Chicken Blog by Natalie

Five Good Things - 7 hours 58 min ago
I like to make them stand together, so I can take their picture. They cooperate because they are great that way, and also I found fresh milk to go with their cookies, because I am great that way. {Alex and Bambi, thank you for dashing to the market for fresh milk. You two are great.}

William, Jern and Myalex, Grant, Bambi and Sarah, Maria, Celine, Corey, James, Alexi, Max, and Clark.

Good Things...

1. Ratatouille delivery. Diana, thank you.

2. The homegrown broccoli bouquet from Robin... it was so huge and bodacious, I put it in a vase!

3. The Christmas cards arriving in the mailbox. Maria and I tape each of them to our wall, and it's wonderful seeing them there.

4. Talking about fish and aquariums with Sarah, and Grant.

5. Facing the new week knowing we have wonderful, thoughtful friends, who make anxious days feel more manageable.

Should I add "No school!?" I'm happy for our scholars, who can sleep in, and see friends, make things, play games, read aloud, and relax. I like to think everyone will have some time this week to do the same, to enjoy their own pace, and some of the things that make their holidays merry and bright.

This Is Our Winter Solstice, So Far - Sun, 12/21/2014 - 11:00

We had to make some big changes to our Winter Solstice plans, a cancellation, actually. No, we didn't cancel the solstice! We cancelled our plans to celebrate Winter Solstice with our friends. No big fire with a ring of straw bales. No Swedish meatballs, and potatoes. And no kitchen full of friends, hugs, laughter, cheer. The disappointment is keen. We've been making a Viking inspired tent. It's huge. We wanted to recreate The Playa in gingerbread, then burn the Gingerbread Man! For a year I have been smiling every time I thought of our past celebrations, and feeling a happy buzz when I though about this year's celebration. I've come to think of this night as a thank you, a gesture of affection for our friends and family, our holiday gift, and have found that the gift is immediately returned, ten fold, in the kindness and company of our guests.


Feeling the loss of our special occasion, feeling concerned for Geoff... {he's recovering from heart surgery, and suffering some setbacks. We stay quiet on such subjects, perhaps hoping we can make big matters small,} I picked up my camera to try and capture moments in this day, because in spite of our disappointment, in spite of our worries, I found comfort in the activity around me, in our space. Maria, in front of the computer listening to music and dancing. William making a latke breakfast for us. Alex and Max immersed in conversation, plans, reflections, silliness. Mister Foo, being Mister Foo. Our tree is decorated, and it looks darling. Perfect for us. Maria and I made loads and loads of cinnamon and applesauce ornaments... to share with our party guests. And we have loads and loads of bourbon pecan cakes, because we were going to share those, too. Alex with a Dremel. The bird I embroidered while sitting with Diana, sipping tea. Things, sounds, smells, sights, and activities, home. Our comforting, good home. Good things, great things happen here. Geoff has been bringing this relic, an old robot he found, back to life. It's his coping activity. It feels as though a silent prayer is moving through our home, and beneath the discomforts, I feel a steady current of hope, of ease, of assurance that everything will be okay.

{I hope our friends know how dear their messages are to us... the offers of help, the concern, the well wishes. I am trying to answer each one, because they are so helpful, so thoughtful. I am eager to accept all of the prayers, and acknowledge that sometimes we need to let help come. Perhaps, big matters can be made small, when we share the burden, when we accept support.}

As for those ornaments, and the bourbon pecan cakes... we may miss this party, but we really must have a do-over, and share our gifts. Winter is here, and we need the light and cheer of friends!

{this moment} - Fri, 12/19/2014 - 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.

Preparing for the storm.

Resisting The Urge To Word Play With Flocked - Thu, 12/18/2014 - 08:05
White Christmas, anyone? It's never gonna happen, not here, not in Sunny So Cal, where rainfall spins us into a weather phenom crisis, where women don scarves and boots with shorts while nursing their non-fat fro-yos.

Baby, it's not so cold outside, and only a lot full of faux-snow flocked Christmas trees, lights on houses, and our miserable sore throats clue me in... it's almost Christmas! It's not that I am Scroogy, Grinchy, or cynical, it's just that sometimes the holidays, the spirited joy, and decorating fervor, elude me. Some years I wish I could hit a pause button, give our taxed systems a moment to catch up with the dates on the calendar, find the gift tags we stowed safely away, and come to terms with some basic truths...

Basic Truths:

1. Pinning beautiful crafts, and snow covered cabins on Pinterest will not translate into a decorated home, and clean floors.

2. Beautiful rain, welcome and good, also brings mud, sad goats, heap loads of clean-up.

3. The sofa is broken. Not broken-in, cozy. Just broken.

4. The cats are never going to toilet train themselves.

We do have a Christmas tree. And after three days, we even put lights on it. No one ever need tell us, "Take it easy! What's your hurry?" And this year, for the first time since 2004, I bought, signed, addressed, stamped, and mailed holiday cards. My feeling of accomplishment, of old-timey traditional social engagement, is off the charts, and only matched by my feeling of dorkiness, and being painfully aware that this achievement is not that great, that a lot of it was actually slightly botched, and a bit too old-timey. Does anyone remember when Christmas cards were of glitter trees, manger scenes, or mice drinking cocoa, and they were simply dated, and signed? Some people included a personal note? I forgot that this is 2014... and Christmas a season's greetings card is a professional portrait of a family dressed in comfortable sweaters, on a beach, or in the woods. They look amazing. Christmas Season's greetings cards might include a single-spaced printed essay... reflections on travels, promotions, awards, and heroic accomplishments. I love those letters. I've noticed people have their friends' addresses printed on labels. Sheer genius, pure brilliance, and organizational fortitude! If I got my act together, and had all my friends addresses in a computer file, and knew how to print labels... you'd better believe I'd mention it in my single-spaced printed essay on our great year of heroic accomplishments.

We don't have a family picture, all of us looking in the same direction, an in-focus portrait. And as I signed our cards, I reasoned that it's fine. It's more than fine, because Chcikenblog Chickenblog is loaded with pictures. We've been sharing chickens, goats, cats, and us all over the Internet, and I am pretty sure everyone gets a general idea about that sort of thing... how we look, what we do etc. Then I thought, what about the essay, the catch-up letter? And again, I was painfully aware that no one can be longing to know what we've been up to lately. I was fiercely tempted to casually include a small url mention of, tastefully written in a corner of the card, a gentle reminder, for friends who have never heard that I have been banging my head pursuing a career in writing about all sorts of random topics, and hoping to land a book deal, so I can feed the goats, and put a new roof on our house. But thanks to an article I read {ten things not to flock-up in your Seasons Greetings card,} I knew better than to run a business advertisement in our holiday card. And even as I debated all of these things, I also questioned the value and sense of sharing my internal monologue, here. On Chcikenblog. Chickenblog. Apparently, I am a rebel, even against my own good sense, because, as you can see, I am posting all about my self-doubts, missteps, and goofynesses, here on Chiemcmelblog. {Also, hand addressing and signing fifty cards gave me hand cramps and the after-spasms make it difficult to type, or spell correctly, for that matter. (After-spasms are the post cramp wimpiness you feel when you have forgotten how to hold a pen for long periods of time, and cannot immediately recover from the task, but choose to write all about it for your blog.)}

Also, at 2:30 this morning my brain woke me up to inform me that I did not spell Aunt Margie and Uncle Howard's surname correctly. That I left out the T.

Thanks, brain. For waking me, and giving me one more basic truth... I cannot catch all of my mistakes in time to fix them, but I will always have the predawn hours to be tormented by them.

Outside With My Camera Before The Storm - Tue, 12/16/2014 - 09:18
My camera card was missing for several days. As soon as I found it, I knew I wanted to go outside, before the forecast rain, and take pictures. I cannot explain why taking pictures calms me, grounds me, makes me happy. Or, maybe I could explain it, but I'd rather just share the pictures.

Mister Washburn Foo is not going outside. He's been parked on this dining chair all morning. From this vantage point he can serenade the gold finches that come to the feeder, the phoebe bird that sits on the back of the chair.

Did you notice Tasha's nose... the picture where she crinkled it up? What a funny expression. What funny goats... chewing on my apron, untying it, too. I wonder if they know rain is coming. I put more straw in their cottage. The chicas have plenty of food, and they're busy finishing the small bits of grain the goats didn't inhale. Ada is wooly. I was watching for that... for the soft wool to grow under her coarser outer coat. Could we be in for a cold and wet winter? Wouldn't that be grand! The flowers love the rain so much more than my hand watering. After our first storm, I could see how much greener, and more lush the sweet peas and snapdragons became. I spy Maria's bean sprouts... experiments for her Junior Master Gardening Class. This makes me realize I should sow carrot and spinach seeds, before the rain starts... perfect timing.

Five Good Things - Mon, 12/15/2014 - 07:02
Lest anyone think keeping chickens is all glossy photo-ops with darling hens, and fresh eggs, I present: Le Muck! Nothing brings the realities of keeping chickens and goats to light like mucking out the run after a big storm! The ground is slick, thick, slippery and mucky, and the goats nearby bleat plaintively, "Why? Why did water fall from the sky, why? Why is the ground squishy and damp?" Because nothing breaks a goat's heart like water falling from the sky. Poor goats. The chickens, on the other hand, are heedless things, with no concern at all about rain, mud, or muck. The chickens see opportunity... things get uncovered, and discovered when I am in the run with my rakes and boots, and they follow me, eager to see what comes out. They scratch, and peck, and coo contentedly. The compost pile grows, old trees get mulched. Then comes fresh straw, and the goats investigate, happy for the dry spots I've laid before them, and the hens go wild. I used to lay down the straw and decoratively spread it about, until I realized that's a chicken's job! They are experts at spreading straw, and it's a task they love very much. With more storms lined up for this week, I'll be deep in le muck again, soon.

Good Things...

1. We enjoyed a spontaneous and productive Arduino play event this week. We love doing things with our Young Makers Club, Love & Rockets :: Art & Engineering.

2. All that rain that came over the weekend! And more on the way! Goats may not be impressed, but it's pure joy for us drought stricken folks.

3. Cough drops, tissues, soup, socks, and naps... okay, I am reaching, here. A bug has settled in, making some of us miserable. I guess without small comforts, it could be worse.

4. Boots. I love boots. Sunny days, rainy days, mucky days... boots give you what it takes to face the job, or just kick up your heels!

5. Texting with my girlfriends. Staying in touch, sharing news, finding help... laughing!

Maria just came downstairs, covering her eyes, and woefully announcing "I think this must be the headache Alex had, because it hurts so much!" She has the fever, too. Not sure what's made her more sad, being sick, or missing her Winter Concert. More soup! More cough drops! More socks, tissues, and naps! But please, no more bugs! I hope you find the good things in your Monday. We try.

Word From the Chicken :: Cluck - Sat, 12/13/2014 - 09:11

To remind myself that...
Everything has a beginning, a middle, and a new beginning.
And it isn't the end until we stop moving forward.
Still moving forward, here.
And feeling rather clucky about that.
Happy Weekend, friends~
With love, from
Natalie, the Chickenblogger

{this moment} - Fri, 12/12/2014 - 07:28
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.
An honest to goodness FB fangirl moment, with Pink Martini. Brian Lavern Davis and Maria.

Maria's Shiny Christmas Shop Is Open - Thu, 12/11/2014 - 09:48

My mother makes jewelry. Beautiful jewelry, and she is as generous as she is talented. While she was here, she combined her talents and generosity to pass her skills along to her granddaughter. Delia hit the craft store and set Maria up in her very own cottage industry, teaching not just the basics of making earrings, using needle nosed pliers, and assembling bracelets, but also how to calculate expenses, keep inventory, and price merchandise. Maria absorbed every bit of those lessons, and even with Mister Washburn Foo's eager assistance, Maria was incredibly productive! All those shiny baubles, and more, she made in one sitting, and has not tired of it in the least. Last night she added a few more pair of earrings, before hunkering down to finish her homework.

Speaking of shops, local talents, and small businesses... have you finished your holiday shopping? I certainly haven't... Okay, but it's not too-too late, and it can be an extra gift to our communities, and to artists if we shop mom & pop style. Local is great, but I like to at least consider the independent craftsmen, and American made products. Here are some people and business that are small, great, and open for business:

The ToyMaker... Marilyn Scott Waters, another one of those talented and generous artists, has a new book on the shelves: A Year In The Secret Garden is brimming with her lovely illustrations and loads of activities for the young {and young at heart} gardeners on your list.

In the Fiona Gallery you will find custom art and jewelry, with a caring and heartfelt passion for dogs, and cats... especially dogs! Gina Barbosa also has a very personal keepsake bead company. Sisu Beads are thoughtfully made beads, and Gina is just the talented and sensitive person to help you make these unique memorial pieces.

My friend Jill never lost her fangirl passion for music, and she certainly inherited her dad's entrepreneurial savvy, which is why her Etsy shop, Records and Stuff makes so much sense! They take requests, and make custom orders.

Now for something sweet! I know a young man... just out of high school, actually, and he is putting his heart and good taste into his cottage industry with Mother Tucker's Toffee! Following his Great Grandmother Tucker's recipes, Lucas is building a solid reputation for his delicious toffees, and he'd be happy to ship you a box!

Need an elf in your kitchen this year, someone to help with the baking? Karen's Kookies can do it for you, and with her gluten-free options you are sure to find something for anyone on your list. Those Salted Double Chocolate Caramels are irresistibly good!

Abstract and vivid art, custom orders, too... ArtWork by Janece is an Etsy gallery, open for your shopping pleasure.

Shopping for a watercolor painting, something personal? Visit Art Studio: Yanina Cambareri does commissioned art, beautiful pieces that capture people, and places you hold dear.

Have I mentioned our favorite holiday music?? You are going to want to get up dance, when you hear Pink Martini's "Joy To The World" CD!

{For the record, these mentions are not paid for, not bribed, nor coerced. I am happy to pass along a kind word and support for the busy folks and friends in my life.}

Get Up and Dance With Pink Martini - Wed, 12/10/2014 - 07:22
We had our annual Christmas in the City outing... in search of music, art, science, good food, lights... all of the above! This year we may have topped all of our outings, past and future. It was too magical to beat. And for extra happiness, we were able to snag one more ticket for my mom... a fitting gift for the Oregon woman who first introduced us to this marvelous, Portland band, Pink Martini. Maria was a toddling, wee thing when we first started playing Sympathique, twirling in the kitchen, and shimmying in the garden. And for the entire drive to Oregon, and home again, we listened to nothing but the beautiful Dream a Little Dream CD... beautiful, gorgeous, a gem. I make playlists for every mood, party, activity, and season, and I cannot think of many that don't include Thomas Lauderdale and his marvelous band.

The night before going to the concert, I dreamt about going to the concert. It was a very happy dream, and I loved the parts of it when I was, in blog-like detail, describing the band, to the point where I was tearing up, feeling deeply enthused. In reality I was hoping we had good seats, and yes... yes, I was really hoping Maria would be able to dance, stand in the aisle or at her seat, and do what she loves, what she can't not do... dance! And then it happened.

We had good seats. Great, really. And the music was stirring, a thrill. Maria and I squeezed hands, she was singing lyrics. Storm Large sang with the purest, most powerful voice I've ever had the pleasure of hearing in a live performance. She has a presence that is riveting, gracious. She moves with her voice, with the band, and weaves all the parts, the instruments, the words, the players into a compelling composition. Fun was happening on that stage, a playful, skilled, collection of artists, who seamlessly project their passion for the music, and bring the audience along for the party.

And then, Storm Large invited the audience to join them on stage, and her words were barely leaving her lips, when I told Maria, "You can dance!" It was a large venue, very formal... imagine the idea of going up onto a stage, with your favorite band playing, bright lights making looming shadows, thunderous applause filling the air, and not surprisingly, Maria was hesitant, but she was the first to accept the offer and reach the stage, and Storm Large herself, took Maria by the hands and led her up, and they danced!

Behind the band the space filled up, and Maria took a place in the midst of all of it, and danced, danced, danced. Shy at first, but after meeting Storm and taking those first steps, she didn't need anymore coaxing. Maria loves dancing. I don't think she noticed anything but the beat, and her joy in moving to the music. This happened four times! They played favorite songs, like Lily, and Brazil, and I thought Maria might burst when Timothy Nishimoto sang Zundoko Bushi! She tried to shake his hand... she really wanted to thank him.

Oh, it was a big one!

I love this band, and now we will have to sell our home, find a place for the goats, and chickens, and travel the world so we can follow Pink Martini, dance, and be mesmerized by their music. It is a happy fate.

Brian Lavern Davis, keeping the beat, danced with Maria, then stepped in for a picture, too. {And I cannot emphasize enough how warm and friendly everyone was... they keep a busy tour schedule, they're playing all over the world, but in that moment, they played and engaged like they were there just for us. It was lovely.}

By the time they announced they were playing the last song, Maria had pulled me out of the wings to dance with her. I'll never forget our dance, sharing her joy, feeling the gift of that special night.

Before leaving the stage, I wanted to get one more picture of Maria, with the band in the shot... and that's when Brian dashed in, again. And he said nice things to Maria, and then...

Then things got even more fun! Storm Large rocked this photobomb!

Dear Storm Large, thank you. Maria is still glowing, and grinning, still singing, and still thrilled to have shaken hands with you. Your singing moved us to tears and happiness, and we hope we have the pleasure of seeing you again.

Yeah, I'd say we had great seats! Didn't use them, much, but they were great. We had fun walking out to the cars, passing my iPhone between us and delving into the pictures and videos. William, Alex, Max and Bambi were happy for Maria... we all knew it was a really special thing to have happened, but she's a special girl. Improbable as it all was, something about it felt just right, like a happy dream.

Bourbon Pecan Cake Smells Like Holiday Jolly Days - Tue, 12/09/2014 - 14:26

All that butter, and bourbon, those cups of packed brown sugar, and bourbon! Whenever I bake this cake, I feel like the holidays are really kicking into high gear! My mom used to make it for gift giving at Christmas time, and I remember dying for a swipe of the rich batter, when I was a little girl. And the warm, sweet smell filling our home right this very minute? It's nostalgic and tempting, for sure, but it's also a bit of torture, because the cakes won't be ready to eat for at least two weeks! After they come out of the oven, I am going to let them cool, then wrap them in bourbon soaked cheesecloth, and seal them up for a long spell. They will get even more amazing over time, but the wait is brutal!

No tree here, yet. In fact there are still pumpkins at our front door. Seems like time is sprinting, and all of the world and its demands, are pounding at the door, but I just putter along at a mid-century pace... 1800-and-something! The faster everything spins, the slower I move, the deeper I slip into wishful reveries, daydreams, and embroidery, or baking. It's pure denial, and self preservation. I smell the last of the cakes in the oven, and they must be ready to come out... I don't think we have enough cheesecloth for twelve loaves and one big bundt! Alas, I will have to go out into that mad spinning world, again! I am dusted in flour, and ready for snow, or caroling, some jolliness! Must be the smell of all that bourbon, butter, and sugar!

Five Good Things - Mon, 12/08/2014 - 05:00

Green Gardens Nursery has magically transformed since our first visit, and I couldn't feel more thankful... full of evergreens and holiday details, I didn't realize how very much I needed a sensory retreat, until I strolled through every corner and room of this wonderful place. I was standing in the midst of all those Christmas trees, seeing flowers, seeds, and feeling the warmth of the day, and I suddenly remembered I could breath. Inhaling consciously, feeling blissed-out by the scent of pine, and the nostalgia of Christmases past... it was profoundly good. And it was nice to be there with a friend, too. Janece and I must have looked like children in a sweets shop, faces aglow, eyes wide, oohing and ahhing over every sparkle and glimmer! I'm glad I realized that Christmas really is coming, and I thought to get some gifts. It would make sense to go back and just finish all my holiday shopping there. Time is running out, and so is my energy! How about fruit trees and paper white bulbs for all? I love the gifts I did bring home... shhh! I must try to keep those under wraps.

What I was most tempted to do was buy a tree. Two trees! I suddenly wanted all the trimmings of the season to be in our car and on the way home. But. yeah, I figured that would be too much to do without the rest of the family, together, debating which tree, and all those Christmas tree choices and options that must be negotiated and debated. When we can we go back?

Good Things...

1. French Toast {Inclined to explain and justify this, but I'll just say this: Sometimes butter and bread and something sweet does everything you need.}

2. Having my mom here, and friends who come with pie, lasagna, who call, or text, who offer to do anything.

3. Corey, Lucas, Alexi, Grant and Max for enthusiastically! playing Maria's new card game with her, and Maria's friend Emma, for giving it to her.

4. Geoff and Alex visiting the same estate sale, at different times, and buying each other the same gifts... a sweet, geek magi-like moment.

5. Pink Martini. A dream come true, at last. It was far, far better than we dreamed it could be!

A new week is here. I have a sprig of pine close at hand, and when I breath it in, I feel a little more ready, a little bit stronger. Good things sometimes come in little bits. I am thankful. I hope you are finding plenty of good things to keep you moving forward, feeling strong.

Dreamt a Little Dream :: Pink Martini - Sun, 12/07/2014 - 09:14
Alternate title: Obsessive Compulsive Blogging Disorder
Disclaimer: Mister Washburn Foo has nothing to do with this post except that he's in it, so he has everything to do with this post.

Last night I dreamt that our home was full of extended family. Family I rarely see outside of family reunions, which shows you just how rarely I see them, because I haven't been to a family reunion since 2004. It seemed only slightly odd, but it was one of those realistic dreams, nothing too terribly surreal, so I was just going with it. Then I remembered that we had a concert to go to, and when I mentioned this, I saw a lot of blank faces, because most of my uncles, aunts and cousins hadn't heard of Pink Martini and my mom and I shared knowing glances, and I decided that I simply had to tell everyone all about Pink Martini.

In exacting detail, I began describing Thomas Lauderdale's bleached blond hair, that he started the band, that they were sure to recognize him, because he would be the one with a beaming grin and sitting at the piano. I mentioned that he liked music "standards," and kind of retro stylings... Mind you, I am not the least bit of a music expert, but in the dream I was confidently certain of all my adjectives and verbs, and it was quite satisfying to be so verbose and knowledgable. An uncle asked for an example, and I choked. I thought of Splendor In The Grass, which is Maria's favorite, but in my dream head, I decided this was not a good example of their retro-standards stylings, when in reality, now that I consider it, I think it is a fine example of their retro-standards stylings. Then my mom looked at me, with a happy and confident smile and she nodded, too, the way someone nods when they are sure you will join in... and she began to sing a retro-standards style kind of song, and I felt bad, because she sounded beautiful, but it was like the one Pink Martini song I did not recognize, and I apologized because, despite the nod, I wasn't able to join in.

Well, next I talked about China Forbes, and apologized that she would not be at this concert. I named all the languages she sings in, like Italian, French, Turkish, Japanese, Spanish, and English, and I probably made up some languages none of us has ever heard of, but, again, I must say it was grand to be a fountain of knowledge and detail. At this point I became so enamored of my description of China Forbe's singing that I became misty eyed, and this also felt great, because I thought everyone would comprehend how sincere my regard for Pink Martini is, and they too would fall in love with this marvelous band, and be enthralled with the concert. On to Storm Large, and I described the force of her presence, how she exudes her passion for the music, and I was all set to talk about her some more, but dream stuff happened and I was getting dressed for the concert.

This was a kind, and generous dream, because: 1. I had something to wear, and it looked good and it fit me. 2. We were not running late. 3. No one asked me to find-wash-iron anything! Yeah, so this was probably the point when some other part of my brain tuned in and informed me... Pssh... you're totally dreamin'

Is this too long?

Yeah, it was about this point, when I was telling Geoff all about my dream, that I realized that retelling dreams is seldom ever as compelling, fascinating or worthwhile as it was for the one who dreamt it. It kind of sounded mundane, rambling. I'd had a perfectly elaborate, exquisitely detailed experience, so real I felt like it was real, and about a band I adore. It was sweet, and grand, and life felt manageable, and good, but it's not easy to put those kinds of feelings and thoughts into words, at least not at 6:26 in the morning. So, I kind of hastily wrapped it up, and sighed... then it dawned on me, and I said, "OhmyGod, I blog in my dreams!"

I have Obsessive Compulsive Blogging Disorder, and I love Pink Martini.

{this moment} - Fri, 12/05/2014 - 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.
Geoff, in the healing company of Chango and Mister Washburn Foo.

Happy Birthday, Maria :: We're Happy As Can Be - Thu, 12/04/2014 - 09:35

The rain held off, the friends showed up, we had ramen and sir fried veggies, sidewalk chalk and bubbles, a gorgeous cake, homemade onigiri and tamagoyaki! And the masterfully created Totoro, and his companions, the Chu Totoro and Chibi Totoro! It really was a beautiful day, for lots of reasons, like the blue sky and the gathering clouds, the company and laughter, and all the talents and generous gifts from family and friends. My Neighbor Totoro, and director Miyazaki's other works, were new to many of Maria's friends, so she decided to play the movie. It's such an imaginative story, with gorgeous animation, I never tire of seeing it, and I hope there are new fans, now.

Oh, my gosh! Can you believe Ruth's cake? She used marzipan, and chocolate stones, and obviously a lot of love, because it was not only darling to look at, it tasted delicious. Not a crumb was left. Bambi's painting is full of Miyazaki characters, and Maria uttered a delighted gasp of joy when she opened the gift. I loved all of the handmade cards, gifts, and personal touches, and watching the children make the party their own. I left out some bubbles and sidewalk chalk, and they took it from there... there wasn't a dull moment!

William and Alex really did a lot to bring Maria's theme to life. William envisioned a giant Totoro standing in the backyard, so he went to the computer and developed his own illustration of the big fellow, then he and Geoff set up the projector and had his drawing projected onto the primed plywood. Next, William and I traced the figure onto the wood. William and Geoff painted him. By bedtime, we had a giant forest spirit gazing at us from the porch. Seeing there was plenty of wood leftover, Alex sketched the tiny Chibi Totoro, then the blue Chu Totoro. He was painting them the day of the party, and we were squeeing! as they were finishing. Their arrival made whole the scene complete... and completely adorable!

I've lost count of the number of hugs, thank yous, and smiles Maria gave us... she spent at least 72 hours in utter bliss and gratitude. And now, she's ten years old, and ohmygoodness that is hard to believe, until I realize that she is every bit a smart, kind, creative, excited, friendly, polite, and ready girl, very much ten years old. She really does make us as happy as can be.

Five Good Things - Mon, 12/01/2014 - 10:03
Our friend, and remarkably talented photographer, Patricia, invited me to participate in a Black and White Challenge, on FB. Five photographs shared, in five days. It's been fun taking recent, and older, images and looking at them in a whole new light.

Fez Princess With Tiara~ Maria playing.

Thanksgiving Outside~

Local Color~

Half Moon Bay With Cousins~ Marissa, Dominic, and Maria.

William~ Downtown Corvallis, Oregon.

Good Things...

1. Patricia is not only a good photographer, she also started a blog: You can enjoy her Travel Bits, and follow her and Michael to South Africa, and back!

2. Thanksgiving and Maria's birthday were wonderful... more to come on these subjects!

3. All of your social media pictures, comments and thankful reflections. I really do {mostly} love FB... when we cannot be at the same table, at least we can still share the love and laughter!

4. Carol sent me all the pictures she took at Maria's birthday party... beautiful shots.

5. Our good health, our improving health, healing, remedies, solutions, and prayers.

Not all Mondays are created equal, right? I mean, who doesn't wish it was still Saturday? But I am focused on good things, and good friends, and all the good fun we have to look forward to, like the rain in our forecast, winter break, the smell of pine and tamales, the sight of lights on homes, around trees, and all the beautiful wishes of peace and joy that fill the air this time of year. Happy December! I hope you have good things to enjoy this Monday.

{this moment} - Fri, 11/28/2014 - 08:57
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.

William and his grandmother, Delia~
"Hold on to your forks, there's pie!" Who said that? It's brilliant.

Thanksgiving - Thu, 11/27/2014 - 08:00
A panorama in Limekiln State Park, July 28, 2014. Happy Thanksgiving~

As I scrolled through the thousands of pictures I have in my photo library, I was once again reminded of the very many people, places, things, feelings, and ideas that I am thankful for. Naming them could take until New Year's Eve! So, I will say this much... I am thankful for Chickenblog, because this place, where I scratch the surface of deep thoughts and other musings, has become a treasure trove, recording happy memories, dreams coming true, friendships blossoming, surprises, reflections, blessings. I am thankful to have a small part of our lives, our days, our adventures, and misadventures captured in images, in words. Chickenblog is here to remind me of all the good, hard, wonderful, challenging, and dear things we have enjoyed in twelve years. I feel rich in friends, blessed in comforts and experiences, and inspired by the beauty all around us. And I heartily wish you healthy helpings of all that lifts your spirits, raises your thoughts, heals your heart, and fills you up!

I Do Love Our Bad Kitty - Tue, 11/25/2014 - 10:29
In so many ways, frequently, constantly, and dependably, Mister Washburn Foo demonstrates how to be a bad kitty.

He drinks from a bowl on the kitchen counter.

He bites toes.

He drops to the floor, at your feet, just at the moment you are about to step out... especially if your arms are so full of laundry/lumber/homework, groceries that he can hardly be perceived.

He steals Lego parts, and hides them in clever little caches around the house. Always grey or black pieces.

He sneaks into my sewing basket and runs off with anything wool, never mind the needles and pins, which we have to search for in the wake of his destruction. Needle in a Foo stack!

Mister Washburn Foo stalks chickens, birds, lizards, and sweet fluffy unsuspecting things. His intentions are of the fatal variety.

He jumps on grandmothers, and great-grandmothers, kind women, small children, and sleeping bodies. He is unrepentant.

He torments Chango Biddy Bongo the Cubano Cat, and poor Chango is too old to do anything more than endure and suffer his usurper.

He sleeps on his back, in a heap of unashamed kitty confidence and contentment, tempting passers-by to indulge him with affection and cariños.

He poops two inches outside of the litter box.

When he gets outside, and knows he's about to be captured, he throws himself to the ground and rolls in the dirt, super-magnetically affixing all loose particles to his fur.

He indulges in all manner of uncivilized behavior, like parking his butt in the middle of a card game, then wears a smug expression, as though the game, or the company, is dissatisfying, or dull.

He seduces us with his polka spots, lures us with his deep purrs, tempts us with his swishy tail, snuggles us on chilly nights, and charms us with his Fooish ways.



And when I decide to make the bed, sweep the floor, sort the laundry, do paper work, or take the table cover to the washing machine, he is there, eager and ready to spare me the trouble, because he is such a thoroughly, adorably, irresistibly bad kitty.

Five Good Things - Mon, 11/24/2014 - 15:45
We had a veggie stir fry for dinner last night. These lovelies, plus green onions, a little garlic, and toasted almond slivers over noodles. Not just a delicious dinner, but a trial run for Maria's birthday lunch... she wants to serve ramen, like they do in Ponyo. It's fun, and challenging, when you're creating a birthday party theme without the benefit of standard issue party favors and decor. Happily, Maria agrees that our original ideas, and touches are great, and in good keeping with the very original director himself, and for good measure Maria commissioned a cake from her talented and creative Tutu. So, it will be, in some fashion or another, a Hayao Miyazaki party for Maria's tenth birthday celebration. We're happy as can be!

But first, Thanksgiving! My favorite. Halloween is great fun, birthdays are special, Christmas is dear, and lovely, and you know I can make even Groundhog Day an event... but Thanksgiving is like a lovely pause between the candy rush and the mild hysteria that the proceeding holidays can impose. Thanksgiving is warm, quiet, and comforting, it's gratitude and gathering, and makes me feel thankful for home, for family, for memories, and connections. It brings us to the basics of all good things, especially when we can be home, be with family, be safe, be in tune with our comforts and pleasures. {Also, I think we are going to try to make one of those Viking tents for the backyard, and shoot... who wouldn't want that for Thanksgiving comforts and pleasures??}

Good Things...

1. Delia has come all the way from Oregon. She left real autumn weather, and her sweetheart, too, so we think it's especially lucky that we have her here with us.

2. Our own weather forecast looks slightly less ghastly {hot, dry, windy} than previously predicted, and we even have some rain in the picture next week.

3. Lately, Mister Washburn Foo is inclined to snuggle on our laps and feet.

4. Friends... when they call, or text, or share pictures of their own laundry horrors, so you can feel normal, when they offer soup, hold your hand, tell you it's going to be alright.

5. The new roof that hangs over our porch and keeps out the rain... and Geoff, who built it, and fills my life with more goodness than I can count.

It's almost Thanksgiving time. I love the FB posts of travel, and preparations, the recipes shared, and plans being made. There is something warm and loving in the anticipation everyone feels... it's so very good.