Friday, March 30, 2007

Nancy's Quilted Artists

Grandma Nancy has started a new quilting theme. She is making a favorite artists series and she began with Dega. Her son, Phil, sent me these images last night, saying "The shading of the shadows is much more subtle in reality. Think she's going to work on Van Gogh or Lautrec next." So, as is typical with great art, the quilt is even lovelier in person. I am speechless; it is such a beautiful quilt she has created.

I was excited to share a post for the continent series, that was hanging in the library. Seeing this new quilt was an unexpected treat. Seeing quilts always gets me inspired, but I think I am many lessons away from making images; in a sense painting with fabrics. It looks challenging.

Here are the quilts I knew she had recently completed. Obviously she keeps very busy. I love these. They are depictions of scenes from each continent. I love what unique subjects she chose. I hope she can keep them together and definitely displayed. What a talented and inspiring woman. Gee, did I say we were going some place new on our vacation? I feel a pull to return to Wisconsin.

I try not to drag readers to Chickenblog, but I do hope that if you see these you will share a link with friends and family, and share comments for Nancy. Once again, she has made something worthy of our attention and praise.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

My Friends

Janice's over the top French onion soup!

This is a foodie post. No. It's actually about love, and play. Or, really it's about friends and laughter... Last night was Mom's Night Out. We are well in to our tenth year of monthly dinners and exchanges of love, laughter and support. I've posted before about the fabulous meals we serve, and the generous spirit that circulates in our special group. Funny, I was certain that I've written about how MNO started. Having the archives labeled is such a blessing, because I was easily able to look back and see that I never did explain where and when Mom's Night Out began...

Josie and Belinda

Once upon a time Belinda was meeting a lot of interesting women, and including her friends, she realized there was never enough time to really enjoy an uninterrupted and pleasant discourse with any of these friends and would be friends. She knew a number of women living in her town, with children of the same age and she wondered whether these women would like to meet regularly, leaving children and daily responsibilities at home. Belinda sent off invitations to her friends and acquaintances for dinner and a craft in her home. She jokes now that her menu may have scared off a few of the prospects; she served alcohol, cooked the main course with alcohol and the dessert too, coincidentally called for alcohol. Bottoms up! Some of us were nursing babies and others were craft-phobic, but something clicked and we fell easily in to conversations and exchanges about child-rearing, good books, good recipes, schools, vacations, and connections. We probably each had some doubts about how we would find the time to get out of our busy homes and lives and meet every month.


Belinda invited her neighbors Anne Z., and Josie. She knew me from when I was a neighbor on the same street. She was friends with Karen through a shared baby-siitter (gee, I hope I'm getting this all right,) and Karen suggested inviting her friend Yanina. Linda knew Belinda from their Colorado days, and Linda invited her neighbor Anne L.. I thought Jola would love to come join the fun. Later, Linda introduced us to Janice, who was very eager to join us, and then Janice and Anne L.'s new neighbor Maria came along. Most recently Linda invited her new neighbor Vera.

Last night's hostess, Janice

Is that everyone? Some have come and gone, some drop by on occasion, and we are by no means an exclusive group. We love meeting new people. Well, to make a short story long: Belinda's idea worked. We meet every month in a different home. The hostess makes a ridiculously sumptuous feast and lays out her best dishes (sometimes borrowed, sometimes mix and match: it's all good!) We have seen each other through some very sad and challenging chapters, and we have enjoyed many celebrations too. Lately we are sharing our experiences with having first time drivers under our roofs, and Josie has already seen her first son through the college applications marathon. We have a lot in common and we have our difference too, which is one reason I think we enjoy and benefit from each other's company. The unique perspectives, the varying strengths and insights make for a rich network of caring and loving women.

Anne and Yanina

Last night we were in Janice's home. We were all asking, "What was she thinking?!" She is raising three very busy children and she works too, then she decides to make this elaborate feast for us, worrying about getting the house clean and weeding the yard! We were served 3 different appetizers... delicious! Maria and her girls made the phyllo brie delicacies. Anne helped set the table. Janice's son Nate ironed the table cloth; go Nate! Janice was busy grilling fresh halibut, making salad, and preparing asparagus. She served the halibut over a fresh mango salsa. She served us French onion soup, that filled the house with the loveliest fragrance. Don't forget dessert; Janice never does. She served biscotti, and pretty dishes of chocolate and vanilla ice cream covered in fresh raspberries and infused raspberry sauce.

Yanina and Karen

We always insist that we'd be thrilled with pizza on paper plates. Somehow, no one ever goes the easy way. I think we enjoy giving our best to our friends. It's a pleasure cooking for and serving such an enthusiastic and appreciative group.



Janice, you dear. I had a wonderful evening, thanks to you. You know you could have ordered pizzas, or set up a Burrito Bar. I know you fretted about your yard; all I saw were these amazing masses of flowers. I love the snapdragons. I am hosting in October. I'm sure I will panic about house cleaning and menu options. I will threaten to break with tradition and serve everyone mac and cheese with turkey hot dogs, but I may know what you were thinking, when you went out of your way to do your best for us. It feels good to honor our friends and show them how much we care about their happiness and health, through the good food we prepare and share, by the fresh cut flowers we set on our tables and the thoughtful touches we add to the evening. It feels good extending our love, because MNO never fails to give us more in return. More laughter, more love, more courage, more faith, and more support. Thank you Janice. Thank you to all the women who have served and cared and shared in MNO.

Yanina and Karen


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Medievel Modern

Seventh graders were taken on a field trip to Medieval Times, where hundreds of guests are treated to a meal and a knights' tournament This really should be Alex's post. He is our resident medieval historian. He has long had a passion for knights and castles, and the culture and inventions of the era. His social studies subject this year has been medieval times, so he has added considerably to his arsenal of facts and history. Well, he could definitely add a great deal of interest and factual statements, so I may have him edit this later.

One advantage of Alex and Max attending a small school is that exceptions can be made, like bringing siblings along on field trips. Bringing Maria was a last minute result of the change in Geoff's work schedule. We were concerned she might have a Medieval Meltdown during the long day, but she was a sweet tempered princess for the entire journey. I am glad William was welcome; it turned out to be a can't miss experience. And me? I drove. Alex's teacher, Mr. B and two of Alex's classmates, Billy and Marcos, rode with us. Ours was the cool car, playing educational films on the DVD player. Mr. B and I got to listen to the children absorbing the historic documents of medieval life as explained by Monty Python.

Here is Mr. B and his young charges, primed and eager to learn. The place was full of school groups from all over So Cal. Ours was the smallest group, even with my two additions and the the other two moms that drove. We were all led in to the Hall of Arms, where the children were tempted with fancy drinks and souvenirs, like banners, hats, things that light and glow and real armor. From this pavilion like area, we could also observe the beautiful Andalusian horses in their stalls.

Even modern armor is made by hand and that is why a suit of armor can cost $6,000 or more. Alex, what is this protective hand armor called?

After enough children spent their hard earned cash, the king addressed the throng and we were all admitted in to the grandstands that circled the arena. I am thinking Alex may know a better word to describe where the knights rode and battled. It was a sand filled field. It was big, but when the horses were running, it seemed much smaller. We were seated in theater seats in front of long tables, where our lunches were waiting. I am not going to be a Medieval Whiner, but if you are going for the food, you will be disappointed.

The real reason to go to Medieval Knights is for the show, the fighting, jousting knights and the beautiful horses. In the stadium we were seated in colored sections. There is a knight to represent each cheering section, so that everyone can take sides. Our group was cheering for the yellow knight, who fought well and even favored Chloe's mom with a flower... very chivalrous!

For the record: Before the tournament began, Alex analyzed the armor and weapons of each knight. He considered the historic accuracy of their appearance and how well armed each knight was and then he concluded that the green knight would win. The green knight did win.

I haven't talked to the other kids, but Alex and William thought the show was great and fun. They were impressed with the horsemanship and the clash of the weapons that sparked and shattered. It was a very dynamic and action packed program. Oh, and there was history presented in the dialogue and back story. The performances aren't going to win any Tony awards, but Alex did recognize historic characters and details.

Low light and fast action results in *artistic* photographs.
We were absorbed in the battle and our Medieval Chocolate Chip Cookies.

All the action was overseen by the Spanish king and his daughter, Princess Esperanza.

Princess Maria cheered and clapped enthusiastically for the horses and majesty of the tournament, but as you can see she was disappointed with the yellow knight's effort...

Near the end, our yellow knight was eliminated from the competition, and it came down to the black and silver knight versus the green knight. Both fought valiantly.

Medieval history came alive!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Life and Details, then Duty

Hola. Today I am supposed to pay bills, clean the car and emotionally prepare to be a field trip driver for the middle school tomorrow. And of course I have my usual list of things to do. Before I throw myself on the Responsible Woman Train, I want to post a little weekend goodness.

Item One: New Shoes, Crocs actually. Cousin Dominic is thoughtful and generous, and I guess his mom told him how much Maria loves shoes and purple. She can spot a shoe rack from 200' and her feet start twitching when she gets near them. We are sending big hugs and thank you's to DomDee.

I think I mentioned that Max has outgrown his bicycle. A year ago we could see it was too small. We didn't get our act together to buy him one for his 8th birthday and Santa dropped the ball at Christmas. No matter. Just in time for spring break Max has his new, bigger bike and he is one happy boy.

He likes that it is a mountain bike and he loves that it is green. He has more gears too. Cool. Saturday night I promised to take him someplace besides our neighborhood corner. Sunday we walked over to the next block, slipped passed the chain link fence and in to the nature reserve of the suburbs, a.k.a. the power line easement. Maria got some off-road jogger action and Max and I explored the mysterious region that is both urban and wilderness. There is a perfect looping trail, interesting terrain, inclines and berms. It is a dog walkers paradise and Alex wants to take the RC cars in for a ride.

I found a patch of paradise, with real California plants growing and struggling in their little haven. This sage bush is healthy, but it's unfortunate that there is only one. It smells wonderful.

These tiny purple flowers are sweet, but I recognize them as the plants that produce little sword like seeds, with a spiral sticker at the end... a menace to long haired dogs.

There was a lot of buckwheat blooming. The flowers are dainty and by summer's end they will be dry and toasted, resembling a cluster of bread crumbs. Hans told me they are edible.

Here is a plant that looked familiar and smelling it confirmed that it is a variety of lavender, which is part of the mint family. It wasn't like any nursery variety, but I don't know if it is a native species. The bees were certainly interested in it's fragrant blossoms.

This is a Jerusalem Cricket, and he is big, a little creepy looking, but harmless. They burrow and eat decaying plant matter, and like crickets they "sing." Their song is a drumming they make by beating their abdomen against the ground; it's a love thing.

We hiked and biked the new trail several times yesterday. Eventually the whole family got to explore it. Ironically, Alex enjoyed riding the trail on Max's old bike!

Maria and I fixed dinner together. She climbs on to this counter stool and watches me, talks to me and tackles certain jobs, like spinning the salad. Maria loves to spin the salad. We had planned to watch Nature, but our public television station is fundraising, and they weren't airing their regular programs. William and Alex spent time making fun of the dinosaur program on the Science channel. They were laughing uncontrollably, which was fun to hear. Max and I were with Maria, and Max read his Milton Hershey autobiography to us. Milton Hershey was a very interesting man, and Max is enjoying learning more about him. Geoff worked until 11 p.m. If he weren't so sick I guess he would have worked later. Speaking of work... I think I have stalled long enough. Time for me to get to work too.