Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Year in Review

In 2011, guess who . . .

1.   Plays piano

2.   Went to school in the fall

3. Ran a road race

4. Likes the climbing wall at the YMCA

5. Plays the marimba

6. Wears glasses

7. Marched in a parade

8. Likes to write stories

9. Plays soccer

10. Is the financial clerk at church

11. Was baptized

12. Visited Vancouver Island and Banff in Canada

13. Wants to move to Canada

14. Plays trumpet

15. Goes to Boy Scouts

16. Goes to Cub Scouts

17. Is a soccer referee

18. Got a concussion at school

19. Plays baseball

20. Likes to film movies

21. Plays saxophone

22. Sings in the choir at church

23. Sliced his ear open at school

24. Hopes you have a happy new year

1. T, C, S, R
2. C, S, R, D2
3. T, S
4. D, C, S, R, and especially D2
5. D
6. T, R
7. C
8. T, D2
9. C, S, R
10. D
11. R
12. We all did
13. D2
14. C
15. C, S
16. R, T
17. D, C
18. R
19. S, R
20. D2
21. S
22. D, T, C
23. R
24. We all do!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Candlelit Christmas

I'm pretty sure that Dandelionslayer and I are not alone, among Mormons, in feeling a bit of a fascination with the candlelight Christmas Eve services held in other churches.  Not that we've ever been to one.  We're usually busy spreading good cheer and cookies to friends and neighbors on Christmas Eve.  And the LDS Church has a strict rule against lighting candles in the buildings, for safety reasons.  Still, a few candles might have come in handy at church on Christmas morning.  For, lo and behold, the electricity went out soon after the meeting began.

We were not left completely in the dark, of course.  The wind that must have caused the damage had blown the clouds away, so the windows at the front of the chapel provided some illumination.  Strategically placed emergency lights kept the rest of the room dimly lit, perhaps at a candle-like level.  Sitting near the front, we could hear the speaker.  And the power returned before our choir numbers.

It was not so at home.  We opened the curtains to let in the fitful sunshine, and enjoyed the quiet (broken only by a neighbor's generator).  The boys played nicely with their gifts, and it was a pleasant afternoon.  Of course, it gets dark early this close to the solstice.  The dimming sky sent the boys scrambling for flashlights.  I wore a headlamp as I grilled a few slices of ham, and boiled potatoes on a butane stove.  I'm so glad it wasn't raining then.  We managed to have most of the planned feast, and we ate it by candlelight.

Everyone loved it.  They were less interested in the opportunity to wash the dishes by hand and lamplight, but fortunately the power came back before we had to resort to that extreme measure.

I am so grateful for the true light that comes from our Savior, that lights our way through this dark world, and gives us warmth and peace. 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Sunday, December 4, 2011

We Are Grateful for Christmas Lights

We're trying to maintain an attitude of gratitude throughout the holiday season this year.  When I ran across this suggestion somewhere on the internet, I knew we had to try it.

We enjoy seeing the lights with which people decorate their homes at this time of year.  When we see a good display, we'll point it out to each other, oohing and ahhing.  We might even think, "Wow, that took a lot of work."  Shouldn't we thank the people who go to such effort, or display such good taste?

This year we plan to jot down the addresses of our favorite displays, and send thank you notes to those creative folks.  Here is a postcard I designed for the purpose:

The back quotes John 8:12, wherein Jesus Christ declares himself to be the Light of the World, and leaves space for the address, stamp, and signature.  If you would like to print this postcard for your own use, click here for the PDF!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Dictionary Moment: Fitch

We are grateful for words.  We exercised this gratitude after our Thanksgiving feast by playing Huggermugger, a game that presents a variety of vocabulary challenges.  On one of Scoot's turns, he was to list ten words rhyming with "itch."  Following our advice to go through the alphabet, he said "ditch, fitch..."  We all discounted the one beginning with F, and he went on.  But Dandelionslayer pulled out the red Webster's dictionary, and looked it up, just in case. 

It turns out that fitch is, indeed, a noun.  It means, "the fur or pelt of the polecat." 

You know, skunk fur.  A fashion statement for sure.  But what, then, is an abercrombie?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Scoot is 11!

Scoot had a birthday a couple of weeks ago, and it was a pretty happy one.  We didn't do anything spectacular, but he didn't have any homework.  That has to count for something.

(A note concerning picture quality:  our camera went into a coma on Halloween.  So for the birthday photos we pulled out the new video camera, which also has still capability.  It turns out that it doesn't use many pixels for still shots.  I hope the video looks better.  A week later, I started looking at new cameras, noticing how many megapixels are standard for only a bit more than standard repair cost.  And, lo and behold, the camera revived!  But not for Scoot's birthday.)

We gave him a new Boy Scout uniform, since he maxed out his Cub Scout shirt.  Look at all those pins!  Not pictured is the Arrow of Light, which went straight on his new shirt.

D2 bound, illustrated, and wrote a book for Scoot, in that order.  In accordance with the old advice to "write what you know," most of the dialogue consists of animals saying, "Hi!"

I crocheted a pig for Scoot, using this Lion Brand pattern,

and baked him an apple pie. 

The coolest thing I made for Scoot was a guaranteed gift success--he designed it himself.  Scoot is a talented soccer goalie, as well as a nerd like the rest of the family.  The classic scholar athlete.  He has recently been reading Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  So when we brainstormed for unique goalie jersey ideas, this logo came quickly to mind:

This image is a good reflection of Scoot's attitude as a goalie: he respects good shots, and can't wait to block them.  Bring it on! 
Oh, but go ahead and panic.

I ordered the Nebula goalie jersey from Epic Sports, and appliqued a silver version of the iconic planet.  Naturally, the number on the back had to be a silver 42.

Scoot's teammates may not (okay, definitely don't) understand, but he's a frood who really knows where his towel is, and he's ready for anything.

Keep up the good work, Scoot!

Friday, November 11, 2011


I really haven't had any reason to write the date today.  I have neither filled out any forms, nor recorded any transactions in my checkbook.  But such a date deserves to be written, so here it is.

You probably won't be surprised that I like patterns.  A lot.  I have spent much time in public restrooms, staring at the tiles on the floor and trying to discern their patterns.  I analyze the repeats of prints on the dresses in front of me at church, and I try to arrange menus such that we don't eat the same major ingredients too often.

And yet, I also admire the apparent randomness in the color arrangements of quilts like this, this, and this, all from Cluck Cluck Sew.  If there is a repeating color pattern in any of those, it escapes me.  But each still looks harmonious.

So I decided to try a little randomness in a quilt for D2.  I chose a Disappearing Nine Patch scheme, which can look pretty well-mixed.  But I feared that I would favor certain combinations in the original nine-patches.  So I got out a sudoku book. 

I assigned a number to each stack of squares, then started sewing them together according to the puzzle answers.

The first square did not come out the way my pattern-seeking mind would prefer.  The focus fabrics are all together, with the supporting contrast at the other end.  I knew, though, that each nine-patch would be different, and that everything would change when I sliced them up.  So I followed the sudoku faithfully for the first nine blocks.

Then I couldn't take it anymore.  I've only made small adjustments so far.  Hopefully it will all balance in the end.  D2 will probably never notice, unless he's like me.  If so, his quilt will give him something to puzzle over for a long time.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween Twins?

If you look more closely, you can see that

Scoot is a Bat

and D2, a Cat.

Our color and rhyme scheme
the Caterpillar did foil
by choosing to be

a stony Gargoyle.

And Rollo?
His outfit turned out to defy description,
even from his glib tongue.
He designed it himself, based on this model of combat fashion:

Rollo's version is a little brighter:

Isn't that a great shiny jet pack?  I bet Boba Fett wishes he had colored duct tape.
While it was originally supposed to be a Boba Fett costume, Rollo could see the difference, and wouldn't admit to his earlier aspirations. 

The two visions remind me of our clan tartan, though.

Menzies Hunting Tartan

The Menzies plaid comes in Hunting colors,

Menzies Black  & White Dress Tartan

and this more formal Dress style.

I think Boba Fett would prefer the more subdued colors for bounty hunting,
so I present Fett Formal:

You don't want to be in the way when his thermal detonator goes off!

We actually decorated the pumpkins this year.

At the last minute, I foresaw that I would join the boys as a Gypsy:

The shawl worked nicely in the chilly evening air.

I hope you had a happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Stash to Treasure: Creamy Möbius

I've always gotten cold easily.  My hands are usually cold, and my arms chill quickly.  If Dandelionslayer had known how frigid my toes can be, he might have gotten cold feet himself.  I wear socks and slippers all winter, and I've never had any use for three-quarter-sleeved sweaters. 

In the past couple of years, I've developed another reaction to chilly weather.  When I am cold, my shoulder muscles tense up severely.  This can happen even when my extremeties don't mind the temperature yet.  It hurts to be cold.

Considering the problem, I wondered, is that why old ladies wear shawls?  And is that what I have to do when I go out?  I started looking for patterns, and found an alternative:

The Möbius.  Remember the Mobius strip, a surface with only one side, one edge, and all sorts of odd mathematical properties?  Well, I followed this pattern to crochet one.  It might be more mathematically convincing if I had made it from only one length of yarn.  But from a destashing point of view, it was quite satisfying to use up three leftover hanks.  Even if they don't quite match.  It really does help to have an extra layer over my shoulders during windy evening soccer games.  I don't have to tie it, or figure out how to hold it closed.

I think I'll wait a little longer to wear shawls, until sometime after I succumb to wearing bifocals.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Project Management

"You should always have three quilts: one on the cutting table, one on the quilting frame, and one in your head."

Thus advised the sweet old ladies who taught me to quilt. I find that it applies not only to quilts, but to all the projects I do. And I always seem to get the most excited about the next project, the one in my head.

For example, I've been working on Halloween costumes. These were mainly designed by the boys, and have been easy, and satisfying. One challenging part remains, and I should be trying to solve it. But during the costume construction, we've been struck by inspiration for a birthday gift for Scoot. It'll be really cool. I can't do it yet. While I wait for a supply to arrive, I should be working on another gift that I already started for him. It's mostly done. It will be easy to complete. Oh, and there's another quick one that's not so interesting, but necessary. But now I'm getting excited about a Christmas project. It's time, isn't it, to start on Christmas projects? How many shipping days are left?

Some people I know rarely move beyond the planning stage. I do like to finish my projects, but the satisfaction of finishing one is inextricably mingled with the anticipation of beginning the next.

How about you? Do you focus on one thing at a time, scatter your attention among different works in progress, or keep lining up more plans as you go?

I won't even mention the quilt in my head. It can't be next yet.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

"This must be Thursday . . . "

"I never could get the hang of Thursdays," lamented Arthur Dent, in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  I have to agree.  Thursdays are pretty chaotic around here.  The boys' schools run on different schedules on Thursdays.  Every week I have to make notes in my planner to be sure that I drop off, pick up, and receive the boys at the right times.  Then there's a piano lesson, a soccer practice, dinner in a couple of shifts, and everyone goes to Scouts.  Thursdays are a mess.

But maybe D2 has a solution.  His kindergarten teacher has provided him with various memory-enhancing songs, including one about the days of the week.  He insists that it goes like this:

"Sun-day, Monday
Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday,
Seven days a week."

I've tried to tell him that this doesn't add up, but I cannot convince him.  D2 doesn't believe in Thursdays.

Sounds good to me.  Too bad my den-leading partner wouldn't appreciate disbelief in Thursdays as an excuse to skip Cub Scouts.

Which day is busiest for you?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sleigh Bells Ring

I've received an early Christmas gift this year. 

My story, "Foreign Exchange," has been given the Publisher's Choice award in LDS Publisher's 2011 Christmas Story Contest!

Love and encouragement from family and friends are more wonderful gifts, which helped make this surprise possible.  Thank you!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Christmas in September

It's that time again!  The choir director is picking music for the Christmas program, and the Relief Society is gearing up for Christmas crafts at Super Saturday.  And it is time again for LDSP's Christmas Story Contest!  I have entered a piece, and there are quite a few other entries.  So take an early peek into the closet of Christmas spirit, and vote for your favorite stories before midnight on September 30.

Voting instructions and links to the stories are here.

I'm still in the Unpublished category.

Ho, ho, ho!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Happy Birthday, D2!

Five years ago, the midwife looked me over and gave me a 50-50 chance of going into labor that weekend.  I knew which 50 I believed.  Our first three boys had been born increasingly late, and it was still two weeks before the fourth was due.  So we spent Labor Day doing some preliminary shopping for a vehicle that would fit us all, in a couple of weeks.  That night, with very little warning, D2 made his surprising way into the world. 

This Labor Day, we celebrated the fruit of that labor by taking our little boy to the beach.

We found a great driftwood fort for our base of operations.

As usual, Scoot and Rollo spent the most time in the water,

while Dandelionslayer found a comfortable place to relax,

and D2 assembled a Museum of Cool Things.

Back at home, we enjoyed a cake that D2 designed, inspired by one of his favorite books.  See what I mean about pink?

D2 missed being born on Labor Day by a couple of hours, and was actually born on the first day of school.  This year the first day of school was a day later, and quite chaotic.  But here are some pictures from the second day of school . . .

which was also D2's first day of kindergarten. 

They say time flies on wings of lightning, but maybe it rolls on the tires of a big yellow bus.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Mount Saint Helens

Scoot has an abiding interest in volcanoes.  He does a school report on volcanoes every couple of years.  When we went to Japan, he said he wanted to "walk on a volcano."  We figured out, too late, that he meant "hike up Mount Fuji."  This summer, we decided it was time to visit Mount Saint Helens.

Dandelionslayer and I remember the big 1980 eruption.  We were on the other side of the country, of course, but we remember hearing about it, and seeing the movies at school.  My parents' friends, who lived in Yakima at the time, sent us a vial of ash the next Christmas.  So we felt a sort of connection to this place that we hadn't visited.

Much of the surrounding area has been replanted with noble firs.  They stand there like round hairbrushes, the limbs sticking out so straight that you can barely see them.  But I was surprised at the barrenness of the mountain itself.  A ranger told us about forms of life that braved the conditions of the crater soon after the eruption, only to be disrupted by later events. 

This dome in the crater keeps growing, as does a circular glacier that surrounds it.  And the steam rises.  This is definitely a live mountain.

Plant life is creeping in around it, though, like this paintbrush . . .

. . . lupines, blooming a little later than at our sea level home, and . . .

. . . I really don't know what this is.  Any ideas?

Of course, the geologic formations are easier to see without so much plant life.  I particularly admired this amphitheatre,

and this frosted ridge.

Some of the tourists were pretty cute, too!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Stash to Treasure: Lavender Sachets

Take a little bit of this . . .

(flowered sheer fabric left over from a most elegant nursing coverup)

add a little bit of that . . .

(lavender in the garden)

and you can make these:

Lavender sachets. 

The directions I followed are here.  The hard part was removing the dried buds from the stems, but the result is very pleasing.  I don't generally like to add scents to my life, so I hope someone will like the sachets at our upcoming Relief Society Service Auction.  And if not, well, the scent is growing on me.  I'm tempted to make the dryer version, but I'll have to wait until next summer to harvest more buds.  I'm letting the rest of the plants bloom, and the bees are very happy about it.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Chilling Scene

...for those of you who are caught in a heat wave:

Time to defrost the freezer!

Rollo has always liked ice, applied orally, but he has recently learned to appreciate its healing powers.  If you know Rollo, you'll understand that this is something he'll use often.  Dandelionslayer's reusable ice pack comes out of the freezer a couple of times a day.  I've tried to convince him that my usually-cold hands are just as good.  The day I defrosted the freezer, he almost believed me.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Case of the Lifted Lettuce

It was a dark and stormy season . . . or too dry, or too something for my leafy greens to grow very well.  I planted lettuce, spinach, and carrots at the right time, and then again later.  But, except for about three carrot seeds, two spinach seeds, and one lettuce, they just did not sprout.  The only lettuce that has grown successfully in my garden this year sprang from established roots, one of those "live" lettuces from the store.  It grew back nicely, and I saved it for a special occasion.

I looked forward to adding it to my Grilled Chicken and Mango Salad last night.  I tore the remainder of last week's farmers' market lettuce into the bowl, then went out to the garden to harvest the fresher head.  But where was it?  In the space where, so recently, green leaves grew, there was only a hole.

Exhibit A:  the hole
The leaves had not been nibbled away, nor slimed by slugs.  The lettuce was simply gone, roots and all.  The lettuce lovers of my family denied any involvement.  Upon whom could I call to solve this mystery?  The Scouts, of course!  (Never mind that they were also the aforementioned lettuce lovers, and therefore suspects.  A Scout is trustworthy.)

The Caterpillar applied the skills he developed last year for his Stalking--I mean Tracking--Merit Badge to find this evidence:

Exhibit B:  the track

He identified the culprit as a raccoon.  This makes sense.  We know there are raccoons in the neighborhood, that their paws are capable of uprooting small plants, and that they will eat anything (not just the cat food the neighbors set out for them).  

Having convicted the miscreant (in absentia), the Cub Scouts sprang into action to prevent further leafy larcenies.

Exhibit C:  scare tactics

It  may not have the power of a brass serpent on a pole, but Scoot believes that this shiny CD fish will startle potential felons, and encourage them to go home and rethink their lives.

Exhibit C:  the League of Protection

Rollo contributed another fish (made at Cub Scout Day Camp).  He is also searching for a hero with animal communication skills.  He'd like to interrogate the bees.  Busybodies like bees should know what is going on in a garden, don't you think?  If not, Rollo's glowing countenance and Super D2's moral support may win the day and prevent further robberies.

Not that I have any lettuce left to steal, anyway.