stuff we’ve been up to

My husband is making a drum machine. But not like you might think. Like a physical drum set that is beat upon by a robot. A robot he powers from a MIDI-sequencer and arduino and hand-built circuit and solenoids. I’m not even making this up. It took a while for his friends and admirers to catch on he’s actually building a goddamn amazing robot and after he’s done with this maybe I’ll tell him to build another one to terrify the hell out of you mere mortals.

Robo-Drummer

Brilliant Man

I made a pair of pants for Phoenix that were PERFECT in every detail. Here’s a picture of the pocket bags. Yeah I know. You stitchers want to punch yourself in the crotch that this is the INSIDE of the pants and looks so good (I am feeling cocky and all about the CAPS LOCK tonight). You’ll be seeing the rest of the pants soon enough. For now, weep at the preview of awesomeness.

Pocket Bag

I cooked down all our extra CSA veggies yesterday (and we had a lot) and made a resultant slow-cooked organic veggie puree and froze it in batches and gave one batch to my mom and used a batch in tonight’s dinner and will be making up some soup this week (for my SOUPTAKER daughter) and have a little more besides. Tonight’s dinner was amazing, because I have finally hit on the perfect spaghetti and meatballs recipe and it’s good every time. We had my mom over to share and she baked brownies and covered them with Tillamook vanilla ice cream. I haven’t had any dessert yet because I’m still recovering from MEATBALLS AND RED PEPPERS.

August 8th, 2010

Our kittens found another place to perch, prairie-dog, and sleep. When the living room carpet is entirely dry from shampooing THIS rug will be rolled back out and they’ll have to take their shady business somewhere else.

ON THE RUN

Also: bike rides, friends over for music recording and talking and tea, lunch date with my husband, many snuggles, my son sneaking under the covers to the bottom of the bed last night to gently massage my feet and then pop his blonde head up and smile at me, my daughter opening her eyes first thing this morning and saying dreamily, “The nights go by so quickly…”

Good times this weekend.

of flannel and warm fuzzies

Breakfast!
August 4th, 2010
(I have three whole followers on my little food-update Twitterstream – and one of them is my own husband! Make no mistake at just how much of a nerd I am who does a bunch of stuff hardly anyone else cares about!)

Today one of my ladyfriends L. came to visit. She’d been a student of mine at GHC winter before last. I really like her. She’s sweet and funny and since she likes sewing and fabric well, we have plenty to talk about. I was a scattered hostess, trying to cook up the daily fare and talk sewing and try to keep my wits about me under duress because the neighbor kids were in and out and they were a little rambunctious. Within their first five minutes in my home they’d broken my back screendoor and put their hands in the goldfish bowl and smeared the results (combined with the extra stuff on their hands, a few of them are routinely very dirty) on my front door. While L. was here I made a chicken pot pie for the kids tomorrow and a devil’s food cake with fresh strawberries and cream for the lot today, which incidentally when I served the kiddos I only got back three out of seven forks; the rest are outside God-knows-where.

I enjoyed L.’s visit very much as she’s a person I genuinely enjoy. She brought me fabric gifts and I cut off a length of a lovely deep-purple satin for a project for my daughter.  Before she left I asked her what she might need. Her eye fell on three yards of a lovely Alexander Henry flannel I had on my shelf (dear reader, I image-searched to find you the pattern and now I am weeping and gnashing my teeth with fabric-lust! And I didn’t find the fabric anyway). It was a wonderful bit of yardage and perfect for the pajamas project she was contemplating. I rarely have more than a yard of any particular fabric anyway, as I am rather quick to sew up what I buy. Seeing this L. asked if I was sure I wanted to gift it. But I felt like absolutely; I’d had the yardage for about four years now and had stashed it away as one of those “precious” items but had not cut into it. It felt wonderfully freeing to gift it, part of this was happiness at giving a present that was well-received and part was happiness at letting go of my hoarding impulse.

In other news I am buried under email despite my best efforts. Some email provides a respite, something lovely to read. Some is designed specifically to get my goat. For instance, my husband and my brother Billy like to call me Bird and make fun of my beak and dirty feathers, delivering various pathetic attempts at wit and commentary now and then or emailing me pictures of fat and/or clumsy birds. They especially like to tease me if I’m sleepy or have had something alcoholic to drink.

So Billy writes, “Hey, I found a clip of you online.” and sends me this:

And finally. There’s something insulting about how much I run around trying to get shit done with THIS under my nose at every turn:
KITTEN DECADENCE

You probably aren’t even noticing Laurence’s back leg extended at maximum pleasure-stretch while he sleeps!! WHO LIVES LIKE THIS?! The only thing they like more than sleeping on my down comforter is sleeping on a pile of warm laundry on the down comforter. They get up to this about twenty hours a day. The rest of their time is spent eating food and liberally pooping in the litter box. Then once we’re in bed they form a rift in the Space-Time Continuum to make MORE time to fight viciously, usually in my hair, until my just-fallen-asleep ass has to re-stumble out of bed and throw them in the bathroom to sleep. And I am not even joking, they immediately stop horsing around and sleep. All night.

It’s a good life. (For them.)

mealtime manners

Late evenings we’ve been watching Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe on Netflix Instant. I’m probably the last person, ever, to discover this show but if you don’t know it, I can vouch that it’s fabulous. It’s a simple enough premise: a television personality going around the country (and occasionally abroad) performing one day of the kind of work most people don’t know about and won’t be clamoring to try after they see it. The show is interesting, it’s funny, and I love that it shows the underpinnings of our society (another great reason to watch with kids) – and okay okay, my husband is right, I have a teensy crush on the host, probably mostly because I like to watch guys work and get all messed up (and yeah, Ralph… network server stuff isn’t quite dirty enough).

So last night we were watching the episode Alligator Egg Collector – rather self-explanatory, really. As we watched Rowe push apart a nest to retrieve the leathery treasure therein my daughter commented, “That nest is farther from the water – those are probably mostly male eggs.” I sat there in stunned silence with my second glass of wine in hand. My kids are always telling me things I didn’t know previous and I can tell exactly by their tone of voice when they’re telling me a fact. I usually kind of shrink a bit and feel my Limitations and timidly ask them in what way now they’ve now advanced beyond me (I don’t use those exact words of course).  So I ask my daughter now, “What? What do you mean?” Patiently, she explains that the temperature of alligator nests determine the sex of the babies – if the nest temperature is under 85 F the clutch will be all-female and if over 93 F the eggs will be male. “Nests farther away from the water are warmer, so all the babies are male.” she says calmly. I ask her to get me the book where she learned this and she obliges, sliding out of bed and padding into the living room to retrieve it, flipping the encyclopedia open and pointing. Her eyes are predator-stripes, her body sleek and alive and All Is Right in the world.

Today the kids slept until almost 1 PM at which point they called me in the bedroom to play a trivia game; answers I got right required a kiss to Nels, answers I got wrong I was forced to kiss my daughter. We all liked this game Times One Hundred.

The children’s sleeping-in gave me plenty of time to cook, clean, and sew a bit before they rose and we went on our bike errands.  I’m on Day 3 of arranging a large tray of comestibles for the kids. They love this and so do I. They are flush with compliments for my food and my general personhood; they sample nearly everything that’s put out, lazily thumbing through a book and cracking open edamame shells, stacking fruit on small plates, pouring tea.  Between the four of us the tray’s fare is devoured with maybe one slice of peach going out to the chickens by day’s end. We are definitely eating more of a variety of foods, especially simple fresh fruits and vegetables.

Tonight dinner was spaghetti and meatballs, the sauce of which was started yesterday and simmered down to the Most Delicious Thing Ever. Ralph made the meatballs, a bit larger than usual, dropping them in the simmering sauce while I stitched away in the sewing room.  We sat down at 7:30, a kale and carrot salad from our local CSA rounded out the meal along with the few snap peas (also from the CSA) from today’s tray. Dining as a foursome, I’m eating and I can’t believe how good the food is. I ask my husband, “Is this what my spaghetti always tastes like?” He says Yes. I say, “This is the best spaghetti & meatballs I’ve had in my life.” (I seriously invite any of you all to come weigh in on this). Phoenix immediately pipes up: “I agree!” Nels takes a bite of the salad and says it’s “delicious and sour.” Phoenix kindly tells us lettuce makes her barf. Ralph explains it’s not lettuce it’s kale, and I mention it’s high in calcium (she’s been interested in what foods are good for dental health). Phoenix says, “That’s great, but it still makes me want to barf,” and goes on in an avid description of exactly the kind of gagging that results from trying to eat such a thing. Ralph gently asks her if she wouldn’t mind not talking about puke at the table. I’m trying not to laugh.  I hated lettuce and greens at her age too; I’m still rather picky about them.

My mother comes over after dinner to pick Nels up; she and the kids have been working on putting together pieces for this year’s Young Artist Showcase at the Harbor Art Guild gallery. While they’re gone Phoenix plays games on the computer and I sew on my current Fabulousness for Nels.

As soon as I’m settled in the sewing room, every time without fail, ALL FOUR CATS dart in. Mable lays at my feet, pornographically delighted to have me touching her; Harris lays on his side for a few minutes before rising and sitting up at the door silently, his handsome nose a dignified arrow, “Let me out, please.” And the two kittens.  They climb my fabric and try to tear things up to shit. Today I chucked a book at Hamilton (not hitting her, just trying to startle) to get her off a noisy activity and she lightning-fast spun towards me, her “arms” up in an alarmed ‘Y” and her mouth popped open with a fishy smack – a comical expression of dismay and surprise. I laughed loudly and she scrambled away, her body – only miliseconds before engaged in aggresive horseplay – crumpled up like a concertina of Shame.

“It’s hard to concentrate on the work at hand when a kitten is playing at your feet.”

The neighborhoods we walk in and bike in often contain derelict houses, overgrown lawns/lots, jagged unfriendly pathways (seriously I could keep up an entire blog mocking the HQX sidewalks). One time last summer as we made our way across Hoquiam and Aberdeen to get our groceries my daughter, irritated at the broken bottles, garbage, and variety of obstacles she was having to steer past on her new, almost-too-big-for-her bike, querulously asked, “What is this, a Glass Parade?”

This morning at 5 AM when I finally surfaced out of a lovely sleep as I realized I’d been hearing a crystalline “tink”, “tink”, “tink” for some time. I came to and discovered Hamilton the kitten was on the windowsill, six inches from my head, repeatedly and rhythmically tapping the window-blind cord stop against an empty glass. I removed the cat from the sill and disentangled my feet from her slumbering brother and got up for a glass of water and heard the sound of one of my adult cats outside, fighting/arguing with another feline from the neighborhood (you know that low, threatening cat-growl that sounds so alarming).

So that’s when the phrase, “Cat Parade” enters my mind, i.e. a world with Let’s Face It, too many tuna-breath little scurriers who, somewhat humiliatingly, follow me through the house and much like my children enjoy nothing more than being with me as I A. sew or B. cook. In fact as far as sewing goes at this point when I’m in the back room contentedly stitching the floor is so littered with cats in such extremely excessive states of repose I often feel embarrassed for them and myself because of how much pleasure we take in our company.

As I type this I feel one of the kittens begin climbing my back (fortunately I’m swaddled in a blanket so I don’t scream in pain and anger). I reach back and gently grasp the animal; you can tell it’s Hamilton because she has a very fat, round tummy (her brother is quite skinny). A few minutes later and she’s up watching me, cuddled up near my computer monitor. A couple minutes after that and she’s become singularly obsessed with attacking the mouse (computer-mouse that is) on the desk.

This is Hamilton:
Natural Defenses Hamilton is blurry in this picture. Now we own an incredibly cheap camera, I admit it, but nevertheless I rarely end up with an unfocussed picture like this. So I’m pretty sure she looks blurry because she is starting to feel sleepy.

Don’t tell anyone I was online reading “kitten quotes”, but I totally was, and I liked this one:

“A kitten is so flexible that she is almost double; the hind parts are equivalent to another kitten with which the forepart plays. She does not discover that her tail belongs to her until you tread on it.”

I know my kittens are just sort of Nothing to anyone else, just a blip, another mouth to feed or a series of rather uninteresting anecdotes. For me the little ones remind me how fleeting life can be; how special is our Now and our time of self-discovery. My kittens remind me of the incredible good fortune I have, how I find I am able to give a little more to care for one more person or one more body and how I can always find more love. My kittens (are far, far, FAR easier than caring for a child but) remind me of babies and newborns and that when one chooses to care for others there is a lot of feeding and cleaning and loving-up and chores and just plain stewardship and often the acts themselves are the “rewards” and not all see how this is so. Some of the people I like best in the world are those who care for others – deliberately and with great joy – because people/pets/the world all need care.

But I’ll tell you one thing. If I’m going to own four cats I’m a little resentful that there have been moments when I totally want to sit down and have a cat on my lap and none of the little creatures are willing to provide.

I have the feeling I could own twice as many cats and never get that lap-love guarantee.