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Home and travel, with chickens, robots, cats, and goats, gardens, and gears, sewing, inventing, tinkering, making. Blogging since 2002. Natalie, the Chickenblogger
Updated: 3 hours 46 min ago

Springing Along

Fri, 05/11/2018 - 11:31

The days continue to whirr by, and so I have another huge batch of photographs to share. The pictures help me to pause and reflect, to gather some memories of what we have seen, where we have been. We have seen art and flowers, and the fruit of labors. Alex has had his art in two exhibitions, first Gaslight Gathering, then the school gallery. By the way, he doesn't sign his name across his painting... that was my own signature work, trying to give it a protective watermark. The truth is, he's not keen on sharing his art... we don't want his work "borrowed," so I defaced it a bit.

Geoff has been doing so much to the workshop, I cannot keep up. His efforts have been Herculean, and the results are terrific. We've reached the point where it's tour worthy, and there have been talks about having one of our Make parties. Maria laments that we have not had as many gatherings, or parties, lately. We seem to have seasons, like crunch-mode, when geoff works all hours at the computer, away from home. Then there was the time he had when it was all hours working to convert the carport into the workshop, which is technically ongoing. And of course, there's been school, chores, the usual errands, and demands. And waiting...

I lost my train of thought.

Then I remembered something else.

I think perhaps, rather than ramble on about "waiting," and the hoops we've leapt through, bridges crossed or burnt, fires put out, I'll just move forward. Move forward, and maybe find a therapist. I could use some counseling, and long, cathartic, emotional purging.

Geisel Library~

Fallen Star~

Earl Warren College~

Stuart Collection, Bear~

Dr Seuss~

"Toward a Life in Balance..."
Justice Earl Warren

Max did it. He got himself into UCSD, again. He was accepted before, and chose UCI, where he did very well. But then there were some glitches with housing, so he made new plans. The details! Oh, the bits and hurdles... but things are working out, and he's being resilient, and as diligent a scholar as ever. So, ahead... it's Warren College, and pure mathematics.

There has been so much anticipation and hoping about this school, and now a sense of relief, and gratification, but of all the bells, whistles and perks in Max getting accepted... that game arcade was probably a highlight of the transfer day event! Lol. Free arcade games? Like, totally, no tokens and coins?? I played air-hockey 'til my sides ached from laughing. I love air-hockey. I've heard rumors about another tuition hike coming up, but heck! Free arcade games!

I need Earl Warren's philosophy in my life... balance! Jennifer sent me a beautiful card, with a long and thoughtful message inside, and if I'd found it in March, when she sent it, it would have done me a world of good. As it is, I found it in May, and it didn't do me any less good, honestly. The tangible connection to my dear friend, her words, her art, being reminded of our special relationship, was welcome, needed, timely, and better than good.

What if, instead looking for a therapist, I just booked a flight to Massachusetts?

This day wound up getting nicer, and nicer. First, I discovered misplaced mail, then Ruth arrived with tulips, and irises, and a little tea-pot planted with tiny succulents.

She got the first tour! The workshop is nearly complete. Oh-so-nearly! I think she was impressed.

Ruth could give me good lessons on balance. She's got a knack for keeping things in order, staying on top of things, and probably would not misplace mail. She brought her list... news, questions, plans, ideas. There's a satisfying sense of accomplishment when we go through her inventory of queries and reminders, and it was nice to get caught up, over a relaxed lunch, and happy visit.

Maria and I (finally) made a visit to her grade school. She's been asking for months, Can we see Ms Green? Can we visit my old school? Can we go to the Sage Garden? Well, there are some school chickens that got a bit passed around, and my friend Karen has become their new patron and benefactor. (I have been a crazy chicken lady for a longtime! And pretty much riding solo in my obsession, but Karen is all on-board, now! She has fallen head over feathers for her three charges.) Anyway... Karen had a few questions, and so she invited us, me and Maria, to talk with the Junior Master Gardeners about the hens, their care, and give the hens and the ol'coop a check-up. We had a wonderful visit. Maria (finally) got to visit her teachers, and see familiar faces, spaces, and we had the pleasure of being back in the school garden, with friends.

All this reflecting, combined with my slow typing, is taking up a lot of time. I need to get on with this day! We are springing along... with school lessons, and sketching, painting, tending our flowers, digging trenches, filing forms, collecting eggs, and finalizing details for both spring and summer travel. I am happy to reflect on our May days, but I really should get away from this computer, apply myself, and move forward...

Sweet Peas and the Shore

Mon, 05/07/2018 - 14:10

The stems of the sweet peas are getting shorter, and the leaves are turning gray. But still there are plentiful, and beautiful. I should invite everyone over to cut themselves bouquets. They won't be around too much longer, and it'll be a shame to see them all just fade and drop from the vines.

We had a lovely bit of rain, and so of course I had to take more sweet pea pictures, more affection and appreciation for these undulating petals, iridescent, soft, veined, supple. Oh, what a romance.

I remembered that we will be driving home from Oregon, later this spring, and I wanted to have a state park pass for parking. It's both an indulgent convenience, and a token of affection and support for our dear California. With our pass we can stop at any state park, skipping the parking fee, and enjoy a visit, a hike, a bathroom break. Imagine a road trip where you stop at every state park... that's the sort of daydreaming I enjoy. I wonder if an Internet search will help me find the unique services and specialty treats in every park... like the shave-ice at San Elijo.

Cairo Blog*

Tue, 05/01/2018 - 10:58
*Warning: This post mostly consists of pictures of a cat, and creating it was a blatant act of open defiance and procrastination in the face of domestic perils, such as too much laundry, and an office that needs torching dusting. The cat is adorable, to be sure, but there is little or no substance to this post. Proceed at your own risk.

Someday I will create a chart that illustrates my Blog Cycle, which is basically a rotation of emotions and behaviors around how I cope with being a B Blog, chronically unnoticed, yet inevitably irrepressible... like resistant bacteria, but nicer.

In the meantime: Look at my cat!

Choose your favorite Cat for an entry into a drawing for a fabulous find out of the office, which I am *dusting.*

Last Days of April

Mon, 04/30/2018 - 11:54

April 14~

Let's see... there was an Earth day and a Tax day, and all sorts of other significant days, I am sure, but now we are at the last day of April, and I am struggling to think of the particulars. The month has been a blur. It may be that I was far too preoccupied with waiting-hoping-stressing about a response from the school Max applied to, and it obscured all other thoughts or feelings of ease. It could be that the colossal, and ultimately awesome project of turning our weathered and beaten carport into a top-notch workshop has been all-consuming. It seems the days, and activities, have been busy and consuming enough, that I can't immediately distinguish details, or stand-out moments. But sorting through just a few of my pictures, I can see that there have been some very good and memorable days, and I'd like to record some of it...

April 15~

For sure, there has been a lot of painting, drawing, sketching, and creating. We seem to have convinced Cairo to behave, most of the time, and not walk across our works. I love it when he is a quiet observer.

April 16~

Alex has been painting a lot, and there have been serious offers from people interested in buying his work. He's looking into figuring out the best way to sell, and considering options for printing. If anyone has any suggestions, we'd welcome advice. Maria is prolific, too. On her screen is a challenge she accepted to create a digital image from a single point, extruding the original shape to create a portrait. I'm glad she continues to explore both digital and traditional mediums.

April 17~

With Janece's recipe, Maria has become the resident Banana Bread Chef, and we love it! Personally, I think every loaf should be covered in pecans.

April 19~

The sweet peas... oh gosh, those sweet peas. I've shared bouquets and kept a vase or three around the house, for weeks now, and still they keep coming! I waited (too long) to plant these darling flowers, and now that they are here, I cannot stop admiring and enjoying them. Even when I know that I've taken a hundred, or more, pictures, it doesn't dissuade me from taking just one more. Soon, they will be all bloomed out, and we will plant something else... I will be looking forward to planting new sweet pea seeds, and passing the time looking through these pictures. If only I could save their fragrance, too.

Sean and Alex~


Robin, James, Pat~

April 21~

Well, this day was definitely a stand-out... when we went to Robin and Sean's for pizza making. That's their home-made pizza oven... diy par excellence! And then there were blueberry-hibiscus macarons, and a sunset, and laughter, and bat talk, and glow in the dark tiles and mosaic plans, and the company of friends. Really, just the company of those friends would have been enough. I'm still still smiling, feeling the glow.

April 22~

Smiling and feeling the glow, and motivated to get our home and lives in order... it's that same lesson, about starting over, adjusting the sails. Part of me says, dust those cobwebs, and file those papers, so you can have friends over, and part of me says don't wait for "perfect" before enjoying life, and throwing open your doors to welcome fun. I am sure there is a middle ground. Well, wherever the middle ground is, I seem to be doing the dance... one step forward, two steps back, and cha-cha-cha!

April 26~

I reclaimed this shelf, upstairs, that had been placed there "for a minute," which became more like five years. Well, it took me long enough, but finally I concluded that if it's there, it may as well work, and look good, too. Over time it had become (another) drop-off station, collecting the odds and ends that no one seems to want to claim nor reject, dusty, and an invisible eyesore.

Do you get those? Invisible eyesores? I find them all the time... a surface, or corner that is basically awful, but so well-established and long lived that no one seems to see it any more. Which reminds me, please don't let me forget to do something about the lamp in the entry, and the straw sombrero on the bookcase.

So... now we have a bookcase with my travel guides, atlases, and other travel themed literature.

Oh, that is so satisfying... to have a completely orderly, and aesthetically pleasing corner. This ought to inform me about all other corners and surfaces in my home. I am inspired. Honest... one step forward, two steps back, and cha-cha-cha!

Increasingly, since practicing illustration, and sticking to my learn to be an artist resolution, I notice shapes, patterns, textures, colors, shade, light, forms, curves, lines. All of it seems more pronounced, more interesting, which is kind of funny, because I feel like I have always noticed those things. The difference may be that I noticed and liked shapes and patterns, but now I think about them, and study them, too. And I think this may hold a clue into why I am enjoying the dip pen nibs and India ink... having to dip the pen in ink, and not smudge it when it's wet, forces me to slow down. And when I slow down, I allow more time to observe, to contemplate all of those textures, lines, curves, and patterns. Ah, insight... now I am thinking about how much I have learned, which is nice, but also humbling, because I see ever more clearly how much more I have to learn.

Please, let me be as comfortable in my own skin, as my goat is in her wooly coat.

(I have not been aging "well." It's emotional, as well as physical. Attitude with latitude versus gravity and time. But if I could harness just a bit of Tasha's regal air, life is beautiful mantra... well, it couldn't hurt.)

It is the last day of April. Next comes May, and if this pace keeps up, it will be time to clear a space for a Christmas tree.

No! We have trips in the works, and hot summer days ahead. We have new schools to prepare for, birthdays to celebrate, new months, new plans, more dances to do, and friends to laugh with. It can be a blur, and move along quickly, but I will take pictures, and reflect, and make time to notice the many and good stand-out moments.


Fri, 04/20/2018 - 16:17
This may be the moment I most enjoy... when I've sketched in pencil, dared to add the permanent ink, and then I erase. Erasing is when the image is revealed, the commitment shows itself, and I can see what stays. I see the flaws, find the missteps, and the lines that are tethered to the paper, that don't disappear... they are the truth, my mark. It's a bit magical, and somewhat agonizing.

New Day, Same Lesson

Fri, 04/13/2018 - 12:09

Good habits can unravel, best intentions need to be revisited and revised, when I fall... I gotta get back up, when off course... adjust the sails. Basically, the lesson I seem to need reminding of, again and again, is to do with entropy: The gradual decline to disorder, that things can come together, and they can fall apart. All too often, I get discouraged, or overwhelmed when things fall apart, when there is too much to do, when I get sick, or someone else needs extra care, when I've watched too much news, or faced plagues in succession. Actually, entropy is the first part of the lesson, and where I get stuck is between recognizing the entropy, it's natural and inevitable appearance, and impact, and accepting that I must start over. All too often, I feel like I have failed, like most of my efforts are exercises in futility... (not productive or empowering reactions,) and then I wallow a bit (quite a bit, honestly), and then I rationalize, and writhe and flail for a time. Oh, dear.

I wrote an entire paragraph about what I have come to believe are the origins of my attitudes and bad habits, and then I realized that none of that is particularly compelling to anyone, but a small self-satisfied and grasping part of my brain that wants to understand everything, and feel exonerated or absolved of wrongdoing. Sorry, brain, but this is just one of those things. You may have been duped or misled, but you simply must move forward. And so, to put it more simply... I am not good at maintaining order, and I feel incompetent and trounced, but here I go... it seems we are not moving, and fairies are no where to be found, so old patterns, and wishful thinking, will not do. I will pick myself up, and begin again.

Dear Maria...

Wed, 04/11/2018 - 12:54

Dear Maria,

As you know, I have fallen in love with chamomile. It's my favorite tea, along with chai. Chamomile tea has come to feel like a gentle friend that will keep me company... a quiet, uncomplicated companion, warm and supportive. Now, even the fragrance of the tea relaxes me, puts my thoughts at ease. And so, when I discovered that the fresh cut flowers smell like a bowl of steaming tea, like a meadow of flowers, I became completely enchanted. I love their button-cushioned faces, and the tiny petals. They are like the first flowers children draw... simple. But when I look into their faces and really see them, I am drawn into the complexity of their parts, the tiny details that belie their easy form.

Last week I discovered that there is another variety of chamomile with no petals. They are all golden yellow button-cushioned, on long and slender stems that sway gracefully when I turn the vase. Someday you and I should make chamomile crowns, or wreaths. Yes?

Golden yellow. It's the color that, lately, has captivated me. It began after Christmas, when I put yellow roses next to the tulips from Paul and Janece, then we tidied up the holidays, and reorganized the table at the back of our sofa. I love the holidays, and then I feel a slump when it's all over, but I think my second favorite time of the year begins when we've put away decorations and found homes for the gifts, when everything is restored, and even refreshed. Then, when things feel decluttered, and new, I get the feeling that we have a fresh start. The yellow flowers brightened my mood, and the room, and I have been craving the color ever since. And doubly more, since the workshop was painted blue. I love that blue... the blue that I post about, and share, and have been contemplating since forever. Wall by wall, bit by bit, we are getting our Bird House Blue, and I think it looks really pretty with golden yellow flowers.

Dear Maria,

There it is. I keep taking pictures of the shop. When I am at the kitchen sink and looking out the window, I can see it through our garden. From the spot at the dining table where I sew, or the other corner where I paint, I can see it, too. And of course when we are outside, feeding chickens, or watering the seedlings, or picking chard... we see it. Our workshop. And we see your brothers and dad, working away at all of the renovations. Of all of the improvements we dream of making for our home, I think the one that I most wish for and imagine, revolve around a fantastic workshop and maker space, with open areas and worktables, with lots of storage, good light, ventilation. It's inspiring to imagine what could be built and shared in such a place, how much easier and safer it could be in a really good shop, which is why I am so glad that Geoff, William, Alex and Max are tackling the job, doing what they can with the space we have. It's going to be amazing, really. I wish it could be bigger... but never mind. What they are accomplishing is pretty great. I am beginning to think of this summer as a time for great making, all because of the efforts and investment being put into making the carport a real workshop.

There is a lot in life that can be made better, can give back to us, when we put our work and planning, our time and care into it. I am thinking of our garden. I am so glad we planted chard, and sweet peas, and snapdragons. Clearing out an old garden bed, amending soil, pulling weeds, and starting with little seedlings, then watering, and minding the pests and willing things to take... it's an act of hope, and effort, work. It can feel pointless, at times, or we can lose sight of the benefits to come. In fact, there may not be any benefits. The goats could escape and eat the chard down to nothing, or snails could destroy those little seedlings. I guess that's why we need the hope to go along with the work. We've been fortunate this year, and hard working, too. Now, when I pick flowers and we fix onions and chard, peas, with our dinner, I feel lucky. Really lucky, and we are fortunate, but I like to remind myself that planning, and effort, months ago, and every day since, made the luck grow, made the garden possible.

You know, mi'ja, I didn't always understand that... about planning, and foreseeing good things, and then working for the results. Believing that a good outcome is a result of hoping and working, being steadfast to a plan. Your Dad, taught me that, showed me, countless times, by example. So much of what we have accomplished has been by hope and work, and patience. We have been lucky, of course, but it's not enough to wait for an opportunity to come around, or to hope things get better. I guess that intellectually I understood it, but sometimes what we know is not as powerful as what we believe, what we take to heart. With your Dad, I have come to believe, to trust in what is possible... maybe it's the optimism and faith that has made the difference.

Dear Maria,

The banana bread you made was delicious. Over-ripe bananas aren't usually what one hopes for, but I wish we had some now! At least we have plenty of eggs on hand. Let's buy bananas, then wait...

How many yo-yo's did we make at Gaslight Gathering, I wonder. I'm glad I brought so many little blue circles. After all of our fair and event experiences, exhibiting and teaching, I was happily surprised to have so much free time, and now I am looking forward to turning our tiny yo-yo's into the mini quilt. What did you think of my idea to appliqué them to a little bedspread? Otherwise, it will definitely have a lot of gapes.


Leslie and Ido, with Bex~

Meeting the band~

We were both surprised, I think... to have such a relaxed time. We work so hard at Maker Faire. It's fun, but whew! I think it's pretty amusing how easy this event felt, and how much we are now looking forward to committing to returning, next year, to exhibit and to play. We had a good time, and it felt familiar, and comfortable, being back in a steampunk crowd. I enjoy all of the outreach, hands-on activities, and exhibiting we do with our BOoM making group. Making things, sharing and teaching... what is it that makes it so compelling, so gratifying? It's satisfying, and feels good. Now, I feel even more excited for Scratch Day, too. I know Geoff and William had a good day, but I think we can agree... Alex had a really, really good day! It's nice to see his art recognized.

Thank you, mi'ja. I won't say it all here, on the Internet, but I can't help saying a little... you are a joy, and bring immeasurable pleasure to your family. You raise my thoughts and give me courage. I thought a great deal about the lessons and support that I hoped to offer you, but that you could teach, and inspire so much in me... this has been an amazing gift. It is an honor to be around you, to observe your journey, and share your days. You are one of my best dreams coming true, and I love you.


Wed, 04/04/2018 - 10:16
Last night a friend and I texted each other our woes, in strictly vague and generalized terms, and then we groused a bit over the utterly vacuous, and violent, state of things, from the Tippy Top, down. Then we sighed, then we lol'd, then we agreed to get together soon, in real life. And then I asked her, "Did we fix something?" And I asked, because I felt better. I had been wound up and feeling hapless (I am not even going to Google that, because in this instance hapless means... helplessly unhappy, needing help, and essentially drained of hopeful sentiments.) I was feeling hapless, but with just that little exchange, with no resolutions or platitudes, I suddenly had the lightness of feeling some relief, as though a stone were removed from my shoe, or a leak was repaired, a puzzle solved. What a gift it is to have a friend... especially the kind that addresses you as Chica hermosa, or Honeybun, or My sweet baboo. The world may be upside down, but I've got a sweet baboo on speed dial.

My nerves and soul need soothing, calming. I need pure chamomile, straight, concentrated, unrefined. I am taking it in tea, in bouquets, in wholesale.

And yellow. Golden petals, sunshine hues. Anything that complements the new coats of blue paint on the workshop. I love love love the blue I see out the window from the kitchen sink, from the dining table, when I walk to the chickens, and around the garden. I pay it homage with egg yolk yellow ranunculus, and daydreams of towering sunflowers.

Alex is painting. Max is studying. William is figuring things out. Geoff is winding things down, and sees a break coming, any day now. Maria is registered for high school, and diligently preparing, happily anticipating.

And I am still sketching. Still playing with India ink and ratty-rats. I have stacks and books, and nests of ratty-rats, and other works. Works in Progress, attempts, sketches, rough drafts... I am still using the language of someone unsure, a student, an apologetic novice, and I don't know what to do with all these rats and other works. A long time ago, I dreamt of writing books, especially for children, but I wanted to illustrate them. I wanted to illustrate them, but I was no artist, and I was too shy or lazy or busy or doubtful to learn. Now, I am learning, and I think, "Maybe now I can write a book. Maybe." Only, I seem to have lost the muse for writing. Is it a muse? Or am I too shy, too doubtful, or busy? I have been trying. It feels downside up, not having a story, but feeling closer to having the pictures.

Some Pictures From My Phone

Mon, 04/02/2018 - 14:25
Next month is my anniversary of blogging, Chickenblogging. I will have been blogging for sixteen years. There have been 3,736 times when I had something to say, to share, to express, wanted to demonstrate a process, to show a thing that I found beautiful or sad, or absurd, and I published it in this space, my blog. Early on, the pictures I shared were all in my head, and I relied on my words to convey what I saw. My skills and the technology available, were limited. These days, it's all about the pictures. I love that I can share them, and I think using the blog as our photo album is probably the most compelling reason for maintaining my blog... I just enjoy keeping up our picture book, marking passages, reflecting on the days we are living. Of course, I can't talk about blogging without saying how much I've loved and appreciated comments, discussions, exchanges, friendships, visits, meeting up... we've been very fortunate to enjoy a whole spectrum of connections through blogging, and that has been priceless.

What got me started on this? Oh. Yes. I was about to share another batch of pictures from the last few days, and I thought, Why am I posting these? What do I have to say about this assortment of cats, flowers, and house-paint photographs? And it's quite possible I have no good reason at all, beyond the simple notion that we've had some nice moments this week, moments when I had to take a picture, because I wanted to hold a memory, an experience, faces, feelings, and remember them, keep them where I could revisit them, and feel thankful, connected.

Lately, I've been thinking... Chickenblog is real. There is no "fake news" here. I am not gathering your data for my spy network, and I don't try to grab your attention with sensationalized headlines, and pages of pop-up ads. I feel kind of happy that I didn't let this become a Yoga-Mom-Cosmetics-Fashion-Gossip blog with all sponsored content, and glossy pictures. I am even relieved that I am still coming in under the radar, doing my own thing, not corporate. Good or bad, I can enjoy that as blogs come and go, we are simple and sincere, and uniquely our own.

March 29~

Alex and I were visiting a shop with lots of salvaged funk and found treasures, and when I saw this sign, I was reminded of another Garden of Weeden sign, back in Massachusetts. I am always thankful to be reminded of my dear friend, and our many connections, and moments of synchronicity, and serendipity.

March 30~

Cairo Approves. That's what I am calling my interior design shop, or my decorating style. I bring it home, because I like it, then the cat checks it out, and if he approves, it stays. It's quite eclectic, as you might imagine.

Everyday I pass a nondescript section of roadside embankment, but now there's lupine growing there, and it's made the small section breathtaking. Traffic moves at a good clip on this road, and it could be easy to miss the wildflowers, which is why I am glad I decided to stop. I pulled off the road, and wound my way around to a spot above the embankment, where I could get out and approach the tall stalks of purple blooms. Cars and trucks whiz by at highway speed, and the meadow of wildflowers, is only a seven square foot patch, at most, but their beauty and resilience give me the feeling of being in the middle of a field, a broad and open space, and I can make-believe that the flowers grow on from horizon to horizon.

William, Grant, Paul, and Geoff, on the phone with Fred, at the International Banana Museum. Hello, Fred? Are you in? A bunch of us are about to split, and make our way to your appealing museum. We've heard it's the top banana of plantain museums.

They did it, too. They got into Grant's Bananamobile and headed east, to the Yeti in the desert, to iron giant dragons and insects, to a Salton Sea, and Salvation Mountain, and to the place where everyone knows Grant's name... the International Banana Museum. Their quest for the ultimate in singular fruit expression was epic. Really, really epic.

This guy. He's on his way to Tokyo, the sensei. When I get a chance, I would love to post some of the pictures from the Epic Banana Split. You could not write a wilder, nuttier send-off for a great friend and adventurer. We won't say good-bye... but, see you later.

And while the Banana Bunch was in the desert, I stayed home with my cold or flu, or whatever this ailment is, and boiled eggs, sketched, napped, puttered, and gazed at the new wall of gorgeous blue paint on our nearly completed workshop. I love that blue.

April 1~

It happened that many events were landing on the first of the month, including the celebrated return of the Banana Bunch, Easter, our cats' birthday celebration, and April Fool's day. And really, due to the extreme nuttiness of the Epic Banana Split, the greater part of the day was spent in recovery and mellowness. There was some artistic painting, some sketching, more napping, more flower and house paint appreciation, a burger dinner, friends dropping by, a little CnC talk, and a bit of Gaslight Gathering planning. All in all, this day was not bananas.

Chango is 18 years old, and Cairo is 2. We celebrated them with even more affection and indulgences than usual.

I just love how many pictures I can take with my phone.

Marching, Again and A Special Announcement

Tue, 03/27/2018 - 10:02

The Women's March felt empowering, uplifting. The
March for Science felt like a parade for science, for the Earth, for our best aspirations and intentions. This latest march, the March For Our Lives, was empowering and uplifting, it was for our best aspirations and intentions, and it was sad, too. The senseless losses, the grief of families, the expectation that children should throw stones, or learn CPR... it's beyond the pale. I am not going to use this space to defend, rationalize, or explain what we believe. But, then again, I cannot believe how blindly enraged the opposition is, and it's hard not to address the low depths and dark lies they will turn to for the sake of machines built to tear bodies apart. Our country, our government, our culture, and values must do better to address the needs and expectations of the people of this century, of this generation. My confidence in young people has always been high, and hopeful, and it is heartening to see their intelligence, resilience, and fortitude in action. Democracy at work is good. "Kids are dying at school, and they'd rather not. They are asking for help." That seems fair and reasonable enough to march, vote, and stand up for.

Sean, Max, Alex J, Cory, Amira, Maria, William, Grant, and Alexi~

Speaking of intelligent and inspiring youth... we've been enjoying spring break moments, adventures, arrivals, occasions, and gatherings. Grant is home from France, and practically already on his way to his next venture: Teaching in Japan! Alex is skiing with Bambi... she's a pro, and he's taking his first ski lift rides. He sends me pictures from beautiful Mammoth, and I feel so excited for what he's experiencing.

I wish Geoff's time off and the school breaks could have aligned, and my head is so full of making our summer plans, that this break almost slipped by without me noticing. But I know Max enjoyed the breather, before mid-terms, and the long push to finals. Oh! Gosh, and Easter! It's practically tradition... that day sneaking up on me.

Here is the look I imagine Life casting me... when I forget Easter, or haven't cleaned my desk, or have failed to make that appointment, again. Fair enough. I don't even try to excuse or defend myself these days... if it requires thought, energy, planning, reading instructions, there's a strong chance I will disappoint someone. I am pretty threadbare these days.

Geoff ordered some aluminum. Or did he bid on it? I'm not sure. He's got a system... a bargain finding, deal making system, and that's how we score big pieces of aluminum to weld a storage setup for our workshop. It's also how we, after years of searching and hoping, score a big piece of CNC machinery...

This almost feels like an adoption announcement. Allow me to formally introduce our newest member of the BOoM-Nerd Family, the bride of Frankenrouter, Elsa the CNC mill...

Frankenrouter was built to mill wood, and other softer materials. Elsa will mill metal. When Geoff joked that this 2 ton machine would be the bride to Frankenrouter, I immediately pictured wide-eyed Elsa Lanchester's iconic portrayal of the reluctant bride.

She came from the theater department of San Diego State University... ha! another nod to a dramatic lineage. And she came "as is." The first thing Geoff discovered was a stuck collet (stripped drawbar threads.) It took some doing to figure out how to resolve this, but Geoff saved Elsa by boring up into the collet. This was precision work, and risky. He couldn't see exactly what he was doing, because of the angle of the pieces, but the operation was a success.

"Let's just call it 'innovative' fixturing," Geoff explained on FB. Sounds good to me.

Ido was the first to meet Elsa, and other friends have been by. Packages arrive, and now I know they're for Elsa. It's like a newborn is delivered, and she has needs, steals all the attention, receives gifts. Geoff announced, I have to go to the lumber supply, late one evening, and he came back with a blanket for Elsa.

This morning he texted me... it's a link to another thrilled Maker, making his own proud adoption announcement. Geoff could not be more giddy, I think. It's like he and Adam Savage have been on the same baby honeymoon, with mills.

This? Oh, this is just a baby picture of Elsa. Geoff found it when he was searching the Internet for her history, lineage, early years. He keeps it in his wallet. I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. (Okay, that was Ilsa, not Elsa... I am mixing my dramatic references.)

Congratulations, Adam. We share in your enthusiasm and vision of great things to make!


Fri, 03/23/2018 - 13:58



Other goat.

Mako chicken.

Pepper chicken.

Pippi chicken.

Flippin' chicken.

Egg life.

Sour grass.

The less I write, or speak, the more times I sit quietly, the easier it becomes to remain silent, and the harder it is to speak when I need to. I've gotten really good at saying very little. But I'm not convinced that it's good for me, for anyone.

Honey Bees & Cafe Mocha

Fri, 03/23/2018 - 09:02

Cafe mocha, cats napping, honey bees in the flower bed, Maria's drawings, flower crowns, striving, caring, hope, worry... and stories. My head is full of untold stories.

... and then Spring!

Wed, 03/21/2018 - 11:17

March 15~

Days have been steadily streaming by. We do our routines, we face small surprises, and minor disruptions. We fold laundry, collect eggs, and progress on bigger projects. All of the siding is on the carport, which officially resembles a doorless garage. Everyone has shared in the effort, thankfully. And of course, there's more to do. There's always more to do, right?

Hello, Maddie. Maddie stops at our Little Free Library, and sometimes, she lies down. Even if she's not having a treat, she just considers this the rest stop on her daily outing. We feel so honored. Sweet Maddie.

March 18~

Balancing on surfboards, that I've seen, but I think this is first time I've seen a board balancing on a surfer. This is why it pays to go out, look around, shake-up the routine.

We had a chance to shake-up our routine, at cousin Izzy's Rocking and Rolling skate birthday, and whoa! was that a lot of fun. There were a lot of smiles seen on that day, and I think Maria and I are both happily sold on skating roller rink parties. Maria got better and more confident with each lap. I certainly did not expect to go for it, and I am glad I did. Izzy promises to do this one again, next year... so I think the birthday girl had a good time, too.

I came home in time to take Alex's roadside phone call. His vehicle died. On the freeway. He'd already managed everything brilliantly, safely getting off the freeway, calling our roadside service (thank you, AAA.) All I had to do was meet him at the repair shop. The diagnosis for Gold Honda is not good, but all I can think about is how relieved and thankful I feel that Alex got home safely. He had been in Los Angeles, late at night, in pouring rain, and the sudden kaput happened while we was in the fast lane, but he was only 14 miles from home, and a good samaritan gave him the last push he needed to get the dead van to a safe spot. Thank goodness, thank goodness, thank goodness.

Geoff is at a conference in San Francisco... a last hurdle after all the months of crunch mode hours, but we're managing. His first night there he sent me a picture of the hotel lobby, and of course it's enviably gorgeous and elegant, and so I returned the favor, and sent him a picture of my evening plans, and hot date...

Don't be jealous, but this is what awaited me... an evening with the Laundry Cats.

You know what? It was kind of enviable. Alex and Maria joined me, then Max. The cats were funny distractions, and we made all kinds of progress, restoring order, and adding laughs to our night.

We almost got all of the laundry folded, hung, and put away. Except, Cairo wouldn't give up his socks. He pulled them out of the pile, grabbed them from us, and when we started to cover him, he only looked pleased. He slept through the night like this, until 1:00, when he did one of his rat dances. Have I mentioned the rat dances? They are so weird. Cairo is so weird.


It happened just like that! One minute I am dealing with a cat that walks on me, backwards, in circles, with an Ikea rat in his teeth, and the next thing I know it is Spring.

I didn't have to look far for the signs, it's been coming along sure and steady, in the garden, in the light, those longer afternoons that stretch into what is beginning to feel almost endless. Even our plans and discussions, lately, mark a change of season, as we discuss summer plans, hopes, ideas.

Alex suggested we resurrect my old potting table, which feels like a sweet and practical nod to spring... restoration, and a fresh start. We cleared it off, and tossed a heap of old and broken bits. We bought a can of paint, and he's been sanding, and repairing.

Speaking of fresh starts and new seasons suddenly springing on us... our girl, our very youngest, has been accepted into the school of her choice. Her high school of choice. She made the choice when she was four years old, and wanted to go to the same school as her big brother. I can't believe the time has come. Well, almost. She's still finishing her accelerated middle school plans, and there is summer, yet. But looming, and already making demands, is high school.

I cannot believe it.

Did I already say that?

I'll not candy-coat this: I am shaken. Proud, and appreciative, but totally shaken.

Last night was "enrollment night." Maria got to check out electives, meet teachers, pick up her registration packet. And learn about school clubs... like robotics. And. Yeah. We know about robotics. Some of you may recall that we were 2102% robot obsessed for four years. Maria was three years old, when Alex joined team Paradox, just four when she traveled to Arizona, for a second FRC competition. We go way back, and we were way deep into it.

Cecilia! Maria had a happy reunion with her ballet folklorico friend, who happens to be coder for Paradox...

This may be the start of something. Girls who dance, and code, who love their school, and robots... there is something happening. Actually, this may just be the next chapter of something that started a long time ago, but it's all new, again!

So, here is Maria, meeting David, consulting with Cecilia, and getting the scoop on metal shop, Solid Works, marketing, outreach, engineering, and tech wheel.

I stepped back, and tried to take it all in, from a distance. I cannot believe it. It comes, and goes, so fast. Too fast. I am shaken.

Adrian! Grade school buddy.

Amira! Anagram sister. After all these years, they will be going to the same school. Taking this picture, I could see this moment as one that will stay with me, and in the next four years, I will return to it, thinking... where did the time go?

What I Mostly Do

Sat, 03/17/2018 - 14:03

March 11~

The last of the siding went up on the south side of the carport. As I type this, I imagine I hear the roar of a crowd, cheering heartily, and I watch confetti falling from above. It is momentous. As for the north side... that's coming.

I leave my painting table to smell sweet-peas, see construction progress, and feed the farm. That's it. Mostly.

March 12~

Sometimes I cook, fold laundry, drive around in circles where I pick up food, drop off students, and repeat. I've been known to take selfies with my cat. I replace empty toilet paper rolls. I go on walks. I crochet. I post to Instagram. ("A lot.") But mostly I sketch, and paint.

Y después pondré unas flores en la mesa~ And then later I'll put flowers on the table~

I oversee Maria's lessons, which is easier and more fun than you might expect. We are supplementing her online language studies with something extra we do together... translating lyrics to music we enjoy, like Natalia Lafourcade's Casa. Step by step we go through the words, Maria writing down the ones she already knows, then we look up the rest, listen to the song, and sing along. The last part is for her to illustrate the song. This one she did using her digital pen. Ay, mi'ja, me encanta tu arte.

After I upload pictures from my phone, I think, Hmmmm... what I mostly do is take pictures.

I take a lot of pictures. And I only share a few of them here, or at Instagram.

March 13~

Taking pictures makes me really, very happy. And knowing the names of flowers, recognizing birds, and reading maps makes me very happy, too. I like washing dishes, and cleaning the kitchen the morning after a good party. And I love autumn, planning trips, and looking back on trips, then planning the next one...

I love it when Geoff is home and we can hear our children laughing, which is mostly what happens when they are together. And then I imagine a picture of us, all together in our Bird House, laughing, and doing what we love, and this makes me happy, too.

All Sorts of Views and News

Mon, 03/12/2018 - 12:09

March 3~

The chicas, our herd of matronly hens, are laying like spry, young hens. It's surprising, given their ages... five and four years old. Lots of eggs, when there's also lots of chard in the garden, means quiche! I made four, with leeks and the chard, and my very rustic looking crust, which is the frozen one from Trader Joe's.

One view, above, is of my failure to thin. I can never bear to pull up tiny seedlings. It's for the good of the garden to give plants space, but alas... I am too greedy, too sympathetic to do what is right, and now the sweet peas are lush, plentiful and over-crowded, which I am pretty sure is the reason these are not flowering. I pretend to be satisfied having lovely green vines, but the truth is I so wish I had been a wise and dutiful gardener, and not so greedy.

March 4~

I was trying to remember whether I've mentioned we are enclosing our carport... I have. While it's been a project that goes in fits and starts, in the last week, or so, we've made a lot of progress. And yes, technically, I am entitled to say "we." I've held boards, procured goggles, or said "good job," with genuine enthusiasm, all of which makes me a part of the crew. William has really put his heart into this project. Ever since Geoff and William built our barn, William has demonstrated sweet construction skills and industry... it makes me wish we could just keep adding little barns and forts and cottages all over the land! Sooner or later, everyone lends a hand, takes a shift. James has been here, Paul, Max, Alex, and Ido came by (dressed for Purim) and I think that counts, too.

I've been obsessing over India ink and gouache painting. I follow #augustwren, the artist Jennifer Orkin Lewis, on Instagram. She's shared some live videos on her page, and she demonstrates how she creates some of her art with dip pens and nibs, and India ink. She answers all of the viewer's questions, and her lessons have been so informative, so generous, I feel like I've found my very own art teacher. I dove in! I think what I am loving the most is how much it has relaxed me. I get so frustrated and disappointed with how far I feel from achieving what I wish I was accomplishing. Ironically, I decided to practice with the ink, to improve my confidence, and skills, to discipline myself to be consistent, precise. But! Instead, I have relaxed my expectations of what's "good," and let go of the outcome. The ink forces me to slow down, which is a good discipline and practice for me, but it's also liberated me from being too controlling. It's fun, almost meditative, and I cannot understand or explain why, but it makes me feel more forgiving and accepting of my results. And then something nice happens... here is my handy illustration:


It's occurring to me that the more I accept the flaws and blobs, the smudges, and things that don't turn out as I wish, the more I enjoy the process, and continue to practice, and gradually, I figure things out, feel more confident. Oh, goofy me. I think it's so hilarious when I am ruminating on some deep thoughts, then write it down, and it stares back at me, not as a profound insight or discovery, but as a simple truth. lol.

Woman Discovers Practice Improves Her Results.
And Acceptance Makes Her Journey More Pleasant.

March 5~

I have been practicing, a lot. First, India ink, then gouache paint. I wish you could come over and play with me. If not drawing and painting, then crocheting.

March 6~

Another good practice? Leaving the house... going out to see the sunset, play with beach stones, walking through town, or up and down the beach. We've been enjoying regular outings, and I think those are improving results, and making our journey more pleasant.

March 9~

Max's art orientation class made an assignment of visiting the Timken Museum, and we made a morning of it. It's not only a beautiful museum, with a very nice collection of fine art, but it's also free. After Max finished his observations, we walked around the park, before getting Max back to campus, and his next class.

March 9~

Such a long post. All sorts of views, and some news. Maybe this is a good practice, too... choosing happy moments, picking the best views that capture events in our week, then gathering them here, in a post, and reflecting on highlights. It's not everything that we have going on. It's certainly not the messes, the let downs, the grotty bits that would embarrass me, that make me feel far-off from what what I wish I were accomplishing, but there's something quite comforting, and encouraging in seeing the good, emphasizing the pretty parts. Sometimes we make smudges and blobs, but if we quit when things go wrong, then we'll miss the sunsets, and blossoms, the chickens running across the lawn, and children growing, the masterpieces. More deep thoughts and other musings, to remind myself.


Keep moving forward.

It's Nice Here

Mon, 03/05/2018 - 10:18
It's nice here... it really is. Not just here, at home, but in our neighborhood, across town, in the city, along the coast, points east, all over. Most days, when I am out driving my errands, I find myself shaken, in a happy, thankful way, and I see the views, the charm, the grandeur, or the opportunities of these places we frequent, know, discover. I love coming home, and turning onto our street, that pause when I feel it again... it's nice here.

Low tide, and all the pleasures of a wide open beach, pools to explore, and sweet company on a long walk. The last day of February, between storms. Even when it's cold, or we've had some grey days, Southern California can still deliver classically beautiful views.

Ikea has a simple doll house that I couldn't resist. Fortunately, Geoff reminded me to get one for Maria, if I was going to have a hard time sharing. Funny, but true... so we have two doll houses from Ikea. And, truth be told, I am eying hers, already. What I've discovered is that it makes a darling art gallery, and if one is a gallery, then we need the other so the mice have a place to go home to after their outing.

Happy Birthday, William~

We always say, We should come here more often. And we should. And I love that there are loads and loads of gorgeous zoo images to see and admire... I follow them on Instagram, subscribe to their magazine, but when I am at the zoo, I still have to take my own pictures, even with just the camera on my phone. Even when I know they'll be grainy, too far away, out of focus from shooting through smudgy plate glass, or a mesh barrier. Brilliant photographs of the pandas, and bears, and panthers, and baboons, and hippos, are abundant, but I still love-love-love my zoo photography, my brush with success, when I hope to capture the best panda moment. My own panda moment. That tickles me.

Back at home, I awoke to that I am being watched sensation. And practically nose to nose, I opened my eyes to Chango. And only I have the unique opportunity to capture our own black panther, in his natural habitat, with own peculiar habits and characteristics, and so I reach for my phone...

Hello, Chango.

I probably took as many pictures of our darling, old man cat, as I did at the zoo. And I took pictures of Cairo, too.

It's nice here. I feel thankful, and fortunate.

Moon Rising, Sun Setting

Wed, 02/28/2018 - 09:32

We were treated to some beautiful scenes, last night, on our walk. It's not a word in the dictionary, but you would have agreed, it was majestical.

Rockets, Cats, and Ratty-Rats

Sun, 02/25/2018 - 12:25

We were really eager to see signs of the SpaceX launch of Falcon 9, Paz Mission. There was a slight marine layer Thursday morning, but we were up in time and looking northward, and... yeah, we saw nuthin'. We enjoyed the live feed, though.

In other news: It is still winter. We've had enough consecutive days of cold weather, that I have learned how to wear a coat, and bring it with me when I leave the house. I am wearing a fingerless glove. We make big pots of vegetable soup, and eat it with other hot, roasted, and hearty foods. We snuggle. The cats snuggle. The cats snuggle a lot. More rain is in our forecast, and I feel blissful about our winter days, which have come better late than never. And I try to reason with myself and not envy everyone in darling Portland, Oregon, where they've had lovely, fluffy heaps of snow! There is a distinct possibility I am not living in my ideal climate zone.

My pictures, straight from my phone, show definite Cairo, and flowers biases. It's only that he is so obliging and adorable, and the flowers are so abundant and fetching. The cat, and the garden are irresistible.

If I didn't allude to it enough last week, I can confirm, unequivocally, I am emotionally taxed. Is it the nature of the season, Geoff being gone 7 days a week, 16 hours a day? Is it the news? Oh, the news, and the trolls, the divisive, greedy, selfish, under-handed stuff that is tweeted, streamed, meme-d, and demeaning. I am loath to bring it all up, again. But, the truth is... I found (another) bottom, last night. I've been remarkably even-keeled, steady, moving things forward, and managing with some small amount of grace under pressure, but I lost all cool and composure at the end of the day, and was reduced to sobbing. Ironically, it was on the first night Geoff was home before 9pm, in weeks. And all I could do was cry, and mutter a random litany of frustrations and disappointments about the world, politics, fleas, paper-work, and dry skin. It's all related, I am sure. Oh, and the "fleas" are not from the cats. And yes, this sucks.

Gosh. So many pretty pictures, and so much in my life to feel deeply thankful for. Well, I am thankful, and I do see all the beauty, all the good, the many blessings, but oh geez did I need that cry, and probably another.

I wrote an entire paragraph of self-deprecating insight, humorously told, to convey my humility, while touching on the genuine insecurity that is the foundation of my wit and sarcasm... but I am making a bold attempt to be nicer to me, to see my good, and my still evolving self, in a warmer light. It's a shame, though, because I have a real gift for self-deprecating humor. I also compose and perform songs, on the spot, and have been told they're quite good.

Please, find beauty and enjoy winter, or summer, and be safe, and well, and cry, if that helps. I like to believe that we are all going to be ok.

This Week: Winter

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 17:20

Whenever I think of posting about "weather" and "winter," then including the actual temperatures, our highs and lows, I get embarrassed. I think of my friends in Massachusetts, or up in Oregon, in Norway, or England. I think, now, they know what cold is! They are going to think our "winter" is nothing at all. And they'd be correct. Our "winter" has been nothing at all. We have had 90s, 80s, and regular days of 70 degrees fahrenheit. Local friends post pictures of their children in the surf, or swimming in a pool. Most nights I've slept with an open window. It really has been more like a late spring, unseasonably warm, and terribly dry.

Well. This week it decided to be winter, with some rain, even. And for us, it feels really cold.



We had a high today of 55 degrees. Wimpy, right? I know. But we forget to wear sweaters, we never unpacked our beanies. I am too lazy to put on lace-up shoes, and go out in flip-flops. I am acclimated to 74 degrees, from just 2 days ago, and now we are getting frost advisories, but by the time I remember how to put on a sweater, and wear socks, we will be in another heatwave.

Ah, geez. I know. None of this can sound too terrible to anyone still shoveling snow, or facing more dark gray skies. In truth, I love this week of winter! I really want it to last long enough for me to get it together to bake some bread, wear one of the twenty-five shawls I've crocheted. We love the rain! We love the cats piling up on our feet, roasting butternut squash, putting on gloves, watching clouds, in the big, wintery blue sky. Gosh, it's cold, we sure hope it sticks around! Now, I am going into the kitchen to finish steaming potatoes, and red-cabbage. We are fixing a hearty dinner, to brace ourselves for this week of winter.

Little Lights, and Other Means

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 20:07
Light, and hope, signs of intelligence, or at least true compassion, any means of saving our hearts and minds... that's what I look out for, and want to kindle, fan. These days, though. Oh. Truly. Just too much. National news, tragedies, bad weather, and bad governing... any of it is more than enough to keep us on edge, unnerved. I don't say much.. I don't want to add to anyone's plate, or take away anyone's peace of mind, so I paint, or crochet, or watch my hens. I listen to my children laugh, or read aloud.

I make my bed.
I floss.
Yes, flossing, and bed-making.
And yoga, too.

In the midst of some of the most trying events, and longest days, when there is a great deal I am struggling to manage, I have turned my priorities around, and am clinging diligently to little things, simple details, the very minor things I have tended to leave for last (meaning: completely abandon.) I am embarrassed to admit that, at long last, I am devotedly doing very, very basic tasks, and feeling accomplished about it. Anyway, it's what I am doing... a routine of personal undertakings that give me even a teeny sense of having done a good thing, and then I move on to whatever other pressing things I can manage. Strangely, I haven't seemed to be any less "behind" on all of those bigger, daunting tasks... I wish I could say I am getting ahead, but. Yeah. No. I am not getting ahead, but my bed is made.

This week got harder, though. Some pressing paper work came in the mail, a call reminding me about dental procedures that need completing, we are waiting to hear from the school Max applied to, and Maria was just visiting her high school of choice and there is plenty to manage and consider with that, and, and, and, and, and I am leaving plenty out, because I don't want to add to anyone's plate, which is why I don't say much. But... I'm feeling it. All of it. And if anyone wants to commiserate, or share their most best tips for how they live fabulously, adulting, coping, soaring, even getting ahead, please, feel free to share.

Confession... if I'd used the time I've spent reading Top Ten Tips to A Cleaner Home on Pinterest boards, to actually take out the garbage and shred the junk mail, I might be one step closer to being a fabulous adult. Happily, at least one good tip I read, somewhere, has made a practical impression on my cotton-headed noggin: Breaks. Housework bores me silly, and the tougher assignments, like figuring out pressing paper work that arrives in the mail, or cleaning my desk, drain my brain and soul. But the tip I read, suggests taking things one at a time, and enjoying breaks. Wash the dishes, then read an article. Sort the mail and feed the farm, then cut some flowers, plant some seeds. Fold two tons of laundry, then paint, or crochet. Instead of feeling like cleaning will mean a long day of drudgery, that everything on the list is an equal priority... I take it in small bites.

Oh my gosh. I have not suddenly seen the light and am earning a gold star for domestic competence. I would be so mortified if someone could make an algorithm to display every Chickenblog post, in the last 16 years, when I have had an epiphany or lightbulb moment about how to do things better, start over, try harder.

Breaks. That's it. That is my latest scheme and method for facing dirty dishes, another junk drawer disaster, or epic bureaucratic paper work chore. I just resign myself to going at whatever is most pressing, doing it as best I can, then enjoying an Instagram spree, or second cup of tea, or painting another ratty-rat. In fact, writing this post is my break/reward for clearing out an entire garage closet, cleaning the kitchen, and finding the thing that made the fridge stink.

Recent events make me want to reach out, to ask, Ça va? Are you okay?

Ça va, Chango?

And when the news got to be too much, I painted more...

Ça va, ratty-rats? So many rats.

So many good moments, and little lights, to hearten us, and those breaks to recharge our minds and souls.

Ça va, friends? I know I could use some encouragement. How about you?

I am looking for light, but these two... I think they'd appreciate it if, after making their bed, I would remember to close the curtains.