Monday, July 23, 2007

A-vacationing we will go

At last, it's time to travel! We will be visiting my family in New Hampshire and Massachusetts July 25 through August 1. Then we leave August 9 for our Midwest break -- flying into Chicago and making a quick visit there before heading to my in-laws' stomping ground in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

I haven't been to Chi-town for many years, and it'll be great to show a bit of it to Ross. We usually visit our families every year; while it's not glamorous, I do look forward to seeing everyone and doing some things that have almost become rituals, such as: going to Odiorne Point State Park in New Hampshire to wade in the tidal pools and catch crabs; eating fresh lobster; spending the night at "Camp Chicken," my sister-in-law's hideaway in the woods.

Well, lots to do, as you can imagine. I may try to blog from the road, but if not, I'll have pictures when I get back.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Making felt

I've been wanting to make felt for a while now. I took a needlefelting class a few years ago, and enjoyed it, but I haven't played with it since then. (Needlefelting is making felt by using a small hooked needle -- stabbing the needle into the fibers enmeshes them, so you are making "dry" felt.) I'm participating in an ArtFiberFest swap of fabric charms, and thought handmade felt would make an interesting base for my charms.

Following instructions from a Cloth Paper Scissors article by Sarah Lawrence (issue 2), Ross and I made felt yesterday. (I'm providing an basic overview here -- if you want to make felt, please get this article, or check out some of the great feltmaking books that are out there.) We bought some wool roving (fleece that's been cleaned and carded, and in this case, dyed) at our local yarn shop. We pulled apart the roving and laid it out on top of bubble wrap.

After we put down a couple of layers of roving, we covered the piece with window screen, and wet it down with warm water and olive oil soap. As you rub in the soap, the fibers begin to enmesh and shrink. Then you remove the window screen, roll up the piece in the bubble wrap, and begin rolling it back and forth, shrinking it further. The more you roll, the more your piece shrinks and the firmer the felt gets.

Ross got tired of rolling sooner than I did, so his piece didn't felt as much as mine. But it still came out really neat, and he's proudly hung it on his bed.

The front of my piece has some snippets of yarn and ribbon in it, but they aren't as enmeshed in the piece as I would like. (I'll try putting a bit of roving on top of these next time, so that they're more attached.)

On the back, I used mostly off white (undyed) roving. Next time I think I'll add some bits of yarn or whatever to the bottom, as well.

Now I can cut out my charms (I'm not sure what shape they'll be), and figure out what beads or buttons or whatever else I'll be adding to them. This'll be a nice portable project to bring with me on vacation to New Hampshire, mostly for keeping me occupied on flights or in airports. (Of course, I'll be toting my journals, too, but I like to have a variety available!)

Friday, July 13, 2007

Chappie photos and swimming lessons

I want to share a couple of photos Chris took of Chaplin last night. He's in the backyard, his favorite spot on the planet.

Ross is now halfway through his first bout of swim lessons. He's doing pretty well. I took some photos at the pool the other day.

His teacher's name is Rachael, a very nice young lady. She was trying to teach the kids the backstroke on Thursday! Ross is nowhere near ready for that yet -- he hasn't gotten the idea that he has to synchronize his arms -- but he is having fun while he tries, so what the heck.

I am really happy about how confident he is in the water. It's a far cry from his toddler days, when he would cling onto me for dear life. Swim lessons back then would have been a disaster. I've certainly had to learn (and relearn) that Ross will reach physical milestones in his own sweet time, and to push him is useless. He will do it when he is ready, and not before.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


Chris, Ross, and I took Chaplin to a veterinary surgeon on Tuesday. After looking at Chaplin's records and examining his mouth, the surgeon told us that the cancer is inoperable.

He said that he knows a vet at WSU that is working on a new radiation protocol, but it's not a cure -- it would extend his life by six months to a year at best. We'd have to drive him down to Pullman, and he'd have intense therapy for two weeks, including a feeding tube for an extended period of time. We said no. Chaplin doesn't like to be handled -- he doesn't even like being brushed -- he would be absolutely miserable. That's no way to live.

He said Chaplin probably has months to live -- couldn't be any more specific than that, without knowing if the cancer has metastasized. Eventually, he will stop eating. Some people keep feeding their cats with eyedroppers after that, but we will not.

He is eating less these days. I think the biopsy really bothered his mouth. But we give him lots of little treats and plenty of love. We will shower him with love in the time that we have left together.

Thanks to all for your prayers and good wishes.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Japanese lantern drawings

In my last post, I mentioned that Ross and I sketched the same Japanese lantern at Manito Park. Then I thought, why don't I let everyone look at our drawings?

Ross did a quick, simple sketch.

Part of my drawing is really "off," but I laughed when I realized it was going to look weird and kept drawing anyway. I added the rocks around the lantern, which sits next to a small koi pond.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Hectic summer

Summer is supposed to be relaxed, right? Well, I am staying in my pajamas until noon some days, but it's been hectic in other respects. Last week I taught preschool craft classes at Corbin Art Center during the afternoons. The kids were great! It really took a big chunk out of my days, though, so I'm happy to be done.

We gotten some sad news. Chaplin, our beloved cat, has cancer. He went in for his annual exam and shots, and the vet noticed a lump under his tongue. The biopsy came back malignant. The vet doesn't seem to think it's operable, but we are taking him to a surgeon on the 10th to see what he (she?) says.

We're not entirely sure how old Chaplin is. The shelter papers said he was five years old when we adopted him, but we're pretty sure he was younger than that. He has been with us since we lived in Minneapolis, so he is at least 14 or 15. He is a wonderful guy -- gentle, friendly, affectionate. Chris and I are both very determined that he get the best care and be as comfortable as possible, for as long as possible. Ross is staying positive, bless him -- Chris and I both need that dose of optimism. Whatever comes, we know that he is a big part of our family, and we all love him very much.

And our lives continue on. Ross has to read and write every day, and he's been pretty responsible about doing it without a lot of nagging on his parents' part. He's been watching some tv and movies, tagging along on errands, and going to the pool with me some evenings. He's also gone on a drawing expedition with me. We both took our journals to the park on Saturday and drew the same lantern in the Japanese garden at Manito Park. I think he did better than I did.

Last night I walked to the perennial gardens in the park, and sat down to draw the Goliath Alpine Aster -- never heard of it before, but it seemed like a good candidate for a quick sketch. The evening was gorgeous, and the drawing was okay, but I'm getting a bit bored of only having simple sketches in my outdoor journal. So this morning, I recreated part of my sketch as a collage, and put it on the opposite journal page.

It was very freeing to cut out bits of magazine photos and glue them down, using the drawing as reference. It's a lot more like making an appliqued quilt, working in solid chunks of color instead of relying upon lines. Of course I've done more quilting than drawing, so there's a comfort factor at work. I think it's nice to revisit a subject in this way; it brings a lot more depth to the page for me.