Friday, May 17, 2019

In This Valley

It's Spring in this valley that we now call home. Our little corner of the world is so beautiful, so unfamiliar to me. Before this move I'd spent all but three years of my life in the eastern United States, ranging from Key West, Florida, to Chester County, Pennsylvania. While there was some diversity in climate and landscape, this is entirely new. New animals, new birds, new vegetation, new climate -- even new elevation, at just over 4,000 feet above sea level!

I feel a bit out of my depth here, I'll admit. I'm not used to being quite so clueless about my surroundings. Our community relies on irrigation for farming, and they "turn on" the water in the Spring. I've never lived in a place where water is a seasonal commodity! There's a livestock sale building not far from us, and there are cows in every direction. And goats. So many goats. People still ride horses and rope cattle here, and "Ag" (agriculture) is an abbreviation I've quickly learned. It's a different way of life than I've been used to, and I'm eager to learn more while we're here.

Spring has brought an amazing transformation to the landscape, which was almost barren when we moved in January. Barren, but in a beautiful kind of way. I associate lack of foliage with drabness, but there was still so much color, even in the dead of winter. An unfamiliar palette, as so much here is unfamiliar. Now I miss the snow-caps on the mountains and the pale, leafless branches of the trees that I can't yet name. But I also love that the hills are purple now, that they change color as the sun shifts in the sky and the clouds form shadowy patterns on their flanks. And now that the silent winter calm has been replaced with bird song, I'll gladly wait a few months for those snow-caps to return.

Our back yard is entirely dirt and gravel -- in fact, landscaping with rocks is a bit of an art form here! It makes for easy maintenance, and our community center has a nice grassy patch when I'm craving some green. We do have a lovely little tree that's big enough to provide shade, and I like to park my folding camp chair under it and knit while Scout explores the yard. We've just put in two bird feeders, both seed and nectar variety, and within a few hours there were house finches and chickadees flocking to the feast. We've had a hummingbird visit several times now, too, so my avian joy is complete. Rosa was able to pet a chickadee the other day, lucky duck. Laddie also found a bird and brought it to me, but unfortunately his was deceased... cue thorough hand washing.

We've had to look up some of the other birds we've seen. I'm still startled every time I see quail scurry across the road, their little black head feathers bobbing up and down. I spotted a kingbird the other day, though I had no idea what it was -- and couldn't even see it clearly. I just snapped a photo with the zoom lens and identified it at home.

But far and away the most striking (and noisy) birds here are the yellow-headed blackbirds. They're quite stunning to look at, and I love to spot them down among the rushes in the ditch. Goodness, they can screech, though. Apparently we live in an Audubon "important bird area," so I hope to become familiar with many other species, too.

We're settling in to our new home, and the progress is encouraging. I am trying to minimize our belongings and figure out good ways to store the things we keep. It's been wonderful living in brand-new base housing, because I have no urges to "improve" the house itself. We can hang as many pictures as we want, so we'll be depending on wall art to personalize our home. It's lovely to be free of the desire to change things (which inevitably involves time and money), though I'm sure I'll be glad to have that opportunity again if we move back to Virginia after this tour.

But for now, we're here in this valley, and we plan to make ourselves at home.

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Tea and Scandal

My second pair of "selfish" socks are officially done and I'm feeling pleased, indeed. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the Tea and Scandal pattern from This Homemade Life. I do like the lace pattern, but it was the Miss Marple association that really caught my eye, I'll admit! Toe-up was new for me, and I have to admit that I'd have preferred a wider toe. It's just about an inch wide at the tip, and I suspect it would look better with more initial stitches and fewer increases. Then again, I do have a very wide toe box.

Socks are still a mixture of mystery and magic for me. I don't know enough yet to make them work; I just cross my fingers (or my needles, perhaps?) and hope for the best. This pair was partly experimental, because I wanted to try Palette yarn for socks. It's inexpensive and comes in so many gorgeous colors, but I have my doubts about its durability. And considering the amount of time invested in a single pair, durability is an important factor! I've only worn them once, but they were quite comfy. No red flags so far, but one trial wear is hardly an adequate test. Hopefully they'll work; I refuse to buy superwash wool, and so many sock/fingering yarns are superwash.

I'm inclined to try a pair of Afterthought Heel socks, perhaps in child size since my growing littles are more in need of new socks than I am. The idea of just knitting a stockinette tube and adding the heel in later sounds pretty good to me!

Of course, I've finished these just as the weather has grown too warm to contemplate socks (classic me). But unless my feet undergo radical changes before Autumn, they'll be ready to keep my toes toasty when the temps come back down!

Raveled here.

Saturday, May 04, 2019

Little Love

A dear friend from Virginia is getting ready to have her second baby. In other words, an excuse to sew and craft! I suppose I used a variety of materials for this gift -- leather, wood, linen, and silicone. 

I'd wanted to try making one of these balls for some time, and now I had the perfect opportunity. It's simply 12 pentagons stitched together. Construction gets a bit confusing, and it's a LOT of seaming -- but I love the result. The size of the pentagons will (obviously) determine the size of the ball, and I love that you can make it as big or as small as you want. I literally made a pentagon shape in Microsoft Word, copied it 11 times, and printed it out. 

My friend had pacifier leashes on her registry, so I dipped into my wood and silicone bead stash to make one:

I also included a Baby Believer board book (which I just discovered, and absolutely love!), and Gloria Furman's Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full (a favorite of mine when I'm in need of Biblical encouragement as a mom -- which is always).

A little handcrafted love to welcome this new, little God-crafted life!

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

May Yarn Along: Almost

I'll admit, I was disappointed when I realized that May was going to start on a Wednesday -- for no better reason than that I'd hoped to have a new project on the needles for this Yarn Along! I'm still on the Tea and Scandal socks that I was working on last month. Within a few days of my last post, I'd almost completed the socks. Then we went on vacation (and while I brought my yarn, I didn't touch my knitting the entire time!), and then my husband was on leave (cue long-neglected home projects). On the plus side, I think one more good knitting session will finish these up! The sock on the right only needs a bind off, and the other is about fourteen rows away. I'm hoping today might be the day? But then again, I've thought that all this week...

I've just started another Book Girl recommended read, A Landscape With Dragons (which I managed to find on Thriftbooks!). I'm barely into it yet, but so far I'm very pleased. I really like Michael O'Brien's writing style, and I think the content will be equally satisfying. I though I'd finished up my book on Puritan meditation, but I just realized I still have more to read! I need to finish that up before I get the urge to start another book -- I have quite a list at this point.

Linking up with Ginny's Yarn Along:

Monday, April 29, 2019

A Traipse Through the Seasons

When the Navy summoned my husband to San Diego for a week (closing out a particularly busy season for him that we're all happy to say goodbye to!), I decided to take the littles on an impromptu road trip. After all, we'd traveled all the way from the Atlantic Ocean; why not finish off our cross-country travels by seeing the Pacific?

We set out the day after an unexpected (albeit brief) snow flurry, and after a tiring drive we arrived in Coronado. I've only been once before, almost ten years ago! That was shortly before our wedding, and it was strange to think of the contrast: then single, now married with four children by my side and two in God's care. But while much has changed for me, Coronado was just as beautiful as I remembered it. Balmy temperatures, sunny skies, and lush greenery -- it's easy to see why so many people consider this to be "paradise."

Pablo wasn't flying this bird, but it flew right overhead as the littles and I lingered on the sparkly sand:

Scout thoroughly enjoyed his time on the beach, and found a tangled piece of seaweed that he toted around for most of our jaunt. It took a little sleight of hand to finally part him from it when we were ready to leave!

We had to stop by the Hotel del Coronado, so I could show the kids (and Pablo, for that matter). Rosa was quite taken with the beautiful lobby, and the ice cream shop met with hearty approval!

The littles and I also explored Old Town San Diego, which was colorful and delicious and educational all at once.

Of course, I was most interested in the fibers in one of the museums:

The interiors were dark and cool, and so very peaceful.

We couldn't visit San Diego without going to the zoo! It was as busy as a Spring break Saturday could be, but it was our only opportunity and I'm glad we took it. There are many animals there that the littles have never seen -- so many, in fact, that we didn't even come close to seeing them all. I was delighted that the littles were able to see many of the animals we've studied in zoology this year. We also saw one of the giant pandas (Xiao Liwu), not even realizing that they were being shipped back to China at the end of the month.

Pablo snapped this shot of two "affectionate" Gerenuks, which I just love!

Little Man wanted to see gorillas (which we did), and Rosa wanted to see koalas. I was so excited to get a shot of one awake -- you can tell it's awake, because... well, no. It still looks like it's asleep. *wink*

With accommodations for two adults and four children both scarce and expensive, I looked further afield for our last night in San Diego and ended up booking a room in the very same Navy Inn in Point Loma that I stayed at with my family a decade ago. I wish we could have stayed more than one night -- the view incredible, and this was what we saw looking down from our balcony:

Not a bad setting for morning devotions! 

After church on Sunday, we had lunch at Cafe Madeleine (their North Park location) -- absolutely delightful, both in ambiance and flavor! There were even two musicians in the corner to serenade us during our meal. I had a beef Crepe Salees, and would gladly eat another. I wish we had a place like this just around the corner! 

We couldn't leave San Diego without stopping by La Jolla:

I'm not sure how I managed to exclude most of the sunbathing seals from this photo of the children's pool (which should really be renamed "Seal Pool," because there were no children and dozens of seals!), but you can spot of few of them on the right:

We did venture down to the water (though hampered by our "Sunday best"), and the children had so much fun exploring the rocks and tide pools that I wish we'd had more time there. 

 But it was time to be off, because our adventures were far from over -- having sampled a tantalizing taste of summer, it was time to visit a different season.

The foothills just west of Sequoia National Park are absolutely lovely! Spring has kissed the landscape here, and we passed dozens of citrus groves laden with fruit.

But as we wound our way up through the park, the temperature steadily dropped.

Snow was forecast for the next day, but there was already plenty of it on the ground high up in the Sierra Nevadas. It was quite the winter wonderland at 7,000 feet! We donned our winter gear and trekked (and by trekked I mean "slipped" -- it was quite icy) our way through magnificent groves of trees. The General Sherman tree was our ultimate destination; it's the largest tree (by mass) on the planet, and weighs over 4 millions pounds.

Such a majestic forest monarch! What a testament to the beauty and splendor of our Creator God.

Can you spot the cascade on the left in this photo? I'd brought along our Geography from A to Z book, which I purchased a few months ago but haven't really included in our school yet. Little Man found it in the book bag, and helpfully supplied is with the names for some of the water features we saw.

We drove through El Dorado National Forest on our way home, and feasted our eyes on even more mountain grandeur -- we only managed a few snapshots from a moving car as we wound our way through vista after vista, but we are determined to return one day and explore this corner of God's handiwork.

 And then, home again, where the weather can't decide between Spring and Summer, and chilly mornings give way to blazing afternoons. Our high desert landscape has grown suddenly green in the past few weeks, and we're enjoying chilly mornings before the summer heat finally sets in.

A week of leave for my husband has put our house (more) to rights, and now it's time to settle back into familiar routines and rhythms -- with a few more memories tucked away, and anticipation of more to come.

Friday, April 12, 2019

A Pinteresting Problem

I have a love-hate relationship with Pinterest. Even apart from the questionable wisdom of bombarding one's self with images of perfectly staged rooms and beautiful wares, there is another dilemma: actually putting all of those marvelous saved ideas to use! Granted, the "love" generally outweighs any misgivings I might have, and I have a burgeoning Pinterest board to prove it. But sometimes I grow frustrated at the masses of wonderful ideas I've saved (but never used), and feel the urge to actually make the things I've pinned.

Fortunately, that urge aligned with Rosa's need for summer tops and a remnant of brown linen I had from my most recent Tova.  

The neckline looks a bit awkward in this view, but it seems to work well
when Rosa is actually wearing it.

I've had a pleat tutorial from Project Run and Play saved for several years, and still hadn't put it to use. Why not try it now? I pulled out my Shaka Laka blouse pattern, added the appropriate amount to the center front, and got busy.

Let me just say right here that this was quite a tedious undertaking! The fluidity of my linen fabric stymied my efforts to get perfect pleats, my fabric marker is almost out of ink, and overall it ended up being a bit more difficult than I'd anticipated. Happily, I managed to get it right -- or rather, close enough -- in the end. Stitching the little pleats together was actually quite satisfying, so I shouldn't gripe too much.

For the back, I omitted the buttons and left a gap at the top for a closure.

A vintage pearl button seemed the best candidate in my stash, and a simple button loop sewn with brown buttonhole thread secures it all in place. I wasn't even sure I remembered how to sew a button loop, but it came back quite naturally. Assuming I did it right, which may not be the case... It functions, in any case, and I promise it looks half decent. 

I top-stitched the neckline and faced armholes with fuchsia thread to match the pleat detailing, and repeated that with the hem stitching. Just a little pop of color to brighten it up for Rosa!

Of course, I realize that I'm setting myself up for quite a bit of ironing this summer, since most of Rosa's recent makes have been cotton and linen. But the joy she has in wearing the clothes I make her should get me through any ironing tedium -- and a bit of satisfaction at finally completing a Pinterest project won't hurt, either.

One down, several thousand to go.... *wink*