Chicken Blog by Natalie

Five or More Good Things - 10 hours 59 min ago
Sometimes, as I look through photographs I've taken, a message comes through... sometimes it's obviously about the subject, about what we did, and saw. Sometimes the photographs tell me something that I need to be reminded of, like Get out of your house, the world holds new wonders. Go see your friends, discover something! I love being home. I love the comfort of our space (even in this moment, when every inch of our home is turned on end with our projects!) But, sometimes, out there, in our own town, I get reconnected with people I've been missing, with places I like, and I find our community is small, and great, with beauty, and warmth.

At home, I am happy surrounded by familiar things... things which also demand my time and attention. It's not hard to feel compelled and obliged to stay home and do laundry, paperwork, weeding, fretting (over paint chips, and the things not getting done!)

At home, we've been eating on the porch, or perched on a free seat, anywhere a space opens up. The living room is empty, about to get new flooring! The rest of the house looks like a resale shop, complete with dust, and hidden treasures.

At home, there are peaceful moments, spots where I can recharge. Of course, sometimes those same spots are invaded with clothes that need folding, or cats that assume. This is the moment when I'd finally managed a half-way decent hair bun for Maria's dance performance, and we were dashing out to get to the rehearsal on time. Looking back, I saw Chango and Foo... making themselves right at home.

The Ballet Folklorico group Maria dances with was invited to an Art Festival. I was so preoccupied with managing our time, helping Maria get ready, thinking of what else was left to accomplish in the day, that I'd overlooked the good things I could look forward to, the friends I would see, the beauty of the event. Holly and Ruth met us there, and right away we saw George and Liz, then Carol with Leo and Michael. I got a big hug from Michelle H. We went to room 100 to see FIRST 2102 practicing with their robot... they have been a strong, remarkable team this year! Maria met Mark Patterson, the artist and visionary, who made The Surfing Madonna! We enjoyed the good food the high school's Culinary Arts students prepared... yummy falafel, and a messy-amazing ice cream sandwich! There were all kinds of arts to look at, to try, and musicians to enjoy. Maria and I loved listening to the high school band, especially seeing and hearing Max O, Bella C., and Austin D. play.

The pictures I took on Sunday are such a nice reminder of what we have in this town, with our neighbors, friends, family... we have an extended home, and it's good to get out there, and take it in.

Get ready for Jesusita en Chihuahua! I will be posting, soon.

Good Things...

1. Maria and Nathalie's play date, when they made me that darling bouquet in the kitty creamer, and they made lemonade, and played Guess Who.

2. Max hanging out with Lucas; knowing my friend Diana's home is another happy place for Max.

3. Following Diana's FB thread about college acceptance letters for Eric. He got into some great places... any of them will be lucky to have him!

4. All the wood working creativity Alex has been up to... and his plans for a Middle Earth party!

5. Geoff is still home! I love it when he gets a break!

6. Geoff is finishing Frankenrouter! That is super geeky-make awesome news.

7. When Maria is tucked into bed, the cats, chickens and goats are secure, Geoff and I are upstairs dozing off, and from downstairs we hear great peals of hearty laughter from William, Alex, and Max... so good!

It's Monday. Do you want to share some good things?

Weigh Hey and Up She Rises! - Sat, 03/28/2015 - 07:20

Fourth grade. Maria has anticipated fourth grade, and its special activities and rites of passages, since first grade. It's the same for fifth and six grade... she's known about the egg drop from the hundred foot ladder truck, and camp in Cuyamaca, and she has been eagerly anticipating, even preparing for all of it, since she was six years old. And now, she has experienced a big one, the night on the Star of India, working as a mate aboard the world's oldest active sailing ship with her classmates, teacher, and best of all, her dad as one of the chaperones. When I realized that Geoff's break might align with this trip, I was excited, too, because it was such a great opportunity for him to participate in something very special. As a driver to and from San Diego, I did get snippets of their experience, like hearing the captain remind parents that they needed to be there for safety, as observers, but should otherwise "Sit on your hands, and keep quiet," because this adventure is about the children, not adults out to prove they are the smartest fourth graders! Funny, and wise. Parents were not in their own children's groups, either, so as much as possible the students could immerse themselves in 1850, sailing to California for a gold rush opportunity. Maria's wish to be a mate, taking orders from the first mate, and taking charge of her own crew, came true, and she was assigned to the fore deck, and walked the first watch until 11 o'clock at night. They ate rat stew, and slept below decks on the ship's wood floor. They even slipped into the long, dark and narrow passage to inspect the bilge! They raised sails, heard yarns, and swabbed the decks. And they sang! And danced! All the songs Maria and Geoff have been learning, those unsavory lyrics, and funny tunes!

Everyone came off the ship smiling and well-worn out, some a bit bewildered... either lack of sleep or the return to the 21st century was to blame. Maria is still beaming, three days later, and still singing those shanties, Geoff, too. Geoff says it was something he will never forget, and he's glad he went. Maria is bursting with stories, and marvelous little facts and tidbits about life on a ship, her duties, and sympathies. For me, it was a chance to step back, and wait and see. It's bittersweet to see that overnight, Maria grew. I can't help wanting to be part of everything she does, to be needed, but this life of hers is blossoming so nicely, I am very happy to enjoy the sweetness of her making it her own. Next year: That much anticipated egg toss from the hundred foot ladder truck! And, we solemnly vow to leave all the engineering and construction of her egg cage in her very capable hands!

8:04 am, Post Script :: Their Fates

Geoff and Maria are up. Geoff's got an ear-worm, and has been whistling the one about Nelson's blood {shudder... what a gruesome yarn that goes with that shanty!} The tune echoes in our empty living room. This Chcikenblog post brought up more stories from their voyage, and Maria mentioned, in passing, something about everyone 'getting their fates,' and I had to ask her, 'Fates?' All the sailors chose either to stay on the ship, be dropped off in the Sandwich Islands, or head to the gold fields of California, and then next morning they received their fates. Maria said hers was one of the weirdest fates: "I chose to go to Hawaii, the Sandwich Islands, but then I was struck by lightning while on board the ship," she paused for dramatic effect. It worked. I did not think this was a happy fate, and then she added the weird bit, "The lightning strike left me 'enlightened,' and I became a fortune teller in Hong Kong!" Weird, indeed. Geoff's fate... it's so plausible I can't stop laughing: He chose to stay aboard the ship, and his fate? Well, naturally, he worked hard, rose through the ranks, and this led to him eventually {inevitably?} becoming captain of his own ship! I love it.

{this moment} - Fri, 03/27/2015 - 04:30
A single photo, capturing a moment from the week.
A special moment. A moment I want to remember.

:: Inspired by Soule Mama ::

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments, for all to find and see.

H.M.S. Pinafore on the porch, with a cat, and a chicken, in spring.

The Chain Reaction Spreading Far and Wide, and Other Domestic Perils - Tue, 03/24/2015 - 09:27
We are in the middle of a simple little update to our existing porch. Nothing too elaborate, you know. Just add a roof, replace rotted beams, add some metal brackets to hold things up, slap some screen fabric on there, maybe paint a bit. Easy peasy. Lemon squeezy.

Ba! Hahahahaha... good one!

Actually, I do not have a single complaint, not one... okay one: We had to order doors three times! But that's been it... the only hiccup in this whole venture. {So far.} Easy peasy. Lemon squeezy. And I have always wondered if it's possible to go through a remodel or construction in an orderly, stress-free, timely manner, because it seems to me, from plenty of first-hand experience, that Home Improvement is synonymous with Headaches, Trials, Setbacks, Delays, Collateral Damages, and Moments of Profound Regret.

Now I am learning something new: When things run smoothly, when the results look great, and no one has been to the ER, or moved into a motel, there is a temptation, a huge compulsion, to keep going, to add more to the To-Do List of Wishful Thinking. And that, my friends is where we are today... on the cutting edge of doing a little bit more. Nothing too elaborate, you know, just repair the ceiling from the rain leak damage in the living room, then replace the broken tiles on the fire place hearth, rip out that grey-brownish carpeting that was once... light beige? It's a chain reaction! Somehow, nearly every room in the house is affected, as we move things around, making way for painting the porch, or reassigning furniture for a new purpose, culling the art supplies from the cabinets and drawers throughout the house, that will all reside on the porch. While we are at it, moving and shifting, we are also purging. Cleaning. Yeah, that's why it looks like an ol'curiosity shop, and salvage yard. It looks like this because we are cleaning, and working, and facing mounds of domestic perils.

Last night I spied the window dressings that hang above two windows and the doors in our kitchen. They're plaid, a shiny fabric, well made, and (once) well suited to the room... but. Not my taste. Not offensive, mind you, but as we really settle-in, and make the Bird House our own... those curtains are suddenly glaring at me, clashing, and begging to be updated. Alex agreed, adding, "They make the windows look like Colonial women in bonnets." And so, the chain reaction spreads, and our Colonial look has got to go!

Quick question: If your living room had not been painted in 11 years, and it was empty of furniture and flooring, wouldn't you feel compelled to paint it? Maybe a new color, or at least a fresh coat of the same?
Yeah. I thought so, too.

I Spy, anyone?

A ratty rat named Hazel Nutt.

A Tyrannosaurs Rex.

A mystery metal piece Alex found on the beach, that is being investigated by the Maritime Museum.

Yellow roses.

The dining table.

Five or More Good Things - Mon, 03/23/2015 - 09:48

Aunt Margie is in town, visiting from her Chicago home. I have such happy recollections of visits with Margie. There haven't been nearly enough visits, but each of them of them has been very nice. We shared St Patrick's Day dinner at Tutu Ruth's, and a rousing game of white elephant with dearly wrapped gifts from Margie. We brought home a collection of light-up toys and fiber optics... fun stuff that the kids made a show of all the way home. Then yesterday, Tutu Ruth and Margie came to the Bird House for a late morning brunch... {or, is late morning the definition of brunch? Never mind.} We feasted. Good food, and good company... I just love how those two enhance each other. We walked through the neighborhood, which is a particularly pleasant thing to do when someone has been enduring a long winter! Margie was delighted with every green leaf and blossom, even the flies were appreciated. Anything was better than freezing temperatures!

{Oh shoot! I just remembered that I forgot. Darn. I wanted to sit with Margie and have another crochet lesson from her. Seven years ago she (tried) to teach me a unique kind of double-waffle stitch... it's difficult to start, but easy once it's passed the first two rows, but I cannot remember how to start it. I need a refresher!!}

Alex and Max started on the carving of the Viking tent's A-frame... our genuine inauthentic Viking tent. The tops of the tent poles will be carved as dragon's wings. I guess I lost the petition for the Viking tent to have a chicken aesthetic!

Good Things...

1. Fruit salad, banana pancakes, watermelon, yellow baby roses, quiche, fresh made lemonade, croissants... we didn't eat the roses, but they sure looked beautiful on our brunch table.

2. Being invited for another delicious dinner prepared by friends Mark and Jola.

3. Maria enjoying the challenge of learning a new dance to perform for an Art Festival.

4. Math 24 coaching for Maria from Alex S and Jola.

5. The return of Mike, and the commencement of phase two: Finishing the porch, and repairing the ceiling of the living room, etc... Things are looking really amazing around here.

6. Things are upside down, shifted, and in an upheaval, too... but I like where things are going!

7. We are getting close to spring break.

Blogging has slowed down, for a number of reasons, and not just here, but all over the blogosphere. It seems to be a fading genre... it's certainly changed since I started 13 years ago. I've toyed with quitting, often. But today, searching through archives, recalling wonderful moments from long ago, I am reminded that Chickenblog is a nice diary, a precious scrapbook. I may not post everyday, or about every passing event, but I don't think I can ever quit blogging, not for reals. As always, engagement is the best part of blogging, and if you would like to share some good things from your week... please do~

{this moment} - Fri, 03/20/2015 - 08:23
A single photo, capturing a moment from the week.
A special moment. A moment I want to remember.

:: Inspired by Soule Mama ::

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments, for all to find and see.

Alex sculpting something new. Something for Hobbits.

Still Life In March - Tue, 03/17/2015 - 11:18
If life were still, I would make the time to write a lengthy blog post, all about happenings around here, with deep thoughts about being a mom, navigating college things with her third son. I would tell the story of the big table that spent too much time in the rain and the sun, then was saved from the brink by Alex, and a belt sander. I would discuss paint colors, and ordering screen doors, how the porch has become the favorite spot, and has begun a chain reaction of domestic conquest and rehabilitation. If life were still, I would make invitations to an afternoon tea, that kind of party that slips into the evening, with friends lingering over plates, laughing, recharging, stars. I'd invite everyone, and listen to your stories, too.

Inside :: Outside :: Around - Tue, 03/10/2015 - 09:08

Besides schools, and Geoff's work, everything around the Bird House is revolving around finishing our screened porch. There's a pretty long list of things yet to be done, like painting, waiting on the screen doors, adding baseboards, refinishing our old wood table... and the list of things already accomplished is even longer, so we are actually feeling good, motivated, and eager to see this through. Yesterday, Alex jumped into the big job of refinishing our outdoor dining table. It's suffered from long exposure to sun, rain, and more sun, so Alex took a belt sander to it, and basically took an 1/8th of an inch of the top. William and Alex inspected the boards we've been attaching, and reattaching, and they seem to be holding up, so far, but we need to fill the cracked boards, and the cracks between boards... which introduces the Bondo and paint vs. Resin, Stain, and Seal debate. Although, maybe it's not a debate, because last night we bought Bondo and paint. Natural wood is beautiful, but this table may have seen a little too much nature.

No one knows for sure what the chickens make of all this activity, but we are thankful that they are happy and healthy, and moving back into full time egg production. Only Little Debbie and Kamen are in laying retirement. Kamen is four years old this week! That's not a record in chicken years, but it's pretty old, especially when we recall the savage bobcat attack she survived. She's definitely been a miraculous hen... what pluck! Little Debbie has six months to go to reach her fourth hatch-day

Last night's dinner was one of those that raised doubt, and suspicion, in my mind, even as I was cooking it. My first thought was to serve scrambled eggs and potatoes for dinner, but then a creative bee got in my bonnet, and I foraged in our garden for some Swiss chard, salvaged a leek from the refrigerator, and tested a new soy-free, vegetarian breakfast sausage, for a frittata. I think it was the sausage that threw it off course... it smelled strongly of maple, but had a distinctly not special flavor. The potatoes, steamed, then roasted with herbs and olive oil, were delicious. The frittata was edible, and there were no actual complaints, but farm fresh eggs and garden chard deserve better... no more "Field Roast," grain meat brekkie sausages, thank you.

While we ate dinner Max shared his vision for his next birthday {August} and it sounds pretty awesome... it involves chocolate donuts, and a long, long drive {destination to be determined.} Alex's birthday is the next one we will celebrate and he debated possible themes. Naturally, Maria thought about her birthday, too! Celebrations have been on our minds a lot, lately, because we are so eager to share the porch, and take maximum advantage of all the new possibilities. But before we pick a theme, send out invitations... I need to sand battered chairs, clear out cupboards, and move a lot of things around, inside and outside.

Ballet Folklorico :: A Big Night - Tue, 03/03/2015 - 09:04

In November Maria joined her school's new dance program: Ballet Folklorico. It was only last spring when she first heard about the possibility of participating, and she was already over the moon to start dancing. The class is meeting once a week, except holidays... there were a lot of holidays between November and last weekend's school Talent Show, and I mention this because I am so impressed with what their instructor achieved in teaching those children in such a short time. Nadia took first through sixth grade students, with a frequently shifting attendance record, and taught them all the steps to La Costilla, then choreographed a dance for them to bring to their school's Talent Show. When the big day rolled around Maria felt very excited, eager to perform, but it was a hurry up and wait kind of day. Hair, make-up, and dance skirts were on and set by 3:30 pm, then they took pictures, rehearsed, and waited, and waited, and waited. They were the last to perform, after thirty-four other acts, and an intermission! {lol... what can I say? This school's got talent!} So, it was a long night, but in the smiles, and exhilaration she expressed, I'd say Maria found it very much worthwhile. And something really sweet... in that packed assembly room, from the back where students were standing on mini-bleachers, we could hear fourth grade girls cheering, "Maria! Maria! Maria!" It's really touching to know her friends were there and happy to support each other.

(There are at least fifty more pictures, and yes, some video, too. I cannot share every image, because I don't have permission, but I would love to share my dark, jumpy, slightly out of focus, from a long distance movie of their dance, so I will have to see about getting that accomplished, somehow. I must remind myself: Si, lo puedo hacer! Yes, I can do it!)

Done! {Geoff is the best tech support, ever.}

William's Very Good Birthday - Mon, 03/02/2015 - 10:32

We had a very good day celebrating William's birthday, with rain, and puttering, and banana pancakes. Friends came by... James and Celine, Mark. Mike was here, and I've started calling him Magic Mike, because he's doing such a beautiful job with the screened porch. Geoff has reached the on-call phase of crunch time, and fortunately he was home all day! Very good. We basically just followed William's lead, beginning with the delicious breakfast he fixed for us... fresh strawberries and buckwheat pancakes with bananas, then some old-time gaming, and mellow hanging out. William got Maria totally hooked on Adventure... Colossal Cave Adventure, and they mapped it all out... with{out} help from Chango{?} Cats. Classic game. Geoff was very happy to recall his early Adventuring days. We were all very happy to enjoy the day-long rain, flipping on the newly installed porch lights, eating the donuts Mark brought. When we all sat down to dinner, then birthday pie, I was very happy to recall that, beginning with William's birth, I've found my deepest sense of purpose and satisfaction... being a mom. It's beyond words to describe how happy I feel, to look around me and see my dearest ones, to be with Geoff, to see our children, to reflect on and enjoy our dreams coming true, to share with each other the new dreams and plans we have. Even knowing that plans will change, and not every dream can come true... just to have this opportunity to follow life's twisty passages, and mazes with William, Alex, Max, Maria, and Geoff is very good, very worthwhile.

{this moment} - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 08:45
A single photo, capturing a moment from the week.
A special moment. A moment I want to remember.

:: Inspired by Soule Mama ::

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments, for all to find and see.

Our porch is becoming a screened porch. And because Geoff is still in crunch-mode at work, and still recovering, we are blessed and delighted to have help... good help! And so, things are moving swiftly, relatively easily, as though the five years of anticipation, the year of planning, and configuring, will be behind us in a moment, and in another fleeting moment we will have a new space to gather friends, to sleep through hot summer nights, to play, and craft, and make things, to tinker, to daydream. The rotted post and joist are gone, and the shade beams are out. Mike removed the facade from the posts, and lowered the pitch of the roof. Plywood sheeting is already halfway up, and maybe some of the tin roof will be installed in time for this weekend's rain. {My job in this is to convince our hens to increase egg production... we would like to send a breakfast's worth to our friends, in thanks for introducing us to Mike.}

Mission San Juan Capistrano Postcard Day - Thu, 02/26/2015 - 10:18
California state history, including the missions, are the focus of fourth grade studies, and this week Maria and I made a special class visit to the mission in San Juan Capistrano, only an hour away by train. I will spare you the historic tidbits and trivia I have amassed over the years, because Wikipedia can probably do it better, anyway. As close to home as this mission is, as many times as I have stopped in San Juan Capistrano in forty-eight years, this was the first time I've been into the mission. It was a gorgeous day... a postcard day, and well worth the trip. I especially loved the gardens, and the areas where we could see how things were done... like the tallow vats, the kitchen, where they forged metal. As a chaperone, I was accompanied by Maria and four of her classmates, including her friend, Emma. After our self guided audio tour, we ate lunch on the lawn, then made the short trek back to the train station. {Five Stars... Five Thumbs Up... Five Fat Hens... I rank the train ride and stop in San Juan Capistrano very highly for the gorgeous ocean views, and relaxing ride, for the central station, convenient to sights, dining, shopping, and scenic walking.}

Riding home... backwards. I had forgotten how gorgeous this ride can be, how often there is only bluff and sand between the train and the Pacific Ocean. And. We saw dolphins playing in the surf. Yes, dolphins. Actually, we see dolphins playing in the surf, from the beach, often, but everything that happens on a train is somehow magnified in awesomeness... like riding backwards, seeing the ocean, eating chips and guacamole... Awesome!

Five Good Things - Mon, 02/23/2015 - 04:30

Weekend time... a chance to see Geoff {rare occasions during the height of crunch-mode,} breakfast out, and the general pleasures of some down time from school and office. I brought my down time basket... it's brimming with embroidery floss, needles, fabrics, yarn, hooks, scissors, and I try to keep it on hand so I can finish, and start, projects.

My latest interest has been shawls. For about ten years I have wondered how to crochet a shawl, and I have seen some really gorgeous ones, too. I made some independent {I don't need no stinkin' instructions!} attempts, with hilariously disastrous results. It amuses me to realize how many years I can live with an idea, be inspired to learn something, and just let the days go by until it feels right. Well, I finally jumped in, and with a quick search on YouTube I found Brittany, and her Granny Triangle Shawl tutorial. I made a blue shawl for myself. It was so easy! Seriously! Do I wait, because fate will align all the elements and things will fall into proper order? Do I wait because I am a dork, and forget to take advantage of all the amazing and readily available opportunities at hand? Brittany's tutorial is great, and in no time I had the pattern and rhythm rocking. And while our breakfast order was on its way, I had a moment to gather loose ends on a red shawl for Maria.

Max's new semester is in full swing. He's taking Calculus II, and AP physics, American History, and weight training. He loves all of his classes. Everyday he has something new to share with us, and on this day we enjoyed a thorough discussion about aerodynamics... what makes a plane fly? He's got it down, and was happy to begin Maria in her physics education. I love that I used to homeschool some of my children, and that now they are far ahead of what I could instruct. These days, I get the lessons from them. They teach me so much, on so many subjects, and I love the experience of seeing them excited about what they are learning.

Good Things...

1. We may be only days away from a crunch mode slow down, as the game Geoff has been working at is nearly finished... first things will ease up, and then there will be a much deserved break!

2. It might rain. The forecast has been a crushing disappointment, so far, but there is still hope that rain will come. {Finally... it's raining. I really must get rid of that weather app... it stinks}

3. The chickens are really getting into the egg laying mood, and we are finally seeing more colors, more sizes, more eggs! We may be back in business, soon.

4. Dance classes for Maria have been intense as they prepare for this week's school talent show. The challenge has been choreographing for a constantly changing group... there are no two classes alike, and so once a week the dance they are rehearsing has to be re-choreographed. Maria still loves ballet folklorico and is as devoted as ever. It's impressive to see how much she has learned since November.

5. William is experimenting in the kitchen... and we have enjoyed some tasty new recipes, all made gluten, dairy, and sugar-free. The limitations are not easy, but he is finding success and pleasure in the new foods, and challenges.

Saturday, Cat and Flowers - Sat, 02/21/2015 - 11:00

Mister Washburn Foo, and all of us Bird House cats, wish you a warm, inspiring, playful, and bright weekend.

{this moment} - Fri, 02/20/2015 - 10:24
A single photo, capturing a moment from the week.
A special moment. A moment I want to remember.

:: Inspired by Soule Mama ::

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments, for all to find and see.

Mending sheets, building illusions, sorting papers...

Bird House & Barn - Wed, 02/18/2015 - 10:15
... a Farm Report~

Sure, it's February, but one cannot assume that the month of February falls in winter. February 2015, here at the Bird House, will be recalled as the fairest summer in memory. No rain, so far. No blustery cold, nor excuse to don long underwear. Instead, beach weather, and parasols for shade. I stocked up on cold weather feed for our hens and goats... organic lay crumble with some bits of grain to keep the chicas insulated and content. The goats have a rich supply of alfalfa, a hay better suited for actual winter weather. The one nice thing about this unwinter is that the hens have decided to raise their egg production. I don't think the Marans laid anything in January. Now we are up from one or two eggs a day to four. This is a welcome increase. That's Mako Ameracauna in the goat cottage. She'll leave us a green egg, and later this afternoon, she will follow me into the garden, sit in my lap, ask for a treat. Only Mako and Little Debbie can fly over the fence. They are the wider open spaces free-rangers!

My sweet peas are lush and full {only leaves and stems, for now}, interspersed with the snapdragons that are in full spring bloom. I cannot wait to have sweet pea blossoms throughout the house. The orange trees and lemon are as white as they are green, with fragrant flowers, and fruit, too. The apple trees are blooming, the fig tree is waking up, fresh leaf buds are dotting its bare limbs.

You would think all this great weather would mean more fun in our Viking tent, but, alas, with the warmth came the mosquitos. Horrible bloodsucking wanton ladies of the dusk! They have been the bane of our festivities all our years here. Time for another mission to find out all the puddles and wet places... ironic plague for drought times. Do you want to know something special? You do? As long as we have lived here, we have imagined that our porch should be a covered, and screened porch, like Grandma Nancy's, in Wisconsin. More shade, no bugs, cats in, rain out, more open doors and windows, make space... it's been a favorite daydream and topic of wishful thinking. And now we are days away from commencing this big project... roofing the porch, building low walls, making screens, adding doors, and creating a space to escape hot summers, and rain {should it ever return,} an extension of the home so we can spread out our projects, and activities... we like to make things and we like to share and exchange ideas and events with friends. I am very excited about the prospect of all of this, and for the first time, I can actually muster some interest in the imminence of another hot summer. If we can add some cots {catres} then I will happily relive childhood Sonora summers, complete with chickens raising the sun.

Playing With Paints and Plates - Tue, 02/17/2015 - 09:30

Maria and I ran away from home, on an explore, in search of diversions, and play. Actually, it wasn't quite that adventurous... I knew exactly where we were headed. As much as I love painting pottery, as many times as she's asked to go, we don't do this fun activity very often. After nearly twenty years of dabbling in this activity, starting with William, then Alex, and Max, and Maria, two or three times, we have a fair collection of plates and bowls, a knick-knack or two. I keep meaning to take photographs of all the pieces we've painted, because I know they will not last forever, and I want to have a keepsake of the keepsakes. If my apple bowl breaks, I will gasp and wince, a bit, but I will not regret that we use these pieces everyday... especially if I have a picture to remember them by.

Have you been to one of these places, where you get an unglazed piece to paint? Once you've painted it, they glaze and fire it for you, and after a few days you return to pick up a glossy dish, or piggy bank, or vase, or unicorn, to bring home and treasure forever, and ever. My favorite part is the painting. I like slowing down, and losing track of everything but colors and brushstrokes. It'd be prohibitively pricey to rush through, amassing more and more pieces to finish... when the children were younger they would hurry through the painting, tempted to get another dinosaur, another cereal bowl. But I would try to persuade them to slow down, to make the most of their clay canvases. Some people have been caught by surprise when they see a completely different theme or scene painted on the backside of our pottery... there because I implored the children to double-up on their artistic expressions, making each piece a two-for-one.

Maria painted a flower. We were both happily reminded of Hawaii. It will be fun to compare these pictures with the finished results. The chalky and pale paints brighten and change when they are glazed and fired. On the back of Maria's plate, a heart, her name, and the year. We have plates with the year 1997 painted on them. It's such a remarkable sensation to think that far back, to marvel at so many years gone by, and yet to feel the moments as though they were only yesterday. Maybe it is "materialistic," but I am glad to have these things that recall times that we have shared and enjoyed. For my own plate, I decided to revisit my ratty-rat theme, and painted the same one I have embroidered on a dish towel. I cannot explain this rat-mouse attraction. I very much preferred painting the smaller rat-mouse on clay, than the Hobbit-like mouse I tried to depict on canvas. The chicken, and the needle pulling thread were done in more of a rush. Maria was finished, and hungry, my chance to lose track of time was done. Now for the wait, and wondering whether what we wanted to appear will translate in the end.

{this moment} - Fri, 02/13/2015 - 04:30
A single photo, capturing a moment from the week.
A special moment. A moment I want to remember.

:: Inspired by Soule Mama ::

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments, for all to find and see.

Waiting for her Dad, in the metal shop... it's a robot thing.

Love in a Bite Sized Treat - Thu, 02/12/2015 - 09:12
This is the bite-sized Valentine Maria is sharing with her classmates this year. It's a teeny brownie with a festive flag pick. Festive and sweet~

Here's how they were made...

Mini condiment cups
Washi tape (also called paper tape)
Cake or brownie batter

When Maria decided to make mini cupcakes for her class party, I suggested we could decorate them with little flags. Working together we made at least forty of them... fun, easy, and cute! We happened to have this washi tape in our craft stash, and toothpicks in our baking drawer. {I suggest using the toothpicks with a decorative finish on the top, so there's only one sharp end. We found ours at Mitsuwa... a terrific quantity, very reasonably priced.}

At first, aligning the tape took a few tries. The paper tape is very forgiving, and even though it holds well, it also can be pulled apart to adjust. Maria liked working with the polka dotted tapes, because they were easier to center by placing the toothpick between rows of dots.

After folding the tape over the toothpick, we trimmed the end. A pennant cut looks pretty, too. Just snip out a triangle shape from the end.


We found the condiment cups at Smart & Final. And the brownie mix is Trader Joe's Truffle Brownie mix. {Have you tried TJ's Truffle Brownies? These bite sized treats are scrumptious!} Each cup held about three teaspoons of batter... and the ones with more tended to overflow... a tasty mess!

Maria is very excited to be giving each school friend a small token of her esteem, and one for teacher, too.

{And yes, we did do a test run with cake batter. Obviously they bake quicker than a full size cake, so don't step away from the oven for too long. We love the mini-many decorating options for these wee treats.}

Love Looks Like... - Wed, 02/11/2015 - 08:29
Love looks like walking around town, meeting a new friend. Rufous. I miss him already.