Tuesday, December 29, 2009


For those of you who worry when I'm silent (2 weeks! Longer than I thought!), I send out snowy greetings from central PA. We're just enjoying the holidays. And I'm trying to clean instead of compute (though that's not really what I do with that computer of mine).

And. AND! We're not in the hospital this week. The powers that be have decided Reuben is done with chemotherapy. It all depends on the behavior of that bad little tumor, of course, but I'm still hoping it's gone for good. We'll take a magnetic look at it on Thursday, and on and on until someone feels confident.

Hope your holiday has been cozy. We are happy to report that, for our family's first Christmas with a fireplace, Santa most definitely found us. Because those girls have been very, very good this year, and deserved it all.

Monday, December 14, 2009


Unfortunately, my "hey, maybe I'll catch up" week was spent in the hospital with that baby of mine. An all-day clinic visit on Monday for some IV fluids after a crazy weekend of diarrhea didn't quite stave off the mess, so when he woke up with fever and vomiting, we headed to the hospital at 3 am Tuesday. We just made it home Friday night with a bit of begging.

In we went for IV antibiotics, blood transfusions of both the platelet and RBC sort, make-up fluids, and a myriad of nighttime interruptions. Wednesday night was a little hairy--a temperature of 105'F, for instance--but by Thursday we just had a lingering not-too-high and not-always temperature and a waiting pattern for 24-hours-without-fever and a more robust white-cell count (ANC=0). The blood cultures never grew anything nasty, so we think we're just dealing with a virus now. Reuben stayed smiley and flirty and breastfeeding well throughout, which kept me from getting too scared. He was especially helped by a nice red cell transfusion which had him jumping on the bed within a half hour of beginning. He spent much of the next couple of days wishing he wasn't on a 3' tether in a 6' room. I spent a bit of time myself wishing I wasn't on a 5' sleeping chair...but we had a good view. And favorite nurses. Could be worse, friends.

Ay, we are behind on life! But Nathan happily scheduled a cycling club (advises the local university team) meeting at our house for Friday night and I came home to a clean house and cute college kids, including one making rainbow snowflakes with the happy-to-be-up-late girls. Then on Saturday, I even coerced the girls into helping fold the mammoth pile of laundry in my basement on Saturday. Gradually catching up...though the always-effective approach of staying up late the last couple of nights will not last.

I have been just so happy to be home. And Christmas-ing. I love it.

Monday, December 7, 2009

art buttons--children's gifts

Chemo last week went pretty well, in the usual awful ways, but R came home with a nasty GI bug and N has been pathetically ill with a sore throat, so we've been just barely on the joy side of Christmas preparations (I owe that to the girls, who have been delightful decorators and super mama supporters).

I have to confess, though, that the highlight of my weekend was the receipt on Friday of 100 shiny buttons from etsy seller Felt and Paper. I loved the buttons we've had made for Marian's transplant support, both the superstar and shine variations, and have been scheming for a good reason to make more.

The time has arrived! Christmas friend gifts.I gave each girl a stack of cardstock, cut into quarters, and put out watercolors and colored pencils. They played around until they came up with two images each that we agreed would make good buttons (the watercolored images came out especially nice when shrunk and translated into buttons).

There are several etsy sellers that will make custom buttons for you. I chose Felt and Paper, and could not be happier with her customer service, accessibility, turnaround time (less than a week; you still have time!), and product quality. I searched for "custom 1.25 buttons" and chose her listing from the results. (this photo is not as crisp as the actual product)

We're going to mount them on cards for the girls to give to their friends as holiday gifts. I think they count as handmade.

This kind of turned into a plug for
Felt and Paper, which was neither requested nor intended, but I really think the good experience I had with the seller made the project, so am going to describe the details of that below.


(1) Her price was great. I paid $30 + $5 shipping for 100 buttons. They're slightly more per for smaller quantities; she does as few as 10 buttons for $5.

(2) She was willing to make up to 5 designs, which we did: 20 each for my shop and M&A's 4 designs.

(3) She was willing to do the Printshop work. I submitted jpeg images, which in my case were just carefully cropped photos of our artwork because I don't have a scanner. There is a photoshop template for 1.25" buttons that some sellers request, but I don't have Photoshop and am clumsy with my free-download replacement (gimp) that I use in a pinch. She did say it was helpful that our images had white all around them for the resizing. Since the girls' art wasn't really round-ish and they were attached to the whole image and I wanted their little initial signatures to show, we asked her to make sure our whole image was showing on the front of the button.

I will choose her again because

(4) She was crazy-quick fulfilling the order.

(5) These buttons are bee-you-tiful. Crisp images, even in the tiny detail of the girls' initials and my shop name along the edge of mine (her suggestion). Perfectly centered and assembled. Delivered with a personal note in individual ziplocs. I'm addicted to ziplocs, my very favorite plastic.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


*It was crazy warm for the end of November here today. SUNSHINE.

*The kids' Thanksgiving craft was a favorite of mine from childhood that somehow I've missed doing with the girls. Crayon shavings ironed between layers of waxed paper. We spent the holiday with good friends in Maryland and I loved seeing the row of little girls shaving away at crayons. One had a proper sharpener, one a vegetable peeler, and one a butter knife to make their waxy curls and scraps. We set the timer for 3 minutes, and then they had to trade. It was good stuff. Lesson learned: it takes much less crayon than you might think. Thinner wax is lovelier & more translucent.

*I'm reading Anne Lamott's Traveling Mercies: Thoughts on Faith and love it so. She's such a marvelous writer; I fell in love when I read Operating Instructions, pregnant, and this second book of hers has not disappointed. She has a wry, poignant way of sharing the truths about life that we both, in the intimacy of our author and reader friendship, recognize. It has made me very happy this weekend. Though of course the sunshine has helped and all of those other good things about my life.

*Like a very favorite family of ours coming home from a 9-month sabbatical in South Africa TODAY and showing up at our door a couple of days before we expected them. We were mad at them for leaving us, but now crushing all over again because they are marvelous and now forgiven. So much good squealing.

*Speaking of great evenings, please do come project this Thursday night again, if you're a local. The last Christmas Elves workshop was marvelous; everyone brought their own projects and we just sat around the table and talked and stitched or glued or wrapped or just talked. E-mail me if you're coming; you're welcome anytime for any part of 7:30-11:00.

*The Reu and I are hospital bound tomorrow morning (regular scheduled chemo) & will be back on Thursday morning. He is suddenly a walker and I'm not sure how we're going to survive this tethered-to-a-pole-in-the-little-room-for-3-days thing together. Together, I suppose :). We had a bit of a scare about enhancement on the MRI he had a couple of weeks ago, but last week's surgeon visit was encouraging. It looks like we're just seeing post-surgical healing & "normal" tissue regrowth--scar tissue & such, not tumor growth. So we're just blithely assuming all is well until we hold our breaths waiting for the results of the next one in a couple of weeks. Stupid cancer. Awesome little boy.

Have a great week.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Goates Family Project Fair

Last week, each member of our family received this in our e-mail inboxes. A challenge from our 11-year-old:

Welcome to the first ever Goates Family Project Fair!

Your goal is to create a project based on anything, as long as it goes under the theme. There will also be specific guidelines you must follow. Here is a list of all the information you will need to get started.

Theme: Dinosaurs
  • If your project is a poem, it must have a research page, an illustration, or a trivia, or be a booklet of poems.
  • Science projects must have a research page.
  • No project can be done together with two Goates, with the exception of Reuben.
  • Projects must take plenty of time and effort.
  • Name must be printed neatly on project;either in an inconspicuous place or in small print in a corner. Names may also be written in a small print byline.
  • December 20th- type of project
  • January 20th- topic
  • February20th- outline
  • March 20th- full project

If you reply to this e-mail, please make sure it is sent to each receiver of this message, not just to me.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask them!

We're organizers, the Goates girls...

Hmmm...I'm currently thinking of a cloth book of dinosaur poetry. Haikus are usually my go-to format, but I'm quite the impromptu lyricist these days, so I might get more ambitious (read: crazier verse).

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

filling my lamps

The (handcarved! with oak leaves and acorns!) mantle in our new cottage has two plugs on the wall up there, so the purchase of a new pair of lamps was definitely pending. Especially since there is no overhead lighting in our living room, and my light-loving self is getting rather weary of this dark, winter-pending dreariness. I had such lamp angst, which is not really surprising, since I always have decorator angst, but am tickled with my final decision.

A crafty decision. An acorn-crafty decision. How could it be wrong?

I've admired fillable glass lamps that have been popping up here and there. Like this nice Atrium Lamp from Pottery barn, which is extremely awesome. But both the size and price have been bigger than I had in mind.

Luckily for my mantle and dark living room, that baby had an appointment yesterday in Philadelphia* and we made the requisite stop at IKEA Conshohoken on the way home.
I (heart) IKEA maybe a little too much. But what's a girl to do when they keep on bringing such delights as this cheerful alpine fabric (the one I used for the backdrop in today's photos)--with goats, no less! Lots of great textile series there right now.

Back on topic: I picked up a pair of JONSBO EGBY lamps for $19.99 each. Larger glass bases in the same series are also available for $39.99 and $49.99. I like their proportions better, but they were way too big. This lamp, at 13", is just the right size for its allotted space.
Here's mine:

These lamps aren't designed to be fillable, but the situation is workable with a little creativity. The top doesn't screw off, like with fillable lamps, but the bottom is open, and the electrical gadgetry is well-enclosed, so I am not worried about increasing the fire risk.Step one: Fill 'er up. I chose (surprise!) acorns. I emptied the basket from my seasonal table, then had to go to the garage to borrow a bit from the 2007 harvest (2008 had very few acorns. Fascinating story).Step two: Cover that hole. I pulled a couple of metal discs from the recycling bin that were just the right size: the metal caps from juice concentrates. I love those things: no sharp edges, all perfect roundness. I used a few dabs of melted goo from my mini glue gun to attach it. Hot glue doesn't do a great job attaching very smooth things together, especially when you let it cool just a wee bit, which was exactly what I wanted: I can easily separate them when I fancy another fill, but for now it keeps my acorns in and their dust off my mantle. (Ay, excuse the photo. It was getting dark, and I was tripping over kids).Quite lovely, methinks.Suitable for a variety of collections. Like Littlest Pet Shops ;).After I stop giggling at myself, I think I'll replace the poor trapped animals (there was some disgruntlement from the girls) with red glass marbles. Very holiday. Plus the husband requested it. He thinks acorns are drab, but too bad for him.

A good glow to enjoy.(That mantle is cluttered with inspiration bits for the walls and such. This room is not done (oh, those bare walls!), but sometime before the next millenium I'll have a great finished mantle to show off to you...)

*last week's MRI showed dreaded enhancement, so we had to meet with our surgeon to discuss and maybe biopsy. This broke my heart, so I didn't even tell my mom, but the official-for-now thought on the glowing area is that it's just showing "normal" post-operative cell growth: healing after surgery. Huge sighs of relief here. MRIs every 4 weeks, so it's being watched very carefully, but there is no palpable mass, and it's in a place that should show if it grows (scapula).

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Christmas elves' workshop--Thursday!

Life is a bit week-by-week right now, but Thursday LOOKS GOOD and I'd love for you to join me for a little crafting action. Please, bring your own projects to work on and know I'll have tables and the depth of my crafting world of supplies to help you out. Sit and chat if you could just use that. I'll have hot cider & lots of handmade mugs. 7:30- 11:00 pm as you like.

Following the schedule I posted earlier, I'm going to start an Amish puzzleball for Reuben (The image above was one of many I found online, this from amy.gunson's flickr photostream; a good tutorial I found is here). I have some beautiful fabrics I want to use bits of and I think it will be great for him learning to catch. I also want to finish up a wee felt animal for Audrey that I started in the hospital last week (I finished Audrey's rainbow of birds), and if you don't have a project, but want one, I suggest a bit of felt handsewing. It's great for beginners. I have grand patterns for Christmas gift making, both my own and purchased, like this book
image from amazon.com

or the entire handsewing for fun patterncard series
image from weewonderfuls.com

Bring your own felt (Joann's wool blend felt is 30% off in a very rare sale), or use some of mine for $2 (I have a good hoard,but wool felt is $$ and mostly mailorder). Regular craft felt will work fine, but it's not as dense, so harder to work with in some ways. But moths won't eat it (this has happened to me), and it's cheap & widely available.

If you're coming, please let me know so I can plan accordingly: three_goats@yahoo.com

Monday, November 16, 2009

begin again

I cannot say I've been entirely etsy inactive, because I still buy there, but my little shop has been empty and sad for lo, these many months...

But the Christmas shopping season is here, so I'm finally listing the rest of last spring's pottery efforts. Those lonely little mugs and bits have been packed away during the move, but have recently found a home on (the top, out-of-baby's-reach-shelves of) my new birch shelves, patiently waiting for me to find them new homes. Half of the kiln-load has wandered away as hostess or thanks for visting! or birthday gifts, but a nice little congregation of creatures is still with me, and I will be listing them a few at a time (as the extremely grabby baby--or when he sleeps--allows) over the next 2 weeks.

I'm not doing any custom work right now, but if you see something in the photos you are particularly interested in, convo me on etsy & I'll let you be first to know when I list it.

(more complete photos in the next post)


Something new: parade bowls. These are larger--about 6 1/2" rim-to-rim.
2 birdbaths: rimmed & eggshell
Sweet company mugs, for those who would prefer to go crazy with the spoon and not worry about their little buddies.
Sheep (this kiln got extra-hot and the sheep suffered most, so will list as seconds--the pink glaze is thin at top & the greens very thick at the bottom, so the sheep are standing in tall grass...).
Mice, flower hedgie & owl
Crocheted lace details--burned out in the firing. I experimented with different glazing techniques, and, in the end, liked best the ones I left raw on the outside, but I love them all and will do more.
And a miscellany of extras
I made many leaf-pressed mini bowls, but most of them went out already in baby gift sets. Two left:
Lots of good fairy bowls. Some will be sold in sets, some individually.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

every moment

In an effort to squeeze the creative juice out of every moment, Marian and I painted in the car during Audrey's guitar lesson. I cut and outlined, and Marian filled in. They match our invitations: we're having a wee party on Saturday, limiting our invites to those with Reuben friends--other homes with babies (and a couple of especially devoted Reuben followers). Some preparations must be made.There was also some snacking.(the view from the top; once I get around to it, R can now be a front-facing rider!)

And when Audrey finished, she helped us finish up.And then we went home.
To party!

birthday in the woods

Yesterday morning birthday boy and I escaped to a friend's little corner of the woods, where she is the steward of a farm on the weekends. She is the lovely sort of person whose house looks like this:

(spot one of my bowls? And the fired version of these wee pumpkins?)

We had honey blueberry muffins, lemon tea, wood trucks, and a nice fire inside, followed a quick walk out.
I infinitely preferred the morning to the afternoon. We took a little trip to Hershey to see one of Marian's specialists (her story; I really will force her to catch y'all up on all of her good news soon), and were caught in the cafeteria by a phone call from Reuben's oncologist. Seems we all had ourselves some tangled communication lines, and instead of being done, baby boy has 5 more rounds of chemotherapy. Which means we're only half done poisoning him. We'll start again next week, juggling 2 kids in the hospital (a minor surgery for Marian) at the front end of the week with an MRI and family escape to the Jersey shore at the end of the week. Maybe even a family photo session if I get me proverbial ducks in a row. And to think that I thought next week ("when everything slows down") would be the week I finally listed what I haven't given away (houseguests always get something) of the pottery I finished in my lonely little etsy shop (evidence that it was once active here).

Gird up loins.
Get on with it.

We attended (Nathan spoke at) the funeral of a good friend on Monday, the most eloquent of reminders that biology can be a fearsome foe. As much as I hate chemotherapy, I hate cancer more.