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.

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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 past 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.

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Sunday, November 01, 2009

It's no use screaming at a time like this.

"It's no use screaming at a time like this.
Nobody will hear you.
Help! Help!"-The Scarecrow

Our own Dorothy has grown up since the last time she appeared, but she's as cute as ever and probably even more delighted to be wearing ruby slippers than when she was one year old. I may have even improved on my last attempt at making a pattern and sewing a Dorothy dress.

Fortunately, Maria is easily pleased and did not seem too disappointed about our low key celebration. Alex slept feverishly all day. Geoff is almost as sick as Alex. Max is relapsing a bit. William and I are on the mend. But none of us were up for parties or even pumpkin carving. We missed the annual party at Holly and Rich's place. We missed trick or treating almost... Maria and I walked to 3 houses and came home with one dear piece of chocolate. We watched Disney's "Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and kind of raided the candy we had for passing out. Only three children came to our door and they came at once... this might not be one of those big draw kind of neighborhoods. At least no once actually screamed, but we are definitely feeling the need of a Glinda intervention... a little deus ex machina if you will.

On second thought... we aren't ready to surrender. We have brains and courage and plenty of heart.

It's November. I cannot believe it's November. If I look back and lament all the time it took to get to this place, I can feel overcome with sadness and frustration, but looking ahead, I feel eager and hopeful... so forward!

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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Tricks and Treats
First of all, I woke up kind of giddy because it was an hour earlier than the clock read, and that was a treat. But it took me an hour and twelve minutes to figure out that we don't Fall Back until tomorrow, and so that was a trick.

Today is Halloween and that should be a treat, because we love carving pumpkins and roasting seeds and dressing up and we even have an actual invitation to a party. The trick is that we are sick, some of us are very sick. Geoff finally admitted that "groaning (a lot) helps," so I mentally down-graded his condition from critical to pitiful. He still has my sympathy. William and Maria are just improving, but then Alex and Max succumbed. We deserve a break, but it's not coming yet...

All during this time that I neglected Chickenblog I was thinking of really wonderful, insightful and hilarious things to post about. Sometimes, while shoving junk gently wrapping precious treasures in to boxes I would compose beautiful narratives to share, things I would want to reflect upon and recall joyfully in the future... what a treat my deep thoughts and Atumnal musings were. But the trick is I cannot remember any of it.

And now my deepest thoughts go something like this:

I wish the cats could talk, then they could tell me how awesome this place is. I hope they think it is awesome. I think it is awesome. It totally is. Awesome. Maybe I will see it in their eyes, a sign that they love it so much here that they will never run away or scratch the walls or barf on the stairs. That would be awesome.

Is chocolate good for the flu? Is this the flu? Someone is going to admonish me for thinking of chocolate and sugar when I am sick. But if this is the flu, don't I want to to go out happy?

We seriously do have a lot of stuff. I don't want to think about it, but I keep stubbing my brain on the subject every time I look around.

Maria is going to be Dorothy for Halloween. She was Dorothy when she was one and we had just moved from the TreeHouse to Garage Mahal. It fits, because she is adorable and because to look around here you would think we arrived by tornado. Still, there's no place like home.

Happy Halloween. Enjoy life's treats!

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Friday, October 30, 2009

If there is anyone out there still wondering... we made it. Barely. And there has been some collateral damage. A hole in a wall. A lost mind (mine.) My gift to the world is that I am going to skip the details. Instead I will make this post a quick catch-up, so that if I ever want to recall what happened to the months of September and October in 2009, I can refer to this page and then shudder, and then praise God, again, that we came out as well as we did. Mostly I will grin and sigh and feel incredible, because I think the future is bright, and it's beginning right now.

1. We moved in to a beautiful home.
2. We have too much stuff. (There. I said it. I wrote it. I have to live with it. No one needs to mention it to me ever again. The end.)
3. Even the cats are here. I wonder what they will shred first...
4. Colds, flu and malaise has been our constant companion throughout the pack-move.
5. My father is a handy man. (And what I am rather poorly expressing here is the happy comfort of having the help and the extra sweet skills of someone capable and loving. He is making our lives easier, and what nicer thing can there be than that?)
6. I cannot remember the last time I picked up my camera, which is a shocking admission. Shocking.
7. I have been sewing, which is both shocking and stunning.
8. Yesterday, after loading the Odyssey to the roof and even on the roof, four times, I came home to finish two Halloween costumes.
9. The two children whose costumes were finished wound up staying home from their school parties, due to illness.
10. My mommy has been out of town, and I have been out of touch, and I cannot wait to hear from her.
11. Actually, I cannot wait for all things normal... I look forward to being rid of boxes and packing tape. I look forward to not driving between two houses, and trying to make both of them clean and safe.
12. "Normal" and "routine" are probably still a long way off, but however long it takes us to settle in, I am happy to be here.
13. Is there a happier word than "happy?"
14. I am happier than happy.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Happiness In Every Stitch

After my last sewing episode, I admit it seamed unlikely that I would ever return to the cutting board and straight pins. But I cannot resist. I may not always get the results I am seeking, but when it comes to making children's clothing, quilts or yo-yo's, I cannot resist playing again and again. And even more surprisingly I find it really helps me cope with stress and anxiety. Figuring out "real" patterns adds to my stress and anxiety, which is why I am happy to discover that I can make simple things by making it up as I go!

All the sewing I did for Maria, her Chickens Abroad-Summer wardrobe, held up very well, so I thought I would play around with the dress and skirt and make clothes that she can wear in to Autumn. Plus... she grew! Her clothes still fit, but they are shorter than they were at the beginning of Summer.

On this new dress I used seam binding to finish the sleeves and the hem, and I even added a strip of it at the edge of the yoke, where it meets the skirt. It's a loose fit and will wear well with tights and an undershirt. I've almost got this homemade pattern fine tuned enough to call it a "real pattern!"

More Kaffe Fassett fabric from Starry Night Hollow! Another nice thing about sewing for a little girl... half a yard goes a long way!

She's doing a hula for us.

Maybe not the best image of this skirt, since she had been wearing it a lot already. Excuse the wrinkles. I think this was half a yard and I just stitched it from one end to the other and then gathered it with the elastic waist. The rick-rack hem was irresistible.

Cousin Izzy got one of these skirts too. A fun Summer print for sure! Maria wore it to preschool on "water days." She especially loves her mermaid pocket. I used my quilting skills to add a fun contrasting fabric around the waist. It's such a simple way to add interest, and I think I will play with this idea a bit more in the future.

But enough about Me and my sewing obsession, Maria wants to dance! She told me she wants to be a mermaid for Halloween! How's that for a sewing challenge?! Then again she also said she wants to be Dorothy... I don't think she remembers the first time she went down the Yellow Brick Road. We both saw Christmas fabric from Sew, Mama, Sew! I'm sure it cannot be too early to plan a holiday dress or two.

Obviously we both love to play... aren't we sew lucky?

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Saturday, November 01, 2008

It's November! That's Scary!

Other things that scare and dismay me...
I could not find the flour tortillas that I bought for Wednesday night's dinner. Turns out they were "hiding" on the kitchen counter.
Maria wore the same pumpkin outfit I made for William's first Halloween, 17 years ago! Where does the time go?!
We didn't have a fraction of the trick-or-treaters that we've had in years past. Now I am trapped in a house with 4 pounds of unclaimed chocolates!

Now for the stuff that bolsters and delights me...

Alex dressed as Dexter from "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow." He planned this one for months and months.
With his thrift shop threads, a little hair gel and his retro ray gun, he was good to go. When the boys insisted I watch the movie, I should have known I would enjoy it, because
they are good judges of what I like, and I like good CG, and imaginative storytelling... like the kind you can find in a Hayao Miyazaki release. As I said before, Dexter is a good fit for Alex... those 2 inventive and morally courageous guys are a lot alike.

Another good match... Max as Young Indiana Jones. A scholar with adventure in his heart, eager to do what is right and be prepared for whatever comes his way! Max has been on a school break and he and I, with Maria, have been enjoying our own adventures together, like long walks, park visits, collecting pumpkins, reading "The Phantom Tollbooth," again, and having long talks about politics, elections, video games, lunch, housing. I don't know which of us will be sadder when he returns to school Monday morning.

Here's our pumpkin! She never had a doubt about dressing up as a pumpkin for Halloween. We had a long day, beginning with helping at the high school's pumpkin carving contest, then pumpkin carving at home too. Before it got too late, we lit a lantern and went outside for trick-or-treating.

Where does the time go? I certainly never thought we would pass 3 Halloweens in this house. And how can William be too old to dress up and trick-or-treat... nah, I think he'll join us again next year. It wasn't about maturity or other dull hang-ups like sophistication; it was about running out of time to do a good job. Maybe we should draw up plans today, because we don't want him to skip next year.

Time to swell with maternal pride.
They swapped favorites and the youngest 2 exchanged dyed candies for chocolates. They shared, sorted, and waxed poetic about caramels and Smarties, about peanut butter and almonds. They let Maria double trade and trade back. They gave William good stuff and implored him to join them next year. Max confided that it wasn't quite as good without William. Maria spent more time re-enacting trick-or-treating in the house than she did going around our block. There is nothing scary or distressing about these children. They are a pleasure to play with, and live with, and they made this another Happy Halloween.

We're Listening To: Cincinnati Pops Orchestra & Erich Kunzel, "Beware of The Blob." That's an Amazon link, but we bought the single from iTunes.

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Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

I hope you have a day full of Treats.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Saturday in the Park

Friday, as I was unloading the children at school, their faces drowsy and downcast, I remembered a gift Deanne sent us and I made a quick, executive kind of decision: "Hey, have a good day. Tomorrow we're going to Legoland!" They lit up, they smiled... you can't always catch a smile in the parking lot of a high school at drop-off time.

Sometimes I put stuff out there before I take the time to analyze the feasibility, the sense of it. Legoland? Don't I have loads of laundry and barrels of dishes to wash? Shouldn't I be raking the hen house, answering emails, making calls, filing, sorting, scrubbing, dusting, trimming, mending, pruning and calculating? There are 42 demands on my time and 42 directions I should turn. I have no time to go to an amusement park and be amused. Gahh!

Just kidding.
Why pretend that a few hours away, having a good time, will do any harm?
Why make believe that staying home will do the least bit of good in the face of all that I have to do?
Why face reality, when I can make my own reality?

So thanks to Deanne's passes, her generosity and kindness, and thanks to my irresponsible reckless terrific maternal instincts, we spent a grand afternoon at the happiest place on earth. It turns out we weren't the only family with this brilliant plan. The park was packed full of trick-or-treaters. We saw lots of fairies and Buzzlightyears and pirates and a baby turtle. The baby turtle was adorable. Most of the visitors were little ones, and so we were pleased to find that the wilder rides did not have long lines. And Maria Loves the wilder rides. She loves to laugh and scream and embrace both the Coastersaurus and the Dragon Coaster.

Something new... Maria got behind the wheel of her first Volvo. I won't be too critical of her driving. I think she said it best, "I was just driving in the car. It was fun. But I bumped and crashed, but no worries. They fixed it."

Yeah, no worries. She won't be sharing the big road for 11 more years.

Did a complete loop, which makes for a nice walk. We took in all the Halloween decor and costumes. The boys made some side trips on their own. Max calculated the cost/time benefits of buying toys now, with his own allowance versus waiting until Christmas. How many days until Christmas? Evidently not too many, because he decided to wait!

We actually saw friends while we were in Miniland. And I mention this for Holly... she was with me at Bates Nut Farm, when I saw my friends Betty and Michaela... this, after years of insisting that I never cross paths with people I know. Holly is famous for meeting friends and/or famous people wherever she goes. It seems my time has come, and it was really nice to see Susan and her 3 beautiful boys, Tristan, Morgan and baby Karsten. I invited them to Maria's derpday party... if Christmas is close, then Maria's fairy princess derpday is even closer!

These down on the farm Miniland pictures are for my good friend, Anne. That's a tiny band down front. No organ music here. Just some fiddles and other folksy instruments, accompanied by sheep, chickens, cows, pigs and ducks.

Well, we're home now. Sunday morning, with autumn sunlight streaming in through the front window. And the house is just as messy and chaotic as ever, and none of the 42 very important things that await me has been addressed, but we sure did have a good time...

... it makes me think, if I go play today, at least the house can't get any messier. Hmmm... maybe that is not the lesson I am meant to internalize.

When there is so much to do that an entire day tied to chores is barely going to make a dent, what do you do? Where do you begin? Do you runaway from home? Do you tackle the chunkier aspects, swallow the toad? Do you itemize? Do you see the whole thing through and forego all pleasures until your ship is in shape? Do you post to your blog and solicit free advice?

Have a nice day. I am going to rake the hen house.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

An OCYD Update

Did everyone see Anna Banana's comment? She found a link to a TP cosy, and I swear I thought it was a top hat! I was staring at it for the longest time and humming Putting on the Ritz. I know that art is subjective... do I need to post an apologetic disclaimer, in case I am hurting anyone's feelings? I have to say though, this is the line, for me, where art and craft parts way with aesthetic beauty, function and form. I am also uncomfortable with coconut monkeys, googly eyes on seashells and this.

There were a lot of good and funny comments from the OCYD post. Sara, I don't know why I suggested that knit hats on chickens would be too much... the very idea is gaining favor with me by the hour. And some mini croissants would be good too. And I see Nikki appreciates the possibility that the chicas might look spiffy in hats and knit accessories.

Hello River, of Australia. You are so right: I wouldn't want to send out homemade gifts that are not unique. In my post what I meant by "unique" was that they might be a bit unpolished or a little too amateurish, or less gently put... ugly. I am laughing, when I say this, so no worries.

I think Mtn. Child is right to suggest I try Afghans. I am not disciplined or ambitious enough to try anything as cute as this dress from "Oiyi's Crafts." But I really, really want to try my hand at a ripple blanket, like the one I saw at "Cats and Quilts."

I finished another brown hat last night. I love it. But I am not unaware that it may resemble a toasted acorn. Now I am working on another scarf... same brown with flecks of orange and lichen green. I am laughing again... I've been so drawn to this color palette, the seasonal browns and pistachio green, deep oranges and golden ambers, and I wasn't even aware how drawn I have become until I looked at my picture. I am wearing the same brown with orange and green as I am crocheting, and I may even try to fix a dinner to match.

And the owl is my other crush. This summer Max and I read a wonderful thrift shop find, called "Owls in the Family" by Farley Mowat. We absolutely loved this book with its adventures and suspense, and it's rather politically incorrect narrative about boys, nature, bullies and life's hard lessons. I like its open and honest approach to describing the good and bad antics of these children's lives. And I have become fascinated with the beauty and charm of owls. I miss hearing the pair of owls that called to each other when we were perched high up in the home we called the Tree House. I miss seeing the collection of dear owls Grandma Eunice kept in her home... she has an owl crush too... she might like to read that book.

Last year I added this tiny owl to the Halloween decoration I made.

So far we have 3 costumes ready for Halloween this year. Max gathered articles from different closets so he can be young Indiana Jones. He looks really good, ready for an adventure in history and archaeology, like Henry "Indiana" Jones. Alex has been preparing to portray Dex of "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow." Alex was born to this role, an inventor in a steampunk world, with a high moral code, impromptu skills and a ray gun. Maria consistently tells everyone she is going to be a pumpkin for Halloween. She wore this costume last year, the same one I made for William's first Halloween in Minnesota, 1991! Maybe I can crochet some kind of pumpkin hat to cap the pumpkin suit...

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Pumpkin Patch... My Happy Contribution to Our Economic Recovery

A little spending, a lot of playing. On Sunday we met cousins Nick and Izzy and Aunt Holly out in the country. Thank goodness for pony rides and petting zoos, for shady spots and hot brats... no, not overheated, cranky children. The other brat... the pumped-up, spiced sausage. I absolutely loved seeing the tiniest goats ever and watching Maria feed piglets. And seeing Max completely absorbed in hanging out with chickens and goats and sheep, piglets, ducks and geese was very dear. Alex, William, Nick and Max spent time on their own, exploring and adventuring at the craft booths. Izzy, Maria, Holly and I did the same. These are a few highlights...

I know it's not right, but I'm thinking Thanksgiving right about now.

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