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No backing out now!

Posted by on 03 Jan 2011 | Tagged as: about me

Flower Crown Little Sister

I spent a lot of my childhood in Germany, which I think explains both the source of my crafty love and my anguish worrying I’m not providing my own children with the same idyllic childhood I had. Life in Germany seems to go at a slower pace, and the traditions that we associate with Waldorf here are infused into the mainstream culture and schools there. I can list many reasons for loving Germany — the lure of the old cobblestone pedestrian downtowns, the flowers that seem to spill from every windowsill and balcony because even apartment dwellers need something green, the public transportation system that makes living a car-free life easy. And don’t get me started on the bakeries on every corner. But the reality is, it’s not a tally of things like beautiful craft stores or Christmas markets or lantern walks in the fall, it’s how I feel when I’m there, and really, how I feel when I’m not.

My husband and I spent an idyllic junior year abroad in Berlin with our beloved dog Bogie, a shelter pit bull we adopted a month before leaving the States. We had every intention of returning to Berlin after completing college, but a tragic pit bull attack led to a nationwide ban on the breed and so we didn’t go back. We stayed in the States. And almost eleven years later, we haven’t visited — not out of holding any grudge, but partially out of logistics and expense, and partially because I think it will be hard to be a visitor in a place that felt more like home than anywhere I’ve lived since. Hard to have to leave again.

But I need my children to know Germany, and so this year, we have vowed to throw caution to the wind. We are still figuring out the exact logistics (how exactly would you, for instance, smuggle a dog’s ashes into the country?) but we are definitely going. You hear that internet? No backing out now. Three glorious weeks that will seem like a heartbeat.

I know I promised craftiness — please forgive the dripping nostalgia instead. I spent the evening repairing one of Christmas gifts I’d made, so I’m a little behind! More tomorrow!

Do any of you have big plans for the New Year? Something you want to announce to hold yourself accountable, I say, as though anyone is reading this…

Happy New Year!

Posted by on 01 Jan 2011 | Tagged as: about me

Happy New Year!

I hope your holidays were filled with as much joyful abandon as ours were! I’ll be back in this space this week to share some handcrafted Christmas presents and plans for the New Year. We started 2011 off right with a picnic in the park with friends, complete with collards and black-eyed peas. The trails were a little muddy from all the melted snow, but the temperature was warm, the food delicious and the company very pleasant indeed.

A little something for my midwife

Posted by on 03 Feb 2010 | Tagged as: about me, animal crafts, family, needle-felting, sewing, wool felt

Our family was lucky enough to get to experience a perfect and wonderful homebirth under the care of our dedicated and much loved midwife. During the course of my pregnancy, we bonded over our mutual love for animals, and both she and her birth assistant enjoyed having our pup Audrey there for Jonah’s birth. When it came time for me to make a gift for her, I decided to attempt to render in felt a photograph of Audrey and Jonah shortly after his birth. I also included a little vervet my midwife raised and who now lives at The Primate Rescue Center in Kentucky.

Here’s the original picture:

Jonah and Audrey

And my attempt to recreate it:





I don’t think I succeeded in recreating sweet little Jonah — his nose is clownish, I couldn’t get his hair right and those adorable little forehead furrows… I think I should just stick to creating REAL babies. But I’m pretty pleased with how our Audrey lady and Bob the vervet ended up looking.

The founder of the sanctuary where Bob now lives is featured in part of the book Animal Underworld: Inside America’s Black Market for Rare and Exotic Species, a chilling investigation into the trade in exotic animals in this country. It follows paper trails that lead from AZA accredited zoos to canned hunts, explains the dangers and cruelties of keeping wild animals as pets and is just generally one of those books that you can’t “unknow” after you read it. You’ll find yourself recounting horrifying details to innocent bystanders, but who knows, you might end up influencing just the right person to make a difference… [steps off soapbox…]

The crafting is coming along slowly around here with a baby who has suddenly started making the distinction between Mama’s arms and just about anyone else’s. So while we manage to never actually put him down, he’s needing specifically me in the evenings when I would be crafting. I’m still getting a few minutes in here and there, and I have some plans for Valentine’s Day, but progress is slow. I’ll try to post some older projects if the newer ones take too long, so keep checking back!

Almost back!

Posted by on 24 Jan 2010 | Tagged as: about me, family

My little break was quite a bit longer than I expected, but I’ve missed this space! It’s just been a blogging break, not a crafting one, so I do have some crafty goodness to share once I get some pictures uploaded. For now, here’s my excuse for my loooong absence — I was crafting a little someone of my own:

sweet boy

Jonah Carl was born at home on December 8th and our not-so-little-anymore family has been spending an awful lot of time baby gazing over the last 6 1/2 weeks. More actual craftiness to come this week, so please visit again soon!

I’ll be back soon!

Posted by on 02 May 2009 | Tagged as: about me

I can’t believe how long I’ve left this blog idle! I have been super busy, without much time for crafting. But I’ll be back soon, and in the meantime, I’ll try to post some pictures of things I’ve made in the past, so please keep checking back! Happy Spring, everyone!

A tribute to our sweet man

Posted by on 20 Mar 2009 | Tagged as: about me

It’s hard to believe it’s been two years. Well, two years ago yesterday. The hardest day of our lives. We lost our sweet, sweet boy, our one-in-a-million, our fellow adventurer, our pink-bellied charmer. Only eight years old. We all fought the cancer as hard as we could. Maybe longer than we should have, before we took him for that last ice cream cone and held him as tightly as we could in our arms as he took his last deep breath. He’d been with us almost as long as we had been with each other, and we weren’t sure how to be without him. Life has gone on, life has still been good to us, but we lost a certain innocence, the sense that we lived a charmed life. And yet we know how lucky we were to have had him; to have gotten to share his life when everyone who met him loved and adored him. We got to know him best, he slept in our bed every night, he went with us to Berlin, he was our boy. Oh, how we still miss him.

Bogie on the Rhine fall 1999




I’ve been writing his story, and I thought I’d share a little bit of it, of our beginning with him. Here’s the bit where we first see him at the animal shelter, and how quickly we fall in love with him:

Technically, he had white fur, but it was so short, and his belly so bare, that he looked more pink than anything. He was overjoyed to see us, as though he’d been waiting just for that moment when our eyes met his. His whole body wagged and wobbled with pleasure, his green eyes blurred with motion, his red watercolor nose, its color spilling onto his surrounding skin, pushed towards us. His ears stood out from his head at odd and delightful angles, one straight, one flopping over at the tip. We put the camera aside — he’d be too hard to photograph right now anyway — and instead, we gave in to his affection. He licked our faces, nibbled our ears, climbed in our laps. As we laughed and hugged and petted him, we noticed he was slowly starting to swell. His face looked even pinker than before, and lumps were appearing under his thin white fur, covering his body. Tony stayed with him while I ran for help. The shelter staff had seen this sort of thing before — he was having an anaphylactic reaction to the vaccine he’d just received, and he needed an antihistamine shot immediately. One of the staff members grabbed him, put him in her car, and headed for the vet’s office.

We had to leave before the staff member returned with him, but we couldn’t stop thinking about that sweet, pink boy. The shelter staff had named him Petey, after the Little Rascals’ pit bull, but the name didn’t seem quite right to us. Not that it mattered. After all, we were leaving for our junior year abroad in Germany in less than a month, and we certainly weren’t about to adopt a dog. Nevertheless, the next day found us back at the shelter to check on the patient. He greeted us just as happily, though he was maybe not quite as pink as he had been the day before. We spent a disproportionate amount of time visiting this happy boy. While we normally made it to the shelter once or twice a week, we were finding ourselves there daily.

It was exam time, so we would lug our books the three miles to the shelter, and spread out a blanket in the grass to study with Petey. He would sprawl happily beside us on his belly, legs stuck out straight behind him, snoring contentedly. Days turned into weeks, and the end of the school year approached, bringing closer our departure date for Germany. Our days with Petey began to be shadowed in sadness, until one day we decided we just couldn’t leave him. Another volunteer declared herself willing to keep him at her house for a month while we traveled and then found an apartment in Berlin. Dan volunteered to pick him up at the volunteer’s house and drive him to the airport. Our parents declared us insane — or rather, Tony’s parents did — my mom was so horrified, she hung up on me for the first and only time in my life when I told her we were adopting a pit bull and taking him to Germany. We saw the complications and difficulties multiplying, but we didn’t care. We were elated, we were happy, we were in love. Now that he was ours, we could find the right name for him, too, and we chose Bogart, though he quickly became known as Bogie, or Bogieman, the Boge, the Man, the love of our lives.

Mia’s Garden Plan for 2009

Posted by on 12 Mar 2009 | Tagged as: about me, gardening, kids' crafts, local food, spring

Normally by this time of year, we have our garden all planned out, our seeds ordered and some even planted. But last year was an abysmal year for our little garden and it has sapped a bit of our motivation. Oh, we’re still going to try, but we’re missing the usual get out in the dirt right this second bug that’s usually bitten us by now.

Mia, on the other hand, is ready for spring. On the way to preschool one very warm morning this week, she said, her little voice almost trembling, “The birds are making my heart beat faster because their song is so beautiful.” I love that kid.

And this weekend, in the 80 degree weather, she went outside to inspect her beloved strawberry plants that every year take over more and more of our garden. We never have the heart to stop them. Who can destroy a strawberry plant? Not us. Especially not after getting a taste of one of these sweet, sweet berries.

But back to Mia. She came inside, drew a garden plan and composed a song, which Tony wrote out for her. She also added butterflies, drawn from the letter “B” just like Fancy Nancydoes, though inexplicably she left out two of her favorite veggies — Snugger Shnap Peas and Tomatoes! Still, I think it’s pretty perfect:

Mia's Garden Plan for 2009

An update filled with excuses followed by some real craftiness

Posted by on 07 Mar 2009 | Tagged as: about me, family, winter

Well, it’s been ridiculously long since I last posted. It’s been a crazy couple of weeks. My grandmother has had to move out of her home, and all five grandchildren came from near and far to help empty her house. We found incredible treasures in that home — childhood pictures of my dad we never knew existed, decades and decades of my grandfather’s journals, the receipt to the Plymouth Coupe he purchased in 1938, and beautiful paintings and other creations my grandmother made.

I came home with a wonderful St. Francis of Assisi statue my grandmother had made, which is just perfection — my grandmother’s craftiness gene and the patron saint of animals. Can’t get any more Emily than that. Speaking of which, I also found this treasure, which I like to call “Confessions of a 4th Grade Socialist:” (click for a larger view)

Confessions of a 4th Grade Socialist

I do have to cringe at the dog breeding part. Someone told me in second grade that animal control officers picked up animals and killed them, even puppies, and it wasn’t until middle school that I really understood what happened in shelters. And now sheltering is such a core part of my identity that, well, I’m a little embarrassed by my fourth grade self.

And then, there was the huge snowstorm that dropped more snow on Richmond (I think about 10 inches) than we’ve seen since we moved here in 2002. FINALLY, the snow I’d been waiting for, with real sledding that didn’t expose grass after one run, real snowman building, real snow angels. It was amazing. We went sledding in the park and it was packed with people. Craftiness and innovation surrounded us as people sledded on beach boogie boards, wearing plastic bags over their shoes, cobbling together warm outfits out of an assortment of forgotten articles of clothing. We Richmonders may not have been ready for the snow, but we were sure going to enjoy every second of it. And while the sheer joy of it has us contemplating moving to colder climes just as those living in colder climes are considering relocation to Florida, mostly it just reminded us what a magical effect snow, especially unexpected snow, has on people. Strangers smiling at each other, giving each other a hand after a crash at the bottom of a hill, exclaiming over the beauty of it all.

That was Monday and Tuesday. Tuesday, I drove to my parents’ house, where I spent two days with them and Big Sister before coming home to a lonely and sick husband. And then today (Saturday), was 80 degrees! Sledding on Tuesday and getting sunburnt at the kite festival today! What a crazy week!  I’m going to go ahead and post some craftiness, but will be back in the next couple of days to share some pictures of these weather flukes, both of which we thoroughly enjoyed.

Feeling good when you’re feeling sick

Posted by on 25 Feb 2009 | Tagged as: about me

We had been healthy ALL winter up until a month ago. Since then, one or another of us (mostly Tony) has been sick. I have this bad cold that I caught from the little ones, though luckily not their accompanying fever, and being a mama and therefore ineligible for sick days, I was feeling a little worn thin. Well, tonight, my sweet (and also sick) husband volunteered to take the kids after dinner and what did I do? I crawled into bed and read a book. It was luxurious!

I have always been a huge reader, devouring book after book, but I have to admit, I’ve read hardly anything in the last several years since Mia was born. I am deeply ashamed of this, and I’m turning it around. Reading tonight was so wonderful. So much better than being on the computer, finally writing those overdue thank you cards or doing dishes. It was just what I needed. Of course, the fact that I am reading Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World isn’t helping my stuffy nose much, what with starting to cry at the dedication and continuing right on through to page 107, where I stopped for the night. But it felt great! I feel recharged and what’s more, reminded of why I should read every chance I get.

And then I did get on the computer, and went to SouleMama, where I not only saw the cutest, twinkle-eyed little man in a beautiful knitted vest, but also discovered this beautiful YouTube video.

I may be making only halting progress on my own project, but my evening was filled with beauty and art all the same. I hope yours was, too.

So, deadlines, huh?

Posted by on 15 Jan 2009 | Tagged as: about me

All right, I missed the January 14th deadline, which is/was as of 30 minutes ago also my birthday. I spent a beautiful day with family and friends, and received calls, e-mails and greetings from around the world. And I crafted. A LOT. But the calendar is just not quite done. I’m hoping with some serious crafting time tomorrow evening, I’ll have it done in time to post on January 15th, and the tutorial will follow shortly!

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