Sunday, June 27, 2010

My Family Tree

The next few blocks on my quilt represent my family tree. It's grown over recent years from a sketchy sapling to an enormous thing so full of branches and leaves I can scarcely keep track. Its been very rewarding learning about my family and their places in history.

My Mom and I at first flush seem to be a lot alike, and in many respects we are, but there are certain points in our personalities where we clearly took divergent paths. Once such place is with our family history. Mom is no more interested in what her ancestors where up to than she is with the latest plot twists on daytime Television drama. Both are equally uninteresting to her. While I on the other hand find the little tidbits of history that I can tie into my own family story to be more captivating than anything Luke and Laura ever did. As mystified as she is with my intense interest in my family history I am equally astounded by her utter indifference to it all. Maybe because I have always been a history buff it appeals to me to be able to plug in the names of people I am descended from to actual moments in history, making me less of a spectator and more a participant in all those amazing events I was taught about in school. I revel in that connectedness and sink into it like cozy chair. Maybe that's the same reason I have always liked the doctrine of the Communion of saints, I am comforted to know I belong and have a place among them, both the saints and my family, and hopfully they are most often one and the same!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Birds revisited

I have been enchanted with birds lately. Maybe its the warm weather bringing new and interesting visiters to my yard, or maybe I am developing an eye for spotting who has been there all along. I know that happens. I can spot sea glass at 10 paces now, when before it practically had to jump up and shout "Here I am" before I noticed it. I think maybe its a little of both. In just the past few weeks I have been treated to a rainbow of birds. The two pictured above are among my current favorites. The Eastern Towhee, and the eastern Bluebird. The Bluebird might as well have jumped up and shouted "Here I am" It flew to a trellis a few yards from the back door where I stood and perched there long enough for me to get bored looking at it. Maybe I should have relished the moment more, he has not been back since and I wonder if I will get a chance to see him again. I will keep the feeder filled and the binoculars at the ready just in case.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Spending other people's money

The other day I got to indulge in a rare treat that I find I really enjoy. Its spending other people's money. I have done it before, most memorably a few Christmas's ago with my Friend June. We were browsing the Christmas displays at Macy's in Kane'ohe when she decided then and there to live out one of my dearest fantasies. She decided to update her Christmas tree with all new ornaments and she took me along for the ride! Having chosen a Chinese theme She and I circled the displays picking out multiples of the ornaments we liked. We pawed through the branches of the display trees to see if we were missing anything fabulous and if we were we snapped it up and added it to the basket. I have always wanted to buy Christmas ornaments that way, but never could manage it, so have instead built a lush collection over the years adding one or two really nice ornaments each year. So I had the best of both worlds, my eclectic collection that I would never be able to give up, and the pleasure of planning and shopping for a really posh theme tree.

Just the other day I was blessed with another such opportunity. My friend Kathy lives in a big brick showplace with a drop dead gorgeous crimson dining room. The last time I was at her house we talked about getting together to make a centerpiece for her dining table. The time came when we had a day together and Hobby Lobby was running a sale, so we struck while the iron was hot. Just like June and I had circled those Christmas trees looking for the perfect ornaments, Kathy and I prowled the floral department hunting for just the right stems for her arrangement. After a sizable bill, we left the store with bags of flowers, Kathy I am sure with a slight case of sticker shock and me with a slight case of panic. What if I botched it? What if I just lured her into spending all that money and then couldn't deliver and wound up handing over a big, expensive flower studded embarrassment?! I felt reasonably confident in my abilities, but still, that was a lot of money to be spending for a centerpiece and the pressure was on. As soon as I got home I began work and quickly realized that we had chosen well. The project would be a rousing success. The picture above taken in my dining room does not do it justice. It looks kind of small in the picture but in reality it stood easily 2 feet high and two feet long and was every bit the opulent show stopper that her dining room was made for. I have always wanted to make such an arrangement, but never had the means to fund it, or the house to warrant it. Doing the centerpiece for Kathy's table definitely scratched an itch. When she came by to pick it up she told me that a similar arrangement could sell in her brothers furniture store for 3 times what ours cost. So even though it was not cheap, it was still a bargain and that makes it all the lovelier!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Birds at my Window

The Dutch artist Marjolein Bastin has done a series for Hallmark called "The Birds at my window" That phrase runs through my mind quite a lot here on Allaire Court North. I call our backyard the wasteland if that give you any indication of its condition. If we were staying we would have laid sod and started landscaping, but since we are renters it seemed silly to put that much money and effort into something that was not ours to keep. So we let Mother Nature have her way back there. the front part closest to the house is sand mixed with crab grass and weeds and the back part is a mini native woodland full of oaks and pines and sticky bushes with which I am not familiar . The whole thing is tied together with Jessamine vines that run throughout. Its the State flower for South Carolina and in the spring the yellow blossoms of the Jessamine cover everything including the back 40 of our wasteland. The one thing we have done to alter nature back there is put in a bird feeder and bird bath next to the bird house that was already in situ. Since Milford is not with us to scare away our customers we have plenty of them. Its been a real pleasure to watch all the wildlife in our yard. We have lots of the more common varieties. There are mourning doves, crows, sparrows and in season there are robins and cowbirds, junco's and chickadees. They are a joy to watch, but the real thrill comes when I catch sight of a flash of color and realize I've spotted a newcomer, somebody I've never noticed before. Here lately the one I look for is the Blue Grosbeak. He and his drab colored bride come and go so quickly I hardly get a good look. That's probably for the best. If he hung around too long the joy of spotting him would undoubtedly diminish in proportion to the length of his stays.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Gone Fishing

Well, not really. But I am going to be gone for a few days. We are going to our nephew Dan Wachter's graduation from Army Basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia. We will get to spend time with his family who I have not seen in 8 years! It will be a good chance for Steve to reconnect with his big brother Bill. I've never been to an Army function before, so this ought to be interesting. Steve bought an Air Force T shirt and hat to wear to the family day events, just to make it clear which branch we belong to.

And just in case you are wondering the picture above is of a Star of India plant I planted in our back lanai in Hawaii. Maybe I should also post a photograph of one of the crispy weeds in our back yard here in South Cakalaka for you to compare and contrast.

Friday, June 4, 2010

And now for someting completely different

You can almost smell the wonderful scent of rose wafting through the air can't you! Its a gorgeous blossom too, a fine example. Would you believe me if I told you it was fake? Thats right, this beauty comes to you courtesy of a 40% off coupon at Michaels. Isn't it amazing? I took one look at it in the store and had to have it. I have never seen a more convincing artificial flower ever! The petals even feel velvety in my fingers the way a real rose would. Some of the petals are showing signs of age, and the odd little genetic hicups that real flowers have, a strange color anamoly or an odd shaped petal. The down side is that they are $8 a pop. As good as they are, I cannot justify $8 a piece for artificial flowers. But with judious coupon clipping and redeeming I have accumulated three of these bad boys in pinks and yellows, and I have coupons for three more! Now I need to get some rose scent and the perfect flower basket or vase and the isllusion will be complete!

My sisters choices

This block is called "Sisters Choice" so it got me thinking about my sister and some of the choices she has made, three in particular, and these are no small choices either. These choices where huge life altering choices. That's the thing with my sister Jamie, the quote" go big or go home" could be the motto blazoned on her crest. She does nothing in a small way, never has really. The first choice was to quit her job to go to London for a week at the request of our Bishop to meet with a very well known and successful Anglican evangelist who wrote about her in one of his books. Mind you, she did not want to quit her job, but that was the ultimatum she was given. "Go to London and you will be fired" So as is her want, she opted to take the path of most resistance and headed off to London. If she had not made that choice she would never have had the chance to make choice number two, adopting two special needs kids, both still in diapers, and raising them together with the help of their grandmother. It was the need to provide for her little family that led to choice number three, as a middle aged new mom to go back to school to get a degree in order to start a second career as a teacher. Any one of these choices would have been remarkable, but the cumulative effect of all three is astounding. Maybe because she has always lived larger than life, she lacks the perspective to see the enormity of the choices she makes. The rest of us see it and it makes our choices trifling by comparison.

Mom's Cake Stand block

Long before she was the owner of True Confections cake shop Mom was making cakes. I can remember all kinds of wonderful birthday cakes she made for us! Every year she would ask me what sort of cake I wanted and I would say " a three layer cake" and every year she would make a wonderful three layer cake and I would be disappointed because it was not what I had imagined it would be. She finally got to the bottom of it one year and discovered that what I really wanted was a three tiered cake, a very different thing from a three layered cake! So, that year I got it; my first three tiered cake. It was a chocolate cake made of three graduated rectangles, one on top of the next. I loved it! Of course that was in the days before Mom or any of us knew you had to support such cakes internally with plates and dowels...still it only slumped a little ...and was the hit of my party that year. It was not long after that that Mom got into cake decorating in a big way and everyone on the block got to sample her work. She passed out decorated cakes for a while like some people give away their surplus zucchini crop each summer. It seems natural to me that Mom made a living for many years in the celebration business. She always could make even a simple event into a party, and she still does! Give her a reason and She'll put out the pretty plates and napkins, way too much good food and if you are really lucky a cake! So her block had to be the pattern called "cake stand"

I'll give you three guesses

This block is called Monkey Wrench and I will give you three guesses who its for. If you guessed Daddy, and I know you did, then you were right. When I spent time with Daddy's brother Bob this summer in Ohio I was prepared to hear him sound eerily like Daddy. I had spoken with him on the phone a few times, so the shock of that had worn off. It was a nice thing to hear in Bob's voice an echo of Daddy. What I was utterly unprepared for was how much Bob smelled like him! I think it was the acrid smell of engines and motors and grease on Bob that smelled familiar to me, and to see the grease permanently rimming the edges of his fingernails reminded me of the lava soap and grease smudges on the bathroom sink that Daddy always left behind, an occupational hazard of the wife of a mechanic, right Mom?

Bob told me a story about Daddy who at the tender age of 8 or 9 came to him asking for a ride into town. Bob could not take him until he had plowed the oat field for his dad and it would take him about three hours to do it. He went to work plowing and about 15 or 20 minutes later he heard a noise and turned to see Daddy driving another tractor and plow. He was astonished at the sight, not so much to see an 8 or 9 year old plowing a field, but because he knew the tractor had been sitting broken and out of service in the barn just a few minutes before. Daddy had diagnosed the problem, fixed it and hitched up the plow all in that little bit of time. I heard similar stories from his other brother too, so I think its no exaggeration to say that Daddy was a mechanical genius and what better block to illustrate that than the Monkey Wrench!