Chicken Blog by Natalie

Miasma - Fri, 02/26/2021 - 10:28

On Tuesday I began the Fiberuary Challenge... answering daily prompts, through the month of February, about myself as a fiber artist.

And. Yeah, no. It's looking like I am not going to finish that. I enjoy seeing everyone else's posts, but... I don't know. Did I bore myself? Possibly. Am I self-conscious, mildly depressed, sort of floundering? Something makes me want to throw in the word miasma. (Goes to dictionary.) Why yes, that could work. There is a miasma of weariness encircling my space, a vibe that trembles tumultuosly. If anxiety is as catching as a virus, it would be a kindness for me to move over to a personal journal, and step away from the blog. I have this compulsion to rationalize, to make a list of the things that are pebbles in my shoe, to self-analyze. I am not so close to this impulse that I cannot see how tedious I would be, scratching at the same spot, impetuously twitching, pulling at threads.

It's time to sort this box out, again. The first time I re-organized it, I'd only done two or three little projects. I've lost count of how many things I've stitched up since then. It's a mess. I'll do that. I'll take everything out, and re-wind the flosses, toss the myriad little snips, sort the tools, and stack the scraps. It is a very small thing. It will be a very small thing. There is so much more that needs doing. But there it is... my plan. First cadio with Bounce Bhangra, then make the sewing box tidy, and finally go through all of the eggs the hens are laying and share those, because we have more than we need.

And. Maybe call the attorney. But that's likely pointless. I never mentioned, but I may as well... my insurance came back with a settlement offer that is less than 20% of what they promised, of what I have paid to be covered for. It took them 11 months and regularly asking me for paperwork and signatures, letters, and evidence to come up with that. I turned them down, on principle, because it hurts to feel devalued, and lied to. Eighteen months ago, I thought we were a few months from walking away from all of this, for good. Ha!
Ok... stick with the plan. Diana and I are about to Bounce, then I will straighten out that little box, and make things right. Next, the eggs. I am going to be like an Easter bunny, and deliver eggs!

Joy In The Doing - Tue, 02/23/2021 - 12:10

The success I had embroidering my groundhog, in a more realistic, detailed style, gave me the gumption to try another image. I liken it to painting with thread, and I went with attempting to make a bird, from my sketchbook. I am not saying this as a recommendation, because it was pretty reckless of me, but I grabbed a fine point Sakura marker, and drew the bird directly on a square of fabric from a charm pack. I was probably holding my breath, but I got mostly lucky, and the sketch was not bad. Painting with thread is a good analogy for this realism style... the stitches, length and type, are brush strokes, the colors need to create depths, shadows, highlights, and the smallest choices can make big impressions. And just like in painting, there are points along the way when it looks like a flop, and I want to walk away! But I didn't. And I'm glad I saw it through.

People I follow on Instagram, are participating in Creative Ceci's Fiberuary Challenge. When I saw Creative Ceci's prompts and the posts fiber artists were sharing, I wanted to participate, too. But I have that awful condition, the one called imposter syndrome, and the small (figuratetively small, but effectively very big) voice in my head said, That's for real artists. You're only a dabbler. I sat back, quietly, and let all the real artists play, and I am sorry I made that choice.

Here they are, the prompts for the Fiberuary Challenge. And I am going to dabble with this for the rest of the month.

1. Intro selfie... oh, wow. It starts with hard stuff.Hello! I am Natalie, and I love fiber arts. I enjoy crafting, crocheting, quilting, embroidery and cross-stitch, wool felting, mending and hand-sewing, making clothes, and applique. I would love to learn how to spin wool. What else? Well, I illustrate, paint, make miniatures, have done some mosaics, and pottery, lots of cooking, and gardening, landscape design, mentoring, STEM outreach, photography, and writing. My happiest place is somewhere between make-believe and make it happen.
2. When I am not crafting... blogging? Yes, when I am not crafting, I am blogging, which for me includes sharing my photography, chronicling parts of lives, and thinking aloud. The photography part is essential to me. I love it. I can't not take pictures. From the first time I saw a camera, I wished could possess that gift of making images, of capturing memories to hold and share (I was six, and watching my stepbrother with a 35mm camera, taking photographs of our pets, and activities, and it filled me with wonder!) When I am not crafting, I am being a partner to my husband of almost 32 years, and a guide and supporter of our four young people, which has included mentoring, homeschooling, advocating for children, and young adults with Autism, exhibiting at Maker Faires, and competitive robotics events, and lots of projects, cooking, laundry, travels, laughter, and wonder.

3. This day last year... February 3, 2020. William helped Alex move a chair into Alex's studio. I had convinced Alex that no studio could be complete without a comfy spot to plop down, and get comfortable... for himself, or a guest, it would be essential. And, as luck (or?) would have it, the comfy chair has been essential, and appreciated by all, one way or another.

4. Made in 2020... lots! Initially, it was about making PPE, and all of my crafting was set aside. Then again, we were all making use of the crafting and manufacturing skills we have aquired through hobbies and play, and those served us to design, and produce over 2,000 pieces of personal protective equipment, and then donate those to hospitals, and clinics across the country. In 2020 I also crocheted a blanket, and two shawls, I made story scenes with dolls I'd made, and I've done some inking and painting. Rats, and mice-like creatures are my favorite subjects.

5. Friday night... Oh. Hmmm. Honestly, days of the week have almost almost become meaningless. The best Friday nights, I think, are when we host a driveway movie, but those have happened on Sundays and Tuesdays, too. Oh, well, I just looked at the calendar, and on February 5th, we woke up to the news that Christopher Plummer had passed away. That Friday night we sat together in the living room and watched the Sound of Music, which, following an attempted coup by former 45 and other neo-nazis, is a surprisingly stirring and relevant story. Also, watching Maria hold out the drapes with that look of sheer inspiration on her face, then seeing the children dance into Salzburg, always makes me want to sew dresses! Lots of fitted, pretty dresses!

6. Most loved project... I will need to think about this.
I finished the bird. It reminds me of the look of a paint by numbers project, especially the wings. I am looking at it very critically, but without wanting to take it all apart talking about what went wrong, or how I would do it differently. I think it's natural, even welcome to recognize how I would do it differently. I was learning as I went, and that's a good thing. I got lots of kind and enthusiastic feedback on Instagram, which I love and appreciate. I think it would be very good to complete these two squares, somehow or another. Framing them, as some suggested is an idea I like, but it raises issues of their size. I would probably need to add borders, something to bring them into a uniform frame size. I am tempted to continue making small bags, fairy purses, Janece calls them. And I love Trini's reminder, "Joy in the doing," which is lovely, and so true! I find joy in the doing, and pleasure in saying so.

Happy Birthday(s ) - Mon, 02/22/2021 - 14:37
Nine years ago, today, our dear Tasha was born. She was one of five, and probably the smallest of the trip ('Trip' of goats might come from the Middle Dutch word 'trippen,' which means to skip or hop.) We didn't meet her until she was at the feedstore, in April. I met two goats that day, Tasha, nutmeg brown and white, and litte Ada, a caramel. Ada was born later the same week, on February 25. As little prepared as we were, I couldn't resist bringing them home. I had longed for goats for several years, and had been reading and researching for months. It has been a treat, an honor, a barrel of laughs, some small frustrations, which always end in more laughs, having these two beings in our lives. Tasha was named for the artist and author, Tasha Tudor. Maria and I regularly read her books, and took inspiration from her free spirited life and philosophies. And Tasha Tudor loved goats. Tasha is our smaller, quieter goat. She is a bit more headstrong about some things, like investigating tight spaces (getting stuck) and going on adventures (escaping.) She doesn't have much to say, but she expresses her pleasure when we bring out a brush, or carry a piece of licorice.
Ada will be 9 years old on Thursday. She was named for the English mathematician and writer, Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, who was one of the first computer programmers (well before those machines were what we recognize today.) We appreciate this woman's contributions, and admire her accomplishments. I don't know what she thought of goats. But our little caramel colored goat had a lacey patch of white spots on her head, which made me think of the ornate headpieces and lacey caps worn during the Regency era, of Ada Lovelace's time. Ada speaks frequently, and with devotion, and she seems to be the one in charge, between the two goats. I don't think it's because she is too bossy, so much as obliging Tasha is too mellow to object. Ada loves food, which makes her easier to re-direct than Tasha, and she loves to let everyone know that she's watching, she sees you, she'd like to chat. Bring a snack, let's catch-up, she invites when she catches you out hanging laundry, or standing on the porch. She's even spied me upstairs, in my room... there is no mistaking when she's tracked you down with her big blue eyes, and wants you to come out, and visit.

Happy Birthdays, Goats! Some presents are on their way, and extra brushes, runs, and even more affection, are all your due!

Wishes - Sat, 02/20/2021 - 12:46
The garden is full of tiny blossoms, and I wish that I could invite you over to enjoy them with me. Everyone must be positively sick of hearing about the thing we have been dealing with for nearly a year, the invisible yet conspicuous menace that has changed everything in our daily lives. This week marks the beginning, for us, when we discussed the very real possibility of quarantine, when we took inventory of our disaster preparedness supplies, and considered what we could need to last, isolated at home for two weeks, or six months, and we laughed at the idea of that scenario. It seemed too improbable, and possibly too horrible to comprehend, a pandemic going on for more than a season. We were mindful, but now it is almost as though we were envisioning something that would be simply a long campout, an unfortunate misadventure we would soon laugh about, and be happy to have made it through with only some inconvenience. Now, we punctuate every conversation with phrases like, wearing mask, safely distanced, before COVID, tested, and I wish we could... And the losses, the setbacks, the disappointments, grief, and frustrations have been far more grave, challenging, and lasting than we imagined. I wish we could have managed all of this more capably, with more concern, and care. It's been a long year.
Even though I am full of wishes, full of concerns and empathy, and somewhat weary of protocols and limits, I cannot say it's been all bad, or particularly hard for us. We have, undoubtably, been uniquely prepared and suited for staying home, keeping busy, and feeling comfortable. For one thing, we are prepared... it's been years since I first put Alex in charge of our emergency preparedness kits, and other measures. He has kept us in good shape for earthquakes, evacuations, zombies, and other scary things! And then, all of our hobbies, and sometimes idiosyncratic interests, have been a tremendous help for us, and for our community, and have provided many, happy distractions, and opportunities for fun, for engagement, and celebrations. Even ideas and plans we made with other purposes in mind, have lent themselves fittingly well for these new circumstances, like widening the driveway, adding more seating, and improving our space for getting together outside. We have been fortunate... we count ourselves lucky, in friends, in resources and ideas, in patience and flexibility, and imagination.

I wish I could see my Mom and Dad, safely, as easily as we did before. I am so glad they are managing well enough, that they have each other, and Netflix, good humor, and their cozy home. I wish Maria could go to school, as we imagined it would be, as she hoped she would enjoy. I am very thankful that her teachers and classmates can still participate, safely, in classes, and lessons, in clubs, and activities, mindfully and patiently doing all things possible to keep safe, and not spread the virus. I wish there was no injustice, indifference to global issues, cruelty, ignorance. I am heartened by the outcome of our national election results, by the tone and endeavors of the new administration to be kind, to act progressively, openly, and for the good of all. And I am renewed by my community, by the stories of kindness and generosity, of ingenuity and good faith that happen every day, in small gestures, and big movements. I am reminded that we have a beautiful capacity to do good, to share and inspire, to lift each other up, and I hope that we see more, do more, to spread these gifts we have, through compassion, with love, for all. I wish we could sit close together and eat focaccia, smell these tiny blossoms, laugh, and cry, about the year, and soon, be happy that we made it through. Very soon, I pray.

Aesthetic Boards - Fri, 02/19/2021 - 12:13

In my teens I hung up posters on a bedroom wall, momentos like ticket stubs, theater programs. Then, I switched to filling albums or binders with ephemera, inspiration, photographs, love notes, magazine clippings, stickers. They were reminders of what I had done, and what I hoped to do. I loved when my taste, and hopes, or what I wished could be my taste, aligned with real experiences. When I discovered Pinterest, all of the pleasures of creating moods, being inspired, gathering and sorting through ideas, words, images, colors, and pretty things, reminded me of those albums and scrapbooks, of poring over magazines, looking for the one or two articles or objects that I liked, or wanted, or dreamed of, then clipping them out, and pasting them into my own book. Digitally, there is so much more to see and share, and it's all there at the *click* of a key. I compare it with curating a magazine.

When Maria was very young, I would often comfort, distract, or amuse her with a special Pinterest Board I curated just for her. I call it Just to Make Maria Smile. If we were stuck in a boring situation, I could pass her my phone, open to the Board, and she could safely browse all of the kittens, and bunnies, the teacups, and poems, the natural wonders, places, and philosophers. Some nights it was like a bedtime story, and we would snuggle together and re-visit favorite images, of places, of possibilities. When Max started school away from home, and was struggling to adjust to dorm life, I suggested he visit Pinterest, as a calming distraction, when he didn't know what else to do. I had boards of things I'd been curating, subjects, and themes that made me think of him, that I wanted to share with him. Not only did he take to it, but by following him, I discovered more about his interests, the things that make him laugh, comfort him. He still adds things to his Pinterest Boards, which we all visit from time to time, mostly for the jokes and memes.

Now, Maria is in high school, and has had her own Pinterest account for some time. We still share images that make each other smile, but this week, she shared something new, but really not so new... aesthetic boards. I know them as mood boards, or the literal cork boards pinned with notices, reminders, momentos and images. And I was reminded that I made one for a swap with a Peter Rabbit theme, and it was meant to share with my partner an idea of things I like, favorites, and such. I enjoyed making it, curating the images, distilling an idea of what I like, and realizing that it meant thinking, in part, about who I am. It was an interesting exercise, and I have meant to play with it some more, but haven't. Maria has been making many of these aesthetic boards, initially for the Dungeons and Dragons characters she and her group, play. They include original, and found art, clothes, scenes, objects, symbols. Collectively, the 3 x 3 grid creates a whole image, and mood that represents, even evokes, the character she is representing. Recently, she has begun to build aesthetic boards for people she knows, and herself. She showed me the D&D boards, which are a lot of fun, and communicate so much about both the characters, and their players, especially in Maria's hands. She has a knack for distilling the qualities and motifs that reveal the personality. Then she showed her latest aesthetic boards, and I was really captivated. This is Maria's aesthetic board. Without looking at her, it's like seeing her, seeing into her dreams, her hopes, finding beauty as she sees it, the places in her heart. It feels intimate, true, and personal. I feel privileged, and fortunate, to see all of this that makes her happy, that inspires, and represents parts of who she is. The next one she shared with me, she made for her friend, Amira.
Of course, I know Amira... not so well as Maria knows them, but I see Amira in this board. I know they love pineapples and Miyazaki, that their bedroom is tropical yellow, they draw, and sign, and watch Steven's Universe. Another layer of what Maria composed, and she shared with me, is in the order of the images... pink, then yellow, and blue, like the pansexual pride flag. And the I love you ASL sign, is also like the game, a character, Paul played at with them when the girls were much younger. (Nuh-nuhnuh?)

Maria showed me another, one she is just starting. "Can you guess?" she asked, holding up her iPad. There were only three images in the grid, so far, and already, I could see, "It's Bambi!" Then, I wanted to see me... that is I was curious to see how she sees me. It feels like a unique, divulging way to have one's portrait made, like it could be a collage of what I project, and how she relates to me. I knew was asking for something personal, intimate. I don't make it into many photographs, and the narrative about who I am, the one in my head, is critical. I can't deny that the wish and hope to be seen at my best, through love and mindfullness is irresistible.
She shared this with me, this morning... her aesthetic board of me. I am floored. It's all familiar, yet revealing. It speaks of things I strive for, wish for, reach for, both on the ground, and in my dreams. It feels like one detailed portrait of me, with innermost, unspoken details, composed of many things, and feelings, that I both guard, and wear on my sleeve. It makes me feel pretty, inside, and out. I want to quash the idea of vanity, which just now reared its mean head, like a tiny troll, drawing its breath and preparing to lecture me on the sins of pride, conceit. What is the opposite of vanity? Because, I would like to know... what is virtuous, or worthwhile, about making oneself small, self-effacement, if I lose sight of what I have to offer the world, what makes me move, grow, smile? On the surface, I see the things I like, but the board also shows me the best of what I am comprised of, strive for, and that's a view I struggle to recognize, honor. Maybe some people are comfortable in their own skin, know themselves, but I am not, do not. I have tried to not to take up too much space, be a bother, look in the mirror, for as long as I can remember. There is a momentous gift in what happens when someone listens to you, sees you, knows you, and then takes the time to reflect back to you, the kindest parts of what they see, what they hear, or feel. So, when someone takes your photograph, or writes you a love note, when they reveal what they see you as, positively, unconditionally, not for the sake of inflating your pride, but to share the good, the joy, the bits you have displayed, intentionally, or quietly, I think that is something like a transcendent embrace, a sacred expression of love. I cannot deny that I am honored, even healed, and certainly inspired to see this part of me, and to know that I have managed to project some good. It makes me want everyone, that needs some confidence, some love, to have their picture taken, a poem written, an aesthetic board made by someone that sees them, and loves them, because it feels wonderful.

Living - Wed, 02/17/2021 - 11:56
On our daily bicycle ride, there is a spot where we ride beneath some large pine trees. They're growing in a landscape barrier, where the road ends, and another housing development begins. The long branches of the pine trees hang over the sidewalk, creating a canopy of pine needles, large, round pine cones, and dappled light. In a literal sense, it is about thirty feet of sidewalk, traffic barriers, a dry and overgrown easement, a kind of cobbled solution for diverting car traffic, and not particulary inspired. Figuratively, it is fairway to a moment in a forest, on a journey, through a glen, into a woodland. The transition makes me mindful, take notice, feel expectant, yet if I timed it, I don't think it takes more than 4 seconds to ride through. In 4 seconds I can take a deep breath, notice whether more pinecones have fallen, look out for the wild fennel that grows in the scrubby part, note when children have left a skateboard, or ball, or have been building something in the dirt. In 4 seconds I can recall the pine trees that grew in the front of our house on Weekend Villa Road, when I was 6 or 7. You could walk up to the tree, whose branches arched from the trunk, up and over, creating a hollow dome, with a brown, fragrant carpet of dry needles, deep and cushiony. It was a perfect hideaway, personal house or fortress. I always expected magical, fairy tale events to happen when I was beneath that pine tree. Nothing ever did happen, no fairies, no talking rabbits, or tea parties, but somehow I didn't lose hope, or feel entirely let down. On our bike ride, for a moment, I revisit that same anticipation, and hope... here is a place where I might be witness to something special.
Suddenly, it seems, the trees are full of sun-bright pollen cones. They're so cheerful looking, they could be decorations for a celebration, or a delicacy we should harvest, and serve on small floral plates, with honey, and cheese. On this part of the ride, we are moving downhill, picking up speed, but yesterday I stopped to take some quick snapshots, to share, and remember.

Janece wrote lots of comments on some of my blog posts, including yesterday's, the one about baking quiche, and crostata. How I love comments! "I do wish I was more of a kitchen dabbler and experimenter. I enjoy it once I do it usually, but I'm always stopped by the idea of mess and dishes," she shared, and I loved how it made me immediately recall something. About 2/3 of the way through preparing 4 quiches, boiling eggs, and imagining a big jam pie, when I was pulling out yet another bowl for chopped veggies, or was it the sauteed ones? Anyway, I winced a little. The counter was at maximum capacity, eggs were simmering in a pot, the sink was filling up, and I was not sure I was adding enough salt to the quiche mix. And how about dill? Do I add dill to quiche? I was 100% mindful that, whatever my intentions are, however hard I try, I almost always make a mess. I have better habits. I have learned solid truths... like use a larger bowl, or pot than I think I will need, because it almost always saves me from spills. By the way, I forgot, or ignored, the larger pot rule, yesterday, and the price I will pay is having to scrub the stovetop. I could almost pass out and feel like I died, if anyone pops over when I am in the middle of Creating (or "living," as I call it.) I have managed to internalize shame and embarrassment about messes, but not the singleminded pursuit of fastidious domesticity. But, I decided to share some hard truths about what happens when I "dabble and experiment," and I posted some damning evidence on my IG stories. I reasoned, I could be temporarily, ephemerally open, transparent for 24 hours, you know, keep it real. The weird thing is, sometimes embarrassment makes me feel like I could pass out, disappear into the floorboards, but often as not, it makes me laugh, and feel perfectly imperfectly human, and creative.
Okay. These are pretty bad. If no one comes out and laughs with me, I will take them down in 24 hours. After I make a big mess in the kitchen, I like to go upstairs and make a big mess with my sewing box, or as I like to call it "living." It's moments like these when I am keenly, gratefully, aware that I am a very very very fortunate woman. I have needles and threads, and pots and pans, eggs and dill, I have ideas, dreams, and time to play with all of it, and there is not a lot more I want, except more time, and the chance to share all of it.
Ah! A poem just came to mind, and I could not ask for a better finish to this post...

Dust if you must, but wouldn’t it be better To paint a picture, or write a letter, Bake a cake, or plant a seed; Ponder the difference between want and need?

Dust if you must, but there’s not much time, With rivers to swim, and mountains to climb; Music to hear, and books to read; Friends to cherish, and life to lead.

Dust if you must, but the world’s out there With the sun in your eyes, and the wind in your hair; A flutter of snow, a shower of rain, This day will not come around again.

Dust if you must, but bear in mind, Old age will come and it’s not kind. And when you go (and go you must) You, yourself, will make more dust.

by Rose Milligan

Do You Say Crostata or Gallette or Jam Pie? - Tue, 02/16/2021 - 10:22
Our hens are motivated and ambitious in the egg department. I shared eggs, and will share more. I boiled eggs, and I can share those, too. Then I got everything together to bake quiches. And this is not a recipe, sorry, but even I wish I would write something down, because I make this up as I go, everytime. Hey, it's eggs, cheese, pancetta, leeks, spinach... what could go wrong? I made one of the four vegetarian, for William. They were super yummy. And, the bonus is I don't need to do anything for lunch today, nor tomorrow. Besides having extra quiche, I had a lot of extra pie dough, so I decided to improvise on another creation... something with jam. For as long as I can remember, going back to the little house on A Street, my mom let me play with the extra pie dough (she's always been a phenomenal pie baker.) My favorite thing to do was to cut out circles and add a dollop of jam to the centers. Over the years they've evolved, and I think of them most at Thanksgiving. Sometimes they are really too messy for pictures, and stick to the pan, but I don't care, because it's the little bite of nostalgia that I am after. They feel like a gift that comes from almost nothing... dough scraps and tiny teaspoons of jam, sometimes whatever was left at the bottom of an almost spent jar. Now, Maria makes them, which makes me happy... it's a gift to see something enjoyable shared, and passed down, to be a witness to generational connectedness through traditions. Well, now you have the backstory on our little jam pies... this time I imagined one big jam pie. I spied a new jar of Bonne Maman raspberry jam in the pantry, and scooped into a bowl, to mix with a spoonful of cornstarch. I rolled out the dough, put it on a parchment lined baking pan, and spread the jam in the center. Then I raised the edges of the pie dough to contain the fruit, brushed the dough with a beat egg yolk. Maria asked, Are you going to sprinkle the egg yolk with sugar? That would look pretty. Yes. Good idea. The quiche were coming out of the oven, and in went our big jam pie! I forgot to mention the little cut-outs. I should have looked for a heart shaped cookie cutter, but the tiny tree one was readily available. I was worried the jam would be too sweet, and so the extra dough was dotted around, as trees, to balance sweet and savory tastes. Then I remembered the last bit of cream, from quiche baking, and I whipped it up, with a tiny bit of sugar, but again, mostly thinking to offset the sweet jam. Ok, I know it came out funky looking rustic, but the taste was every bit like the tiny jam pies I love so much! (Of course) I shared it to Instagram. It's such a simple dessert... another simple and gratifying dessert! We are two for two. I called it a "tart-pie-raspberry treat," but Kristina Gill calls it, "Crostata in Italy... gallette elsewhere!" Kristina Gill is a cookbook author living in Rome, so she would know! If I closed the dough over the filling, I would call that an empanada! What fascinates me is food and culture, food and regional specialties, and food that is universal, that coincides, in many places. Like how there are flat breads, unleavened breads, almost everywhere... naan, tortillas, pita lavash, chepati, frybread! Or fermented foods, like cortado and kimchi, pickles, and sauerkraut, giardiniera, to name a few. And the granita, too! I grew up with "raspados," and later learned about shave ice, in Hawaii, which I think comes from Japan, but I don't know, maybe Hawaiians climbed Maunakea and brought down snow and sweetened it! It's all so fascinating, so compelling, the stories of food, of trade and exchange, of distant, yet simultaneous development of recipes, processes. I am vibrating... all of this, and even knowing that I am barely touching the surface of this, that there is so much more to learn, explore, taste, literally, figuratively, is very exciting. I feel so fortunate to be living in a time when the stories are more accessible than ever, when I have many opportunties to participate, and engage, learn, share.

SweetTart - Mon, 02/15/2021 - 11:50

"Make an Italian inspired dessert:" Maria's Culinary Arts assignment this week. She watched a cooking program that featured several Italian cooks, each preparing different frozen confections, including sorbets, and gelatos. I know I posted about serendipity, only yesterday, but it happened, again, and I love it when random things occur that reveal themselves to be interconnected. I wonder... do events simply happen, and we draw connections out of will and desire, or are they truly meant to align themselves, meaningfully, inevitably?

Max and Maria joined me in a flurry of cleaning, and decluttering. Me, in the kitchen, mostly washing a lot of pots, pans, bowls, and Max in the livingroom tidying up, and putting things right, and Maria doing good and necessary odds and ends, like taking out garbage and recyling, clearing off the dining table. When there was a nice clear patch on the counter, Max brought my Christmas gift from the family, out of the livingroom... and I admit, the beautiful red manual juicer looks much better in the kitchen than in the livingroom. I think it's time we give this a try, don't you? he asked, patiently, yet intently. Max, is my angel of reason, of observation, and order, a gentle minder about many things, including when the sausages are soon to expire, whether we've made plans for dinner, do the cats need attention, or whether one thing or another is necessary, called for, ready. Without his nudging, I might have waited until next Christmas before giving the new toy a try. Bambi uses our food processor almost weekly, and I had only just used it for the first time after almost ten years. It seems I am always going to be a little too slow to make good use of things... it's not a lack of appreciation, but perhaps too much admiration for things just as they are. The juicer, sitting near where the Christmas tree used to be, made me feel lucky, admiring, happy, merely looking at it. I am often reminding myself to put things to use, to stop saving these treasures for a special occasion. I seem to be both intimidated, and too much in awe, of nice things.

So, I sent Maria out to the garden for any citrus she could find, and she returned with an armful of blood oranges, from our tree, Marceline. Max washed the fruit, and Maria turned to her phone, for recipes that might work for the class assigment. She thought maybe a sorbet, and I asked her if she'd heard of granita? And her answer was yes, they prepared that in the video. We are big fans of shave ice, and raspados, and this version, sounded like something we would love. First, we would need juice!

I had a juicer. I remember when I got it... Mother's Day, 2009. That was a gift we tried out right away, and loved! It got lots and lots of use over the years, until this year when the little form that holds the fruit disappeared. We could order a new part, but... heck, I don't know why we haven't done that! It would seem our pandemic addled brains are simply super-saturated with too many other things to figure out? (Oh. Geez. That was easy. Someday, I would like to talk to a therpist about how many years it takes to regain one's brain and processing capabilities after a concusion and collision trauma.) Where was I? I fell into infatuation with this manual beast of a juicer, and was the lucky recipient, at Christmas, and as much as we love(d) our little Krups, this new toy is super cool! We all took turns setting orange halves on the cone, and bringing down the lever. There is something satisfying about levers, about the brilliance of physics, and simple mechancial actions. We had bright red juice flowing, and plenty for Maria's granita recipe.

Maria added enough sugar, not a syrup, but straight, granulated sugar mixed into 3 cups of juice to sweeten the tart blood orange. She made the choice to keep the tartness, and only sweeten it a little. Then she poured this into a baking pan, and took it to the freezer. For five hours, every hour she broke up the freezing juice with a fork. Even after the second hour she was really happy with the results. The timing was brilliant, because we were finishing our dinner, when it was time to bring out the finished granita. Maria had eyed all of our cups and bowls, looking for something special, something to feature the beautiful red of the granita, and to highlight Valentine's Day, not too big, nor too small, and she served us her granita in milkglass teacups, which was a very pretty choice. So, is there some serendipity in all of this, or am just enarmoured of looking for attachments? The fruit in the orchard, the new juicer, the dessert assignment, the Valentine red... I suppose it's all the same, whether random, or crazy-random-happenstance, but somehow life feels a little sweeter when I imagine there is magic and fortune just waiting to be noticed, celebrated.

Chatting Away on Valentine's Day - Sun, 02/14/2021 - 10:14

A rosy posy rat, with her circle of flowers, and a tiny bouquet, all painstakingly stitched on an old and very thin handkerchief. I began with the ratty, and I thought two strands of floss would be too much for the fragile fabric. But it would have looked better with a double strand. By the time I got to the flowers, I felt more daring, even making French knots, and those longer knots, with the floss wrapped around the needle many times. If I never do anything with it, the handkerchief might not tear.

I'm not sure what use any of these creations are. And I still haven't learned to think up a plan. For instance, the moon was going to be a floral wreath. I drew a circle, then thought of the moon, and made it a crescent in the circle. Then I thought, it could still be filled up with flowers, and I made one little criss-cross base for a rose, something I'd seen on Pinterest. I didn't bother to study how the roses were made, and my first criss-cross was all wrong for their method, but I was reminded of simple twinkle stars, and filled the moon up with more stars. The floss is palest blue, and looks silvery. On Instagram, an artist acquaintence (I should say friend, though we haven't met, yet. We did share a Zoom call, and we are collarborating. So, yes, I should say friend...) My friend, Lola Argemi was painting in her IG stories, accompanied by Debussy's Clair de Lune. I loved the serendipity of the moment, me in California, stitching moon light, and her in Mexico City, painting to Moon Light. I added the words in chainstitch... Clair de Lune.
It finally rained. Truly, I mean finally. It's been a dry winter, and it's frustrating to see rain in the forecast, and then see the days reduce from 3 to 1, from 1 to none. I've been hand-watering all the seeds I sowed in anticipation of showers. I was out on the bedroom balcony, where I paint, and where I do weekly cardio with BounceBhangra. And, by the way, me doing a cardio class is one of the single most unexpected, surprising, out of character activities of the year, and possibly of my life. Diana and I coax and encourage each other, and she even got me a shirt. Somehow, I am hooked... probably because these guys make it so fun, so free of pressure, and because no one can see me. Wow... I am really far off topic, again. I was on the balcony, getting ready for a Cardio Party, when it started to rain. I was worried about the rain blowing into the room. The sky was dark, and there was even the whistling sound that comes from real storms. I love watching the sky and distant views from this room. The rain stopped as suddenly and dramatically as it began. The sky was clear in no time, and the sun was shining immediately, making the dripping wet branches glisten, even looking as though they were covered in icy snow. I stole this picture of Muta from Janece's IG stories. Muta is looking particularly handsome, irresistible. Yesterday, Janece and Paul shared a driveway breakfast visit with us. And at one point Maria carried out each of our kitties so our friends could see them. Two of them, Sakamoto and Feynman, were the new kittens when lockdown began, almost a year ago, and Cairo they've known very well since he was palm-size. It's strange to realize what we have been managing, how we have been living, for the last 11 months, and hard to sum up all the ways we have been missing out. I miss so much. And yet, something else... I am too comfortable retreating from the rest of the world, and in many ways, I feel anxious about what back to normal will mean. The other day, I came across some of my ratty paintings. I have every interest and intention of getting back to painting, especially because I have the collaboration with Lola to work on, (or play at?) I am no good at delegating my time for more than one or two things. I start reading a book, and only sleep will let me put it down. If I am stitching, I want to go until I see it all done, before the vision can slip away. And, then there is the weather. Painting is all set up on that balcony, but it's cold out there. I can sew from my bed, cozy, safe, warm. I put the rattys back in the drawer, and grabbed the cross-stitch box, to bring outside for our distant driveway breakfast. The box already needs tidying up, again. But it's got just a bit of everything, and while we sat around campfires, Geoff, Maria and I, with Janece and Paul, I began making flowers... the roses I first attempted when I ended up making a starry moon. And I kept going. Back inside, I continued listening to Lord of the Rings. The party of nine, less Gandalf, has come through Moria, a sad chapter. I stitched on, and soon we were in Lothlórien, recuperating with the People of the Trees. It was soft and hopeful there, in spite of the path ahead, and I thought of Galadriel's gifts, especially the grey wooden box, with earth from her orchard, and a single silver, nut from a Mallorn tree. I kept going, stitching, until I fell asleep. No one's asked for eggs. I sent our friends home with some, and they can have more, if they'd like. What I should do is start making quiches, and freeze the ones we don't eat today. And, maybe I should be a Valentine Egg Fairy, and leave gifts at friends' doors! Happy Valentines Day! Make an omelette, with love!

Egg Hunts - Wed, 02/10/2021 - 10:53
Hidden eggs, are an early sign of spring. Currently, the popular place for laying eggs is in the goats' hay rack, and that's well and good. One hen insists on laying her egg in the nest box on top of the saw horse. Fine. But this morning, one egg was tucked beneath the old mini-robot tower base, and another was in a barrel garden... the one they keep digging up! Poor chives and perenials. Tomatoes are not eggs, but these sprouts are hinting of spring, too, popping up in unlikely places. If there is a local family that would like today's eggs, I would be happy to share our find. First to call "dibs" is the lucky one. I'm going to see about transferring this spoon-tomato to a pot so I can take it to Spencer, Bex, and Simon. Thinking of creating a socially distanced crafting lesson took me on another sort of hunt, for wool, needles, and foam bases, things I havent much looked at since Maria and I taught needle-felting at the Antique Gas & Steam Engine Musuem, almost two years ago. I was happy to find, eventually, everything I was looking for, and thrilled to, at long last, come across some of the handkerchiefs I'd embroidered. Those have been lost to me for a long while. (An unfortunate, recurring, theme, post-drunkladydriver... my memory suffers.) And by the way, I know I have promised hand printed napkins to some of you, but I can't get at those supplies just yet, and it's too cold to work on the porch. I'm sorry. In the meantime, I will be curled up on my bed, evidently, and either felting, or stitching, until warm spring arrives. Yes, crafting, and feeling clever, I might add, because I came up with a pretty and practical means of transporting and sharing sharp, barbed felting needles. Little woolen kabobs, all ready to go.

Some Rosiness - Tue, 02/09/2021 - 10:37
Cyclamen, from Ruth.
We had a visit from Holly, who came with a delivery from Ruth, and this makes it officially the longest celebration of Christmas in memory, which is very welcome in this still Stay at Home Season. In fact, we will be celebrating a bit more, when the package, or project, or something, that William is waiting on finally arrives. Slow mail, and other odd-effects of a global pandemic, may have caused delays, but I honestly appreciate spreading out the fun, extending the observances, exchanges, and tokens of love. So little else is going on, that we all relish an excuse to make a fuss, or enjoy some novelty. Have I mentioned? We have enjoyed at least 6 Thanksgivings since last March! That is, whenever we include stuffing and cranberry sauce, gravy, and potatoes, green beans, plus a fresh table cloth and the mix colored wine goblets on the dining table, it's Thanksgiving!

I found a very old and thin handkerchief, and decided to tempt fate by adding a dainty ratty-rat, maybe some flowers. The fabric really is too thin to mess with, so I hold my breath with each pass of the needle and floss. Just look at the lace work on the edge! It's so romantic, so soft and pretty. And I love the pulled thread border. How is that accomplished? It's unfortunate... I didn't have the patience to learn these fine skills when I was younger, and now I have the interest, I am less dexterous, and my eyes protest!
I had to remove the small cup of water and camellia from the dining table. Feynman, resident phycist, wouldn't stop pulling the flower up, then trying to drink from the cup. He's not allowed on the table, and naturally that is where he spends the happier hours of his day. He's the sort of cat that expertly, devotedly, tests the laws of gravity, frequently, unrepentantly. He also bangs and clatters empty food plates, steals chairs, and he is also first to the table for dinner... not his, ours. I am sure, when lockdowns are over, when we get the all-clear, he will immediately reform, and no guests to our home will be shocked, nor offended. These things work themselves out. She needs a collar, some flowers, some pink, some rosiness.

In Bloom - Mon, 02/08/2021 - 09:54
Yesterday I walked all around our property with a can of flower seeds from Renee's Garden, the seed company. I was looking for a good spot to scatter the wildflower seeds, where they'll get sun, and attention, and have a decent chance of not being trampled, nor eaten up. There is an area in the yard that I don't visit as often, and that's where I discovered that our camellias are blooming, again! I love seeing them, for one because they are beautiful, and secondly because they remind me it's February, and winter, and this is the anniversary of the last time we saw Pink Martini in a live concert, and that's when Maria wore a deep pink camellia in her hair. It's just a nice, welcome, chain of happy thoughts. I walked on, and appreciated the peas are coming along, the beets are leafy, the cilantro is plentiful, and the tiny violas, crowded in the garden mix, are stretching themselves to see the sun, and they look so sweet, and earnest, I have to take more pictures of them. Finally, I settled on a few spots in the orchard, along the fence and in other bare spots for scattering the seeds. I raked the soil loose, and patted in the seeds. Rain is in the forecast, so it's only a matter of time, I hope, before wildflowers are blooming, again! Here is Ventura, one of our three Black Australorp hens, sitting on eggs in the goat feeder. Thankfully she's not actually broody. She just likes to take her time, and nest a little. This breed of hen was new to me, when I brought them home last spring, and I am loving them. They are mild, friendly, and very pretty. I wonder if there is a breed of chicken that I truly object to. I have thought that I would never get a Silver-laced Wyandotte again, because our two, Pepper and Pippi, were such terrors. But after Pepper passed away, Pippi changed moods, and has not been cranky, bossy, or bullying any more. Do you have a favorite breed, for looks, or personality? Since admitting I don't have a plan for what I would do if we had one less goat, and even stating it that way shows I am still reluctant to be blunt or practical... but I have been thinking about it a lot. I opened up the talk with Geoff, yesterday, and he feels just the same as I do... that it's too too sad thinking of our goats as aging and the dread (and of course, inevitable) prospect of losing one, and having a lonesome loner on our hands, is even sadder. I am not writing this to say that I have a solution, a grand plan, but I am weighing options, and have determined to be mindful. It's a start.
Maria and I got some dough rising for her cooking assignment this week. They're cooking Italian recipes in Culinary Arts, any dish of their choosing. I reminded Maria about the focaccia Samin Nosrat makes in Salt Fat Acid Heat.

Ok. Pause.

I am realizing a goofy thing here. I watched Samin (we are on a first name basis, because I follow her on IG, and have watched the Netflix episodes of SaltFatAcidHeat, two times) and in the Fat episode is when Samin makes the focaccia. So, the goofy thing is, having watched the focaccia segment two times, I have been making what we, around here, call focaccia, and I attribute it to Samin, and SaltFatAcidHeat, but now I am researching things, it dawns on me there is a Recipe. A written, prescribed, specific recipe! I simply took my own bread making experience, and adapted it to be pretty much what I saw Samin do on that video I've watched, and that's kind of goofy of me... I never read her recipe. I never wrote any notes, or even played the segment while I tried following along. There is nothing really wrong with how I cook, with making things up, inspired by what I have seen, but I am amused and a bit contrite that I had not even considered following a recipe. It's such an obvious direction to head: Follow a recipe, get measurements, and guidance. Duh. And! Maria is in a class and following recipes, learning techniques, is the point of it, but I just said things like... "Moosh it down, but not too flat. Let's add these tomatoes! I found olives!" And there wasn't a recipe in sight! It's ok, I believe. She's learning online, remotely. Her classroom teacher will impart some of the things he knows and believes and practices, and every other person she cooks with, or is inspired by, will do the same, and so long as she is paying attention, she will learn how to cook, what works, what she prefers, what could be better. Happily, I notice Samin has notes on the focaccia recipe: "Adapted from Diego with the help of Josey Baker." I like that Samin acknowldeges where, or from whom, she took inspiration, that recipes and cooking are dynamic, collaborative, that they evolve. I do that, too.
Lunch! And homework. If this looks yummy to you, you can follow Samin's recipe, or take inspiration from our bread making experience, or both.

Tasha Speaks! - Sat, 02/06/2021 - 11:52
It's breaking news! And not just because very little happens or changes around here... this is real news, up to the minute, and worthy of reporting, compelling, too. Tasha Tudor Goat, about to turn 9 years old, is a Nigerian dwarf goat. She loves to be brushed, to nap in the sun, and to wander out into the garden. She has a fondness for flaxseed & multigrain chips from Trader Joes, as well as pine needles, and dried leaves. She is an excellent rose pruner, sticking to yellow and dry leaves, and long runners. And she rarely, very rarely, speaks. Her roommate and lifetime companion, Ada Lovelace Goat, speaks almost incessantly. Ada adores most any food, greeting vistors, head-butting, and making regular announcements on any happenings around the garden. When Tasha has something to say, her higher, more plaintive voice stands out, and brings me running, and this happens only a couple of times a year. It's hard to believe we have had these darlings for nearly 9 years. I was being pretty bold adopting goats, like I did. I knew so little, besides all the reading I'd done, but no regrets! Not a one. They endeared themselves to us, and all of our friends, right from the start. And I am tempted to add another. Every now and then someone asks, How long do goats live? And it makes me whince, a cloud descends on my heart, because I know they don't live forever. And! Goats are herd animals, and one goat without her companion would be too heartbreaking... then what will I do? These are questions I have not resolved, questions that trouble me. A nice thing about goats is how much they ease my troubles, and set me right. I love to sit with them... they calm me, make me smile. Tasha is so serene, but maybe you'll want to turn down the volume! The chickens are making a racket, pecking industriously at the pie pan that holds their breakfast!

Winter Spring Winter Spring - Fri, 02/05/2021 - 10:09
We never have to endure any particular season for too long. If winter is bearing down on us, it will pass in a day or three. Today spring has arrived, next week we could enjoy a day of summer, or perhaps we will have a week of fall-like rain and fog. Your guess is as good as mine. As I saw a blue sky and sunshine, I opened the bedroom window. I started a load of laundry with dresses that I can hang in the sun to dry. I gathered eggs, and peered at the veggie beds... one needs thinning, the other needs planting. And in the car strip where we have fruit trees orchard I found fruit, and blossoms. Peaches and apples in bloom, limes and blood oranges ready to pick. Just now I have decided that we can make wishes on picked limes. My wish is that we can be together to pick peaches and apples, then make pies, and jams, and share in a picnic.

It's Groundhog Day - Tue, 02/02/2021 - 11:36
We have no groundhogs. We have three cats, and a cat button. We have 15 hens, two goats, and countless wild bunnies. We are visited by owls, by quail, and doves, and crows, but not yet by any groundhogs. Groundhog Day is my holiday of choice for pure nonesense and delight. It's in my top three, or four, of days to celebrate. And the foremost thing I appreciate about it is how little is expected, planned, necessary, or warranted, so that whatever good or happy thing is accomplished is automatically attributed to the great prognosticator, the wise whistle pig, and we call it a Happy Groundhog Day! I've already read that Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, and we are due six more weeks of winter. That makes it official. I wish we could add rain to our own forecast. To satisfy my winter fantasies, I have been gazing and sighing over pictures and videos from friends in colder climes... madgefaces has been documenting the steady accumulation of snow at her home... everything looks frosted! And further north, lori.s.h. has been sharing her own view of a wonderland! Those mounds and drifts seem almost improbable! There is no snow in Ireland, where patchworkmomma lives and creates, but she posted about Imbolc... I love celebrations, traditions, lore, and sharing. Alex offered to make Groundhog cakes. And. And so far, that's it. Happy Groundhog Day! It really is a no pressure holiday, I tell you. I wish we could go to the mountains, like we did 8 years ago. Maybe, it's time I raise the bar a little, I considered, yesterday, while cleaning and reorganzing the sewing box that's been keeping me so busy these days. I agreed, with myself, not to start another project until I had things tidy, again, and while I worked, I thought about Groundhog Day decorations. We don't have any, and I am glad of it. I do not ever want to walk into a store and be assualted by the sight of plastic groudnhog dolls, ornaments, paper plates and cups, by groundhog balloons, banners, and boxed candies. Groundhog Day (I declare) is strictly handmade, homemade, zero-waste, nature inspired, it's a re-think, re-use, recycle event, with no call for anything fancier than pancakes for dinner, a pinecone on the dining table, a nature walk, or a nature video, and maybe, maybe a few things I can whip up, just for fun. My gears were turning, and I started imagining a new little bag, this time with a groundhog. Embroidered? Appliqued? Something. I looked at pictures online, then made a sketch inside the tidy sewing box, then directly on the wool felt. It looks like a... like a large mammal, rodentia, like a rat, or muskrat, or some kind of marmot. Yes, I think this could work. The stakes are not particularly high. What would the consequences be, if no one recognized my tiny woodchuck? These are the small scale, gentle adventures I am made for, and I felt a little relief with each stitch, because it seemed to be going ok. It's a groundhog (I declare!) I added snow. And I was tempted to add his tunnel home... just a small cross-section of his burrow. That's probably a bit much for a pressure-free holiday. I lined the bag with spring, because that's how it seems, when you go through a snowy winter, and wonder how anything will ever grow again. Spring just seems to appear suddenly, as though all along it was wrapped up inside of winter, waiting to pop up! Okay, obviously a lot things cross my mind when I am curled up in bed making a groundhog out of threads!This project was taking longer than the first two, and I was a tiny bit disheartened about not having it done before Groundhog Day. I set it aside, and convinced Geoff to go on a night ride. The day had slipped by, and it was already dark, and cold, and had even rained a bit, but a quick bicycle ride to the end of the street, down the big hill, and back up would be so welcome. He indulged me, and we braved the chill. And, since I've been listening to Lord of The Rings, the dark, the chill, the subtle fog were stirring my imagination, and ooh, this was a very invigorating ride! I came back shivering, heart rate elevated, and happy to get cozy, again, with my sewing. And! Now we have a Groundhog!

Jupiter and Mars, Saturn and Stars - Mon, 02/01/2021 - 11:48
Our lockdown is over, though I wouldn't call it an "all clear!" Still, it's a relief to see numbers drop, instead of climb, and to resume our socially distant drive-way gatherings. Our last campfire night feels ages ago, then we had stormy weather, and that kept everyone home, and dry. This weekend was a gift... of finer weather, friends, and doing stuff. What a welcome little flurry of activities, and moments. The weather was full of wind and rain. I don't think any of us enjoy the wind... it's just too much! But we need the rain, so it was welcome. And when I saw that we had dried out a bit, and it wasn't a school night, or holiday, or governor ordered pandemic lockdown, I asked a few friends over. Thanks to gifts, and a donation, we have four fire rings! Normally, four is a lot, but on a cold night when each pod needs space, four fire rings is brilliant. I made up camp spaces for each family, with extra wood at each site. I think the reason it never got as cold as anticipated is because I was so well prepared! Leo got to revisit his campfire skills, and eventually overcame damp wood, and built a roaring fire. Geoff left out his fluorescent chalk, and turned up the black-light, and we stood back while Bex, Spencer, Simon, Leslie, and Ido made our driveway into a glowing gallery! The reviews have been glowing, too! And please note, we are considering updating our dress codes: Onesies won't be mandatory, but favored. Highly favored. Thanks to Leslie, we had potatoes roasting in each of our fires, and those were delicious. Lots of talking, sharing, laughing, and a bit of astonishment that we have been at this for almost a year. Are things looking up? We hope so. It makes a world of difference to see friendly faces, to feel the warmth of kindness, good hunor, and encouragement. After the pleasure and success of making the first little purse, I started a second one, again with no plan, or strategy. Red floss made me think of Mars, and the red planet made me think of the Moon, and stars, and then I was filled with gratitude for all of the star gazing, and sky watching I've enjoyed since last summer, culminating in the Great Convergance, and Solstice, Oh! Now I realize I should have stitched some shooting stars, too! I stitched Jupiter and three of its moons, Saturn, then I added a lining. The lining is worth the effort, and I am firmly committed. Planning would probably be worth the effort, as well, and I am firmly committed to makng an attempt at that effort for the next one. I will definitely make another. These are fun to do, fun to see where they will go... from inspiration and ideas, to something small and whimsical. I fill them with my daydreaming, and hopes, with good thoughts, wishes, ideals. It's not hard to think what an awful year it's been, for many awful reasons, but I had Jupiter and Mars, Sirius the Dog Star, and the Geminids, and Venus. I have had campfire gatherings, movie nights, bike rides, a full house, and the comfort of having skills and resources to rely on, and to share. I am far from glossing over the injustice and deep tragedies that have transpired, but I cannot let hate and ignorance, grief and loss, take away all joy. I don't want to throw all of the year on the fire, as though nothing good happened or came of the struggle. I had a Solar System to look up to, and stars to count.Suddenly, it's February. There is still so much to overcome, to heal from, to hope for. With sunshine we have shadows, and Spring follows Winter. I am hopeful that we can see it all, and still have more to look up for, especially more to share, and celebrate.

For Hens' Teeth - Sat, 01/30/2021 - 11:01
After cross-stitching the floral wreath, I have been aching to get another hand-sewing project going. I am waiting on an order of fabric; something called lugana. Have you heard of it? It's supposed to be nice for cross-stitch. I am also waiting on my brain to make up itself on whether or not to get cross-stitch software. I found one that seems well-received and with it I could scan my own art and make patterns, including the DMC color chart to match. It sounds so cool! I am hesistant, because I am debating whether I need software, something that seems appropriate for a business, or someone with a longer attention span than I have. I am a Hobby Fairy, flitting from project to project. In the meantime, went rummaging through my stash, and came up with floss, wool felt, buttons, and bells, and no plan. I did think it would nice to make a felt brooch, with stitches and charms, something to pin to a coat. The first piece I cut out felt thin, so I decided to layer pieces, and then I started stitching the first part. I shouldn't have kept with the cross-stitch needle, which is dull tipped, and not suitable for wool felt. More scrambling around yielded a sewing needle, but I should be tracking down an actual embroidery needle. I talk myself through all the things I ought to do, as I merrily, heedlessly stitch away! I should have started with a plan, with a sharp needle. I should have done some warm up stitches, considered the spacing, the design, settled on a color scheme. It's no use. I am better than I used to be, but the impulse to jump in and flail about is too strong. Every bit, every choice was met on the road, like when I considered that the two pieces I cut could become a small pouch, and not a brooch, or perhaps a brooch-pouch? A pouch-necklace? If it was to be a small bag, I wanted the embroidered piece to have a backing... scrounge around!How to keep the little purse shut was a puzzle. I didn't leave room for a snap. I wanted a button and loop, like I used on my wallet, and Maria's. (I can't believe I made these 11 years ago, and it proves how much I flit from one thing to another. I still use this wallet, though the poor little owl has long faded away. I loved making it, and gee, it's only taken me 11 years to re-visit sewing with wool.) Wait. Where was I? Button and loop fastener, yes. Well, I'd already stitch a name right where the button would go, so I had to think of something else. I found a small wooden button and twisted twine, something like a rustic baker's twine. Oh! And the bells! The bells started on holiday garland, that I raided for herb wreaths, and now they are employed in new position... tinkling merrily on a tiny purse!Just the thing for bus fare, or a sea-shell, to press a poem to your heart, or to collect hens' teeth. I already started another. I don't have a plan, but I've stitched a small Mars, Moon, and stars.

Just Thinking - Fri, 01/29/2021 - 11:57
Neo Cairo Nepenthes. He's terribly handsome. Terribly, because it seems to help him escape the consequences of his less endearing qualities, like bullying the other cats, and rat dancing on our shins at 4 am. Oh, yes, he is terribly handsome. Does anyone recall that Geoff loves lights? I have mentioned it a few times, that he loves loves loves getting the latest flashlight, or bulb. He really went all out over the holidays, and now that our driveway has been repaired, he is enjoying his ultimate(?) lighting scheme! From atop the street deck, facing our driveway, Geoff is installing programmable lighting, including blacklights, and this all serves another of his dream-schemes which playing pickle ball, day or night! The results are, I admit, fabulous... like disco lights at the skating rink epic, like drive-way dance party fabulous! Soon, friends. Soon.I remember imagining what it was going to be like to lie down on the new wall, and look up into the trees, to watch clouds, and stargaze. Now, I can. I can sit on the wall, now, and imagine what it will be like to have a garden full of friends, and we will be cooking and laughing together, sharing our ideas, making cool things, and dancing, under clouds, under stars, full of joy. Blacklights make things glow! Geoff makes my life glow!

Never Boring... mostly - Thu, 01/28/2021 - 09:37
I feel embarrassed and apologetic about yesterday's post, because it was boring. I don't think it represented boring things, but I admit I wasn't feeling open, expressive. It's funny how much transparency and candor it takes to create compelling posts, yet while reaching for that level of directness, I am also trying to retain privacy, not be too revealing reptitive, exacting. My children are of an age when their lives and stories are more their own than ever, so I want to avoid speaking for them. I am painfully aware that I have probably mentioned the collision five or more times too many, and that's a difficulty, because I have also been remarkably restrained, relative to the events and transactions still current and consuming. We don't go any where. We don't entertain, travel, or even dress up, much. If I want to be frank about any subject it should be that it's probably dull as toast around here, and I likely shouldn't be blogging so often, if at all. I thought of all of this, and more, which led to other considerations, like why blog, why publish, how or why has this become a compelling habit? Old, oft posed questions, which invariably draw me to other, oft posed conclusions... I should retire from blogging, blogging has not been particularly successful, blogging is a raw and intimate exercise that leaves me exposed, vulnerable, and in serious doubt of myself, blogging is embarrassing.Maria's first assignment for Creative Writing was an essay on why she chose to take Creative Writing, and we talked about that. The first and obvious answer has to do with the teacher that taught the class, the one Max liked so well. He's not teaching the class this time. Maria talked about writing, about how it makes her feel, and how she hopes to improve her skills. We talked about art, and how both art and writing can be consuming, and can also come to an immediate halt sometimes, or sometimes, like with my last post, not be compelling or very interesting, turn out to be lacking. She agreed that she can become blocked with writing, or art, but that it's rare with art. With art, she explained, she feels a continuity a more fluid ease about practicing, with engaging. From here, we launched into talking about future studies, colleges, plans, hopes, careers. She found an online career counseling test, and we both took it. I still remember taking one of these, on paper, in high school, and it came back suggesting I try hospital administration, and that still amuses me. Her top results included choreographer, interpreter and different fields in art direction and animation. Another online test gave her a preview of its conclusions, including a very promising description of her qualities that will lead her to lucrative career options, then they asked for money to reveal the rest of the results, and we laughed about that one. Maria shared that she understands my impulse to stop blogging, then asked, "Do you want to stop writing, though?" I can't stop writing, I replied, confirming what she already suspected. "Write for yourself, then. And I know I used to ask you to keep it public, but that's not necessary. Keep writing, and maybe don't publish. But I hope you'll still share it with me." Suddenly, I am the one getting the career counseling. I have strong ideas about where I see her strengths and skills, but I will keep those to myself... I don't like to put my foot in it, to influence with too much bias. I am sure, without wanting to, I have already shown plenty of hints, inferences, and partiality. I rather like, for her, this time for her to feel like anything is possible, to imagine and discover, project, and reject, many options, and flavors. And! And maybe the one thing I will remind her is that in a good life, anything will always be possible, that no career or path is fixed forever, and learning is a lifetime gift. But, I am pretty sure she knows that, already. It's not really dull as toast here. I mean, it's not wildly adventurous, and there are people and things we miss, but I like toast. I like long talks, and online quizzes, I like cats, the smell of cut limes, starting new hobbies, going back to old hobbies, and I like writing. I love taking pictures, imagining adventures, recalling travels, events. I am thinking of buying software that will turn my pictures, or drawings, any image, into a cross-stitch diagram, complete with DMC floss color suggestions! I could cross-stitch my very own ratty-rats, or some of my little galleries of animal families. Geoff, watching me cross-stitch, pondered this... "I think I could program Frankenrouter to do that." Geoff is never bored, ever.

New Semester - Wed, 01/27/2021 - 12:54

The first half of Maria's junior year is complete. She finished four courses, including the very last of her Japanese classes. With AP Studio Art, AP English, and Culinary Arts behind her, she has Creative Writing, Culinary Arts II (international dishes), AP US History, and Math Honors III to complete in the next half of the school year. It's all still happening online, from home, at least for now. Neither she, nor I, can believe that she's done with Japanese, at least for high school, and it's probably the most emotional change from Fall semester to Spring semester. The challenging part of this will be still studying Japanese, because the Advance Placement tests will be in May, and that will be for Japanese, English, History, and Art. These students have so much on their plates! And looking ahead, a bit further, we need to start figuring out which schools she wants to apply to in the Fall. Normally we would have taken a trip or two by now, visiting campuses, familiarizing ourselves with cities, towns, options. COVID has shut that down, for now. After going through this process with her brothers, I know that we are not getting ahead of ourselves. By October, every conversation, option, choice, experience, hope, concern, and desire will factor into the decisions about where to apply, and it helps a great deal to have lots of information and personal interactions with and about the choices. But, yeah... emotionally, it feels like it's too soon!

Between last
semester and next semester there is a long weekend... thank goodness. Guess what? Yeah, we spent our time at home, still respecting the lockdown, still waiting for our immunizations. Alex and Bambi continue cooking and baking out of Heroes' Feast, the Dungeons and Dragons cookbook. Above, you see the chocolate pudding Bambi made. I was fully prepared and willing to devour the entire serving, until she mentioned how much espresso went into it, plus the brandy! It was delicious, very lush, complex, but I stopped about 20% in, because I don't handle caffeine very well. Later, William baked snickerdoodles and those were part of the celebration of Geoff's birthday. Alex and Max started Geoff's day with cooking a family breakfast, and after work it was Geoff's choice for a movie night, so they finished watching His Dark Materials. I'll tell you what felt like our main employment... not getting literally blown away by the weekend's storms! We had to tie a lot of things down, and I even brought our dear old Liberty in to sleep on the porch. She can't roost any more, I couldn't stand to think of her all night up to her knees in mud and rain. The winds were howling, whistling through the house, and making things bang and shudder. On one bike ride we turned back after four miles, because of the rain, and another ride lasted barely a mile, because the wind felt like a mean ogre shoving on my bicycle. Max did manage a very long and cozy nap when I invited him to rest on the balcony in my studio nest. At the time, there was only gentle rain, and he made himself very comfortable under quilts and afghans. And as I mentioned before, I used my storm time to work on the cross-stitch kit, usually with cats for warmth and company. What else... ? We finished season 6 of Schitt's Creek, and I stand by my conviction that Patrick and David are one of the dearest romantic couples of television/movies. Oh, dear... now I feel like I am stretching, trying to think of any riveting detail about our long weekend. How about beans? I made those really yummy Cranberry Beans, again, and rice, and we made burritos. Maria spent happy hours making art on her iPad. Alex and Bambi, too, were making art. Max gets online to game with Lucas. Max really misses his long walks and running around, but his ankle isn't ready for that, yet. Geoff is working, and when he's not at the office, he is riding bikes or playing pickleball with me, or he's making something. William was waiting on some parts, hardware for his bedroom, and they've finally arrived, so I think he will get back to the big remodel/painting job he started in his bedroom.Today is the first day of the new semester, and I can't wait to hear all about her new classes, the teachers, the assignments coming up. She's done in about an hour.