Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Organizing

When I'm having a rough time, it's essential that I keep busy. Whether that is shopping with no intention of buying, baking, or cleaning, it helps to keep my mind off of whatever that thing is. This weekend it was organizing. I'm pretty sure most of you have heard of Marie Kondo's book 'The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.' I received it for my birthday, and started reading it recently. While I'm not exactly following her method, just reading about cleaning and organizing has made me quite gung ho in that endeavor. I've gone through clothes, papers, and miscellaneous things. Books are up next.

Another thing I was doing was organizing photos on my computer, and silly me forgot to share with you one last set of photos from our beach vacation a few weeks ago. One evening, after dinner, while others who are more athletically inclined were doing athletic things, my sister Rachel, A-train and I started looking for seashells. There weren't many large ones to be had, but if you crouched down low there were quite a good number of tiny shells.

We collected until our hands were full and went back up to the house. The next morning, while everyone was at the beach, I took a few minutes to play and sort and snap some photos.

My criteria for selection was that they be spiraled.


Rachel liked those that were so very seashelly.


A-train went straight for the shards, feeling each one to see if it was smooth enough to add to the collection. His little voice rang out on the beach "Feel how smooth this one is!!!" A sub-category for him was interesting striations (a.k.a. "these cool lines").


There were also a lot that had little holes drilled into them. I am on the dark side of my thirties, and I just realized that those holes are where birds peck into them to suck out the insides (right? Is that right? I have no idea--it just hit me and it sounds good).


We even had to take these sharp little suckers, because someone liked the "weird shapes."


I thought some looked like ruffled potato chips.


And some were in the 'miscellaneous' category that just looked interesting. I'm don't know what that one on the lower right is. It might be a piece of petrified wood (or bird droppings, if you're one of my nephews).


Rachel took these home as she had plans to make something out of these to help A-train remember his vacation (as I think he had more fun than all of us).

With all of my recent clearing and sorting, I feel like all of my things have gone from this--


--to this.


Ok, kids. I have to go saddle up for trivia night. I'm hoping my brain is clear enough to make those facts fly to the front of my brain and out of the tip of my pen with alarming accuracy.

Friday, August 4, 2017

I'm Stuck Behind Vern, Here....

When we went down the shore last week we did one thing that we always do--we went to Kelly's Old Barney restaurant for breakfast. It's a small weather-worn restaurant right at the tip of the Island, in the shadow of the Barnegat lighthouse. It was a beautiful morning, so we sat outside.

This was not without its issues. It wasn't the sun--there were umbrellas. It wasn't the temperature--it was perfect. It was the influx of sea birds, colliding with my brother's extreme fear of all things avian.


The birds were not so gutsy as to land on your table while you were eating (although, side note--one stole a sandwich right out of my mother's hand on the beach), but when a group left if the staff didn't clear things away quickly, they rushed in and stole what they could. One seagull flew away with a whole slice of toast, a few others had smaller bits. It reminded me of a scene from a movie but with people instead of birds (and whose name escapes me right now).

The seagulls are so used to people they even pose for photos for them.

There was some discussion over breakfast as to if we were going to climb the lighthouse. I was quite content with my feet on the ground, rooting on everyone else from below. But as we approached, I was overcome by what can only be described as insanity and decided to make the climb. It's not so high, right?


Soooo you know the Civil War general George Meade? My dad was telling us all about how he was the creator of the lighthouse and so on. Not even thinking that the Army Engineers out of West Point would have done such things (what? they did things other than fight?) I was quite surprised by this. We came upon the bronze bust right outside the lighthouse entrance--


--except Girl Genius here did not read that as Lt. General George Gordon Meade, but as Gordonmeade. See the difference? So later, when my sisters were talking about it with my dad I'm sitting there thinking "Wait....I didn't see the plaque for Meade regarding the lighthouse..." I won't tell you how long it took me (or maybe somebody had to tell me, I honestly don't remember) to realize how dumb I was (hey, I was on vacation. I didn't feel like doing thinking).

So everyone but my parents (who maintained all of their senses and reasonably sat on the benches to wait) headed into the lighthouse to what came to feel like certain death.


That spiral staircase had a climbing area half as wide as the photo shows, as it was split in half with a railing and the other half was roped off. So on a warm day, in an enclosed space, dozens of strangers were squeezing past each other, silently hoping "I hope I don't stink--it's hot in here" and also thinking "Seriously? You can't turn sideways and make this a little easier??" I know the staff must be trying to be helpful and motivational with signs like "Hey! Great job! Only 177 steps to go!" But it was not helpful. And I won't write here what I couldn't say there (because children).

After what felt like an extremely long time (but really wasn't), we emerged at the top of the lighthouse.


Did you ever read that book The Light Between Oceans? Or Anne's House of Dreams in the Green Gables series? Both have lighthouse keepers as characters. When reading these I thought that sounded so cool--living in a lighthouse???? But no. No. N-O. Granted I'll take the muscles and trimness, but I would like to not climb those steps to achieve it.

The thing about reaching the top is--you've got to come back down. Coming back down is actually more difficult. It's a little bit dizzying, and the space feels tighter. A-train was zooming along, with my sister saying "Both hands on the railings!! Go slow!!" I was at the rear of the line, behind my other sister, who was carefully placing one foot in front of the other. I told her she reminded me of Vern crossing the train bridge in Stand By Me, and she didn't miss a beat when she said "Oh no! I dropped the comb!" Emerging back into the sunshine was quite freeing. I'm not claustrophobic, but I know being a lighthouse keeper no longer sounds fun.

So that wasn't on my bucket list. I actually don't have a bucket list (I think they're too cliche). But I'm going to start one, and put that on it, so I can cross it right off. And then I'm going to add 'Don't be a cliche' so I can throw away the bucket list.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Blue skies. Clouds. No, wait...blue skies....no, hold on, it's clouds....I mean sun...

I have not been on a proper vacation in five years (a proper vacation being one where I am away from work for an entire week instead of just a few days here and there). Until now. Excitement started building with random group text messages: "Guys, it's 53 days away." "Four weeks exactly!" "In two weeks we'll be sitting on the beach!" And finally "OMG, do you believe we leave tomorrow?" We did not journey to lands afar, but simply headed east to the shore of our childhood, LBI (Long Beach Island). It was my parents, their children and any spouses, and any of their children's children. And the dog. A nice tidy group--large enough for fun, not too big to coordinate things easily.

We went through the "chores" part of arrival quickly, slamming sheets on beds and putting clothes away, putting away groceries and deciding on dinner (easy: pizza). We made our way to the beach, only to be told pretty quickly we had to get off the beach due to an impending storm.


Complete with thunder and lightning, the storm sent us inside with mutterings of expletives, followed by "Can you believe this?"


And so the weather continued all week long. Clouds and rain, followed by sun and blue skies, and back and forth and back again. On the second night the rain and winds were so bad the island was partially flooded in certain spots, and I was shaken awake with "Wake up!! The rain is coming through the ceiling!" With that quickly sorted (and a visit from a roofer the next day) the week carried on.


We got in substantial beach time, either waiting until the clouds cleared in the morning, or leaving when they rolled in towards late afternoon. I slathered on sunscreen and dove into my book, while others dove into the ocean (with its varying wave sizes and roughness) or argued over proper sandcastle construction.

For dinner, we paired off and each group took a night to make dinner. We also went out to eat twice. We ate very well, lemme tell you. The second night we ate out the restaurant was right on the bay, so we came out to be greeted by a beautiful sunset (which looked different depending on where you were standing)--


We made it back to the house in time to capture this from the deck--


If you've been coming here any length of time them you know one of my favorite things is a good sunset silhouette (I imagine I'd love them at sunrise, too, but let's be real here).

We had a nice house right on the beach this year--there were multiple decks for hanging out or solitude, for launching water balloons or taking photos. Like of this seagull--I took this from the third floor deck all the way down to the water's edge--


In a completely non-creepy sort of way, I love looking at houses lit up at night. Not in a creeper peeper sort of way, but in that don't-the-lights-look-pretty-in-the-dark sort of way. The lit up house is the one we were staying in, by the way (the left side with the two decks). So many beautiful (and insanely expensive houses) and so many with nobody staying in them. If they were mine I'd be there all summer long, working from a room with a view (isn't this why they invented things like Skype?).


Both nephews were on this vacation and couldn't have been truer to age. Z-man was a typical fifteen year old--earbuds in, face in phone, emerging to swim, eat, and play mini golf. I think we said a dozen words to each other all week (actually, I said many more, but was met with the ubiquitous teenage eye roll at my silliness that was once met with equal vigor). A-train was very five years old. "Aunt Bee--get a picture of this beach butterfly!" 


This kid woke up early ready to play, spent much of his beach time in the water, spent the rest of the day barely sitting still, and crashed into the delicious sleep only those with the unencumbered mind of youth experience. I don't know that I've ever heard of a kid that loves his family as deeply as this kid does. On the last day, I asked him for a hug, and he told me to wait a sec (as he had his pre-determined order of who got a hug when). I said "You probably are excited to get away from me; I get it" (because I know I'm annoying, haha), and he turned to me and said so sincerely "I don't want to be away from you." My heart.

Then there's this--


I don't know why, but this face cracks me the hell up. See the guy seated behind him? Not long after this was taken, he turned to that man and his wife out of nowhere and said "Excuse me, do you know the 'n' word?" We all sat there thinking (because we do NOT use that word that you think of when someone says 'n word') "Where in hell did he hear that??????" The lady said to him "Nice? Is the 'n' word nice?" and he said "No, the 'n' word is no. N-O." And turned right back around as we all breathed a sigh of relief and laughed.

The week went by all too quickly, and soon we were saying to each other "Do you believe we go home tomorrow?" And then "Do you believe this morning we were down the shore?" One thing that made it a little easier was the fact that it was windy and drizzly again--


It figures that once you hit that vacation groove it's time to go back to reality. In dueling emotions on the matter, I could have used another week to truly relax, but at the same time I do love being in my bed, without sand in it, and not having to slather on goopy sunblock every day.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Back to the 'dale

More often than not lately, I turn the idea over and over in my brain of discontinuing keeping up with my little space here. I make a barely measurable fraction of what I used to, and Instagram makes it so easy to quickly share those life snippets that used to be saved up for paragraphs and paragraphs. But then I think "No...not just yet." And so here we are.

Life has certainly been busy, though. Birthday parties, graduation parties, picnics, mountain trips, and the annual hop west on the 'pike to visit my dad's side of the family. For the first time ever, I did not emerge from the car needing a nap, a gallon of hot tea, and utter silence. The dog behaved, there was minimal traffic, and turnpike rest stops have upped their healthier food options.

I sat my rear down on Grandma's porch with some knitting (of which I have no pictures--the yarn started as a shawl, decided it might like to be a sweater, and then changed it's mind again to try life as a baby blanket) and my camera, and chatted away the hours. I switched it up with some reading--


I bought this book in a thrift shop in the mountains a few weeks ago. As though it's not nerdy enough reading this for fun, I'm also picking out all of the mistakes an editor should have picked up on. Some of the work is amazing, though--I feel like a rock star when I knit socks, and there is a shawl in this book that is six feet square and of a lace so fine the whole thing can pass through a wedding ring.

But then there's also nonsense like this:


*Ahem* "Approximately 2,650 stitches were cast on and worked in a gauge of twenty-two stitches per inch." Can you imagine? I'm over here like "Cast on 80? Are you kidding me??" I would love to watch these knitters from centuries ago--the speed at which they must have worked has to be mind-boggling.

Anyway, it was a beautiful day in the 'dale, and my grandma's yard is always pretty.


I have a thing for red and yellow. And sunshine.


This cardinal must have been  about 150 yards away. I got up to get a better angle (and a more stable shot) when the little jerk flew away. The cardinal in my yard does the same thing, so they must have some secret cardinal network to alert each other when I'm trying to photograph one.


There is some beautiful light green moss growing on this tree, that I couldn't quite capture. I'm looking at this photo now and wondering why I took it--and I'm pretty sure it's because it reminded me of something out of a fairy tale.


This kid. Oh, my heart. I remember when Z-man was this exact age, and I can't believe how quickly time goes. This is at my aunt and uncle's house on Saturday for our family picnic. It was kind of chilly when the wind blew, but the kid wanted to swim. There was a small crisis at the start of things--A-Train alerted my uncle that "We've got a real bad bee situation going on. A really bad situation..." Which was the discovery of this--


Yellowjackets are nasty things, but there didn't appear to be activity here after they were sprayed. My Uncle Rick and A-train decided a sign was needed, though--


I was then told "Hey, that sign could be about you when someone tries to hug you!" El. Oh. El.

It's always nice to learn that certain things are genetic and that you come by them honestly. One of those things being an appreciation for things like this:


That gnome is eating healthier than I did. I'm slightly afraid to get on the scale tomorrow...

My aunt set up the desserts in the garage so people wouldn't have to keep running upstairs for food. A-train decided immediately that it looked like some kind of dessert shop and sat there yelling like a street vendor--"We've got cupcakes here!!! I've got strawberries and pineapple and lots of fluff!! It's all free! Come on by!" When I went to get my dessert he came around the table saying "Let me get that for you ma'am! Just say when! These strawberries look great--how many would you like?" I had to go multiple times because how could I not when he was the cutest little salesman? "It's all free! Just take it and enjoy!" (I said cutest, not best). He even filled cups with ice so when people went to get drinks he'd have that ready for them, too. He's so adorable it makes my heart smile.


I think this is the first year ever Z-man didn't go with us. I get it--when you're fifteen and it's summer you want to hang with your friends. But still. He'd definitely have been placed in the 'tall' section of the grandkids photo (actually, I think we'd all be in that section--we are not short on height in my family. See what I did there? Hahaha!). But we've got one on leave from the Marines, but two others couldn't make it--one day we'll all make it in.


A-train and I both have slightly impish looks on our faces (because we were whispering schemes to each other before this photo snapped).

No good picnic winds down without a fire and s'mores--


There was a memory-sharing session about my uncle who passed away a few months ago. I left before that started and I'm glad I did. I loved him very much, and listening to things like that destroys me. I remember that same uncle showing some old family photos he had arranged and set to perfect music right after my grandpa died, and I blubbered like a fool the whole way through. When I went in the kitchen to get a tissue my mother said "Well why are you watching it if it's making you sad?" and I told her "Because it's beautiful!" Welcome to my brain, folks.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Yield?

Young Mr. A-train had his fifth birthday this week. With that one starting kindergarten, and people asking if Z-man is going to get his driver's license when he turns sixteen I'm not exactly feeling youthful (until someone says to me "What are you, twelve?" and then proper order is restored unto the world). He absolutely loves his bike and his big wheel, and the pedal car he got for his birthday, and as he likes to make his imaginative play butt right up against reality, I decided to make him a few traffic signs out of foam.

I've never worked with foam before, but I rather enjoyed it. There was something sensorily pleasing about cutting into it and arranging it on the background pieces. Much more satisfying than paper-crafting, though not exactly a sophisticated craft medium.

I ended up making six signs in total--stop, yield, no parking, speed limit, and 2 hazards (because I didn't want to waste the extra yellow pieces I had cut)--


As always, don't look too closely as you'll see some oopsies in there, but overall I really like the way they turned out.


I think the speed limit sign is my favorite. I was going to make the limit a more of a realistic big-wheel speed, but A-train would tell me "I go way faster than that, Aunt Bee." To get the fonts and sizes right, I tried for about four seconds to free-hand those, and then said some adult words and printed off some templates from Google Images to trace in reverse.


The yield sign cracks me up with the crooked letters. We joke that it looks like it reads as "Yield? I guess? If you want? I'm not sure..." The stop sign I needed my sister's help with--I do not have a math brain and there are eight angles and eight sides and that's just way too much to deal with on a Saturday afternoon. Wanna know a secret? The 's' is on upside down. It's all I can see! But A-train is five, and has zero cares to give. It's really his nutty auntie who will be driven mad by this.


I used a thicker piece of foam for the base, and then bought the self-adhesive stuff for the details. I bought everything at Joann's. I bought some square sticks (where they sell the wood stuff and dowels) for them to be stuck into the ground, and simply glued them to the back and secured them with black duct tape).


I should have bought the next size up as these were not super sturdy for poking into the ground, but I didn't realize that until after they were made. However, my brother-in-law added some sturdier bits of wood to them to make them play-time ready instead of 'for display only.'

Of course now as I'm driving my brain is a constant whirr of "Ooo, I could make that one! Ooo that would be easy!" Because, again, I'm twelve.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Fill Me Up, Buttercup (with Cheddar, Indigo, and Tangerines)

Remember in the old days when I used to sew bags all the time? Like multiple bag posts a week, sometimes? I wonder when I had the time for that. Not that life is so different and so busy now, but I have no clue where I got the energy for it. I guess one of the first hints that I'm getting older is that my back now protests if I spend too long standing over a table and cutting or hunched over my sewing machine stitching.

ANYway, last week I finished up a bag, and I've been giving it its test run this week and have found it to be quite acceptable.


This bag is the 'Fill Me Up, Buttercup' tote by u-Handbag. It's quite oversized for my usual needs, but I do like carrying a bigger bag. The handles are a generously sized pair of thirty inch leather handles in tangerine. The fabric is from the new Cheddar and Indigo line. I interfaced each piece (lining and exterior) with two pieces of Pellon ShapeFlex 101. It feels quite sturdy and strong, but doesn't have the bulk to it that fleece or padding would give. I wasn't entirely sure how it would hold up, but so far so good.


Of course I didn't see any of that fuzz until I edited the photos, but let's focu on those lovely gathers instead, shall we? The pattern called for stitching some basting threads and tugging the gathers into place, but I don't find that method to be what you'd call fun so I just moved along in sections, pleating and pinning that way, until everything was in place and could be stitched down. The lining is gathered the same way--


The closure is a suspension bridge style zipper. I ended up trimming a little too much off the ends, but it's not restrictive or noticeable by anyone but me, so it's what the general public would call just fine.


The lining has my standard zip and slip pockets--


You can see how much space there is. It'll still hold an umbrella, a bottle of water, and a folded up cardigan or the like. And the handles are quite comfortable.


They are piped leather handles that I stitched on with embroidery thread. Quite easy to do, and the leather handles make the bag look store-bought (but in a good way). I tried to fuse some scraps of the lining over the stitches on the inside of the bag, but it doesn't want to behave properly, so I'm going to have to take needle and thread to it and whip-stitch them into place (they're purely aesthetic so I'm in no rush. I also just did my nails, and the way I hand-stitch will destroy them).

Anyway, that's my new bag. For once it's in fabrics that just came out, instead of having been used by everyone while I hemmed and hawed over if I wanted to ride that particular bandwagon, and then hunted like the dickens (and paid too much money) for exactly what I wanted instead of just buying it already.

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