Rye and Oats received these kits from their besties for Christmas and we've been waiting for the wind and rain to calm a bit before settling them into the backyard. Since we seem to have skipped right over spring and have entered into summer (with the 90 degree days and all) we figured it was safe to get building.
The high quality kits from The Felted Tree Etsy shop are pretty irresistible. They include a painted house, fabric bunting, gravel, sticks, shells, a flower pot and many more little surprises and are very pleasing to my detail-oriented self. Perhaps, the sweetest part is the teensy glass corked bottle in which you can leave a message for the fairies and in turn the fairies can do the same. In addition, I have just discovered the brilliant idea of changing the fairy houses per the season and decorating them for different holidays. Ummm. Count me Rylie and Otis in.
The kids were so excited to get these homes established in the backyard. Once we had them all arranged PERFECTLY, we all 3 realized:
"hey, the gardner comes tomorrow."
"with his leaf blower."
No matter. We found some tomato cages and used them to establish a boundary around the lilliputian dwellings. I was also charged with telling Lawny Grass (Rylie's name for the gardner) IMMEDIATELY upon his arrival of these very special homes in our backyard. He was eager to comply and all is well so far.
Each morning the kids have been running out to the back first thing in the morning to check for clues that would indicate overnight visitors of the fairy variety. However, so far it looks as though the fairies are not aware of these new houses that are just waiting for some lively visitors. But, I have a feeling it won't be too long now...
While on the topic of all there is to be grateful for when considering our current living situation, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the gem of a tree house that is just on the other side of the fence in our backyard. We have been in our place for a good long while, and a nice benefit to that sort of longevity is the comfort and familiarity that comes with our neighbors and the relationships we've built with the other families living around us. Ours is truly a sharing economy and this gem of a tree house is no exception.
This is a play structure of creative genius. Built from found materials like pallets, fencing and ropes, it is modular and the arrangement of its parts can transform and change as the kids see fit. It consists of a platform underneath a big shade tree, so not exactly in the tree but all the better to change and rearrange when one might want to add, oh, you know, a working drawbridge! There is plenty of shade, plenty of rope and imaginative play for days. We feel so lucky to live next to such an amazing little place.
I've been knitting for a good long while now and have taken on all manner of projects: hats, scarves, socks, kid sweaters, bags, and have even knit a few dresses for Rylie (back when she would still allow me to dress her.)
But a sweater for just me. No, now that has never happened, until my dear sweet mother-in-law gifted me this beautiful pattern and some yummy yarn this past Christmas. It was such a sweet gesture, and just the gentle nudge I needed to venture outside of my comfort zone. I always felt like doing a sweater for a grown up would be such a major challenge. Mine is a much bigger torso to cover than that of my little ones, after all. And then the fit. How does that work? Just knit knit knit and hope for the best? And sleeves? You have to do 2?
However, this sweater here, just might be the best first sweater to knit in the whole world. It knit up quick, it is seamless, and the three quarter sleeves kill some of the dreaded dpn pain. This is Sabine by Julie Weisenberger, knit with Filatura Di Crosa Gioiello (a very fancy sounding yarn from Italy). It is delicate, light as a feather and easy - the perfect Southern California sweater.
Coincidentally, the color way for this yarn is called pine forest, and I just happened to be visiting my friend in her pine forest when I finished my first ever sweater. Add to that these pine green shades that Ryan gifted me for my birthday and a very special photoshoot was in order. I'm quite pleased with it all: the trees, the sunglasses (the sun!) and a dainty little number to wear around my shoulders. Thank you, Ann. I love you.
Rylie and I have been lucky enough to be a part of the Apprentice of the Wild program this winter. Every other week we meet at a beautiful natural area that is well outside the city, though still near the freeway (in LA you are never more than a stone's throw from the freeway, never.) It is a wonderfully diverse place and each time we visit we learn more and grow more comfortable in the space. As the weather has changed from week to week, so has the plant and animal life. When we were out there yesterday, on what was the warmest day of the year thus far, all of the trees and shrubs were aglow with bright green tender soft leaves and the pollen was floating like tiny cotton tufts lazily through the air. They say the pollen is going to be epic this year due to the heavy rains of this winter.
Despite free range exploration in nature and connecting with new people, Rylie learns ancient and survival skills aplenty. She has learned how to correctly carve with her knife, how to fashion a toothbrush from a cottonwood branch and how to catch a lizard in a snare. I can see her confidence and comfort level grow with each passing week. It is subtle, but each class finds her settling in just a little bit more and finding her place there amongst the trees.
And perhaps of equal importance is her comfort level socializing with new friends and unfamiliar faces. She's easily overwhelmed by large groups of kids, especially those in which she does not know anyone, so she typically stays pretty close to me on our class days. Yesterday was a different story all together when she used her sense of humor and goofiness to catch the attention of a group of kids playing in the water. They bonded quickly over a friendly game of throwing gigantic boulders in the water and naming them different random objects (I heard violin, pizza, baby pig, to name a few.)
This group of kids is unlike any other I've been a part of for how many of them that are present each week in the woods. They are calm, attentive, kind. They are helpful, interested, curious. It is such a treat to spend time learning from nature with them. And on the subject of learning, I, myself, learn so much in this class from identifying wild edibles to fashioning a willow branch into a mule deer. I had a thought yesterday along the lines of: Wisdom Keepers is doing it right, they are teaching all of the right things in an era in which the human relationship with nature is tenuous at best.
Rylie mostly loves to run off and explore while she takes to this wild area on each of our visits. It is a rare treat to be able to run, splash and play in rushing water in Southern California. They other thing she really enjoys is the stories. Our teacher, Sean, tells a folktale, parable, or other thought provoking and inspiring story each and every class.
I love to be out there in the fresh air surrounded by the infinite trees and to learn from Mother Nature's endless knowledge. I'm still learning each and everyday all the lessons this life has to teach me. Hopefully this early relationship with nature we are providing for our kids will inform their lives and their experiences in such a way to impart lifelong wisdom. Our greatest wish for them it to have a solid and firm understanding of who they are and where they belong in this world. That is an education without a price.
Even though we are far from Autumn now, I want to share our camping trip to El Capitan State Beach that we took during Thanksgiving weekend this past year. You may remember our trip to this same campground about a year and a half ago, it is an incredible, majestic place. Our outing fell in that couple of months that I was on a bit of a blogging hiatus. Now that I am back at it, blogging that is, I wonder how I ever let that time pass without checking in here and there. Busy, I guess. But still, it feels great to be back. We are approaching the fourth year of this blog's existence and through the years Paper Pie has been so many different things to me at different times. Sometimes, it has solely been a place to record my projects and work. Sometimes it has been an outlet for my feelings (and work out my feelings) about motherhood, living a creative life and all the other stuff. It has seen the creation of two fabric lines and the birth of our most precious Rylie, and simultaneously a rebirth in myself. It has seen our living space in it's many states and forms and week to week, month to month, it has seen my knitting journey unfold. It's hard to believe it is four years now, but as long as I keep showing up it will continue and sometimes in order for it to go on, I need to step back, take a breath and make sure that it still means to me what it once did. What I am finding out is that it means even more to me now. Four years offers some perspective and what was once a record of my art and craft projects has become the story of us, our growth as a family and how we spend our days months and years. That is worth all the time, effort and keystrokes that make there way into this place with each post.
Anyways, that was quite an unexpected digression there, I want to tell you about the amazing camping adventure we enjoyed back in November with our family. We had never been this late in the season, but it was perfect. It seems to be somewhat of a thing that people do around here, camping for Thanksgiving that is. We did not go on actual Thanksgiving, but the Saturday and Sunday following. The crowds were thinning out by then and on Monday we had the gray and chilly beach to ourselves. See that picture of Rylie next ot the great big tree? It is the fourth one from the last photo. It reminds me of this photo a year previous and she is wearing the same sweater. Like her mama, she loves the big trees! We also fit in a trip to the Coronado Butterfly Preserve. Remember when we went there last year? I brought my zoom lens this time and got that shot above of one of the clusters amongst the Eucalyptus. Magic. There were less butterflies this year because Thanksgiving was a week earlier in 2012 as it was in 2011. As autumn turns to winter, the number of butterflies steadily increases until about late February when they leave and go back whence they came. I'm sure I said this in last year's post, but if you live in Southern California it is well worth the trip to check this place out. You travel down an unassuming neighborhood street in Goleta and park your car on the side of the road, get out and head up the big hill into the forrest. On the way you will pass the home of an old man that knows everything there is to know about the Monarchs and their habitat and he is eager to share his knowledge. He is short in stature with a cheerful open face and very large round glasses that are as sincere as himself. He was present at the site both times we have been there and both times he was wearing the same blue t-shirt emblazoned with large, bright orange monarchs. He is a forrest butterfly gnome, I think. If you go to the Autumn Beach, you'll see how this could be true. The chilly air, noisy birds and vibrant butterflies are pure enchantment.
The weather has been downright blustery here the last few days. The wind is whiping through our little valley of a neighborhood and rushing past the leaves that are still clinging to trees. The weatherman says the highs will be in the 50s for as far as the forecast will predict and at night the temps have been dipping into the 30s. Despite the chilly air, the sun has been blazing clean, clear, bright light. It's as if the wind comes in and moves all of the dirt and smog out of the way and then the rain follows up by giving the whole city a good wash. When I dare to get out of the house and run errands, it's as if all of Los Angeles is brand new: "How long has that majestic snow-capped mountain been there?" Rylie and I were driving through the neighborhood the other day and the giant hill was so vibrant green and looming crystal clear that Rylie shouted, "Look at that mountain, right there!" Each evening, I run out into the frigid wind, slipper footed with my camera in hand to try and capture the way the sky feels. Rylie follows behind in shirts too thin for the cold and we scurry back inside after a few snaps. The shots above have not been doctored at all, the sky really has looked just like this the last few evenings. I can't wait until tonight.
This really is my favorite time of year weatherwise in LA. Midwinter feels very much like early fall in the Midwest, maybe that's why. The leaves are swirling, all the people and doggies on the sidewalk are bundled, and the days are short allowing plenty of long nights for sitting on the couch watching Downton Abbey and knitting socks. Speaking of which, I made a winter morning drive over to my new favorite yarn shop today and picked up some sock yarn to try my hand at these Turkish Bedsocks. I bought shi bui staccato fingering weight in the jackie colorway because it matches my new bedroom set which is made with a brown grey wood matched with yellow striped sheets. In my book, it's pretty important that your bedsocks match your bed. While I was at said yarn shop, I ran into this MadelineTosh sock yarn in the turtle colorway and even though I have never knitted a pair of adult sized socks, I thought I'd buy enough yarn to knit 2 pair! There is no way I could pass it up though. I tell you what, MadelineTosh yarn is beautiful. The colors, my goodness! They've got my number for sure! But I don't think I will be using it for socks, I am pretty sure that the minute I finish my bedsocks I will be jumping straight to this jacket for Rylie. But we'll see, I've been known to change my mind.
As I've mentioned a bit here and there we are in the midst of a pretty major redecorating and reorganizing project. We have a garage sale scheduled next weekend so we've been purging from all corners of our house and focusing on getting our spaces to fit our needs more efficiently. It's amazing how fast stuff accrues when you have a little one. It feels wonderful to lighten up like this even if it usually involves a lot of swearing, shaking of heads, and fantasies of becoming tidy neat freaks. Yeah right, who are we kidding?
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?
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.