical.

William and Geoff, and the magical EggBot.

Tim, Dom, and Landon

Dom, you are awfully lucky to have such a fun daddy!

Yup, I do love a full house.

Maria's turn to be the master magician. She'll tell you in which hand you're holding a jelly bean. Mind power!

Good laughs, good tricks.

Good eggs.

Countless good things.