The challenge of eggs.

Every year it goes like this: I prep eggs. I go to the trouble of buying white eggs (this is more difficult around here than you would think) and I make a point of blowing out their insides instead of cracking them open into two glowy saw-edged hemispheres. This results in spattery yellow-on-clear half-scrambled eggs instead of the round golden blobs I usually get to admire, but I’m okay with the sacrifice this one time of the year: spring.


Spring arrives in March and we celebrate by decorating with eggs decorated from years past, with a small bunny egg holder that looks at me with a soft despairing glower as his little attached egg-cups sit empty.  I pile empty eggs near the sink to dry as morning after morning we add a few more.


A few break.  But that’s okay.  I have more from last year and when I get to a dozen, we’re going to dye them.


Geeklet says, “Not now.  Can’t we do it later?”  And I guess I always have other things to do too.


I have a pile of onion skins that I’ve been saving since last year because I want to dye with them.  I have a purple cabbage and a can of organic grape-juice concentrate in the freezer.  I have a full jar of turmeric and jars of beet juice from a failed fermenting project (don’t feel bad–I have so much sauerkraut in the fridge that we put stuff on top of the jars that we won’t get to for months).    I’m ready to dye.


So what keeps me from doing it?  Even if G isn’t so into it, why don’t I?


But what if they’re ugly?


So here’s what we did last year:  We painted the eggshells with acrylic paints.  And they were awesome.  They’re the ones we decorate with.   And this year, I’ve sat down and drawn all over one of those beautiful white empty eggshells with sharpie marker.  It’s not so bad, either.  And maybe I’ll be the only one who decorates our eggs this year.  Ah, well.  If that’s the case, then I’ll be the one to say whether they are ugly or not.  And I’ll be the one to smash them with a satisfying ker-runch, and add them to the compost, where the worms won’t say, “Not now.  Can’t we do it later?”  The worms more often than not will say, “Yum.”


In process with the Betsy-Tacy quilt.

I was sitting here yesterday on the little sofa in the front window. The front window is a big plate-glass window that looks east, over the street, and I’ve been bringing the Betsy-Tacy quilt here to hand-tie in the mornings. I can hear the birds calling and responding as the light creeps up behind the buildings across the street. Yesterday, as I sat here and worked, a hummingbird came to rest upon one of the tallest boughs of our weeping willow outside the window. And she just rested. Many of our hummingbirds have rufous heads and breasts and bright green bodies but she was dark-headed and grayish-bodied and she just sat and bobbed on the slender, bending bough. Benjamin came to sit on the arm of the sofa behind me, snuggled into my neck, and watched her too.

I’ve been working on this quilt and thinking about the next. I am really enjoying the literature interpretations as quilts; there is something thoughtful about them, as though something outside of me is telling me how to get them right, and finding a way to do this is like completing a satisfying puzzle. The one I’m working on right now is just a charm quilt, random pieces 3″ square, and I had planned to quilt it in some way–perhaps as a map of the town where the girls live, or perhaps a simple grid–on the sewing machine. It would be done faster, certainly. And I even began doing it. But the quilt argued with me. It was actually kind of painful to quilt on the machine. This quilt wanted to be tied. It was an old-fashioned quilt dedicated to a simple, old-fashioned heroine and it wanted a very simple finish. This is not to say an easy one–my fingers have felt bruised for days! But it’s gentler, somehow. I’m not throwing the machine at it. I’m touching each piece, remembering how much I liked that fabric, smoothing a square, making sure the tie is secure, moving on. Playing games with the pattern I make with the embroidery floss before I snip it into short lengths. I know, it’s kind of silly. I mean, it’s layers of cloth; aren’t I in charge? And why not do it in a way that is faster and in the end may even be more sturdy? Why be doing it at all?


I have to respect the wishes of the fabric because the fabric has taken on a life of its own, and it is connected to and mindful of its origins in the work of Maud Hart Lovelace. These little squares are my thoughts: wouldn’t Betsy have worn these two together as a blouse and a skirt? This one would have looked lovely as a shirtwaist on Tacy with her red hair. What about this one as a part of Betsy’s sister’s clothes for Europe? And once they took on these connections, I had to be led where it would take me. I suppose this is part of that tenuous art/craft boundary.

But why do it at all? I sit here in the window as light begins to flood me and my project and I feel the cat snuggled in my lap under the quilt and see my Boy curled up under the completed quilt at the far end of the little sofa and I get angry, a little, at this question. I do it because it needs to be done. My fingers are doing what so many fingers have done for so long, find meaning in the base and the needful, interpret creatively what could be merely an animal skin. I respect the maker’s impulse, the push to bring out from the heart or the deep interior frontal cortex through the fingers and into the world. That means no shortcuts for the sake of shortness, because that means missing out on some part of the process that feels like it needs to be there. If I set the parameters of my project, whatever they may be and however arbitrary they may seem, I can only then respect them and go where they take me. To not respect them is to disrespect myself and the validity of my impulse to make.


This is where I don’t accidentally pour tea all over the quilt and computer.

Journey on.

Ah, the Hobbit quilt is finished.  It’s all quilted and I’ve sewn on the binding.  I’m pleased with it–it’s nice to snuggle under and it has one red line of quilting visible, because Bilbo likes to mark his rambles on maps in red.  It’s fun to let your finger pick a line and follow it from the Shire all the way in.  So,


His journey makes its way all the way from the Shire (seen here in green) through “pony rides in May sunshine,”


to the trolls (the stone print) and then Rivendell (the dark ferny green).  Then it’s through the dark goblin caves of the Misty Mountains, then into the forest and agh!  Fire!


After the fire in the treetops (here represented by a line of squares sometimes flamy red, sometimes very fiery leaves), rescue by eagles is good (swirly blue “sky”).  Visiting Beorn in his lovely flowery golden honeybee fields (some of these are flannel, yum!).  Then, a long trek (two rows!) through Mirkwood, and the swirly brown/purple represents the under-mountain lair of the Elven King and and the bumpy journey of Barrels Out of Bond.


Then, the journey down the river and finally, to the Long Lake. Much blue here.


The Desolation of Smaug.  Doesn’t that khaki just look desolate?  The Battle of Five Armies in the flashy bright red.  And, in the center, the Lonely Mountain…


…the Lonely Mountain, awaiting its dragon.   B designed it, and I embroidered it.  (A little emotional support there from Alicia Paulson‘s book Embroidery Companion:  Classic Designs for Modern Living–I’d never embroidered on a quilt before.)

And, the completed quilt (except that I now notice that this was before Smaug was embroidered, but you get the idea!):


The backing is a million tiny gold rings on yellow.  A dragon has to have his hoard.

More journeying. Also, peril.

Ah, the Hobbit quilt continues. It’s all quilted and I’ve been sewing on the binding. I’m pleased with it–it’s nice to snuggle under and it has one red line of quilting visible, because Bilbo likes to mark his rambles on maps in red. His journey makes its way all the way from the Shire through “pony rides in May sunshine,” to the trolls and then Rivendell. Then it’s through the dark goblin caves of the Misty Mountains, then into the forest and agh! Fire!  Rescue by eagles is good.  Visiting Beorn, a long trek (two rows!) through Mirkwood, and Barrels Out of Bond. Then, the journey down the river and finally, to the Long Lake. The Desolation of Smaug. The Battle of Five Armies. And, in the center, the Lonely Mountain, awaiting its dragon.

I’m kind of glad it isn’t done yet. It’s a fun project and almost more fun in my imagination.  I like best that it doesn’t have anything absolutely identifiable that says This Is A Hobbit Quilt, unless you are wondering and you ask me.  Or if you walk in my house.  I might just attack you with this information.  Because it’s fun to talk about.  And Geeklet likes to trace the quilted “journey” lines to the center… where does this one go?

The other day, poor G fell and came in to ask for comfort.  He was truly quite upset, and I tried to figure out what had happened, what was hurting.

Me:  What did you hit?

The Boy, incredulous:  The floor.

Notes from our trip, continued.

We had arrived in London, and it was our first night.  I had decided that one reason I was experiencing so much stress about this trip was the feeling that there were so many things I should do.  I lay there, trying to sleep because I knew I’d wish I had later, and thinking maybe I would read a book, but I shouldn’t, certain there were more important things to do.

Really? What is more important at 3am?

So I had some tea (funny how hydration helps those headaches!) and some of the dried apricots and nut mix that the Boy picked out for us, and it was time to curl up under a blanket and not make plans, not be worried about anyone’s edification (though did I mention how interested the Customs agent was in Homeschooling?) and not be worried about the dreaded Missing of the Train. Rather, I read some Pratchett (Small Gods) and drank more tea (kava kava) and listened to the sounds of the world waking up and of B whistling to himself as he read.

Good night, San Diego. Good morning, London.

Later…  The room is quiet. Outside I hear the sounds of people talking, cleaning the kitchen after late-evening guests. We’re staying in t’Hert (“The Deer”), a tavern in Genk, Belgium, and outside, from the thin metal balcony, I can see through the greenhouse-style skylight and white-and-gold gauze curtains to the diners below.

I love this little balcony. When we booked this hotel (sorry, tavern), we had the option of a room with a bathtub or a room with a balcony. Immediately B chose the balcony and I was with him. It didn’t really matter what it looked down upon. I just liked the idea.

The little white pressed-metal balcony looks out over the roofs of other buildings, a few trees in the distance, nothing special… Except for the area directly below our room.

I cannot figure out the topography here. There are the skylight and a differently-shaped one, more like a transparent hangar, and a completely flat one the size of a double bed, and they are all in a sort of hidden trench between the rooftops of this urban landscape. A few fruit trees grow in pots there, and every time I’ve looked down on this hidden space, an older man was sitting there, on a metal garden chair, smoking something smelly and smiling up at us. I cannot figure out how he has inserted himself into the space (where is the door? The urban equivalent of a rabbit hole?) and I am reminded that so many of my favorite old tales began in places like this.

We did not stay long in Brussels, but Bing and I really liked Genk.  He, in particular, likes the fountain that we discovered in a kind of courtyard–long and flat, maybe 1″ – 3″ deep but 40′ long by 15′ wide, with spouting water that he chased from one spout to another until he was soaked through. He walked home to the hotel, happy and squelching, with a bag of mystery cheese and mashed potatoes for our dinner.

Notes from the trip, September 19-20, 2012.

I have discovered that I enjoy traveling with Bing quite a lot. He enjoys seeing new things, still likes to be read to, and it doesn’t take much to entertain him–give him a few things and he fills in the gaps with his imagination quite nicely. We spent a lot of the flight reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. As the flight took place on a Wednesday, we had our Wednesday night movie night, and watched Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Bing had not seen it and was very pleased and excited by my surprise, even if it was really hard to hear over the white noise of the engines.
After all my efforts to prepare to sleep on the flight, and his sworn belief that he wouldn’t, B got more sleep than I.  I woke after a brief nap feeling sick and dehydrated, and spent the greater part of the flight in recovering (or at least maintaining) my level of health, and watching him sleep.  Thank you, peanut butter Clif bars and giant Nalgene bottles!
His only restlessness came when we had a 45-minute line at the UK Border check. But we worked with it, eventually playing a game he invented (not all that different from 20 Questions in essence).
It’s been a funny balance–he is so interested in the world, in making decisions about where we go and what we do, and I want to honor his initiative and his interests. After all, I’ve been here before and he hasn’t. But sometimes I have to decide which way to go, just to get us through Customs or to the hotel.
In a way, traveling has reminded me of what it is like to be a small child:  Why do I have to walk this way instead of that? Why do I have to stand in line for so long? What are the rules of social negotiation when it is the middle of the “night” on the plane, your neighbor is a round, wrapped ball of blankets reminiscent of an oak boll, and you have to pee?  Why do I have to go that way in the Tube station instead of this way?  What happens when I push this switch in the hotel room, unlike other switches I’ve seen before, yet somehow reminiscent of other switches I’ve seen before?  (Note for later: light switches, Don Norman, infant cognition, how do we recognize things as the thing when in an unfamiliar configuration?)
Tired though I was–and as the day came to a close I was trembling whenever I stood still–I still felt that wonderful A-ha! joy when Bing would be interested in our adventures.  When he fully explored the bathroom, in all its British foreignness (curved glass half-door, kidney-shaped tub, unfamiliar toilet).  When we went for a walk and he grabbed my hand and said, “Come on, let’s get on a bus.”  When we’d explored by sitting at the front of the upper deck of the bus and had decided to switch buses and head back, he took charge:  “That one says it goes past Marble Arch, and we passed Marble Arch on our way here–let’s take that one and explore Hyde Park before we go back!”  When he decided, as we stopped at a Marks & Spencer for snacks, that his juice has been enough carbohydrates and what we really needed was protein and went to find us nuts… in a crowded and completely new grocery space, he was unfazed.

As he played that our train was a spaceship, undaunted by the bemused gazes of the self-possessed passengers around us.

And now, despite our mutual exhaustion, we are up at 2:12 am local time. This was not my choice. Evidently 5 1/2 hours of sleep is enough for the boy, but not for me. Still, it’s a good opportunity to make notes, drink water, make a cup of tea and read a book before we catch our train to Brussels.  And maybe I’ll convince him to take a nap on the train?  Or maybe not. In that way too, not so different from toddlerhood.  Not that I’m complaining.  Toddlerhood was awesome, too.

Traveling to Places Unknown, with Boy

We traveled, we did.  For a month.  And I thought, that like last year, I was going to be all traveloguey and share the journey, ah.  Well, no.  Not really.  Part of the reason was that I was traveling to places unknown.  These not only included places I had never been to AT ALL and where they spoke random languages where the vowels were all in the wrong spots, but also cities that I had previously visited where we rented apartments with the internet in all the wrong spots.  And then, when the internet had been found, there was stuff to do, like going outside.  Yes.  And then, sleep.

The problem with sleep is that if I don’t lie down, I can squeeze another hour or three out of the day before I fall sideways onto a soft surface, to be kicked awake by my alarm.  However, with the Bing along, there were bedtimes, during which I (on a regular basis, believe it) let myself be suckered into reading in a prone position.  After a day of Explore there is no coming back from that.

So, no documentation, other than my British Airways ticket stub, exists to say that we went where and did what.  Oh, there were the occasional interactions with Twitter.  But Twittering can be fickle.  By the last week, I’d just given up.


But look!  There’s still a blog here!  Perhaps I can write down some of the things that I don’t want to forget, that we did, before I forget.  But first, I’m going to sit here and enjoy the cobwebs floating about the blog for a minute.  Excuse me.


Listening to:  A very odd song called “Music In Your Soup” by the Dwarf Chorus from the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs soundtrack.  There are a lot of mouth noises.  Try blowing your nose a couple of times while ringing a cowbell.  There, you’ve got it.  Oh, look, it’s another song, and it begins with the sound of someone taking a shower.  This is a strange album.