Chicken Blog by Natalie

27 I Can See Clearly Now - Mon, 03/27/2017 - 11:55
This "grand" entry is wasted on my sensibilities. And sending people up on tall ladders isn't so great for my senses, either. Those double glass panes are a pain, but they look better today, thanks to William and Geoff. Sorry spiders, but it was getting ridiculous.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

26 Real Crafty - Sun, 03/26/2017 - 11:39
The crocheting muse comes and goes, particularly when it comes to making hats, beanies. I have made cute, functional crocheted hats, and then I have been through long stretches of time when nothing works... I get only frog worthy yarn messes, ugly things that look like Regretsy submissions. For one thing: I don't have a practiced and firm grip on reading crochet patterns. In fact, just looking at instructions with all of those abbreviations, and secret coded symbols makes me feel weak, hivish. So, I either follow YouTube tutorials, or make things up. Recently I made up a pattern for a crocheted beanie, and I have super-successfully replicated my work, many times. Hats everywhere. My own design, my own pattern, and I can adjust it for sizes, and repeat it... it's miraculous, for me. But I worry that the muse will flee, so I have decided to write down my recipe. Only, remember... I don't read patterns, but I am trying to write down a pattern.


Hopefully, my notes and pictures will suffice. Hopefully, if I forget my own beanie pattern, I will be able to decipher my feeble scrawl and cryptic descriptions, enough to produce another crocheted hat. And maybe, just maybe, someday I will be invited to play with the A-List bloggers, the crafty crowd, the cool kids of the Internet. Otherwise, my very first crochet pattern will be submitted to the lesser known, but still distinguished publication... Drunken Amateur Crafter Monthly. Any subscribers?

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

25 Local Outing - Sat, 03/25/2017 - 19:00
Can you name (one of) our favorite movies?
Of course, it would have been better if we had our knit beanies.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

24 Lists - Fri, 03/24/2017 - 11:02
Geoff and Cairo, they just left with Max and Maria to run a few errands. I stayed back with an earnest announcement... I'll stay home and take care of laundry and cleaning. So, naturally, I am blogging.

Forgive me, for I blog.

In the interest of saying stuff that's on my mind, but with the sincere intention of being both brief and swift, I will list.

1. Last night I made it to MNO (Mom's Night Out.) It was lovely, and delicious, it glowed, and sparkled. I'm quite fortunate to know these women. They raise my thoughts, my aspirations. They sent me home with salmon and cupcakes. Everyone should know marvelous women, with generous souls.

2. Max is home on break. Alex is on break. Geoff is on break. Maria... Maria is home, sick, with a low grade fever... you can't win them all.

3. Geoff has been asking me to hang the art I have been making since December. And honestly, it really has taken a lot of coaxing and encouragement to get me to bring them out of their shoe box and up onto walls. I have begun.

4. My car has an estimated value of $458.00, and an initial repair bill of approximately $3,000. These numbers don't add up, but they do. My Jet Puff Odyssey has been my golden chariot, my steadfast steed, my safe and reliable ride to anywhere. I love my minivan.

5. New cars are astonishing. I went on a couple of visits. The bells. The whistles. Have you seen what a new car can do these days? New Odysseys have a vacuum in the trunk. A vacuum! Simply knowing about that one feature will amuse me for the next 4 to 6 years, no doubt.

6. We're going to order all the fixes on Jet Puff, and hope she holds. I'd like to drive her to the moon, before I finally put her out to pasture.

7. I've started walking every day, again. Since Tuesday. That's how it is, right? You start, you move forward, something sets you off course, then you gather yourself, and start, again.

8. {I am holding this spot for all of my fears, anxiety, worries, and frustrations. I won't specify them, but I will acknowledge that they are more than I can carry, and maybe I can just set them in this space, and take a break from trying to hold them all at once.}

9. We were invited to see Pink Martini, at the Hollywood Bowl, with two dear Aunts and a dear Uncle... and so, we have begun to look ahead and make summer plans, and there is something cheering and soothing, and right about marking a date on the calendar, months away, and thinking, That is going to be good.

10. There's more I am thinking, more I'd like to pull out of my head, unravel, look at... but in the interest of being both brief and swift, of balancing blogging and getting stuff done, I will end this sentence, this post, with a message:

I hope you enjoy this day, and tomorrow. And thank you for visiting Chickenblog. I appreciate the company.
With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

23 Duck, Duck, Goose, Anteater! - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 17:11
It's neither a duck, nor an anteater. But it is a goose, and an Anteater!

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

22 Spring is For Flowers - Wed, 03/22/2017 - 16:44

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

21 Grandpa Chango - Tue, 03/21/2017 - 13:46
Nearly seventeen years old. Maybe actually seventeen years old, already, but we won't make it "official" until the first day of April. April 1st is the day we assign as every cat's birthday. We haven't been very consistent in celebrating cat birthdays, though. But 17 is a big one, I feel, and Chango, our Grandpa, is such a dear old man cat, that I believe something must be done, some kind of celebration should be organized. Don't you worry, Grandpa Chango. We will fete you. You will have bonito flakes, even a lap or two of cereal milk from the bowl... whatever your heart, and tummy desire, damn the consequences. You are so worthy.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

20 Outing - Mon, 03/20/2017 - 22:00
When William suggested a walk tonight, it took us a while to get lined up and out the door. So, instead of strolling down our dark street, we opted to explore a mall. A mall with wide sidewalks, a koi pond, piped in music, cheery lighting, and shops. It was nice... nice to be out, moving, nice to see pretty windows, with pretty displays. And finally, I couldn't resist the one shop that always manages to lure me in, both tempting me and vexing me. And I am not even going to say their name, though I am linking, here, and you may want to guess, just for your own amusement, which store in the whole wide world is my consumer frenemy, the purveyor of things I am loath to lust for. They have ceramic bowls, with chickens. Bowls. Chickens. I'm done for. It's frustrating when, at last, you find the material things you dream of, desire, which had always been odd and obscure, worn, shabby, rustic, thrifted, but which have suddenly become chic, hip, and not remotely thrifty. Alas. Alas, what folly to be burdened with good taste. Maybe what I really need is a designer to curate and display my own vast collection of worn, shabby, rustic and thrifty treasures, to their best appeal. It is, indeed, nice to walk, late on a week night, to see pretty things, smell lemon poppyseed candles, imagine where old wooden boxes and crates came from, how they would look in our Bird House, or might be artfully reproduced. So very nice, so very perilous.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

19 Gathered Around the Campfire - Sun, 03/19/2017 - 20:30
Alex, Max, Maria, Amira, William~

This was, I suppose, a farewell to winter campfire. I've been distracted, for some time, and the idea that we are on the verge of spring comes as a genuine surprise. And so, the rain in the forecast is spring rain, and soon there will be spring break. A new season, new plans, new hopes. A fresh start? Yes, let's hit refresh, and plant some seeds, dust corners, change the sheets, sleep with the windows open, just a crack. I welcome all of it, and take joy in anticipation of more gatherings, books, stories, songs, laughter, spring.

Winter, thank you. You were fine, loved your storms, and rain. Until we meet again, farewell.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

18 His Rats - Sat, 03/18/2017 - 11:54
Neo Cairo Nepenthes love his rats. Loves his rats. He loves his plushie, stuffed, toy rats. There's really no other way to say it. It's just that simple, just that true.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

17 Las Flores - Fri, 03/17/2017 - 11:47
Camellias, flowers so beautiful, even dropped, fading, decaying, they evoke allure, grace, dignity. Youth, perfection, so-called flawless qualities are only one kind of a beginning, an easy thing to love. I also love time-worn things, a long story, the creases in a page, the substance and resilience beneath the shine.

In a passing stroll, mere minutes, I was delighted by a lot of beauty. I am happy to have noticed.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

16 On a School Night - Thu, 03/16/2017 - 21:00
Maria's school had a STEM Family Night, an evening of demonstrations and science-tech-engineering-math activities for some of the fifth and six graders and their families. It's not a program Maria has been participating in, but she was invited to be part of the group who exhibit. So, we brought Da Vinci out of semi-retirement (really, it was more of a sabbatical,) painted him blue, dusted off his drawing table, ran some diagnostics on his programming, and lent him a team hat. He was raring to go! So was Maria. She reviewed all the technical aspects and systems that operate Da Vinci, our drawing automaton. She's got it down... that he runs on Inkscape, the opens source app that allows our Egg-bot circuit board to direct three motors to move magnets along the x and y axis, plus the up and down motion of Da Vinci's pen hand. And she can discuss vector vs raster, or pixel illustrations, how she develops original art in Scratch, up loads it in Inkscape and Da Vinci can reproduce her drawings.

And one more thing... we get a surprising number of people that stand before our creations, scratch their heads, and ask, "Why? What's it for?" This question, and also the implication that our pursuits are pointless, can be frustrating for us, and have dismayed us, too. Geoff and I tend to get a bit defensive, even incredulous, because we think the answers is so obvious! The answer we often proffer is, "Why not? But we know this doesn't do much to achieve outreach, to help someone who doesn't get it to appreciate the elegance, beauty, purpose of making strange things. It's not always easy to maintain our energy and message when demonstrating at a fair for ten hours, two days in a row, but Maria shared her thoughts on the question,"Why? What's it for?" and I think her words are going to do a great deal to help us feel like we have a thoughtful and succinct response.

So... the next time someone, with a puzzled expression, asks incredulously, doubtfully, "Why? What's it for?" We can reply, in Maria's words, "We are here to demonstrate what we've made, which are things that might not seem 'practical,' but which show the principles of science, technology, engineering, art, math, music. The skills and knowledge applied, and taught, in making our creations are practical skills, which can be applied to 'real life' challenges and objectives, invention, innovation, and fun. We learn how to make, we share what we make, and we inspire more making."


Happily, most of the time, people totally get it, and that's what we love about bringing Da Vinci out, on a school night... sharing our love of STEAM is fun.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

15 Media - Wed, 03/15/2017 - 17:00
Media: a means by which something is communicated or expressed.

Synonyms: means, method, way, form, agency, avenue, channel, vehicle, organ, instrument, mechanism

Pencils and paint have been my media, deliberately, diligently, since the end of December. And rats are the result, mostly. "Mostly," because that's mostly what I have produced, and because they aren't exactly entirely "rats." They're mostly rats, but also a little bit mousy, almost people-y. Maybe just, mostly weird.

Geoff wonders if I wouldn't like to introduce the rats and other sketches to an iPad Pro, go digital. If my drawings were scanned, then I could paint them and play with them. Hmmmm, thought I, and asked Alex to come with my to an Apple Store.

In the Apple Store (and no, they are not my sponsors, yet) I asked a genius to convince me to buy an iPad Pro. He did his best. I guess. But I was not convinced.

1. They don't let you sit at the table where the iPads are displayed, which is just as well because...

2. It didn't feel like I could get comfortable enough to hang out for an hour or four, and really immerse myself in their apps, exploring what I might like about being a digital artist... probably Apple geniuses don't want me hanging out for four hours?

3. Pencils are so much more affordable than digital media. I might not become a talented, income-generating artist, but it's worth exploring on a pencil and paper budget. I'd feel really donk if my art career tanked after investing in cool kids club.

While we were there, Alex added a Martian to their digital art, demonstrating that he is definitely worthy of entry into the cool kids club.

My skills, and artistic impulses are probably less... dignified? But I did have fun.

Other media... re-bar tie wire, and a can of spray paint. We gave our automaton robot sculpture a makeover, in blue. This is the wire sculpture Alex made for our Benevolent Order of Makers creation, Da Vinci

Acrylic craft paints. The little cylindrical bottles. I like MS brand best, but the more I paint, the more I am convinced that it may be time to look into finding a better quality paint. Maybe. Or maybe I should look into trying out markers, like Prisma pens.

Alex likes Tombow Brush Pens, and so does Maria. This panda... it's really good, and a favorite of mine, but Alex reminds me that it was just a doodle he did (with one color) to test the pen. The results do a fine job of demonstrating that the brush pens are a cool medium for making art.

Other cool medium for making art... everything William did to achieve this image, which Geoff describes, "William experimenting with He modeled these in 3DSMax, fed them through the neural network. He "hand" colored the models to guide Deepart's color choices. Next he's going to experiment with custom convolution filters (controlling the "style" of the resultant image). Now this... this is cool kid stuff.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

14 Tuesday Night - Tue, 03/14/2017 - 22:00
Sometimes I am tempted to just post a series of pictures, with no text, no captions, no deep thoughts or other musings. Maybe someone will be curious. Perhaps questions will arise. I am more than happy to offer explanations, share details. I could tell you about the artists in residence, here at the Bird House. Maybe mention that there was a cupcake delivery, that my crochet hats are coming along splendidly. Would you like to know where Grant is going, why he needs a Team Zissou beanie?

Yeah, there's a lot I could say about any of these moments, Tuesday Night, in the Bird House. Or any other night, for that matter. There's hardly ever a dull moment, here. It's nice that way.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

13 Home For Purim - Mon, 03/13/2017 - 21:00
A fairly quiet evening, at home. Plans to watch Contact. Popcorn and yogurt for dinner. It's casual. We're happy about having put away the laundry, washed those extra loads of dishes. It's just a comfortable time, with no big expectations, when the door bell rings. And then things get awesome...

Oh, man. What can I say? We simply have the best friends, neighbors, life! Happy Purim, from Leslie and Ido, from Simon, Bex, and Spencer. Happy mishloach manot! (A tradition that, once again, saved me when the next morning I was challenged to assemble a decent packed lunch for Maria. Raisins, juice box, mandarins, homemade, yummy hamantash? Yes, thank you, please!)

A holiday that commemorates the defeat of an evil plot? One with festive feasts, masquerading, giving gift baskets? It's brilliant. Our friends are brilliant. Unicorns with fresh baked cookies... brilliant!

I am so thankful, so glad we were home for Purim.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

12 At The Lagoon - Sun, 03/12/2017 - 11:34
Following a path with my sweetheart.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

11 Los Gatos - Sat, 03/11/2017 - 13:30
Saturday morning, and Mister Foo's expression is exactly mirroring my state of being... exhausted, unresponsive, very sick to my stomach, and overall just meh. I surrender. Seriously though, that stomach thing was wicked.

Cats. Pets. I love it when we have a pet that can channel the things we want to express, can't describe, would like to be or do or state. We assign them quirks, and narratives, we tell their stories, or pretend that they tell our stories. We relate to their personalities, and share with each other a common recognition of each pets' unique behaviors, attitudes, habits, foibles, limitations, endearments, charms... and it gives us a means of projecting our own faults and gifts on these dear beings, so we can better face them in ourselves, with humor and humility. Somehow, blaming the cat for messes and weirdness makes my own messes and weirdness feel more human, more forgivable. Chango has a soft belly, like me. Mister Foo is moody, like me. Cairo loves his naps, like me, too. They are the members of the family that we can, with impunity, point a finger at, blame for anything, dote on, adore, laugh at, tease, deride, and love. Am I making sense? Do you see it, too... that there is something in our pets that can bring everyone together to participate in a communal contract of admiring, mocking, caring for, and blaming, protecting and loving, and that it affords a shared language for feelings and ideas that we might otherwise withhold, or direct at a person who would take it too much to heart?

Chango is indifferent to the fact that we call him Old Man, and Grandpa, that these namesakes are derived from his doddering age, his advancing senility, the long stories he meows aloud at 4 o'clock in the morning, his gentle affections. So long as he has his water bowl on the night-stand, and wet food for breakfast, he only knows that we love him. And thanks to him, we can express pent-up frustration, which might otherwise be suppressed, or directed at any innocent by-stander, when Chango hangs his claw in a pant leg, or waits to go out, and wants right back in.

Cairo may not understand that he is my surrogate baby, or that he helps Max transition from the stresses of the week, when he can hold him and transition back into home. Max doesn't have to say, "Holding you helps me express my anxiety and missing home after a long week away at school, and now I feel calmer, reconnected to the comfort and familiarity of being back here, at home." But it's there, somehow, the opportunity to, without words, acknowledge those ideas, feel those emotions, and relief.

Mister Foo's story is one we each know, and tell. We build our own family story, our connectedness with each other, through recalling that trip, when Foo climbed the walls. The time Foo fell from the second floor. Maybe it's the removal of ego that makes these narratives and connections between us feel easier to share, and retell, that makes them comfortably relatable. By being a proxy, our pets can represent humor, grief, worry, embarrassment, struggle, flaws, bad smells, affection, and thus we can safely express our own qualities and sentiments, without liability, unencumbered by accountability or justification. It's a release.

It's satisfying, however it might be explained, that we all agree... Cairo is adorable, trusting, and silly when he naps so blithely unaware of anything.

I don't want to discuss missing babies, or wishing I could snuggle with a warm, affectionate bundle of mammal cuteness. I have these kitties, though, and I can find relief, quiet contentment in their presence, in believing that here is a fur baby, without saying anything, or even by saying too much, as I dote and nuzzle and shower them with endearments, smother them with motherly fondness.

Being alive, a human, is complicated. It can call for a lot of thinking, acting, understanding, patience. Being part of a family is even more complicated, demanding. It helps strengthen our connectedness, our bond, and our individual sense of well being, to have different ways of relating with each other, and with the outside world. When we can have multiples means of directing our thoughts and emotions, building our history, values, our common story, it eases burdens, reinforces what binds us together, or to common goals, it gives us outlets for our assertions, and facilitates communication.

Something like that.
It's hard to explain.
Here... look at my cats.

The youngster and the grandpa cat don't always get along. Chango and Cairo renegotiate their truce several times a day. But one thing they consistently agree on... when the Chickenblogger leaves the bed, we can take her place, because she thinks we are adorable.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

10 California Explorers - Fri, 03/10/2017 - 21:00
From a trail at the Crystal Cove State Park, with sour grass blossoms as far as the eye can see. We can also see a particularly calm Pacific Ocean, sail boats. With Ruth, and her sister Joan, William and Maria, I made my usual trip to bring Max home from school. On the way south, we enjoyed several stops, and sights, including this state park, the Shake Shack, and the Mission at San Juan Capistrano.

Everything is blooming! Almost. Practically. Certainly, more is in bloom this late in winter than I have seen in many years. Our long season of rain continues to delight us, even now that it seems to have come to an end. Pride of Madeira will thrive, even in dry weather. We'll see massive stands of these cornflower colored spires growing up and the down the street we live on. And California poppies, too. And plenty of sour grass, which Maria loves to snack on.

It's such a pleasure being tourists in our lovely California, and it's fun having the chance to share sightseeing with visitors. Ruth and aunt Joan were happy, receptive, traveling companions. I enjoyed making new stops, to see new places, like having a closer look at the beach cottages at Crystal Cove. As though to make this stop complete, we spied a pod of dolphins, without the telescope.

In my usual slow-flirtation with ideas and dreams, I was even more smitten with the charm and romance of the cottages that are up and down the bluff of this pretty beach, after finally deciding to have a closer look. Someday...

We were impressed by the Cultural Center... where we enjoyed one of those moments of synchronicity that life seems to keep in plentiful store for us. They had an exhibition of the history of Japanese Americans, prior to and during World War II, when American families were removed from their homes, and businesses, and interred in camps. Just this week Maria finished a school lesson on this subject with a visit to a California Court of Appeal, where, with her classmates, they reenacted the case of Korematsu v. United State before the Supreme Court. Not only have they learned a great deal about American history, but they have also observed unsettling parallels with the activities and attitudes of the administration in office today.

Here is a spot where you can sit with your burger and shake, and watch the surf, maybe see whales, like that time we first stopped here. We were pretty stoked to find parking today.

Has it been two years? Yes, it was when Maria was in fourth grade, that was the first, and last, time we visited the mission in San Juan Capistrano. Besides the history and cultural experiences that can be enjoyed here, we appreciate the architecture, the patina of time and wear, and the gardens. It's a worthwhile place to visit, for many reasons. {William took this picture.}

{And this one.}


The old walls tell stories.

Admission includes an audio tour. I kept forgetting to use mine. But it's got useful information.

Earthquakes and massive walls don't mix well.

A favorite, Ceanothus.

It smells, I think, like a spicier alyssum, very honeyed.

I remember these from our last visit, the hollyhocks. There were many plants, but few in bloom. There is something for visitors to look forward to.

I called this "the cosmic fish." It looks like a fish sailing through the night sky.

This may be one of my favorite fountains. It's large, and old. It feels like a place in a lost city, a remnant that is thriving. And, I guess, it sort of is some of those things.

This reminds me, I still have images on the camera, too. All of these pictures are from my iPhone.

We stretched out our explore with just one more stop... cool drinks at Pannikin.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

9 Dinner? - Thu, 03/09/2017 - 19:00
Lame dinner. I even bothered to post this to Instagram. Why? I dunno. I guess I was feeling overwhelmed, yet ultimately highly amused. And while it was not my finest moment, I enjoy the moments when I can see that even a lame dinner is not the worst thing in the world.

So, once upon a time, I was too tired or lazy (you choose) to visit a market, or scrounge through our, mostly, well-stocked pantry. I was even less interested in making a huge commitment to cooking. I found two varieties of popcorn, the last few kernels, at the bottom of containers. I felt clever for calculating that I should heat the larger, yellow corn, before adding the smaller, popcorn, as though that were wise, chef-like, sensibility. Unfortunately, I didn't posses the wise, chef-like, sensibility to have the lid to the pot on hand, and while I searched for it, half of the few kernels popped right out of the pot and all over the tidy or disastrous (you choose) kitchen. What remained was oh-so slightly scorched, and/or half-popped. In times of plenty (plenty of energy, plenty of ideas, plenty of ambition, plenty of pride) I would have tossed this dinner, but... no. I added a dash of nutritional yeast, sprinkled a little Tajín, and devoured this fine feast. I have made better dinners, even in the middle of the week, even when I was tired, or lazy, but this one was special, too.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

8 ExploreThe International Space Station - Wed, 03/08/2017 - 20:00
Let's see if I can do this justice, without consulting any of my technical advisors... Alex is wearing the touch controllers that Geoff ordered for the Oculus Rift, virtual reality goggles. I can't remember how long ago Geoff contributed to their Kickstarter campaign, but he was, for sure, an early believer. Now, with this new, added gear our experiences in VR are even more heightened, amazing. In this particular scenario, Alex is aboard the International Space Station, and not only is he exploring, but he can manipulate objects around him, and take directions to perform tasks, in space! We can see a version of what he is seeing, on the monitor. It is virtual, but it's the realism that makes this stuff so thrilling.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.