One day last week Ryan said, "I think Rylie would really dig a trip to the zoo." I agreed. Later that same day I opened my email to find a note from my sis-in-law asking if we wanted to join them for a trip to the Santa Barbara Zoo and I said, "Yes please!" This was not Rylie's first visit to a zoo, we went to the San Diego Zoo last year (note: I posted the same animals back then as today - flamingos and giraffes - must be the necks!), but it was our first time to the one in Santa Barbara and it was so nice. It is a gorgeous drive up the coast, and if traffic is light, you can get up there in just about 2 hours. The zoo itself was really manageable and not packed, just enough folks to feel neighborly, but not claustrophobic. I think Rylie's favorite part was running from exhibit to exhibit with her cousin Liam. She is way into him now and runs around yelling his name: "Lim! Lim!" Even when he is no where in sight.
I was off on a tear when I started this dress. I got all the way to the smocking in 2 days and then I messed up and it was all off. I attempted to rip out the stitches to get back to the part where I didn't mess up and it was a mind-numbing, painstaking process. So I frogged it. The whole thing. Actually I threw it aside (literally threw) and started from scratch with a new ball of yarn. This time I was beyond confdent in what needed to be done so I took off on an all night knitting party (that's what Ryan calls it) and got to the smocking part in less time. On this go round I knew what I was doing and made it through the smocked part in 2 days. I knit the straps in a day. Went to the fabric store and got buttons the next day and sewed on one of the straps. I also blocked the dress and the straps in there somewhere, too. Probably the day I went to the fabric store. So, I had it all done less the other strap that needed to be sewed on. Sewing on the second strap would have taken 30 minutes tops. But I didn't sew on the strap. You know what I did? I put the all-but-finished dress in my knitting basket and cast on for a blanket for Rylie. I did a few rows on that and then put it in the knitting basket, too. And then do you know what I did? I started sewing with fabric instead of yarn. I was on a roll with that for a while forgetting all about the projects in my knitting basket. I even mentioned to Ryan from time to time about how I hoped the dress would still fit Rylie once I finished. Well, last week I finally pulled this dress from the basket and sewed on the final strap and finished it up. Just in time to put my babe in it on Mother's Day. She brought me to Descanso Gardens for the day and, I didn't know it when I was knitting, but this is the perfect woodland dress.
It allows trail walking in relative ease.
When the contemplative baby inevitably brushes into twigs, leaves and bark it can be picked clean in a jiffy.
Sitting in the dirt?
Sure, it's brown.
Digging in the dirt?
Yep! Playing peek-a-boo?
And forest floor exploration is a breeze.
Not bad, for one dress. I sure am glad I finished it. Oh, and it definitely fits her and will for a while as it is quite stretchy. I ended up criss crossing the straps in back because they are too long for her right now. So I think she can wear it for a long itme yet as a dress and then probably even as a shirt after that.
** Adding this to yesterday's post to join in Ginny's Yarn Along. I am putting that frogged dress to good use as a pair of booties for a very special baby. And I just picked up this book at the thrift store today called Country Life in America. It has a collection of quaint essays, poignant poems and beautiful photos from the likes of Emily Dickinson and Laura Ingalls Wilder and many others. I mean, how could I pass it up?
A running joke between Ryan and I is that the two of us have the exact same brain. We are truly convinced that we speak to eachother telepathically. We oftentimes begin humming the same tune spontaneously. I'll suggest a plan for the day and he'll already have the details sorted out. He emails me answers to questions I have not asked him yet, you get the idea. I think this happens when you spend your life together - it's magic. The same thing is starting to happen between me and my best gal, Mandy. She suggested last week that we take the girls to the Natural History Museum and Butterfly Pavillion. Rylie and I were definitely on board and I was wondering if we could take the new Metro line that just opened a few short weeks ago. I opened my email and whamo! there was a note from Mandy suggesting we take the train. Our plans were in alignment and we decided to meet at the train station at 2:30 on Monday. When we arrived we were delighted (and kind of astonished) to find that we had dressed our girls just alike without consultation. On the train, Mandy had her camera at the ready when she realized her battery pack was dead. I assured her not to worry that I had my camera and would get plenty of shots. Well, I got that top photo and then my battery pack went kaput too. Weird, right? The rest of these shots were taken with my phone and it's a real bummer because not only was there a hoop house full of exotic and rare butterflies lightly fluttering all around my head, but there was a massive rose garden with about a bajillion different types of roses of all colors right next door (and it was dusk on a very sunny day so they were all dripping golden light.) So yeah. Live and learn, right? Next time, next time. Instead of focusing on all of the amazing photo ops I was missing out on, I decided to focus on how wonderful it is to connect with friends.
It really is in the air, isn't it? I love this time of year, this transition between the extreme of winter and summer, this slow and gradual intro into the warmer months ahead. The mornings can be particularly gloomy this time of year, giving way to afternoon sun. But on the mornings when the sun is shining bright the whole world outside our door is glittering with pure light. The springtime is certainly much more subtle here than in my native Michigan where the first warm days after that unbearably long and cold winter are down right exuberant. Here, in this mild and tropical climate, we look to the bottle brush tree (what is the proper classification, anyways?) in our backyard which is in full and glorious bloom this time of year. It is as if the peak of the season lasts about a week or so, until slowly, one by one those red bristles begin to fall to the ground. Oh, and the Farmer's market too, the arrival of spring veggies let us know the season. Those cabbages were unbelievable, and for only three bucks, jeesh.
If you keep up with this here little blog, you may have noticed two things. One, is that my posting has become a little lighter as of late. Life is very busy with this little toddler of mine. She is not fond of me spending large chunks of time sitting at the computer and typing, so I try to get my blogging in while she naps. Sometimes she does not nap, and sometimes I need to do a little knitting or meditating during nap time. I do love to post quite regularly though and I am going to try my hardest to get into a little routine of early morning blogging, so hopeful things will pick back up again in this space very soon.
The second thing you may have noticed is that my family has been on the hunt for snow all winter long. We finally found some this past weekend in the same place we looked over the New Year's holiday. Last week somewhere around Tuesday, our partners in family fun informed us that there was rain in the forecast for LA which meant there would be snow in the mountains. Mandy, being the extraordinarily gifted organizer and motivator of folks that she is, found us the Dancing Bear cabin for a great deal and we were on our way. Driving up on Friday at 5 seemed daunting, but traffic was much lighter than expected and we got up there in record time. That evening I was out on the front porch of the cabin and swore that I could hear the rushing rapids of a river. I did not recall there being a river in the area and asked the others. They told me it was the wind whipping through the pines - a storm was certainly afoot. The next morning we awoke to the most beautiful and peaceful snowfall that I have seen in a very long time.
The babes loved getting cozy in front of the wood stove with their pjs and stuffed bears (quite aptly, Dancing Bear cabin was filled with stuffed bears.)
And it was St. Patrick's Day to boot! I brought everything green that I had and found the perfect hat in the cabin to top off my get up. I'm not even Irish, though I did pay them a nod while making my coffee that morning. The jig is a dead giveaway, no?
We played outside . . .
and in . . .
The girls showed us their best down dogs. After all, they have been attending yoga with us twice a week for a year now.
It was so nice to come back in to the wood stove and kniting needles after being out in all of the cold air for so long. We all hail from places with snow; Michigan, Pennsylvania, Washington, but Southern California has a way of thinning one's blood. I've traded my parkas and snow boots for lightweight sweaters and sneakers. When we had our fill of the snow we packed it up and headed back to lower ground where the weather was warmer. All the while the little ones amongst us cried: I want to go back to the cabinet. Until next time, snow-capped mountains!
One thing that will never become ordinary to me about living in California is the abundance of fruit trees growing everywhere. Most everyone I know has some sort of fruit growing in their yard and just this weekend as we were strolling through the neighborhood, we saw figs, persimmons and bananas all during the same walk. We have a mandarin tree in our backyard and an orange tree in the front. I knew it was going to be a bumper crop this year when the tree in back was heavy with green fruit in November. I have watched the dimpled, thick-skinned orbs slowly turn from green to orange and beg to be picked for a few months now. We were throwing around the idea of picking all of the fruit a few weeks ago and then there were the bees, and we didn't want to engross ourselves in a big project like that while there was a whole lotta swarmin' going on a few paces over.
The fruit itself is a bit too sour to eat straight but I had big plans to juice them and add a little something to sweeten it up. On Saturday, after lunch, we pulled into the driveway and rather spontaneously rolled up our sleeves and dug in. We certainly had no idea what we were getting ourselves into, as we ended up with about 50 pounds (or more) of fruit. The tree was prickly too, leaving lots of scratches and dirt all up and down my arms, many times, I had the thought of getting my gloves, but I just kept motoring through. On by one, we picked each little juicy orange. I hadn't anticipated how oddly satisfying it would be to clear the tree of all of its fruit.
As you can imagine Rylie thought it quite fun, this little exercise of removing all of the apples from the tree. She prefers to call oranges apples. We've mentioned that they are actually called oranges many times, but she dances to the beat of her own drum, ya know?
Once we decided that we had harvested all of the fruit that we could possibly get from the trees, and it was about 2 hours after we started, I gathered up a big basket of oranges and went inside to get to juicing - by hand.
After several hours, and not making the slightest dent in our supply, I had filled a 4 quart pitcher. The juice is certainly bitter but we experimented with different sweetners and we added a bit of sparkling water and made a pretty refreshing drink reminiscent of Orangina. We picked up some basil yesterday and we have yet to experiment with a basil orange ade. The rest of the juice I packaged up for friends and neighbors.
After that I looked in this book for more ideas to use up all of this citrus that we now had on hand. I had brought some lemons home from Mandy's tree on Friday, so I decided to make an orange and lemon marmalade.
Somewhere around the third orange, I realized that marmalade is a pretty labor intensive venture. Once you julienne all of the zest, you then have to segment each orange away from its membrane. I plodded through, it was late, and I was to the last bit which is boiling the marmalade to get it up to 220 degrees and then Rylie woke up. I went in to lay with her for a while, thinking my marmalade would be ok to just boil away on the stove unattended (??) When I returned, the marmalade had scorched and made a giant mess out of my favorite enamled pan. It was all I could do to scoop the quickly hardening black goo into the garbage and leave the pan to soak overnight. The memory of the marmalade debacle followed me around like a black cloud all day Sunday. After a long and arduous struggle between a sponge and my blackened pan, I tried again today and this time I got through to the end.
I'm not sure how many more batches of this I have in me, like I said, it is quite laborious. After the juice and the marmalade, I have about 40 pounds of bitter oranges and mandarins left without any real plans. Any ideas about what I should do with them?
Today, I am grateful for:
* an updated look with larger photos on this here blog. I am still working on it and I have more changes in the works, but it is definitely a step in the right direction.
* the late afternoon sunshine an how it glistens on my baby's newly sprouted hair and beckons me to kiss those soft flaxen locks.
* the abundance of amazing flea markets in this great big city (or cities.)
* the discovery of a new bakery that sells nothing but mini cheesecakes. They have over 120 flavors, even savory ones like cheddar sun dried tomato basil, um, yum.
* a very special friend that offers me companionship, lunch, and conversation again and again.
* helpful neighbors that let us know that a swarm of bees has taken up residence in our backyard fuse box. I have a call in with these folks and am hopeful they will come and offer their assistance.
* A toy closet (with a door.)
* Sneaking in our February Soul Weekend at the very last opportunity.
* the gloomy clouds in the sky this afternoon promising rain. And I even heard rumors of a thunderstorm (what?)
What is making your heart sing lately?
A day that Ryan has off work is always a special occasion. I love the easy and relaxed holidays that the first few months of the year grant to us. It is as if we are given a few extra days off because the months are so long and mid-winter is slow going. President's Day is just that sort of day. A day to go out for breakfast and hit up a museum, which is just what we did on Monday. This particular President's Day was extra special because it was a cloudy and gray day, which is a rare treat around these parts. After our breakfast, we headed to the LACMA for some music, art, and fun. We three loved the super lively, interactive drumming experience that is Rhythm Child.
This ceramic tile mural by Henri Matisse was commissioned in the 50s by a local family for their garden wall. Can you imagine?
Rylie ran into this room shouting ba ba ba and wanted to touch the sculpture in the worst way. We quickly distracted her with all of the Picassos in the next room, which she dug and we had her saying Picasso before we left. However, her favorite part of the whole day was the giant spaghetti installation outside the main entrance. This interactive display of plastic tubular noodles collects sunlight all day and glows in the dark at night. She loved running through, touching every strand, collecting a whole armful of noodles and letting them fly. She was enthralled for at least a half an hour and I thought this would be a great place to return on days when the going gets tough.
This reminds me that I have blogged about another installation in this same spot a few years back. Remember this?
When we were walking back from the museum to our car, I noticed the way the vibrant green of the first growth of spring was contrasting against the pale sky. The trees looked as if they were glowing and I felt incredibly grateful to be strolling along with my honey and my baby on a Monday afternoon. It brought my heart a bit of joy to experience live music with Ryan and Rylie together and I felt energized after witnessing the pure bliss and spirit of so many kids that filled the courtyard and the museum that day. Each little heart, mind and body was filled with giddy movement, laughs and screams, running, skipping and truly living in the present moment. It was a beautiful day indeed.
I do a lot of reading about being fully open to the present moment and responding appropriately, but I often get caught up in the practice and what that means in real life. One chilly morning last week, Rylie awoke and I knew immediately it would be one of those days. My baby, bless her heart, was not interested in anything I had offered her for breakfast. She didn't want her diaper changed nor her pajamas off. She didn't want to play with her toys, or to draw, or to sing and dance. Ride her bike? No way (as she says.) She resisted all of our go to activities. As she made her discontent known, I remembered all of the ducks at a nearby park. Ryan and I decided to rearrange our morning and bring those little duckies some bread instead.
When we arrived, we were greeted by a paddling of opportunistic ducks swimming across the lake to come and see what we had for them. It was early, before the world was awake, before the park was flooded with people on what was sure to be a sunny Saturday. I love to be out at that time of day and it felt extra special to have that big park to ourselves in such a densely populated city. The sky was steely gray and made the water look black. It was muddy, cold and wet. I had anticipatd the cold and brought my mug of hot tea, but I was not anticipating the mud as Rylie was wearing white pants, but no bother.
Rylie was delighted, we were relieved and the ducks were extraordinary. There were big and small, black and white, male and female, brazen and timid. I had no idea there was such a diverse group of them living there in the park. I can't wait to go back in the springtime when there are sure to be ducklings. Their chorus of unique voices rang out to let us know just what they were looking for.
I brought three slices of bread, sure that would be plenty, but I underestimated just how many ducks lived at this lake and just how voracious their appetites. Rylie tore a piece of bread in half and quickly threw it into the water. The mass of ducks leapt excitedly for the prize. The lucky duck that got ahold of it, dashed across the water and a large excited gang followed him, demanding that he share his generous bounty. The ones that stayed with us were eating the bread right from Ryan's outstretched hand. We also had to keep a watchful eye behind us for the very forward squirrels that would sneak up on us, surely formulating plans of their own.
We took a walk up the hill and explored this big green park that is so close to home. A lovely memory shared and a whole little world of experiences that may have been missed had we remained inflexible to the challenges of the moment. As it turns out, Ryan and I still accomplished all that we needed to that day, probably much more efficiently too.