Monday, May 22, 2017

In My Backyard #18 - Eastern Phoebe

This year, every thing has come earlier. I realize that in some areas there is still snow on the ground. But not here. For a while there it was touch and go, changing drastically from cold to hot. Unfortunately, for the last few months it's been more hot than cold. Though I am not complaining; summer as we know it has only reared it's searing head in just the last few weeks.

It has felt like perpetual spring, which is pretty lovely. Aside from the fact that some of the plants and trees have already finished blooming, we've had the early arrival of our spring birds to brighten any let-downs.

This year we were honored by the presence of a new neighbor, the Eastern Phoebe. I'm a bird-watcher, as is the rest of my family, to varying degrees, and we notice the different species of birds occupying our neighborhood. Sitting in our living room, we'll suddenly perk up at the unique song of the Baltimore Oriole and give each other a knowing look, happy that they have returned yet another year to our Poplar tree.

Other times, we'll be walking and suddenly hear a distinct song. We'll stop and stare into the trees for a period and I can just imagine the neighbors going, "There's that strange Yarbrough family again, staring into the trees at heaven knows what."

Earlier this year, we were sprawled on the front lawn enjoying the warm sun when we were visited by a new species. The grayish bird fluttered sporadically to-and-fro just inches from my sister's head before returning to its perch in the Crepe Myrtle. I was immediately fixated by its behavior, let alone the familiarity with which it regarded us.

Another encounter, the one in which I was able to take these pictures, occurred while I was taking pictures of a current project. The phoebe fluttered around just inches from me as if it was intrigued by what I was doing. For once I had a camera and I wasted little time in turning my lens to the bird. Sadly, the pictures do not do the bird justice. Because of the light behind it you are unable to see its coloring.

I was then able to identify it as an Eastern Phoebe, a species we had never seen before. I found out that it was a flycatcher and its tendency toward sporadic fluttering allowed them to quickly catch insects, their natural diet. I also learned that they like to nest in nooks of buildings and therefore are not overly afraid of humans. Evidenced by the few encounters of our own.

The funny thing is, they are known to be loners. And indeed, each time we saw one, there was just one. I had a little trouble knowing for sure what they were because when I first saw one, it had a faint yellow tint to its belly, but the next one's were nearly solid gray. I read that this is typical of fresh fall plumage, though why they would appear that way in late winter, early spring, I cannot say.

Unfortunately, since then I haven't seen anymore. Maybe they merely stopped by looking for a good place to nest before moving on. My fingers are crossed, hoping to see them some more this year. But even more so do I hope they return next year and the next, and so on, to become permanent residents, like the Oriole have. Though we may live in a neighborhood surrounded by houses and people, we do have some nature, more than a city-dweller would, and I am only too pleased.

Are you familiar with phoebes? If you want to know a little more about them, and hear their songs, visit the link, All About Birds.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Strawberry Patch Garland | New Crochet Design

Since designing my first garland last Christmas I have made five different garland patterns, three of which you can find right here at Ginger Peachy, while all of them are listed on my Etsy. I have developed a fascination with garland, like the fascination with the mini pillows. There are so many different designs possible within the garland or mini pillow format. Are you getting tired of them? You will before I do, so let me know!

This week I am sharing my latest garland design, created for Crochet Spot, inspired by the arrival of spring and everything green. My brother's strawberries have reached their spring peak and while they were growing I thought, how natural it would be to design a strand of strawberries! The red just pops against the green, and the little blossoms add pleasant accents of yellow and white.

I originally sketched out two different garland ideas. One was like this, what I consider 2D, with flat strawberries on a single strand. The other would have been more involved, 3D strawberries and enough leaves and blossoms to cover the garland strand. It's really hard to decide between two ideas like this since immediately you realize that one is easy and simple and the other long and involved. I'm never one to sacrifice a good project for less work. It feels cheap and second best. But in this case, I liked both ideas, obviously. So I got a second opinion, or more. Surprisingly, those of my family that were around at the time to consult said they liked the simpler, 2D garland idea better. Who knew? So I went for it. But I can't help wondering what the other would have looked like. Don't worry, someday I'll just have to try it.

Let's take a look at the process. (The pattern will be available at Crochet Spot soon, and the garland itself is available for purchase at Ginger Peachy Store!)

Initially I planned on 5 strawberries, 4 blossoms, and 9 leaves. But before I got to 9 with the leaves I did what I always do, measure up. I measured my idea up to what I had. It turned out that I preferred 5 of each. Now I'm glad I didn't crochet 4 more leaves.

What do you think of my strawberries, blossoms, and leaves? Aren't they cute?

Sometimes I use sport weight yarn for my garland, and sometimes I use acrylic, medium weight. For some reason, though, cotton was the natural candidate for this piece. I had a lot leftover from the Pastel Hearts Mini Pillow I made, plus some more I had bought for color comparison, so it was obvious that cotton would be used.

One thing about cotton, though. I love the look of it, and I love how sturdy it is, but I often give my wrists a workout when I use it. There's no give, so when the gauge is tight, my muscles are just as tight. Thence comes the pain. But happily, this project didn't take a whole lot out of me. It was easier than I expected, and I am glad.

I did something different this time. I incorporated the method of attaching the elements into the pattern of each piece. For example, before completing the strawberry and leaf design, you slip stitch into the garland and then complete the piece, strawberry cap or leaf stem.

Because of this, I recommend crocheting the garland strand first, whereas normally I crochet it last. Of course, for the design process I did crochet it last, and I simply ripped to get to the part of the pattern of each element where I wanted to attach it. But you crochet different when you are designing a pattern and not working an already finalized one.

Here is a lovely closeup of the garland finished and all pieces attached. Many times I work my garland on our living room floor, stretching to and fro to attach the pieces and measure the strand. This time I took it to the table where I did not have to stretch and strain. It worked like a studio, with everything at my fingertips. Plus the lighting from the sliding glass door made better pictures. But working in the living room is much more conducive to my lifestyle, so I'm sure I'll be back to the impracticality of the living room floor next time.

Per signature garland design, I put little rings on either end of the garland to provide a better way of hanging it from wherever you wish to hang it. When I was designing my first garland, the ends were my hang up, if you'll pardon the pun. Who wants to just end a lovely strand of homemade garland? I noticed another person having something similar and I knew that was the way I wanted to go. You will find little rings at the end of all my garland designs for a better, more efficient way to hang garland.

I designed this pattern for Crochet Spot and have only now submitted it for review. Sometime over the next few weeks it will be made available for free to anyone who wants to try their hand at it.

I also have a listing for the garland up in my Etsy where you can buy the actual item. Be sure, while you are there, to check out the other garlands and items I have available!

So what do you think about my latest design? Come back soon and I will have links up for how you can find both the pattern and purchase the garland!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Retro Fashion Sketches Inspired By Retro Dresses | 60's Fashion

Your's, Mine, and Ours (1968) is one of my favorite movies. There are a lot of things I appreciate about it, like how the children are more respectful and they don't paint large families as uncontrollable and wild. But as a self-proclaimed fashion aficionado, it's a great blast from the past, as they say.

While watching the film the other night I had an idea to draw a few sketches of similar design. The sketches above are the result. Later I took watercolor pencils and gave the sketches some color.

If you are not familiar with the movie, each girl is based after one of the oldest girls in the movie: Rosemary, Louisa, and Colleen. Rosemary was dark-haired and she wore her hair long, while Louisa wore hers short. Colleen was a red-head and wore hers long as well but with short bangs.

Let me show you a few screenshots from the film that particularly inspired these dresses.

Rosemary is the one in center in the light purple dress. I took the color from this one but the design of my sketch for her was a mix of them all. Notice that Louisa is in yellow, a color she wears many times.

This shot is the one that inspired Louisa's yellow dress. Now that I look at it, I had intended on making my sketch of her sleeveless like this one but I somehow lost that thought by the time I got to her.

I like Rosemary's dress here also, by the way. The color is unique, and the style with the puffed sleeves and detailed front looks like a modernized Victorian dress.

Unfortunately, I was unable to get a good shot of Colleen's dress full length, but this is partially the dress that inspired my sketch. She often wears baby doll style dresses in pink. Frankly I find it funny to put a red-head in pink, since I am a red-head who looks terrible in pink. But I've learned that there are green-eyed red-heads and blue-eyed red-heads, and the blue-eyed can wear the cooler tones. But that's alright, I am happy with my earthy tones.

Here is a mini-shirtdress Colleen wears with ankle length stockings and flats.

Now here is a change of style for her - a terribly cute outfit consisting of a beige sweater and orange plaid mini-skirt. She is also wearing stockings and flats.

For a toned down mood, she wears a simple pale yellow button-up with a pair of stylish but casually loose gray slacks.

In this last picture, she wears a dress very similar to the one I drew. Only unless I recalled it from memory, I didn't see this till I had finished my sketch. Upon closer inspection, you can see that her dress is striped with orange.

One thing that I included in every sketch was a headband. This was the era where no matter what hairstyle you wore, if you wanted to be stylish, wear a headband. This is also a good example of late 60's makeup.

Rosemary wears a deep teal here in keeping with the dark colors she is often seen in. It's an interesting look with its white edging and low waist. She also wears a choker style necklace with a gold pendant. For once she is not wearing a headband, but I like it as well.

And lastly, Louisa wears a loose fitting tank top with slacks while Rosemary wears another low-waisted dress. Come to think of it, hers here looks a little like what I had in mind, so I must have been recalling from memory after all. I have seen it a good many times... But I still can't name all of the characters. Can you?

Lucille Ball wears a simple but lovely plaid, linen dress during this scene.

The little girls and boys in this film were so adorable. This was when kids wore cute clothes instead of miniature adult clothes. You'll see big, rounded collars, pastel plaids on summer dresses, and dark plaid button-ups, just too cute!

I tried to cut down the pictures I chose to share in this post (you wouldn't believe it, right?), but I could definitely have added more. With so many ages and personalities, this movie is a plethora of retro inspiration. In fact, because of the many characters I think it is a good example of all around life in this time period. And that's why I like it.

It's great fun looking back over the years of history and discovering things about it that are no longer a part of our modern culture. Not only am I fascinated by retro clothing, but I love to find out how they used to eat and live in days past. In some ways life hasn't changed much. But in other ways, there are pieces of history that are completely lost.

What's your opinion of lost history? What do you think about my sketches? Are you a retro fashion lover like me? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below or comment on any of my social medias. Find links at the top, right of the page!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Mixed Media Collage, Strawberries, and What's on My Mind

My plans have been changed again. Instead of introducing to you my latest mixed media project, all I can offer is another episode of WIP's. But even so, I am happy that I am able to blog at all today. I hurt my neck Monday night and have been practically useless over the last three days, dealing with neck pain and headaches. However, I thank God that it wasn't one of the worst times I've had.

Just so you know that I do have crafts in the making, I'm going to show you a few pictures of what I have been working on.

The pictures are not really good but then again I wasn't prepared to take pictures like this, added to the fact that it has clouded up and begun to rain. I am the worst at taking progress pictures, and even though I scold myself on it consistently, I still forget to take them. There is also the fact that I most often work at nights when lighting is terrible.

What I am working on here is a nautical collage of some of my favorite inspirational quotes. I had this idea when I saw the collage in the store. Then I ran across a collection of maxims in the Journals of Jim Elliot that just fit. I can't wait to have it finished so I can show you all.

My next pattern for Crochet Spot revolves around strawberries. I always tend to think of strawberries around spring, maybe more than flowers in general. But I will go into detail about this project when I am finished.

I realize that I haven't done a Ginger Peachy pattern in a while and I am not happy about that. The two pillows I did last for Crochet Spot were quite involved and took me a long time and a lot of work to design. By the time I was finished with one it was time to start on the next. This months is going to be a little simpler, though hopefully just as cute.

I have a couple of patterns that I have been working on little by little for Ginger Peachy, but so far they have been getting a back seat. I was working on the baby blanket Monday before I injured myself, but I hope to have that one available in my store soon enough. I guess we'll just have to wait and see how much I can get done.

Frustrations Leading to Conclusions

It's really hard having to spend many days unable to do anything. I get frustrated, feeling useless and burdensome to my family. They are always good to me, making sure I take it easy and do what is best for quick healing. But day after day of doing nearly nothing takes its toll. Yesterday I was getting terribly disheartened. It's at these moments when your emotions are low and depression sets in. It was a real struggle at times to keep from feeling sorry for myself and giving in to depression.

However, today has been equally difficult in a way, because though I am feeling well, I fail to see the importance of what I do. There are many times when I struggle with this, whether my work is really important or not. When I'm not getting a whole lot of business, I wonder if I am wasting my time. I understand the answers to all that. My family has told me time and again not to worry, my work is important, and if I am doing what God has given me a talent for then I am were I should be. I do believe that my work pleases Him, only at times it's easy to forget.

This morning I was recalling my first passion, to become a missionary. I used to tell people that when I was young and they asked, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" A missionary, and yet here I am, stuck doing nothing because of pain. How ironic. But then again, maybe not so ironic.

We are only good to God when He can use us. He can only use us when we are humbled before Him. The flesh of man is proud and not given to humility. It's the hard things in life that teach a person humility. I think of people who are bedridden for long periods, or life, and I am ashamed at my tendency to despair. Joni Eareckson Tada comes to mind at these moments, a woman who has been paralyzed for many, many years. You would think she, above all, has a reason to lose heart. And yet, I remember reading in her book, Joni, that she has had to deal with it and watch God prove sufficient again and again. 

These moments, which at times seem hopeless, are how God teaches me. Really, one does not choose to be a missionary like one would choose to be a scientist or engineer. You may have a heart for it, but the training for a life serving God and being a tool in His hand is something you can't get a degree in, or ever fully accomplish. It's a life of continual learning.

I think of how churches plan mission trips where they take young people to a place somewhere else, in another state or another country, and the young people work, teach, share a little of their bounty, and feel good about themselves. Then they come home feeling godly and go on with their normal lives. Until the next mission trip. 

Looking at serving God in this manner greatly narrows it's importance. What is more impacting to people, arriving in your groups with your personalized t-shirts, doing some helpful things, maybe sharing some resources with them, and leaving, or choosing to change your life for them, like the Elliot's in Ecuador, or Amy Carmichael in India? Showing people Jesus takes more than a quick trip and a gospel tract, it takes getting in the mud with them, living in a hut if that's how they live. To become a caring person instead of a self-righteous stranger, you must get down off your pedestal and join them in the field.

And that's what scares me. Do I love God enough to let go of the things that make my life comfortable? 

Recently, I read about a man in the In Touch ministry highlights who gave up his well-to-do business to spread the gospel to villagers in the Congo. He said the last thing he gave up was his memory foam mattress, his "final sacrifice of first-world comfort." He and his wife live in constant danger from warring tribes and deal with typhoid and malaria. 

With my neck problems and headaches, flesh would say, "You couldn't take it anywhere else. Stay where you are comfortable." I ask myself, could I sleep on a simple mat on the floor like many a poor villager would? Could I, who am concerned about eating good food and taking care of my body with healthy products, survive on whatever my poor hosts have to offer? I have a million and one questions I could ask of myself, and I am sure you could think of some hard ones for your too.

Actually, this direction of thought has been on my mind a lot lately. I have been reading in the various passages* of the gospels where Jesus says you must "forsake all" to follow Him. For a very long time, this question of what "all" is has had me thinking and praying. My Matthew Henry commentary has been by my side as I read and wonder about these passages. Yes, God must be first, but it has to be more than words, it has to be an understanding. On Mark 1:16-20, Matthew Henry says, "We must sit loose to the world, and forsake everything that is inconsistent with our duty to Christ."

Sit loose to the world...

Granted, being a missionary doesn't always have to mean far away countries and isolated villages. There are ways to serve God that may not even involve coming out of your comfort zone. Instead of bolstering your courage and passionately committing to do that uncharacteristic thing like moving to a third-world country, you could try something a little more at home. Actually, right at home. Being a missionary is about sharing the gospel, and it is about ministering. How many times have we berated ourselves for not being out there in the midst of danger when there are souls here at home than need our comfort. It is all too easy for people to reach out to help the needy and forget about the "needy" waiting for them at home. I find that this is where the rubber meets the road. I tell myself often, if you can't reflect God here at home, what makes you think you can in the field?

Somehow, the souls of strangers and bigger sacrifices come to mean more than the souls of those you know and what we consider smaller sacrifices. It gives us a surge of passion to think of what God might do through us in an out-of-the-ordinary situation, but why should He do any less through us for the people we live with? If I can't live like Christ in familiar territory, then I won't be able to in unfamiliar territory.

I realize that I have gotten a little deep. I've strayed a little from craft projects and neck pain, haven't I? If you are still with me, then I thank you. These are important matters to me and I feel like they should be equally important to my fellow Christians. In the process, I have bared my heart. I understand that not all will agree with my conclusions. Feel free to let me know what you have on your mind. 

I hope you realize that the "great" things I have spoken here are lessons that I need to learn. I constantly recall a saying that I have been unable trace it's origin, "You teach best what you most need to learn." And boy, do I have a lot to learn!

*Matthew 4:18-22, 10:37-39, 16: 24, 19:27-29; Mark 1:16-20, 8:34, 10:21,28-30; Luke 5:6-11, 9:23, 18:28-30, 14:26-33.