Monday, March 19, 2012

The Big Surprise

You know those movies that start off with a scene from later in the movie? That scene freezes, and the movie takes you back in time to then go through the events leading up to that moment.


You see where I’m going with this? I think the above photo from Anne's camera makes for a perfect introductory freeze moment to begin this fun-filled post... a jumping off point, if you will...

As you can see, this post will be starring (from left to right) Anne of A Cup Full of Sunshine, Nicky of The Stitchy Life, Milla of The Girl Who Married a Bear, Amber of Violet Folklore, Heather of Moonshine Junkyard (man, talk about an all-star cast!), and of course a very surprised and elated, yours truly :)

Now let’s back it up to the day before when Lucas told me that he had to make a trip to the hardware store and was taking Clover with him. Trips to the hardware store are one of their little father/daughter things. I usually take the opportunity for some alone time when they go off on these jaunts.

This time, still in the early throws of my new houseplant obsession and having just received some lovely cuttings from a friend, I decided to sneak off after they left, to a thrift store of all places. I had a hunch that this weird junk shop that I hardly ever go to might be a nice source for pots, and I was right.

After browsing the shop’s interior turned up nothing but an odd run-in with a crazy old man collecting Bibles for the rapture (as he very passionately explained to me), I high-tailed it out of there to find a little outdoor junkyard area with stacks upon stacks of ceramic pots. Yay, jackPOT.

Just as I made my discovery and started sifting through the pots, I got the “where are you?” call from Lucas who made up some excuse about needing my help with something that he’d picked up at “the hardware store.” I should come home right away. Of course I said ok, and then went right back to pot browsing. Luckily, I found some nice ones pretty quick and made my way home…


…to discover that Lucas and Clover had not actually gone to pick something up at the hardware store but rather someone up from the airport…


MILLAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!! And as you can see, Clover was keeping her well entertained, haha!

I should admit right now, that this being my 40th birthday and all, I had wanted it to kind of be a big deal. Lucas had told me long before that I didn’t have to worry about it and he would get something together, but he was playing it off very convincingly that there really was no big plan for the weekend and I totally bought it, like to the point where I was secretly (or maybe not sooo secretly ;) bummed about it.

We had seen all our friends at another friend’s birthday shindig the week before and people were asking what I was gonna do for my birthday. Ok, so it’s less than a week away and he hasn’t talked to anyone yet? Oh man, little did I know they were all in on it.

Anyway, walking into Clover’s room and seeing Milla sitting there in the flesh and being able to give her a huge hug and know that I was going to get to spend some real life time with this special friend who I adore so much was the BEST birthday surprise!

Lucas was off the hook, I was happy, even if we just got a few of our friends together at the last minute to go out on Saturday and celebrate, I had Milla there and it was going to be awesome! I. Had. No. Idea.


You’d think that the next wonderful surprise that evening, Amber and Heather showing up at the door with Amber’s sweet daughter Mycie in tow, may have tipped me off that there could still be more surprises to come, but no, again, I just assumed that having my “moon sisters” here with me, the four of us reunited for the first time in a year was just about the best thing ever and what more could there be?

As overjoyed as I was, I was also a bit overwhelmed, so I didn’t do a great job of picking up my camera that night. I was just trying to take it all in and enjoy seeing my girls again. So, I didn’t even think to grab my camera when Lucas agreed to watch the little girls while us big girls went off to catch up over yummy Mexican food at Las Palmas, a local favorite.


When we returned Heather busted out Aquarian birthday bundles of joy for Amber (who I’ve mentioned I share a birthday with), Milla (who had also recently celebrated her Aquarian birthday), and myself (that's my big bundle up front!).


She even brought little goodie bundles for Clover and Mycie, who put their adorable vintage dresses on right away and began putting their new coloring books to good use. Amber brought Clover several adorable vintage hand-me-down dresses from Mycie as well, so she made out like a bandit.

As the great gifting extravaganza got underway, Lucas cleverly took his leave to go “hang out with some friends at their workshop.” Of course, him wanting to extract himself from the spectacle of girly giddiness that our living room had become, didn’t seem in the least bit out of the ordinary to me, and at the time, I was too distracted to even give it a second thought. “See ya, have fun!”


Isn’t this picture funny? I wish I knew what Milla was saying that had everyone so riveted.


I just happened to have had a package in the works for Heather as well, so it worked out perfectly that I got to give it to her in person and we all had gifts to ooh and ahh over together! Heather’s well known love for the kitties inspired the main theme for her package.


Aw, my girls all cozied up together on the couch, chatting over coffee, the morning after our moon sister sleepover. Love waking up to these three gorgeous faces: glasses, pj’s, bed head, sleepy eyes, and all!


As we readied ourselves for a walk down to the farmers’ market, Lucas’ mom, Oosa (in the chair by the window), dropped in for a quick visit. The girls, who know and have admired Oosa through my post about her wonderful wedding, were all thrilled to get the chance to meet her in person. Oosa, knew them through my blog as well, so the feeling was completely mutual :)


Thank you Oosa for being the photographer for our first group photo! She took this shot with my camera and emailed me the next three from her own:




Clover and Mycie, now a year older than last time they played together, had a blast this time as well, and pretended to be kitties all morning, complete with socks over their hands as lil’ paws!


The socks came off only to scoop little sips of morning dew from our vast supply of hens-n-chicks (Lucas has a way with these succulents, they seem to multiply at his very touch!)


Off we went, and of course, Clover being Clover (or someone else entirely ;) wore fuzzy ears and a tail to complete her kitty ensemble.


Some serious style descended up the farmers’ market that morning!



This citrus vendor was a big hit, with fresh cut wedges of everything for the sampling, and sample we did! Surprisingly, the pleasantly tart sour oranges were a favorite. They made for fun facial expressions too :)


Having the opportunity to share this awesome farmers’ market, so close-by and available to us weekly, year round, with friends who really appreciate all the farm-fresh bounty that we’re blessed with access to (even in mid February!) is a wonderful reminder of how very fortunate we are.


Like a moth to a flame (or a bee to a blossom ;), our own bee gal, Milla, was drawn to the honey vendor and elated to discover raw honeycomb for sale.


When she shared that sweet waxy goodness with the girls, they were pretty elated themselves!



Sweet silly kitties posing and perfecting first position in their matching red sparkly shoes, so cute! Not to mention Heather, glowing mama-to-be, queen of the radiant smiles, flashing one for the camera :)




A few snaps from the walk home.



Hangin’ out back with Lucas, the elusive man behind the gardening magic…

…not to mention, reluctant photographer extraordinaire ;)

All of us wearing newly gifted pieces from one another: Amber rocking her amazing red velvet gown from Heather’s birthday bundle, Heather looking so lovely in one of the pregnancy-friendly dresses I scored for her recently at a clothing swap, Milla, adorable as ever, in her perfect prairie skirt from Heather and a lil’ fifties beaded cardigan I sent in her birthday package, and me in my much-loved new sweater from Heather worn over a most perfect 90’s floral dress from Milla’s birthday package.

Both the sweater from Heather and the dress from Milla were pieces I had seen them wearing in pictures and commented about how much I loved them on their blogs. So generous of you girls to hand them over!


Hangin' on the front porch. Amber struck some poses in her red velvet floor length gown. Fabulous, yet somehow she made it seem totally daywear appropriate! We all had our cameras out for a little paparazzi style photo shoot.

While discussing what to do with our day, we decided heading down to Old Railroad Square for a girl's vintage shopping excursion sounded like a fun way to spend the afternoon before Amber, Heather, and Mycie had to head off on their long drive back home to the foothills.

Speaking of long drives, a strange car soon pulled up and out popped...


WHAT?!?!?!?!... Nicky and Anne with wee Marianne!!!!!! Again, completely surprised and blown away that they had made the drive all the way up from Southern California to join our ragtag band of blog besties and so excited that they did!

Their husbands, who were in the car as well, said a quick hello and then went off in search of some good Mexican food. We of course directed them toward Las Palmas and they left us girls to do our thing. It's really funny to watch how the guys react to this whole thing.

They are always completely supportive, but I'm not sure they quite know what to make of it all, haha. After all, Anne and I had met once before, but she was meeting the other three girls in person for the first time and we were all (excluding Anne of course) meeting Nicky for the first time. Yet, we totally end up greeting eachother like long lost best friends, which must seem just a little strange to the outside observer.


We've all got so much online "history" together at this point, that once you get over that initial shock of seeing and hearing someone who you've only experienced through pictures and the written word (or in my case, getting over the shock of what felt like the entire blogosphere showing up at my door unexpectedly!), it's amazing how quickly us all being together in one room begins to feel totally natural.

It becomes clear, in a very reassuring way, that these relationships that we've been developing online are indeed based on a very real affinity for one another. Something that does indeed translate to "real life" when given the opportunity.


One of our preferred methods of bonding from afar is the sending of gift packages to one another. Care packages full of thrifty/crafty handpicked or handmade with love treasures tailored specially for the recipient, so it's always such a rare treat to be able to deliver these packages in person!


Anne came bearing a bundle of thrifty birthday goodness for me along with some gorgeous maternity treasures for Heather. So we had another fun little gifting session before leaving Clover and Mycie with Lucas again (extra rad husband that he is ;) and embarking on a wonderful thrifting adventure...


The Welfare League Thrift Store in Railroad Square is a favorite of mine, not only are there some awesome deals to be found there, but it's in a neat old building with lots of big windows that made for lovely photo lighting.


Amber in action, focused thrifter that she is ;)


Nicky decides to focus on me focusing on her. Can I just tell you that this girl is every bit as fun and silly as her online personality suggests!


Baby Marianne was so content wrapped up snug against the warmth of her gorgeous mama. Totally along for the ride, she barely made a peep as we made our way through two thrift stores, a warehouse sized antique store, and two vintage clothing shops. Anne, you have definitely been blessed with the shopping mama's dream baby!


Discovered a way to get myself in the shot.



It's always helpful to have an experienced consultant on hand when making important thrift purchase decisions.


As Milla helps Amber weigh her options, the girls make an odd discovery...



A rack full of someone's half-finished embroidery projects.


Nicky did not end up taking this lovely unicorn home to her already Stitchy Life, but I think she gave it some serious thought.



Next stop, the magical vintage world of Whistle Stop Antiques. I had so much fun following these gorgeous ladies around, camera at the ready, as they browsed with heart-felt enthusiasm.

Like exotic creatures in their natural habitat, the treasures of the past provided the perfect backdrop. Some candid shots of the girls in their element...


Wee vintage vinyl lover in training?






Oh Marianne, could you possibly get any cuter?!?!!


Milla sharing some instrumental knowledge regarding glass vs. metal washboards, as Heather's amazing pregnancy hair shines in the sunlight.



Ok Marianne, you've proven your point, indeed you can get even cuter... so smitten with that girl! Heather, can you believe this time next year that will be you with the little baby girl bundle of love attached to you everywhere you go?!


Nicky and Milla flashing their pretty smiles :)


After leaving Whistlestop (the big red brick building in the background) we made our way just around the corner to what would be everyone's favorite stop, Skirt Chaser Vintage!




Skirt Chaser is a super fun little shop packed with amazing pieces of vintage from all eras. The gals were oohing and ahhing left and right!


Quirky and playful treasures abound! Like this felt-embellished vintage ice skating dress that Amber spotted and couldn't resist trying on :)


Milla goes back and forth on the possibility of indulging in the purchase of a new old hat... will she or won't she?



Amber, admires a dress that I'd say fully exemplifies the Violet Folklore aesthetic :)


Of course she will! Adorable floppy leather hippy hat? How could she not?


Milla chatting with the shop owner, the lovely, friendly, and always stylish Christina, while making her hat purchase. Christina's unique and fun vibe really shines through in her wonderfully curated shop.

She even mentioned that earlier that morning when she was driving by the farmers' market, she spotted our group from her car and thought, "Oh, I hope they come into the shop..." Ha! Nice to know that we stand out in a crowd, and were able to catch such a well trained eye ;)


So here we are, back at the railroad tracks, where we ended our fun-filled excursion with a group photo shoot. As we were trying to figure out how to go about this, I spotted my friend Lucie nearby. I brought her over to meet everyone and she graciously agreed to be our photographer. She was so awesome, helping us to change things up for different shots. Not to mention, she took pics with every single one of our cameras!

I love the one above that she took with mine. I think it captures how happy we all were to be together. Just a bunch of giddy girls, high on kindred spirits!

As bloggers, with each post, we send little threads of ourselves off into the ether. One of the topics that often comes up as we get together and chat in real life is the big surprise about blogging. What we got into as a fun means of self expression (and it is!), turns out to be so much more about CONNECTION.

Those little threads I mentioned do something unexpected and magical. They seek each other out, they become drawn to one another, and ultimately they weave themselves into fabrics of friendship. It's a beautiful thing when these fabrics come together to form a patchwork quilt of sorts. If you're lucky that pattern-rich quilt ends up looking a little something like that picture up there :)

Now, if you can believe it, there's still more to come in the way of amazing birthday surprises, but I had to give these ladies their own special post. I couldn't believe they all made it here to play such a huge part in making my 40th birthday just about as special as it could be. It was such a joy to get to spend time with you all! So, THANK YOU ladies, and extra special thanks to my amazing husband for playing his part in getting Milla down here and to Milla for rallying the rest of the girls, all without me suspecting a thing!

I'd also like to point out that there are many more amazing ladies involved in this quilt of ours, you know who you are! While not everyone could make it this time, you all came up in little conversations here and there and were definitely present in spirit. It's awesome how these gatherings affirm the connections we've all made in a way that includes even those we haven't met in person yet. So, big hugs and much love to you all!!!