Tuesday, December 20, 2011

O, Christmas Tree

I've posted here and there about our tradition of putting the Christmas Ape atop our Christmas tree. A comment on yesterday's post (the "there" one) expressed interest in seeing the whole tree. Things change somewhat from year to year because we either decide the tree looks full enough or we tire, one by one, of hanging ornaments and I decide I'd rather not finish the job myself. Here's this year's tree in its entirety. Two ornaments that always make it on the tree are the ones I showed in last year's tree post (the "here" one above), the sons in Christmas-pageant attire. As I think I said then, younger son is not quite the little angel he was then, while older son still knows what to do with a stick in his hands. We do have the odd store-bought ornament on the tree, including some given to us by the husband's now-departed mother. Most of the ornaments are homemade, though some of those were gifts from an art teacher friend. Others were stitched by my stepmother.
Others were made by the sons. And still others, I made the year we lived in the Netherlands and decorated a tree entirely with creatively handmade ornaments such as toilet paper tolls covered with electrical tape. Besides the Christmas Ape atop the tree, some stuffed animals always manage to work their way into the branches.
There are always some oddities such as the tag I took off a gift one year and started hanging as an ornament. For the first time, this year a number of "shinies," things I find and save for no reason other than I found them and think them interesting, made it onto the tree.
Finally, somewhere in the tree (you'll just have to take my word for it because I could not find it to photograph) is a set of keys that younger son found beside the road. The radio locking component is beat up to the point of suggesting the set was run over at least once. Why are they on the tree? Why not? They were sitting on a nearby shelf as we were hanging adornments, and it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Beanie Baby Mutations, Parts V and VI

I didn't post any photos of the fifth Beanie Baby mutation since it was a gift, and I didn't want to spoil the surprise for the intended recipient. Since it turns out that her photos of it are better than the ones I took before I sent it off, you can see an elephant with butterfly wings here. It's not clear whether it's an elefly or a butterphant, but I sort of like elefly myself.

The sixth Beanie Baby mutation doesn't have a distinct name yet, but here it is. If that photo isn't clear enough, try this one. Or this one. It's Howl the wolf wearing the clothing (well, the skin) of Fleece the sheep. And like any good wolf in sheep's clothing, this guy knows where to fit in, too. With a couple of other sheep, in the shadow of the Bearodactyl. It's still not clear just what I might do with these creatures other than probably clear them from the mantle perhaps to rest in the branches of the Christmas tree. I have decided what's coming next, though, a rhinopottamus or perhaps a hippoceros, though I think I prefer rhinopottamus.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Beanie Baby Mutations, Part IV

Being a knitter, I do like yarn, so when a friend in England suggested that it might be fun to have a sheep that could spin its own wool into yarn, who was I to argue. Crossing Hairy the spider with Ewey the sheep was actually a bit more complicated that I thought it would be, and I still have a sheep's head with which to do something, but here's what Caroline's spinning sheep might look like. I'm open to suggestions as to what it might be called.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Beanie Baby Mutations, Part III

When the idea of doing Beanie Baby mutations and meldings other than SnailPony arose, the first one that came to mind (the sons' hivemind, not my own mind) was BearODactyl. BearODactyl actually arose from the mind of The Oatmeal. I'm not including the link to the specific BearODactyl comic here because the amount of profanity (words and ideas) that it contains might offend younger readers or their parents.

BearODactyl is a combination of Swoop the pterodactyl and Cinders the black bear. After taking Swoop apart, I had some help from older son on combining Swoop parts with the body of Cinders. BearODactyl differs from the first two mutations in that the ODactyl part is actually a removable costume. The wings are simply sleeves into which the bear inserts his front legs. The head attached to the wings is tied onto the bear's head like a bowtie not really visible here. In the wake of Halloween, I'd have to say that Cinders the bear is quite pleased with the power and prestige that accompany his new alterego BearODactyl. In fact, he looks ready to cast a spell that might determine the next mutation to help clean up the library floor. Can you say "conjoined twins"? "Wolf in sheep's clothing"? "Cat of nine tails"?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Beanie Baby Mutations, Part II

Start with Spinner the spider and Congo the gorilla. Do a bit of dismemberment (no spiders were harmed in this process) and experiment a bit with pins and poses. Rearrange things a bit and sew with invisible thread. The result? SpiderMonkey! I still don't know if SpiderMonkey will go out on his own or stay around to see what evolves in Beanie Baby Mutations, Part III. I mean, I have to get the library floor cleaned up somehow.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Beanie Baby Mutations, Part I

Take one Beanie Baby Snail. Dismember it a bit. Add a Beanie Baby pony. Insert some carefully placed pins. Sew. The result? SnailPony! My friend and BKP (Best Kendo Partner--we earned our black belts together) has a Pony named Pepsi. She also has a stamp dispenser that is a plastic snail. Somewhere in the fatigue of post-workout pizza dinners, the idea of a SnailPony was born. This plush version, a true one-of-a-kind treasure, was a college graduation present. Think it can't really be ridden? Well, you just have to be the right size.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Bye, Dad!

I came to Great Falls, Montana, this week to share in the scattering of my Dad's ashes to the winds of a land he loved mightily. My stepmother brought Dad from Florida, and my brother and sister-in-law came from their home in Maine. It has been a good trip.

Today was the first anniversary of Dad's death. Although Dad did not believe in deities or an afterlife, I firmly believe that he oversaw and took part in the events of the day. I know he approved. We initially planned on taking Dad down the Missouri River to Fort Benton, as he had once taken my brother there on a hunting trip. We figured we would find someplace along the river to say good-bye but did not have any particular place in mind. If Fort Benton failed, further downriver was Loma, witha gravel road leading to the river. We figured that we could find someplace private since for all we knew (and we certainly weren't going to ask) scattering ashes just anywhere violates some sort of law.

Yesterday, we went to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center along the river here in Great Falls. My stepmother had been there before and didn't want to go through it with us. She passed the time talking with a volunteer who gave her a cheap-looking, black-and-white flyer with a map showing how to get to the dam that now sits at the true "great falls" of the Missouri River. Since my brother and I had wanted to show this to my sister-in-law, and I wanted to get a photo for someone who seemed incredulous that there were "great falls" on a prairie river, we thought this was great. It was on the way to Fort Benton, too, so how lucky.

So this morning we headed out to Fort Benton with a side trip planned to the falls. I got the photo I wanted. Leaving the dam, my brother announced the need to visit an outhouse we'd seen at a trailhead we passed. As we each visited the outhouse, the others looked at the trail board. The trail ran pretty much right along the north bank of the Missouri, and one of the sites (sights) mentioned was the Box Elder Creek Overlook. I remembered Box Elder as someplace I'd heard Dad mention when I was a child. We all looked at each other and decided this was a sign. We started down the trail. See the spit of land out into the river on the right side? We figured that was where Box Elder Creek entered the river, and we were right.

When we got across from Box Elder Creek, we only had to go a few yards off the trail to set things up. Along with Dad, we'd brought four chocolate chip cookies, one for each of us, with part of each to be scattered with Dad. Dad loved chocolate chip cookies, and we could think of no better way to toast his release. I also brought my new netbook, with Frank Sinatra loaded into iTunes. I had my Mac with me when Dad was in the hospice a year ago, and set Sinatra on shuffle to pass the days. Even after he was seemingly unconscious, Dad would smile when Sinatra sang "My Way." Needless to say, that's what I set to playing as we got Dad out. We each took a turn throwing a handful of Dad to the winds, letting my stepmother do most of the tossing. As you can see, the winds were quite cooperative.

I think Dad likes the place we chose, overlooking Box Elder Creek. Walking back to the trail from bidding Dad farewell, we decided to continue a bit further along the trail. Not ten yards down the trail, a bit of litter caught my eye. While chocolate chip cookies were a love of Dad earlier in life, in his later years his lunch, virtually every day, was a Veggie Delight or turkey sandwich from Subway. The litter that caught my eye was a Subway napkin, which I take as a sign of Dad's approval of his final resting place. You can say it's just a coincidence and I might even say that myself later, but for today, I'm thinking that it was Dad smiling at us. Yep, even if that means he was wrong about the whole deity and afterlife thing, I'm going with that he was smiling.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

There's a Reason It's Called the Big Sky Country

The pedometer registered over 20,000 steps today, but they were well worth it. These shots were taken along the last 5,000 or so steps, as the sun was starting to think about setting. When I moved from Montana to Kentucky and from there to Virginia, one of the hard things to get used to was that towns never seemed to end. You always seemed to be within sight of civilization. These shots were taken with Great Falls to my back, and while there are some signs of civilization, a building here, a truck on a road there, you're immediately struck with how much of nothing but nature is really out there.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Random Tidbits

I did not go to the National Book Festival this year, though I did go to Washington, DC on the first day of the festival. Yes, they made the festival a two-day event this year, and it somewhat diminished its attractiveness. There were no authors whose presence demanded mine, or that of my partners in crime for the day. We instead went to the National Zoo and marveled at the now-almost-grown lion cubs interrupting their' sire's nap, the orangutans swinging high above on their O-Line, and the pandas doing what pandas do best, eating bamboo. I would illustrate with photos were they not on a computer two time zones away from where I am right now.

Where I am right now is Montana, Great Falls, Montana, to be exact, the town in which I was born. My stepmother, brother, sister-in-law, and I are here with my Dad, well, with his ashes. Wednesday is the first anniversary of his death, and we plan to scatter a bit of him or perhaps all of him to the Montana winds somewhere in his old hunting grounds along the Missouri River. This may or may not be legal, but that's not something I plan to ask unless I have to. Dad would not have asked, so why should Dad's daughter.

Visiting childhood places well into one's adulthood is a bit disconcerting.
This was the house in which I lived for two-plus years while in elementary school. The trees did not hide the house then, and the yard stretched out forever. The park in which we used to play actually seems about the same size, though there was no jungle gym there 44 years back. Had this been there then, it would have been quite popular. As it was, I managed to have some fun with it even as an adult.
Continuing randomly, the Detroit airport is actually not a bad place in which to kill four hours. While I did not stop to photograph the pedestrian tunnel with its own light and music show, I did spend quite some time shooting this amazing fountain. There are also various shops, including one with headless figures holding Hello Kitties. For some unknown reason, I found this noteworthy.
I did recently finish and gift another quilt. Again, the photos are two time zones away, though you can see one of them here. I'll be starting another one (or two) soon after my return, or so I hope.

I realize that I have been less than faithful about updating this blog. I must admit that in the weeks leading up to this trip I have been fighting something akin to depression or at least an underlying feeling of all not being well. I hope all that was just due to the anticipation of this trip or of the first anniversary of Dad's death. If so, I hope it will stay behind when I return home. I will also try to make my next post here a bit more thought-out or at least better-written than this one has been in the midst of a myriad of distractions and interruptions. My apologies. If you are taking the time to read this, I should try to make it as well written as possible ... just not tonight.