Friday, September 05, 2014

Hope and Gratitude

Eight years ago, I was in a hospital room in San Francisco with a beautiful view of the East Bay Hills.  I couldn't walk, couldn't stand, I couldn't even sit up on my own.  Somebody (a therapist or a counselor) told us about BORP.  They sponsored outdoor programs, she said.  I could enjoy some of the physical activities I once did.

Something just clicked.

I had very little evidence that I would ever be able to get out there and do those things, but it was a goal and I needed a goal.

Months later, at the BORP cycling center, I tried out one adaptive cycle after another.  The folks there showed me what I could do, what was possible.

These days, on my regular 14-mile ride along the San Francisco Bay, I see that same view I had out my hospital room window. It always makes me think about all the love and support and hope that got me up out of that bed.

Every year, we do our bit to say thanks to BORP and ensure that it's there for the next guy.

In three weeks, we'll undertake a 20-mile ride ( a daily commute for some; an Everest for others) to raise $1,000 for BORP.  We hope you can help.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014


Here we go again!  At the end of the month, we venture up to California's shaky-quakey Wine Country for a 20-mile ride to support BORP–– the great folks who provide sports and rec programs for people with disabilities.

It's a challenging ride and I'm having some qualms about the undertaking but it means so much to us.
In the end it will all be worth it.

You can help, too.  Don't worry, no one will ask you to dump a bucket of ice on your head, just click here.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Everything's Coming Up Roses


On Mondays, I typically write about my garden.  There's a weekly blogging event over at Daphne's Dandelions, where bloggers post garden updates.  I enjoy the camaraderie there, and like having a glimpse into the life of other gardeners.

But, alas, I've been too busy with work to do much of anything in the garden.  We're in the middle of a drought, so things would be looking pretty rough under the best of circumstances.

However, that doesn't mean that I haven't been surrounded with flowers.  I'm working on a wonderfully audacious project for Berkeley Repertory Theatre called An Audience with Meow Meow.  Meow Meow is an Australian performance artist, who lives at the intersection of insanity and genius, somewhere in the neighborhood of subversive burlesque and demented opera.  That's a place I enjoy very much, and I'm delighted to be a part of the creation of this show.

This weekend, I built two oversized roses to adorn the massive wall of chintz that I wrote about previously.  The rose pictured above is four feet wide, but only about seven inches deep. This rose is attached to scenery that "flies out" and stores above the stage.  Space above the stage is very tight, and we cannot have scenery scraping against lighting instruments or other scenery.

The trick was to make a massive rose that was relatively flat, that didn't look like roadkill.  I had to give these flowers a lot of implied depth, without actually making them very dimensional.

I also had to make sure that these flowers -- like everything else on stage -- would pass muster with the fire marshal.  I saturated synthetic taffeta with flame retardant chemicals, and let them "marinate" in a sealed container overnight.  Then I hung them out to dry on laundry lines we rigged over our loading dock.   (I've also been using these lines to dry the fabric that I've been coating with multi-colored glitter.  The concrete of the loading dock has never been sparklier!)

I then sprayed each petal with various shades of pink paint, and formed them into petals.

I had previously studied books on historical techniques for making floral ornaments out of ribbon.  There's a fantastic fiber-arts store and museum here in the San Francisco Bay Area, with a phenomenal selection of books and tools for making just about any fiber-craft you could possibly imagine.  The folks at Lacis are infinitely gracious, and don't ever blink an eye when I go shopping in my paint-besmirched clothes.  (I've written about Lacis some time ago.  Click here for the link.)

I formed the edges of the petal with a heat gun, and then sewed irregular pleats into the petals.  I tried to remember everything I had ever learned about the art of making artificial flowers.  I may not know anything about pop culture, but tell me about an antiquated craft and I'll remember it forever.

After forming the petals I carefully stitched them together to form the roses.  I take great pride in craftsmanship, and feel that the backs of the flowers are as well made as the fronts.  The theater where I work has a reputation for building things to the highest standards, which is a responsibility I take very seriously. 

The paint-impregnated fabric was quite stiff, which was great for the structure of the flowers, but not so fun to stitch through.  Even though I've been wearing a leather quilting thimble, I've developed callouses so thick that I can barely activate the touch-screen on my mobile phone.  For some reason, I find this really hilarious.  Sweat shop meets First World Problem.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Re-Creating A Vintage Cardigan


Some time last year, I bought a charming hand-knit cardigan at an estate sale.

It had a lot of interesting features that I wanted to explore.  I thought it might be a fun challenge to see if I could reproduce the sweater, without the benefit of a written pattern.

I've got the back panel almost finished.  I'll be putting this on stitch holders until I knit the two fronts and the two sleeves.  The sleeves are going to be a challenge, because I really don't understand what the original knitter was thinking.  Her method of working is a bit of a mystery to me. 

So far, this has been a fast, fun project.  I hope I don't get bogged down and abandon this sweater when it is 95% completed.  That's what happens to me, far too often.  I start a really ambitious project, and then get utterly stuck at the end.  Sigh....  I can't do anything the easy way, can I?



Last night, around 3:30 in the morning, I woke up very confused.  Something was going on -- our windows were rattling, and I was overcome with a strange feeling that I could not name.  I imagine there were cartoon question marks hanging in the air over my head.  I was dead asleep, and could not access the part of my brain that produces language.  Robb had been awake a little bit longer and informed me that we were experiencing an earthquake.  By the time he said those words, it was all over, and I promptly fell back to sleep.

This was apparently a 6.0 magnitude earthquake.

That's big.

Thankfully, Robb and I spent a good deal of money when we first bought our house, getting the foundations up to current earthquake standards.

The area around the quake was not so lucky.

Merchandise was knocked off the shelves in American Canyon, which was the epicenter.  (In other news, you can buy wine at the Walmart in California.)

Brick buildings -- which do not "flex" during quakes -- were damaged.

This just looks like a photo from the X-Men.

Napa is, famously, the center of wine-making in California.  Not the wine!  Not the wine! Nooooooooo!

I think that we're lucky that the quake happened in the middle of the night, so that few people were out on the streets when all that masonry fell.

Northern Californians, what was your experience? 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Chicken Parkour


Our chickens are too adventurous for their own good.  Upon reflection, this probably explains why their water bottle was knocked over the other day.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Not So Bird-Brained, It Seems...


A week ago, our baby chicks looked like this.  They were insanely cute little fluff-butts.

In seven days, they've grown tremendously  The chicks have sprouted actual chicken feathers.  Their fluffy baby-down is almost all gone.

When I look back at the blog, I see that we got our first set of chicks back in March of 2012. (Click here for baby pictures.)  Because it was early spring and too cold to allow the chicks outside, we raised that batch of chicks in a well-heated cardboard box in our garage.  The current batch of chicks have spent the better part of their lives outside, right from the start.  The weather is great, and the chicks are thriving.

Both Robb and I think that these chicks are benefiting from being in an environment where they have something to do.  These chicks have been foraging for food since we got them.  They eat grass, and have little chicken adventures, climbing all over the place.

One of the reasons we got chickens in the first place was because we thought they might eat the snails that over-run our garden.  Our original chickens are so dumb, that I've had to teach them to eat snails.  And if I don't hand feed them snails for a few weeks, they forget all about the fact that snails are edible, and have to be taught all over again.

These two girls are freaking geniuses in comparison to our older hens.  I did not have to teach them to eat grass or bugs. They figured it out all by themselves.

The chick on the right has a massive grub in her mouth.  She and her sister played a spirited game of "keep away" before she swallowed it whole.  (They've been eating lots of dirt, so I trust that she's got enough grit in her gizzard to handle her meal.)

I think these girls have such an advantage, having been raised outside. Our older hens did not learn how to be chickens, growing up in a cardboard box. They learned to eat chicken feed, and that's about it. I wasn't kidding when I say that I had to teach our first group to eat grass.

That's what a poor educational environment will do to a developing chicken brain, I guess.

In addition to being good foragers, these two chickens are quite strongly bonded.  They really stick together.  They climb together, they run around together, they nap together. If one institutes a new activity, the other adopts it right away.  The chickens are crazy high-jumpers, and we realize that we've got to fortify our garden fences.

Possibly the most charming thing they do after trying out a new activity is their celebratory chest bumping.  It's like a chicken version of a high-five.  Adorable.  Let's just hope that this isn't a behavior unique to baby roosters.  Feisty pullets are delightful. Feisty roosters are illegal where we live, and a tragedy for two tender-hearted vegetarians.

If you're curious to see what other gardeners are writing about, click here.


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