Chicken Blog by Natalie

{this moment} - Fri, 04/17/2015 - 05:00
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 see.

Bambi, Alex, and Maria... lunchtime.

En Plein Air - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 09:08

Not just painting outside, but sculpture, fiber arts, woodworking, bonsai, ikebana, too. The Art Festival was so much fun, so engaging, Maria and I went back the next day, with Bambi and Alex. The first day there was a contest called a Quick Draw, participants were found throughout the gardens, plying their crafts with paints, charcoals, silk, and pencil, and they had three hours to complete a work for judging. We were thrilled for Toni Williams receiving a blue ribbon, and the sale of her oil painting. We'd enjoyed such a friendly visit with her, while she discussed her work, and encouraged Maria in her own art. Having seen the changes she made, her thoughtful application of light and shadow to her painting, it made the finished work even more beautiful, familiar.

We found another kindred spirit in Jan Greenwald, a wood turner, and patient teacher. He also has a mischievous humor, which added to the fun of watching him work, and waiting for Maria's turn at finishing her ginkgo branch turned mushroom. Jan has a gift for giving each child all the time in the world to make their choices, and finish the lathed piece with markers... all complimentary, all with his amusing remarks. And when he's not turning tops and mushrooms on his lathe, he is making much bigger, more elaborate bowls, urns, and chalices from locally found wood. Each piece is so carefully, painstakingly finished, it feels like the smoothness of warm silk, timeworn wood, buttery, comforting.

In the gardens we saw spring, and growth, changes. It was nice to be back, nice to see friends, and make new ones, nice to walk for hours and feel reinvigorated for it. When we returned the next day, Alex and Maria came with their own art supplies... being creative en plein air is irresistible.

Sewing Makes Me Happy - Wed, 04/15/2015 - 11:16
This is a cheap flour cloth dish towel thing. Very big, but very thin. It's almost a waste to add so much time and effort to it, but I love cheap flour cloth dish towel things, and I love sewing. While Maria was was in her Java class, I passed the time by either adding rows to a thing I am crocheting, or embroidering dish towels. I try to stay in the habit of carrying a basket, or bag, keeping it well stocked with works in progress, and supplies, like threads, needles, floss, a hoop, a pencil, fabric, hooks, and yarn... all handy for the ten minutes or two hours when I don't have much else to do. My down time bag saves me... it occupies my hands and thoughts, it gives me purpose, it makes me happy. Strangely, sadly, I never feel like this is an adequate excuse or explanation for my pastimes. So much of what we learn to value or praise is meant to have a higher purpose, to have a net worth, or an ultimate significance, and I struggle to justify sitting in a corner pulling colored threads through cheap flour cloth.

When someone asks about the lilac yarn I am crocheting, I know it's not good to answer apologetically, "I don't know... it's a thing I started, and I'm not sure how much yarn I have, so I guess I'll know what it is when I run out... " and I probably add: "It's nothing." It's not good to be embarrassed, to feel desperate for a solid rationale for wanting to sew, for spending time doing something that has no deep meaning, or patron, that isn't going to a gallery, or Regretsy. I am not with Etsy. Heck, I haven't even mustered the confidence to believe I make Etsy-worthy stuff. I only know, I like to sew. I want to have fabric nearby, and too many shades of floss to choose from, and a new idea to try out, a sketch to stitch. And I want to not feel silly-goofy-apologetic about it.

Ah, cheese wiz, it's even silly to feel goofy about being silly... time to watch Adam Savage's Maker Faire address, the one when he implores us to make what we can't not make! He adds the Art in STEM: "Art is where it begins! Make what you want. It starts with what you want to have."

I want to put a bird on it. I want to have a little red work creation from my own hands, with my own design,

I want to build on picture books I've seen, stories I have imagined, and I want to make another part of a whimsical place, where mice trek with knapsacks, and carry charts.

I want to feel calm, and content, to be occupied with the feel of cotton, colors, even tangled floss.

I want to be amused.

I want to have an escape from the everyday, from worries, from stress, from things I cannot manage, but must live with. I want to see what I can do with what I have in my bag.

I want to be one of the makers who demonstrates that it's good to play, to tinker, to mess up, and try again, to teach, to inspire. I want to share a skill, encourage silliness, and feel good about enjoying the feel of crocheted rows, wool sheep, pointless things, like hen's teeth.

Time and materials are riches, luxuries, some of the best resources in my life, and it may very well be disrespectful, a squandering waste, to not enjoy them heartily.

Sewing makes me happy. My needles, and hooks, threads, and fabric make me happy. Sharing makes me happy.

Five Good Things - Mon, 04/13/2015 - 09:21
La Mano, again.

Artist: Karin Grow

Well, it's happened. We are here, Monday, and the long anticipated and deeply appreciated spring break is behind us. Done and gone. Kapoot.


Deep deep sigh.

I think this is the first time that Geoff's comp-time, earned during crunch-time, coincided with the children's school break. It meant more family time, more liberty, and togetherness. That was nice. It was also nice that Max could have three, or more, game days, and a sleepover, with friends. It was nice that family was in town, and we had a rousing game of Apples to Apples with cousin Elias... his marketing degree serves him quite well. It was nice seeing some movies, playing music, sharing silly videos from the Internet, staring blankly into space from the comfort of our lovely porch. It was nice visiting art shows, galleries, gardens, walking through parks. It was nice that no one got sick, or injured, or carried away by mosquitos. And it was very, very nice to only pack lunches for picnics, to have no mornings rushed, and afternoons harried by driving through school traffic! Thank goodness for breaks, for something different, for a change of pace.

Now we count the days 'til summer break? Too soon? It's about 68. Sometimes I think it's necessary to maintain two countdowns... one includes school days only, and the other for every single day between us and freedom! Well, there are forty-eight days in school, more or less.

The other day we were counting something else, too. Blog posts. Chickenblog posts since May 2002: 2,932. Maria was impressed, and she remarked how interesting it is that it began with one... 1 post, a single blog post, and I picked it up from there, noting how I doubled my posts in no time at all. From 1 or 4, even 10, it's not too difficult to double up, to make twice as many postings, eat twice as many chips, walk twice as many feet. But now... to write 2,932 more posts to Chickenblog? That would be quite a feat. Aloud, I pondered what if I wanted to double the number of posts written for Chickenblog, in one year... how many posts per day would that take? Alex paused a moment, then replied "About 8. Eight posts a day would do it."
{Don't worry. I have no intention of even trying for that record.}

Good Things...

1. Max did well on his SAT exam, which is a good thing, because he is adamant about not taking that again.

2. Alex found a dowel, which he used to attach the chicken he carved, to add to my walking stick that he made me for mother's day many years ago... now my walking stick is even more awesome.

3. Geoff wants to visit the Salton Sea, and Alex and I want to stop at the International Banana Museum, which we hope isn't too far from the World Famous Crochet Museum. So, obviously our summer plans are looking quite awesome thankyouverymuch.

4. We have four bottles of white glue, a bucket of brushes, boxes of paint, loads of glitter, and more... we are blessed, and quite a bit overstocked, but mostly blessed.

5. Perhaps we should take all of our good things and make more art, which would mean even more good things.

Are you counting down to something good? Are you in the middle of something good right now? Please share... we'd love to hear from you.

Frankenrouter Is Alive - Fri, 04/10/2015 - 08:34
Fridays at Chickenblog are usually about a Moment during the week, a special moment. Today, it's about the moment Frankenrouter came to life, a moment we've anticipated for quite some time. Frankenrouter is the very large CnC router that Geoff imagined, designed, and built from the concrete and up. For a couple of years Geoff's taken time to tinker, experiment, research, cut, weld, wire, rummage, salvage, and create. He's had long breaks, time away for work, and other projects. Geoff's been challenged and stumped, taken some do-overs, and endured some long days. William has been a frequent assistant and supporter, and we've all been waiting to see, and hear, Frankenrouter come to life...

One more part is on order, and may take a month to arrive... a spindle. With it, and router bits, the three axis router will be carving cool things, making what we can design and envision in wood and foam, aluminum, too. In the meantime, Geoff and William made an ingenious little pvc tool to hold a sharpie, so we could give Frankenrouter his first assignment: Draw something pretty, Frank!

Video, right?

I know. I'll get on it.

A Cat's Life - Thu, 04/09/2015 - 08:49

Naps. Stretches. Yawns. Purrs. Scratches.
Scratches. Purrs. Yawns. Stretches. Naps.
And repeat.
This cat, our Mister Washburn Foo, has a good life.
A very good life.

The Young Game Developer - Tue, 04/07/2015 - 10:58
First day in JAVA.

And... she's hooked.

World Domination

It's a JAVA smile. She is a programmer, now.

This morning Maria was at the computer developing a game with Scratch. {Do you Scratch? It's programming made accessible for young/beginning programmers, from MIT.} Maria illustrates, animates, and writes programs for games, puzzles, and fun animations. This has been going on for about three months, ever since Amira shared the site with her, and Maria loves it! She shares it. And she's added programming to her list of things she wants to do when she grows up. Anyway... enough background. This morning she made a fish catching game, with a hungry cat who catches fish falling from the sky, before they hit the water and swim away. She wrote it so the cat's belly grows and he moves more slowly the more fish he catches, so the game play gets more challenging. It's clever and hilarious. And evidently, it's challenging. Geoff cannot beat her high score... not yet!

Turns out, you don't have to "grow up" to do what you love. When Maria tells us about a new interest, a new "I want to be a ______, when I grow up," my response is: "Cool. You'll need to learn about that, and practice it." And then I look for ways for her to begin, now, like cooking with her, and taking care of the garden with her so she can open her own restaurant, and sharing the joys, and heartaches, of keeping chickens and goats, because she wants to be a farmer. Maybe it stems from our home schooling days, but mostly I think it's just our family's irrepressible curiosity and need to make, tinker, play, explore, build, take apart, fail-try-again, and share that pushes us to do the things that spark our imaginations, to jump into the projects and ideas that form in our heads, our hearts. So, we make things, and go to Maker Faire, and dabble in crafts, with lasers and routers, and epoxy. You never know when something begins, like an interest in robots that may lead to passing along interests and skills, that could eventually take you to competitions, and championship events. And it doesn't really matter if that interest ever leads you to the "job," to being "that thing when you grow-up," because the real point, the actual gift, is in the journey, in the doing and tinkering, and failing, and trying again, and following another idea, new interest, doing more, and sharing it.

Maria is programming with Scratch, and in JAVA. She's begun. And she loves it. It's inspiring Geoff and me to host another tinkering day with Arduinos, soldering, code writing... we don't want to wait until we've grown-up to follow our interests, either.

Countless Good Things - Mon, 04/06/2015 - 10:33
Before I sweep, or put away dishes, before I eat one more jelly bean... I had to sort just a few pictures, wonderful moments from a very good Easter gathering, and share them... to keep the memories, to remind ourselves of life's simple pleasures, to connect and reconnect with each other. {Warning: There are a lot of pictures, and my heart is bursting with lots to say. I cannot help myself.}

The day was one good thing after another...
Dominic and Marissa, with Antonia, their Bisabuela... 95 year old great-grandmother.

With Lisa and her camera there, I felt a tremendous relief and gratitude, because I knew I could let her work her magic taking good family pictures. I hope everyone will be sharing all of their pictures!

Bill and Alison, their children, and our Abuela.

Our grandmother lives for family, for her faith, for extending her love and blessings on everyone. I am sure each of us grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, has a myriad of good memories of her, and the loving things she has said and done for us.

Abuela never fails to make us feel loved.

Between the delicious potluck foods, the gorgeous weather, the Viking tent, goats, chickens, and fun-loving guests... it was impossible for it to not be a good day. We were missing some (many in our considerably sized family,) and I think this only serves to inspire us to get together again.

Goats and chickens always amuse me, but it's even more fun to share them! All the cousins were such enthused and gentle farmers. Someone (Kyle or Keaton? Maybe Landon?) brought me a whole clutch of eggs that the hens had been hiding in a shrub! Then Dom brought an egg, and Marissa another, and they breathlessly proclaimed them to be very fresh eggs that they saw being laid! The eggs were warm and my nephew and niece were glowing with the thrill of their finds. It never gets old for me, finding the eggs, and seeing Dom and Marissa enjoy the wonder of it makes me giddy.

Our Abuela took us on some of the longest and most adventurous hikes of my childhood... to canyons, and rivers, up mesas, to distant places that are magical to recall. She seemed tireless, on the trail, and in her patience and affection. Today, it was the great grandchildren, and nasturtiums that lured her into the garden.

Marissa, and Maria, and Emma's sweet selfie skills.

Priscilla, if you only get one picture, it's awesome that it's as good as this one!

Alex and Bambi were the waffle masters, and Lisa was with me and helping, every step of the way from start to finish. Look at Alison's scrumptious fruit salad. And I adore that happy gaze from Dominic. A bit later, I was perched at the corner of the table, enjoying Tim's cinnamon roll, and a bit of everything else, and looking around the kitchen, I felt joy... joy at the sight of cousins, and siblings, and friends, and the flurry and buzz of a busy home. The best... a bustling home, full, and engaged.

A teachable moment... with tips and suggestions from just about everyone around the table, Maria advised Emma about how to use the whipped cream dispenser.

Success... another vital life skill mastered!

My dear cousin Priscilla made this visit possible. We were both marveling at how sometimes life lets you be spontaneous, how things can work out, even better than imagined or hoped for.

Dom, Maria, Marissa, and Emma

Once again proving that cousins make the best friends. Simple, and darling.

Lisa, Priscilla, Natalie, and Emma

Proving, once again, that even when they've grown up, and the visits are less frequent, cousins can still make the best friends.

Bisabuela Antonia, and her first great-grandchild, William. Good people, good souls.

Dom, Kyle, Keaton, Marissa, Landon

We weren't about to skip the egg hunt, but the day was so full, the children so easy to entertain themselves, that it was nearly overlooked. Lisa came well-stocked with eggs, and we had some here, too. Bill, Lisa, and I covered the yard with treasure, while the chickens looked on, puzzled. Inside, the children were amusing themselves with magic and slight of hand games... something that we all enjoyed for most of the rest of the day!

I think everyone found good things in the garden.

The happy hunters! Dom, Maria, Marissa, Keaton with Landon, and Kyle beside Emma

I still remember the spring smell of fresh grass, sun, and chocolates, and the fun of swapping, sorting, and carrying a basketful of goodies. It was a pleasure to see their pleasure in the day.

Bill, you have your equipment. You know what to do. And remember, I am an investor, so when you fill your gold pan, don't forget your favorite sister.

Good chocolates... those ones in the white wrappers... just saying.

I love being an aunt.

I love that Lisa and Tim took so many pictures, that they're sharing. I love that their boys enjoyed the goats and chickens, that they were happy to play.

Keaton, Lisa, and Alison

My brothers are dear to me, in ways I cannot find words for. My abuela, too... and this picture is a treasure.

We simply could not pass the day without the Eggbot, our robo contribution to many celebrations and gatherings never disappoints.

Besides finding eggs, real and candy-filled, besides feasting merrily, we became deeply immersed in games... magic, illusion, stunts, pranks, clever tricks, and funny talents. I am glad I had some cards on hand.

Both Bill and Keaton have skills with slight of hand.

The entertainment was ongoing, and good natured.

Maria and Marissa left the room, and returned to guess which state we picked, while Bill rattled off geographical places (seemingly at random?) With Kyle's help, Maria was able to teach the secret of the game to Marissa, and now they are both master illusionists.

Bill, Tim, Keaton, Kyle, and the deck of cards... magical.

William and Geoff, and the magical EggBot.

Tim, Dom, and Landon

Dom, you are awfully lucky to have such a fun daddy!

Yup, I do love a full house.

Maria's turn to be the master magician. She'll tell you in which hand you're holding a jelly bean. Mind power!

Good laughs, good tricks.

Good eggs.

Countless good things.

{this moment} - Fri, 04/03/2015 - 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.

Maria, Nadia, and Marissa... que bonitas~
There's been a lot of dancing this week, but this moment, with cousin Marissa, is extra special!

Because Chicks, and Bunnies, and Sparkles, and Pretty - Thu, 04/02/2015 - 08:48

Shop pretties, for Easter, for spring, for tempting crafty romantics, like me. These are from the stops-you-in-your-tracks shop Janece and I discovered when we were out touring around the county: Urban Barn. {How did we not have children with us that day? How did we know it was a brilliant idea to wander? Why don't we do this more often, with or without children?} William, Geoff and I returned in search of something to hold some things in the living room. I was re-smitten, and Geoff and William were duly charmed, too.

Truth? I don't have much more to say about any of this... yes, I love that store, and all its many, varied temptations, but mostly I am simply looking for any excuse to sit down at the computer and try to make sense of the day, my worries, to quell the droning voice in my head that prattles on about anything not sparkly and pretty. Things like dust, and crud, credit card solicitations, long commutes, thick traffic, nameless dread, drought, plagues, hate, petty mean things, and big mean things, and things that say "boo" in the night. Yes, my head is being really annoying right now. For better, or worse, I cannot take too much "reality." News headlines, snark, derision, and other FB detritus, even the mundane chores of life management zap my will, steal my peace of mind, and leave me in the mood to retreat and surrender. I feel apologetic for not standing taller, and smiting more foes, signing more petitions, raising my fist of indignation to right all wrongs, but honestly... it's the pretty sparkly things that restore my courage and gumption. I need heavy doses of flower beds with butterflies, tall trees in deep forests, compassionate exchanges, encouraging praise, quiet reflection, a bit of glitter and glue, muffins and tea. I feel apologetic, because I hear a voice in my head that suspects that these are not serious things, not the deep thoughts and interests of intellectuals and game changers. Meekly, naively, I whisper... More tea cups! More baskets of ribbons and berries! More visits with neighbors, and chats in the market! More poetry, beach walks, sing-alongs, concerts in the park, more purple hair, and gray, and blue! May I suggest greater servings of being kind for kindness's sake, play, creation, tinkering, moving slowly, sliding, swinging, twirling, laughing? I need wild bunnies nibbling petals on dewy lawns, and I need to believe that gentle acts, caring deeply, and seeking out good can increase the good, can reaffirm my will to right wrongs, and face dust, crud, fear, and worry. {In case there is not enough glitter to get me through the nameless dreads and worries, I am thrilled to say that I have help coming today, help to sweep, dust, wipe, and get tea cups back in place. I am firmly convinced this marvelous goodness will do wonders, and spread all manner of happy ripples, including getting me off the computer, and back to attacking the domestic perils.}

Now Jesusita En Chihuahua - Tue, 03/31/2015 - 04:30

As promised, here is a post about some of the dancing at the Arts Festival, where Maria and her peers danced to Jesusita en Chihuahua. Our area Ballet Folklorico group was formed last November, and danced La Costilla in their first performance, barely a month ago. Since then, there was surge in class attendance. To make room for all the dancers, Maria was added to a group of older girls, and began learning the dance they've been preparing. New steps. New dress. New boots. It could be a bit daunting, but she loves it as much as ever.

At the Festival, Maria's teacher, Nadia, came with the San Diego group, Ballet Folklorico El Tapatio, and they did many beautiful dances. Nadia is in the white dress, and those beautiful waves of the skirt are called vuelo, flight. It takes strength and stamina to keep those yards and yards of fabric flying like that! It was the sweetest thing to see all of the little dancers come running out when they heard their teacher was performing... they dashed over to see her dance. Following the performances by Ballet Folklorico El Tapatio, there was Flamenco dancing {something that really caught Maria's eye.} And then came the youngest dancers from our local group, to dance the Costilla.

I have to admit, I was anxious for the girls dancing Jesusita. They'd had so few rehearsals, so many other things were new, too. I was wrong to worry. Nadia is a remarkable instructor, and once again, she did and said the right things to make it work. It helps that the girls are eager, and enjoy dancing. Their practice paid off, and before we knew it they were taking a bow. Maria laments how quickly the performance goes. So much anticipation and rehearsal, and then in two minutes it's over! But... there's another show this Thursday! Maria is thrilled. {And I am not worried a bit.}

Five or More Good Things - Mon, 03/30/2015 - 09:14
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.}