Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Packing For Distant Lands




I cannot be sure, but I am either bringing far, far too much, or slightly less than necessary. We are driving to Oregon, and camping enroute. Along the way we will have four nights in a tent, four nights in new places, four nights sleeping on a pad, on the ground, a distance from bathrooms. And we will be making our dinners and breakfasts, some of them at least, over a camp stove. Oh, yes... then our time there, in a tent, and our drive home will be camping, too. Anyway, I am pretty sure I am bringing just what we need, but possibly little of good use at all. It's hard to tell.

Do I really need two different balsamic flavors? They fit in the box, so why not? And imagine all the fresh produce we'll be passing on our journey, all the fruit stands, and organic farms... a splash of raspberry balsamic, a drizzle of olive oil, and we feast. Food is fabulous around a campfire. Good food around a campfire is beyond fabulous. Do you know what's light, refreshing, and fun? A shot of Pear-Cranberry balsamic over ice, with sparkling water. What can I say? I do like yummy things... I've certainly confessed this road-trip food love affair, before!

Plates
Utensils
Lighter/matches
Table cloth
Pots, pans
Dish soap
Spices and seasonings
Cups! And a can opener! I'm still working on this. Glad I checked. Must add.

I was remembering the last time we were preparing for a big camp adventure and it kind of shocks me to realize that was seven years ago. We've done some camping, more recently, but I'm not counting anything in our own county. This is about distant lands, redwoods, Humboldt Fog Cheese, leaving the state, getting bugs on the bumper. The last time we made lists and packed for any foreseeable needs on the road, Geoff helped me understand my own wanderlust, and like that time, he's staying behind while I go in search of adventure with the children. Before we roll out of the driveway, I will ask him to please read the poem he found for me...

"I am a part of all that I have met.
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravell'd world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!"

--Ulysses, by Alfred Tennyson

What is it about leaving home, making believe that our van is a covered wagon, our supplies made to last the journey, however long, and the roads, perhaps, are all but abandoned? Something primal, feelings instinctive capture my imagination, and the calculations of miles, meals, resources, tools, and preparedness make me giddy. Anything can happen! We will see beautiful places, familiar places, and altogether new things, too. I love those familiar places, and new things. I love camping, finding little treasures, singing in the car, eating farm stand strawberries for lunch, reading aloud in near darkness. I love that I can take as much pleasure anticipating what lies ahead, as I will in the middle of the journey. I love that my careful planning will be met with the unforeseen, and we will find new roads, and other ways.

I love that the last time we packed this purple camp box, we were different... we were younger, we were waiting on other dreams to come true, we had other skills, other ideas. Maria was so small, she bathed in the purple camp box! It was a time when the future... colleges, driver's licenses, growing up, felt a very far off future. So much has changed. We have our own home now, and new schools, new plans, separate plans. Maybe I hope that revisiting those familiar places will connect us to the common ground that was so much easier to share when the children were small, when objectives seemed closer at hand. Like visiting an old family home, or hometown, this trip feels like being in touch with our roots, the memories we each hold, and recall fondly. It's still us, though, and we bring those old memories, as well as our new dreams and ideas with us. I know... I am getting muddly in my deep thoughts and other musings, but I think it will serve my patience and enthusiasm when we are in 90 degree heat, facing traffic, and tired of baked beans! I'm only bringing one can of baked beans... I should, maybe add one more can?

Monday, July 21, 2014

Five Good Things










It's almost a month since we were in Wisconsin, and there are still so many things I haven't shared. We squeezed quite a few activities and good times into our week, and one of those was popping into the Milwaukee Art Museum. My father-in-law, Phil, was interested in seeing the Kandinsky Exhibition. I find that even artists that don't, at first glance, grab my interest, are almost always more interesting when I learn more about them... oh, sure, it sounds obvious when I say it aloud. The funny thing about the exhibition was that I kept finding paintings that were, surprisingly, more to my liking than I expected, until I learned that those pieces I felt attracted to were invariably works by friends or colleagues of Kandinsky! There is a lot to see and appreciate at the Milwaukee Art Museum, beginning with the building itself... Santiago Calatrava is the architect of the Quadracci Pavilion and the building alone is worth the visit, inside and out. It graces the shore of Lake Michigan, and evokes the form and strength of sails on water, and they can move in a span of 217 feet. Inside the natural light is beautiful, the space open, bright. The Milwaukee Art Museum has really good, engaging opportunities to experiment, to engage all your senses, and perception. Okay, facts and details aside, the best part was wandering from gallery to gallery and enjoying art. And playing art, making art, and being art!

Good Things...

1. Our Jet Puff Odyssey is with the mechanic, getting fine tuned, primed, and readied for The Oregon Trail! A safe, reliable, comfy ride can never be underestimated in its goodness.

2. A lot of tomatoes are ripening. Nothing as stunning as last year, but the decision to neglect them a bit more seems to be paying off. I just hope they taste as good as they look.

3. One of my very favorite bands is coming to Southern California, in time for our annual City and Art Christmas Outing! And! We have tickets, too! Pink Martini! At last! I'm already starstruck and swaying!

4. Ruth gave Geoff a beautiful, family dresser... he moved it into our room, put everything away, and it looks right at home, and very nice.

5. We've made plans for celebrating Ruth's birthday... it's one of those decade birthdays that deserve brunch with an ocean view!

Won't you please share some good things, too? I have another kind of list in front of me, and it's very long, and a bit daunting, slightly scary, because there is so much to be done before our next adventure. I need to travailler my chambre and I must not oublier any errands, chores, or duties.

Friday, July 18, 2014

{this moment}

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, Bambi, Max, and Maria :: Boogie boarding, body surfing, lunch, and castles, at the beach~

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Little Free Libraries Here There Everywhere

Books go anywhere! And it's wonderful to find new ones, and share favorite ones. Since opening our own Little Free Library, we are ever more aware of discovering books, sharing books, and finding other Little Free Libraries. Of course, you can't judge a book, or a tiny library, by its cover. We discovered this charming tiny library, in front of The Foundry Books is not for books, but for haikus!

We could have stayed in here for hours. I fell in love with their maps, and the cool, quiet aisles and aisles of books. One of the specialties of The Foundry Books, in Mineral Point, Wisconsin, is haiku, and they sell haiku books, and journals.

In front of the Longbranch Gallery, Little Free Library #737, Mineral Point, Wisconsin, is waiting for your patronage. We saw Little Free Library #734, in Mineral Point, too. It's a real darling... "A Fairy Library For Kids." Inside, it's been lovingly decorated with children's drawings of fairies!

Outside High Street Sweets, in Mineral Point, you will find Little Free Library #7754. It looks as sweet as a candy rainbow. We found these libraries by chance, as we traveled around Wisconsin. But you can find Little Free Libraries, all over the world, from home, just by visiting their interactive map. It pinpoints locations and details, sometimes pictures and links, of most libraries registered with Little Free Libraries. Traveling? Spare yourself, and save some luggage space... you might have a library at your destination, where you can pick up a new-to-you book, and drop it off anywhere you find another Little Free Library. I wish I'd thought of that before we traveled!

Maria brought her new summer book, Fortunately the Milk, and was eager to share highlights and favorite passages with anyone interested, like her uncle Paul. As we toured around Wisconsin, between destinations, we were all enjoying an audio book, narrated by the author himself, The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman. If you are familiar with The Jungle Book, you may recognize a familiar theme... young child raised outside of his family, in a world wholly unlike anything we know. Wonderful theme, beautifully retold, in a hauntingly delicate, often suspenseful, way. Max has read chapters, aloud, for us, and I will be happy to hear those, again. Neil Gaiman's reading is mesmerizing, and he gives the reader just what you would hope from the author. His inflection, his tone, the authoritative yet gentle, guiding voice giveaway just the right amount of foreshadowing and feeling for the scene, without overstepping, or imposing on the pictures building in your mind. Listening to The Graveyard Book is so compelling, the story so satisfyingly constructed, that sometimes we were sorry to have to park and get out of the car.

Here is Little Free Library #2785, just west of Tenney Park, on Sherman Street. Wisconsin is covered in Little Free Libraries, which is no surprise, since the first Little Free Library was opened in Hudson, Wisconsin. Tod Bol built a barn red library with a tiny bell tower in 2009, in honor of his mother.

Back home, our Little Free Library is getting good use, seeing new books come and go, and making happy neighbors, dogs, too. But don't you agree, we need a bench! At our library, there's a nice breeze, good shade, we keep a water bowl filled for the four-legged visitors, and you might find lemons or dog biscuits in the library attic. It's pretty sweet, but we have more ideas, more schemes. Maria and I are dreaming up a little craft and bake sale, so we can raise some funds for a sturdy bench, maybe a dog deck, too! Sometimes a book is too compelling to put down, and you just gotta park yourself and enjoy!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Bird House & Barn Garden Confessional

*Warning: Some of this ain't gonna be pretty.





Going back to May, when we took over the rose bed for veggies, when the cilantro was green, the onions were pert, and tomatoes were appearing, I was feeling confident, and content about gardening, about harvests to come, and roasted tomatoes. Even before we left for Wisconsin, our prospects were looking good. We have drip irrigation, mulch, sunny days. We have made earnest endeavors, and we have faithful appetites, but somewhere between garden lasagna and today, we have lost hope, lost zucchinis, lost cucumbers, lost confidence.

This was our first attempt at growing artichokes. I have two confessions to make: 1. I think I planted the four plants too close to each other, crowding them. 2. I didn't want to eat them when everyday I found them covered in black aphid-like swarms. The ants and the aphids did that communal cooperative thing they do, and no matter how how often I wiped them out, with fingers or hose, they returned with a veggie-craving vengeance. The artichokes were thirsty, too, and our drought gave me strong reservations about planting these again. A cool thing, though, they sure make wild blooms! And the bees love them.

Tomato woes are heartbreaking! Last year I could have renamed ChickenBlog TomatoBlog. We were blessed with the delicious and mysterious goat horned tomatoes, even as early as June, before true summer. We were giving them away, freezing them, roasting them. It was heavenly, and I was grateful. You can say it, go ahead: All those tomato posts were a bit much! I frequently implored tomato fate to please let those little tomato beauties return, and they did! But this year, we are already into July and they are pale, sorry, weak. The plants are beginning to fade, but are still loaded with fruit. Why?? {Please read that with a ragged, tear-stained voice, trembling, perceptibly desperate. Thank you.} Confession: I thought I had it made. Free tomatoes. No effort on my part, and plenty of fruit just ready to turn sweet, deep, dark red. I was thankful, to be sure, but could my certainty, my faintly smug assuredness of a salsa summer, have jinxed the whole outcome?

Zucchini, squash, and cucumbers are gone. Wiped out by questionable watering/fertilizing practices, and I confess, those are my failings. But one other player must be taken into account, and that is the return of my arch nemesis: The Harlequin Beetle Bug Basterd. I have no kind words for those little demons. Even before I could try to slather and lather them with a soap spray, they had done their wicked sap sucking vampire deeds.

While we are on the subject of unwelcome visitors, I am very sorry to share that the family of bobcats frequenting our yard have taken Inara Rabbit. The bobcats, at least two, possibly three, come at will, day or night. Free-ranging time for the hens has been sharply curtailed. Malcolm no longer has his freedom, either, and is living in the first chicken coop... secured and comfortable, but decidedly lonesome without his lady love.

Everyone rallied to find a new home for Malcolm. Without Inara for companionship and as an ally, Malcolm was suffering the mean-spirited attention of the chickens. In other words they were hen-pecking the heck out of him. We looked all around the garden and scrap pile for possible solutions, and decided to revive the original Ikea table turned chicken coop, for a new bunny haven. We added hardware cloth, reattached the door, and set up the new home near Alex's thriving bamboo, gourds and onions. (Yeah! We can grow something!)

I confess, it's hard to stay encouraged, to weather the setbacks, and fix the problems. Gardens look really good in May, and it's tempting to believe there will be a salsa summer, and an ever-lasting lasagna garden, but there are no guarantees, no refunds. And it's quite a trick to balance all the hats... being a blogger, and a mom, a crafter and a gardener, a trip taking traveler and a farmer, a domestic goddess and Me. Things slip, for sure. And I stumble, often. Going about my day, trying to make it all operate and succeed, I often hear myself bemoaning the failures and obstacles, and throwing my hands up with a dramatic sigh, feebly muttering something about Why can't I do it all?? How come things are a mess?? But, now, writing some of this down, and realizing how lucky I am to have this space, the time, the opportunities to dabble, to experiment, to start new projects, to pursue schemes and ideas, to visit great places, and build new things... I'm lucky. It's all just a bit much, and muddled, but I am lucky. And we have friends, and help, and choices, so it's not an actual crisis. What a ride! Children, chickens, road trips, garden beds, goats, robots, beach days, and hot dinners... this is a busy, full, wild, and blessed life.

I think I will let the garden tend itself for a couple more weeks, until we are back from our Oregon road trip. I suppose this means a lot of stuff will make its way to the compost pile. Hey, compost is good. Then the new school year will be breathing down our necks, but maybe I'll see about planting seeds, and starting again.

Monday, July 14, 2014

This Is Your Life








This is your life...
Is it everything you dreamed it would be?
Don't close your eyes.
This is your life.
Are you who you want to be?

We didn't have to be at the stage to enjoy the music and lively spirit of Switchfoot's tenth annual Moonlight Beach Concert. Switchfoot Bro-Am is three days of concerts and events to benefit children, where Switchfoot continues their mission of supporting local at-risk, homeless, and street kids. We arrived in time for some music, surf, and the good company of our community, and while we sat at the water's edge, played in the waves, and enjoyed all the day had to give, we could hear the lively and heartfelt music of a great local band. Sweet.

The water was good. I wish I could describe how good... how the surf wakes me, right down to my cells; how the waves carry away doubts and worries, how something as big and wild as an entire ocean can open itself and receive us, and give us a day of simple pleasures. Really, that good. Maria and I paddled, swam, jumped, floated, and laughed. I was reminded of things I believe... we are not on this planet, we are this planet, and the more we respect and honor ourselves, each other, this place that is our home, and our selves, the better everything can be, for everyone. And everything good that is shared becomes better. Our resources, and our music, our time, our kindness... all of it grows and improves when we let it flow, and be shared. It's not hard to get caught up in a riptide, to be carried away by fear, by selfish beliefs, but there's too much at risk, when we don't break from that mentality, when we struggle for the shore. It was a crazy crowded day at the beach, but we took the shuttle down, we shared a spot on the sand, and we played. It makes me hope that our beaches will always be clean, open, safe, and inviting, that our community will always strive to look out for everyone, so that we can all enjoy the simple pleasures, the good waves, the fresh air, education, equal rights, shelter, food, love, and respect.

Jon Foreman, Tim Foreman, Chad Butler, Jerome Fontamillas, and Drew Shirley love to give back to the community where they grew up, where they play, and I think that is really cool. Our day, hearing their music, seeing the dancing crowds, and enjoying our own fun on the beach inspires me to do more of the same... to give back. I feel better living in a world that I feel I am a part of, where the people around me are well, and cared for, where compassion and respect are foremost, because the good health and strong welfare of our community and our environment is good for us all.

I tell ya'... a little surf and sun, and the deep thoughts and other musings just come pouring out!

There was quite a bit of kelp on the beach. I grabbed one piece and wrapped a head lei for Maria. Then, three young women, playing beside us in the water, asked me to please, please make them some, too. They found good pieces, and I rolled out three more head leis. Then we found an awesome length of kelp stipe, full of long blades, and plump pneumatocysts. It made a beautiful sea-maiden's skirt, and Maria danced on the sand, and in the surf. Is it only when we are two, or four, or nine years old, that we are so willing to play, to embrace this life, and be who we want to be? I like to believe that, at any time, we can open our eyes, and live a dream, be who we want to be, and that we are eager to share, to let others play, too.

Five Good Things





Let's not talk about the load of clothes I destroyed when I let a deep orange skirt slip into the wash. No.
Never mind the anemone albino amnesia Alamo anemia draining my reserves. Forget about it.
I cannot think about the bobcats that are stalking our farm. Oy.
Excuse our dust, the muss, the many little bits and parts that don't fit or don't submit, because besides all those, we had a pretty nice weekend. And seems to me, fretting over the messes hasn't helped me much anyway.

Good things...

1. Now that I know a cause for my energy deficit, I am looking into remedies... many of which are rather tasty.

2. Geoff put in a street light, trimmed the new window in Alex and Max's room, progressed on a new fence section, and took us to the beach. {Not anemic.}

3. Maria's ears are pierced, and we won't mention the pain she experienced, nor the tears, because now, she couldn't be happier!

4. Alex has nearly completed his two summer school courses, and is all clear and registered for fall semester.

5. I've discovered the joys of Nyjer seeds, and the darling goldfinches that love to eat it.

A pretty nice weekend is not a perfect weekend. Perfect is a silly notion, and a concept that can drain a lot of joy out of our perfectly messy lives. And please, don't imagine I am sitting on a hilltop, expounding pearls of shiny goodness. Not I. I am just trying to be as nice to me as I am to everyone else, to tell myself: It's okay. Who cares, really? Life is lovely, hard, and lovely, and then I grab some tissue, put on an apron, and try again.

Please, share your good things. I love your good things, too.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Sweet Summer Day

Smarties, in the pool. 

Smarties beside the pool. 



And one more Smartie, in the shade. 

Whether you've got World Cup fever, yard work, home work, a good book, or promising plans for dinner... whatever you're doing, I hope it's been a happy weekend. 



Friday, July 11, 2014

{this moment}

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.

Breakfast out, with Max and Maria~

{Oh... and for the record: I made pancakes that morning, but the batter was dense and sludgy, because someone added plain flour to my pancake mix. Huge waste. This was the morning I had to admit that I should be labeling all of our kitchen supplies.}

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Happy Birthdays in Wisconsin

The inspiration for the gathering in Wisconsin: A special celebration for Nancy's 90th birthday! Months in advance, emails, messages, and phone calls were made between California, Wisconsin, and Tennessee, with the hope that as many family members as possible could be in town to honor Nancy. Then something unexpected happened, in the spring, after riding the Tour of Flanders, in Belgium, my father-in-law had a massive stroke. The news was shocking, and the circumstance of him being so far away only compounded our concerns, but he was not alone. Everyone agrees, things would have been far, far worse if not for Phil's sweetheart, Georgia. They had just become engaged, and through language barriers, and all the complications that come up in a medical crisis, especially in a foreign country, Georgia managed everything. A great deal had to be overcome and worked out, and it's really hard to imagine that so many hurdles were managed, including an air ambulance ride from Lilles, France, to Wisconsin. Phil, with Georgia by his side, has a long ride back to recovery, but with determination and good humor, he is facing the journey. It became obvious that there were two milestone birthdays that we wanted to celebrate, and so the plans grew.


Phil, riding in the blue jersey with a bright, golden sunburst. He loves cycling, and he has done more to build and promote the sport, and pastime, than anyone I know.

Great-grandchildren, grandchildren, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends... the whole town, practically! There was cooking and baking, decorating, organizing... and, of course the celebrating. The laughter, surprises, memories shared, and new memories made were wonderful.

Vibrant, generous, inspiring, and fun. Grandma Nancy, you are dear to me, and I love you. You have been a powerful role-model for me, and a great source of wisdom, insight, and understanding.

Nancy's daughters, and like her, they are resilient, hardworking, and inspiring. Carol, Jane, and Laura... they put on a good party, too!

Max, William, Maria, Izzy, Rich, Geoff, and Don~
The community center was a great space, roomy, convenient, cool, and we all got busy decorating it for the celebration.

William, Nick, Jane, Rich~

Jane and Carol~

Paul, and his brother, Geoff~
This was Paul's actual birthday. More to celebrate!

Phil and friends. It's a good day when you are surrounded by friends.

Nancy hands over the art quilt, wrapped in a scarf of Georgia's favorite colors, that Nancy made especially to thank Georgia.

For Georgia, an unexpected surprise.

For us, a happy moment to see Georgia honored for her love, her devotion, her good will.

It truly was a beautiful moment.

Neighbors Molly and Shane, Nancy, cousin Hesperis, and Phil~

Joanne and Paul~

William, Maria~

Jane and Don-Woody~

Nancy and her fitness-quilting-bakery-lifetime friends~


Griffin and his Grandma Carol~

Laura and Paul~

Jordan, Izzy, Holly~

Izzy and Holly~

All the laughs were for the old app... take a picture then let the app age you, a lot! Hilarity ensues.

Everyone was in the mood for laughs and fun!

Nancy and Nancy~

Phil and friend, and daughter, Lily, looking on, and Ingrid~

Designed, illustrated, appliqued, quilted, and finished with love by Nancy for Georgia.

Lisa, Sophie, Geoff and Woody~

Rosa showing her grandmother some of the jewelry she's made.

Paul, Gary, and Rich~

Nancy and Aaron, with Evelyn~

Laura and William~

Phil and Georgia~

Holly, Gary, Woody, Rich, Nick and Izzy~

Back home, there were cards and well wishes to enjoy.

And more smiles and laughter, with Brandon and Rosa.

Grandma is going to stay in touch, in style, with her new iPad.

And speaking of style! A friend from town, Andrew, came by with his family's classic car.

Woody, Maria, and William got to tour around the Lake!


William~

Holly~

Rich and Izzy~

Max, trying to make sense of the Mini-me Pee Oui doll inspired by Fat Tire Tour of Milwaukee... thirty year of rides, and hilarious themes.

The fun and laughter is still so fresh, the memories so good, it feels like we are still celebrating.