Sunday, September 29, 2013

...and two by two they got on The Bark

In art, as in life, things look better in odd numbers. Three photos on a wall, or five, often look better than two or four. Three items on a shelf look better than one. And in the garden the rule of three is one to remember.

When we did the kill the lawn project after planting the trees, I had a well balanced garden plan - on paper. It was a great plan, nicely sketched up with some soft plants, some pokey plants, tall plants, shorties, including round leaves and spiky ones too. Then I lost it, the plan that is. So the front yard sat over the summer, with just the bark, the trees and four azaleas. Yes, four. Odd that I went with an even number, but it just worked out that way.

Now it's getting into fall, the best time to get plants into the ground. Some decisions have to be made, and they're up to me. I can't seem to commit to a full plan that we plant all at once. What I have resorted to is stopping by the half off, last chance, they are so sad let's sell them for super cheap area of the nursery. I'm finding some great plants among the half dead ones. They seem to come in twos. So I buy what looks good, bring them home, place them around the front yard, dig a hole and call it a day.

Slowly I'm developing a somewhat organized garden plan. Forget the English look of a little here, a little there, let's have a sweet little adventure as we meander in a field of enchantment type space. No, this is more like a two by two, let's not go too crazy here, we didn't break the bank and it won't use up too much water look. I'm liking it. It's cute in a will never blow your socks off sort of way. I need to make some more trips to the sad plant place at the nursery and find more deals. But we now have some greenery to compete with the brown mulch, finally.

The lantana Myra gave me is going bonkers...

...and the butterflies just love it!
So I evened it all up and bought three more to make it four purple lantana.
The front hedge has a way to go, more edgy and not very hedgy at this point.
Look how GIANT the maple got.
Not really, it's faking it in front of the neighbor's tree.
But the two little trees are growing their hearts out, can't wait to see their fall color.
There will be a path going up the yard between them around to the front door.
Plus a little sweet gate in front, but right now that's just a future wish.

Two sets of feather grasses, for a total of four.
They remind me of chia pets.
Two creeping, no trim rose bushes.
Feel free to creep about the yard.
Two dwarf rosemary bushes.
They've already earned their keep spicing up some potato soup.

The ever evolving plan is to continue adding plants as we get them, two by two. I hope it won't end up looking odd.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

7 people, 1 bathroom, no dishwasher

Our house seems really roomy when it's just the two of us, although the bathroom is a bit dinky. We had it all worked out for adding in five overnight guests - we'd put the shortest couple out in the trailer. We knew Oliver and Kornelia were on the tall side, so we hoped the other couple from Germany would be dinky just like the bathroom. We opened the door to a group of strapping Polish Germans, blond and tan and all very tall. Ernst and I looked at each other and laughed, no shorties in this bunch.

Kornelia and Oliver were the shortest, or rather the least tall, so they became the trailer couple. Rafael and Magda took the guest room and Tianna got the futon in the office. Molly slept in our room, so it was a full house. It's high time I got over my hostess worries, and I think I'm finally making progress. I made a soup bar one night and an oatmeal bar breakfast the two mornings. The meal I was the most relaxed for was the one I missed because of getting called in to work. Ernst was in charge and I guess it all went well. I'll always be amazed at those people who can take a perfectly timed prime rib out of the oven while whipping up a chocolate souffle, all with a baby on their hip while sporting gorgeous hair and makeup. Not me, but I'm definitely getting more relaxed with entertaining. I haven't set off a smoke alarm in ages, and no food poisoning was reported from our guests. That is sometimes all one can ask for.

The tall ones are off to Tahoe and snow flurries. They left in a whirlwind of blond hair, long legs and giggles. I have so many German words floating through my head, the Romanian is fighting for brain space. I think a nice tall lager might help this shorty get back to normal.

They came bearing gifts, and they bought flowers and beer.
The guys washed, dried and put away all the dishes.
They have the guest thing down to an art.
Dishwasher was kaput, but Zer Gut, the washing machine was working!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Friends flying off for far flung fields

Having friends move off to far away countries is exciting. Not having a job at the airlines really stinks! Pretending for a moment that flights were free, here would be our wish list for travel:  

Go back to visit with our friends in China
Return to Romania and visit Adi, Antonio and Claudia, "Pippa," and the friends in Rahova
Revisit Ireland to see the Tomița family
See the Musial clan again in Frankfurt with the new grand kids
Pop into Rome to catch up with the Bagalias
Zip down to Ecuador to see the Hughes gang
Finally get to Australia to visit with Stuart, Amber and Samantha
Travel to London and spend some time with Caroline and company
Go to Vietnam to visit Will and My!

And the list goes on. We can't even find time to go to Portland, how is all that going to happen? For now, we can only dream. And say our good-byes to Will and My as they prepare to head off to Vietnam. My left there as a 9 month-old baby - in a small fishing boat full of refugees piloted by her dad. They ran out of fuel, but by then were able to spot a large vessel and get rescued. Now she's returning "Will"ingly with her husband on a plane. We've had the privilege of knowing them since they were in college at UCD. Ernst even had the joy of performing their wedding talk. It has been wonderful to see them blossom and now take this big new step in their lives. Life - so many places to go, so many people to see - and me without an airline job. 

Will, My, me, Ernst and Molly.
Molly would not turn around.

Will, My, me, Ernst and Molly.
Molly would not stop wiggling.

Will, My, me and Ernst.
Molly was put outside.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The sewn in summer fall quilt springs off to Winters

The very first time a friend said she wanted to buy one of my quilts, I felt so uncomfortable. I had made them for friends, and I had sold them to strangers, but selling one to a friend? "Are you SURE?" was my first response back then.

The Raven quilt

I got over that real quick and now it only feels the teeniest bit weird. "Are you SURE" is now just a "REALLY?" and then we get on to the logistics of delivery and payment. This week I got a mystery text/email with only a telephone number on it and a photo of the Raven quilt. It seemed a bit "spammy" so I sort of ignored it. It turned out to be my friend with the hair I covet, wanting to buy my farm-themed, autumn-inspired rag quilt based on a scarecrow theme. I must say, when I was sewing this quilt I thought of the friend with the hair I covet and knew it was her colors.

Of all the quilts I have made, I have only kept two for myself. I have a third one planned for us from all our flannel castoffs, but it's boxed up for a really rainy day. What's fun about being open to most all colors and styles is that I don't have to decide if I want to keep a certain quilt, or even if it would look good with our stuff. All it has to do is look good on its own, and someone out there on Etsy can decided if it's for them. Despite the fact that I find all kinds of cute fabric to use, I've been pretty good about not stockpiling too much, I don't want to be the star in a fluffy episode of Hoarders. In the large Ikea cabinet in my sewing room, there are about 10 different quilt possibilities. I just need to find a little more fabric, a little more time, a few rainy days...




Oink Oink!

Mr. Bunners!

Just Ducky!

Here Kitty Kitty!

OK. so maybe I have the beginnings of way more than 10 quilts. The problem is I have to duck into the thrift stores to get the supporting fabric for these themed quilts, but then I'll see even more poor abandoned pigs and ducks and bunnies. What am I supposed to do, just leave them there? Yes, I seem to be running, not a quilting business, but a rescue mission for abandoned cotton animals.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Pumpkins over popsicles

Even though we're getting one last blast of summer here in Northern California, the slightest hints of Fall are in the air. The days are shorter, the markets are starting to carry squash of all kinds and cinnamon is beginning to win out over basil in the kitchen. It was time to get my autumn-themed quilt done before leaf raking season is upon us.

Raven - the Scarecrow quilt

Autumn - a time for

Jeans rather than shorts
Soups rather than smoothies
Raking rather than mowing
Socks rather than sandals (or both, for German tourists)
Quilts rather than beach towels
Football rather than baseball  (Oh right, it's that season!)

When we went to Rosie's cabin a few weeks ago, I hauled up a big Ikea bag full of fabric to sort through. While half the guests played Catan one morning, I worked away at cutting up what I had brought. One batch was for this fall oriented, scarecrow-themed quilt. I had found two identical pieces of fabric at the thrift store for making stuffed scarecrows. I held onto them until I had collected some more fabric to match. I came up with leaves and wheat and squash and chickens and more leaves. There's a fabric for just about everything and if I wait long enough, eventually I stumble upon just what I need - abandoned and waiting to find its purpose in my quilting plans.

I'm picturing a white pumpkin patch in the front yard next year - white because orange ones would clash with the pink crepe myrtle and the purple lantana and we can't have that. If we get our timing right, the pink and purple will be gone just in time for our orange and red maples to have their autumn show. So while I'll be sad to say goodbye to swimming this year and I'm not autumn's biggest fan - there is a time, and a quilt, for every season.

I made my first big boo boo with the Scarecrow quilt.
In one square, I only sewed half of one of the Xs and the batting bunched up inside.
That means I can't ask full price.
If I only had a brain!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Circles of joy

A village in Romania. Use your imagination.

This drawing may look like a combination of House Hunters meets an NFL playbook, but that's not even close. This is my visual aid from our presentation last night on Romania. What you see is an artist's rendition (Ha!) of a little street corner where I had one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Unfortunately, I have no photos, the scribbles will have to set the scene.

It's hard enough for me to understand Romanian, but add in the heat of a July day with no shade trees? My brain doesn't need any more frying. But our last day in the village of Draganeste was cooler and wonderfully overcast. It made it so pleasant to have some longer conversations. Ernst and I had visited several families on the top street in the drawing. As was typical, the houses were humble, to say the least. We saw no hunger where we were, but the living conditions were rough. The kind of rough that makes one vow to never complain about anything anymore ever. I think I need to go back, my vow is getting rusty.

When we got to the corner where all the circles are, that's when it got crazy good. The circles are people, but there was no room to draw in the happy faces. The biggest happy face was mine. While the others all got into conversations, I was feeling a bit bummed because my language skills are as rusty as my vow to not complain. Then I talked to a man on a bench. He seemed to understand. I had a conversation with a woman over the fence. I understood what she was saying about Nelson Mandela. She told me she loved talking with me. Then a sweet young teenage girl came up to me. We talked. In her language. I was in a foreign country (which at the moment didn't feel foreign at all) and I was speaking the language. I was telling her that her life was a gift, it was so special, she needs to protect it like a treasure. Where were these words coming from? They were in me and they were coming out my mouth, from my heart.

She left and came back with her mother. Amazingly, it wasn't just the teenager effect, I was able to talk to both of them. I'm sure I was still slaughtering the grammar, but for once it didn't matter to me, I was connecting on an emotional level in a language other than English. All the flashcards were paying off. All the boring rote memorization that is the only way to get through to my mental tundra was coming together. But for once there was that thing that I can never do, the relaxing part, the feeling the language part. The thing that only happens when I'm talking to myself in Romanian and it all sounds great. Normally adding in an actual human being throws me off. But something about those two human beings on that humble little corner of falling down houses created a moment to remember always.

Last night, during our little presentation, the emotion of that morning came back. Not only was I trying to get out my words, now I was trying to get them out through tears. All those little circles on the drawing mean so much to me. I so want to go back and find more circles. I know what I have to do. Keep learning. Work on comprehension. Relax and just talk, no fear. Pay off this trip. Plan another one. Soon we'll be all squared up and ready to roll.