Tuesday, October 25, 2011

And it scares away monsters, too

I designed* and pieced this quilt top in January 2008, several months before its recipient was born. Summer 2010 I gave up and asked my mother-in-law** to do the actual quilting. She came up with this fabulous star pattern just for me, brought the quilt to our new house and proceeded to show me how to finish it by binding it by hand (thanks so much prairie quilter!). Then the quilt sat in my house for a few months and sometime about a year ago, when its recipient was 2 1/2, I actually mailed it.
According to her mother, the recipient loves it and says it keeps away crocodiles or some other monsters.

I present it to you now because it is star year.

*In this case, I designed by combining several published ideas and selecting fabrics. No individual element is original from me.

**Prairie Quilter machine quilts professionally and obviously does a great job. Let me know if you need contact information.

In the sundae sun room

Why we need to have ice cream parties.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Special occasion junkie

A genuine question: how do those of you who never entertain motivate yourselves to clean your house?
I'm becoming more and more convinced that not only do I enjoy planning events, I need them for my sanity (and for the state of my house).
My mental health has been a bit tenuous as of late, which, while certainly unpleasant, is not unusual. [I write this to remind other recent mothers that there is a lot of room between debilitating postpartum depression and some sort of smooth even happiness. Most of us fall in the middle, even those of us lucky enough to have great husbands, healthy children and supportive families. We should banish the added layer of guilt that we feel for having it so relatively easy and yet still feeling the need to cry.] How do I keep it together enough to throw ice cream parties, bake Lady Baltimore cakes and get very excited about upcoming fall break travels to see turning leaves?
Well, by baking cakes, throwing parties and planning trips. That and reading novels.

One of the young women I hired to help clean before last Sunday's sundae party asked, "What, exactly, is this [the party] for?" I was a bit taken aback. If one has a sundae parlor attached to the back of one's house, should one need an additional reason to throw an ice cream party?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

When botanists were rock stars

I've read a great deal about Luther Burbank while preparing for my Economically Important Plants Class*. Burbank (1849-1926), the "Wizard of Santa Rosa", was a plant breeder responsible for russet ("Burbank") potatoes, shasta daisies, white blackberries, stoneless plums and a thousand other specialty plants. Self-taught and some sort of crazy, Burbank was a popular sensation. The Carnegie foundation sent a post-doc (George Harrison Shull, one of the first breeders of hybrid corn and the founder of the journal Genetics) to observe him, both sides of the Scopes Monkey Trial asked him for expert testimony, he was given a professorship at Standford, Swami Paramahansa Yoganda dedicated Autobiography of a Yogi to him, and he went camping (or at least was invited to go camping) with his peers seen here, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, every year. Frieda Kahlo and Diego Rivera both painted him. People bought subscriptions in advance for multi-volume books of his life and works. In 1906 Burbank, a childless bachelor semi-reclusive yet self-promoting plant breeder wrote The Training of the Human Plant, a book about raising children. It was a best seller. It is still quoted today.
His letters allegedly help change federal policy posthumously, 'cause Fiorello LaGuardia wouldn't vote against the wishes of the man he considered, "the outstanding American of his time."
I don't quite get this sensation.
I pretty sure my congressman wouldn't read a book by a plant breeder on plant breeding, much less consider him an expert on other policies.
I doubt any congressman could name a current plant breeder.
Heck, I can't name a current plant breeder and I work in this field.
How times have changed.

In related news, I was a panelist at the Oklahoma Women in Science Conference yesterday (see pg. 21 for everyone's favorite fire-twirling plant ecologist and her sons). Four young women asked for my autograph. Seriously.
Botanists, rock stars, almost the same thing.

*Jane S. Smith's The Garden of Invention is a very readable biography that doesn't shy away from Burbank's oddities, poor financial decision making and the scientific and practical consequences of his work. Mendel in the Kitchen: A Scientist's View of Genetically Modified Foods by Nina Fedoroff and Nancy Marie Brown is an excellent look at the science of transgenic organisms and points out just how "dangerous" and "unnatural" some of Burbank's "traditional plant breeding" was. The Training of the Human Plant is available through the Library of Congress (there is a special Burbank collection there) and is quacky but delightful. Who am I to argue against the idea that children need sunshine, both literally and of love?

Monday, October 3, 2011

STIR some more

If you read Juno's Daughters, let me know so that Tracy and I can include you in the discussion. If you haven't read Juno's Daughters, I think it is worth doing and I will tell you why later.
Lindsey and I just selected The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid (amazon link here) for the October book. This short ( <200 pg.) award winning novel is, again, outside of what I "normally" read, but the reviews are excellent and I'm excited to gain another perspective. Lindsey has recently read her way around the world and is not an American, so although she and I have similar taste in books (we first bonded over Anne of Green Gables and children's fantasy), I'm sure she'll bring some different ideas to reading this one. Please join us.
And on some entirely other notes, The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde is lots of fun. Many of you would enjoy it. Some of you should definitely read The Zygote Chronicles by Suzanne Finnamore as Finnamore's phrases are fabulous in general and truly excellent at describing some of the craziness of pregnancy, I'm just not sure when one should read such a book. I read it quickly while breastfeeding and had to shake my head several times, "Lady, if you think pregnancy makes you crazy, wait until you have a baby. Or a baby and a toddler."