teatime with predators

Made the girl a little top.  Put a spider on it.

I'm tickled with my spider web appliqué.  I shall have to revisit this again in the near future. 

The spider is machine sewn. The web is pieced together with pin tucks.  Spider web in process:

Back to the girl this morning:

This was moments before she broke the tea saucer.  My girl is a delicate flower.  Except when she's not.

The embroidery on the shirt says, Part Girl, Part Wolf Spider.

(It took all I had to not reverse that into spider wolf.  Spider wolves are terrifying.  Thank you Welcome to Night Vale for that particular thing I'll never forget yet I can not remember where it is.)

I saved the tea cup from miss delicate, though.  Put a weird little cyclopean clown doll in it.

Then I listed the doll on Etsy.  Check it out. 


up close

Look at this happy little guy.

No, no, not the child.  The dragonfly.

He has the nicest smile.

Anthropomorphizing animals and insects is one of my favorite pastimes.  It's practically a school subject here. The childs and I can be a bit stalker-ish when it comes to wildlife.  At least wildlife that we do not have to leave the yard to see.

I have no particular need to see exotic species or rare ones, although it is exciting to spot a bear or a wolf while out in the mountains.  I'm more concerned with staying out of the way of the bigger wildlife and minimize our contact. 

The creatures that invite themselves into my realm, well, that is a little different.  Urban scavengers and pests, I just love them so much.

We have frequent visitors to our yard, crows, robins, jays, pigeons and a hawk that enjoys delicious crunchy pigeons.  We have all sorts of beetles and millipedes down by the compost under our stored browns.  Bees in the flowers, wasps that come check out our evening backyard meals, scads of spiders that hang off our lawn chairs and mailbox.  And the furry critters like squirrels, mice and this mama along with her four babies. 

Actually, this could be one of the babies, they've grown so fast and, unsurprisingly, we can't really tell them apart by their markings.  So we'll just call it the skunk that I snapped a quick photo of before it turned and ran at me and I screamed and slammed myself back into the house. 

The thrills never stop.

Into the urban backyard ecosystem is the volunteer plants (we have many, also known as weeds) and even our small attempts at cultivation, like our raspberries (once a couple sprigs, now a dense bush that is waiting for another year to produce that the skunks hide under), our sprawling strawberry field (in it's 12 by 3 foot box) and the carrots we plant to keep the boy happily noshing in the yard for an entire month.  We are a little careless and not so good at keeping things tidy, which works well for the critters who need cover and plants to live.  Every time I fail to clean up the leaves in my flower bed in the fall, I think of the hundreds of ladybugs who are going to have a snug winter under those leaves. 

Add in our two cats, who are starting to explore the outdoors for the first time in their fourteen years and our small family, who can take the time to flirt with skunk encounters and dragonflies.

This is how it should be.

The Man even swapped out the swings on our old play set and added a couple of swinging benches as our family viewing gallery.  The seats creek a bit when they swing, and I think Battle Cat hears them as a beacon to come get his pets, as he comes running for our laps every time we sit down for a (not so) quiet sit.

I would like to learn a bit more about what other bits of yard work I can avoid to encourage urban wildlife to move in.  Though we have a relatively large city lot (big yard, itty bitty house), I don't think we can support any deer but I think we could have a few more butterflies and birds.  And bugs.  We love the bugs.  Maybe a bat or two? 

I consider it a privilege to be able to be this close to wildlife, to observe them throughout their natural lives, to notice their arrivals and departures.  Though I make no special effort to provide them with food and shelter, excepting of the sunflower seeds we put out for the birds, but they are still able to find room in this yard with us and it is gratifying. 

I used to think observing the wildlife in our backyard as a way of reducing complexity, so that the childs could study biology and animal behavior up close and generalize to the rest of the world.  To some extent this is true and helpful in education.  But I'm finding that, as I look closer, the idea that these animals and insects are familiar and simplistic is turning out to be grossly naiveté. I think I know what a squirrel is, but spending a day trying to get one to come stand in a specific spot so you can take a sneaky picture will teach you that you really don't understand squirrels after all.  Extra hats off to Nancy Rose and her mad squirrel photo skills.

The goal for the next little while, for the childs and I, is to do a bit of documenting of the creatures we find in our yard, when and where.  It will be a bit of formalizing of a project that has been underway for years.  Then we can decide what sort of critters we would like to encourage more of and what adjustments we can make to our little habitat.


minimalist top for needlework

I've been working on making a simple minimalist top pattern that I can whip up in half an hour or so and use to play around with some machine drawing and embroidery.  I really love functional, wearable art, and want to spend some more time playing with that.

Here is my minimalist top 1.0:

With a spider and web 1.0.

The spider is all machine sewn (no breaks!  I don't know why, but I made that a rule.)   I placed the structural secondary layer of fabric on the outside so that I could have it appear a bit deconstructed and remind myself not to take myself too seriously - always a danger in the design stage.  This is supposed to be fun and basic.

The web creeps over the shoulder into a wee web. 

It fits nice and loose, super comfortable.  There is some work to do in having the shoulder in a bit tighter... maybe make it a racer back?  Or maybe not.  I always like to have something that I don't have to wear pinch-y bras with, if you know what I mean.  It would also make an excellent pajama top.

I did wear this to a pub show the other night and nobody laughed out loud at me so I will consider it a so-far success.

Now onto the next incarnation of the top and come up with another arachnid illustration.


making plans to not make plans :: homeschool version

It's homeschool planning time.  Our official plan that we submit to our homeschool authority is going to be a bit different this year.  Last year, two months into the school year, we were forced to change what school authority we work with due to bizarre workings of the government and while it turned out to be unnecessary, it's probably best overall that we did. 

The new place, though, has a wee bit different accountability protocols and requires a plan that is less, 'yeah, we'll go to the library and find some books to read' and more 'we will read this many books in this many days and here are the titles of all the books'.

It's really hard for me to wrap my mind around all this alien 'structure' and 'organized' stuff.  I am being kind of facetious, but kind of not.  Our homeschool plan will be a living document that we can alter to fit what works as we go, but right now it feels like throwing the dart at the board while blind and drunk.  Lots of optimistic ideas and probably totally off target.

Thinking about it, I have to go back to why we do this crazy homeschool thing anyway and what it is that we are trying to achieve.  Funny enough, it's not about the education.  I mean it is, in the sense that I have ideas about what constitutes a good enough, even excellent, education for my children and try to implement that, but it's more about utilizing the greatest resource that we will ever have: 


We homeschool because we want to spend time together and have time to do what we like.  We want to get the stuff we have to do over with quickly, preferably in less than six hours. I can't even imagine trying to have the kids learn schoolwork from nine am to three pm.  They'd run away and join a circus after day two. We want to use our precious time doing what makes us human and complete.  

I remember when I first started entertaining the idea of homeschooling as a new parent.  Girl child was wee and watching her learn and grow while considering what sort of school she'll need to attend and I started to feel very... jealous.  Selfish.  Weirdly mama primal.  Watching and being involved in her growth was so satisfying, I knew I didn't want to turn it over to virtual strangers who would barely notice. 

Basically I just wanted to grab my toddler and scream, 'MINE! MINE! MINE!' at the rest of the world.
Girl child, summer 2007, seriously engaged in her blue period

Of course, that feeling like I want to keep my children isolated all to myself passed quickly.  In fact, I try to send them away often, because it's good for me and for them.  (Take my children... please.  But have them home by dark so I can read to them before bed.  Also, they have chores to do.)

Another dimension to this is that the childs are getting opinionated about what their education looks like.  With all the meta-learning stuff and knowledge hacks freely available - learning on how to learn - they figure they can learn their skills fast.  Thanks to strategies put forth by people like Timothy Ferriss, they can learn incredibly quickly.  And they know that if they aren't interested they will forget it by the next day.  In other words, they are hyper aware of their own learning processes and capable to being deeply involved in this homeschool plan.

But they just want to say, 'yeah, we'll go to the library and find some books to read.'   So maybe they're not so much help right now. 

We all need to come up with clever way of measuring things that can not be measured.  Making plans to not make plans. 

I am thankful for this bit of hoop jumping for the homeschool, though, because it does allow me to evaluate, on a broad scale, just what it is that I think I'm doing and appreciate the amazing years we've had together. 

Also, so I can officially plan to say to the school authority and government:

Girl child, summer 2017, seriously involved with her hipster phase
(That's kombuca, not beer, for anybody who's eyes are failing them.  And girl child would like everybody to know that she's wearing her What We Do in the Shadows "Werewolves not swearwolves" fan t-shirt, ordered from Etsy shop UnicornEmpirePrints, a mockumentry that is brilliant and trending on Netflix.)



twinsies... you'll have to believe me

It's not everyday a twelve year old girl wants to wear the same shirt as her mom.

I'm not sure how to feel about it.

I made myself a racer back athletic top a couple years back and girl child has developed an affection for it.  I still had some fabric left over, sourced from Sew What?, from mine of the same style. Which I realize, now that I just went to look for pictures for, I don't think I ever posted it.  I'll have to remedy that soon but you'll have to trust me, it looks about the same, bit longer, more room for boobs and higher on the neckline so nobody can see said boobs directly when I bend forward.

For both of us, we often reconstruct t-shirts and sports jerseys to fit us better for roller derby and the gym, and it's not often I use virgin fabric to make something to sweat in.  Bit of a novelty right now.

Anyway, the top:

The pattern I use for my own athletic shirts is my own.  Adjusted over the years, it fits me just the way I like it.

The pattern I use to make girl child's athletic tops is also mine, the RacerBack Athletic top Epattern for kids.  She's at the top size now, and looks like I'll probably have to draft up a larger size soon.  It is a pattern I use often for t-shirt mods.  Roller derby puts you in a lot of different colours over the course of a season so it's not unusual to have to make up six or seven shirts over a couple months.  

The Racer Back pattern, by the way, I think was the bestest photo shoot we ever had.  It's girl child and one of her good friends and roller derby teammates.  It's fun to see how much they've changed since I took these photos two years ago.  See the original post here.

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What sort of clothes do you guys sport in?