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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Do or Dye

We’re running out of time. The deadline is nearly here so drop everything and get down to business. This is serious. Tax filing, you ask? No! Egg-dying, silly. Easter will be here in a matter of hours and if you haven’t dyed your eggs yet, there’s not a minute to waste!

If I’m being honest, egg decorating was not even on my radar last week. I’ve been extra-busy with other things, but when I stumbled upon a Michael's craft magazine with a beautifully-designed egg on the cover, I felt inspired. Yes, but don’t I have tons of stuff to do this week? Stuff for the kids, the house, the growing weed collection in the yard. Not to mention the Mt. Everest-sized laundry pile to put away. And I should work on taxes a little.

Well, that settles it. Egg-embellishing it is!
Inside the craft magazine there were detailed instructions about how to create a gorgeous mosaic-looking egg. Oh dear. The instructions are longer than those for assembling a working automobile. It’s stunning but it would take me literally until next Easter to finish:

Plan B: color my own eggs with food coloring gel (which I already had), and fabric pieces from my sewing stash.

After doing a little idea-gathering online, I decided to try silk-dying some eggs. The results were beautiful, and a little unpredictable, which (as I have found with tie-dying) is part of the fun. Plus, if you have scraps of silk in your sewing stash, it costs nothing and is actually quite easy as the silk does the work for you!

Hubby walked in while I was in the early stages of this experiment and gave me what certainly is not the first strange look he’s ever directed toward me. “What are you doing?” he asked skeptically. I removed my mouth from the egg shell in my hands and said, “Blowing egg goo out. Obviously!” He left and I continued to blow hot air (apparently I have a healthy supply) through a tiny hole in one end of the egg, out the slightly bigger hole in the other end. (Also used a rubber ball syringe, which is very effective.) Repeated with two more eggs.

Online directions advise that you wrap your piece of silk as tightly as possible around your egg. This transfers the silk design onto the egg better. I guess my wrapping job varied, as one of my eggs turned out with a detailed design but the other two had watercolory results with less defined shapes. Oh well. They’re still pretty.
This egg captured some of the silk pattern against it but next time I’d wrap it tighter:
This silk-dyed egg transferred the magenta pattern beautifully! It’s a tiny work of art:
On a roll, I decided to do more egg-decorating, and found a few items from my craft stash to use. I wondered whether I could stencil a doily pattern onto an egg. My food coloring was too watery though, and the result wasn’t as defined as it might have been. Ah well. It still has personality.

I decided to use a Sharpie to do some fine-lined designs on an egg:

Gluing a pretty piece of lace onto the shell gives this egg a creative look:

Now I have a cute decoration for our table tomorrow. I like the variety in the looks of these eggs, and it was fun to try different techniques with them. But now I must scurry off to get some Easter baskets ready for tomorrow morning. The Easter Bunny is visiting our house, but he may need some help, so off I hop.

Happy Easter!

Monday, March 25, 2013

May I Brag a Little?

I’ve never needed to have the fastest car, the most expensive purse or the flashiest jewelry. That stuff just doesn’t matter to me. But I have to share my excitement about my big, beautiful tulips! A few months back I decided I needed tulips this spring: some at the community garden and some at home. I hadn’t planted tulips before and I chose a hybrid Darwin mix, which would yield variety in the coloration. I sank them into dirt and then waited (impatiently). Finally they poked their first green leaves up, and began to grow. I’ve been checking the tulips in our yard each day, but I hadn’t been to the community garden in over a week. I decided to pop in there today, just to see if things were growing.
Sitting in my garden bed was a giant red bloom, a cheerful sign that spring is truly here. I stared at it in awe, as it was so much bigger than I thought it would be, and had a different shape than I’d expected. When open, its petals form a cup shape, and it is so big it literally could hold six ounces of coffee! Here is the vibrant tulip I planted at the community garden:

Once home, I headed straight for the back yard, to see if any of my tulips there had grown. Yesterday this is what my FTOS (First Tulip of Spring) looked like. It was close to opening:

Today, my backyard tulip was open! I was delighted by how bright its petals were. When it is still closed, you don’t know how colorful it will be, but once open, it’s full of color!

I love that these two tulips opened on the same day, in different locations. It’s officially spring around here and I’m loving it. Stay tuned for upcoming reports on blooming anemones, ranunculus, zinnias, dahlias, epiphyllum, succulents ,sun flowers, carrots, sugar snap peas, tomatoes, green onion, and my always-in-bloom felt flowers!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Weed Between the Lines


You: Sarah, what was the best part of your weekend?

Me: Well, we had a fun picnic Saturday but what really got me going was weeding.

You: Where’s your thermometer? Clearly you are feverish and speaking nonsense.

Me: No, really. I did a ton of weeding and it was satisfying!

You: This is a new low for you, my friend. Weeding made your weekend?

Me: Listen, you don’t understand. I’m not talking about a few weeds. I’m talking about a mountain of them! I filled the green recycling bin, plus two extra trash cans (which I will transfer into kind neighbors’ green recycling containers). It was CRAZY! I spent 90 minutes on it. I actually see a difference in the yard. Trust me, this was gratifying. These weeds have been mocking me for ages, heckling me, sneering that I will never get to them. But I did. I raked up leaves that have been sitting there for years. This was a victory!

You: Wow. I guess in a really strange, not very exciting way, I can understand your point. A little.

Me: Weeding is the new disco. Weeding: the new texting. Weeding: better than the Internet.

You: Now you’ve gone too far. Citizen’s arrest!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Spring Breaking Point

Spring Break is coming. Thank Heavens. I don’t know if the kids need a break from school, but the parents sure do. At least this parent does. I’ve whipped up a questionnaire that will help you determine how desperate you are for vacation. Give yourself 1 point for every answer of “yes.”

1.       I sometimes put lunchboxes in the wrong kid’s backpack.

2.       I wonder why I’m still packing a 20-year-old’s lunch box. (Just kidding. My kids are much younger. It only feels like I’ve been packing lunches for 2 decades.)

3.       I spend more time doing dishes each day than the total time I spend on self-grooming each week.

4.       I’m distracted and accidentally put my kids’ Sponge Bob toothpaste on my brush, but use it anyway.

5.       I spend more time with the washer & dryer than I do with my significant other.

6.       I’ve made dinner that included bugs on a log as a side dish.

7.       I have to double-check that I’ve grabbed my own kids in the school parking lot.

8.       I can’t go to the bathroom by myself because at least one child follows me in to talk.

9.       I can’t have a bath without a young child coming in and yelling “out!”

10.    Someone at the park asked me if my kids were my grandkids (I wish I were making this up!).

11.    Socks need not match. If I can find two socks that fit the feet in question, it’s a victory.

12.    I haven’t been in a movie theater in five years.

13.    I plan to wash my car the next time nature supplies rain.

14.    Even on a good day I look like the “before makeover” photo.

15.    I embrace the motto “Messy is the new clean.”

16.    I embrace the motto “Haggard is the new hot.”

17.    I consider defending my wrinkled outfit with this phrase: it’s lived-in chic (and slept-in).

18.    I no longer see them as stains but as intentionally-placed accent marks.

19.    I no longer must apply mascara before leaving the house. I simply must have pants on.

20.    My boobs have fallen so low people mistake them for a baby bump.

If you answered “yes” to fewer than 8 questions, you are reasonably balanced and not in desperate need of Spring Break. Congratulations! And please stop reading this blog as you are super-human and cannot relate to my wacky life.

If you answered “yes” to 9-13 questions, you are in the danger zone for burn-out. Cancel all appointments this week and soak in the tub while no one is home to interrupt you. Remember to breathe and to say “no” to requests from school for volunteers.

If you answered “yes” to 14 or more questions, welcome to my club! We are W.O.Ms. Worn-out-moms. We need Spring Break STAT! A drip-feed of Gatorade is recommended. We require a shot of adrenaline and a transfusion is not out of the question. Now go hide from your kids and put your feet up for five minutes before they find you—doctor’s orders!







Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Shirt and Shoes Required

There were signs of danger but I think I ignored them. I plowed on with my mission and optimistically thought, This will be straightforward. What could go wrong? The first sign of potential trouble should have been the rule about wearing shoes. Closed-toe shoes, specifically. Steel-toed, if  necessary. Hmmmm.

The warning came from my good friend, and she would know. She was going out of town for several days and needed a pet sitter. She’d fed our cat while we were away. I wanted to reciprocate and figured it would be easy-peasy. It’s not like she had a saber-toothed tiger as a pet. They were two small birds. How hard could this be? She gave me her keys. I knew where the water and food was. I knew what to expect. Or so I thought.

On the first day I let myself in and the trouble started even before I’d closed the front door behind me. “SQUAAAAAAWK!!!!! SqquaaaAAAACKKK!!!!!!” I heard bird sounds as I shut the front door. Okay, they knew I was here. Fine. They’re greeting me. Could this be bird-speak for, “Hello, kind lady. Thank you for coming to feed us. We appreciate it.” I’m no bird psychologist, but there seemed to be an edge to the squawking. These didn’t seem to be happy chirps. The birds sounded angry. Hmmmmm.

I let myself into their room. Yes, they had their own room. There were two of them, after all, and my bird-loving friend wanted them to have a room to fly around, not just a teeny cage. “I’m here to feed you,” I explained cheerily to them. “I have food. Yum, yum!” The birds did not understand my “I come in peace” greeting and promptly flew to the floor and began pecking at my toes. Thank Heavens I’d followed my friend’s warning about wearing closed-toed shoes. My first attempt to get them to stop involved a nice tone and reasonable words. I said something like, “Please stop that, nice birdies.” Reasoning with them did not work. That’s strange, I thought. I was sure that all members of the animal kingdom knew the first rule of survival: you don’t bite (or peck) the hand that feeds!

When it became clear that they were not going to stop, I gently shook my foot to dislodge the bird that had hopped onto my shoe so as to peck with greater aim and intensity. The bird jumped off and I began trying to feed him and his feathered friend. Same result. More shaking them off my feet. Perhaps a slightly less friendly tone in my voice as I asked, then demanded that the birds stop pecking. Eventually I managed to give them fresh water and food and to escape the room with my shoes and body mostly intact. My heart was racing, yes. My sanity had been a little shaken, sure. The poor birds had been through an ordeal, too. They had puffed out their feathers so as to scare me, the invader. Their tiny hearts were probably thumping a hundred miles an hour. Too much excitement for one day. I think the birds and I were glad that this disturbing transaction would not have to be repeated for another 23 hours and 45 minutes!

The birds’ names are particularly funny given this violent story I’ve shared. I swear I’m not making this up: they were named “Happy” and “Go Lucky.” Happy when their owner was there, sure. “Go pecky” when Sarah, the big, bad intruder is there.

About a year later the birdies both went to the great aviary in the sky. I’m quite sure that they are snuggled in nests made of cashmere, and feast from an endless buffet of delicious vegetables and ripe chunks of fruit. My friend was devastated after her birds went to birdie Heaven. I felt badly for her because while the birds clearly hated me, she was their protector and friend, and they had quite a bond. My animal-loving friend is now a dog owner, and she dotes on her dog the way she loved those birds. Any animal who adopts her will feel loved.

It’s been ten years since my brief career as bird sitter. Yesterday I was thinking of my adventures in bird land as I took my morning walk. I’m not sure why that memory flew into my mind but it might have been because there were lots of bird sounds yesterday morning. Spring is coming and birds are out, feathering their nests, looking for worms, and swooping through the trees.

I laugh now as I look back on my short-lived stint as bird whisperer. It’s funny how much I ruffled the birds’ feathers, and vice versa. But I learned something important from that episode: always heed the rules when shoes and shirt are required.


Saturday, March 2, 2013

Rumor Has It

I don’t mean to brag.

I don’t mean to boast.

But it’s 80 degrees

On the west coast.

(Extra credit for you if you recognize the 1979 song by Sugarhill Gang that I’ve parodied above.)

I was going to be all coy and say that there are rumors of spring in the air. But I hatched that idea last week and today it’s literally 83 degrees in Southern California, so it’s old news to say there are hints of spring coming. This morning on my walk I saw three lizards. Buds are popping out on tree branches. Bees and birds are all over the backyard. There are two yard sales on our block today. Undisputable signs of spring.

This is a photo of my parents’ flowering pear tree last month.

Here is my neighbor’s tree, full of gorgeous pink blossoms.

This tiny splash of color completely surprised me today. I was watering my parched carrot seeds and saw this bright flower popping out of a pot. Having no recollection of planting such a flower, this was an extra fun surprise for me! It’s only an inch in diameter but it packs quite a punch.

I’ve opened all the windows in the house and frankly, I think it’s too warm! Especially for the beginning of March. Wah, wah. Poor me. The East Coasters are covered with a mile of snow and I’m whining that it’s too hot. I’m impossible to please.

Later I’m venturing to the community garden to see whether my tulip bulbs have produced any more precocious green points. Last week I threw some sweet peas in there as well as a tomato plant. It’s spring time, time for gardens to grow.

Has anyone seen my SPF 100?!


Friday, March 1, 2013

Life Is...

I have two relatives who are over one hundred years old. Both women are phenomenal. Kay (age 102) is a blood relative and Mary (age 101) is related by marriage. I may share genes with only one of them, but both women have advice to share. Kay says her longevity is due to genes and to not worrying too much. Mary says her long life is probably a gift of genetics, too. I was thinking about age and health today after visiting our friend John, who recently moved to assisted living. He was our neighbor for more than nine years and we miss him.

John was one of the first people we met after moving in, and I soon learned that he was a good neighbor to everyone on the block. Each Wednesday morning he walked up and down our one-block-long street after the trash truck had come, bringing each person’s trash cans up to their house. He was quite humble and didn’t do it for attention, but because small gestures can show great thoughtfulness.

It’s been a few years since John brought trash cans off the street each Wednesday. He walks more slowly and no longer flies to Hawaii to see two of his daughters. But the last few times I saw him in front of his house, he was friendly, chatty and moving about. I mistook this for a sign that he was doing pretty well for someone over eighty.

John now lives in assisted living twenty minutes away, in a sunny, modern building with pretty landscaping outside. It’s a place that specializes in care for seniors with Alzheimer’s Disease. The extent of John’s memory loss only registered with me today. I’d thought he would recognize us but he didn’t seem to. Still, he was as friendly as he’d always been, and we chatted for almost an hour. He sat in a chair angled toward a window, and commented on the skateboarder out front, and the trash truck stopping outside. We talked a little about the arrival of spring. Hubby asked him about the lunch menu.  We listened as a group played trivia games. Some residents seemed very sharp, calling out answers to questions about US history, geography, cooking ingredients, and pop culture. Some residents seemed physically well, walking quickly through the socializing room. Others moved around with the aid of walkers or wheel chairs but their participation in games showed their sharp mental faculties. To my layman’s eye, some residents seemed as healthy and able as anyone else I knew living independently in their own homes. I wondered what had brought them to assisted living. Had they been living alone, able to take care of most of their daily needs, but forgot to take their medicines? I wondered if there are a lot more seniors living with Alzheimers than we realize. Perhaps it’s hard to spot symptoms, or we chalk up someone’s forgetfulness to everyday brain freeze. Everyone has off days.

When John moved to assisted living, we were surprised. He had been living in his home, was still out and about, and was chatty when he saw us. Perhaps the familiar setting masked some of his symptoms. Today when we visited, I could see the difference. I don’t know if he really remembered us, but he was friendly and polite, and we felt good that we could make him smile during our visit. It felt right to visit, to do something nice for him, as he’d been such a kind neighbor to us.

But it’s sad. It’s not easy to think about, and I’m still trying to process the visit. It’s upsetting to see that John isn’t doing as well physically and mentally as he once was. It’s disheartening that he can no longer live in the house he bought fifty years ago. It’s frustrating that while so many medical advancements are being made, Alzheimers affects more than 26 million patients worldwide, as well as their families. It’s scary to see a neighbor’s life become less vibrant because it reminds me of my own mortality.

Yet there were encouraging moments during our visit, too. It was moving to see how kind the staff were to all the residents, speaking to them in respectful tones, addressing them by name, and treating them like people, which after all, they are. It was nice to hear music on the stereo, to see flowers outside, and to witness the empathy of the caregivers. It was clear to us that those who work there are not just punching a time clock. It seems to be a calling. I was so glad to see that John is surrounded by people who care about the residents and want to make them feel welcome, when they are far from home in so many ways.

As we drove away, I thought of Kay and Mary, my superstar relatives who have lived a combined 203 years. I wondered how each of them has survived physically for so long, and has retained full mental faculties. Is there a secret to a long life? Is it just luck? Is it good genes? Kay lived alone until age 99, and Mary still lives in her own house. She has her children relatively nearby, and she has a woman come to her house for a few hours each day to do chores. Mary recognizes that help with certain things makes sense, but she relishes her freedom, too. We spoke recently by phone. She asked about my family members by name (with no hints on my part), laughed at jokes, commented on current events, and her voice sounded strong and full of gusto. I asked about her secret to longevity and she said she has a glass of red wine at dinner each night. Of course, I had to ask, “What else?” There has to be more. Tell me your secrets, please! These days there are countless studies about health and longevity. There are as many conflicting answers as there are studies. We seek formulas to life and health. But with both of these amazing ladies, their longevity (and sound mental health) seems to be something not mapped scientifically. Both have joy in their voices when you hear them speak. Is this their secret? Perhaps it’s part genes, part luck, and part magic (or some secret ingredient the centenarians themselves can’t even pinpoint). Maybe hunting this mysterious formula is counterproductive. Just be, I think these ladies would say.  

But as I think about John, it seems unfair. Yes, I know. Life is unfair. I think I saw it on a bumper sticker. But it stinks that certain people are dealt a bad hand of cards. I wish John could be as healthy and as independent as cousin Mary is. It’s hard to accept.

Visiting John gave him a boost, I think, and it was a good reminder for us to be grateful to be young(ish) and healthy. I’m still annoyed about the big pile of laundry that needs to be put away. I still have my garden-variety complaints. But I know I’m fortunate that I can live independently, that I don’t need someone else to put away my giant pile of laundry, feed me or remember my medicines. It’s okay to feel frustrated about the parts of life that we wish were different, but it’s also important to remember the ways in which we are fortunate.

We’ll visit John again and we’ll bring him more flowers from our yard. We’ll try to make him smile and hopefully he’ll be glad for visitors. If he doesn’t remember us, that’s okay.  Being a friend isn’t about getting credit for good deeds. It’s about doing something for someone else.