Chicken Blog by Natalie

Everything! - Sun, 08/01/2021 - 04:00

On this epic Summer Adventure and Road Trip, we did everything!

We have been on a quest for a golden goblet, and fairy gardens!

We have experienced Nepenthe, tracked zebra, had a golden hour on California's Central Coast.

We crossed over the Golden Gate Strait to the Redwood Highway, and stood among giants!

We struck gold, again, in Eureka! Swimming, and exploring, resting, and singing as we traveled ever northward!

And golden was the hour when we met Mom and Dad, stayed in their woods, and dunes, on the Oregon coast.

They may be miles away, but they are close to our hearts.

We have seen new sights, and familiar faces. We have followed the call of crows, cats, poets, and dreams.

We have made new friends, and found happy endings.

We learned lessons on taxidermy, Lepidopterology, and glacies crepito. We have marveled, delighted, admired and exclaimed, and that was only one Tuesday in Portland!

Basically, we have been Enchanted.

And. We shopped. I often say that pictures are my favorite souvenirs, and my children know that rocks, sticks, moss, shells, sand, and feathers bring me no end of delight. But I am not immune to the siren's call of places where I can browse, stick my nose in a book, add to my sticker collection, find something novel, make another wish list, drag home something essential, and buy stuff! Page four of my very detailed travel plans was all about leads, and sure things, for shopping opportunities. And when we made it to Old Portland Hardware & Architectural, it was everything we could have wished for and more. We loved it. The End. Yeah, another stop that could have completed the entire trip.
Why, or what? What do we see here that makes us so happy? We like old things, stuff made by craftspersons, by artists and engineers, and artistic engineers. We like history, and the history of making, and the things that are tangible artifacts of creation. We admire wood and woodworkers, carpenters, woodcarvers, joiners. We admire metal, forging, casting, welding. We love handlettering, glassblowing, book binding, gilding, words, dove tailing, bells, whistles, surfaces, repairs, tea cups, saucers, nuts, bolts, hammers, and maps. Have I mentioned that our tastes are ecclectic? Ha! On reconsideration, our tastes were ecclectic before we had children, and now there are seven of us, living under the same rambling roof, and the one decorating-home style we might agree on is that we love many things, styles, gadgets and gizmos! A natural progression of our loves, pursuits, interests, and tastes, might be moving into a museum, if we haven't already created our own, or setting up our home in this store. Then again, I do daydream of a cozy home in the woods, with a tea cup, paint set, sewing basket, and wifi.
Behind the red lantern is a handmade sign, lyrics we know well, and attribute to our own workshop, especially when Geoff is in there, welding, or printing, or tuning his laser... What's he building in there? We know. We know it's something clever, new, different. Maybe metal. Maybe wood. Definitely wonderful.

What the hell is he building in there?

Now what's that sound from under the door?

I heard he was up on the roof last night

Signaling with a flashlight

And what's that tune he's always whistling

What's he building in there?

What's he building in there?

We have a right to know...

An Enchanted Forest - Sat, 07/31/2021 - 05:30
The first time I laid eyes on this roadside attraction I was leaving my Aunt and Grandmother, my Mom, and heading into Portland for an overnight stay. I saw the sign from the interstate, and even driving at 65 miles an hour, it had an impact on me, "What in the world is that?" I Googled it. A family amusement park. An Enchanted Forest. It was the actual forest for me, and the allure of a place that looked whimsical. If it involves even a suggestion of fairys, make-believe, if I see just one red mushroom, or a cottage playhouse, I am going to be a sucker for it. But, at the time I couldn't imagine how soon, if ever, I'd be back, let alone with my kids, or the right transportation. I was curious, but not committed. On this trip, something clicked. I saw another reference to Enchanted Forest while at my Mom's, and delved deeper, reading up on its history, and the logistics of possibly visiting. That sealed our fates! Our family loves homegrown, homemade. We love makers, especially when the makers think big, think wild, and go for it! That's why we can't get enough of House on The Rock, cosplay, Burning Man, Maker Faires, Madonna Inn, Antique Gas and Steam Engine Museum, Ella's Deli, Salvation Mountain, The International Banana Museum, Watts Towers, art cars, because they are full of the creations and creators that acted on impulse, on an idea they could not deny, and they made something! Our curiosities, interests, pursuits, and involvement in making, and sharing, is well documented, and the more I read about about Roger Tofte and his dream, the family's journey, the plainer it became that this was one of those places that we couldn't not see. It should have been all of us going, and someday we will get back there. But, I decided to buy tickets for three, and surprise William and Maria with a totally spontaneous, unexpected adventure. If I had any doubts about whether this would be a good idea, or worthwhile, they were completely obliterated from the moment William grapsed what lay ahead, and I should not have ever doubted that he would respect, admire, and cherish everything before him, and all that made it possible. This man, is the same boy that has always wanted to build rides, that designed parks, rollercoasters, built a 12' tall robot cosplay, made dozens of replica tombstones, made a giant backyard swing. He studies Imagineering, he looks into how things are made. We all enjoy these subjects, admire the men and women that dream, design, research, that blend art with engineering, and make. Maria was no less enthused, and wildly giddy. We took pictures like inspectors, like connoisseurs of kitsch, and with awe and appreciation, wanting to bring it all back in anecdote and evidence to share with the rest of the family. I won't share all of the pictures. Maybe this sparks something in you, too, and I wouldn't want to give it all away. About every three minutes, Maria and William exclaimed in wonder, and just as frequently practically swore oaths to come back with their Dad, with Alex, Max, and Bambi. Here is some of what we saw and the tiniest fraction of what we found to be a really fun experience. Make believe is just a jumping off point, and if we believe in what we can make, it can take us to wonderful places. I hope I never stop believing.

Blogging Makes Me... - Fri, 07/30/2021 - 06:00
Blogging gives me many feelings, sensations, notions. Writing, and sharing, can be like sitting alone in my feelings, talking aloud, maybe a bit like running around and throwing off articles of clothing... exposed, in other words.
Well. Whether publishing my deep thoughts and other musings makes me feel exposed, or elated, mildly amused, or like an acclaimed correspondent, I accept full responsibility and all of the consequence of my emotions, self-doubt, mild amusement, over-exposure, and/or mediocrity. I tread this path voluntarily, willingly, unceasing!

I miss Teresa, which I hope won't be construed as an utterly selfish thing to say. But I suppose my reasons could seem selfish, because I miss her comments on this blog, and the emails we exchanged. I would have met her, I know, at the Vista House. She invited me to let her show me around there. She knew it well, and I was looking forward to meeting her. She'd become such an inspiring role model for me. She reminded me to keep a postive outlook, to keep busy, to keep moving forward. I was always astonished at how much she was into, planning, and had already accomplished! Her engagement was motivation to recommit to blogging, and to looking forward. She's someone I think of when I feel low, or like I don't make a difference... her words, her enthusiasm come to mind, and I hear in my head, What would Teresa Kasner do? It shakes me up, realigns me. I am glad I had the pleasure and good fortunate of, even briefly, exchanging ideas and kindness with her.

Just now I was going to start the next blog post about this big trip we were on, and I have been enjoying writing all of it down, processing my thoughts and memories. But I heard a voice of doubt, and second guessed my intentions. I won't stop these posts, but just for today, I am giving it a rest. I'll be right back at it, no doubt! And in the meantime, maybe someone will ask... What else did you do? Did you go any place weird, or kitschy? Have you had enough of Portland, or have you already started planning how to get back? Do you really think you would move there, and how many houses would you need?
Soft G, or hard G? I wonder, because it makes a difference. Oh, I see a small boat is a dinghy! So, this is a soft G, dingy... shabby, dirty, drab and grimey. Yes, I have been Dingy, from time to time. And my house, well, it gets Dingy, too. But I wouldn't say that blogging makes me dingy.Droopy? Totally relatable, figuratively, and literally. In the case of sitting at the desk, for a long time, I have to admit, blogging makes my posture droopy. That's not great. I like to think I don't get Grouchy. But. I have been Hangry. Cranky. Finickety (irritated, fidgety and persnickety with no known cause.) Moody. Mean. Heated. Ok, honestly, when I feel like an invisible, mediocre, pointless blogger, then blogging makes me grouchy. I'd be lying if I denied this. Oh dear. Blogging does not make me lumpy. That's all I want to say about this.For sure! I am like a gold medalist for Snoozy. I nap. I doze. I go to bed early. My dream house has a place to curl up in every room, just in case, but I don't get snoozy from blogging, and I hope you don't feel snoozy reading Chickenblog. Hello? Are you... awake? Wheezy, heh? My allergies manifest as hives. Fortunately blogging doesn't give me hives, or make me wheezy. No. Yeah, not this. That word is awkward, maybe a saccharine connotation for me. Blogging makes me thankful, relieved, comforted, organized, mindful, attentive, nostalgic, motivated, inspired, it makes me feel connected, stimulated, and like I have sorted things out, processed some of the ideas and reactions that are filling my head. And blogging makes me glad, because I use it to learn... to learn new words, new concepts, how things work, where things are, about history, politics, art, culture, nature, anything. Maybe that's why I can never stick to the blogging advice about keeping to a few subjects, curating one look. Blogging makes me smile, when I can explore, grow, share, engage, and revisit good times, dear people, and possibilities.

Tuesday in Portland - Thu, 07/29/2021 - 06:00

On Tuesday, I decided to go back to where it all began, when I first visited Portland, and I happened to randomly pick an Airbnb in the Alberta Arts neighborhood. This was an extrememly rare circumstance for me, as I was traveling all on my own, and to a place I didn't know. Even though it was only an overnight stay, on my way back home from seeing family in Albany, the time in Portland left a long lasting impression. It was like a new crush, a new infatuation, with a beautiful neighborhood, city, region, developed, and I still can't get enough. On this first visit, I was wishing I had a few more hours, so I could see more, get even better acquainted. Now, I pinch myself! Am I dreaming? I've had the privillege of coming back... five more times! I'd like to think I am good friends with Portland, to imagine she thinks fondly of me, that we enjoy each other's company, and share a bond.

This visit was a frank reminder that we are only acquaintances, and that more likely, I am somewhat aggresively friendly, overly-zealous, and a bit presumptive. I recongnize, it has been a rough, brutal, year for this city, and I saw it more clearly in person, than from news reports, and Instagram posts. COVID lockdowns, fires, a record-breaking heat wave, and the shocking summer when peaceful protesters were confronted and attacked by government aroused, and backed, rioting and terror... the toll of these trials was sadly evident. I tried to verbalize what I was seeing, in people's behavior, in the destruction, and boarded buildings, in the something is missing mood that veiled even pretty, familiar places. I admit I was initially a bit offended, when the service at a once favorite restaurant was almost hostile, indifferent at best... what was in the warm, slightly foamy water the hostess begrudgingly plopped on the edge of the table? Then I resolved to hold space for a city short-staffed, struggling to recover, and probably still feeling dizzy from 114 degree heat. We enjoyed some wonderful interactions, service, and engagement. I re-doubled my effort to drive like a local, slower, kinder, stopping for every pedestrian, mindful of cyclists, birds, dogs, squirrels, extra extra chill. I arrived in Portland, showing up to see an acquaintance I love, but she's had a very hard year, and it felt like I showed up too early, stayed too long, and expected too much. I apologize, and I hope my adjusted attitude helped.
Ok, back to Alberta Arts. I scored a great parking space, a short distance to the place where we hoped to get breakfast, and around the corner from one of my favorite bookstores, Green Bean Books. AND! (All caps worthy conjunction!) AND, lo! A real life Maggie Rudy art installation! I figuratively swooned! I literally squealed! I couldn't be there when Maggie Rudy made the window display at Green Bean Books, so this was a really wonderful sight to come upon! If you know me, and my ratty-rat obsession, it can come as no surprise that all of Maggie Rudy's mice, and moles, frogs, birds, and miniature worlds mean the world to me... the tiny, fanciful, make-believe, creative world.The Art in Alberta Arts is as poignant and compelling as ever. The shops, still in business, were closed at this early breakfast hour. We headed over to Petite Provence, on Division, where they were open (literally, figuratively, hospitably) for guests. We enjoyed a delicious breakfast, including this hot chocolate, which I called "exceptionally Instagramable." And we particularly enjoyed the gracious welcome, and kind hospitality.
Now for something different. Much like when we traveled to New England and William introduced us to cemetery visits, and it felt odd to me, at first, I was not familiar with, nor exactly eager to visit, a place known for taxidermy. Well, by now I should know from the start, that if William has a recommedation, I can readily expect it to be something interesting, worthwhile, and not necessarily gross, but highly engrossing. William takes to the subjects of history, nature, philosophy, making, and replicating, research, and oddities, with reverence, and appreciation, and studied knowledge. It's how he approached the prop-making practice of making historical reproduction headstones, and what lead to many, many visits to cemeteries in New England, and he brought me along, reluctantly, at first, then increasingly appreciative. He shares compelling and fascinating details, anecdotes and practical knowledge, so that the visits became like living history, relevant, enlightning, worthwhile. And so it was at Paxton Gate, Portland, and NW Portland. A few disclaimers, cautions, and insights... 1. William is a vegetarian, he carries spiders outdoors, and searches for cheese that doesn't use rennet. 2. Paxton Gate ethically sources their products: "We want you to know that we go out of our way to source items that have either died of natural causes..." 3. It's the fascination with, and respect for, the natural world, that compels William's interest in skeletons, and feathers, minerals and gems, taxidermy, and preservation. I did not readily make the distinction, having a distate for game hunting, and making trophies of wild animals, but William sees these as musuem studies, as a means of keeping accurate anatomical record, for research, and appreciation, and definitely not as prizes, or an indication of conquering nature. Arguably, it may be a small distinction, but I think it's an important one, and merits consideration. If you aren't uncomfortable... here's some of what we saw. I don't know where those kind of spiders are found, but... yeah, no. I don't want to know! This is an oddities shop, for sure! I loved the minerals, the gems, the books, the incense, and plants. I was fascinated by the baby beaver, the chipmunk, the bat skeleton... so delicate and beautiful. The taxidermy of the two-headed calf? Truly odd, and oddly compelling. It's hard to explain curiosity, but it's there, and I marvel at what nature is, does, how it works, and what happens when it works differently. We have the very good fortune of living near one of the finest Zoos in the world, and their work in conservation and education, are essential, necessary... I mention this because I've been taking William to zoos for all his life, and when I first took him to a natural history museum he looked crushed, a bit astonished, but not in a good way. He was only three years old. I kneeled beside him, and asked what he felt, was he enjoying the museum, and with a tone of great concern he asked, "Is everything here dead?" He was used to seeing living lions, and tigers and bears. Now, he has a greater appreciation for dioramas, for the preservation of specimens, for mindful curating of samples, exhibits that tell a story. Ideally, we wouldn't need zoos, or to "manage" populations of wildlife. Ideally our understanding of nature, of ourselves, would be from observations and study in the living world. Still, from a young age, the impression of seeing a beaver diorama in a museum, or touching an otter pelt at an aquarium, inspired respect and care, left me mindful of the living otters, and snakes, and spiders, bats and chipmunks, and compelled me to want to protect them, to care for their well-being.
Is this a very long post? Too long? Ah, well. I've been prattling on with these travel posts, and no one has said Stop, so far! What can I say? We squeezed a lot into our Tuesday. And I like that I am getting some of the memories pinned down.

Of course Powell's City of Books was on the schedule. We paid a good, long visit. (By the way, if any of this is inspiring you to visit Portland, I should warn you... downtown was particularly rough around the edges, even more than it's been previously. If you haven't noticed that our country has a crisis for people without homes, or a crisis with people dependent on drugs, many places in Oregon, and California, will readily remind you. I don't say that patronizingly, but concernedly. I am deeply shocked and dismayed by the number, and size of tent cities I saw, and while I can't offer the perfect solution, I am quite certain that compassion, and corporations paying taxes, and paying living wages would be good places to begin. There is way too much hurt, and disparity in our world.)

Sorry. I hope you know you can stretch, get a cup of tea. This post is long and deep!

I don't know if this is anything to do with COVID or heat waves, or racists running around Portland with tRump flags, but the bathrooms at Powell's were closed. Everything else was as awesome as ever, and Maria and William had no trouble loading up on some must-have reading material. My own pick was a book of poetry by Mary Oliver, Devotions. I was thinking of the redwoods, and other natural spaces that make me want to be a poet, or a singer, an artist, anything to help express my affection and longing for forests, meadows, birdsong, and rivers. Mary Oliver scratches that itch.
We did not eat here. But this travelogue would not be complete without mentioning that it smelled really really good as we walked by.

We walked by Escape From New York Pizza when we decided we might as well visit both Portland locations of Paxton Gate, especially as it was suggested by the very attentive, intelligent, and kind woman at Paxton Gate on Mississippi Avenue. And I will warn you, I got a little closer to taxidermy this time, and have some pictures to prove it.
Calamity Kim, I was thinking of you all day... what with the Maggie Rudy display, and then what I am about to share about the second mouse.

I learned that there is more than one way to do taxidermy, and the gentleman that greeted us by asking if we would like to touch a chipmunk, shared all about the process of freeze-dried taxidermy vs removing everything then stuffing taxidermy. The chipmunk actually has bones and organs intact, because it was freeze-dried. Did you love the school lessons on dissection, mummification, ancient Egyptology, the mummies of Guanajuato, all that was preserved in ash at Pompei? You are probably fascinated, otherwise, I apologize.

By this point, after interesting lessons and discussions from several of the clerks, at both Paxton Gate locations, I was getting a little less squeamish, myself. And I couldn't help being drawn to the (not wool felted) "cute" mice. Because, you know... I love ratty-rats. I was undeniably attracted to the little guy in red gnome hat with a miner's pick... he reminded me of some ratty-rats, and other paintings, I made. And just as I was almost nose-pressed to the glass in admiration, I took a closer look at the second mouse, and I got a small shock. A slightly twisted, darkly comical shock, and I said, aloud, something like, "Oh! No. No, that is not cute!" Because the second mouse, on closer inspection, is a sinister and creepy little fellow, with dishonorable, nasty habits, and not-so adorable appetites. Kim, my Halloween and scary movie loving, fan of gothic horror and comically chilling expressions, this second mouse is for you!

Bad Mouse! Bad, zombie mouse.

Ice cream, anyone? We, of course, had some Salt & Straw. I can't resist a kid scoop of the lavender and honey, which is like giving all of your senses over to a lavender garden in full sun. It is worth the whole trip. The End. And we went on our evening walk, which was more of a night walk, to be accurate, because it was already after 9 o'clock. And I like saying it as something we do, all the time, because it's just our habit, and way of living, now, on only our second night of visiting Portland. Our walk. Come, join us. I am taking pictures of countless beautiful homes, and gardens, and trying to decide which 2 or 3, or five, we will buy and share among friends. We will all live around the same block or two, and walk every evening, and stroll to the cafes and shops, and ride our bicycles to Tacovore, or Collage, or the River, or anywhere. One house for entertaining on Halloween, because the stoop is long and broad for Jack-o-lanterns, and one house that has a W on the chimney, so must be William's and he will fill it with oddities, and that's where we will have poetry readings, and drink tea on dark, stormy afternoons. A house where we can sleep lots of guests, another where we will grow every kind of flower and vegetable, and paint the fences. And so on. What else. What kind of house would you like? I've said enough already.

Still Thinking About... - Wed, 07/28/2021 - 11:59

Two weeks and a day ago, I took a picture of this... what is it? Needlepoint? I took a picture of this needlepoint dog, on a shelf in a second hand shop. I even picked it up, and felt drawn to it, but then put it back, because if I bring home every last thing I am drawn to, I will be an entire season of some reality hoarding program. But I can't stop thinking of it, of my doggo, as I've come to call it. What kind of dog is this? An airedale? And how do I know so much about dog breeds? I recognize a lot of dog breeds and car makes, and neither of those subjects are ones I consider significantly dear to my heart. I regret that I didn't bring home my doggo. I would have it hanging up, maybe by the desk where I paint, or at the top of the stairs. Somehow, it feels like it belongs with me, and I come back to it again, and again. Maybe someone else saw it, too, and it's not even possible for me to adopt any more. But. Maybe it's still on the shelf, left side, as you enter, at Village Merchants, on SE Division. Maybe I should give them a call.

10:32 am They're not picking up.

11: 03 am Cat answered, and with a brief description of the piece, and where I saw it, she was quick to locate it, and confirm, it's a good dog. But. They don't have online shopping, or a means of sending it to me, and she asked, "Do you have any friends in Portland?" Do I? Here, I would add the tear-faced, then sweat-browed emoticons.

11:13 am Text message to ______, an Instagram friend/aquaintance, person I admire. I try to assure her that she's not obliged, no pressure. Waiting.

11:22 am Should I post on Instagram, a general shout-out to all local aquaintances, people I have never met, in hopes of finding the one person available and willing? Biggest reluctance is about confirming that I am too weird, and am met by a deafening silence, and the dread feeling of embarrassment, and mortification.

11:44 Puanani might be able to get over to the shop, today, if not, then tomorrow. Can Cat hold it for me??

11:50 Cat will hold it. And. So... I just have to settle down, and wait. This escalated, fast.

I think about this fruit, overhanging the fence between the house we stayed in and the neighbor's garden. What is it? Okay, maybe they're apples? But there was something different about them, something that made me think they are a fruit I am not familiar with. Of course they could be an apple variety I don't know about. Did you know? There 7,500 different apples, and about 2,500 of those grow in the United States. I am going to search some other things... Rarest apple: "Bardsey Island Apple." Oldest apple: "Annurca Apple." How many varities grow in Oregon: "Over 21 varieties are produced in Oregon, and Gala and Fuji are the most grown." Top 10 apple producers: "Washington, New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, California, Virginia, North Carolina, Oregon, Ohio, and Idaho."

Well. I had planned to share more things about Portland, that I am still thinking about, but now my thoughts have turned to obsession, and I can only think of that embroidered dog, on hold, at Village Merchant. It might, very likely, come home to me, after all, which is doubly special, because I do, indeed, have a friend in Portland, and that is wonderful to know.

Poetry, Dreams, Cats and Crows - Wed, 07/28/2021 - 06:00

When you have to leave a place, people you love, it can be so much easier if there's a plane to catch, a train to meet... it forces the departure, makes it a firm time that cannot be fiddled with. My "plan" was to leave the coast, Mom and Dad, early, because we had another long drive to make it to Portland, and to include a stop with Aunt Becky and Barry. Then I remembered it doesn't even get dark until after 9, and we didn't need to stop anywhere, not especially. So, basically, I started to fiddle with the time, with the "plan." We lingered over breakfast, folded some more laundry. I called my Aunt... no, I texted her. I didn't want her to go to any trouble, like cooking, or anything.

Here's something I haven't addressed in all of these posts about traveling from our home, north, to my Mom's, to my Aunt's, to one hotel after another: COVID. I don't believe we are out of the woods, yet. The variant is spreading, and even though we are immunized, I still have reservations, concerns. We kept to a conservative protocol, with masks and hand sanitizer, and not going into crowds. I was a bit anxious-reluctant about our stay with my folks, which is why we were extra cautious. And I had the same concerns for my Aunt, my cousin. It felt wiser to keep our visit brief. I think I have said it before, and I feel the same way... I would rather look back and think, Wow, we were overly-cautious, and that wasn't so necessary, than have any regrets about not taking care, especially when it is about exposing others to risks.

I love that in Northern California, in Oregon, pulling over for a rest can mean a chance to see beautiful natural sights, or novel things, like cranberry bogs, lighthouses, farmstands, rivers, meadows, giant lumberjacks! We had never seen the Umpqua Lighthouse, or any of the State Park. I love Oregon State Parks, and campgrounds. We weren't disappointed with this small break in the drive, getting out to walk around and take in a moment of the scenery. Truthfully though, I kind of feel like every stop and new spot only adds to the growing lists of places I want to return to, spend more time at, which is both lovely, and frustrating. The campgrounds, from this point and back to the highway were packed with families, and a narrative came to my mind about kids on the water in innertubes, canoes, about roasting hot dogs, catching tadpoles, fishing from docks, and how these were things that these families did every summer, at this place, with their friends, and I could smell the tents and sleeping bags, imagine the chill of first morning, mist rising off of the river, looking for a missing shoe, walking with a dog. We were getting just a glimpse of a thousand families enjoying countless summer stories, making endless memories, and enjoying our own, too.
Becky was already at her door when we pulled into the driveway. I could say something about our visit, like the things we talked about, or Barry's plans for the new deck and shade, or that Debbie was out in a cabin with friends, or that the house was cool and comfortable on a hot day. The thing on my mind is that I didn't take hardly any pictures. Maybe three, and only this one turned out. I feel so frustrated about this. I think they're going to love their addition, for sitting out with coffee in the morning, or taking dinner outdoors, after the sun settles down. It would have been great to see my cousin, but I was perhaps more glad knowing she had a fun outing to enjoy, time with friends, doing something special. Seeing loved ones is great, but confirming that they are well, or making the most of their time, being happy... that means a lot to me; it's what matters most.

Remember horse rings? I love these, and we found even more on this visit than our last.

And Hello, Portland! We started in an Airbnb, and it was everything they said it would be, and we were immediately pleased, comfortable, and eager to make the most of our time in a favorite city. I've had the privilege and pleasure of coming here a few times, now, and I always choose a new neighborhood... out of curiousity, to explore more, and maybe even to test an observation: There are a lot of great neighborhoods in Portland. We've never been let down.

First we unloaded the van. Then we walked to a recommended spot for dinner, falling in love with house after house, garden after garden, on the way. We were famished by the time we got to the promising looking corner restaurant, and they were closed. I should have thought to call ahead, I suppose. We walked back to our place, and got a little more assiduous about our dinner quest. I checked on the hours for a place called Nicholas, and we were in luck. And once again, it felt like we were right back in Portland. By the way, if you go... the strawberry lemonade with mint leaves is wonderful, so is the bread, falafel, and shawarma. We noticed they were short-staffed, but everything was worth the wait, and they were always hospitable and gracious as could be. We walked back to our car happily satisfied, and fortified for more exploring. This was as fine, or better, a Portland walk as I have ever enjoyed. Portland walks are synonymous with invigorating, breathtaking, relaxing, pleasurable, good, stimulating. I love Portland walks. I love the houses, the stairs and sidewalks, the driveways, and porches, the trees, and moss, the fallen twigs, acorns, leaves, the way the homes glow in the waning light, the cyclists pedaling by, sidewalk chalk art and the many many things that make you glad you stepped outside... like Little Free Libraries, cats, Poetry Posts, and Dream Boards, like hydrangeas, fences, gates, doodles, fountains, sculptures, crows. Three cheers for Poetry Posts, for Dream Boards, and for Portland crows! I have every intention of adding a Poetry Post to our Little Free Library, and I will definitely consider taking notes on dreams, on flights of fancy, on sharing all such matters. But how will I, can I, convince some Portland crows to come and fill our trees? I want them to fly in black, shadowed, plumed flocks, to carry their cries across our sky, announcing the arrival of night, dropping shiny black feathers like cryptic posts, messages from a dreamland, like they did in Portland. Not since our days as novice ranchers, when murders of crows would alight in our pasture, sit on the roof of our ranch style home, have I enjoyed so much crow activity. They were like no others in their energy, in their pursuit... and what was their pursuit? They flew and called with such urgency of purpose. They were harbingers, and their tidings were glad, a bit mischievous. Their numbers seemingly countless, and vitality boundless. We could not have kept up, but we stepped lively to meet their summon.
In case anyone is wondering... Maria wears a witch hat. She also wears a beret, a Greek fisherman's hat, a fez, cloches, flower crowns. It's not because she is obsessed with Halloween, or collects newts in jars. She simply likes clothing, art, expression, and adhering to her belief that we should be free and comfortable to dress as we feel, to wear the hat or dress or shoes, or flower, or veil, or gloves, or pants that suit us, or the occasion, or mood, no matter who we are. In her mind it's both a simple matter, and nothing to fuss over, and also something she is aware is not so simple or comfortable for everyone. She would like to quietly, matter-of-factly, act in the interest of diversity and freedom of expression. Also, "Witch hats are fun."

We would like to thank some of Portland's finest, in this instance, her cats, for coming out to greet us. At this point we had already talked about how much we were missing Cairo, and Feynman, and Sakamoto, so it was a real treat to meet these two friendly kitties on this walk. Both kitties were super friendly, and in both instances we got a little bit concerned that they might follow us back to our place. The two kitties, each of them, were so sweet... I had to make another Reel. I wish I could post these Instagram Reels directly on the blog.

Such a long post! It was a long day. A good day. There is so much I want to remember, a way of holding on. There's more, like how beautiful it is from Florence to Corvallis, on country roads, going by farms, and orchards, following the river. And more about Aunt Becky, and my cousins, and family, and how much I treasure the good memories of childhood, and how much I miss seeing all of my family. I could go on and on about how I love traveling, and want to take pictures of everything, and only because what I really want is to drive a bus full of friends and family so we could see all of these places together, go on walks, eat pita bread, drink strawberry lemonades. All the walk long, when I wasn't gazing skyward at crows, or petting cats, I was looking for two or three, or five houses in a row, or around the same block, so we could all be neighbors... I would love that most of all.

Miles Away - Tue, 07/27/2021 - 06:00
They live close to my heart, and many miles away. On July 12th, we left to see Aunt Becky, and then to go on to Portland. The adventure continues, and we'd return for another quick visit on our way back home.

In The Woods - Mon, 07/26/2021 - 08:00
Mom and Dad love the woods, and the flowers and bees, and spiders and slugs and deer, and just everything that sings and grows and lives in the woods. So, where some homes might have a lawn, or poured concrete, or patio furniture, they have a meadow, wildflowers, bumblebees, blackberry brambles, and tall trees. Their home feels like a cozy nest in a pocket space between trees. Sometimes my Mom is a bit apologetic about the bits that haven't been mowed, or how Dad doesn't want anyone knocking down that spiderweb. I went outside to take it all in, and I saw beauty, which I tried to capture in this Instagram Reel. We almost always arrive too soon to pick blackberries, but we were in time to see the happy bees and bumbles gathering nectar. On some visits we have gone into town, or visited area nature trails, and even an aquarium, botanical gardens. This time I only had one agenda... to be together, to talk, or listen, to putter around, to share things that don't translate as well on the phone, or in texts. It's "normal" stuff that I really miss, like heating tortillas, folding some laundry, lingering over lunch, just so we are together. When we did go out to lunch, I enjoyed the luxury of observing, of relaxing. We didn't bother with rushing around, trying to be busy. Maria recited some of her poetry, some I hadn't heard, yet. My Mom wanted us to see her beads, to help ourselves to some of her inventory. My favorite part of this was seeing the beads she wasn't ready to part with. She can't work, not like she used to, but I love seeing that she still has the yearning, the spark. I also loved seeing the displays of affection between Mom and Dad. I thought about how glad I was they have each other, and all that meant during the long months of lockdown, isolation, uncertainty. This was what I came all this way to see, for myself, that everything is ok, that familiar things, and dear sentiments are still there, still tanglible, accessible. I stopped at the State Beach, drove through to where the Coquille River meets the Pacific. We let the wind chase us around, up and down some dune paths, out to the lighthouse. We admired the shelters and lean-tos on the beach, the piles of driftwood, like lumberyard building supplies. I think if we were more warmly dressed, we would have built a cabin of our own. I'm sorry we didn't go back and do just that, but I am happy to think of making a new list, and new plans, for next time. I made another Reel, adding Aurora's beautiful song, a favorite of Maria's, Runaway. It began to rain a little. I didn't want to leave. And when it was 9 o'clock, the night was just beginning to overtake the sky. Birds called one another. I felt fortunate to capture just a bit of their songs, without wind and microphone clashes. When night took over, it was very dark, and still in the woods.

Here's The Plan - Sun, 07/25/2021 - 10:51
Besides all the plans I wrote down, we had a new plan that my Mom came up with when she realized she couldn't see us soon enough! When we woke up in Eureka, and were about to hit the road again, I'd give her a call, so she and Ron could make their way south. We would meet about half way. We had cereal in the hotel, packed our stuff up, bid a fond farewell to the fun and restful hotel, called Delia, then went into town for a quick browse. We didn't expect to find any open places at this hour, but we were happy we could get some hot drinks, and a couple of bagels. There's a happy comfort in walking into familiar places, like Los Bagels. It had that welcoming glow, outside and in, that is inviting on a cold, early morning in a quiet town. Exchanging glances with Maria, her ready for her breakfast, and me behind my phone/camera. I promise... I let her eat in peace, and was only having a bit of fun. I gave Delia an update. We walked a little more, filled the gas-tank, then pointed ourselves northward, again. Another plan: See more of Eureka on our way home, hopefully, when some of these shops would be open. On the map: Elk Meadow Day Use Area. It's a favorite, familiar stop. This time we got really lucky. It was quiet in the entry area, so we drove further into the preserve, and found no crowds, only elk. Many elk, including a fawn or two. We got out, walked a ways, came back around and just watched, admired, those beautiful animals. It was misty, cool. We still had a long and winding drive ahead of us, but these were calm, soothing moments. I am absolutely open to seeing new places, trying new things. Also... I absolutely love seeing the same familiar places. Especially in the middle of a long drive, it really helps to see a landmark, to remind myself I am making progress, to be fairly certain of clean bathrooms. Another place to stretch our legs, check our Plan, and recall times we've stopped here before and had a laugh. From here, we continued northward, gingerly navigating the massive rockslide section just south of Crescent City, and at last to the spot where Ron and Delia arrived and we hugged and hugged, again. I took my Mom into our van, so we could commence right away with catching up, as we drove the last two hours of the long drive into Oregon. All this time, Maria had been signing into her online class every night. She had a deadline for a health class, and depending on wifi etc, she got as much done as she could. She's diligent and patient, but the timing was a stinker, and the class was boring, to be frank, which is often worse than "challenging" or "compelling." Our first night at Mom and Ron's she had to excuse herself and work at the class. The sun sets so late, and I was so happy talking and sharing with Mom, getting all caught up, that it was nearly midnight when I went to crawl into bed. And there was poor Maria asleep on the floor. She'd got a lot done, before falling asleep. That darn class was an unwelcome ride-along for the entire vacation, unfortunately. One way or another, all the plans worked out. We made it to Oregon, to the little house in the woods, where Delia and Ron live.

On The Road Again - Sat, 07/24/2021 - 08:00

So. We made it to Monterey, and continued seeing deer, right up to arriving at our hotel, which always feels magical. A word (several, in fact) about hotels, and stays... I am so glad I could book places in advance, and be sure of having a place to stay. Sometimes I have just winged it, and been ok. But it felt like the whole world was traveling, and every place we stopped there were people in the lobbies hoping for a room, and when a room was available they were quoted prices much much higher than what we paid. Yikes! I was eager to get through San Francisco. Just navigate the maze of that city, get over the Bridge, and start escaping the last of the urban centers, until Portland. I used to have a huge crush on SF, and now it's more like a fond rememberance. It's crazy there, and without definite plans, a dedicated, secure parking space, and lots of time, I can't deal. We were in stop and go traffic, which is actually easier to manage than whizzing through at break-neck speed. So we just admired the houses, like fancy cupcakes all crammed together, and made it to the Golden Gate. We almost lived there, when Geoff was offered a position at ILM, and as exciting as that prospect was, I think we made the right choice... things I think about when we drive through Golden Gate Park, and passed the Presidio.

There must be things I am not thinking of. Things we saw or did, observed, laughed about, between San Francisco and Willits. Aha! Yes. As we zoomed through MarinTiburonSasaulitoCorteMadera, William saw Amy's Drive-Thru and we made an actual note about stopping there on the way home. FYI, a very good decision. (Amy's Drive-Thru is not a sponsor, but if they want to work with me, I will gladly sing their praises.)

Where were we?

Ok, here is another instance of me just being full of information that I can't help sharing. Back in 2018, when I rented a van from Portland, and came south with William, Alex, Max, and Maria, I was anticipating driving through Willits. Only it never came. No charming motels, old storefronts, no sign across the two lane highway, Gateway to The Redwoods. It was a big letdown. Later I figured out that they got bypassed, when road improvements were made to the 101. So, if you want to see Willits, and the Gateway to The Redwoods sign, then you have to exit the 101, slow down, and drive through the town. I think it's worthwhile, and it's only a brief deviation from the fast route. And because I was not going to miss it this time, I was rewarded with an unexpected treat, that actually became a trip highlight! I saw a fruit-stand right at the outskirts of town. We love fruit stands, and local produce, farmers. I pulled over, expecting to buy a bag of cherries, but! They had jicama, mangoes, pepinos, limón, Tajín! It was 98 degrees F in the shade, and almost like being in the middle of nowhere, and here was the most nostalgic temptation that I could never have imagined! He sliced everything up and squeezed fresh lime juice over each layer, and I have never had a more refreshing, delicious road-trip snack in my life! We loved our fruit cup! Are you going south or north on the 101, along the Redwood Highway? Stop at the south, or the north end of Willits, and you will see one of two humble fruit stands... ask for a mango cup, with jicama, and cucumber, get lime juice and some Tajín. It's so yummy.

The End.

Just kidding. But I do like to pause, and appreciate points in the trip, when I can honestly, say "It was worth it, just for this _____."
The Benbow Inn. We discovered this place the first time we drove to Oregon. It was November 2005, and we'd camped the night before. This place was serving breakfast, and everything was so pretty, warm, and inviting. It was a welcome stop on a long drive, with four young children. I remember Alex and Max playing chess, the fireplace, and William recalling details of the Benbow Inn from Treasure Island. The deep patio on the back overlooks the Eel River, and it comes just after you pass Richardson Grove State Park, and just as the whole drive is really feeling like a getaway. We got cold drinks, this time, and stretched our legs. Nothing can come close to describing how I love these woods. I won't even try. I can say this much, it makes me cry, makes me vibrate, thinking of them, and I did not want to leave. All the rest of the trip we would revisit a conversation that began here, about coming back, with some friends, and staying for a few days, at least. We planned every bit. I did try to make reservations, for this trip, to camp here, which would have been a colossal pain. Every site was booked. The pain would have been totally worth it. Another hotel. Another win! We made it to Eureka. And we left 100 degree weather for deep fog, and temperatures in the 50s! For all of my love of the woods, and the river, and the majesty of nature... I cannot deny that what awaited us at the next hotel was sheer delight. I had no idea we were in for such a low-key yet totally amusing and relaxing experience at this stop. We came prepared for the possibility that maybe we might swim, and I am so glad we dared ourselves to just go check it out. There were tiki torches brightening the sunset sky, Hawaiian slack key was playing, and families were unwinding at the pool, hot tub, and many tables. There was ping pong, and enough space for everyone to spread out and feel at ease. We didn't even mind the bracing walk back to our room, after the long swim. We ate apples, cheese, and crackers from home, for dinner, and slept soundly.

Castles, Zebras, & Nepenthes - Fri, 07/23/2021 - 10:34
We were staying on schedule, mostly. The traffic through Los Angeles, and up to Santa Barbara threw off the master plan, but one thing I am good at is amending the master plan. We kept our visits to San Luis Obispo, and Cambria, short and sweet, fulfilling the goblet quest, filling up the gas tank, grabbing veggie wraps at Trader Joes, and popping into Spellbound. Ahead: San Simeon, Limekiln, cold drinks at Nepenthes, then sweet dreams in Monterey. Of course it's the stuff that happens off of the agenda that makes a road trip an adventure.
We stopped to see elephant seals. We were in luck for views... of the coast, the seals, shore birds, even Hearst's Castle was visible. My photograph, testing the limits of the iPhone zoom, looks like a watercolor painting, which I love. The unexpected sight? The legendary zebras! These are the descendants of the original zebras in William Randolph Hearst's zoo at La Cuesta Encantada. I've never seen them before! Actually, we spent the entire stop squinting our eyes, zooming in with the phone, and debating... are they? Zebras? Donkeys? Finally, I decided their posture was too proud, too elegant for donkeys, and it made a better story to say, "We saw the famous Zebras at San Simeon!" Then we drove away, and half a mile up the road William declared with a knowing smile in his voice, "Oh, yeah. It's for certain. They are zebras!" I kept my eyes on the highway, but William and Maria described the clear as day zebras grazing in plain sight.

The road to Big Sur requires total focus, and for me, nerves of steel. I prefer taking it south to north, so at least I am not on the cliff side. It winds on and on, seemingly forever. My reward? A stop at Limekiln, where we could hike up the narrow canyon from the ocean, into redwood shaded spaces, beside a creek. There was some concern about the time, but I assured William and Maria, that even if all I could do was sit for ten minutes, beneath trees, and take slow, deep breaths of evergreen, moss, and listen to running water, it would all be worthwhile... the entire drive, the waiting, and planning, all of it, just for those moments in a favorite place. When at last I saw the turn-off, I could almost taste the relief and I was willing to finish the rest of the drive in the dusk light, because this was going to be so worthwhile. And then we learned from the park ranger at the kiosk... due to fires and storm run-off, with mudslides, the park trails are closed until later this summer.

I don't know what made me sadder... not getting to fulfill this wish, or knowing that yet another beloved place had been hit by fire. My personal desires pale in comparison with my wish that we were doing more to protect our planet, and the conflict of driving, polluting, so I could visit natural wonders and see my family, weighed on me. Ahead were more turns, curves, drop-offs, signs of rock slides, and evidence of our insistence on taming nature so we can have access to spaces. I don't come through here often, and when I do, I feel fortunate, maybe even greedy, and I allow that this might not always be possible. I feel thankful, and humble. And hungry. I thought drinks would be a nice treat at Nepenthes, but what with the let down about Limekiln, and hours of driving ahead, I decided we were due a splurge. When Maria asked about dinner plans, I suggested we might have dinner at Nepenthes, and she gasped about the prices. I explained, it's like paying some rent... with dinner we will have a breathtaking view, in a historic and sentimental place, and sometimes we must gift ourselves special treats, then I broke out in song... "Order what you will! There'll be no bill. It's complimentary!"
We rented the space for a long and leisurely time, enjoyed the laughter and joyful mood of a large party celebrating a 90th birthday. We browsed the shop, took in views from many angles, reminded ourselves that this was the very place that inspired the style and spirit of our deck and wall, and recalled other times we had the honor and pleasure of stopping here... going way back! Even further back!The sun sets late in early July, and later the further north we drove. We were well fed, relaxed, and feeling comfortable, so the last hour or so, of driving to our hotel in Monterey was pleasant, and we stopped to take pictures of the deer. I pulled over every time someone was behind us, "Go around. I'm not in any hurry." We saw a lot of deer, and the Bixby Bridge, blackberry brambles, deep valleys, and steep cliffs. We rode into Monterey with happy memories, and new ideas. I love the new ideas that begin formualting on a road trip, when we already begin talking about next time.

A Quest - Thu, 07/22/2021 - 21:03

William, Maria, and I have been away. I think any and all in the family would have gladly joined in the adventure, but we had the most flexible schedules. And, here I go: I feel like I am already overthinking this post, including superfluous details, and then apologizing for the excess. Would that I could edit some photos, add captions, compose an anecdote, or two, and publish a succinct, yet riveting, personal, without overexposing all of my neuroses, blog post.

Here are some oak trees. If I had pulled over every time I saw an oak tree I loved, or a barn, seascape, pine tree, rock formation, or farmstand, the trip would have taken four weeks. I actually regret how few pictures I took. These oaks were some of the first things I photographed, and they were at Cachuma Lake. Cachuma Lake is north of Santa Barbara. It's a place I discovered when I resisted intuition and allowed Siri do the navigating. When we stopped here, with all of the Los Angeles County congestion finally behind us, it was feeling like we were going somewhere, and it's been a long time since we had that feeling.
Our destination: Coastal Oregon, to see my Mom and Dad. Stops, and extra bits to include Big Sur, the Redwoods, Portland, Aunt Becky and Debbie's, and Bill and Alison's. My plans were five, single-spaced, handwritten notes with contingencies for everything, except the things I could not foresee. One thing I didn't include in the notes, were many emotional expectations, hopes. I have missed the redwoods. When people suggest meditating, or someone with a soothing voice guides me into picturing my happy place, I almost always find myself in Limekiln State Park, hiking up to the falls, criss-crossing the creek, feeling the soft earth of the path, ferns on either side, stepping on deep layers of redwood duff. The hush in a canyon of mossy stones and towering trees is second only to an evening in a snowy clearing. Take me to Humboldt. Let me walk on trails along the Avenue of Giants, and sit beside the Eel River. I long to breath the air where old trees grow, and elk make trails through clover. I have longed for, indeed needed these places. So, I wrote lots of detailed notes about hotels, miles between stops, places where we could reasonably expect to find public bathrooms, and mentally I grappled with the thought that I am scared of traffic, crowds, surprises, anything unfamiliar, and the possibility that I would not have what it takes to manage everything it takes to travel 2,000 miles. In the end the whole trip was a dare: Go, and challenge your fears, regain your confidence, sit in the woods and breath slowly, deeply, recover, heal, gain strength. Come home well, reignited, in touch with that something that has been elusive, just out of reach. Those unspoken plans, the ones I used to push aside my doubts and fears, were bigger, and more ambitious than anything I had written in those pages of detailed notes. Since coming home, I have felt utterly spent, and increasingly sad. The drive back home is never easy, literally and figuratively, and I am sure that can account for some of my exhuastion, but I am also considering that I feel like I let myself down... perhaps because I expected too much to begin with. One thing written down: Find a gold goblet! For a few years now, we have been collecting the colored glass goblets made exclusively for the Madonna Inn. We have most of the clear glass colors. If you had told me, when I was 8 or 9 years old, and first gazing in awe-shock at the Madonna Inn, at all of that pink, gilded stuff, at those fancy, over the top water glasses with roses, and each one a different color, that I would one day have my own... I would not have believed it, and moreso, I would have been confused and concerned about what my future was coming to! Is there anything you do now, that you would have been appalled or shocked at in your youth? I think I love the fancy goblets ironically. And I think I love that I love them ironically. It's very puzzling to me. They were low in stock, and missing most colors, due to COVID and the factory closing temporarily, but they did have the one color that our hearts were set on. This was only the start of the trip, and the success was gratifying. Next stop: Cambria, and one little shop we have thought of since our last visit, Spellbound.Did you follow the link? We were last here in 2014! How has it been so long? Some things I do, and enjoy so much, that I am convinced I will be right back to do them again, to visit soon, often, and then suddenly years have gone by. It's still a sweet little shop with lots of inspiration and wonderful fragrances. It was another of many places where we said aloud that we wished everyone were with us. I'll pause here. We still have Big Sur to drive through, and we will spend the night in Monterey. I will be back to post again, soon... truly.

Thinking of Home - Thu, 07/15/2021 - 08:00
June 11, and the last day of school. Which means, Maria is a senior! This is something too big, too emotional to delve into just yet. Right now, we are in the middle of a summer adventure, traveling up and down the coast to see my Mom and Dad, to visit the City of Roses, and walk among the redwoods. William, Maria, and I are on an adventure, which I hope is going well... actually, I imagine it is going very well. We have so much beauty and wonder in store for us. I wrote a few posts before leaving, just to keep the blog "interesting," while we are traveling, and this post will happily remind me of home, and a bit of what I am looking forward to when we get back home... family, friends, pets, next plans. After all our time at home, travel seemed like a good dream, an excellent goal, and I am glad I will be seeing my Mom, again, at last. And those redwoods. But writing this post now, on the eve of our departure, I am already feeling like staying home is good. I am feeling anxious about leaving behind a bottle baby goat, and the trees still full of apples, and my sweetheart, and Max, and Alex, and Bambi, and friends. Funny thing to get wanderlust, and to know that it will be nicely sated, and then I will be even more eager to get back home. I love to plan trips, and I love to take trips, and I really love to come home from trips. I'll take lots of pictures... that's a goal that comes to mind as I am looking at my dear friend, Janece. I never regret taking pictures, especially of people I love. If you knew the detailed notes I've made, and the countless ways I have planned planned planned for everything, here, there, enroute... you would think I was making a world trip by airship, or paddling to Hawaii, something wildly elaborate, or remote. I have everything I could need, and more, and I have Geoff, who will call and text, and feed Grace Hopper, and reassure me, again and again. And then I will come home with new stories, and new energy, ready for the next plans.

Garden to Kitchen Gifts - Thu, 07/15/2021 - 08:00
Did you know? I saw a post, on Ari Shapiro's Instagram, about baking with Nigella seeds, sometimes known as black cumin. Well, I've never grown Nigella, so I guess it's no surprise that I didn't know about eating the seeds. The flowers were certainly beautiful, and I hope to plant even more seeds next year, so I am glad I figured out about collecting them. I tasted one tiny black seed, hesitantly. And then. Nothing. I was really shocked at how tasteless it was! As though I didn't bite into anything but air. Not bitter, not sweet, not tangy, or anything. Maybe toasting them brings up flavor? Have you ever tried them? The fact that we have blackberries and apricots, both, growing in our garden, and that they have been plentiful and ripening at the same time... these sort of events just boggle my mind, and fill me up with thanks and a feeling of bountiful fortune. Very good fortune. We have been snacking on blackberries daily. And some of the apricots are preserved and in the freezer. We made a few galettes... the world's easiest dessert! This galette is from garden peaches, which I added some apricot jam to. So the "recipe" is this... get a pie crust. I thawed ours from Trader Joes. When I don't have fresh fruit or homemade jam, I simply grab a favorite jar of jam, and mix it in a bowl with a few tablespoons of flour for thickening... this keeps the jam from being too juicy and running all over the pan. I spread the jam on the rolled out pie dough, fold up the sides to hold in jam. Then I brush the dough with some egg yolk that has a splash of water in it. And I sprinkled the crust with a little sugar. I baked this at 375 F, until it smelled good, and everything looked deep golden, and crisp. Easy! I think it would take more effort to mess this up than it does to get it right.

More Tea? - Tue, 07/13/2021 - 10:30
Maria invited friends over for tea and a movie! She baked tiny vanilla cupcakes with lemon buttercream frosting, and everyone tried two or more different teas. Then they watched Kiki's Delivery Service, with the campfire roaring... which inspired marshmallow roasting. Amira came, Skylar, Easton, and Makayla, too. And maybe next time more friends can come.

Teas - Sun, 07/11/2021 - 10:22
Bambi has been brewing tea for us every day. She made a large order of many varieties (varieteas!) We've been tasting them, enjoying their fragrances, and ranking them, too. The ones she chose are from Adagio Teas, and customers select unique blends and create mixes that they name, with themes. The ones Bambi ordered are all based on a D & D adventure, and the characters in the game... Curse of Strahd, I believe. It's been lovely, anticipating each new flavor and describing what we like or don't like about the different teas, flowers, flavors, and enjoying the pretty cups she serves us in, the conversations that come up, the time together.

Did You Order the LARGE? - Fri, 07/09/2021 - 10:14
On their way home from camp, Ido, Bex and Simon called us and asked if they could share their pizza with us. It seems they ordered the large. Like, really large! There was a mix up about an 18" pizza, and the pizzeria heard 28" pizza, which is a lot more pizza. And how lucky are we, our friends shared half? I'd just finished roasting garlic and tomatoes with rosemary, too. Even luckier!

some cats - Wed, 07/07/2021 - 10:13
This is one cat. He is a round cat. A land-seal. We call him Sakamoto. We call him Saki. He calls us when it's time to eat. Saki wants to eat all of the time. He is very shy about scritches and snuggles and hugs, and such. He is never shy about getting his scoops.This is another cat. He is a floof. When he swallowed yarn the doctor did a scan of his belly, and that's when we learned he is half-fat. His organs are on one side of his abdomen, and the other side is floof. This cat's name is Neo Cairo Nepenthes. We call him Cairo, and Puppy Cat. Fluff Nugget. Boop. This Boop loves his Ikea Rats, and he does a rat dance. He sits in the bathroom sink, and steals rubber bands, which is not good. He is very soft, which is very good. And this is the one we named Richard Pusheen Feynman. He is a practicing physicist, which means he likes to test gravity by pushing things to the very edge of the table, until they are drawn into the force of gravity. If you ask him to not test gravity, he is compelled to test it even more intently. Feynman takes excellent naps. Feynman is affectionate. Feynman talks. He may be talking about physics, we don't know. He will let you rub his belly, and he doesn't mind one little bit.

Trucks, Crowns, and Rats - Wed, 06/30/2021 - 12:18

When I see these two pictures, I feel happy to be painting, and then my thoughts get clouded with should messages, I feel anxious, frustrated. I really don't want to launch into a post about how I regret that I am not painting more, about ways in which I am struggling. The rattys, the blue truck... they seem like evidence enough that I am getting something done, and if I don't want to muddle in the negative bulletins rapid firing from my brain, then I should not. Not muddle. Not focus. Not repeat, ponder, contemplate, voice, hold space for. Look! I painted a truck, a place I love, and more ratty-rats.

Recently, William acquired two stereoscopes, which makes a total of four that he has, and he told me, "I read that once you have three or more of something, you can call it a collection." By the way, William's stereoscope collection is really cool, and he even found a packet of photo cards, all of places around the world. They're beautiful.

Well, it occurs to me that now I have three original paintings of Chevy trucks; trucks that I have seen, and wanted to paint. The first one was a truck I saw in Wisconsin, and I wanted to make it as realistic as possible, and then I also enjoyed enhancing the glass panes behind the truck, and the painting took on a celestial vibe that I love. The next truck, one that lives not far from here, and Geoff and I ride by it on our bicycling route, I wanted to place it in California, but some place rural, and I looked at photographs of the Central Coast, and farms. And. I put a rabbit at the wheel. This latest truck was on our street, and only for a short time, so I am glad I stopped and took pictures. And again, I wanted to change the setting, and I was drawn to a familiar place in Mexico. Never ever in my whole wide imagination did I think I would attempt, or even be interested in, drawing a truck. I love trucks, but even now I think: Trucks? That's hard, and complicated, and there too many angles, and technical kind of things about trucks that would be way too difficult to represent. No way! And yet! Now I have a collection of Chevy paintings, and some other photographs of trucks I'd like to paint. And I can't explain the rats, nor the rabbit. How, when I have managed to make a fairly decent sketch of a real thing, I cannot resist inserting something decidely unrealistic. The harder thing to describe is my feeling that they are not there to be "cute," to be darling. In my mind, they are not depicting anything childish, or shallow, and I hope to someday be able to articulate why they show up, how they are holding space for depths of emotion and reason that I can't quite find the words to express.
We have had a Mom's Night Out. I believe the Moms got together at least once during the Stay At Home times, but this was the first time that was more like old times. These Moms are friends that have been having a monthly dinner gathering in each other's homes since... 1996? I've posted many times about these friends, and some of our gatherings. I wonder if I have ever really delved into how much we have been through together, how blessed we are to have been in each other's lives. In any case, this night was welcome, after such a long absence, and I kept looking around and thinking, These women are so beautiful! My friends are beautiful. And I wanted to take lots of pictures, and kind of grasp the moment, hold on to laughter, and familiar gestures, the feeling of admiration I have for them. Anna Banana admired my glasses (That's another story, but thank God, I finally got new glasses!) and I let her try the frames on. I took her picture so she could see how they look, and she wants to get the same pair... which I love. They're from Costco (not a sponsor, but they do a great job, and it's all so reasonable.) Anyway, now I have this picture of my beautiful friend, and I can't help sharing it. And I am reminded that I have been conscious of what portraits and photographs of people means to me, how the last year has changed what I photograph, and moreso, what I share and don't share. As ever, I would love to take more pictures of people, of loved ones, and to share them. And I am glad that I have so many loved ones to admire, to share time and space with.

Oh, I am postively loaded with deep thoughts and other musings this morning, but if I go on and on about everything I am observing, this post will be an epic, a saga. Is it time to switch to bullet points? Should I just Hemingway my musings, be concise, and leave the deep thoughts below the surface?

Ada and Tasha switched power positions, after nine years. Tasha is the herd leader now.

I want this cabinet. I want it in my kitchen, where the smaller, teak cupboard is, which I bought when we were homeschooling, and it was affordable and convenient. I want this, though, because it's blue, and pretty.

And. This. Yes, it's a crown. And full of gems. I mean, not real sapphires and diamonds, but real sparkly, and heavy. It's something better than a costume toy. It arrived in the mail, in a box addressed to "Queen Natalie," and there's an address to spin your head! It's wildly powerful. Have you ever worn a crown? You have to stand regally, and move gracefully, with purpose. It looks amazing on... on Bambi, on Maria, on Geoff. Who knew? Did you know? Did you know a crown, even a mail order one, can give you royal bearing, and a purposeful stride? And! I have no idea where it came from! Who sent this to me?? I didn't know where to put it. It could go back in the box, and into a closet, but that would be a waste of the enchantment it casts, so it's in the kitchen cupboard, the one where we display "fancy" things, which doesn't explain the paper straws and chopsticks, but nonetheless it's a place of honor. When you come over, you will have to try it on. I want everyone to feel the sparkly, the magic.

Summer Apples - Tue, 06/29/2021 - 16:20
By late spring our trees are covered in apples, and when it's mid to late June, those apples are ready to be picked. Our Fuji apples ripened earliest, and I have been snacking on one a day for a few weeks. When Simon, Bex, and Spencer came over, I was ready with an apple theme, begininng with a taste test. We sampled the three varieties. We talked about what makes a good snacking apple and what makes a nice baking apple. When we had tried all three and compared them for texture, flavor, sweetness etc... we chose: Fuji and Annas' for baking, and the Dorsett for fresh eating. Then I put them to work! Only it never feels like work when we bring out our apple-peeler-corer. The day-campers had never tried one of these wonderful gadgets, but they are absolutely sold on the efficiency, fun, and twirly-brillant outcome. It's so gratifying to crank that red handle, and get a peeled apple that is cored, and sliced in a continuous spiral! We sliced apples in smaller pieces, and splashed some lemon juice on them, added sugar and cinnamon, then spooned them into buttered dishes, and covered them in oats with butter, more sugar and cinnamon. And this time we had Maria with us too, and she is a brilliant culinary arts assistant. She gave Spencer an excellent safety and practice lesson for working with knives. Did I mention that it was raining? So unusual, and so very welcome. It was a lovely shower, just enough to move us from outdoor camp to porch camp, and the fragrance of the baking apple crisps wafted to us as we patiently waited to sample our wares. The rain soon cleared up, and we could play on the swing, and run around while the crisp finished. They topped their individual creations with blackberries from the garden, and took home an unbaked dessert to share at home, along with some of those golden dorsetts! Local friends, I have apples for you, too!