Saturday, January 23, 2010

What Not to Wear I Wore It

This is a whole new theme. I am going to either shame myself into a real makeover, or resign myself to embracing my "inner" beauty. I am not so shallow as to propose that nice clothes and a hair brush are above kindness and good deeds, but something tells me I could do better.

My intentions are to:

1. Learn how to use my Christmas tripod.
2. Amuse myself.
3. Confess. We are talking full disclosure.
4. Challenge myself to graduate to a mature-sophisticated-aware state of being.


1. I have not located/unpacked my earrings.
I know this is a minor factor in the overall problem subject, but wearing earrings is a small yet effective means of caring about one's appearance, I think.

2. I am not a morning person. I should quantify that... I am not a person that cooperatively and enthusiastically rises and agrees to submit to the timetables and rigors of school schedules.

3. Morning is my time and my time is never-ever-ever dedicated to:
a. ironing, unless for sewing
b. brushing my hair
c. being uncomfortable
d. applying make-up

4. All of the above would go a very long way to making me look less... Sasquatch.

I know.
I could do better.
I should do better.

It's an issue.

The hat. Well, the hat is cute. I made it. But it is, of course, hiding the hair that went unwashed... I could blame the septic system this week, but honestly, most mornings my shower comes late.

I do wear sunscreen, but obviously I have not located/unpacked my make-up. No mascara or foundation or concealer or lipstick or airbrushed shellac.

The brows. Well, yes, I shouldn't leave home without tweezers and a fine toothed comb. Enough said.

Sure, I can let iMac run the airbrush over my picture, but family and neighbors don't get this glossed over version, so it doesn't really count.

Step this way, if you will...

These shoes looked good. They looked good last June. Without socks. I think wearing my heavy wool socks with these summer shoes may have stretched them too much, because my feet are coming way forward and frankly, I don't think they look any better without socks. (Last pedicure: May 1998.)

The pants work for one wearing. One. I must not treat them like my farm-girl jeans that I won't wash until they can stand freely. These pants get wonky and wrinkled after a day and slipping them on for speed and ease is fashionably criminal. Even I can see that. Also, the big red stain on the hip... it's fading, sure, but it is there. Note to self: Lose these pants.

First of all, I want to congratulate myself for putting on a bra. Small measure, huge difference. The T-shirt is another matter. For one thing it is not my T-shirt, and that means one or two things: I am raiding Geoff's side of the closet because my diet is fail, and I have not kept up with laundry. So, as much as I loved SIGGRAPH, I am not wearing this ginormous T-shirt as a geek statement.

I like the coat. The coat is thrift shop vintage... White Stag, Portland, Oregon... in case that means something to real fashionistas.

I like my tripod. Thank you Geoff.

So. This is what I wore today when I dropped Alex, then Max off at school. I came home and, technically, I had time to make certain improvements before taking the next shift, but I did not. This is what I wore when I dropped off William, and I actually walked Maria in to her classroom wearing exactly this outfit. If I hustle, I can shower and change before I pick Maria up. We'll see.

Did I mention... ? I find this amusing. I see what can be done, but there are so many other ways to pass the time, that my personal style will only improve with significant effort. "Significant effort" may not be too big a deterrent, because studying these images I can see that I am closer to Crazy Chicken Lady than Uniquely Herself. I think my goal should be a Uniquely Me look.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Chicken's Court and Extreme Makeover :: Barn Edition

So. Last we saw our feathered friend, she was hanging out at the kitchen door, eye-balling Maria's boots and making a heartbreaking appeal to be let in out of the storm. She wanted me to be sympathetic and kindly, willing to bring her indoors, and pour her some tea, offer her the recliner, let her hold the remote. She refused to get back in her coop and I refused to open the kitchen door, so she braved the 80 mph wind gusts and weird weather almost all on her own.

I figured she was safer at the back of the house as any place and I wasn't going to worry about her or Joe, too much, but then came the alarming upgrade... the news that the storm was packing not 60 mph gusts, but 80 mph wind gusts and then I didn't feel like a hard-nosed farmer any more. Even though I had been monitoring the situation closely and regularly securing their "shelter," knocking barrels of water from the nylon covering, propping it up, it was obvious that my perspective has become a bit skewed. In fact she was probably much safer at the kitchen door than in her coop, because her coop has become a horrible, shameful, sorry sham of a shanty town.

Exhibit A :: The horrible, shameful, sorry sham of a shanty town-chicken coop and rabbit hut: West facing.

Prosecution: People, this is an outrage. This is not fit for a chicken, let alone a Lady. We can hardly make heads or tails of this cattywampus conflagration. Is it a shelter, or a scrap heap?

Defense: Hey. Hey. Settle down there. Our client has been working diligently and under tremendous duress, and she has made terrific allowances for Lady Betty Orpington. The family table was volunteered for a coop. They even brought Betty along on the Emergency road trip to Oregon. And what about the swift action taken to protect Lady Betty from those two freaky fowl who tormented her?

Exhibit B :: The horrible, shameful, sorry sham of a shanty town-chicken coop and rabbit hut: East facing.

Defense:Oh, gee whiz. We motion for a recess.

Prosecution: Willful and blatant podunk farming methods. This is a travesty. This hurts the eyes, and gives new meaning to embarrassing.

Defense: Bad weather. The weather beat the tar out of the shade, which was put up in consideration of the pets. This unfortunate image was taken after two storms that came in succession and in the midst of a third storm. While it may appear as though the farmer has been thoughtless and less than skillful in her barn raising, please do note that she made every effort to beautify and enhance the environ. Her resources, both monetary and skill-wise are, obviously, limited. But her intentions have been noble.

Exhibit C :: The horrible, shameful, sorry sham of a shanty town-chicken coop and rabbit hut: South side.

Defense: Alright already with the parade of ugly. She will make amends. Honest. On the first clear day, when she isn't sitting at robotics or folding socks, or loading the dishwasher while trying to figure out Kanji characters and detangle her daughter's hair, or making enchiladas for thirty people... on that day, she will make all of this beautiful. And safe. And lovely to behold. And until amends are made and the Suburban Farm Guild is satisfied, Betty is more than welcome to stay at the kitchen door with impunity, coddled even, and of course adored.

Agreed. Maria and I even put Joe in our mini hut and set him next to Betty. Out of the wind and rain, together and content, for now. The winds are howling and the "shelter" gets uglier with every blast.

What was I thinking? Honestly, it looked better before the bad weather, but clearly we are in need of an extreme barn makeover. At least I know my heart is in the right place, and once upon a time I did make them a respectable home.

Don't worry Lady Betty. We love you.

*> *> *> *> *> *> *> *> *> *> *> *> *> *> *> *> *>
Update: At approximately 10:57 PM, Thursday, January 21, 2010, amateur farmer, Natalie, left her bed and covers to rescue one rabbit, Joe E. Bunny, and a Lady Betty Orpington, from gale force winds, driving rain, hail, lightning and thunder. Assisting with flashlight duty was William, kind and tenderhearted son. Her husband, amateur farmer Geoff, stood in the kitchen thinking supportive thoughts. Betty and Joe slept in the bathroom. Betty is reported to be asking for a canopy bed.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Not One Bit of Progress

I hate to admit it. I hate for it to be true.
I have made not one bit of progress since my minor pity party post from yesterday.
It's sad.
It's true.
It's pitiful.

Maybe it's a bit harsh... maybe I have made some headway.
For one thing I took pictures around the house.
And I have been in the yard several times, checking drains and raising the roof. Not our roof. Over Joe and Betty's homes is a "protective" shelter and it has become more like a suspended pond as water fills up in the slack nylon. I get up under the shelter and push it from beneath, which causes a tsunami cascade of water to pour over the sides.

Yes, it's been raining.
Yes, there is mud and there are downed trees.
And yes, the rest of the nation must shake their heads and wonder why a little rain and wind can cause such a fuss. Why So Cal must be in the news at all just because of some precipitation.

Well, it's all relative. Consider our dry-droughty rain fall total last year was in the 5 inch range. Five inches es muy poco for a whole year. This week alone parts of our county have seen 2 inches of rain. That is a torrent in relative terms. And the wind has even kicked up a couple of tornados, and wind gusts of 60 mph. 80mph!! So, while this may be typical for some places, it is the atypical nature of these conditions that make it a rough ride, for us weather sheltered folks.

And the falling trees. Always a bit hairy, and, unfortunately, sometimes fatal. Once upon a time, a long time ago, some enterprising citizens thought they could cash in on a rail opportunity by growing timber for the railroad ties. Their tree of choice? Eucalyptus. It grows fast, tall too. So, they planted eucalyptus all over the county, which if you have ever driven around San Diego, you will remember seeing eucalyptus trees all over. Frankly, they grow like weeds. But they do not grow like railroad ties... meaning the lumber was not good for making those ties. So, no quick cash for the entrepreneurs, but lots and lots, of fast growing, quick spreading, good smelling, but local plant obliterating trees... trees that have an extremely shallow root system and tip over in water logged soil, especially in the wind. Also the branches snap like... like eucalyptus limbs. The end.

I have just one more flora trivia... I remember reading that humidity levels could be read by the look of pine cones. Tightly closed pine cones signified high humidity, and the open pines were dry and indicated low humidity. Like the eucalyptus story, I stored this tidbit away... maybe for a rainy day?

So, guess what?
It's true. It's visibly, amusedly true. And I realized it when I stepped out the front door and noticed my pine cone collection not looking like my pine cone collection...

One week ago I snapped a picture of my pine cones. At the time I was thinking of how much I wished it were still Christmas. How I still did not want to sweep away poinsettias, wreaths, pine fragrance, and snowmen dolls, peace on Earth and carols. It was a dry day and the pine cones looked just as I am accustomed to seeing them... open and almost parched in a grey dusted way.

Not today. Just where I left them, with one blown to the ground, they have shut themselves up. They are saturated with water. Just like our yard. Fascinating.

Is she still there?
Betty. Go home. Take shelter woman. Shoo.

I see.
Betty wants boots.
Dear Betty. Those boots are not your size, and think the pink would clash with your golden hue. Go home. I don't have time to coddle you. I have laundry to ignore, and other things to attend to... things left undone since yesterday and last year.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

January 20-Something

Very cold.
Well, not "very" compared with all points east and north of here.
But for us... very cold.

Between storms.
Between loads of laundry.
Between drop-off and pick-up.

After Christmas.
Before Geoff's birthday.

Raindrops on roses.
On unpruned roses.
Roses bright as the sun that is not shining.
Raindrops and puddles and mud,
and roof tiles all over the lawn.
Raindrops on the bathroom floor, below the leak.

Betty layed leid laid lathed left gave an egg.

After school, before homework is spread across our table, we will indulge in a Betty-Brownie confection,
so I must remember to grab some milk at the market.
And I must remember to bring Pepper's Ghost to William.
And I must remember to file one more school bulletin announcement for robotics.
And I must remember to... hmmm... something I've already forgotten.
I must not forget to take the brownies out of the oven.

I am so far behind in the list of forgottens, that lately I have felt like raising a white flag.
I surrender, I cry.
Because I suspect that I am in over my head.

It's going to rain again.
I am not sure the shelter over Betty and Joe's house is going to make it through the next storm.
Did you hear there were tornados in California?
Betty and Joe could have wound up in Oz.

Yeah. Now I am just avoiding.
I know.
Back to the laundry.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Trouble With Travel...

It's not that I have any regrets about traveling. Truly. La Paz, BC, 1987, may be the only regrettable trip we've ever made and yet it recalls priceless memories. Heat, hunger, illness, flood, boredom, and *"Rosa Salvaje."

No, mostly travel has never been regrettable, and yet it is not without its risks. The trouble with travel is that sooner or later I have to go home, and eventually when I think on my experiences, the new things I discovered and tried, it will stir feelings and desires. And there is nothing to quell the stirrings, the antojo, except more travel, to return... It may be true :: Un poquito de lo que te antoje te hace sentir bien, but having a little bit of Europe is not as easy as I wish it could be. Oh, those cruel cravings.

Maybe because it is breakfast time and I am hungry, I am missing dinner in Bruxelles.

Salad at T Kelderke, Grand Place.
Fruit and nuts and a toasted cheese over a bed of fresh greens.
I miss salad at T Kelderke.

I almost skipped this one, because thinking of it really makes me want to insist to Geoff that we go back. Now. How else to satisfy the rumbling ache of desire? Okay. If you get to go to Bruxelles consider sitting for a slow dinner. Never mind the slow part... bring a book or just sip your beer and gaze at the crowds in the Grand Place. Just be sure that you order this soup. It is so good. So good. It's all about warmth and cheese and stuff... whatever. I don't need to take it all apart. Whatever they put in there works. Geoff and I shared a bowl the first time and we managed to be dignified, but the second and third time we definitely ordered two bowls.
I miss this soup.

I miss this beer.
Stunning. I am not a big drinker. For one thing it does not take a big drink to effect affect me, and otherwise few alcoholic drinks really hold my interest. My brother Hans said good things about Belgium beer, and I have found him to be a dependable guy, so I made a point of ordering beer our first night in Bruxelles. Maybe it's being on vacation, sitting amidst beauty and history, and next to my sweetheart, maybe I was super thirsty... or maybe Belgians really make awesome beer. Whatever. I drank two Grimbergens that night. I miss this beer. Solely for scientific purposes, of course, I would like to research this point, to better understand the deliciousness and thirst quenching satisfaction of this particular beverage.

Moving on.

I miss slow dinners. The T Kelderke easily takes the prize for slowest service in Europe. Oh. So. Slow. And yet... oh, so good. So, who cares? The waitstaff looks indifferent? C'est la vie. No one comes to take our order? That's fine. We can outlast them. It's worth it. And initially it does feel like some kind of contest: Our will and patience vs. their neglectfulness. But eventually we learn to go with it, relax, sit back. Bring out a book, start a conversation or several conversations. Make new friends. Organize the backpack. Scroll through pictures in the camera. Sip another Grimbergen. It gets so mellow and... and ... what's that word? Relaxed. Yes, I missed relaxed, slow, delicious dinners, with cranky waiters.

I miss Belgium. Even the waiters.

I miss red geraniums. And flower boxes. And Paris. There were red geraniums all over Europe and flower boxes too. I noticed flowers everywhere. We come from an area that prides itself on its flower heritage, but our town needs to step-up, because the flower gardens and borders and beds and windows and corners of Europe were more abundant and lovingly tended than any place I have ever seen. I miss the alpine flowers in Switzerland and the miles of sunflowers in France. And I miss the hundreds and hundreds of window boxes I saw, everywhere we went, overflowing with brilliant, red geraniums.

I miss this dancer. Well, not really. She's here, in the next room, and she still dances. All the time. Everywhere. It was so sweet and amusing to be in the Louvre, at the Eiffel Tower, in the Alps, on a train... anywhere and see Maria overcome by a song, a melody, a distant tune, and begin to dance. She cannot help herself. She dances all the time. Unless she is talking. Or drawing. Or making wishes about God sending ponies to her, over rainbows. So even when the Venus De Milo was in the room, I could not keep my eyes off of Maria.

I miss sailboats and Jardin des Tuileries, and Max's away smile. It started in Paris, and maybe that is because we had finally shaken our jet lag... Max started smiling. He works so hard during the school year, trying to exceed his own rigorous expectations of himself, that I think the vacation part of our vacation really did him a lot of good. I love that I have dozens of smiling Max pictures, more in those three weeks abroad than in a whole year of at-home-time photographs. It's an away smile, at ease and confident. He loves Paris, and Rabbit Hill, and he mastered all the metro systems and switching languages. He had a good handle on Euros, gladly calculating exchange rates for me. He was no chicken abroad. He excelled and exceeded all of my hopes for him.

Speaking of Rabbit Hill, I really miss the Netherlands and Landal GreenParks. I miss bunnies frolicking with bunny abandon. I miss the total rest and ease of feeling at home, while traveling aboard, that one can enjoy at Rabbit Hill.

I miss our cute little home and the fun modes of transport at our disposal. I miss the respect and space given to cyclists and pedestrians. Sure, I would love to see new places and have other adventures, but ooh... ooh, I could totally spend another week or two here again. Maybe like an annual thing, or every other year.

I would have no trouble at all convincing the children.

I miss the places we went, the things we did, the fun we had... I miss Europe. All of it.

Okay. Maybe not all of it.
But enough of it, that I would even face three weeks of doing this by hand, if we could go back. That's the trouble with traveling... it makes you miss a lot of stuff and then you gotta figure out how to go back. I did have my doubts, but that's okay. I like to keep it true.

*The World Wide Interwebs are amazing. After twenty three years with the theme song and basic narrative haunting the recesses of my cerebellum, there she is: Veronica Castro and the whole telenovela outline. Bill... hey brother, can you still sing the song? Want me to make you a Pinesol-lemon-lime margarita, hold the ice, so you can have total recall? Good times.