Category Archives: Life

Spring is Springing!

Happy first day of spring!

I like all the seasons, but I especially love the burgeoning life of spring.

Those first dainty crocuses and daffodils are as welcome to me as a garden full of roses.

Spring is actually well underway – unseasonably so – here in Port Angeles.

Our plum trees are all in bloom, and the cherries will be joining in the fun within the next week or two.

plum_blossoms

I have been hard at work getting a garden set up, since this is our first spring in our new/old house.

There was a garden here before. We started out by digging flagstones out of their layering of sod. A previous owner had used them to divide the flower beds, and we decided they were far too good to just bury with the load of topsoil we had ordered — and so the hard labor began!

And then the bulbs started coming up, the last remnant of the old garden that had survived a decade or more of neglect and mowing.

Irises, daffodils, and grape hyacinths – and of course I had to save a selection, in case there was anything special!

 

I get carried away with such projects, but I find it very therapeutic working outside, grubbing in the dirt.

It has been a welcome therapy, since work has been crazy, compounded by wedding planning and other adult pressures. Ah, tax season!

 

This last week or so the garden has really started coming together. The first bed is pretty well done, and I have been planting seeds like mad.

When I went through this process in Seattle, I stuck in a bunch of perennials right away, but without time to plan. This time around I think I’ll go primarily with annuals the first year, to give myself a chance to plan out the garden a little more thoroughly – while still having color this summer!

I find the nursery seed section far too seductive. At this point we have about two dozen packets of seeds, which in combination would probably cover 10,000 square feet of garden.

But how can I resist them?

The packets are lovely, the plants they will grow are lovely, and when else can you put a funny-shaped rock into the ground and expect a green thing to sprout? Magic!

seed_packets

Birthday Ruminations

I am 36 today.

It has me in a thoughtful mood, because I am now the age my mother was when she had me.

It is a milestone, but not one of the loaded decade milestones.

My life is in a good place right now. I like my job and where I live. I’m engaged and will be getting married in September. Things are crazy now, but in a couple weeks when things get back to normal I’ll have time for writing and gardening.

I’m in a good place, and it is the first time in a while that I have been able to look forward a couple/few years and have some sense of where I will be.

And where I want to be.

 

So, here goes.

 

In five years, I want to be happily settled with Rob, with one or two too many projects percolating.

I want to be writing regularly, and submitting regularly. I would like to have been published – ideally a novel, but I’ll take some short stories!

I want to have a garden, but have it set up so that it doesn’t eat all my free time in the summer.

I want to travel a couple times a year, but do it little enough that it’s still fun.

I want to continue to balance my day job with writing and my hobbies. It is stimulating and interesting, and I think my life would be less without it.

 

There are some major things I’m not sure about.

My mom had me at 36. At this point it is highly unlikely that I’ll have a kid at 36. Will I have kids at all? I’m ambivalent. I think I could be very happy with kids, or very happy without kids. I’m not sure how that will fall out yet.

Regardless, I hope that the next thirty-six years will be as interesting and generally happy as my first thirty-six – and that even if I don’t have children, I will have something to show for my time when I’m seventy-two.

Fun with Plumber’s Tape

I am an inveterate note jotter. I keep a big stack of scratch paper by my desk, and the heap of notes slowly grows next to my keyboard.

I prefer physical notes to an electronic list – except that organization is a problem.

Here is what my desk looked like last week:

IMG_6865

I like the idea of bulletin boards, but they take up a lot of real estate. I wanted something long and narrow.

Not too long ago, I was playing around with rare earth magnets and established that I could stick them to the nails in the wall studs. Ooh! A possible organization method! Not enough studs around my desk, though, and I wasn’t sure that the connection would be strong enough for a wad of notes.

So I looked up metal strapping online . . . and discovered the joy that is plumber’s tape!

It is cheap, it is readily available, it’s kinda pretty (it has a series of holes punched into it), and it works with magnets!

A bit of paint and a few screws later, and here is my new bulletin board:

IMG_6869

It could use a bit of prettying up, and it isn’t fully loaded yet, but I’m pretty excited about it.

Perhaps my days of desperately shuffling through my stack of notes is over!

A girl can hope.

What My Viable Paradise Cohort is Doing!

Life has been decidedly nuts of late: long hours for my day job, lots to do on the house, and a wedding to plan! I have been taking a little break from writing while I try to cope with all of that. I’m hoping to resume in March, but in the meantime my Viable Paradise cohort has been writing some nifty things:

  • Lauren Roy – not part of my cohort but one of the invaluable sanity support members for VP – has a new book out! Check out Grave Matters at your friendly neighborhood bookstore!
  • Shveta Thakrar wrote a very touching essay about what it was like to grow up feeling like a changeling: a child of non-European cultural background in small-town America. I just want to go back and give her teenaged self a hug!
  • Fonda Lee wrote a great short story involving irresponsible friends and 3D printers for Crossed Genres.
  • KJ Kabza has a piece in Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Issue 168 is not available on-line quite yet, but I’ll update the link when it is!
  • Ben Kinney wrote a couple nice blog posts, one involving flaming bears in Judaism, and one comparing Chosen One plots to the Power of Love plots.

Nice job, everyone! It is inspiring having friends doing so many nifty things!

Fun with Cyanotypes (aka Sun Prints)

I am subject to enthusiasms, especially when it comes to making things.

The most recent bee in my bonnet was making cyanotypes. Many people know them as sun prints: you get (or make) special paper, expose it to the sun masked with something interesting, and get a beautiful blue and white print.

blackberry_loop

This enthusiasm started with wedding research. I’m getting married in September, and a recently married cousin gave me a ridiculous stack of Martha Stewart wedding magazines. Although very pretty, they yielded surprisingly few ideas.

One idea that did appeal was cyanotype place cards, done up with ferns and whatnot.

I did a bit of research, and established that although pre-treated cyanotype paper ran roughly a buck per sheet, there were lots of great how-tos on-line explaining how to do it yourself.

I ordered the chemicals . . . and then we bought a house and moved and six months went by.

That may not sound like the proper course of an enthusiasm, but I’m not quite that obsessive.

Rob and I finally got around to mixing the chemicals up a couple weeks ago. There are two separate chemicals involved, green ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide. Mixed separately with distilled water, they are fairly stable. Once combined, they become UV sensitive, and should be used to treat your paper or fabric reasonably promptly.

I’m not going to go into the details here – we followed the excellent how-to on instructables.

There are a bunch of other how-tos on line.

We used rice paper instead of watercolor paper. It took the solution beautifully, but was somewhat delicate when it came to rinsing the completed prints.

First we treated the paper, then dried it. Apparently you can do the prints on a wet medium, but that has complications.

We then locked the paper away in a light-safe box (cardboard box wrapped in a trash bag, stored in the basement) and waited for a sunny day.

That could have been a long wait in Washington in winter, but we got lucky.

We got a sunny two-hour slice, and made the most of it.

We started by printing a test strip that indicated that the best exposures would be between five and ten minutes, depending on the desired shade of blue.

Then it was off to the races!

We printed some ferns:

fern_printing

fern_washing

completed_fern

completed_ferns

We printed a couple photographs, printed out on transparencies:

plum_photo

We printed some blackberries:

blackberries

For the natural-object prints, it was important to pin the materials down with a piece of glass. Even so, you can clearly see where the leaves and stems were not pressed down firmly.

That could either be a bug or a feature, depending on your outlook. We chose to consider it a feature!

The hardest part was rinsing the prints. As mentioned above, we used rice paper, which has many advantages but is rather delicate when wet.

I rigged a wash basin with a laundry basket and a hand-held shower nozzle. It worked pretty well, although if we left prints in too long they formed some signs of wear.

The whole thing was a blast, and offers lots of options for further fun.

You can print on fabric as well as paper, and it is color-fast (although you have to be careful about what detergent you use).

There is a great book on the subject:

Blueprints on Fabric by Barbara Hewitt

My enthusiasm has temporarily run its course, although this summer I’ll probably do some fabric.

I would recommend cyanotypes to any craft-minded person. It would be great fun with kids, too!