Saturday, March 17, 2007

Alex Bakes

This evening's post is inspired by our resident baker, Alex. He was digging around our recipe drawer and came up with something slightly sweet and made with strawberries.

STRAWBERRY MUFFINS

2 1/4 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon... sift these together.

In a separate bowl beat together...
2 eggs
1/2 cup Canola oil
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sliced strawberries (fold in last)

Blend together the wet and dry ingredients, until the dry ingredients are moistened. Gently fold in the strawberries. Spoon into muffin pan lined with paper muffin cups and bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes. When the muffins cool top with strawberry cream cheese: 8 ounces cream cheese swirled with 2 to 3 tablespoons of strawberry preserves.


These are the same beautiful muffins Alex made for me last Mother's Day.

I couldn't just let these get gobbled up in the typical fashion, so we made an impromptu tea party. We haven't made a tea party since we were Neptunites, living by the sea. I brought out our tiny tea cups (I think they are meant for espresso) and we spread a pretty square of fabric on Maria's little table. Alex chose a glass floral tray for his frosted muffins. While the water boiled I warmed up the teapot, and then prepared a chai tea mixed with some milk.

I love the look of polite joy that settles on children's faces when they are welcomed to a formal event. Maria recognized the tea party theme immediately and she clasped her hands in patient and respectful awe.


She was very happy to see her table transformed and to find tiny cups, just the right size for her.

Maria served herself milk and we added a few drops of hot chai.


I like our mix and match tea service. It suits us.


Here is the rose saucer that Janice brought me when she knew I needed a lift.


Everything took on an air of calm refinement. We took small bites and we took little sips. We savored the quiet and happy gathering.


William says he doesn't remember our tea parties at Neptune. Alex remembers I served them juice in tea cups.


Max likes chai tea, and drinking from our pretty cups.


Maria was uneasy about getting cream cheese on her hands. She found her solution.


Thank you for our tea party and muffins Alex. Everything was delicious.
Before Maria was born I tried to cope with morning sickness by focusing on engrossing activities, like quilting and crochet. Quilting I have sufficient experience with to be successful. And as for crochet, well I took lessons as a five year old, and then many years later I made Geoff a ridiculously long, lanky "I have a crush on you" scarf. In spite of limited experience I was determined to make something or anything for the baby, and what came of that ambition is Blue Bumby, Maria's bunny doll. I just kept going 'round until it started to look like something.

She loves it, which you can tell by it's scruffy appearance.

While unpacking yet another box, I came across a just in case present I bought to keep on hand... well, just in case I needed a gift for someone. It's a Knitting instruction kit from Klutz. It kept calling me to play with it, and I kept denying myself the freedom to play. Who can explain my timing? This is a hectic and challenging time in our lives, and it makes no sense for me to break open a new toy and start playing. Oh well. Here I go!

The first direction is to take the skein and turn it in to a ball. Simple, huh? It's the perfect meditative task for me. Sufficiently challenging, yet calming.

Possibly Klutz gave me cheap yarn. It started tangled, and was a little frustrating. I enjoyed being able to unravel a mess without help from attorneys, or counseling.

I love the colors. The blue lightens and deepens. It has movement. Speaking of movement... Maria caught sight of my little project and picked up the finished ball of yarn saying, "Oh ball! Perty, perty. Here you go Benby!" And she threw it across the floor. Benjamin was thrilled to have a new toy unraveling across the carpet.

Cats and yarn. It's Cliché, isn't it? How can something be cute and annoying at the same time?

Now I have three balls of bright blue yarn, ready and rolling to become project one of the Klutz handbook.
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

I have been very busy exploring, like a spring frog leaping from lily pad to lily pad and taking a look around at each stop. My lily pads are websites on the Internet. I began with one intention, then got sidelined here, and distracted there and enthralled with this and that. Does anyone else still marvel at the wonder, the enormity and variety of the Internet? It’s amazing to find so much talent, beauty, creativity, and humor all available from a comfy chair. I like farm-flavored blogs with cute animals and garden tales. I like farmers that cook and bake and share recipes. I like mom flavored blogs with tales from the front, humor, encouragement and the whole parenting scene. I like home school blogs and children’s literary sites; they humble and inspire me. There are some incredibly organized, disciplined and talented home schooling families out there.

Okay. We’ve had a rough 24 hours here at Garage Mahal, and I need to get out of the comfy chair, assess the damages, clean-up, and come up with a new game plan. But, before I face my reality, here are some of the places I have been escaping to: For awesome links, articles and all things related to children’s literature please visit Chicken Spaghetti. I find great resources for life, school and amusement at Chicken Spaghetti. Go there and have a look around. This morning I also was delighted to light upon Jan Brett’s homepage. She’s a wonderful children’s author and illustrator. I love her illustrations for the book “The Owl and the Pussycat.” Her website very generously offers her illustrations for use as coloring pages. They are fanciful and fun. Some time this weekend I hope to decorate my own cowgirl boots, thanks to Jan Brett.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Quarantine and Cabin Fever!

Ahhhk! I keep devising extremely clever excuses to leave the house. Alex just woke up about ten minutes ago. Obviously he didn’t make an overnight recovery. Max threw-up again. William, Maria and I are still healthy. I know you’ll pray for us. I guess I can’t exactly invite you over for a Friday night movie and fresh hot popcorn. We don’t need cat litter, sponges, toilet paper, apple juice, toothpaste or any other product, so I can’t rationalize a trip to Target. I offered Alex his choice of healing foods and would gladly run out to get him any temptation. He’s not hungry. I’ve showered. I’ve slathered good smelling lotion on my recently shaved legs. I am wearing the iced raspberry drop earrings my mommy sent and I am ready to break out of this joint!

Please. You must refrain from suggesting that I stay home and clean. Don’t ask whether I finished the second letter to the propane company, or if we are ‘all moved in yet?” Groan. It’s not that I necessarily crave retail therapy. I just want to do something… something… oh, what’s that thing called? Oh ya: Fun. I want to have fun. I want to feel rested, pretty, smart, and energized, and want to have fun and then return to a magically cleaned house with healthy children, and let’s go ahead and make it the first day of summer, with a housing market slump that brings prices down by 42%.
Maria loves art. Alex is her favorite artist of the moment. He came home with a project completed at school for Valentine’s Day, and she has been showing it around, proudly saying, “Look, look. Perty, perty.” She says things in pairs. It’s cute, cute.


Alex, this is a pretty, pretty piece. Where shall we hang it?

Max slept a little better last night, so hopefully he is on the mend. He’s playing more piano, which I take to be another sign of his recovery. Have I written about his original compositions? He has developed his own system for musical notation and he writes piano pieces, which he plays. They are soothing and pleasant to listen to. I also like it when he does musical interpretations of “Do a Deer” and “Yo-Ho a Pirate’s Life For Me.” He likes me to guess what he’s changed. He knows just how to play them so they change mood, and it’s not a matter of hitting the keys harder or softer. He actually changes keys and arrangements. This may call for figuring out how to add video files to Chickenblog.

When Mitchell’s mom, Julie, came by last night, Maria was carrying Alex’s art around and Max was playing piano. William was at the computer, working on an essay response to reading the first 5 chapters of Huck Finn. Our usual assortment of projects and messes were spread throughout the house, and Julie said kindly that our ‘home is brimming with talent and activity.’ Well it is brimming with something, (that’s just my self-deprecating aside.) I thanked her. I managed to not deflect her praise or to misinterpret it as a comment on chaos and clutter. I looked around and absorbed the truth that happy, creative, curious, clever and active people live here. I even felt a joyful spark of pleasure from the realization that life around here reminds me of one of my favorite movies, “You Can’t Take It With You.”



We don’t have a Russian dance instructor who comes for dinner, or fireworks in the basement, (we keep ours in the garage) but we do seem to enjoy our creative outlets and freedoms. My idea of a happy home more closely resembles the Sycamores’ freethinking haven than anything else I can think of. I guess that’s why we’ve lived with Lego robots on the dining table, bunk beds in the dining room, chickens as pets, showering outside the kitchen window, home-schooling, and making a soup kitchen on the front porch.

We are trying to make plans for a long over-due vacation. We are applying only one rule, and other general guidelines. The rule is: We have to go somewhere we have never been before. We are still undecided. I picked up ”500 Place to Take Your Kids Before They Grow Up” for fun and amusement. We’ve been to 30 of the recommended places with our children, and learning this we actually felt a little pride, a little bit like we’ve done something right. Isn’t that silly?

William and I like to close our eyes then pick our vacation spot by flipping through and stopping with a finger on a random page. Last night we landed on Osaka’s Aquarium Kaiyukan, which looks really great. We would definitely have to add The Studio Ghibli Museum to any visit to Japan. (Weird. Why can't I have super code powers? If this link isn't working and you must see a really cool collection of Ghibli Museum photos, then cut and paste this URL: http://www.tautoz.com/ghiblimuseum/) The book isn’t necessarily a great guidebook and I wouldn’t rely solely on its suggestions for ideal destinations, but it’s been an amusing starting point. Eventually we’ll need to do more than speculate and ponder. For me, the planning is the start of the adventure. What’s your favorite part of a vacation or trip?
Meme: One Book.
Tarie invited me to play. It would be more fun if you played too, so tag, you’re it.

One book that changed your life:
My life has changed many times, but “A Room With A View” made a change I can distinctly recall.

One book you have read more than once:
Same book: “A Room With A View.” And “Gone With The Wind.” It was much better the first time.

One book you would want on a desert island:
Any Mexican cookbook with cactus recipes (emphasis on “desert.”) Actually I recently bought a how to book for everything including; building shelter, raising goats, tanning hides, catching fish, knitting, repairs, first aid, farm and garden know how. Love it.

One book that made you laugh: “Old Mac Donald Had an Apartment Farm”

One book that made you cry: “To Kill a Mockingbird”

One book you wish had been written: hmmm

One book you wish had never been written: I’d take away any Danielle Steele title, but we each have our brain candy, so maybe it would be too unfair.

One book you are currently reading: “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” I assigned it for William’s literary enrichment.

One book you have been meaning to read: “The Life of Pi” keeps showing up, but it’s been a slow starter.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Alex is home from school and we have his friend Mitchell here too, which may be a mistake. Mitchell comes to our home every Tuesday and Thursday; it helps his family with a scheduling conflict. When I met Alex at his class he looked drained, pale and sad. He has fallen victim to the Virus II. He has a sore throat and headache, and he was suppressing a cough all day. I hope Mitchell does not pick this up too. Max is still very sick. He eats nothing and still manages to throw-up. He coughs all night. We are washing our hands and drink our C. We are law abiding, kind and caring. We are not worthy of this viral seige.

Ugh. I know, this is not original material I am covering here; Everyone is sick or is recently recovered, Geoff is sprinting to the finish line of a major project, I am ridiculously sleep-deprived, the house is half packed and half neglected and half gross, because I can only muster a half-assed effort. Haven't we been here before? Sigh. It seems even our move is not complete: The propane company continues to bill us for usage at the TreeHouse, which has been a nightmare to resolve. Oh, and I have had to catch three ginormous wasps/hornets that were patrolling in the house. They appear one at a time, from we do not know where. The doors have no screens, so they are never open and all the screens in the windows are secure, so *mystery.*

Is it true that "everyone" is talking about "The Secret?" I've listened to some discussions, and Geoff sent me a link to an article... where is it?... can't find it, but it talked about avoiding negative thoughts, so as not to attract negative energy and ruin your chances of becoming disgustingly rich and super skinny, of course. Actually on the skinny issue, it cited an example that suggests 'a person interested in losing weight should avoid fat people, including looking at fat people.' Ah the power of postive thinking, and the power of being positively shallow and greedy; not us, the author and her minnions.

Don't write me off as utterly cynical. I have a sufficient and healthy respect for spiritual power and gifts that exist in us all, and I believe we must apply effort as well as faith to making our dreams and goals become realities. I don't believe a handful of people should prosper from slick packaging and manipulative ideas stated as truths and science. I do not like the hype surrounding this so called new idea or method or philosophy, because it's rehashed stuff that comes around again and again, and what really concerns me is the cult-like message that implies you are either "in" or you are "out." It seems too simple and too much like blaming the victim: 'Not successful, beautiful, powerful? Then you must not be really trying. You must be to blame for not curing your own cancer, for not signing your own wage increase, for losing your hair, your cat, your way.' *The "secret" is that someone is depending on a lot of people to believe that they need a secret to find fulfillment and joy, and the frenzy over the book and tapes and merchandising mania will certainly go a long way to serving only one person's faith and positive energy, the author's.

That said, I do plan on making a little wish list, and thinking happy thoughts about making some dreams come true. It's no secret; we can make the world a better place for all.

*One last observation, since I just watched the "The Secret" trailer; apparently another component of "The Secret" is that "All the great minds, great leaders, great achievers, had one thing in common..." they were men. I thought we had come further than this.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Last month I was looking for one pair of earrings, any pair of earrings. Gee, are we unpacked yet? I have an excellent jewelry connection; I just didn’t realize how excellent. It’s actually a telepathic earring connection that delivers. My mommy sent me a special package in honor of William’s birthday, because moms know where the “birth” in birthday comes from. She sent me pearl studs. They are feminine! I may shave. And look what came today:


Thank you mom.
Look at these… all the colors… it’s so pretty. Maria was so impressed she waited five minutes before trying to claim them.


I feel like I have treasure… ooh arrgh!

Photographic Memory

Stop me! When I was browsing my digital photo collection, looking for Isabella pictures, I had so much fun looking back at old pictures I could not stop. Since I got my first digital camera, December 2002, I have taken kept more than 16, 000 photographs. I love it! I love the images and the memories they conjure. I love the patterns and textures of flowers, feathers, skies and bread loaves, and the growing, grinning, galloping children… captured in a digital moment, mine to reflect on whenever I want. You may have noticed Chickenblog posts a lot more pictures than it did in the early days. Back when I started we did not have a digital camera, and then we had memory shortages, plus we were a little paranoid about sharing too much. Anyway, I realize I still have my conservative habits about not posting too many pictures, and I want to change this.

If you’ve come nosing around Chickenblog, then you are going to find yourself captive to my nostalgic visit through 16,000 photographs that I think are wonderful, funny, cute, sentimental and worthy of sharing with the whole wide world. Impossible and impractical… okay, so I need a system or at least a reality check, because there are too many good ones to share, and it was all getting quite random and top heavy. Humor me. Here are a handful of pictures from 2003. They made me happy, they made me remember and they made me want to gaze at them a little longer…


Here are my guys in January 2003, at our favorite beach in Kona. The Big Island. I think William is carrying a sketchbook. Wouldn’t we love to be there right now? Yes. Definitely, yes.

I like Max’s stance. I also love trucks and riding around farms and lots, with the windows rolled down, collecting guavas and eating them with fresh sugar cane. It’s great how one picture can bring up so many good thoughts.

Did you ever get those little dime store tubes of DOW ingenuity? You stick this awful smelling gum on the end of a straw and then blow these cool bubbles. You must remember to exhale, otherwise you will pass out and wake-up in a chemically induced clown filled room. When I tried to make these as a kid I had no success, which is why parenting is so great, because you can try things out again that might never occur to you, but which can be really cool!

Max likes to climb trees, and I think this may be one the first trees he ever climbed. I’ll ask him. I’m sure he’ll know.

This definitely makes me sentimental. We had the pleasure and honor of sharing our home with my grandparents for 8 years, and I miss them very much. Grandma is in Pasadena now and we do see her, but I would love to share daily visits with her. Here she is with Gracie, who was the mellowest hen ever. Don’t they look lovely together?

Are you getting inspired? Get out your camera and take some pictures, take more than you usually do. You couldn’t regret it. I’m happy to have this picture of me with my mom and her mom. Sometimes I get too particular and worry about the right time, place or occasion for taking pictures, but now that I have nothing but time between me and that moment when we were together, I have no regrets about having our picture taken.

This was one of those wonderful Easters at Holly and Rich’s house. Nick is shy, and I can’t get as many pictures of him as I would like, but I enjoy the love and tenderness in this photograph. Of course some photographs express another kind of love and this series never fails to make me love Max even more…

Chocolate

bunny

bites

are

scrumptious.

This was taken in July of 2003. I’m sure it was a hot day. Weren’t we lucky to have a swimming pool? We loved our pool and swimming a lot, but it was most fun when friends and family came and joined us in the water. I think a lot of things are better shared.

Max’s 5th birthday and here we are celebrating with a backyard party. This one makes me think of how much Max’s birthday matters to him. He loves planning every detail of his party, from order of activities to flavor of the dessert. And it’s never too soon to get started. As sick as he is, the only thing he has asked to do in the last three days is make plans for his 9th birthday.

Another great pool day. I had my MNO friends and their families over for dinner and swimming, also in 2003. I think this was in October. So Cal has awesome fall weather. Can you believe some of these children are driving now?

Fair is fair, and if you have made it this far through my little slide show, then here is my offer: Send me a jpg image that you love and let me post it on Chickenblog. Share your reflections and observations about the picture. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but your thoughts matter too.

One Year With Izzy

Dear Isabella,
Happy birthday sweetheart. I know your mommy’s told you, your daddy too, that you are a dream come true. All your family, aunties, uncles, grandmas, and cousins too, all of us were so thrilled to hear the news of your arrival,

we could not wait to hold you.
And now we have had the pleasure of knowing you for an entire year.

It’s been a lot of fun and it just keeps getting better.

We hope you enjoy a happy celebration and a good nap too.

Let’s get together soon.

Love,
Natalie and Geoff, William, Alex, Max and Maria

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Yesterday I had to take Max in to the doctor's to get checked out; there have been cases of strep around the school. He doesn't have strep. Good. I almost made a clean getaway, except the nurse decided to get cute. "So, no strep honey. You just have a virus. Get rest, drink fluids and..." (get this!) "eat lots of popsicles." Thanks. Thanks a lot for your pain in the posterior prescription for my son who has barely been able to get out of bed, and is allergic to red dyes! It is not easy finding dye-free anything. It's not easy adding one more errand, when the day is as full as it is. And it is not easy to keep from slapping some people.

Max grinned. They're never so sick they can't understand a popsicle prescription. "Doctor's order, right?" he chuckled.

We found Breyer's popsicles... real fruit, no dyes, sticky, sweet and fun to eat when it's feeling like summer in So Cal. Grandma Nancy, I know it may be hard to imagine a scene like this in mid-March, these pictures are for you:


Max, taking his medicine.

Maria offering her support, takes the medicine too.

It really is a warm day.

We can add strawberry popsicles to Maria's list of favorites.

Never stop taking your prescription before you finish the complete course...
Anne, over at “Mom, What’s For Dinner?” this one’s for you: I love food blogs and cooking shows. And I read cookbooks, when I’m not reading Atlases. I have toyed with doing more foodie posts, butt I have had issues. Another reason I haven’t gone Foodie is that my style of cooking is not conducive to sharing in a useful or particularly instructive way. I think of my bean recipe, for example, which I think would have a hard time finding its way in to a bestselling cookbook.

What’s for dinner? You would think that women, such as us, who like cooking, appreciate food and creativity and nurturing our loved ones, would not be so addled by this simple question. Ah, but is it a simple question? No, it is not. “What’s for dinner?” is the introduction to a litany of ideas countered by complaints, grievances and preferences, and ending in frustration, partial success or pizza delivery. We must satisfy finicky eaters, immature taste buds, vegans, vegetarians who sometimes eat chicken, vegetarians who won’t eat tofu, skeptics, doubters, super-tasters, and skinny people on diets. Then there are the scheduling conflicts, supply shortages, and general exhaustion.

Max once pronounced: “I don’t eat Mexican food.” Did I have news for him! I told him, “Mi’jo, everything I cook is Mexican, and you eat it.”

My dad thought long hours at the table facing a plate of something green or gelatinous would change my attitude towards that unappetizing serving. It never worked. To this day I will not force anyone to eat food they do not like. How many adults do you know that eat the foods they hate? I mean people that are not in a state of famine of course. I don’t think children will ever LOVE something because they were coerced in to choking it down. “Try it once,” is all ask, and sometimes I win a convert and sometimes we confirm what they already suspected… they hate it.

I am mostly a mood cooker, which is really a hindrance to planning a week ahead. I would really like to shop and prepare and be in a cooking routine. It seems like getting organized would make my life easier, the children brighter etc, etc. It hasn’t happened so far. Every now and then one of the boys suggests we have turkey burgers every Friday night. Geoff gets nostalgic and tells me in his childhood home every night of the week had its assigned meal. (Ruth and Corm, you did a good job, and we always look forward to our visits in your home, where delicious and regular meals are served.) Every few months I determine to plan a week of meals, but if it’s supposed to be pasta night and I still have leftover roast chicken and a passionate lust for hot corn tortillas, well, then chicken tacos will beat out pasta and the whole week’s menu will be thrown off course.

Last night I had to make chicken soup. Max has contracted a brand new virus. He slept most of yesterday, except when he was calling from my bed, saying, “Mom, I can’t sleep. I’m just miserable!” Soup. He could sip a clear broth saturated with vegetables and garlic, thyme and seasoned with chili, salt and pepper.

My chicken soup recipe evolved like so… I diced a small yellow onion and sautéed that in my pot with some olive oil, adding celery and carrots, then 4 or 5 cloves of minced garlic. I sprinkled salt over this, then added a carton of Pacific Natural Foods Organic Chicken Broth. Next I chopped 2 red potatoes and threw those in, along with three stems of fresh thyme. The aggravating time change plays a roll, since it was already 6:40 p.m.! I used kitchen shears to cut up the small package of organic, boneless, skinless chicken thighs to speed up the cooking time. A dash of pepper, more salt and two pinches of dried oregano crushed between my fingers, more water, some chili and three piece of bell pepper. I had hoped we had a can of black beans. Oh well. I found Trader Joe’s organic Basmati rice and tossed in two handfuls. I saved two handfuls of chopped cabbage for the last few minutes of cooking, so it wouldn’t lose too much body. I let everything cook and served the soup when the potatoes were soft and the rice had plumped and before it was later than bedtime.

Alex spooned up a grain of rice and eyed it suspiciously, but he ate it all. William and I had seconds. Maria cleaned out her bowl, adding a nice hunk of queso seco. I strained the soup and fed Max a dozen spoonfuls.

Today I turned soup in to burritos. William wasn’t sure how that could be possible, and I was happy to demonstrate. I put the leftover soup on the stove and added two more handfuls of the Basmati rice. I opened two cans of Trader Joe’s organic pinto beans and added them to the boiling pot. I kept the lid off, to reduce the liquid and the rice took care of the rest. I added a little more chili and pepper.



In little time we had a hot and delicious burrito filling. ¡Sabroso!



I have no idea what I will serve tonight.
Posting pictures is not as easy as it might seem. There is a lot of preparation involved, then tweaks, adjustments and edits. I am still feeling somewhat lazy about writing, and since iPhoto was cooperating this morning, I thought I could overload you all with a gazillion pictures from camp. My server or maybe Blogger is choking on the volume of photographs I am trying to post. Let's see if we can make this work...

First order of business, a disclaimer: We use the term *camping* quite loosely. As many of you know we own an RV. We don't own a home on a foundation, but for 7 years our 26' Green Goose has been our nest on wheels and we love it. We can't go too faraway on a weekend and so we hunker in with a lot of other families and locals in the county park. We do cook over fire, pitch a tent, feed ducks, ride bicycles, hike, breath deeply, observe nature and reflect on issues of the day. At night, after chilling ourselves by the fire, we crawl in to our nest and sleep in the shelter and comfort of the Green Goose. Alex did sleep on a cot under the oaks and stars, which was brave and adventurous.


Our first morning in nature we set out on an exploratory hike, to see what the natives were up to. Maria was the first to spy Nature, in it's most subtle form. She approached with caution. The flamingo never flew, but sat quietly on its perch while Maria stroked it's "soft, soft" wings and fed it from her outstretched palm. She kissed the flamingo good-bye, saying, "Cute-cute birdy. So perty."

RVers have a sense of humor. I think this is even funnier than "Spamalot."

Ah, here we go. Nature in motion. We were the first ones at the pond, so the ducks and coots were hungry and appreciative. We even saw a coot we know from previous visits. He is a one legged coot and we always feel sorry for him and try to feed him extra... I don't know why... being an obese one legged coot couldn't be good.

I was feeling a little sorry for myself, camping, cooking, cleaning all by myself, but maybe Geoff had it worse. He worked Friday, then drove up. He left for work again after our little duck feed session and 3 bicycle races with Max. Then he returned Saturday night, and he worked again on Sunday. Camping was not as restful as I'd have liked.

But, I did get to play with my camera. It has way too many bells and whistles and I am still trying to fugure them all out. Here is my artsy macro submission. Dew on a Web.

Then I had to make breakfast open a box of donuts. Surprise! Maria likes "dondees."

Geoff seeing Maria's donut face.

These are the toys Maria was playing with before she fell asleep. She calls the tiger a "cow."

The nap. Ahhh, the nap. It took me 30 seconds to decide not to clean or organize, instead I played with the camera.

This is why I love our county park... the oak trees, and especially looking up at the canopy and beyond to the blue sky. It's beautiful, and makes me feel like I have come home.

Look at these two. These are such great guys. They spent hours sharing ideas and making plans and talking together.

Maria had the best nap under the shade of the oak trees.

Max followed me up the ladder to get a view from the top of the RV.

Still playing with the camera. I've been meaning to get more pictures of the four children together. Next time we'll try one when Maria is awake!

Looking at this picture I can see that Alex really has grown a lot recently. Other clues are his new shoes and shorts. Where can I get a print of this? I want to frame it.

Speaking of growing, Max is definitely ready for another, bigger bicycle. He loves riding around the campground. I joined him a few times, and William and Alex kept an eye on Maria.

More nature. Crow in oak.

Woodpecker.

Another woodpecker.

Do you think it was the woodpeckers that woke Maria? They are very loud and there were three of them banging away in the oak trees... very inconsiderate.

Max and William have been working on getting Maria to cover her mouth when she coughs, and guess what: She covers her mouth when she coughs.

Max and Maria painted.

Maria loves painting. She likes glitter glue too.

Maria painted a lot.

The best part about camping is smiling. Without the regular expectations of our daily lives there comes a moment when you feel at ease and find yourself smiling.