Monday, April 20, 2015

Be Where You Are

One of my favorite things is just being outside with these guys.
I always, always wanted a lush and livable yard that would be an extension of our home environment out into the neighborhood and community.  And it has begun to turn out that way, happily.  It is so wonderful to be able to invite children from church or the neighborhood over to play, let them plant something while here--and then they come back and see how it's grown! 
A garden is a powerful learning environment, and of course playtime out on the grass is simply the best anyway.  Especially in a teepee.
I tried to catch a picture of Robin reading to his brother, but they have radar and make faces almost as soon as they see me coming.  I didn't want to break up a good reading time, so I just waited until they were through...
and started their multi-grain Cheerio snack.  In DH's new seed spreader the O's look like donut seeds.
Hey--if they invent it, I'll plant it!
Just being bros...
Life with these guys is simply the best.  I encourage everyone to take a few moments whenever they can, and try to remember childhood's pure delight as they truly observe their kids and get involved.
One of my favorite recent quotes is "No other word transcends that of righteous, intentional parenthood."  With this in mind I am making an even more conscious effort to lay aside the many projects and chores always waiting and instead focus on my children, not just getting their environment just right.
The environment may turn out 'exactly right' only after they are grown and gone.  We don't have time to put off talking with and being with our kids.  Not over-the-shoulder conversations.  Not between phone calls or while in the middle of something else distracting us.  They need us, intentional parents.  They learn their habits and play from watching us.  And why can't we pause our hectic schedules to become more childlike along with them for awhile?  All it takes is a moment, and we've taught them we can still appreciate things their way, from their perspective.
There's nothing wrong with letting dandelions stay magical wish-flowers for a little longer.  Who dictated that weeds were more important than wonder, anyway?  They bring stubby-stemmed handfuls of those big yellow blooms and smile with pure happiness: 
"Look, a flower for you, Mommy!  And one for Daddy and one for..."
...Can we forget being adults spreading our grass seed for awhile, and join the magic with them?
Dandelions will stay; you can fight them and feel satisfied with victory another day.  But childhood will drift away, along with its purity and sheer delight in simple beauties.  Let the rest be for awhile, and instead--
Be where you are when you're there.
Be with them.
Be amazed at the beauty of a weed all over again.

Color Monday: Welcome to Azalea Country

For Color Monday this week, welcome to my front yard!
Nothing says paradise quite like a rain-washed Southern spring with azaleas blooming all around.  We have festivals.  We go outside between every rainstorm.  It's just the best time of year for this area, the time when we fall in love with our climate all over again--the magical time before summer's heat sets in and makes us forget.
If you ever visit the South, visit in April.
Here are just a few more views of my work out front this season.  The fertilizing really paid off for our azaleas this year.  The camellias are very healthy also and would have been in bloom earlier, but I had to do some drastic pruning last fall and so they have not been peak yet.  Camellias are their own world of care, like roses.  My grandfather had the touch; I'm hoping I'll eventually grow into it too.

After having to remove a diseased and yellow-jacket infested old oak from our front corner last summer, all the shade-loving grass and hostas of the front yard got baked in the direct summer sun.  The shrubs are coping well, but I am relocating the blue hostas and many others under the camellia tree and shade from our red maple.  It's made the walkway and driveway look so much more welcoming and "finished", where before there was only a dirt triangle from Robin and Jay's bike races to and fro.  I used scrap bricks from around the yard to line this bed, so they coordinate with the color and weathering of the house.

Plenty of divided daffodils hidden in there, too.  Come next year it should be glorious.
Did you know daffodils represent chivalry and are the national symbol of Wales?  It is so apropos, since in all my free time (cough cough) I am slowly picking up pieces of this beautiful and historic language.  I was thrilled last week to learn of new marginalia discoveries through special imaging of the original manuscript of the Black Book of Caermarthen.  History, medieval comic doodles, poetry--what's not to love?

These cool-colored hostas and sweet potato vine will hopefully balance the vigorous sunshine-loving vegetable garden across the driveway soon.  Busy times!

All the best from azalea country,



Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Quilt Finish: Orange and Aqua Baby Blanket

Quilt pattern: "Charlotte" from 3x the Charm.
I liked this pattern well enough, but I have learned by now that I just do not really like working with small pieces and squares.  I prefer a larger basic block unit size, so I may adjust this one to work with layer cake and charm pack sizes.

I really like the lattice effect, so I quilted that portion of the design in freehand vines.

I also decided to go bold and use an orange bobbin on the bottom.  I love quilting over flannel, but this tone-on-tone gray was really delightful under the fingers.

This quilt really allowed me to use up a lot of extra scraps and 5x5's laying around, so that's a plus every time.  I have a number of ideas for where this little baby might be headed to her next happy home.  I enjoyed this color scheme too, because it doesn't tie itself to a particular gender.  Very handy to have on hand, indeed!
Happy afternoon to all,

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Quilt Finish: A Dozen Unruly Roosters

Now, I told you that I had not been idle on the inside projects on Monday's post about Phlox.
I intend to prove it over the next few days.
I had been saving up a lot of quilt binding finishes, in case we came back with some negative test results that would have led to a very different spring activity schedule for all of us.  Had that been the case, the only productive things I expected to do would have been with a needle or a pen for quite a few weeks.
Thankfully that has not been the case, and so I have finished binding up all of these that were waiting all winter to get done.  But it works out well that way too because, seriously--who really wants to go out and photograph quilts in 20-degree wind-chill anyway?

This is the finished version of my rooster quilt, previewed on this post about free-motion wood-graining.  I tend to work very dense quilting and, given my penchant for realism in all things botanical whenever possible, I really wanted the real-wood look to be a major part of the design in this quilt.  I avoided quilting the rooster lily blocks at all, in fact.  I may go back another time and do some hand-stitching around the motifs, but for now I love how the muslin takes on an entirely new character through the quilting.

I did try some twin-needle quilting around the edges.  I has a nice look except that I couldn't get the feed differential quite right, so there are some puckers about.  I decided not to worry over it too much, since I was going for a rustic, organic look anyway.  I could also get away with it by saying it looks crinkly and adds character.
You may judge me if you like, of course, but after all that faux-bois work my hands were aching and I was just ready to move on to another project.  I love how this one came together overall though.  It was completely off-the-cuff.  I didn't even measure my triangles.  THAT is how unruly, how haphazard I can be (when vexed).  I should feel guilty, I know.  But just look at those roosters.  They already know they're sleek.  They didn't need any more encouragement.

Actually, I just sort of did as they said...
I guess they knew well enough how to rule their own roost, after all.
Now I'll bind it up and quit crowing for another day...


Monday, April 6, 2015

Color Mondays: Phlox Hillside

And just like that, I come back inside from the garden work to discover...
it's April!
I haven't been completely inactive on the inside projects, of course.
It's just that re-caulking a tub or replacing a vent fan doesn't seem nearly as
enjoyable or satisfying as working outdoors or doing sidewalk chalk games with my ever-creative duo.
The daffodils have passed prime now, but of late my favorite garden moment of the day is stepping out front to gaze at this, the happy consequence of my two-year (and ongoing) battle with a profusion of unbridled English Ivy:
The phlox have recovered the ground usurped by the ivy, survived a very bitter winter (for our zone), thrived and now covered almost half of the hillside!  I am so proud of these little ones. 
Coming back from being covered in ivy is no small feat.
Yet they persist.
A friend commented to me the other day that every plant in my yard seems to have a personality when I talk about it.  I don't know if it's just a quirk that gardeners acquire or whether it was the influence of growing up with a unique view of plants.  But whatever the reason, she was certainly spot on.  Every plant or tree says something. 
These little phlox that I went to battle for have become like friends... the kind that don't give up on you, the ones you are willing to break your fingernails and back for in return.  They are the kind that, out of the blue, do something simple and spectacular that makes the whole world brighter.
Perhaps the best part of gardening is the moment when you step back, not to think of what else to do or just to admire your work.  No, the greatest part is stepping back far enough to see the True Maker at work.  And that, friends, is humbling in the best and most hopeful way.
I am so grateful for these little ones.  I admire them.
So to begin this beautiful April, I will share on Color Monday and take them as inspiration also:
And you?  Do you know any particular flower or plant that gives you hope or courage?
Be well, and create beauty somehow for someone daily.