Monday, May 30, 2005

Gardening thrills

It seems like everything is blooming now, even wildflowers. It's great to see.

Nodding Trillium:


Wood Anenome:


as well as dewberries (a seedy and early wild raspberry) and forget-me-nots, and there are white flowers on many small trees in the area that I think are ash.. (I haven't looked it up) ...beautiful.


Here is one little patch of my herb garden that actually looks nice, with tarragon, oregano thyme, and salad burnet. The asparagus I didn't cut looks weedy, and the reseeding annuals haven't gotten started yet, and the deer and bunnies have cropped some of my plants and a few died... so most of my garden looks barren.


Here is my big happy garden surprise for this year: the first year of blossoms on my apple tree we planted about eight years ago! I'm trying not to get too excited about apples, and telling myself even if I just have blossoms will be wonderful enough, after eight years of just leaves!

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Happy Birthday, Moogie!



Next week, my mom - known to her grandchildren as Moogie - will be 63 years young only 62! (Making her a year older than she is; how's that for a birthday present?)

The above photo (from last August) is one of my favorites because up until this April, my husband thought that this was a picture of ME holding Bubbie and Mac. Everyone who sees my mom and me together assumes that we are sisters. Even my children can't always tell us apart.

My kids think she is a lot more fun than Mommy. Maybe it's because she teaches them origami, writes their stories down as they dictate them, converted her basement into a workshop for her grandchildren, and has a house with four computers* and a whole bunch of computer games. Or maybe my kids are just really bright, and intuitively recognize how wonderful Moogie is.

*my dad was one of the original Mid-michigan Apple Club members and used to be part owner of a computer store... we owned one of the first home computers, an 8K Pet. 8K!

One of Moogie's claims to fame is her extensive knowledge of and love for butterflies. When she worked for the local school's Science Resource Center she helped put together elementary school science kits, including a unit on butterflies where they "hatched" Painted Lady butterflies. She has since learned a lot about all the local butterflies, read a lot of butterfly guides, tagged a lot of monarchs, and gotten the whole family interested in butterflies and migration.



So, for her birthday (and not coincidentally because I have a new font program that I'm having so much fun with), I created a butterfly font for her. Now, for a limited time only, my three or four loyal readers (and anyone else who stumbles across this blog) can download** this font and try it out on your computer! (but be warned, it's a big font... 800K... it would completely fill the memory of 100 original 8K Pet computers!) This font is property of Moogie and is available for your personal and nonprofit use, but cannot be used for commercial purposes without her permission.

**I couldn't make the Stuffit utility on my computer work, so if you click on the link your screen will download a bunch of random characters. If you let it load it and then choose "save as..." and save it as butterfly.ttf in your font folder... ...Now the font is zipped and should be working properly, thanks to my brother-in-law's extensive Mac knowledge! Hooray Dale! If it still does not work, email me and I can email you the file!



Happy birthday Moogie!

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Tuesday news in color


News in lavender: a mystery flower in my side yard. My Audubon guide doesn't have it, and I haven't had time to look elsewhere to find out what it is.


News in blue: this is old news that I'm finally getting around to documenting: my stuffed denim cubes. Another photo here. I made these about five years ago out of scraps left over from my blue-jeans quilt. All the grownups think they are really cool, but all the kids who have seen them just yawn. They are a little too large for juggling or throwing around the house, after all... and I never made enough to make fortresses out of...


News in green: Once I had a friend who once saw the trees in spring here and remarked, "so that's why they named that crayon that color! I've never seen that color of leaves before!"


News in maroon: my little frittilaries are finally blooming!

News in black and white: I've mostly finished my bold map (drafting handwriting) font. I'm about halfway through a dingbat font that's to be a birthday present, which proved to be a lot more challenging than I expected. Also doing three or four handwriting fonts for high school graduation presents: that's where my other $57 for the font program is coming in - those three Yuppie foodstamps I don't have to put in the "congratulations" cards: All I spend is $3 on three CDs and jewel cases for the fonts! (Oh, yes, and lots of time...) I currently am having problems converting the fonts from "names" mode to "unicode" mode... apparently most of my programs operate in "unicode" mode. Maybe it's time to (gasp!) download the manual PDFs. Has it come to that? When I get a decent font without the unicode glitch, I'll post it so that my loyal readers (all, um, three of them?) can download it and try it out for themselves!


News in red: two days ago, Bubbie (right) figured out how to pull himself up to standing. Today Mac figured it out, too, and suddenly I have two short toddlers instead of two babies!

Saturday, May 21, 2005

I needed a new craft...



...like I needed another hole in my head. But what else are you to do when your six-year-old son comes home from Kindergarten excited because they got to make their own paper, and it was one of your best friends who showed the class, and this same friend is generously letting you borrow all her papermaking equipment this summer?





Yesterday we made our first batch while the babies napped. BigE remembered the entire process correctly and was a patient teacher for me and Chickie! We had a lot of fun. Click here to view a whole finished sheet.

I can see where this would be addictive.

Thanks, Gayle!

Friday, May 20, 2005

garden happenings


Oh joy, oh rapture... it's finally really Spring in the upper peninsula! Above: maple leaves! These photos were all taken Wednesday April 18.

Blooming:

Strawberries, both tame and wild. The flowers with dark centers have been hit by frost and will not make berries.

Bulbicodum Conspicuus in full bloom, at end of post. It's a lot smaller than I expected - from a distance they look like more dandelions in my yard.

Preparing to bloom:

wild Nodding Trillium


Fritillaria Meleagris, above. For some reason, out of the 25 or so bulbs I planted, I only got two blooms, and maybe five plants total.

My gardening to-do list, based on what survived and what didn't:

  • Pump house: move surviving Fritillaria bulbs together in front of the pump house.
  • dig up some wild Wintergreen (I saw some one town over from where we live) and try it in the sunken pot with the cranberries.
  • find something to plant in the wet shade, back of the pump house, where the corsican mint is breathing its last

  • garden in front of house: move all of the Iris danfordiae to the iris garden.
  • find a home for the single solitary purple Iris d. that made it in to the bag of yellow bulbs I bought
  • move the crocus Korolkowii out of the strawberry patch
  • get rid of the overgrown green onions
  • weed and mulch the back half of the garden, esp. the asparagus

  • side yard: move the rest of the Bulbicodum Conspicuus from side yard to front rock garden
  • try parsley again?

  • rock garden: just ignore it until everything else is tidied up.
I'm sure there's more to do, only I can't remember it at the moment.

My big discovery: I like to look at plants up close. I've always got the camera in macro mode. This attitude does not lend itself to good overall garden design. My one-acre yard is not that pretty... it's a disorganized jumble of plants which, individually, are beautiful. Perhaps I missed a calling to some tiny urban garden plot that only COULD be viewed up-close!

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Font Love is Here to Stay



My experience last month with Fontifier rekindled a lifelong love of fonts.

In high school I actually made $100 for designing a bitmap font that sold, with nine others, on a floppy disk. Not the little 5" disks, no... if I remember right... this was on one of those big 8" floppies. It was a jaggedy bitmap font that you couldn't enlarge or reduce. I was so proud of it. I think I even have a Xerox copy of the check, somewhere at my parents' house.

I was going to make my living this way. I sat around with graph paper, marking off 36 x 36 squares and trying to dream up what other fonts I could cram into those boxes.

So 20 years later along comes Fontifier where for $9 I can have my very own font.

The trouble is, by this time I have about three dozen very own fonts in my head. As my husband and I are missionaries, and don't raise the full amount of financial support we're supposed to, I had already ruled out the $200 solution - buying my own software.

But after buying my son his own $9 font, I was hooked. Is this true love, or is it just covetousness? Sometimes it's hard to tell. Sometimes it's both.

I wanted a clear sign from God that it really was OK for me to spend $200 on a font program -- something frivolous, just for me. Daniel kept telling me I could spend "our" money to buy it, he nearly bought it for me for Mothers Day (which we normally don't even CELEBRATE) but he knew I'd feel cheated somehow. I just didn't feel right spending our money.

So I told God that if he gave me the money somehow - either by my being able to scrimp and save enough, or by his supernatural provision, I would get the program. And otherwise, I wouldn't.

Two days ago I got a check from a stock company made out to my maiden name. I called the company to double-check, and it really IS mine, apparently one that I hadn't cashed long ago when I sold the stock. Amazing.

It's $143. Daniel is convinced that this is that sign from God we have been waiting for... that *I* have been waiting for, rather... to buy my silly font program. Now I'm taking my husband's word for it that this is the clear sign... no, I actually feel like it is. Yes, it's $57 less than we "need"... but really, we could have bought the program anyways, or I could have asked for it for Christmas... I just wasn't sure it was the right thing to do.

A check I didn't cash ten years ago, that only now appears at my doorstep? Made out to my maiden name so it's "my" money and not "ours"? Right after I've really laid to rest the idea of making greeting cards to sell at the local boutiques this summer, because that would take too much time away from the kids? And after I've realized that it would take me approximately four years to scrimp enough to buy it, and that would mean no new flowers for those four years?

Sure, you can go ahead and call it a coincidence.



Meanwhile I'll sit here and be amazed that God could love me enough to arrange this series of events, starting with my losing a check ten years ago... just so I could have a frivolous font program. Why should he care so much about me? And why does he choose to show it in this way?

Yesterday I downloaded it. The $100 TypeTool, with it's $100 plug-in called ScanFont is incredibly easy to use. You write out your letters on paper, stick it in your scanner, tell it to break it into letters, save it as characters, and then drag those characters to their proper places on the on-screen keyboard. I'm oversimplifying a little bit here, but not much. There are a lot of other more advanced features I don't understand yet, but I haven't worried about those yet. Whee!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Stars upon Thars



I made this curtain about six years ago when my first child was about 6 months old. I had painted kids' book characters all over the walls and the room was so loud... I knew I needed a curtain with a subtle, quiet pattern that wouldn't draw too much attention to itself. The problem was, that wasn't what I wanted. I wanted something with flair, something loud and fun. This was my compromise: a curtain that is subtle and quiet when the lights are on, and something a little more fun when the sun or moon shines through...



I've been enjoying reading about pojagi here and there...

I guess what pojagi is to quilting, this star curtain is to applique. I made a curtain out of muslin, then placed squares of white cotton sheeting on the curtain, zig-zagged a star on with a buttonhole stitch on my machine, and used a seam ripper to cut the shirting off of the outside and the muslin out of the inside. Doing it that way seemed to be best for keeping the stars from warping or fraying in the process... but it was time consuming.

Details of the curtain can be found here, here and here.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

All in a day's adventure

We almost called off our adventure yesterday. It was grey and drizzly when we left our house. It was grey and rainy when we arrived at the ferry dock, with two friends of ours. (click on any of the photos to see the bigger one)



Our first destination was the Butterfly House. It was still cold and rainy, so we stopped on the tourist strip to fortify ourselves with fudge.



BigE and Chickie were awed that the butterflies would land on them. A Red Postman followed BigE around and landed on him most of the time. Chickie, our young friend and I were adopted by a Rusty Tipped Page.



A swallowtail landed near Mac and Bubbie... much to Mac's delight ("look! it flies!") and Bubbie's frustration ("why am I not being allowed to grab him and eat him?")

We spent a lot of time there, and by the time we came out, the sun was shining and it was a beautiful day with blue skies!



We walked around, enjoyed the view, mailed a postcard to Granny, and examined the cannons.



Due to a legal loophole we enjoyed an ice cream cone on the trip home. I had promised ice cream to the kids. Since it was so cold, I bought them fudge instead. But I never told them that the fudge was a substitute for the ice cream, and I didn't dream it would be warm enough by the time we left that they would want to eat ice cream! So, virtually unheard-of by my children, we had TWO TREATS IN ONE DAY.



As we left for home, the clouds closed back in and the drizzle started again. It was as if the three-hour sunshine (the only sunshine we had in the space of three days) was something God gave just to us as a special gift.

Since this blog is about things that bring me joy, I won't describe the post-sugar-high crash on the trip home or our tearful supper and bedtime. But our adventure itself was wonderful and wonder-filled.

Friday, May 13, 2005

rain

It's raining today. We need rain. This is the view from my very wet kitchen window. Isn't it beautiful? You can see the buds on the maple trees.



Here is another view.

Even though we need the rain, we're hoping it clears up for tomorrow, because we have a big adventure planned!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

for your amusement

Martha of Naive Knitting sponsored a studio confidante project. I have no physical "confidante" that I keep near my desk, but as I thought about it, I realized that the word I would have chosen would be muse.

"Muse" is one of my favorite words. Most of the info below is adapted from a wikipedia article and from related word searches at Your Dictionary.

In Greek mythology there are three original muses: one for song (or voice), one for practice, and one for memory.

Later these ended up being nine Muses - nine daughters of Mnemosyne and Zeus: three for different types of poetry, one for music, one for dancing, one for comedy and one for tragedy, and (curiously to me) one for history and one for astronomy. I would never have associated history or astronomy with art per se, and it surprises me there's no Muse for sculpture or painting.

But that's beside the point. A Muse is someone that an artist or storyteller invokes at the beginning of his or her work - either as a guiding spirit or a source of inspiration.

The current verb to muse means to be absorbed in one's thoughts, to be meditative, to consider or say something thoughtfully.

The word "muse" comes to us from Greek [mousa] through Latin [musa] through Old French [muser] into Middle English. The Old French [muser] means to stare stupidly. (I am sure that when I am writing poetry I stare stupidly. That's probably one of the many reasons I lock myself in my room by myself when I write poetry.)

Now comes the fun part.

To amuse someone is, literally, to give them a muse. To get them to stare stupidly... to absorb them, to occupy their attention. This is what a television set does. It amuses someone. It actually becomes a muse for them. Those who watch television stare stupidly. (I would like a better muse, please!)

A museum is a shrine of the Muses. A temple for worshiping the muses and collecting those sacred objects that have scientific, historical, or artistic value - the things the Muses value.

Music is the art of the Muses. It's "that thing the Muses do."

As a Christian, I believe that my Muse is the Holy Spirit. When I write poetry (in particular...other arts to a lesser extent) I often ask God to give me the right words. When I don't know what it is I'm trying to write, I will sometimes ask, "OK, God, do you have something in mind for this?" I have the sense of God looking over my shoulder as I write and whispering words in my ear occasionally.

It's a comforting feeling. Not one of judgment or his will somehow overriding mine or cancelling me out, but rather a companionable sense of having a mentor. Like the ancient Greek poets, I want my words to be the words of my Muse. I ascribe (I think rightly) any inspiration I get to my Muse, and I feel like I could not possibly write (or draw, or create) anything without the aid of my Muse.



Speaking of muses, I have one growing in my garden. Thalia, the muse of comedy. My Narcissus 'Thalia' has finally bloomed. It seems too beautiful a flower to be named after a comedic muse. (That bothered me, I like names to be fitting... but then I saw that the Greek goddess Thalia was also the muse of pastoral poetry, and her name came from the verb "Thalleo", which means "to bloom." There, that's better.)

My narcissus 'bulbicodum conspicuus' is also just starting to bloom. (photos to come.) So are the first wildflowers: wild violets, and marsh marigolds:



And my first bouquet was brought to me by my four-year-old daughter.



I am, of course, amused by my bouquet of dandelions, and by my beautiful daughter.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Ambigrams



When I was in High School, my father brought a book home for me that he got on one of his business trips: Inversions by Scott Kim.

It took me a day or two to "get it", but then I was hooked. The idea is to write something that can be read both right-side-up and upside-down. Or read in a mirror as well as read facing you. Or read sideways as well as frontwards. These words that can be read two ways are called ambigrams, or inversions.

Since then I have made a handful of inversions, as time and inspiration strike.



This one says "daniel / kelly" (reads the same upside-down.)




This one I made for Karin and Michael (reads the same in a mirror.)

Sadly, not all names or words work well for ambigrams. I've had some friends ask me to make their names into ambigrams. While some have worked beautifully, most have worked only marginally, and others haven't worked at all. (For example, no matter how hard you try, you can't turn an M into an O and have it look good. Sometimes you can work around it, sometimes you can't.)

Scott Kim's page, though it hasn't been updated in awhile, is a good introduction to ambigrams. The back of his book has a good tutorial for how to make your own ambigrams.

My own mostly-complete gallery of ambigrams is on my website.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

baby book for a future mechanic

When my first child was a baby, we got several cloth baby books. They were nice, but decidedly babyish... pastel blues and pinks and yellows. Not only that, but all of them taught BigE the same words: Ball. Rocking Horse. Teddy Bear. Toy Chest. *yawn...*

Are these the words my son is going to need to survive in the real world? Not if he grows up to be a mechanic like his Papa! So with Daniel's help and consultation, I made BigE a "real child's" cloth book that talked about important things: tools.



Shown above is the front cover with a small toolbox, and here are links to

page 2-3: utility knife and pliers.

page 4-5: coping saw, nut and wrench.

page 6-7: screwdriver, screw, hammer and nail.

the back cover (shown below): tape measure. (Daniel caught me just before I stitched "measuring tape" on the square: Apparently, "measuring tape" is the sissy fabric or plastic strip that tailors use to figure out how big around their waists are and how long their skirts should be.



The manly cube of metal with the retractable yellow metal ruler is a Tape Measure, not a Measuring Tape. So now I know, and can avoid embarrassing any of my children if they DO grow up to be mechanics or construction workers. Or tailors.

I can write out a cloth book tutorial if anyone's insterested... just drop me an email and let me know. (I'm a terrible seamstress, but the instructions ought to work just as well for people who actually have the patience to sew well and produce something with cleaner edges that actually line up.)

Friday, May 06, 2005

seven joys for seven days

It was a week of being sick. Of fever, congestion, Kleenex, earaches and coughing. A week of no sleep. A week that started with snow flurries and is ending with cold rain. A week full of last-minute emergencies at work for Daniel. A week with no new flowers and still no leaves on the trees.



Nonetheless we had a few reasons to smile:

(1) Mac and Bubbie's first trip to the sandbox. Bubbie looked a lot like Papa with his new sand-beard.



(2) A new nephew! This brings my personal total to nine nephews and six nieces, as well as four kids of my own.

(3) Another birthday party! With balloons!

(4) The plants I ordered from Sandy Mush Herb Nursery arrived this week and we planted them:

Lawn Chamomile (Chamomile Treneague) and Creeping Mint Thyme and Elfin Thyme in between our side paving stones next to our porch, Golden Marguerite in our front rock garden, and Lime Thyme in our "real" garden.

We also have buds on our narcissus, golden hoop daffodils, fritillaria meleagris, and even on our trees!

(5, 6 and 7) A tenth-of-a-mile walk to the bridge.



I told God long ago I was willing to follow him to the remotest parts of the earth, but until it happened I always thought of it in terms of sacrifice, not in terms of a real gift!

...so the trip to the bridge makes

(5) for me: Beauty,

(6) for Chickie: a chance to throw gravel and hear it go ploonk,

(7) for Mac and Bubbie:



happy baby fulfillment: banging!

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Making your own Rubberstamps



In the fall of 1997 I saw a book on nature printing where you ink fresh leaves, flowers, etc and press them on to paper. The cards and designs in the illustrations really impressed me - but it was fall and I wanted to play with the idea longer than the few weeks we'd still have fresh leaves.



About the same time I saw leaf rubberstamps for sale... somehow I got the idea to ink my leaves and put them on to a sheet of 'Foamies' craft foam, then cut them out, score them where their veins were, and glue them on to Lauan flooring. It worked!



I expanded the idea to handprints, a cross-section of an orange, and some handmade pictures, including a map of my state, quilt squares, hearts, cartoon trucks...

Tutorial here on my website.

Stuff I've made with the rubberstamps includes greeting cards,



wrapping paper,



and tagboard boxes (see tutorial for photos.)

I have a whole bunch of stamps that are cut and unmounted, including footprints of Mac and Bubbie, and baby handprints and footprints of Chickie and BigE.

I actually made the stamps of Mac and Bubbie's hands, because they made great (and easy) thank-you cards, with just the prints of their hands and their names below them. But the rest needs to be finished... someday...