Friday, November 18, 2011

Deck the floors with skirts of ruffles, falalalalalalalaLA!

I'm not going to scroll back through my blog to check my accuracy on this statement--so I could be mistaken--but I'm pretty sure this is going to be my first post that features a display of something I made. This has mostly been a family blog for anecdotal stories and documentation of this, that and the other...but this handmade Christmas tree skirt fits somewhere into "other," so post it I will.

In fact, here's another view. When I do decide to post a craft, I am thorough.

There's a little background that I haven't confessed yet. You see, I'm a brand new pinhead on pinterest and have only "re-pinned" thus far, which makes me somewhat of a leech on the site. I decided my first fresh pin should be this here little labor of love, so I'll add it to my pinboards as soon as I figure out how.

Baby steps.

I got inspired to make this skirt by a friend who has already posted instructions and a tutorial link on her own blog, so I'm not going to reinvent the wheel. Visit her (fabulous) blog for more details: A Little Bit of Everything and find out how painter's cloth, several yards of linen and HOT GLUE can provide you with some ruffle-y Christmas cheer of your own this holiday season.

Her skirt was 4x4 and took her three hours. I went for 6x6 which should have made it, what, four and a half? Five hours tops? But I lost track of the hours at some point. Clearly I am not the queen of speed.

But I am the queen of smart. I attacked this project while I had my darling sister-in-law in town because she is talented, ambitious, and motivated in this department. It was a very good idea to go into this as a team. It may have ended up in that dark abyss of unfinished projects without her to tag team with.The project is not hard, but the gluing can get tedious. It takes lots of pinching to get these frills. But this year our family tree will be proudly skirted in something other than a Target fleece blanket tucked into the most convincing circular shape I can manage, which is generally the route I have taken.

So here we go: A picture of the painter's cloth cut into a circle, cored, and sliced. (Think pineapple.) We had done two edges of ruffle before I decided to document with photos.

A close up of the ruffle process. Glue, pinch, burn finger. Glue, pinch, burn finger. Or something like that.

The best part about this project is that it picks up speed as you go since shorter and shorter fabric strips are required.

We tried to buy 6 yards of material, but there were only 5 1/4. So we bought what they had and hoped for the best, then started sweating bullets about half way through hoping we could eek out the last row before running out. Look at the triumph here as we finish with just two extra inches of fabric. It was a moment to be savored.

Now the ribbon... we chose a color for contrast. (This is not a web link, why is it typing like one?)

And wah-lah. There is always so much gratification in a DIY project. If I'd bought this same skirt somewhere, I would like it a lot. But I wouldn't spread it out on my floor and gaze at it like we did when we had finally finished.

You know the feeling, right? (Please say you do or I'm going to be really embarrassed.)

Merry Christmas tree skirting!

Monday, September 19, 2011

The prodigal blog daughter returns

“If you want to write fiction, the best thing you can do is take two aspirins, lie down in a dark room, and wait for the feeling to pass. If the feeling persists, you probably ought to write a novel.” --Lawrence Block

It's good advice, and I really tried to following the doctor's orders... unfortunately, the feeling persisted.

So in conjunction with my husband's 100 day challenge (see here), I started writing a book several years ago. Now I never envisioned it to be a simple task, but I did think I could do it "on the side" of everything else. It was cute of me to be so optimistic.

As I became more immersed in the world of writing, I connected with other writing enthusiasts who helped me realize it would take a concerted effort and laser like focus to complete a well-written novel, land an agent, sell to a publisher, and market the book.

This, of course, is the reality check us dreaming artists try to avoid by plugging our ears and chanting lalalalala-I-don't-hear-you so we can return to our keyboards undaunted.

But I've remained committed to writing since I first started the novel, having worked on two more books, experimented with different genres, attended conferences and connected with talented writers who keep me motivated to push forward. And today I'm happy to announce a new step in the process:

I've been accepted to the Vermont College of Fine Arts to get a Master's in writing!

This is a remote program so I'll mostly be working from home, but there will be residencies in Vermont, Puerto Rico and Slovenia that will give our family some fun travel opportunities in the process. I start in January of 2012, so we'll see how far I get before the world ends.

Though I've been an infrequent blogger as of late, I'm re-committed to posting regularly, partly because those of you who have kept up on the blog have been so encouraging of my writing along the way. Thank you for believing in me, and thank you in advance for being my sounding board in a few months when I will surely be thumping my head against the table wondering why the heck I thought going back to school was a good idea. Long road ahead...

Happy Monday.

Friday, September 09, 2011

No baby. No blog. What, then?

In the time since I last blogged, I could have had a BABY.

Nine Months. Enough time to make an entire human being--and I don't even have a lousy blog post to show for it.

It's like the opposite of being pregnant--a concave stomach that sucks more and more inward until my stomach is stuck to my spine and I have to lean backward just to keep from folding in half. No baby. No blog. What, then?

What is my grand excuse for not documenting these precious, never-can-get-them-back months of my offsprings' fleeting childhoods?

Now, don't think I'm going to go pawning the blame off on someone or something for this deficiency. I take absolute full responsibility. My fault. My problem. All me.

But there is this one little hiccup.

It's the constant running dialogue in my mind between myself and the hypothetical 'anyone who cares' (or even 'doesn't care but will listen anyway.') I yap on and on in my head, sharing my thoughts, observations, opinions and sentiments with this great hypothetical listener, and darn it if this hypothetical ear isn't such a great listener, that my thoughts don't get very far past it. Who needs the therapy of pounding away at a keyboard when such efficient telepathy exists?

But thinking instead of writing means the moments are lost and Jim Croce frowns down upon me from his great pillow in the sky as I bypass the closest method we have to saving time in a bottle. That's what blogging comes down to for me--making moments stick that otherwise disappear, and here I am letting them go.

Oprah is likewise displeased. I was three years behind on Oprah shows when her last-ever episode aired, but in my heart, I've been a committed Oprah fan since the days she kept me company during endless hours of nursing my first-born child. The least I could do was send her off with a few tears. And of course she sent me off with a few of my own. These were her final instructions:

"I want you to know as this show ends: Each one of you has your own platform. Do not let the trappings here fool you. Mine is a stage in a studio, yours is wherever you are with your own reach, however small or however large that reach is. Maybe it’s 20 people, maybe it’s 30 people, 40 people, your family, your friends, your neighbors, your classmates, your classroom, your co-workers. Wherever you are, that is your platform, your stage, your circle of influence. That is your talk show, and that is where your power lies. In every way, in every day, you are showing people exactly who you are. You’re letting your life speak for you. And when you do that, you will receive in direct proportion to how you give in whatever platform you have."

Her words resonated deeply with me. I am a mother and my family is my platform. It is my job to savor each moment, maximize the experience, and use every moment of every day to serve my circle of influence. But as my heart thumped a rhythmic sound of triumph and renewal, I realized it was not my heart at all. It was, in fact, my three year old scraping something against the outside windows, over and over again.

I checked.

It was a knife. A really sharp one.

And he had slashed two out of three screens covering the front bay windows.

So much for my personal platform.

I felt drained. Withered. Defeated. Betrayed. This is what I get for turning my attention to a TV show for five inspirational minutes! (And you wonder why I had to give you up in the first place, Oprah?) In that moment, I felt smaller than the world's cutest hot dog.

Oprah was Oprah, bidding farewell to the tens of millions of lives she had touched with her show, and I at slashed screens and realizing that my own small circle of influence was currently not influencing much good.

It took all the energy I didn't have to firmly tell my son "we don't use mama's sharp knife."

He promptly stopped what he was doing and took the knife inside through the side door. Wow. That was a fast, cooperative response. Sure the screens were slashed, but did you hear how quickly he obeyed?

I went inside the front door to continue our lesson on not slashing screens but he was nowhere to be found. And then, the same scraping sound as before. My stomach dropped.

Now he was at the third screen.

At this point I was beyond a failure of a mother, but before I could check myself into an institution, I noticed one small detail. My son was now using a butter knife.

He didn't know slashing screens was not okay. We hadn't gotten to that point in the reprimandation. What he did know was that "we don't use mama's sharp knife" so he replaced it with a dull one. He had been exploring his world and learning that knives cut mesh screens. (Awesome discovery, by the way.) And if sharp knives weren't okay, then butter knives must be. Pretty smart logic if you think about it.

So maybe my platform was still intact in its own, humble little way.

I promised Oprah that day that I would get back on the blog wagon. Mostly because it's the best way I know to commit these moments to memory. I didn't start during summer vacation because of that key word "vacation"...but now it's back to school for the kids, and back to the keyboard for mom, where I will busily plunk away at documenting the good, the bad and the mom-ly.

So out with the thinking and in with the writing. We get one chance to bottle time, and I don't want empty jars.

Monday, December 20, 2010

the big 1000

With four months worth of catching up to do on this blog, it seems procrastinate--even while playing catch up. So while 1000 things worth posting wait for their day in the sun, I'll let you in on a little celebration going on around here. Our thousandth shark tooth was added to the collection this week! AND, so was our BIGGEST-- which grandma Kippy had the honor of finding. And right she should, being the most devoted collector in the bunch of us. Not even the days of record breaking cold kept her from her near daily hunting. She merely bundled up tighter and braved the bone chilling cold as she went in search of teeth, fossils, and any other interesting treasure the ocean may have washed ashore.

As I write, she is out with my brother and two of my children hunting arrow heads, and later this week, she'll be joining a professional guide to learn more about fossil hunting in a creek bed where 25 million year old fossils are likely to be found.

While we're talking artifacts, I'll also post a picture of the pottery remnants found on the property where we live--relics from the Timicuan tribe of Indians. (Photo waiting to be attached)

We love immersing ourselves in the richness of history and learning about life that has lived before us. And let's face it...we all want to be the one who finds the Megalodon tooth one the hunting hobby rages on.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Twelve Days of Boxes

On the first day of boxes, the movers brought to me:
Four hundred and twenty three.

On the second day of boxes, our family seemed to be:
Making a dent
In the 423.

On the third day of boxes, I looked around to see:
Still stacks and stacks,
And barely a dent,
In the 423.

On the fourth day of boxes, the boxes seemed to be:
Into bigger stacks.
Where had that dent gone?
In the 423...

On the fifth day of boxes, I pulled my hair and screamed:
Boxes can't multiply,
Stacks shouldn't grow,
Was I imagining that dent?
In the 423.

On the sixth day of boxes, I hid under my sheets:
No more for me.
Math's not on my side,
Stacks won't budge ,
Dents don't exist,
In the 423.

On the seventh day of boxes, I climbed back out and yelled:
"I declare war!"
My box cutter and me
Multiply that!
Stacks you'd better run--
Dents, I'll hunt you down--
No more 423!

On the eighth day of boxes, I assessed the enemy.
Then started weeping,
War was not working,
Boxes were smirking,
Multiplying stinks,
Stacks make me sore,
Dents are for the birds,
I was losing to 423.

On the ninth day of boxes, I stared at the ceiling.
Comatose on the floor.
Weeping didn't help,
War wasn't fun,
Someone box me up,
Multiplication blues,
Permanent Stack Syndrome,
Dent-less depression,
Caused by 423.

On the tenth day of boxes, I was pleased to see:
A break in my misery.
I could see the floor,
Tears were of joy,
I was a warrior,
Boxes were depleting,
Multiplying stopped,
Stacks going down,
Dents were really there,
In the 423.

On the eleventh day of boxes, I danced a dance of glee:
The end was in sight!
I had earned a break,
The floor was nearly clear,
Smile from ear to ear,
Peace, not war
Boxes hear me roar
Multiply my joy
Stack the odds in my favor
Dents are now large holes
in the 423.

On the twelfth day of boxes...

Ummm. Excuse me for a minute.

OK, I'm back.

On the thirteenth day of boxes...

Wait, wait, right back. OK, let's try that again.

On the fourteenth day of boxes...

So I thought I was almost done, what happened here? This is not a tidy ending for a song. Can we try that again?

On the fifteenth day of boxes...

OK this is getting ridiculous. I mean, I only have the book boxes left, right? And why open those before we get the bookshelves? I guess there's that box of "decorative items" too, but again...until you have a place to put things, you know...

On the sixteenth day of boxes...

Ummm, not sure I want to admit that publicly. Go ahead and scratch that last line.

On the fifteenth day of boxes...

No, wait, rewind further than that. People like happy endings. Let's go with the even twelve.

On the twelfth day of boxes, everything was done...

Yeah, that sounds good. Go with that one.

On the twelfth day of boxes, everything was done.
Things were all settled,
House was in order,
Silverware was polished,
Kids were clean and happy,
Meals were gourmet,
Life was caught up,
Wife was put together,
No complaints from us,
Model family,
Happy ending to 423.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

"Some Paparazzi YOU make!"

So I'm way overdue to comment on the last post, a post in which my husband popped in for a surprise report from his perspective back at the home front. I always enjoy his cameo appearances, but this was an especially welcome addition since I made empty promises of daily updates during my trip and then left you hanging. Not that you lost sleep over it, but the blog bully that sits on my shoulder was not impressed with my blogging etiquette.

But as you'll recall, on "Day One" I was alone in the Airport Inn wondering if and how I would cope with six days of being gone from my family--so you got the full cathartic scoop.

You were there when I needed you and I love you for that.

But then I got busy vacationing and spaced the blogging--which is not much of a thank you, the blog bully tells me, but really is the sign of a good vacation, I think, so no need for apologies, right? We're all friends here.

But back to my husband. It was playful of him to add his two cents from the 'babysitter' perspective, I thought. (On top of the rest of the vacation bill he footed, of course). And although I always enjoy his eloquent writing style and loved his post, I must confess it may have contained some truth-stretching.

You see, Brian was (and has always been and will always be) 110% on top of things while 'manning the fort'.

And not in a wink-wink, gratuitous, "thanks for the trip, Sweetie" kind of way, but in an I-tell-him-all-the-time-he-makes-a-better-mom-than-me kind of way.

A man mom.

Which is different from a dad. (Though he fills that role extremely well also.)

Here's a picture he sent on Sunday morning, the day he handily got all four kids ready and to church on time by himself.

So yes, he survived. And I survived. And Grandma survived. And the kids survived. And I came home to the cutest welcome home party you can imagine complete with pizza, ginger-ale, chocolate and dancing with my four beautiful children, which made me cry all over again (remember those tears when I LEFT? I can't win.)

Two weeks later my four year old was still saying "Welcome home, Mommy." I think all moms should get away once in a while, if for nothing more than the incredibly fulfilling feeling of having both missed and been missed in return.

And now, because you are here reading my tale when it must be the last list of things to do in your busy day, you deserve


Where did I go? Mostly Salt Lake City with time spent in Park City, Midway, and Utah Valley at varying times.

Why did I go? Three main reasons: Girl's weekend, Sundance Film Festival, and the ever important job of celebrity stalking. But the three events fused quite nicely into one tidy package o' madness that turned the "why" into more of a "why not?"

Did I see anyone famous? Yes, but not because I recognized them without help or necessarily knew who they were in many cases. Bottom line is, despite being born with a good dose of Star Fever, I am terrible at stalking celebrities, and because I don't see 90% of movies anyway, even when people are famous, I've often never heard of them. But that doesn't stop me from flying 700 miles to try to spot them, and dragging friends along to help me.

The full scoop: My brother and his wife work at the Festival each year, and my sister in law is in charge of coordinating the airport arrivals of a large percentage of the celebrities and VIPs involved with the festival, so I had good insider info. But I also had my brother's car at my disposal, so much airport stalking time lost out to cruising around visiting family and friends in the first few days. The festival workers kept a running list of C-lebs that came through, and by day two I had missed about 20.

Alpha, Maggie and Myron officially in action above. Tami and I pretending to be official below.

But Friday night as my friends and I converged for our girl's weekend, we noticed the paparazzi hovering near baggage claim. We already knew Adrienne Brody was due to arrive that evening (don't know him, and haven't seen the movies he's in, but like I said before, that doesn't thwart me) but this was an hour and a half before his arrival so we knew there must be others on their way.

We shamelessly shadowed the "real" paprazzi with our cameras out and ready to roll, which the paparazzi didn't seem to like very much. When they moved, we moved. We studied them, followed them, took pictures of them (small taste of their own medicine?)

A paparazzo in waiting

We even spoke to them--or at least Kathleen tried when she asked one of them outright who he was waiting for--a question he did not answer. We may have looked like competition toting our big cameras initially...

....but we took care of that in no time.

Our amateur nature was clearly revealed when Kareem Abdul Jabar walked straight past us and we never even aimed our cameras at him. We were too busy pointing out "the tall guy" with no clue that he was anyone famous, until we noticed the paparazzi following him with their cameras and video equipment.

So then a paparazzo brushed past me and said snidely in my ear: "SOME PAPARAZZI YOU MAKE!

I asked: "Why, who was that?" And he told me: "Only the greatest basketball player EVER."

So we ran back to baggage claim to snap a few pictures of 'the tall guy' since we now understood him to be of import.

"That tall guy" (AKA Kareem Abdul Jabar)

And that is when the paparazzi decided we were a joke and in no way a threat so they warmed up to us after that-- even telling us who else was coming, who tolerated picture taking and who didn't etc.

See me hanging with the paparazzi like we're old friends? OK, I look a little unsure in this picture. Maybe not super close friends.

They gave us the head's up that Dakota Fanning was upstairs signing autographs, so we went upstairs to photograph her, except that she was done signing autographs and was coming down the stairs as we went up. Yet did we notice her? Of course not. I'm not kidding that we stunk at this. So Tami had to come find us to tell us we'd missed yet another.

We found Dakota at baggage claim and because she'd been labeled a "sweet" one by the paparazzi, we actually had our picture taken with her.

See? Sweet.

And noticeably less torturous without those red JANE eyes from New Moon.

Though Kathleen was pretty stoked that the red eye in this picture of hers put the deadly right back into Dakota.

There was another miss when we got bad information about Noah Wyle on a plane. It didn't end up being him, but we got some great shots of his doppleganger.

Celebrity photo FAIL

Lastly Adrienne Brody arrived, and Kathleen got the best picture by far because she actually asked his permission to take a picture. He was resistant and not so happy to say yes but ultimately said: "I guess you can since other people are taking it anyway--without asking." And of course, one of the non-askers was me--so although my paparazzi skills were sorely lacking, I think I got the "annoying" part of it down.

Me capturing Adrienne off guard in true Paparazzi fashion

Kathleen getting a MUCH better shot because she simply asked. There's a lesson in here...

On the streets of Park City the next day, we unsuccessfully stalked Ben Affleck. Notice the guy with the clipboard telling us Ben had just left out the back door.

Celebrity Sighting Fail

But I did get video of yet another star unknown to me. (Joshua Duhamel, the guy from When in Rome, which I expect will be more exciting for me after I've seen the movie. If I see it.)

A still shot from my video of Joshua Duhamel

Another "celebrity" sighting in Park City.

To add to the drama of the day, we missed the film we bought tickets to from a lady on the bus. Blame the bus. Blame the weather. Blame the long restroom lines at Pizza and Noodle. It was all part of the adventure, and we weren't hurting for good times.

The Bed and Breakfast our friends run was beautiful. Midway was a winter wonderland in spite of near death on the mountain roads driving two wheel drive in our four wheel drive SUV, and the time with friends, family and more friends during the six days was very rewarding and relaxing. A few more pics:

View from the Chalet where we stayed

Jason toured us through Midway--first stop: Elk

Next stop: Hot Pots (Natural hot springs)

Tami looking good in her makeover!

Kathleen looking warm, no wait, HOT.

Photo a la Kathleen

Zermatt Ice Castles

"The Crater"--outside

"The Crater"--inside

The biggest, oldest tree in town (on left)

Taken from underneath--can't tell from the picture but it was like a fort inside there!

The crowded streets of the festival

Sure this bus is cute, but if you ever go to the film festival in Park City, tell yourself this:
I can probably get to main street faster on foot than by bus...
(photo credit to Leen)

And wrapping up this mega blog entry, a nice little glimpse of driving in the snow. (Quite the adventure in 2 wheel drive through the canyon.) So-Cal-ers everywhere, put on some shorts and go bask in the warmth that is home.