Thursday, November 12, 2009

Special Delivery

M is for Most generous.
Most kind.
Most delightful.
Most unexpected.

This is the bed that Geoff and I saw in a resale shop. I think it was about 18 months ago, and we knew we were not going to find a better fit for our romantic and feminine daughter. With no place to put it, but the garage, we brought it home. You know how excited I was about putting this in a room for Maria... a room of her own? I waited her whole life to make a beautiful room just for her.

Waiting. In the middle of waiting there can be so much angst and frustration. And I think it is strange how suddenly it can seem that the waiting is over, and now we find ourselves where we were waiting to get. Home. What a journey. What an arduous and challenging journey, and yet we are done waiting and the things we stored in our hearts, and garage, can be unpacked and fulfilled, put in place and enjoyed.

The difference between preparing a baby's nursery and setting up a little girl's room, is that one is all about anticipation and personal choices, and the other is all about knowing who will live there and what she would choose and love. Maria loves pink. And for several months she has been acknowledging that her color preferences also include red, "which is like dark pink," and green and yellow and orange and blue. She delights in the realization that we do not have to restrict our color favorites to one shade. She swoons over lace and ribbons, tulle with sparkles are cause for dancing, flowers make her sigh, rainbows and hair bows make her exclaim her adoration.

There is no end to the manufactured glitter and glam in the decorating world, but I wanted to create a room with homemade touches and natural femininity, where her own imagination could build a fairy tale and rainbows. I imagined gathering the art and furniture from here and there, seeking vintage charm and meaningful images to surround her. I was busy packing and moving and keeping things, as best I could, in working order, so I was not sure when or how I was ever going to achieve this vision. Yet the vision of a homemade room, with personal touches and Maria-esque flavor was always on my mind, right down to the quilt I hoped to make for her bunny bed.

We were still learning how to find one room from the next, still opening closet doors and discovering the best corners of our Bird House, when we heard the first knock on our door. It brought the first package.

My heart paused.
My thoughts paused.
I remembered a blog giveaway, a contest. I remembered something about vintage sheets cut in squares for quilt making. I remembered when I left a comment on the blog, thinking "I have no business coveting fabric in the middle of this moving madness."

Maria and Max didn't pause and they eagerly assisted, opening the big package in record time, while I tearfully began to comprehend what had happened. Tearfully, because I can never get over how kind "strangers" can be, because I was stunned by how delightful and perfect Tara's gift is. Tears because it was all so very unexpected. And thankfully, Max and Maria knew these were happy tears. They were stunned and delighted as well, as I explained where this beautiful gift came from.

Thoughtful, busy, talented and generous Tara did not send me cut squares for me to stash away until I could maybe some day make a quilt. She knew my situation and she sent us something she had already made herself. Pink and yellow and green and red and orange, feminine and charming, vintage and handmade, and complete with an M for Maria. The pink M monogram has a bunny print, a perfect match for the bunny bed.

Doily heart... so sweet.

No one knew about the bunny bed waiting in the garage, and it had been a long time since I wrote anything about wanting to decorate a room for my daughter. I wish I could really convey that sense of enchantment I feel about what Tara did, how she brought magic to our home. She rejuvenated my dreams and gave my hopes flight... And you really mustn't think I am over stating this, because sometimes when we least expect it, when we are struggling, we can be overcome with gratitude and wonder and it's good to try and find the words to express that joy and awe.

Thank you Tara. It's so beautifully made. I love the soft fabrics, the nostalgic look of those sweet prints. All combined, the old sheet squares make such a comforting and gentle quilt, sure to keep Maria smiling, even in her sleep. It is just what we needed, in so many ways.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Pumpkin Cat

When we finally got around to carving our pumpkins, everyone was very excited and eager to participate. William carved hands all around his pumpkin. It came out very cool. Alex scraped his pumpkin head and gave us a bare bones chill. Max's pumpkin was scraped too and he cut out a grinning Jack O'Lantern. I tried to make an owl... wide eyed and alert. We were scooping and gutting pumpkins for hours. Maria thrilled at using the word "guts" in every sentence.

She also thrilled at the prospect of designing and carving her own pumpkin... "All by myself." She got busy right away and whipped up this picture as her design submission. Apparently "All by myself" does not preclude getting someone else to carve.

We love Pumpkin Cat. All of him. Six legged cats are uncommon, yet frightfully appropriate for a Jack O'Lantern. I do not want to over analyze this. We simply love him.

In the end she went another way and drew her own owl on her tall pumpkin.
Did you guess "spider" on the owl's forehead? I did, but it is not a spider. "It means love," she said, surprised at my interpretation.

Cue spooky music. Roll in the fog.
They looked great lit up.
We still have some roasted pumpkin seeds.
We still have a few pumpkins set aside for pie.

Creativity with squash... wonders never cease. And if you agree, that there are wonders all the time, everywhere, then you may enjoy the always interesting blog Wonders Never Cease by the wonderful Rebecca Ramsey. Love the variety, the introduction to any number of new subjects and tidbits.

Thanksgiving comes before Christmas, so I may be putting the cart before the horse, but you should take a peek at the "Silliness that (sort of) Rhymes" happening at Cart Before The Horse, the blog that is "Jo's little corner of The Cart." Let me get out my thesaurus... the art happening in this blog is whimsical and fanciful and imaginative. It makes me want to build and paint and sew and create tangible evidence of the activity in my own imagination.

One more discovery. I am in over my head being a gardening mama myself, so I have not had nearly enough free time to immerse myself in this blog, but soon! Every time I sneak a peak at GardenMama I feel excited. Nicole's blog is a visual stimulus for falling love with the world.

Now laundry.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Healing Power of Dirt and Other Pleasures

It's true: Dirt has properties that make us feel good. Didn't you gardeners know it all along? I always feel marvelous after days of digging and pulling weeds, planting seeds. Any science that confirms what I believe already is the most awesome kind of science there is.

So. I did address the kitty litter and I did move some boxes and fold laundry. And I am still pulled in too many directions, but thanks to the healing power of dirt, I am feeling pretty good.

Here is what is going on at the Bird House. In the back, where the garage wall is perpendicular with the kitchen wall, we have a shady area that was in need of drainage, rat control and a new direction in landscaping. Okay. Time for some before shots...

Nothing too offensive about the plantings, but none of them were particularly happy in this northern exposure corner. Cute stockings, Maria!

Here is a wider view... not of the chicken. Look just passed the cute baby, and you'll notice the monstrous water sucking jungle plant. (My apologies to fans of monstrous water sucking jungle plants.)

Marissa, Betty and Alison are welcome any time, but the water sucker and high soil levels had to go. Water was pooling around the foundation and messing up the siding. There was no drainage. We were violating building codes. Chaos and hysteria were... just kidding. But it was not good.

Everything has a natural order. Plants should not be leggy and useless, water should not sit on the house, and chickens should not stalk children for pumpkin bread handouts.

This is the adjacent bed that needed work. See the clumping mass of green? It was pretty, in a picture, but up close it was plain to see that the woody branches of the mock orange were getting old and tired. The branches were weak and the worst offense... it was a giant rats' nest. Go ahead... say it... Eewww. That's right. So Cal is no stranger to Rattus-rattus, so good-bye mock orange.

Ready for some after shots? I still cannot find my camera battery and then the Maria camera disappeared too. I finally found the little camera and about one hundred self-portraits taken by our resident artist...

Love digital. Imagine if these kinds of shots were taken on film. I would have had double prints of thirty six nostril and ceiling photographs.

Yes, the digital age is quite a blessing. And now we have peek in to the mind of a four year old artist.

It seems Maria is not the only one that wants to make an impression.
Drainage in.
Weed barrier down.

And in goes flagstone, so we can access the meter boxes, faucet and side gate.
And we rescued the pineapple guavas from the lower water, xeriscaped garden, where they were never going to thrive. Now instead of water sucking rat harborers, we have water sucking fruit bearing shrubs, which will nurture and feed us and make guava loving children very, very happy.

Maria planted the barrel on the right, and we are going to get some cool season veggies in the other barrel. Calla lilies were competing with the mock orange... they will be much happier now that they have some room and light. It's coming together. It's messy and labor intensive. It's so much more fun than spot-cleaning rental carpet.

Let me slip in a little pumpkin carving. We did this Saturday night. Not October 31st Saturday... why be typical? We were carving pumpkins November 7th and it was great fun. Alex was finally free of his fever. Garrison was on the radio, praising ketchup. We even knew where there were candles and matches. And then we had roasted pumpkin seeds, which is simply wonderful.

Is this post getting too long? I don't know why I ask, since I fully intend to ramble on.

And here is the kitchen side garden. "We" put the camellias down by the pool, where we hope they will be happier. If you want to see what a happy camelia looks like I suggest you visit Nikkipolani's garden today... she and her Roomie are cooking-photo-kitty-gardening inspirations.

Maria, Max, Alex and I have been putting in gardenias, Irish moss, mint, pansies.
Betty inspects each addition.

And we have planted lots and lots of rocks in here.

It's still too soon to say "Ta-Da."

Oh what the heck...


I am pretty sure this is not the direction Martha would have gone, but our ladybug sandbox just begged to be included in the design. Maria plants herself in the sand and plays for hours.

And now I am going to tackle another box before I get back to the dirt.
Thank you.
Have a healthy-dirty day.

One more thing: Karen, I think of you too as I play in the garden. You are a master gardener.