Friday, February 27, 2009

Does this look familiar?

Sunset Over Water, 2009, 6" x 7 1/2"
Today we had a big "pep rally" at the elementary school where I teach. It was our assistant principal's last day before retiring, and the whole school gathered to present her with cards, sing songs, do cheers, etc. It was very cute.

I was thinking of giving her one of my fabric bookmarks, since she will now have more time to read. But when I went upstairs to the sewing zone, there was all the fabric and fiber I had used to make Galveston Sunset. So I decided to make a much smaller version for a gift/card. (When I got to school, I brushed off the extra black "fluff" that had latched on.) Did I mention I did this project in one hour?
On the back, I wrote my wishes for peace and tranquility. I hope that she will enjoy her retirement!


After reading my friend Michelle's blog yesterday, I decided to try this for fun. Google the words "Unfortunately, (your first name) is" . This little experience was something of an ego-buster in my case!

Unfortunately, Jeanne does not offer much in the way of advice as you would expect from an "artist"; however, she is an extremely good hair cutter.

(This was about Hurricane Jeanne!)

Unfortunately, Jeanne can't quite figure it out--she's aided in her impossible task by the crystal skull . . . now a talking crystal skull, which, of course, speaks only to her.

Unfortunately, Jeanne is there at the same time!

Unfortunately, Jeanne's small artistic achievements are undermined by its polemics.
(What does that mean?)

Unfortunately, Jeanne is too late to stop the English from destroying her home village, and with the help of two of her childhood friends she sets out on a journey to drive the English out and save France.

Unfortunately, Jeanne's mother cannot leave her alone, and circumstances contrive to make her run away from the house -- leaving her relationship in limbo, at least for the time being.

Unfortunately, Jeanne passed away in March of 1993 after a long illness, at the age of 58.
(Hey, I am 58!)

Unfortunately, Jeanne was inexperienced and impressionable.

Unfortunately, Jeanne lost.

Unfortunately Jeanne still dies.

Unfortunately, Jeanne and David have moved to Houston.

Unfortunately, Jeanne was doomed to isolation, because everyone was afraid of her.

Unfortunately, Jeanne, it is you who knows so little.

Okay, an exercise in humility! I was going to head upstairs to make some art, but my talking crystal skull says, just go cut someone's hair!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

On Mermaids

I was reading some blog posts by fellow Pamela Allen class member, Ann Grayton of Florida, which got me thinking about mermaids. Ann just finished a fabulous two-tailed mermaid quilt, inspired by the female "nixie" on the Starbucks labels.

I personally had never noticed a mermaid on any Starbucks label, but I usually just drink my coffee at home. Starbucks is for airport terminals or staying in hotels. But, I digress.

My daughter-in-law Emily has a rather vast collection of mermaidabilia. In college, she looked very much like the Darryl Hannah mermaid in Splash. She had the long, wavy blond hair, and also loves to swim. Anyway, I made a mermaid quilt for her when she turned 21 in college. She and Dave were dating, but not engaged yet. I may have made her this little quilt hoping to lure her into sticking with my son.

"Bar Mermaid" was on the screen of her cell phone, which she left at my house after a visit one time, so I used that as the theme. This quilt was so much fun to make. Lots of embellishment, buttons, shiny quilting with sparkly threads on the tail and fins...

and I think she liked it!

Since their marriage, Dave has banned any further mermaids from entering the home, but we still manage to sneak in something mermaidy at almost every birthday. We don't want her to get away!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Come On, Spring!

We continue to alternate between Winter and Spring here in central North Carolina. So many plants and trees have budded and sprouted. My first daffodils bloomed this week.

This is kind of a strange angle because these little guys are only about three inches tall. I don't remember planting any bulbs for that size, but I think I may have bought a pot of them in bloom at the grocery store and then stuck the whole plant in the garden when the flowers died back. They are very cute! The taller ones have buds, but no blooms yet.

And here is the pink camellia that was blooming back before the snows in January. It is trying to bloom again. Most of the buds have a little brown on them, so I hope they are not all spoiled.

Today was my first day of working with students at my new job. It went pretty well. It is amazing how much less tiring it is to just work half a day. I like it!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Fabric Salad

Here is my third project for the Pamela Allen online workshop, "Still Life is Boring-Not!" This time we were to take advantage of fabric's ability to be manipulated, e.g., pleated, rolled, stuffed and more. I really like the carrots I made from dryer sheets painted with Lumiere paint and stuffed, then tied with embroidery floss. The lemon is also a painted dryer sheet. The tomatoes are Dupioni silk with a little stuffing. The lettuce leaves are fabric that was dampened, crumpled into a ball, tied, and dried. I learned that manipulation in a class years ago with Lois Smith. She called it Rumpled-Quilt-Skin. The little green balls (Brussels sprouts?) were cut from a fancy wine gift bag and stuffed. Now I am waiting for The Boss to critique this piece and help me improve it. She has done an astounding job of taking our first rather crude attempts and turning them into pieces of art.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Road to California Winners

Here is a little "quilty" entertainment for you: a slideshow of the winners of this year's Road to California Quilt Show.

Hey, that prize money looks pretty good! Maybe I should get off the 'pooter and start sewing!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Catching Up

This week has been flying by! Going back to work makes the days rather short. So far, all I have done at work is get my teaching space ready. To make room for three extra teachers, they moved the custodians out of their trailer, and we inherited a room that is not in very good condition. Yesterday I brought in some quilts, tablecloths, and artwork to make my third a little softer and prettier. The lead custodian at this school remembers me from when I was the computer teacher at the middle school. I taught the custodians how to use e-mail, Internet, and Word over a period of time when I was there. I guess that kindness is being repaid, because Mr. Watkins has been going out of his way to move things around, find me tables and chairs, adjust furniture heights, and has promised to shampoo the carpet before the kids arrive.

Anyway, here is a wrap-up of our trip to the mountains last weekend. Last Friday, Charlie and I spent the whole day in West Jefferson and Boone. One of the first things we noticed on our drive was a new Quilt Barn at the N.C.Mountain Research farm near our home.

Charlie paid some client visits, we ate lunch with my brother John in Boone, and then we spent a couple of hours with my father at his apartment in a retirement community. He needed help with a few things on his computer. Before I left, he had a shortcut to my blog on his desktop, and we got him into Facebook! It looks like he is having fun with that already.

And here is my Valentine, which is a watercolor painting of our house here in Wake Forest. He did it during a craft night at the retirement center. I can just see all of those elderly ladies cutting out doilies and pink foil hearts, and my father producing this beautiful painting! (He is a retired commercial artist.)

It is actually 3-D. The house sticks out from the background because of a bit of foam core behind it. You know I love this picture!

Once again we had beautiful weather to begin the weekend, which started out rather mild, and ended up with snow on Sunday night. On Saturday and Sunday, we spent almost all our time outdoors. I love it when hunting season is over and we can roam the woods without fear of being mistaken for a deer or wild turkey. Usually, we ride the same route on the Gator as we go to the top of the mountain on my brother-in-law and sister's land, then ride down through the Christmas tree farms and neighbor's property with permission. This time, no one was up there, and we did a little more exploring.

I may have mentioned before that there used to be a mine at the top of the mountain, called "Ore Knob." It produced mostly copper, but also silver and gold. The two shafts have been filled in now, but the damage to the environment from the mine lives on. Apparently sulphur was a by-product of the mining process. On the "other side of the mountain" there is a vast wasteland called the "Sulphur Flats." This has typically been a place to ride 4-wheelers and hunt. One of my fondest memories was of riding horses with Charlie, Katy, and Kenny across the mountain and the sulphur flats when we were in our twenties. But, below the flats, the run-off stream is full of sulphur.

It has poisoned Big Peak Creek at the point (well below our place) where the run-off stream flows in. No fish there. Finally, the federal government has provided a grant to clean up this toxic waste area. They are digging down, piling clean soil and mulch on top, and changing the terrain. It was interesting to watch this going on after decades of no activity in this area.

Then we followed the logging trails around and spent a long time hiking along the creek. It was absolutely gorgeous.

Here are Charlie and Ricky (and Maggy) on one of the big rocks near the creek, probably picturing themselves bow-hunting there next fall. Mary and I were wowed by the scenic locations and were picturing picnics with the grandkids.

And here is one more picture of a strange sight. You never know what you are going to see going down our road. On our way back from breakfast at the cafe, we ran across this big fella who had escaped from his pasture. He was about twice as big as my Subaru and enjoying a leisurely stroll down the street!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Galveston Sunset

No Wednesday Work-in-Progress today...I finished this piece last night!
Galveston Sunset, 2009, 17" x 22"
This one needs to be shipped today for a presentation on Saturday, so I have been working hard for the last couple of days since returning from our mountain trip.
The quilt is based on photographs of the view from the recipient's house in Galveston, Texas. The home was destroyed during Hurricane Ike last year. The homeowners say that what they missed the most was watching the sun set over the water of Galveston Bay.

I had a short turn-around time on this one, but once I decided on my method, it came together quickly. After several unsuccessful attempts to layer or paint fabric, I decided to build the backgrounds using my Babylock Embellisher. I had some beautiful hand-dyes that I used for the sky, strip of land, and water. I needle-punched these to a batting background, and then started layering various sheer and shiny fabrics and fibers on top.
The sun is white satin that has some colored sheers overlaid.

The reflections in the water also include some Angelina and Tinzl for sparkle.Once the backgrounds were completed, I rough-cut the pilings and birds and strip of land. The slightly frayed edges of the fabric help to give the look of old wood and landscapes. (Thank you, Pamela Allen, for introducing me to scissors again!)

I painted the dog and pier with a combination of Tsukineko inks, colored pencils, and fabric markers. I wanted a little texture on the planks of the pier, so I cut up some gray knit gloves and stitched them down, and covered the whole dock with black tulle.

Because of the time constraints, I combined machine applique with machine-quilting. I used some shiny rayon threads that really add some gleam. For the back, I also used some hand-dyed fabric that resembles sea and sky. Most of the bobbin threads blend with the backing fabric, but the black outlines show up nicely for some "back art."

I started my new job yesterday, and was delighted to find that I am sharing my classroom with the same teacher as last year. She is also retired and about my age. We also have a lovely younger teacher who is joining us this year. We have already gotten the classroom set up in just half a day. Soon we will meet the kids who will be our students, but I am not sure when we actually begin having classes.

I have lots and lots of mountains pics and adventures to blog about, plus a nice hand-painted card from a special artistic Valentine to share next time.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I spent part of the afternoon packing up for our long weekend in the mountains. Then, I got an e-mail that I am supposed to start work at my teaching job tomorrow! I sat around acting antsy until I finally got the principal on the phone at 4:15. He was fine with me not starting until Tuesday. What a nice guy!

So, my hours will be 1:00-4:00. Not bad! I will be sharing a trailer with two other teachers.

Enjoy your weekend, and I will check back in early next week with some mountain pics. We are not expecting the wintry weather of our last visit, but it is extremely windy here today. Maybe we will get a tail wind to push us up the mountain! There is no hunting this weekend, so I hope we will spend a lot of time gazing at some favorite views from the mountaintop.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Wednesday WIP-Pamela Allen Class Updates

I am learning so much by taking a second online class with Pamela Allen. The assignments are proving to me that I don't know as much as I would like to about the elements of art. I am still trying to get the light and shadows to work in my Lesson One still life. If you look closely, you can see that I tried using a pearl gray sheer over several areas. Pamela says it needs to be darker to present more contrast. Notice I made the leaves of the schefflera much larger, added some shading, and tried to represent my other giant kitchen plant, a Norfolk Island pine. And I keep adding height to the windows. Each time I do, I have to paint some more windowpane fabric!

Well, even though Lesson One is still a Work-in-Progress, I have begun Lesson Two. This time we were to use fabric in muted colors that contained a visible line. We were to try to manipulate the fabric to convey shapes, curves, etc. in another still life. If you are interested in the process I used, here is my progression on this composition.

I decided to feature one of my McCoy pottery basket-weave flower pots and one of the many spider plants that keep unashamedly reproducing in my house. It was not too easy to make a curved shape like the vase out of striped fabric, but I kept trying. When I looked at this, I decided there was too much going on.

So, then I tried removing the background view from the window (Poof!) and just allowing the window to be a light space. I liked that better, but did not really have a good feeling about the upper part of this piece.
So, I cropped off the upper section, and filled the space with close-up pots and plants. And, when I sent it in for critique, Teacher approved it on the first try with no tweaking needed! Hooray!

And, today I also got a good start on the commissioned piece for my sister's church. I will try to get it ready for stitching by tomorrow when we leave for a long weekend in the mountains. It has to be in Greensboro by a week from Saturday, so I have to make some quick decisions. And I am happy to say, I am more confident in planning this composition with all the art quilts that have been submitted and critiqued by members of this class.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Feeling the Love

As I made my way through my e-mail this morning, I found two lovely surprises. First, someone from Webshots, my photo-hosting site, informed me that one of my quilt pictures was featured as the Members' Choice photo in the Quilts category this week.

This is the featured photo. I have no idea how these "Members Choice" albums or photographs are selected. I have been chosen for Members Choice three or four times now. I think it has something to do with the number of photographs you have stored on Webshots, or perhaps the number of times they are viewed. My most viewed album is my Round Robin album, which shows the growth of each participant's quilt from their center block to the completed top. It has been viewed almost 25,000 times!

Here is the whole quilt. The top was made by my friend and quilt bee member, Marilyn Featham. I loved quilting the baskets in all the pretty spring shades!

Also this morning, my blogging friend Susan Loftin at Sunrise Quilt Studio nominated me for the Life is Grand Award. It is a pleasure to be nominated for these, but I had just about decided not to participate in the passing along of these awards.

I know it is a way to increase readership of your blog. I decided to participate this time because it requires a little personal reflection about life. Like Confession, I believe Reflection is good for the soul!

The rules are that I have to list five reasons why my life is "grand", and then pass it on to five more people.

1. It is all about family. The big, loving family with wonderful parents that I was born into; the small but growing family that Charlie and I have been blessed with; and the extended family that includes all my in-laws and their children and grandchildren. I have a wonderful ready-made group of people who love, support, and share their lives with me.

2. Okay, Charlie was included in #1, but he deserves a separate entry all to himself. We met at N.C. State University in Raleigh when he was a sophomore and I was a freshman, but we did not start dating until the next year. We were married at the end of my junior year. He dropped out and went to work until I graduated, and then he went back. Starting out as poverty-stricken students is not the easiest way to begin a marriage, but we sure had fun with not much money. We have shared life together for almost 38 years now, and I am grateful for having this big strong smart funny handsome man with me on my journey through life.

3. I love the wonder of nature and God's creations. My blog readers know that I get excited about seeing birds and sunsets and flowers and deer and...

4. All my life I have loved to create things, but when I discovered quilting, I embarked on a life-long passionate journey. If I don't get a chance to work with art or my quilts, I get crabby! It is a huge part of my life. It allows me to make nice things for all those folks in #1 (and many others), and a lot of that is because the guy in #2 has cooked a lot of meals over the years.

5. There are so many books and so little time...Life is Grand if I have a good book to dive into! I have been an obsessive reader since I was a little girl reading all the cereal boxes while eating breakfast, and going through all the Bobbsey Twin adventures.

Now to pass this along...if you would like to participate, please consider yourself tagged. It is an interesting exercise to come up with five things that you think make life grand. Take a few minutes and try!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Showered with Gifts

Charlie and I drove to Greensboro, NC, on Saturday to spend the night with my sister Katy and her husband. Then on Sunday, we went to the baby shower for Katy's daughter Melinda. It was lots of fun---and quite unusual, because most of the young women there were either toting their babies with them, or were also expecting. Whole lotta estrogen in the house! The hostesses had made the cutest centerpiece for a baby shower...rolled-up diapers in tiers like a cake, with little rattles and toys tucked in!

I did not quite finish all the projects I started for Melinda's baby, but it took a BIG bag to hold what I had.
First out of the bag was a throw pillow. I hope Melinda has a rocking chair in the baby's room...forgot to ask!

Then a couple of sheets- one handmade!- and the dust ruffle for the crib. I had never made a fitted sheet before. That was the easiest of all the projects. The ruffle is made of patchwork, so that took awhile.

She had seen the actual quilt on my blog, but there were a few surprises on it, like the baby's name quilted in the corner.

And I made a little pocket organizer that you can hang from the side of the crib.

I am still "wrastlin" with the baby bumpers for the crib, which are about 180" of puffy mess that need to be tamed with some additional quilting. And the pattern I had the most trouble with is for a diaper stacker. It is all done except for sewing the base on, which does not want to fit. Well, the baby is not due until the end of March!
Here is a baby gift idea I have never seen. Charlotte cross-stitched a sampler, then inserted it in the center of a lovely print to make a baby blanket. The back is flannel and the edge has piping.
We all had a fit over these girly little sandals.

Today I substituted in fourth grade- still have not gotten my starting date for my new job.
Meanwhile, I am supposed to be on part 2 of my Still Life Class, and I am not finished with the first one.
I also agreed to make an art quilt by February 20 featuring a view of the water at sunset and the family dog for a guest speaker at my sister's church. I really need to get going on that one. I have an idea how I will do it. I think the Neocolor II watercolor crayons will work out well for the sky and water.

I hope you all enjoyed your weekend as much as I did with my friends and family.

Friday, February 6, 2009

I have been sewing, sewing, sewing...trying to finish all my surprises for my niece Melinda's baby in time for her showers this weekend.
As I complained to my bee last night, I have run into so many problems lately with pattern directions. Maybe it is just me, but I get to a certain step, and then get totally befuddled. Now, I have been sewing from patterns for close to fifty years, so it is not a lack of experience here. And for what you have to pay for patterns these days, they should make life simpler, not add to the frustration! So, I have two projects that I will try to complete today. Okay, Rant Over.
At our bee meeting last night, we were all thrilled with Jean's completed Chocolate Bunnies applique quilt top. It is so cute! It was a Block-of-the-Month project, but I don't remember the source.
(Note: Jean provided the source of the pattern: Bunny Hill Designs.)
Jean is our local Queen of Applique. She is going to hand-quilt this one. I was hoping I would get to do it for her, but I know she will enjoy working on this one for many days to come.

Yesterday, I received another book I ordered to help me with needle-felting. It is called Uniquely Felt, by Christine White. This is a large volume with 310 pages, full of information about different kinds of fiber and wool, techniques, and projects.
And I finished listening to a wonderful book on tape while I was sewing. Of course, I was drawn by the title, Sarah's Quilt. And the author: Nancy E. Turner. (My maiden name is Turner.) The narrator reads Sarah's words in a voice that sounds like Reba McEntire. It is actually a fiction diary of a widow who is trying to keep her Arizona cattle ranch going in 1906. She comes across as incredibly strong despite many setbacks. The quilting helps her through some difficult times. That part rings very true for many of us quilters. Quilting is cheaper than psychoanalysis!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Return of the Kildeer

Brr- it is cold outside. Last weekend was shirtsleeve weather in the sixties. It snowed Monday and Tuesday nights, just enough to leave a dusting on the grass and roof. On Saturday, it is supposed to be 68 degrees again. Today is SO COLD- but beautiful outside with crystal blue skies. There were many birds scurrying around, including ones I rarely see at the house, like a towhee and a brown thrasher.

We have spring bulbs coming up and camellias trying to bloom on the warm days. Our seasons are so mixed up. With the small lake down the street frozen except for the mouth where the spring waters flow in, I saw Mr. and Mrs. Mallard Duck attempting to start their family. Now, really!

When we first moved into our house here in Wake Forest, it was a former farmland with only seventeen houses. (Now there are more than eighty.) We frequently saw all kinds of wildlife, including deer, fox, and owls. We also had a pair of killdeer. I had to look them up, as I did not know this bird. They have two black stripes on their neck and chest, reminding me of a North Carolina lighthouse.
Anyway, this pair decided to nest along the side of our gravel driveway. Clever of them in a way, because their speckled eggs looked just like the hard gray rocks in the drive. Not too smart of them with teenage drivers and riding mower operators in the household. I used to put stakes around the nests with red streamers to safeguard the nests. When I would walk to the mailbox, the adult birds would either do the "broken-wing" drag, or puff up their feathers and act scary to try to deter me.

I bet I had not seen the killdeer in twelve years, until the last couple of days. They have been checking out locations in the neighborhood, as I have seen them in three different neighbor's yards. Today I could not spot them, but just as I got to our house, I heard the distinct cry of the killdeer overhead. He landed right next to a ditch by the side of the road.

I'm glad they are back! Getting my nesting stakes ready in case they decide to live here again.

I was surprised to find many videos on YouTube documenting the protective acts of the killdeer.

Cool Facts from All About Birds

  • The Killdeer is one of the most successful shorebirds because of its fondness for human modified habitats and its willingness to nest close to people. Because they live so close to people, however, they are vulnerable to pesticide poisoning and collisions with cars and buildings.

  • Gravel rooftops attract Killdeer for nesting, but can be dangerous places to raise a brood. Chicks may be unable to leave a roof because of high parapets and screened drain openings. When adults lure chicks off the roof, the chicks may die from the fall. However, some chicks have been observed leaping from a seven-story building and surviving.

  • The broken-wing act used to lead predators from the nest would not keep a cow or horse from stepping on the eggs. To guard against large hoofed animals, the Killdeer uses a quite different display, fluffing itself up, displaying its tail over its head, and running at the beast to attempt to make it change its path.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Wednesday Works-in-Progress

Remember the Trash to Treasure project that started with a garbage bag? I have completed two more steps. I zigzagged with alternating length and width using variegated thread, and cut away some holes.

This project is interesting, but I am not sure where I am going from one step to the next. We were supposed to use Ferrero Roche gold candy wrappers in the next step, but they are not on the South Beach diet! I painted some paper with metallic gold Lumiere to be ready for whatever we do with it.
One of my trash bag pieces was so large that I cut it up. No need to have a big ol' trash bag to manipulate under the needle.

My guild is hosting the North Carolina Quilt Symposium in May, and we are being asked to enter the Pursesonality challenge- making a purse out of something unusual. I am thinking- how about a garbage bag?

At the same time, I am enrolled in this online art quilt class with Pamela Allen. (Still Life is Boring-Not!) Here is my first lesson, previously posted.
Pamela suggested that I change the orientation of my kitchen scene to highlight the tall kitchen windows. In order to do that, I had to paint some more window-pane fabric. Next I need to make Betty Lou, the schefflera, much grander in size thanks to all that sunlight.

One thing I love about Pamela's classes is the art history education she throws in. She often finds a famous artist's work to compare to ours. This time I got a Picasso. Not that the subject is the same, but she converted it to gray-scale for me to check out the play of light and shadow from the window.

Maybe it is just me, but does anyone else see a Frankenstein head in this scene?

Mysteries Solved

Mystery #1: Death of the Songbirds
Recently, I have been puzzled and distressed by finding three dead birds on my back deck, just behind the suspended bird feeder. They did not have any obvious signs of having been attacked, so I was afraid they had been flying into the tall windows of our kitchen and knocking their little bird brains. However, I believe I now have found the culprit.

I believe this is the cat that belongs to our sloppy next-door neighbors...the ones that still have the deflated swimming pool in the yard. It looked right at home during Christmas, when they put three of those giant electrified inflatable decorations in the yard, which deflated during the day.

Joe promised last summer that they would resume the painting of the house (abandoned two years ago with half yellow, half blue paint job) when they took down the pool and could put up a scaffold. So, I guess they are still trying to put off the paint job.

Observant readers will note that we still have our Christmas lights on the deck, but they stay up all year and look nice all twinkling in white lights while we are entertaining or enjoying a glass of wine outside.

Anyway, this little kitty has been making itself right at home on our front and back porches. I have found him sunning himself from my favorite padded chair in the screened porch, as well. And this is the same one that Maggy chased thirty feet up a tree on the one occasion when she seemed to have enough energy. I have begun calling this cat IT, for Intrepid Trespasser.

Mystery #2: The Case of the Missing Dog Food
The other mystery involved the dog food and bird seed I keep in our garage. We buy cartons of Moist and Meaty at Sam's Club, which has packets of soft dog food in cellophane packets. Several times recently, I picked up a packet to feed Maggy, only to find it half gone. And the last time I picked up a fresh bag of bird seed from the Sam's carton, I left a trail from the back door to the feeder as the seeds dropped out of a little hole in the bag.

That mystery was solved when I walked in the garage and there was IT actually sitting IN the dog food box. She did not even jump out when I approached. She just crouched down behind the flap on the box and acted invisible. That did not work out too well for her.

However, she may have had an accomplice in pet food theft. Another time when I was reaching for the dog food, there appeared to be some activity in the tall plastic trash can I keep by the back door. Bravely climbing the the steps to the house so I could peer down into the trash can, I saw a little field mouse doing vertical leaps like he was on a Pogo Stick. He checked in, but couldn't check out. I suspect Mr. Mousie was the bird seed taster. At least, I hope it was Mr. Mousie and not Mrs. Mousie, who might have found a nice warm spot for her family in the garage somewhere.

This reminds me of something that happened at our previous house in North Raleigh. It was a story-and-a-half, with walk-in attic space available from our bedroom upstairs. One year I opened the bedroom door to get out the Christmas decorations, and was greeted by a family of flying squirrels, leaping from one end of the house to the other like the Flying Zucchini Brothers from the beloved Muppet Show. Isn't it fun when you share your home with wildlife?