Thursday, May 29, 2008

Would you do me the honour...

Miss Kitty can barely contain her delight as Mr. Tom takes her hand and turns her on the floor. She has fostered a bit of a crush on the gentleman since they were quite young. He is a fine gentleman, perhaps more suited for the elegant Miss Fox instead of the humble Miss Kitty; but there is no denying the sparkle in Mr. Tom's eye when he looks upon her. And now he has asked her to dance; and everyone at the party is all awhisper.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Why Jane's England Floats My Boat

I've been addicted to Jane Austen for more than half of my life. It all started with a complete collection of Jane's works bought for me by my mother. It was meant to fulfill the required reading list, and has instead stayed with me since it was given to me. The book is dog-eared and the spine irrevocably creased. I read newer versions to protect my original book. Jane's works are among the very few other romance literature I will pick up. I just don't like any other kind, oddly.

Jane is the reason why the Oregon Regency Society exists. I created an entire organization just to fulfill my desire to experience that time. How selfish of me. I suppose, I did it because I sought to feel precious and pretty in a gown and pearls, to be civil and have people be civil to me; to dance, to enjoy the romantic aspects of the costume and of the customs, to have others around me who like the same. There is something about seeing a young man arrive at one of our events toting the stiff collar and cravat, his entire posture exuding the strict protocol of the regency period, his topper under his arm ~ to see him bow curtly and lift his hand to a lady in order to ask her to dance. There's something extremely satisfying in just seeing young people participating in the events; and to be enthusiastic about it. It's a beautiful thing that gives me hope in a world where I've seen a young lady open her car door and spit out the door.

I feel like I've been missing something in my normal jeans-wearing life. The genteel manners, the polite conversation, the sense that I can be a lady, and be treated like one. Even my reluctant spouse somehow changes once the frock-coat slides up onto his shoulders and he grasps the top of his cane. He stands straighter, he is more polite, more structured. He is also infinitely delicious in the costume... So handsome. :)

It's sort of strange, to imagine in Oregon there are so many people who share this vision; who strive to participate in our events. Our membership is hovering around 180 or so right now. Picnics, parties, workshops, it doesn't matter; any excuse to play dress-up. :) I'm extremely proud of my accomplishment with the ORS. I'm proud of what it has become, and happy that it is made up of kindred-spirits.

Friday, May 23, 2008

A silly moment.

Miss Mouse is a peculiar girl. She's not like the other girls in her village, who wander around the village in giggling groups, and gape at all the handsome boys. Miss Mouse prefers a quieter existence. She loves to read. When she has a free moment, she can often be found outdoors somewhere well-removed from the pesterings of her family and acquaintances; enjoying a good book. Miss Mouse often reads where Mr. Nightengale is known to alight for a rest on his travels. He too enjoys the quiet of the country, and the gentle, pleasant company of Miss Mouse. Sometimes, he'll sing softly to Miss Mouse while she reads.

Happy Friday!

My friend has shared a quick story about having held a tiny black baby bunny, and it just warmed my heart. It inspired this happy-Friday drawing.

I'm a strange soul, yes, but nothing brings out my tenderness more than a vulnerable baby animal. Okay... tenderness, but you'll also be imposed upon with an unending series of "awwwww..."s and squeals and repetitions of the words "cute" and "I waaant one!". I'm a sucker for baby animals.

There are very few babies that don't create that reaction in me. Human babies will occasionally, but that's a tough one... because to me they're just not as high up on the cuteness scale as .. oh ... a puppy, for instance... or a baby elephant. Human babies definitely rank higher than baby birds (before the down comes in) and rodent pinkie babies, but still are not as cute as baby orangutans for insance.

::Tee hee:: Okay, that's mean... but to me, even the lowest cuteness-ranked baby animals are so ugly that they are adorable. Even featherless baby birds. I still think human babies are cute to some degree.. tiny feet and fingers, for instance... but I think human babies are cutest when they're already walking, wide-eyed and trying to talk with tiny voices and asking fragmented questions. Anytime before that, they're just not half as appealing as a box-full of kittens. Sorry!

Happy Friday from evil me.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

My Uninteresting Evening...

I got home last night determined to get a baby squirrel that's started frequenting our corn-cobs on camera. He's so cute, and Marmee Craft's recent squirrel post inspired me to go out there to capture the cuteness. I was successful! The little bugger was there when I got home, so I grabbed my camera and chased him around the tree a few times. He wasn't pleased. He made the little whiny "peeew--peew" noises at me, and postured a bit. He's not very imposing; he could easily fit in my hand.. and his tail is not even fully fluffed out yet.

After harassing the baby squirrel, I went inside and got a bonnet I wanted to get on camera to show someone, so I figured I'd take advantage of the remaining daylight to get a decent picture of it. So I took it out to the fence and took a picture. It's a bonnet for a little girl, so it's really small and cute. I simply had to use pink... I had no choice in the matter ~ it's for a little girl, after all.

I then went around and snapped a couple of other photos of the rainy garden. The three that really stood out were the really bold coloured rhododendron flowers, my slowly unfurling hostas finally waking for spring, and the old-man's beard that has taken residence on our fence. That stuff really puffs up and proliferates during winter and spring.

Otherwise, it was a quiet evening of bonnet-making and dog-tormenting. With hubby away, I have to pay special attention to the dogs to make sure they've been properly rumbled with, and Simon has had his toy tossed for retrieval the requisite number of times each evening or he won't let me sleep. :)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

It's a sheep thing, you wouldn't understand...

In December of 2002, I uprooted my entire life in a desperate act; I picked up and moved, renting out my half of a house until I could eventually sell it off to my co-owner. I came from New England. I came with mostly what I could carry, and shipped some other things. My furniture was stored in a friend's basement in Massachusetts and would remain there almost two years.

I came to live with my sister, who owned a 20-acre farm in a town called Estacada. She had a lovely historic home. She was going through a divorce, and alone in a 5-bedroom house, complete with a herd of sheep, several goats, including two pack-goats, and a llama named Bob. She also, after my arrival, added on a flock of various chickens, starting with lovely layers, like my beloved Aracaunas and golden Sexlinks, and then my BANE... the cornish cross fryers. BLECH! Dirty, disgusting things! The turkeys, ducks and other food-related birds were added on too. The quail never made it past chick-hood because something ate them (probably a raccoon); I'm not sure how satisfying a snack they were because the chicks were like little bumble-bees with legs, they were so small (they were pretty heavy on the cuteness though).

I digress... This place of my sister's was my domain while we both dealt with difficult moments in our lives. She took advantage of my presence and was gone quite a bit, traveling about, finding herself. I was left with the sheep and the goats and the chickens, finding myself. My drawings, in part, began to reflect this little world. Come Christmas, my sister asked me to come up with a set of Christmas cards, so I created the "Five Oaks Farm Friends" series; and they starred the critters that dominated my life. My sister loved them.

Ever since then, I find myself drawing these creatures. Even now that I am far removed from the muck of the barn in winter, and the heartbreak of lambing, and the feeling of self-sufficiency as I collect the pastel-toned eggs gifted to me by my gorgeous layers. It's like I'm reliving that feeling of wellbeing after coming in from the cold, wet morning, smelling of manure and with hay in my hair, and feeling the radiant warmth of the woodstove that I'd fired up that morning, and just gotten hot enough to burn that oak log that will last almost all day.

I liked it to some degree. It wasn't my dream, and it was confining sometimes, but I really liked it during the times when my sister was away and I was alone, I found that it was all the reason I needed to get out of bed and to cut kindling, and to make a nice breakfast, to walk down the long driveway to the mailbox with the dogs at my side, or to just sit in the barn and let the lambs and baby goats pester me; or listen to Bob make his weird kazoo sound whenever I came near him.

When I got a job; everything changed. I met my husband too, and my sister moved away and left us to care for her farm for a while. The time wasn't so relaxed anymore... so reflective, and the time for the animals was cut down significantly. We just fed and watered them mostly--and tried to keep up with the demands of the farm and the hellacious bills. I was relieved when my sister told me she wanted to sell the house. Sad, but relieved. It was too much. The tiny house we bought was a breath of fresh air. We were simply exhausted by everything by then.

But I do still miss the wiley little Shetland sheep; and the stupid Romneys... The mischievous goats... the ever-kazooing-and-watchful guard-Bob and his best friend Chewy... Elegant Buck Yang and his brood of goat ladies... the aracauna hens and the fine rooster, the golden sexlinks and their consistent double-yolkers... I miss them a bit. So I draw them.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Grumbly, Mumbly Monday.

It's one of those Mondays. Hubby is off to Wisconsin for work; I woke up by chance because the power was out, and my alarm didn't go off... I rushed out of the house feeling icky because I couldn't shower. A large tanker trailer had rolled off the road apparently, just across the entrance to my street, taking out the power line. There it was, smashed to bits, covered in fire-extingishing foam, and a line of emergency vehicles a quarter of a mile long. Thankfully there were no fatalities. Hopefully we'll have power by the time I get home tonight.

The house is a complete wreck. I really do have to clean... but I have bonnets to make too. Urgh. Saturday I have to drive down to Eugene with the dogs all alone. ::whine::

It's so ... Monday. At least Pearls made me smile. Oh, and no ducks have appeared looking for food today. She only had five left last time we saw her. I hope we'll see her marching up with her brood soon. I refreshed their water and set out some food for them.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Lovely Bonnet from Hades

This is it. Tara's lovely bonnet.
It's the first time I've worked with heavy fabric for the 'hard' stovepipe bonnet. It made the work challenging. I'm not quite happy with the angle of the brim, but the thing just wouldn't work with me. I think all in all, it's still pretty.
I used a combination of feather 'picks' from the Michael's Floral Department and pheasant feathers; which were the costliest of the supplies. The fabric I paid $4 for (40% off). The straw hats that created the foundation of hte project; $4.50 for both. The ribbon; $3.00. The medallion and the pheasant feathers were $3.99 each. The picks were $1.99 each (and I used 2).

I got a yard of home-dec fabric; which left plenty of fabric to make a nice reticule with too. The reticules are so nice and easy to make. About an hour's worth of sewing and cutting. There's plenty of room in there for a digital camera and a cell phone. :)

The fabric was heavy for the bonnet covering, I've learned to stick to silks and lighter damasks for the stovepipes. It was a dream to sew though, I have to say.

The ribbon is a bit more 'russety' than it looks in the picture. It's very complimentary.

That's it for this project. I have a few more soft pokes to make in the next couple of weeks. One or two for raffle with matching reticules... And one stovepipe for me. I got a nice tan fabric to work with. We'll see how it goes.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Weekend Rounds

Wow. I'm tired this dreary Monday; I must simply grumble about it. I had a busy weekend. I started it by creating a stovepipe bonnet for my friend Tara. I usually have few issues with them; but I guess when I'm making one specifically for someone else, the laws of the universe change completely and the most basic tasks end up being the biggest challenges.

That bonnet fought me from the beginning. I'm still angry at it. I can't look at it for the accomplishment that it is, but for the unending issues it presented to me. From the angle of the brim to the fabric I chose, it was a pain in the butt. The only thing that made the project redeemable was the cost (which was disgustingly low... the most expensive things were the feathers...) It still has issues that irk me. If Tara doesn't like it, it's going on ebay; and maybe the next one won't be such a pain in my rear end. I'll post pics of it soon. I still need to figure out how to deal with some flaws. Urgh.

I did manage to take a stroll around my garden this weekend to take a 'growth' assessment. At my elevation, I'm about 2 weeks behind the Portland area; so things are still in an earlier stage of growth. I was pleased to see that all of the mason bees had hatched out of their straws and tunnels. I was hoping to be quick enough to remove the straws this spring, because they're ugly, but the bees have already started repopulating them with their egg-cells, so I guess they'll get the straws for another year.

Mason Bee house with straws

Hubby made them a whole new house; a foot-long length of 4x4 peppered with holes. They are busy, buzzing all around my head when I'm out there, sweet, quiet little black bees, going about their business. They have some sources of pollen; the cherry blossoms have fallen, but a few other plants have put out flowers, and I planted some million-bells last week (gasp... I actually spent money on annuals... a whole $6!!!). I never normally even look at annuals at nurseries, but I wanted a little punch of colour for my window boxes to enhance my sedum-scapes.

I saw some hummingbirds about on Saturday, and we have new visitors, huge band-tail pigeons have started to frequent our feeders. They're giant; like a good-sized crow almost. I like their cooing, it's really soothing. They show up in couples on the most-part but we got a flock of them Saturday afternoon. They're pretty funny-looking, with little pin-heads and big bodies with huge orange feet. Cartoony almost.

Sunday, we did the mother's day rounds. My mum is 3,000 miles away (thankfully); and she was taken care of with a phone-call. My husband has his mom, grandma and sister to consider; so we made visits most of Sunday. I then watched 'Cranford' on OPB (Oregon Public Broadcasting); and then a few episodes of Buffy (I'm doing the annual Buffy-Binge... The Jane Austen marathon comes after that...). I went to bed late, and am now suffering for it. ::yawn::.

It was a busy but uneventful weekend; and obviously this post is quite dull because of it. ::hee hee::. I get few quiet weekends anymore where I can just stay home and craft. Hubby complains too much about my crafts taking over the house.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Happy Friday!

Miss Kitty is outfitted in a lime muslin day dress, her steel grey spencer and she clutches her favourite green reticule, which was made to match her smart new bonnet. She is off for a lovely stroll in town with her dearest friend, the young Miss Fox. Miss Fox is daughter of a Baronet, and is very refined and wealthy. Miss Kitty may not be of the same means as Miss Fox, but she is rich in prettiness and sweetness; qualities that cannot be bought with all the titles or gold in all the the empire.

Miss Kitty is just one half of an image I'm working on. :)
Happy Friday.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Crazy Asian Guy of 92nd Avenue

Every morning, I take a right onto 92nd and cruise with leisure alongside highway 205 on a hillside, while traffic below moves sluggishly along in a parade of blinking red lights. I pass through the intersection with Otty, and there on my right I will see Crazy Asian Guy. As soon as I see Crazy Asian Guy, I am assured that all is well with the world

Who is Crazy Asian Guy? He's a gangly, 60ish year old Asian man who comes down off of his steep street every morning, to the corner of 92nd to drop his grand kids off for the bus. After the kids are safely aboard the yellow bus, he remains there perform what I call Crazy Calisthenics.

Crazy Asian Guy is quite the character. He's got choppy bowl-like steel grey hair (when I can see it), and a long, sweet-looking face. Crazy Asian Guy, however, is not performing a series of graceful exercises; nor is he in the peaceful garden one would do such exercises in. It's a noisy street that parallels a busy highway. His spot of choice is the corner of the sidewalk, near the wall of someone's yard, facing up towards the sharp incline of his street; this is where he installs himself.

His grand kids probably make sure everyone is facing forward until he is out of sight of the big yellow school bus, cringing that someone would see Crazy Asian Grandpa doing his thing

Ah, his thing... The Crazy Calisthenics (I'm thinking of adding a K in place of the Cs just to illustrate how Krazy it is)... It's not a dance of liquid movements and poise, oh, no. Crazy Asian Guy has his own 'style'. He does things like flapping his arms; and reaching them up high, and then bending in half to touch his toes. He'll spread out his arms wide with his hands flat and horizontal, and then swivel back and forth like a Crazy Asian helicopter. He'll do squats with his arms straight out; he'll bend his elbows, reach for the sky, then bend elbows, touch his chest, then bend his elbows and reach down his sides. I've seen him do high-kick-goose-steps back and forth too, that one made me laugh all the rest of the way to work.

Crazy Asian Guy is *far* from graceful. He's jerky and uncoordinated and looks like an epileptic scarecrow. And even better, has absolutely no problem doing this in a puffy feather anorak with his hood up on his head; in his standard chino high-waters and white socks, standing on a street corner first thing in the morning during full-on rush hour, every morning. And you know what conclusion I've come to about all this? I simply adore Crazy Asian Guy!

Crazy Asian Guy makes me smile. Every freakin' morning, I'm steaming angry from my commute; and that last bit before I hit Johnson Creek, there he is; flapping and jerking about frenetically; and every time, I get this warm smile on my face, and this urge to stop and hug him and his puffy blue anorak. I wish *I* had a Crazy Asian Guy doing that on my street every morning. I guess I'll have to just be content with my momentary glimpse of this Crazy Asian Guy.

I love Crazy Asian Guy. I wish he were my Crazy Asian grandpa.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

In honour of my little waterfowl friends.

This is another of my "Desktop Specials" made with office supplies. Recycled paper; pencil, sharpie (fine tip) and some coloured pencils I found in the supply closet and use frequently.

Duck Drama

The offices where I work are in a small house stranded in a large manufacturing parking lot across the street from the main facility. The lot is snug against a creek. Our windows look out at our tiny front lawn, where my co-worker and master gardener has created a ‘waterwise’ native garden. It’s always green and lovely, and there are lots of blooms. It also attracts a variety of critters; birds and squirrels. I’ve seen nuthatches, finches, kinglets, chickadees, bushtits, jays, flickers, woodpeckers—we have a book and we always check. We have feeders and suet; so it’s a lovely oasis, both for us and the city-weary animals around us.

Come spring, we become host to ducks. They just appear, usually in pairs (some that we recognize – the mallards can have distinctive and unique markings and traits… there’s one we call Nike, because he has a white ‘swoosh’ on his left cheek, for instance). Nike and his girl are usually the first to show. They waddle up to my co-worker’s window and demand food.

We go to a local feed store and buy a bag of poultry food every year. We set up the food & water station in front of my window, where I can observe the succession of pairs (and the violent process of mating). This goes on for a while. We feed them, they come and go... and then the babies arrive. Such a bittersweet time.

I usually pull up one morning to see a female hunkered on the grass, wings ‘umbrellaed’ around her sides. And beneath, I see the movement of little babies. There are usually twelve or so of the little guys. They are a mix of black and mottled colours, and they look like tiny fuzzy lemons with heads. God if they aren’t the cutest things known to man.

It’s always such a drama. We become instantly protective of our baby broods. But we are powerless for them. And every day, the numbers dwindle. Crows, whom I usually respect for their wile and cleverness, I despise during this time, because they are primarily responsible for the babies’ declining numbers. They are very clever about it to; one distracts mother while the others move in on the babies.

I have yet to see a brood survive. :( It’s very sad. Especially since the babies bring us such joy while they’re around. I really like ducks. I wish I could keep some; but I’m certain raccoons would think them their personal buffet like the crows. Even I cannot deny that duck is really delicious.

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Dreaded Mother-In-Law

This weekend I was involuntarily dragged, kicking and screaming into the midst of my sister and brother in laws’ marriage drama. We went out to dinner with them on Friday, and I learned far more than I wish I had. The whole experience however did get me to thinking, so to speak, about where the line should be drawn in the case of Mothers-in-law.

My brother-in-law (forthwith referred to as BIL) is a momma’s boy. Early thirties, and he still lives with Mommy (referred to forthwith as MIL). BIL and wife (SIL) attempted home ownership for a few months. They impulsively bought the first house they saw, without really researching or pricing things out. They got into a mortgage they could barely afford even when they both worked. And frankly, aside from SIL hating living with MIL, the only other reason why they decided to buy as house was because we were buying ours and they felt left behind. That’s a perfect example of the kneejerk decisions they tend make as a couple.

They are typical of Gen-Y. All about the ‘now’ and the ‘me’. They can’t afford to pay a mortgage, but they have a quad, a motorcycle, an X-box 360, a blackberry, two new cars with payments, a piece of land somewhere for recreation that they never use, and they have the greatest moneypit of all; TrendWest. My favourite justification I’ve heard from my BIL is his excuse for having the TrendWest; “It’s like a retirement plan,” he exclaimed to me with alacrity. It took every fibre of my being not to laugh in his face. On top of all this, SIL got pregnant with her fist kid and decided she wanted to be a stay-at-home Mom.

Today, they have two boys, one about two, and the other not even a year old. They still haven’t put a shred of thought into savings for education or retirement. He has no 401K to date.

Anyway, SIL's decision to quit working lost them their cookie-cutter development house; costing them a huge mortgage penalty for selling against the mortgage agreement. They not only lost most of what they made on the house on that, they also had to pay capital gains tax of course, having not been in the house more than two years, and they promptly spent the rest on goodness knows what. Quite the venture.

They agreed as a 'step forward' (direct quote from BIL) to move back in with MIL. Two years later, SIL is still home full time—the cabin-fever has long set in, she's obviously unhappy, but working is still not an option. Keep in mind, she is now living with MIL again… something she hated before they bought the house. It allowed her to stay home though, so she was able to suck it up in the beginning. Now the depression is permeating her; and then add on the post-partum depression that reared its ugly head with the advent of the second child, and boom, she is prescribed Effexor. Their relationship has been progressively swirling down into the toilet.

She whispered to me from behind her menu Friday that she doesn’t think her anti-depressants are helping enough. BIL then promptly threw a toy at her to make her stop talking about their private issues with me… SIL managed to tell me other things as we ate, between kid screams and tossed French-fries and her controlling, obviously angry, toy-tossing husband.

After they sold their house, they lived with MIL in the same house for a while. Then recently, MIL bought some acreage with a manufactured home on it, and offered to rent it to them, and she’d live in a camper on the property. Naturally, they couldn’t afford the rent so BIL now has an endless ‘Mommy-Do’ list of things to do to compensate his mother for their rent; which now includes caring for livestock MIL bought. He righteously complains that ‘it’s getting old’. I can imagine so, however I say strap on the cross, baby, and start dragging it around – I’ll get you a crown of thorns to complete the whole look, martyr-boy. You reap what you sow.

SIL is upset because he does all this work for ‘his mother’ and she never sees him and she never gets a break from the children; and BIL says ‘I'm doing it all for us’ and acts like the whole burden lies upon his shoulders. Yes, this bickering was going on all through our dinner Friday night (while the boys made all sorts of noise and threw food all over the floor). I commiserated with every annoyed face that turned our way whenever the ear-bursting squeals pierced the already tense atmosphere. SIL is beyond caring any more.

As my husband and I predicted long ago, Mommy-in-law inevitably can’t keep her nose out of their business. She's strongly enabled in her intrusion by her son, who righteously believes he's only doing the right thing, and SIL is failing him. MIL is in and out of their house like she’s the wife. She pretty much controls the household, and has a large say in how the children are reared. SIL just lets it happen; she's given up; all her power has been taken away. MIL has now decided to ramp up a campaign against my SIL—so harsh and cruel, that it’s almost caused SIL to pack up the kids and to leave. She’s already depressed from being home with the kids 24/7. She hardly leaves the house. Nobody seems to notice the depression issues. Darling BIL and MIL gang up on her with constant criticism. She is wholly unhappy, almost everyone in the restaurant could feel her ire whenever she spoke. Their marriage is going to hell in a handbasket.

I cannot imagine what it would be like to have no allies in my own household. Worse, the person I would expect to be there for me no matter what, undermining me? I couldn't bear it. I could not suffer a third party meddling in my marriage. What really chaps my behind about this whole thing is that BIL has no inclination to fight for his marriage, and instead buddies up with his mother and stands at her side when she rails on SIL. That's just wrong. SIL isn't perfect but kicking her when she's down isn't going to turn her into what they want her to be, it's just making things worse.

MIL recently gave SIL a four-page letter listing SIL’s flaws; telling her exactly why she is a terrible wife and mother. How thoughtful. BIL doesn't think she did anything wrong.

How does one deal with that kind of meddling? I told my husband, as we made our desperate scramble to escape the bickering which had stressed us out immensely, that if that happened in my house, I’d pack up and leave. I would not tolerate a mommy in my marriage. I certainly would not tolerate my husband choosing to add a third person into our relationship.

That’s not what women sign up for when they say yes and accept the ring. We don’t say "I do" to a husband + mommy. MIL needs to step-off and live her own life--BIL needs to cut the umbilical cord and figure out who he really wants to be married to. He also needs to man-up and get himself off the dependency train. Get their own house and their own space, and give SIL back her power over her own household.

Grow the heck up.

What they also really need to do is to get this all hashed out before the kids get older and these issues really start to affect them.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Happy Friday!

O joy, it's Friday.
I hope all three of you that read my blog have a wonderful weekend.
I intend to do a little sewing, a little gardening, maybe some crafting, who knows. Just enjoy the peace & quiet that I love so much.


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