Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Feels like Summer...

For all the snow, and for all that it felt like spring was never going to quite arrive here in upstate New York, we're having weather that is positively balmy now, and have been for more than a week. It is quite simply gorgeous. I think I will adore the summers here. The kids got new shoes to see them through all their summer adventuring: "performance sandals". They love them because they're comfortable and they can get them wet. I love them because they keep their feet fairly protected and they just wash off when they get muddy or dirty. Plus they can be worn to school and such. So versatile.

Benjamin and I went thrifting today, and I totally scored. I found these vintage orange pyrex mugs, which I love way too much to be normal, and this hand-sewn patchwork panel at the lovely local store that encloses antiques, a nursery/garden supply shop, and foody, crafty new things all in one delightful and dangerous stop. (It's the same place my birthday table came from.) We also picked up two small vases at the post thrift shop, which we've filled with some of the flowers growing in the front garden. And I only spent $20!!

Here's a close-up of the patchwork piece I found. I debated turning it into a pillow, but instead decided to use a frame I had on hand from a picture I was gifted but just isn't me, and turned it into some wall art. I really like how it turned out, even though the piece doesn't quite "fit" in the frame.

Clint is in the field for the week, so I'm making a non-meat dinner. I can't do that very often when he's here; he says he can't get full without some meat, and unfortunately he just wasn't raised as a veggie person. Oh, I make him eat them along with the rest of us, but his caveman heart just isn't in it. He is so very happy grilling season is here, and he can "burn some meat myself and eat it." And I really do *love* his grilled chicken and burgers. But tonight, we're having steamed veggies and rice. Yummy, easy, intensely satisfying...and good for the one person in this house trying to shed some extra pounds, too.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

"April is the cruelest month / breeding lilacs out of dead land"

Or daffodils, in this case. And I really hope my paraphrase of the beloved Eliot's lines isn't terribly far off.

You know, I'm feeling incredibly blessed about a whole lot of things. I have two of the most amazing, spirited, imaginative, fun, kind, stubborn, caring, inquisitive and intelligent kids I've ever encountered anywhere. Every single day I am surprised at my good fortune, being their Mama. I have a husband who is funny, hard-working, loving, successful, fun, and supportive. I'm even grateful for the year we have leading up to his deployment rather than bitter about the time we'll spend apart and the danger he'll be in. I love this area we've landed in; I love our house and neighborhood; I love the flowers sprouting their newly-green bodies up from bulbs some other soul planted when they lived here.

Sophia goes to sleep every night with her audiobook of The Secret Garden playing. She's watching the movie as I type. It's a story I have always loved, and its insistence on finding the good things, what is "wick" underneath what appears to be dead or dormant, seems to speak even more clearly to me now.

We just got back from a visit to West Virginia and Clint's mother, who is no longer struggling with her cancer, but meeting its eventuality and going on with the business of her life with a grace I hope I can one day muster. It is a sad thing, "it is a fearful thing to love what death can touch," but I am also reminded of the great abundance we carry inside for wonderful things; forgiveness, courage, tender kindness that spreads like the roots of growing things. I can see how my children show their loving souls and quite honestly feel nothing but humility in the face of it.

Clint also got to spend his birthday with his mother and his twin sister, all pictured above. Sophia and Benjamin are still a little puzzled about twins that don't look alike. Anyway, we had a good visit but we're glad the trip itself is over and we're home.

I took these amazing little souls to the small zoo downtown at Thompson Park today, as Sophia is off all week for spring break. They had a great time, and I've promised to take them back to the big park beside the zoo before the week is out. We're officially on the hunt for the Perfect Summer Shoes for them, too. I'd like to get them a pair of Keen performance sandals, since I have a pair I absolutely love and I know how well they wear, but I've yet to find them anywhere but online and I really want to fit them properly.

Clint is pulling all-night duty right now, but I'm having a glass of wine, both kids are showered, watching tv with their still damp hair and looking and smelling sweet in their pajamas, and soon we're going to snuggle up in my bed with a chapter book. And all I can think is how much I love my life.

Friday, April 4, 2008

On Supporting Handmade and Indy Artists

I spoke about by newest passion, buying or producing handmade or independent items whenever possible, on a recent entry, and I thought I'd talk a little more about it. See, my wonderful grandmother sent me a chunk of money for my recent birthday, and I decided to use it to finally get some of the art I've been salivating over for awhile now. All of the artists have Etsy shops (I'm telling you, Etsy is a magical place!). The first picture is the package I received when I ordered a print from TillyBloom. Not only did I get the totally fabulous print I paid for, but she sent a few business cards, a coupon for free shipping, a note, and a Stash vanilla chai tea-bag for my enjoyment.

The next photo shows what I received from AnneJulie, who I ordered two prints from. She sent along a handwritten note of thanks and an extra little print which is so sweet. So not only did I get the satisfaction of buying art from an independent artist, but I got so much more for the money I spent than I could have done buying a print of something from Art.com or a big store somewhere. Not only can you find insanely wonderful things from people producing and selling outside the big corporate box, but you can get those great things on a budget.

It's just made of win.

I'm still waiting to receive a few handmade rubber stamps from a Canadian artist. Soon I know I'm going to break down and purchase this button ring kit. What a cool gift this would make for a child's birthday! And come on, I want to make them, too!

Jewelry? The next time I buy a piece, I'm definitely getting one of these incredible necklaces. (One of the bird ones, because you know I have a Huge Thing for birds.)

So what's my point? Well, mostly to share with you the wonders of Etsy and a small slice of all the extremely talented people producing indy art and handmade items. And you know, whenever I used to think about the movement to steer away from mass produced, big store items, I usually thought about how hard that would be, and how pricey. But I was wrong. I've just used the outlet of Etsy in my quest to commit to handmade. There are so many other ways to find and support artists like this, local artists and people producing all kinds of things right in your area. It can be as simple and fulfilling as going to the farmer's market in the summer. Try the local wine, buy the maple syrup that's made in your area, or the cheese, or whatever. Don't be afraid to make something the next time you want to give someone a gift; I think almost everyone can deeply appreciate the time, effort, and love that goes into a handmade gift. I know that I adore receiving such things.

And I feel so good supporting it!