Saturday, May 31, 2014

Manageable Annuals - May

This spring, I decided to limit myself to one small space for planting annuals. In the past, I've planted too many, in too many different pots and urns around the yard, and ending up losing them all by late June. It's just too dry here. I can't keep up with the watering. And I feel guilty for using the water, so I use it more and more sparingly until the plants are crispy. Many people here grow annuals successfully, though. I thought about it a lot and decided to plant cheap, hardy annuals in one location only, and to commit myself to watering them every day. I had an old half-barrel on the back patio, left by the house's previous owners, which once held a big chrysanthemum. When it eventually died, I was left with a big, empty planter. It seemed like a good place for my little collection of annuals and this spring, I took the plunge. I've been photographing the barrel at intervals and I am very pleased to report that the plants are doing well. I thought I'd keep a diary of sorts for my barrel of annuals here on my blog. I've been making notes for myself since I planted them. I've been enjoying thinking about how to keep them healthy and help them grow strong and lush.

May 4 - planting day

I bought my annuals on May 1 at Lowe's. I kept them in our shaded courtyard, watering them liberally, for a few days until I had time to plant them on the weekend. I've got six assorted petunias, six assorted verbenas, five lobelias (there were six, but one looked unhealthy so I didn't plant it), and two large trailing ivy geraniums. I planted a lot of plants, densely. I read in Sunset that this is okay to do with annuals and that it will lead to a full, lush planter arrangement.

Right off the bat, I did something differently with the soil, in the hopes that it would start the plants off right. As I added soil to fill the barrel to the top, I wetted each new pile and turned it, to spread the wet soil through the barrel. All the soil was moist, down the bottom few inches.

I planted the annuals more deeply than I have done in the past. I wanted to avoid soil erosion, since it can be very windy here. I started them with one dose of Miracle Gro (a scoop for two gallons of water), with plans to do this every two weeks thereafter.

The barrel does have a drip-hose nestled into the center of the plants. In May, our irrigation system is programmed to cycle twice per week for about fifteen minutes each time.

May 20

The plants have grown a lot. I did have to remove two of the petunia plants because they were too crowded and were not thriving. Maybe there were too many plants, too densely planted. This is okay because the petunias that are left have grown a lot and there are new blooms every day.

The lobelias are the most surprising to me. I have never had them last more than a week before they dry up. The verbenas are growing a lot too. The geraniums are getting tall and starting to trail toward the edges of the barrel.

I have been keeping up with the watering and have given them another feeding with Miracle Gro (one scoop to two gallons of water) on May 18, two weeks after the first feeding. I'm watching for flea beetles because they've been a problem in the past, but so far I haven't seen any. I will try the dish-soap remedy if I see any this year.

May 30

They've grown so much! All the plants have flowered now. The verbenas are on their second and third blooms. I've been dead-heading the petunias and geraniums. The geraniums are really starting to trail now; the one at the right is leaning out over the side of the barrel. The lobelias at the front are just beginning to reach the edge of the barrel too. I really love the way all the plants are clustering and starting to interlace as they grow.

These annuals have already experienced hail three times and it's only May! They're pretty tough. I was able to stop watering for two days last weekend because we had unusually rainy weather for several days. Nearly half an inch of rain fell. I checked to make sure the plants didn't become too dry but I took advantage of the weather otherwise.

I will give the plants another dose of Miracle Gro tomorrow (it will have been two weeks since the last feeding).

✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿

For June:

This is our hottest, driest month coming up. I will continue watering every morning. In the afternoons, if the sun seems very strong, I may move the patio umbrella over to the barrel area and prop it against the railroad ties behind the barrel. This may give it some shade. I'm a little concerned that the concrete of the patio will reflect a lot of heat back up onto the barrel.

I will continue to feed with Miracle Gro every two weeks. The sprinkler system can be increased to three cycles per week beginning in June (as per city ordinance). The monsoon should start up by the end of the month and I may be able to back off on my daily waterings depending on the frequency and amount of rain we receive.

I should read about how to recognize when it's time to dead-head a geranium. I may be removing a few of them too soon. Others have hung around too long, looking dry and skeletal.

✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ 

Do you plant annuals at your house? I'm feeling pretty good about my latest attempt, but I know I still have a lot to learn. Let's talk annuals! How are yours doing this year? What have you learned from your experiences with annuals?

Linking in with Helen's End of Month View series

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Color Collaborative: May: Childhood

I've got something in my pocket, it belongs across my face.
I keep it very close at hand, in a most convenient place.
I'm sure you couldn't guess it if you guessed a long, long while.
So I'll take it out and put it on, it's a Great Big Brownie Smile! 

I'll always remember the "Brownie Smile Song," along with the song "Make New Friends," and the Girl Scout Promise. I recited it week after week for years, holding up the middle three fingers on my right hand. The Promise is as ingrained in my mind as the Pledge of Allegiance, and I took them both very seriously. I wanted little more from life than the opportunity to serve God and my country and to help people at all times. I spent ten years as a Girl Scout, from second grade through high-school graduation. It was a very important part of my childhood and my experiences made for lasting memories. My time in Girl Scouts is a big part of who I am today. I learned to think for myself and to be proud of my interest in making the world a better place. I remember these years not just in the events and activities in which I participated, but also in the insignia and badges, earned and worn with pride.


I waited a long time to become a Brownie, and not necessarily patiently. I watched Brownies I knew with a combination of awe and envy: the zippered brown tunic, the colorful badges, the sashes crookedly encircling their torsos from shoulder to hip. The beanies! I had to wait, though. My elementary school had several active Brownie troops when I started first grade - the minimum Brownie age-requirement - but they were all full. The school held an open house for scout troops at some point during that school year, and I attended with my mother. There was talk of a new troop starting up the following year, and my mother placed my name on a waiting list. Sure enough, we received notice that summer: there was a new troop starting and they had room for me. My time had come. 

In the fall, I became a Brownie. We met on Monday afternoons in the basement of the local Elks Club. One of the leaders' father was an Elk, I think. I had a second-hand Brownie tunic and blouse from the "free to take" box at the council office. I also had an orange tie with a snap closure, brown knee socks and "flashes" - elastic bands with fringed orange flags attached - sort of like a bagpiper might wear on his socks. I did not manage to procure a beanie, however. They were expensive. I wasn't sure I could make one perch on my head properly anyway.  As in many groups of little girls, there were queen bees. Holly* and Melissa* ruled the meetings.They competed over wearing the most GSUSA-licensed merchandise to each meeting. I watched in amazement as they showed up in Brownie hair bows, Brownie earrings, Brownie necklace-and-bracelet sets, even Brownie underwear. They picked on certain girls. Mostly they ignored me; I was quiet and shy. I often felt left out.

But I loved Brownies in spite of this. I dove enthusiastically into the badge-work, crafts and council events. I learned to cross-stitch; I loved it so much I took the stitches out numerous times to re-stitch my design. I loved "finger knitting" and potholder-weaving too. I attended a "birthday party" for Juliette Low, the founder of Girl Scouts, long deceased by then, where we made small tissue-paper covered Styrofoam apples, dipped in wax to seal them. Mine hung on our Christmas tree for years. For a service project, we planted flowers at Val-Kill, the country retreat of Eleanor Roosevelt, located on the Hudson River about fifteen minutes from our town. During my Brownie years, GSUSA celebrated its 75th anniversary. Our council held an event called Jubilee Jamboree at the county fairgrounds in Rhinebeck, a location now famous for being the site of the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival.

Kelly green

I "flew up" to Junior Girl Scouts at the end of third grade. Holly, Melissa and the others decided to leave after Brownies. I needed to find a new troop. My mom found a great solution: a young woman in our neighborhood was starting a troop. She lived with her parents right down the street. I could walk to and from the meetings on Saturday mornings. Kathy* was 19 and I adored her. She had babysat for us a couple of times and I thought she was a lot of fun. My new troop had really nice girls in it. We did so many fun things! We learned to make peanut butter (peanuts and salt in a blender, who knew?!). We made molded chocolate lollipops at Christmas. We had a tour of a well-known publishing company's offices in Manhattan, an hour's train ride from where we lived. Kathy also introduced me to what would become a lifelong passion: letter-writing. She signed us up for a pen-pal program and I began corresponding with children in Sweden, England and India; my English pen-pal and I would write for over a decade. My pen-pal experiences are at the heart of my interest in blogging today.

Our time with Kathy was unfortunately short. In the spring, she informed our parents that she was unexpectedly pregnant. It was decided that it would be inappropriate for her to continue as our troop leader. I was truly sad. That fall, my mother heard of another troop forming and we joined that one, my mother helping out. I loved having my mother there. My younger sisters joined the new troop too, being done with Brownies by then themselves. The new troop was good and I would stay with this group for years, until they all moved on from Girl Scouts. I earned many badges and did some amazing craft projects. We had badge workshops, camping trips and themed get-togethers with other troops. I had good friends in this new troop, girls I would still be in touch with as an adult. 

By sixth grade, my last year in Juniors, there was some attrition. Girls were no longer interested in the kinds of activities they'd loved just a year or two before. My first inkling was at a council-wide camp-out, when another troop of girls our age performed a song by Paula Abdul at the campfire talent event. Our folksy song about an "army of children" couldn't compete. I could see it at our troop's meetings on Monday nights. They participated, but with one eye on the clock, hoping to get home in time to watch Blossom and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. They stopped attending camp-outs and weekend workshops. They no longer sold cookies. Change was in the air.

Royal blue

At the end of sixth grade, I "flew up" again, this time to Cadettes. Most of my troop came with me, but within the year, almost every girl my age in the troop would decide they'd had enough. We had some really good times that final year. But thirteen is a tough age. Some of my friends were beginning to move into territory I wasn't prepared for. For me, Girl Scouts felt like a refuge from the changes going on around me. Whereas school brought endless discussions of boys, bras and periods (but mostly boys), in Scouts I could be a girl outside of the context of those things. It wasn't that I didn't share my peers' anxieties about growing up. I had the same troubles and experienced the same sense of tumult. But I felt able to compartmentalize, I think. Then, as now, domestic pursuits held great interest for me and were a welcome relief from other pressures.

I pressed on, sewing my own uniform skirt (worn with my sash and a plain white blouse, official blouses being expensive and used ones hard to come by at this age level), attending career-planning and leadership workshops, earning my Silver Award - the second-highest honor in Girl Scouting - alongside the younger girls in the troop. For this, we planned and hosted a science fair for younger girls in the council, a night of science experiments and demonstrations. One perk of staying in Girl Scouts this long was that we got to spend time with Boy Scouts our age, in official capacities as community volunteers. We even had a winter camp-out with them one year. (For the record, I eventually married an Eagle Scout. They're usually okay guys).

The numbers continued to dwindle until I was the only girl left in my troop. I still wanted to achieve my Gold Award, though. I don't mean to sound like a smarmy do-gooder. I had a job by this point, dated boys, went to proms...and was not always well-behaved. But I really loved being a Girl Scout and wanted to finish what I'd begun as a little Brownie. So I planned and executed my Gold Award project during my senior year of high school. I did it as an independent Scout, with help from my family. I organized a donation drive to benefit a shelter for homeless mothers and babies in my community. I brought 50 care-packages of toiletry and personal supplies to residents of the home. Everything was donated, even the boxes themselves. I was one of only seven girls in our county to earn the Gold Award that year. I was given letters of commendation from our mayor, our state and US senators, military officials and the governor, as well as a letter from then-President Bill Clinton and an American flag which had been flown over the White House. This was standard issue for Girl and Boy Scouts achieving the highest ranks, but it felt good to have stuck it out.


 Royal blue, too

This shirt is the second-oldest piece of clothing I own (the oldest being a shirt from preschool). I wore it at GSUSA's 75th birthday celebration, Jubilee Jamboree. I was eight and I had just finished my first year of Brownies. My father accompanied me; we had a new baby and my mother stayed home. It rained the entire day and we couldn't participate in many events. We all waited out the rain in the animal barns. My troop, along with many others, was in the goat barn. Plastic sheeting had been laid over clean straw on the floors and we ate our picnic lunches and had a sing-along. We sang the "Brownie Smile Song" and all the rest from the official songbook, plus lots of patriotic tunes. I learned all the words to "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" that day. Still know them now, too. This little shirt fit me like a nightgown back then. It has holes in it now - probably chewed by a mouse - but I was so proud to wear it and to be part of that important celebration. I knew I was on to something very special.

*I have changed these names.


Don't forget to visit the other Color Collaborative blogs for more of this month's posts. Just click on the links below: 

Annie at Knitsofacto 
Sandra at Cherry Heart 
CJ at Above the River
Sarah at Mitenska 

What is The Color Collaborative?
All creative bloggers make stuff, gather stuff, shape stuff, and share stuff. Mostly they work on their own, but what happens when a group of them work together? Is a creative collaboration greater than the sum of its parts? We think so and we hope you will too. We'll each be offering our own monthly take on a color related theme, and hoping that in combination our ideas will encourage us, and perhaps you, to think about color in new ways.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Life in miniature

Hello! Thank you for all the wonderful comments recently. I'm glad to know there are some out there who share my love for rain. I realize that it rains a lot in some places. I've lived in a few of them myself, and I certainly got tired of rain too. Don't even get me started on snow, especially the lake-effect variety. But I live in a dry place now and cloudy skies and rain showers feel like a real treat. I'm glad I've seen both sides because I appreciate both rainy days and dry ones.

I want to share some adventures in tiny things we've enjoyed lately. I've always been an enthusiast of miniature versions of real items. Did you ever have a dollhouse? I had one as a child and it was one of my favorite toys. Mine was made by Brumberger and sold at Sears in the late '70's and early '80's. My dollhouse was Tudor-style, sort of a split-level design. I no longer have my dollhouse, though I wish I did. In recent years, I've gone looking for it online and have found a lot of information and pictures. This website has some good photos of dollhouses made by Brumberger, including several photos of my exact dollhouse and the furniture and family it came with! I've had so much fun poring over these photos. Some of my furniture was in different colors than this site shows; specifically, I remember my doll-parents' bedroom furniture being green instead of red and pink as in these photos. But it's all the same otherwise and I was very happy to see it all again. I'd begun thinking that the GB might like to have her own dollhouse, since I'd enjoyed mine so much. Santa brought her one this past Christmas and it's been fun for the whole family, actually. We've been playing with it often and also making small things to use with it. Would you like to see?

The GB's dollhouse is made by Plan Toys; it's the Chalet model. It's a really cool dollhouse. Kids' toys have come a long way, haven't they? My dollhouse was made of masonite, with paper coverings printed to look like flooring and exterior features. All the furniture was plastic. The GB's dollhouse is made from reclaimed wood decorated with environmentally-friendly paints. This house is in two parts, which can be moved around as desired to create a funky, multi-level living space. It came with five rooms of furniture, all made of wood. I bought the doll family separately. The family has sort of a Waldorf thing going on; they have faces, but they're simple and plain and the clothes are casual and sort of Putumayo-style; my dollhouse family looked a little bit like they'd stepped off the set of Mad Men. The open plan and earthier style of the GB's house make it easy to add our own personal touches and we've all enjoyed it.

Mom and Dad have been the first recipients of a hand-crocheted blanket for their bed. I started working on this right around Christmas but found it rather difficult. It took me awhile to finish hooking this five-inch granny square from perle cotton. I shared it awhile ago and readers commented on the Cath Kidston-like colors I was using. It's true, they do give off that certain CK vibe. Like me, these latter-day hippies enjoy a touch of shabby-chic finery here and there.

Sister doll stands near the children's as-yet bare bunk beds. I plan to make small blankets for these beds too, but I haven't rushed to do it yet. I found the tiny crochet to be a little nerve-wracking, lovely though Mom and Dad's blanket turned out. I'll get around to the children's blankets soon. But I may need to pick up a pair of cheaters first.

We've made a number of small food items for the kitchen. We use different types of clay, such as the basic white Crayola modeling clay and various types of polymer clay, usually Sculpey. Then we paint the items with acrylic paints. Here, a ham, a platter of bread rolls and a box of green beans grace the table along with a gallon of milk. This family eats well.

There are three dogs in this household. I think some people might have fantasies which are not being fulfilled in real life. Actually, the dogs were made before we got the dollhouse, but we realized they are the perfect size to play with here. The more the merrier, I say; my dollhouse had an artist's rendition of a dachshund printed on the back outside wall of the house, looking as if he hoped to be let inside someday. I wished I'd had a little plastic dachshund instead. For our dog-filled Chalet, we've made dog beds, including two clay ones and a stuffed flannel one, and they have a ball and bones to play with. They're happy dogs, there's plenty of room to play in and around this house.

A robin perches on the edge of the roof, chirping as she greets the day. Sometimes dogs can be found perching up here too; just out of the shot is a clay "dogloo" at the bottom of the sloped rooftop. Of course there are dogs (and a doghouse) on the roof; it's a free-range kind of place.

Do you remember Daddy's Cafe? I've written about it a few times in the past. This is a coffee shop-cum-roadhouse sort of place we built from Lincoln Logs last summer. There are working lights inside and out, made with LED's wired to a tiny computer. The Bear and LB do all the electronics together, using Arduino technology. Inside, there is a coffee counter, espresso machine, table and chairs and handwritten signage. We've continued to work on Daddy's Cafe over the past few months. The LB made a wreath at Christmas time to hang on the outer wall of the building; he has been updating it with the change of seasons, using small clay items he creates and paints with acrylics. Here, you see the "spring" decorations, which I suspect may be the same as the "Christmas" ones; he tells me the yellow thing is a flower, but I think it was also used as a star. The wreath itself is a disc of cardboard with a hole in the center and green yarn wrapped around to cover the cardboard. He came up with this design himself and I was quite impressed.

A barrel, bales of hay and a pile of logs have been added to the front yard. I don't know why. But it may be indicative of a side business that the proprietors have moved into recently. Times are tough in the imaginary beverage business.

Daddy's Cafe now has a fireplace made of clay and painted to look it's made of stone. It has a red LED light inside and it really looks like a fireplace when it's on! But it photographs quite poorly so I turned it off. I assure you, it offers a very homey glow inside the cafe, and everyone enjoys drinking, playing cards and reading near the new fireplace.

Pretend-play is alive and well around here. We have a lot more plans but real life has a tendency to get in the way. I think the Bear and I love it as much as our children do!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Welcome rain

I didn't know until recently that there is a word for people like me, people who love rain. Sarah discussed this on her blog last week. Lovers of rain are called pluviophiles. I think I've always been a pluviophile, even before I lived in the desert. Now that I live here, I think I might be queen of the pluviophiles. I've written about my love for rain before. I long for rainy days. I look forward to every drop. Rain changes the way I live, even for just a few hours. I love having an excuse to stay inside. I enjoy watching the sky darken; wide-open blue skies are not the only beautiful kind. As rain lashes the windows and pours from the canales, I settle in, for as long it takes, to savor the feeling of needing shelter. I drink tea and wander from room to room, observing the way the rooms change in the darkness. I leave it as long as possible before turning on lamps. I want to see the rain streaking down the windowpanes, casting shadows on walls and furniture. I sit under the skylight in the family room, listening to the rain fall. When the rain begins to let up, I go outside to look around at things normally dry and dusty - our drought-tolerant plants, our gravel front yard, our brick and stone patios; everything looks different wet. Everything smells different too. I appreciate the entire experience of a rainy day, doing whatever I can to remember it until next time. It rained on Friday and Saturday, an early-summer storm. I revisited all of my rain rituals. The monsoon is still about a month away, but I wait with anticipation.

It started raining again about an hour after I published this post. It rained the rest of the day and continues now, in early evening. I'm savoring our unusually rainy weekend.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Friday happies

Today is the first day of summer vacation and I feel more relaxed already. I'm joining Gillian again today with some happies from my week. I've enjoyed being on the lookout for happies again lately. Life has been busy but happy and rich too, full of little moments that mean a lot, and I love taking the time to reflect on them here.

This is our first batch of ripened strawberries this season. Ten sun-warmed, ruby-red berries, shared amongst us and eaten slowly on the back porch. Two days later, there were thirty new strawberries ready to eat with our lunch.

We have a ladybug invasion. Our desert willow tree is filled with ladybugs at every stage of the life cycle - including clutches of miniscule yellow eggs. It's a science lesson in a tree.

We've been playing with Magic Nuudles. Yes, that's how the name is spelled. Have you tried them? They're really fun. They're made of cornstarch and they'll stick together with a little water. They're good, clean fun - even for me.

Earlier this week, I mentioned iced tea in the fridge in summer. I've made it twice this week. This glass was from the first batch, made with two Lipton "family-size" black teabags and one Celestial Seasonings' Wild Berry Zinger herbal teabag. It was so good. The second batch was made with fresh mint leaves from our garden - also delicious.

I found this little enamelware jug in a thrift store. There was a matching bowl too. Each piece was slightly expensive for a thrift store but I really loved the jug so I treated myself. I'm considering it my end-of-year homeschooling gift to myself, on the suggestion of my friends Kristie and Leanne. Thanks for the encouragement, ladies. You're peachy.

Also at the thrift store, I picked up a few good finds for the GB's future wardrobe. Gosh, I just love a good thrift store. You can find anything there. One of the best finds was a beautiful, like-new plum-colored corduroy jumper from Gymboree, only $2.99! It won't fit the GB for about two years, but the style is simple and classic and I've got nice, roomy bins just for things like this.

Other happy things from our week included the LB's class pizza party yesterday, which was sort of wild. The party mostly took place in the dark; the lights had been turned off when the kids presented their teacher with a gift. They seemed happy in the dark, with daylight coming through the windows and skylights, so we left the lights off. They ate and ate, these kids - pizza, fruit, doughnuts, Cheetos and cookies. There was some singing. They encouraged each other to "chug" their bottled water. They actually chanted "Chug! Chug! Chug!" like they were doing keg stands at a frat party. It was weird and hilarious. I'm not sure the other moms were so entertained but I usually feel right at home with a roomful of eight-to-ten-year-olds.

On Wednesday evening, I went outside to check the mailbox and there was a package for me, a giveaway prize from the lovely Kaiya. I won a skein of beautiful, soft merino sock yarn in a shade called Fields of Heather, which could not be a more perfect example of my favorite colors - cool blues and purples - all in one gorgeous yarn. And I also won a set of teeny-tiny double-pointed knitting needles in an interesting cardboard storage case. Oh, to be a good enough knitter to knit my own socks from this wonderful yarn. Someday. Thank you so much, Kaiya.

While I was out collecting the mail, I heard music from my next-door neighbor's house. He is the lead singer in a local band, the type you might hire to play at a wedding. His band was practicing in the garage, playing "Stand By Me." He was singing. It was sort of a bluesy version, a little more raw than the original. I stopped and listened from my driveway, thinking how nice. Just how nice, to be outside on a warm evening at sunset, listening to good music in my own driveway. Good things are happening, they really are.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Thanking the teachers

Tomorrow is the LB's last day of school. Monday was the GB's last day. The year went quickly. It was a good year for both of them: lots of growth and change - most of it positive - and they had excellent teachers. For this, I am very grateful. I used to be a teacher myself, which is something I haven't discussed much here on the blog, but before I had the LB I taught high school English. It was a hard job. I loved the kids and the subject material. I didn't love the bureaucracy, the mandatory testing, the pressures and sometimes unreasonable expectations from all quarters. Teaching is a wonderful calling and I'm glad I spent a few years in the classroom. I think it prepared me for parenthood in some important ways, actually. I don't particularly miss the job, though.

I feel a strong connection to my children's teachers. I try to help out in the classroom when I can (I'll be able to do this more often now that they'll be in the same school at the same time, come August - I'm very excited about having more time to help out, actually!). I'm probably a relatively demanding parent; I have high expectations for myself as well as for my children. I want them to get as much as possible out of their time in school. Our unusual school situation - half-homeschool, half-traditional school - allows me to be very involved with their learning and to be closely connected with their teachers and the goings-on in the classroom.

Knowing how hard the teachers work, I try to show them my appreciation with special gifts. I love to give handmade gifts to everyone, teachers included. Last year, I gave the LB's teacher a One-Skein Chevron Scarf as an end-of-year gift. I also made one for my mother, and another to give away here on my blog. All of the recipients of my scarves seemed happy with them. And I enjoyed making them - they're easy and fast to make, and the pattern is soothing and relaxing. It's a portable project too, and I took these two latest scarves with me to the GB's ballet class throughout the late winter and spring. They were my "Tuesday morning project," I told the other moms at ballet. And they were: I've had several other projects on the go and I made myself save the scarves exclusively for Tuesday mornings. I crocheted and watched the little ladies learn their dance steps. I quite like being that mom who crochets at ballet class.

These two scarves are made with very similar yarns. The golden-beige one is made with Yarn Bee Soft Secret, a Hobby Lobby product, in the colorway called Biscuit. I adore this color. The yarn itself is good - inexpensive but very soft and silky for an acrylic yarn. I believe that Soft Secret is meant to compete with Caron Simply Soft, which is what I used for the periwinkle-colored scarf. The colorway is Lavender Blue. I prefer the Caron yarn just a bit over the Yarn Bee. I think it creates a slightly sturdier fabric, laying flatter and allowing the chevron shape to show a little better. It's less splitty than the Yarn Bee too. But I like them both quite well. They're a nice yarn for this kind of project because the scarves will be durable and easily cleaned.

Here, they're shown with my own black winter coat - the one I ordered in December which didn't come until the end of March. I haven't worn it yet. But it would look great with one of these scarves. Maybe I'll add it to the ever-growing list of things to make. The scarves don't have to be worn with a coat, of course. I think they'd be a nice addition to a sweater on less-chilly days. They're soft and drapey, easily tied or flung jauntily over one shoulder.

I tried to match the colors to what I perceive to be each teacher's style; the GB's teacher is sportier, often dressed in neutral colors, so I gave her the golden-beige one. It will look nice with her olive complexion too, I think. The lavender one went to the LB's teacher, a somewhat glitzier dresser who wears lots of purple and blue. She has dark blue eyes too, and I think this color will complement her eyes and her fair skin. Really, I just loved both colors and instantly saw "chevron scarf" when I looked at the skeins in the store; I sorted out the color assignments later. I will say that I prefer this scarf in a solid color, as opposed to a variegated skein; I made a variegated one for my mother last year and while it turned out nicely, I think there is better pattern definition in the solid-colored scarves I've made. I really enjoy crocheting chevrons and ripples of all kinds, but I like this type best, with lacy, open "holes" in the pattern.

Oh, I do love those shapely chevrons. This pattern is so enjoyable. It practically makes itself. I really think everyone should make a chevron scarf or ten.

I crocheted a little gift for the GB's classroom teaching assistant too. I wanted to give her something special and handmade as well, and I have always liked these hanging heart ornaments - the hearts designed by a lady named BeaG (pattern here, on Flickr), and modified by Lucy of Attic 24. I'd made one of these before and enjoyed the process. This time around, I decided to use cotton yarn (I Love This Cotton in Aqua) instead of DK-weight acrylic as I did last time. This made a much larger heart; it's about seven inches tall from the bottom point to the top edge. Lucy added a crocheted rose and leaves to her heart, and I did the same with my first one. I wanted to do something a little different this time. The teaching assistant is a sort of splashy older lady who loves big floral prints on her clothes, so I decided to make an Irish Rose design from 100 Flowers to Knit and Crochet. The Irish Rose is number 62 in the book. I made the rose from cotton yarn as well, in three shades of red and pink. It came out nice and big. I sewed it onto the heart with a small pink flower button in the center. I like it. It has a bold look and it's a little kitschy too. And the GB tells me that Miss B.'s favorite color is light blue, so I think this fills the bill.

The gifts have been made and given, class plays performed, dance and guitar recitals attended, report card signed, and now it's time to party: a much-anticipated pizza feast in the LB's class tomorrow. I signed up to bring a pasta salad. I'm bringing Twizzlers and cookies too. The cookies are store-bought. No baking for me right now; it's been a long couple of weeks and I'm tired. Happy, but pretty darn tired. I'm ready for lazier days at home, punctuated by trips to the swimming pool and the library. Bring it, summer vacation.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Made for sunny days

This time, right now, is perfect. It's just hot enough outside. Everything is blooming. The yard is filled with the scent of honeysuckle day and night. I wish I could keep it like this year-round.

We hardly left our house the whole weekend. There was plenty to do around here, and we worked some. But mostly we relaxed and enjoyed the first really summery weekend of the season. We set up the kids' pool on the back patio and sat in deck chairs while they played. I crocheted rather aimlessly, a big cotton granny square. The Bear drank beer and told me hilarious stories. We admired the way our children got along in the pool, the novelty causing them to forget to argue for a little while. It's still a Very Big Deal for them to play in their plastic kiddie pool, with squirt guns and old cups and yogurt containers. When they're finished for the day, I hang their towels and swimsuits on the little clothesline at the end of the porch. I like seeing them there, it's one of those summer-only things. Do you know what I mean? There are others, in my house: iced tea in the fridge, Otter Pops in the freezer, peanut shells in the little trash bin on the patio, swim goggles and sunscreen on the kitchen counter.

We've eaten well this weekend. Friday night I made chicken fajitas, with the meat and vegetables cooked on the grill. I make a marinade with lime juice, garlic and cayenne, a recipe I found online years ago. I've never been to Chili's again. On Saturday night, I fed the small Bears scrambled eggs and made an easy late dinner for us after they went to bed. We ate Gardenburgers in pita bread with onion rings while we finished our last episode of Endeavour and started Inspector Morse, both on Netflix. We have been so taken with Endeavour the last few weeks. What a beautiful, stylishly produced show. Inspector Morse has not disappointed. Back to the food...tonight, I roasted a huge chicken. It was almost six and a half pounds, more like a small turkey. But it was close to perfect. We ate it mostly with our fingers. I've been in a remarkably good mood about cooking lately, long may it last.

Thank you for the comments on my last few posts. They've been supportive and thought-provoking. I'm glad my love for home and family come through in my posts. Welcome, new readers and followers! I am really happy you're here.
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