Archives for April 2009

One less thing to do…

Last night Bear made dinner, so I found myself with an unexpected hour on my hands. I decided I’d finally do the task I was dreading the most, and give the stinky cat a bath.

I keep saying that Lobo helped prepare me for becoming a mom to a boy in many ways. I think he’s currently preparing me for the teenage years because this cat is greasy and stinky and refuses to clean up after himself. He is apparently content to be all nasty and matted instead of fluffy and pretty like my girl cats. I’m sure it doesn’t help much that Atti attacks him with drool at least once a day, but even without that he is one gross cat.
Lobo takes a bath

He was not very cooperative, but he wasn’t super uncooperative either. I managed to make it through the whole ordeal with only one scratch, and once he was good and soaked he stopped fighting and just cried his little eyes out.

Lobo the drowned rat

The main problem was his disgusting greasy tail. I washed him with baby soap, I washed him with dish soap, and when that still didn’t do the job I finally gave up and then asked google for advice. Turns out that this is a common condition with in tact male cats called “Stud Tail.” The only solution would be to either bath him weekly with degreaser and powder him afterwards, get him neutered, or live with it. So I have to deal with my teenage kids greasy hair. I’m sure it won’t be the last time.

Cheetara looks on in horror
The other kitties watched intently, terrified that they were next.

Snuggled up
The poor guy was freezing after the bath, and he certainly wasn’t going to go for a blow dryer, so we wrapped him up in a towel and cuddled him to keep him warm.

Puss in Boots
Have you ever seen a more pathetic face?

After this whole ordeal, I’m going to be a lot stricter about letting him roll around in the dirt outside. I really don’t want to make this a regular thing. The cuddling part wasn’t so bad though.


One last garden post…

I know I’m in danger of becoming obsessed, but what is a blog for if not to document everything we can’t stop thinking about?

Ranunculus Explosion

This is what’s keeping me away from all my responsibilities.


When I planted them I took all the packets of bulbs, emptied them into one big container, and then planted them randomly throughout the planter. I wanted a glorious random mix. I wanted my backyard to almost be an eyesore with color. I wanted it to look like an outfit a preschooler put together.


I can’t get over how different each flower looks. Some of them are the tight bulbs I typically think of, some of them almost look like anemones but with a thicker fringe of petals. And there are so many different colors, even within a color. There are some that are crazy variegations of green and red, copper and yellow, peach and pink.

Shy Dahlia

One of my dahlia’s exploded too. Except this one is apparently shy and only wants to face the brick wall.

Ranunculus and parsley flowers
I brought in a few the other day and combined them with some flowers from my overrun parsley plant and it was a perfect combination. Those parsley flowers are almost acid green and with the neon pinks and yellows of the ranunclus it looked like an arrangement that Andy Warhol would have put together.

I can never decide if I should cut these and fill the house with them, or let them stay and just ignore everything I’m supposed to be doing so I can be outside. Either way, I just want to be where they are.


2009 Year of Pleasures #17

I always do this to myself. I always overextend myself with the best of intentions, I make myself crazy trying to meet some arbitrary goal I set for myself, I complete it, stand back with pride only to realize that I have let everything else in my life disintegrate around me. And then I swear I’ll never let myself get so out of balance again. Until the next great cause comes along.

I am suffering under a to do list that is just shameful (you know it’s bad when you have to write “Bath the cat, and the baby” on a to do list), I have unfinished projects in every room, and my house is just icky. Bear and I had a weekend long baking fest to contribute more good stuff to the auction and so I now have strawberry sauce dripping down every cabinet and walking across the floor is like walking through molasses. Plus the unfinished projects aren’t even satisfying unfinished projects. They’re just work. I really need to get inspired again and come up with something good to talk about around here.

In the meantime, I’m trying to not let my pendulum swing too far in the other direction. Typically my reaction to throwing myself out of balance would be to through myself headlong the opposite direction, scrubbing the house on my hands and knees and staying up too late to finish the neverending list. But I’m not going to this time. The cat will still be dirty tomorrow. And I’m trying to let that be OK.

Needlework in the sunshine
Today I’m going to lunch with some girlfriends and then I’m going to sit in the sun with some needlework and a Coke and look at all my gorgeous blooming Ranunculus.


Busy busy busy

My healer quilt is in the wash, the therapist comes in two hours and I have two days to make a second quilt for the church auction, when I’ll be gone most of today. I’m frantically working my fingers off, so I figured you’d all forgive me as long as I post baby pictures.

Big boy
This picture terrifies me. Where’d my baby go? Who’s this small child?

Toothy Grin
Who’s this small child with six pointy teeth?

Playing outside
I keep wanting to spend as much time outside as possible before the hot weather moves in, but since Atticus is still immobile, that gets to be a little tricky. I finally pulled out the Pack n Play, tossed him inside with half the contents of his toybox and let him have himself a little toy orgy in there.

Partners in Crime
Since this picture was taken Atti has decided that he is so over the whole patching thing, and hasn’t let us patch him for weeks. We go back to the doctor on Monday where we’ll get special drops to put in his eyes to use instead.

Lobo and Atti are still best of friends. In fact, I just had Atti laying across my lap taking a bottle, and Lobo jumped on the desk, wound through the mess of glasses and papers, crawled down on top of him, and laid down for a snuggle. It’s like I have the dog babysitter from Peter Pan.

OK, I’ve got to get back to the sewing machine. I probably would have been done with this by now if I hadn’t had the bright idea of doing another big embroidery piece. Oy. Sometimes I need a good shaking.


2009 Year of Pleasures #16

I am a city girl in my heart. If Bear hadn’t come along I’m sure I would have wound up spending time in New York. This weekend we stumbled upon an area that helped satiate that yearning in me at least for a little while.

On our way back from visiting the grandparents we needed to grab some dinner, so we had the same conversation we have at least five times a week. What do you want to do for food?

You’d think that this would not be an issue for us since I really do love to cook and I’m good at it, but dinner is ALWAYS an issue for us because we have a number of obstacles to get past.

1) I absolutely hate grocery shopping. I don’t even know why. I just do.
2) We live in a big suburban area where fast food is abundant and fairly cheap. Depending on which tier of fast food we choose, it can be cheaper to eat out.
3) There’s just the two of us eating every night, so it’s really easy to talk yourself out of going to the trouble.
4) A shameful secret I haven’t yet disclosed on the blog is that one of the ways I’m able to accomplish so much is that I outsource dinner responsibilities on such a regular basis. It’s really helpful in my time management. That and never sweeping the floors.

Anyway, since we eat out so frequently, we get SO VERY SICK of all the usual places. Driving back from Orange County we decided to have a little adventure. We told our Garmin that we wanted some Barbecue, and we let it pick our restaurant for us.

City Street
Southern California doesn’t really have what would be known as “downtowns” in other areas. Everything is developed from North of LA straight down to Mexico and so in even the heart of LA or San Diego you’ll be driving on one street with skyscrapers and fancy restaurants, then two streets over you’ll be in a residential area with roses in the front yards. In Orange County you’ll be driving through fancy neighborhoods and strip malls and then all of a sudden you’ll feel like you’re in the middle of some major urban center. On one block you’re surrounded by Mexican bakeries, and then just down the road there will be Vietnamese Pho shops as far as the eye can see. It’s one big jumbled up diverse area.


The Garmin directed us to an area in Orange County that I’d spent a lot of time in, inbetween where we used to live and I used to work, and I never knew this spot was here. Just 5 square blocks or so of downtown plopped in the middle of suburban sprawl. I drank it in.

We ate dinner at this fancy modern barbecue place, I got to eat fabulous buttery scallops in a cajun corn broth, we soaked in all the hip modern decor, and then we climbed back in our car and headed home. Just a great little oasis of city life amid our typical suburban activity.


Busy weekend

Grandma's birthday
Four wiggly kids tempted by cake + low light = one very blurry picture

Bear’s family all got together this weekend to celebrate Sally’s birthday. They only live about an hour away, but with the baby and his schedule, we don’t get to see them as often as we should. An hour away seems to be just far enough to make it too hard to do midweek.

Bear made another one of his cakes, but Sally wasn’t really into all the fanciness we’ve been messing around with lately. She is a function over form kind of gal, and didn’t want any of the pretty to interfere with a good tasting cake. So we made a quadruple layer white cake with chocolate ganache filling, and then I layered on about an inch of real buttercream frosting. Fondant sure looks nice, but when you are as big a fan of real buttercream frosting as Sally is, it just gets in the way.

White cake with buttercream frosting

I’m kind of the “get it done” girl in the family, so our birthday present to Sally consisted of a pile of things she needed doing. Skirts fixed, old projects finished, technological help. The big present was unveiled late Saturday afternoon. Everyone took the kids and bustled off to a nearby swap meet (which is really a deceptive name because the Orange County swap meet is more like a temporary outdoor mall than any other swap meet I’ve ever seen) while I stayed behind claiming my bum knee, and then spent the next five hours stripping wallpaper out of one of the bathrooms.

When I finished removing all the wallpaper in our house, months and months and months of removing wallpaper, I swore that I would never do it again. That it would be a deal breaker in any future house we might buy. But their wallpaper really needed help, and if you don’t have to live in the mess, it’s oddly satisfying. It’s like peeling sunburned skin or popping a really big zit.

No? Just me? Oh. Sorry.

We came back late Saturday night so we could make it to church Sunday morning. For Atti’s whole life we’ve been taking turns going just long enough to teach our classes and then coming home. He’s been getting monthly RSV vaccinations and we were warned with the fear of death to keep him away from crowds. He just got the all clear, so we were so excited to bring him to church with us and sit in the pew like a real family, only to wake up that morning and realize that he had absolutely nothing to wear. I just couldn’t bring myself to bring him to church for the first time in nearly a year in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt that said “Mr. Grumpy” on it. I’ll at least save that for the second week back.

Then I heard that the teenage girls I work with are having a fundraiser this Saturday for a summer camp. Only showing up to teach my class leaves me pretty far out of the loop for most stuff, so while they’ve all been working on this for awhile, I was totally oblivious. I have until Saturday night to make a quilt to contribute. After finishing my healer quilt by Thursday when I’ll see Atti’s therapist Miss Jan for the last time. I think I can do it. But I may not sleep much in between now and then.


The sun came out…

About a month ago, I was complaining about being deep in the motherhood trenches. Caught in a stagnant stretch where things seemed far too difficult and taxing than I had the resources for.

I’m now safely free of it.

I’ve always heard mothers say, “Oh it just seemed like he [fillintheblank] overnight!” And I always laughed politely because that’s the kind of thing that every mother everywhere says like it’s the most profound statement in the world, But I never really thought they meant literally overnight.

A week ago Thursday Atticus went to bed the same little kid he’s been for months. Still not sitting up, not crawling, not eating, communicating with a system of claps and giggles, and then he woke up Friday morning a kid with a whole new set of skills.

For months we’ve been working on his eating skills. The cerebral palsy makes controlling his tongue and mouth movements difficult, so it’s been interesting to learn just how much work goes into something that comes so naturally for most of us. He’s 14 months old and he still gets all of his nutrition from a bottle because he just doesn’t have the control to make the food do what it’s supposed to do. Until Friday morning. When he suddenly started eating his food from a spoon three times a day, and chewing up little pieces of Cheerios or cooked peas. For a solid week now he only uses his bottle for drinks and eats everything else like a real boy.

Lobo with the interception
Lobo is less than thrilled at Atti’s newfound skill with the spoon. He has to work a lot harder to mooch now.

He’s starting to respond with actual words, he’ll sit up in his high chair for an hour at a time, he’s starting to get a knee underneath him when he’s on his tummy. The other day Bear fed him a dinner of nectarines and green beans and made the mistake of giving the nectarines first. Atti spit out the green beans, clammed his little mouth shut, tossed his head all around, until I finally caved. I didn’t want to start fighting over food when he was just now starting to be positive about it. No sooner did the words, “Fine, let’s give him some more nectarines.” exit my mouth than he started grinning and let out a chuckle of self-satisfaction so perfectly timed that it seemed like a sitcom. Maybe tomorrow he’ll work on developing a poker face.

His therapists are overjoyed, we hugged and cried together, just amazed at the iron will of this little guy. He’s taking his own time about things, but he’s doing it.


My little backyard cutting garden

It’s done. I did it. I got everything planted that I wanted to plant, and everything is taking off and it is miraculous.

I’ve had a few learning experiences along the way, for some reason I cannot seem to grow a seedling in a pot but I’m going to keep working on that one, I think I let my poppies choke out my anemones so I might have to replant those, and my magnolia tree does not seem to want to rebound from it’s years of neglect – not really sure what to do about that – but overall it’s been a wonderfully successful and deeply enjoyable project.

I grew up all over the west, and moving around so much never really allowed us to settle in and make a plot of land our own. Even when we managed to stay in one place for while, I think it was a habit that was just too hard to break. By the time I was a teenager the only gardening I knew how to do was chopping down blackberry brambles and painting the stumps over with lacquer. In our part of Washington, the blackberries would swallow your house whole if you let them.

I tried container gardening once, and it was a terrible failure. Have I told you guys about this before? I tried keeping a lemon tree and a lime tree in a pot on my deck, but I was so over excited about it that I flooded them everyday and killed them. By the time I finally threw them out they slid out of their pots with an audible slurp like a can of cream soup.

I finally seemed to have found the knack. I’m sure that living in this climate where everything grows doesn’t hurt anything, but I’m so proud of myself that I’m just going to take credit for that too.

I wanted my dream garden to be functional. I didn’t want it to just be some nice looking plants that would hold the dirt in place or that went with the look of the house. I wanted it to be personal. So every thing I planted, every single thing, can be brought inside to bring me a little harmony, a little nature, a little nudge along the way of appreciating the bounty around me. Everything flowers, everything has vibrant color or sweet fragrance, or both, and there’s space leftover for food. I think as it grows in it will be a beautiful place to be, but it will also make it so easy to incorporate the outdoors into our lives.

Gardenias and Hydrangeas
In the shade of the house I’ve planted Gardenias and Hydrangeas. The scent of gardenia is maybe my favorite thing ever, and the color of hydrangeas are maybe my favorite thing ever, so I love having this big aisle where they can grow together.

Herb Garden
On the other side of the door is my herb garden. The parsley and cilantro are always trying to take over everything. I’ve had to uncover the poor oregano more than once. I think it’s time for me to make another big batch of chimmichurri sauce.

Then continuing around the corner we have our grill, and then this long planter starts that I’ve filled with ranunculus bulbs and roses.
Ranunclus Bud
I should have ranunculus showing up any day now.

I got super lucky on the roses. I don’t think I would have been able to put them in this year without showing up at the nursery on the perfect day. They were just transplanting all their winter rose stock into 5 gallon buckets, and were selling the leftover bare root roses at 75% off the original price. I snapped up 9 gorgeous rose bushes for $5 a piece, when the 5 gallon roses are now selling for $40. I basically got 9 for the price of 1.

I sorted through the varieties, trying to find them represented in the more mature flowers so I could get a preview of what I was buying. They had these huge fat white roses with a deep strong fragrance called John Paul’s, so I picked up four of those, and then I just took a chance on the others, hoping that I’d get a good mix of colors and figuring that as long as I had my fragrant John Paul’s, it wouldn’t really matter if none of the others had a strong scent.

They’ve already started blooming and I had such a pleasant discovery.
Here’s Cinco de Mayo:
Cinco de Mayo rose

And John Bradley:
Joshua Bradley rose

And this one’s called Rock and Roll:
Rock and Roll Rose

It’s hard to distinguish in pictures because right now everything is pretty much the same height, but in that long planter there are two little circles meant for trees. So I planted a lemon and a lime at the end of last summer, and they’re now growing their little juicy jewels.
Lemon Tree

The planter rounds a corner to a bigger section where that sad Magnolia lives. I’ve shown you this section over and over again because at the foot of this tree is where the poppies and anemones have been fighting it out. But behind the tree, along the brick wall, I planted a bunch of dahlias and they are growing up like corn stalks. I should see some flowers from them any day now too.

There was one part of that planter left bare after all the poppies I attempted to transplant died dramatically. So I decided I would take that opportunity to put in my one favorite flower that I had left out so far. I planted this new variety of lilac. It’s this fabulous deep magenta and one whiff brings me right back to a summer as a kid playing under lilac branches.
Declaration Lilac

Then, around the corner of the house, next to the planter is my vegetable garden, but across from that, right up by the house is a nice shady spot, perfect for one last little flowering shrub. So I planted this salmon pink Camellia.

I saved a lot of money by buying everything small and immature. So even after all this planting the backyard looks pretty bare. I can’t wait what happens to everything through the summer, but I know that by next Spring I’ll have a little wonderland back here.


2009 Year of Pleasures #15

ToDo Pile

Right now I’m waiting for Atti to wake up from his nap so I can go out and grab some things I need for the backyard and some custom orders. I really hate running errands. Really hate it. And I’ll do whatever it takes to not have to return something – even if that means going without. It’s a little pathological.

Anyhoo, once I finish my work for the shop, I have project after project waiting for me with no errands required. Everything in this pile is ready to go and just waiting for me to finish up what has to get done so that I can get down to playtime.

The anticipation is almost as good.


Atti’s Alphabet Quilt

Appliqued Alphabet Quilt

Appliqued Alphabet Quilt

I’ve been meaning to write up a pattern for this quilt for Atti’s entire life, but it’s OK that I put it off because now I have it to share for a day like today – between project finishes, working on stuff I can’t share, laid up with a bum knee.

I’m sure you’ll recognize this quilt, it’s in nearly every picture I take of Atti.
Alphabet Quilt
Finished size is 36″ wide x 46″ high.

Here’s what you’ll need:
1 1/2 yds of light colored fabric for the large squares (if you scrimp and don’t have to worry about the orientation of the fabric, you could probably get by with 1 yard)
1 yd of fabric for the sashing and border
2 yds for backing and binding (more if you do your binding on the bias)
Assorted fat quarters to use for the letters
Fusible Web
Thread in coordinating colors

Cut 12 pieces of light colored fabric 7″ x 10 1/2″. If your fabric has a definite top and bottom to the pattern, then you’ll want to cut 6 pieces 7 x 10 1/2, and 6 pieces 10 1/2 x 7, so that you can turn them how you’ll need to without things looking funny.
Alphabet Quilt Step 1
Machine applique your letters onto your blocks. I start by printing my letters off on the computer. I chose a basic sans serif font, something like Ariel would work well, and increased the font size until the letters were about 4 1/2″ tall. Two of your blocks (ABC, and XYZ) will have to fit three letters instead of two, so I made those letters 3 1/2″ tall. Iron a piece of fusible web onto the fabric for the applique, and then cut out using your printout as a pattern. Iron the letters onto your block, and applique in place using a zigzag stitch set to a short stitch length. You’ll need to use a stabilizer so things don’t pucker up on you. You can shell out the cash for a fancy one, but I just always use a coffee filter here. You can see this with pictures on this tutorial.
Alphabet Quilt Embroidery

Remember as you arrange your letters to alternate the direction of the blocks. ABC is horizontal, DE is vertical, FG is horizontal, HI is vertical, JK is horizontal, you get the idea.

Cut 24 pieces of sashing 2 1/4″ x 10 1/2″. Sew one sashing strip to the long sides of each alphabet block.
Alphabet Quilt Step 2

Then sew your alphabet blocks together.
Alphabet Quilt Step 3

Once all your blocks are together, add a 3″ border around the entire quilt top.

I kept the quilting really simple on this, mainly because it was my first try at machine quilting. I did a simple zig zag pattern on the sashing, and then inside each block I quilted around each letter.
Alphabet Quilt quilting

This quilt, along with the matching bumper I made, got me so hooked on machine applique. After this I started making those burp rags, and I’m toying around with doing it on the 12 Days of Christmas tree skirt I have on the agenda. It’s one of those things that seems so much harder than it actually is. You just have to play around with your stitch settings, and then practice going around curves. By the time you’re done with this quilt, you’ll be a pro.

Alphabet Quilt