Sunday, May 29, 2016

Little Miss Saturn

Our GB starred as Saturn in a play on the last day of school, which was this past Wednesday. The play had a theme of space and the planets. She did a wonderful job, though I didn't manage to get all that many photos of her in the play. The Bear helped her build a costume; every child playing a planet was supposed to wear a replica of the planet to perform in. The Bear made a big ring from several layers of cardboard, glued together for strength, painted it and attached ribbons for straps. Like the other children, she wore her costume over dark clothing. I think they all did a really great job. Miss Saturn did a twirly dance to emphasize her rings. My favorite part was when all the planets joined hands and danced in a circle around the sun. There is nothing like young children, singing and dancing together, to make a mother tear up a little.

We've been having an extremely vegetative few days. We really needed it. The Bear had some time off that he needed to take or he would lose it, so he started his Memorial Day holiday on Thursday. We've mostly stayed close to home, hanging out on the back patio with books and guitars, working a little in the yard (we had to, lest the pyracantha and trumpet vine take over our property), watching barbecue shows on Create TV, eating and drinking. We have made it out of the house a little; the Bear and I celebrated our fourteenth wedding anniversary with a night out on Friday; the small Bears had a sleepover with their grandparents. Our actual anniversary was Wednesday, but the last day of school is just too busy to include a night out for the parents (we also had a ballet recital late in the afternoon that day), though he did bring me sunflowers and strawberries that evening.

Anyway, our night out was lovely. We went to dinner (seafood), then spent a while walking off our massive meals at an outdoor shopping center (the upscale kind, rife with stores we can't afford), with a stop for gelato. Then we took a drive up above the city, on reservation land, to look at the lights over the mesa. It's one of our favorite things to do when we can get out at night. We went home to read and drink tea. In the morning, we went out for breakfast and then spent an hour or so wandering around Jo-Ann Fabrics. I bought three small cuts of calico for my stash, he bought a new watercolor paintbrush. We came home and read on the patio until the small Bears were delivered home. To us, it was a perfect anniversary celebration. I really like that our anniversary always falls right around the end of school and Memorial Day (we got married on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend). It always feels like summer begins with our anniversary, the gateway to summer, kicked off with school plays and recitals, crazy, candy-fueled classroom parties and a rare but much-anticipated night out together, plus a lazy long weekend.

The rest of the day, and tomorrow, will be spent in similar laziness. Tonight, we'll grill burgers. I bought my first watermelon and corn on the cob of the season. I splurged mildly on a two-liter bottle of root beer. I have a lot of new library books (I'm back on my self-imposed summer reading regime, aiming to complete two or three books a week). This coming week will be a quiet one, but the following week brings the start of swimming lessons at the nearby city pool, along with kids' events at the library. It should be a quiet summer; we don't have vacation plans but may do a few day trips. No major medical events are planned, thankfully. We've had a busy spring and we're all looking forward to relaxing. I know I'll be getting restless in a few weeks, but I'm planning to do a better job keeping busy with projects and outings than I have in previous summers. We'll see. Now is not the time to worry about being bored. Right now, it's still Memorial Day weekend and the summer stretches out like a long, open road.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Color Collaborative: May: Photograph

"Photography helps people to see." - Berenice Abbott

When I scroll through my photo files, a few main themes emerge: my hobbies, my family, my home and its immediate surrounding area. I don't travel much, and in fact, would rather be at home than just about anywhere else. It's where I feel comfortable; it's who I really am. You've probably also noticed these themes in my photography; I tend to take pictures of the same things over and over again, in different seasons, at different times of the day, from different distances. I am a creature of habit: I like predictability, I feel better when I know exactly what's coming.

One of my favorite subjects to photograph is Sandia Peak, the mountain overlooking Albuquerque, my adopted home. I have an excellent view of the peak from my backyard and I can often be found snapping photos of the peak during my waking hours. I write about it often - possibly too often - but I can't help it; the view fascinates me. And there is this: it's mine. I can look as long as I want, I can take a million photos if I like. It never gets old because it never looks exactly the same way twice, even within the same day. My photo archives contain hundreds of photos of the peak; I think I may be peak-obsessed. I've been up there a few times, to hike, ride the tram or eat in one of the restaurants, but mostly, I'm happy to watch from my yard, or from inside my house when the weather is disagreeable. But even then, I'm usually willing to bundle up and stand out there as long as I can, camera in hand, perched atop a small brick stoop outside my bedroom, right shoulder leaning hard against the door.

Everyone has a unique perspective; everyone knows exactly what they will see when they look out the windows of their own home. I see rock, sky and cloud. I watch the color of the granite change throughout the day, moving through a spectrum of gray and pink as daytime turns to evening. The sky over the peak is my best indicator of the weather coming our way: crystal-clear bluebird skies or lowering, angry skies; innocuous cotton clouds or roiling, tumbling ones. The plants in my yard pinpoint the seasons; the mountain's shifting tableau subtly suggests them. With my camera, I capture the ever-changing, never-changing mountain as the days, seasons and years pass.


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

Monday, May 23, 2016

Very Large Array

Earlier this spring, the Bear crew and I made a visit to the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array, a radio astronomy observatory located on the plains of San Agustin in southern New Mexico. The VLA, as it is known, is a component of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, a department of the National Science Foundation. The VLA is made up of 27 gigantic radio telescopes, each 25 meters tall, which work together to observe various structures and features in space, such as black holes. The telescopes are spread in an arrow-shaped array across a huge field, where they are programmed to turn a little bit at a time, all of them at once, to gather information.

It's an interesting place to spend a few hours. You can take a walking tour on a path and get pretty close to one of them, standing underneath and looking up as it whirrs and hums lightly, ticking around ever so slowly. An anemometer (wind-speed gauge) protrudes from the very edge of the huge dish-shaped part (the wind on the field is not to be underestimated). The telescopes can be moved around the site on a dedicated railroad track, using caboose-like cars to push them into position. The site includes a museum, gift shop and theater, where you can watch an informative film before heading out for the walking tour. You've probably seen the VLA; Carl Sagan featured it in his documentary Cosmos, or maybe you've seen it in the movie Contact, starring Jodie Foster. Just the other night, I saw a truck commercial featuring the VLA. This enormous pick-up truck was driving dangerously close to the telescopes. Watching it, I felt concerned, and protective, now that I've walked among them.

You may be wondering what I really thought about visiting the VLA. Well, the truth is that I don't know enough about astronomy, or any branch of physical science, to give you a good review of the experience. The telescopes are an awesome sight, for certain. I like knowing that I live within a few hours of a major component of the national observatory and that real research is being done here in my state. I also like having a chance to see things that really interest my husband, who is a systems engineer for a National Laboratory; he works mostly on GPS satellites at the moment. His work is classified; I can't visit him at work, and he can't tell me about most of what he does there. In our nearly two decades together, I have only had a few opportunities to see him in his true element, so that was actually really nice. And then there are the two smaller Bears, wondrous and terrifying - the boy who is already years ahead of his peers in math, and the girl who just soldered her first circuit board this weekend.

I guess what I'm saying is that it hasn't always been an easy road, and I know I'll spend the rest of my life trying to keep up with the three of them, but I've come to appreciate having experiences as a family that aren't necessarily every member's cup of tea. We don't have to love the same things to find value in them, or to learn from them together, or to appreciate each other's reactions to them. In a family, you make room for each other.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Afternoon, late May

Friday, 81 degrees, the three of us whiling away the afternoon in our backyard - bikes and books, roses and honeysuckle, lizards and hummingbirds - he and she and me.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Ahoy, me hearties!

Thank you so much for the lovely replies to my last post, about what kind of blog I have (or don't have). I appreciate what you said. I have a lot of fun with blogging and that's what really matters to me. I've met wonderful people through blogging, have had some really nice (and totally unexpected) recognition now and then, and have just generally enjoyed expressing myself in words and photos. Of course, I'm very glad my blog resonates with people out there. Thanks for the encouragement and inspiration.

I have a new project to share today. Backing up a little bit first, I've given myself permission to stop worrying about crochet for as long as it takes to feel inspired again. I put a lot of pressure on myself in most areas of my life, even my crafty hobbies, and I'm really trying to change that. I like to get projects done, but it's important to savor, enjoy, stop and smell the roses, and all that.

The blanket I still hope to make will probably be my last one for a while, I've decided. I've made a lot of blankets over the past four-plus years since I really started crocheting in earnest - eight of them for our household alone! The new blanket will be a large one for our queen-sized bed, an extra layer at night in cold weather, and a colorful cover during the day. This blanket will be a good addition, but I think we've got plenty of them otherwise. I think my crochet future, at least for now, holds a lot of smaller projects like pillow covers, decorations and toys. Crochet has been a wonderful addition to my life these past few years, but there is no need to be a crochet machine. Whether I crochet a lot or a little, I believe that the benefits are here for good - they're part of who I am now.

I recently started this cross-stitch design, a colorful, whimsical pirate ship. The design is Voyage, from Satsuma Street, a modern cross-stitch pattern shop on Etsy. If you haven't seen Jody's shop yet, I strongly encourage you to take a look (I have no connection to the shop, I'm simply a huge fan of Jody's work). I love every design in her shop and have purchased a few over the past few years. This is the first one I've actually started making so far, but I have Big Plans, let me tell you.

Isn't this design fun? I love how colorful it is. The stitching itself is pretty straightforward - just basic whole crosses - but I really enjoy the intricacy of the design. It's a bit different from my last stitched piece, Retro Kitchen, in that the areas of color are smaller. I liked the big blocks of color in Retro Kitchen, but I like this too - it keeps me on my toes. I haven't stitched much yet, as you can see from the top photo, since I've been so busy with kids' stuff lately, but the bit I have done has been relaxing. I do so love my stitchy time.

Jody stitched the ship on black Aida but I've decided to use navy blue for mine. I was glad to find some at Hobby Lobby; they have a limited selection of colored Aida cloth there. I thought the blue would work better in the family room, where I plan to hang the finished piece. We have dark blue-upholstered furniture in that room. For flosses, I tried hard to match up similar colors from my own stash, as opposed to buying every color in the chart (there are quite a few colors in this design, as you can see). Luckily, I was able to find almost every one of these in my stash! Some are wound on bobbins, leftovers from previous projects, while others are still in skein form.

I took numerous skeins from my antique sewing basket full of old flosses, a gift from my in-laws (you can read more about this sewing basket here). I have some really interesting flosses in there, actually, and it's always fun to sort through them. I've never heard of a few of the brands anywhere else; I've got Rose brand, with Chinese on the label, Mez brand and Semco, in addition to Anchor and Coats & Clark. I only bought a few new skeins, plain white and a few blue and peach tones. I think the mix is great - there are bold, bright colors as well as soft, pale ones. Pirates, and their proud seagoing vessels, are nothing if not motley!

I'm planning to hang the finished piece in the space at the bottom left of our gallery wall in the family room (look! There's a little slice of Retro Kitchen in the yellow mirror). There should be plenty of room among these modern scrimshaw engravings of me buccaneers. I'm thinking about going slightly gaudy for the frame - something gilded and scrolly, maybe, pieces-of-eight style. Yo ho ho (and other piratical exhortations)!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Under construction

It's the time of year when I feel like I can't catch my breath for all the running-running-running I need to do. Everything happens at once during these May weeks. I love to be busy, but I don't relish the feeling of needing to be in several places at once. Lately, we've been seeing the doctors again for the LB, which is never easy, but the news has mostly been positive. This time last year, we were preparing for a major surgery, in addition to everything else we needed to do with the school year winding up, and we're glad not to be doing that now. Seeing the doctors again isn't so bad; in a way, they begin to feel like friends. We're fortunate to have good people to help us care for him.

It's a Saturday at home for us. We're watching Home Improvement on DVD and relaxing. The small Bears have runny noses and with the biggest school and ballet events still to come this week, we're just taking it easy this weekend. I was crocheting a bit earlier but I have to tell you that I'm feeling very uninspired at the moment. I'm sure some of it is just the time of year, but I'm also feeling out of ideas. I've been halfheartedly crocheting squares from the Paeonia pattern I shared a few weeks ago. I did the math; I have to make nearly 300 of them to have a blanket sized for my bed, and I'm afraid I'm just not feeling it enough. I'm thinking about big, basic granny squares instead, joining them with gray outer rounds. I've pinned a few granny afghans lately, like I just started crocheting (my crochet pinboard is here, if you're interested). I like Paeonia, but I'm undecided. Maybe it's time to have a little crochet break and do something else for a while instead. I do have sewing and cross-stitch projects that need attention. Too many projects? Undecided and uninspired - this is my crafting phobia.

This week, I received another email from someone who wants to help me "brand" my blog. I get these emails fairly often. I ignore them. This particular company wanted to help me design clothing that would boost my "brand recognition." Well. I have a style to my blog, and a color scheme, but I'd hardly call that a brand. I didn't engage with the offer, of course, but it made me think about what kind of blog I actually have. It isn't a craft blog; I see myself as more of a dabbler - an enthusiast - than an expert. It's not a food blog, though I enjoy sharing recipes that I've tried and liked. I don't have a farm, or a large family, or religious content. I've made a little bit of money with my blog but it's hardly a business. I'm pretty hopeless with social media; I don't think I've scrolled through my Instagram feed yet this month. Maybe I don't have a focus but I like it this way. I've spent too much of my life worrying about what others think; finally, now that I'm in my late thirties, I've been learning how to let go. It's liberating, and I wish I'd figured it out sooner. Life is so much easier when you aren't imagining that everyone thinks you're ridiculous.

I started blogging with the idea that I would write about the good, positive things in my life, to help me appreciate them more, I think. Everyone hopes people will read their blog; I've had modest success, which keeps me going too, of course, but this whole blogging gambit, for me, is mainly about the small things in life - the ones that make me happy and remind me of what's important. I write about my hobbies, my family, or the season, or the sunset or my backyard flowers. So that's my focus, I think - simple, happy things. I'm glad others out there enjoy the same kinds of things I do. It makes me happy to know that people like to stop by and see what I've been up to. You're good people, I like it when you come around. Pull up an afghan, stay for tea.
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