Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sunday in November

It's a beautiful summer day in November, and my mommy is visiting from Oregon. She didn't pack for summer! If our schedules allowed, I think we would have gone north, to her neck of the woods, to enjoy fall color, and seasonal weather, to be with family. As it is, we are going to make some fun here, answer key questions, like: Tamales, or Bourbon Pecan Cakes? Both? She's made a wish list, things she'd like to see and do while in So Cal, and I think we've already started checking off some good ones. Ahead, we have Thanksgiving, a birthday, a parade, Posadas, a brunch, Pasadena puttering & church, menudo sunday. There's more, I'm sure. Ballet Folklorico dancers are much in demand this time of year, too, and there are the usual expectations, like mid-terms, finals, and crunch-mode at Geoff's office. My calendar has a lot of dots and stars, asterisks, and flowcharts!

The hens are still molting, and I suppose that's alright, given our wild mild climate. I brought home paper white bulbs... {Note to self: Remember to plant those!} I think the goats, poor dears, went through their annual Love Lorn Cycle, when they bleat and bleat and bleat, hoping a Mister Goat will answer their calls. We have no definitive plans about a Christmas tree, but we did find a beautiful white guava tree and we will be adding that to the orchard in the front yard. Or maybe it would be fitting to plant it near the plumeria, in the backyard.

Geoff and the boys have taken on a major overhaul of Alex and Max's room. It's time for a change, mostly due to school needs, and our ever growing interests in making and creating. Out with bunks! In with desks and the old green sofa... we are building a Lab! Workstations, and computers. Next to nothing in school can be accomplished without computers, so we are going to make an attempt to keep up with demand. I think moving into the Bird House has come in phases, and this year has been one of the most productive and fun, as we make this house more personally our own. Six years ago we moved in, now it feels like we are settling in. It's wonderful, and new.

I think this is one of those posts that probably doesn't merit publishing. There's no particular bit of news that couldn't be left unsaid, which is why I didn't mention how I cleaned the front office, or that we brought pumpkin pie to Maria's dance class for an early birthday celebration. It's just one of those times when for our own story, for the sake of marking our days, I stop and take note of what's happening, of normal things. I take great pleasure in normal things, and I never assume that any of this is our right, our entitled privilege to enjoy. We are lucky. It's true we work hard, we take care in our choices, but a great deal of what we do, what we have, is due to fortunate circumstances, to chance, and we feel deeply thankful for our good chances. The world is facing some horrific crisis, and terror. People who have worked hard, and taken care are losing everything, desperately hanging on to each other, set adrift. I cannot begin to unravel these issues, I do not have the solutions, but I hope to begin my thoughts and actions with something in mind, simply this... I care, it matters, we all deserve the pleasure and comfort of normal days and peace.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Maria's Junior Master Gardener Terrarium

Junior Master Gardening is just one of the many generous and thoughtful after-school and extracurricular programs Maria participates in, this one thanks to Sage Garden. As an added bonus, the class is led by our family friend Karen S, and Maria takes this class with other friends she loves hanging out with... all this to say, Maria loves Junior Master Gardening! And I think she is loving it even more now that she's followed a project from her workbook: Making a Terrarium.

Her Junior Master Gardening book gave general suggestions and tips for assembling a little world, which inspired Maria to look further into the subject, using Pinterest.

Here's Maria's supply list:

A clear container, open or lidded, depending on the plants


Pebbles, and other decorative stones

Potting soil

Small plants, preferably ones that are happy indoors, or in an open terrarium: Succulents are a good choice.

Any little decorative pieces to create a scene or Fairy garden look.

After school Alex, Maria and I went to a local nursery and found glass stones, organic potting soil, a small fern and a tiny cyclamen. At home we had glass containers, sand, leftover pebbles from our aquarium, bark pieces, and our paper clay mushrooms... a fun addition! Using a couple of different tutorials, Maria settled on her plan for layering her sand, pebbles, and soil. She chose a plant suited to a closed terrarium, and had a good time putting everything together, especially affixing the mushrooms and wee gnome to their mossy twig. This morning she observed that her garden already has a water cycle starting, from the condensation in the jar. This simple and charming project was irresistible... so you can understand why I joined Maria in making a second terrarium! My fern is too big to be exactly contained in the glass jar, but I think it will be happy.

Maria would like to make mini-gingerbread houses with friends for her birthday, and I am going to surprise her with a second activity I think she and her friends will enjoy... planting mini-gardens, with more paper clay mushrooms and tiny succulents!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Late Autumn Survival Tips

This is the quintessential and ultimate survival guide for the deep chill of this late autumn season (in Southern California, from a woman who lived through the Great Halloween Blizzard of 1991, in Minnesota... I am pretty much like an expert authority.)

1. Wear socks. Your flip flops are not enough any more. Face it, dude, you need extra layers, so grab your knee highs and work it!

2. Sweaters. Jackets. Parkas. Flannel. Wool. Hoodies. You have them, there, in the back of your closet. Bring 'em out. No shame. We all have to do this, because baby, it's cold outside.

3. Surfing, SUP, boogie boarding... it's cool, and sometimes we don't know when to quit, so if you're still out there, riding the long waves consider getting into a wetsuit. I've been local for forty-eight years, and putting wetsuits on my own children never occurred to me. Not in October, not in November. But my cousin, Gabe, taught me a good thing: Wetsuits make the autumn surf comfortable! Gabe, I cannot thank you enough, Dude!

4. FOOD! If you aren't cooking, then I suggest you follow a local, particularly surfers, because they will lead to where the food is tasty, and plentiful. Knowing where the tortillas are hot, the salsa fresh, and the carnitas are savory is a key skill in surviving inclement weather, and hanger pangs.

5. Favorite food.

6. Comfort food.

7. Healthy food.

8. Sharing food.

Alex and Bambi shared their kitchen skills and made Alton Brown's Whole Pumpkin Pie Soup. It was hot, savory, and delicious.

These greens are for Maria's favorite soup... it involves carrots, leeks, spinach, chard, kale, broccoli, and some cheddar cheese. She calls it Confetti Soup! {Time for a recipe, I know.}

A baguette, some olive oil... and a hot pan. We enjoyed this with bruschetta, artichokes, and hot chocolate.

Café con leche, una concha... comfort and joy.

Last tips, a bonus: Get outside and dance on fallen leaves crunch-crunch-crunch! Meet friends, and share hugs and news, make plans. Sink into a favorite book, a favorite movie, a favorite indulgence. Tell jokes. Light candles. Play.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Layers of Comfort

Autumn. Cold, even windy, with rain. It's really here, and we keep layering for warmth, for comfort. It's so nice... to wear jeans, socks, to shiver when a door opens, to welcome a simmering pot of soup. I guess I've made these remarks already. This year. Last year. But it's so nice. Too nice to ignore, to lovely to diminish. And there's so much compensating to do for all the grousing over our long extended summer. Even repeating my so-happy-it's fall mantra feels like a favorite song, one to sing again, and again.

Yarn is everywhere! In the car, on my lap, beside the bed, on the sofa. I crochet at school, in the parking lot, and between loads of dishes or laundry. I crochet when Geoff and I sneak in a date-breakfast before he heads into work. I've made more shawls, and I am not a smidge bit tired of this pattern, but have only grown to love it more. This time I finished my plain wool shawl with a few rounds of wild homespun wool... all nubby and irregular and warm with colors. I realized I could make little wreaths, like ones I admired as a child... I wondered how those were made, and now I've devised my own little recipe. I'm giving them away. Happy tokens. And I am still making squares for the blanket, and that's making me happy, too. Pretty soon I will finally look-up "blocking" and decide if that's a skill I need to learn.

I check Ada for wool. She grows a fluffy layer under her coarser coat, and I like to think of her as my wooly caterpillar and prognosticator of what sort of winter we are due for. Wet? Cold? Terribly wet and cold? We shall see. Poor Tasha doesn't grow any of that lovely wool, and maybe that's why she likes the rain even less than Ada... which is not at all. Our chickens have made a feathered mess of their molting, and poor Koa looks a fright... missing so many feathers she looks like a shabby duster. I hope they get plump with plumage, very soon. Hazel Nutt, our Ratty Rat, builds a new nest every evening, and only comes out for breakfast. Breakfast and dinner are most favoritest times of day. As for the kitties... they are finding laps, clean laundry piles, quilts, anything slept on, and spots where the sun is warming. It has been remarked that Mister Foo, especially, is practically another species of being in wintery affectionate and obliging. Chango is dear, and snuggly, more than ever, and we dote on him with extra endearments.

Oh! I almost forgot... dryerballs! All over Pinterest, you'll find recipes and prescriptions for these little wool wonders. I made four, and besides being easy to make, I have discovered, already, that they do work very nicely. One in the dryer to replace dryer sheets and softener. No static! Everything nice and soft, and it even reduces the drying time. Wet cotton socks hot and dry in twenty minutes. (Is that fast? I don't know, but it really seemed faster than before.) Anyway, I love ours so much, I am thinking I'll make gifts. If no one thinks they're a fabulous gift for the dryer, then they can try juggling, or give theirs to a cat. Mister Foo thinks they're grand!

For the record, in case I give an impression of too much cheer and fa-lalalala-la, yesterday I had an emotional meltdown over... oh, I forget. I think it was probably many, many little things, stress, low-blood sugar etc. But I felt like kicking things hard, and slamming things harder, and then I sat with my chickens, ate a sandwich, and went around the house and said Sorry and I love you, to everyone. My problems are no smaller, but I think I will recommit to appreciating that although life is neither smooth, nor tidy, (not in my experience, anyway) it is blessed, and full of goodness, and full of opportunities to make it better, and as I am doing my very most sincerest best, I really must not beat myself up, or surrender to defeatist thoughts. Also: Naps. A nap under a favorite quilt can do a world of good.

I am sending out happy tokens, and best wishes... for all the world, peace.

Friday, November 13, 2015

~This Moment~

~This Moment is a Friday tradition, capturing a special moment from the week~

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your moment in the comments, for all to see.
Our Benevolent Order of Makers weekend with Barnes & Noble Mini Maker Faire was a marvelous success,
full of great STEAM moments, like this one:
Da Vinci, our automaton robot, is drawing a screenshot from Georges Méliès Trip to The Moon!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Egg Greetings & Gratitude

Do you have hens?
Yes, we do. We have thirteen hens.

Are they laying?
They are all layers, but some are in the middle of molting, and production is a bit low.

Are brown eggs, and green eggs, and blue eggs, and speckled eggs different in taste, or nutritional value, than white eggs?
Yes. The brown ones are chocolaty, the blue ones are faintly raspberry flavored, and the speckled ones taste like Thanksgiving dinner, with a pumpkin pie finish. But nutritionally they are the same as the white eggs.

Can you give a straight answer?
No. Well, sometimes, but it's great fun to let my thoughts go to the Land of Whimsy and Whatif.

At last! At last our new Ameraucana are laying, and we have a few more eggs coming in. Theirs are bluer, slightly more saturated, a bit smaller, too. It was only yesterday that I found two, and was I thrilled. Seriously... I get giddy, and not just about new eggs from new hens, but every. single. day. every single time I go out and collect eggs: I am delighted!

I think to myself... ooh! Take a picture

And then I remember that they're eggs, in straw, and that I took that picture yesterday, last week, a month ago, often and frequently since 2002. But I never tire of it. Finding eggs, seeing their colors, noticing the sizes, and shapes, it's always a joy. When they're warm, it feels like a sacred gift. When they're in an odd place, it's funny, puzzling. When there are just as many as I need for a recipe, I feel super lucky. I like the way they feel. Some shells have a smooth sheen, others are bumpy, or slightly rough. I am thankful for our chickens, for the space and means we have so they are safe. I am thankful for the small connection I can make with our food, adding a special heightened sense of appreciation for how we are sustained, and that extends into an appreciation for farmers, for laborers, for cooks, and markets, and trees, and gardens. It reminds me of gardens kept by my mother and grandmothers, of days on ranchos, of my abuelos, my bisabuelos, of home made cheese, milking cows, tortillas de maiz, hechos a mano, of all I've learned, and have been privileged to get my hands on. A hen and an egg, a potted herb, a barrel garden, a community farm... any small connection to the sources, origins, of our sustenance can be so very good.

I found this insightful gem on a friend's FB feed...

Despite all of our accomplishments
We owe our existence to
A six-inch layer of topsoil
And the fact that it rains.

~Farm Equipment Association of Minnesota and South Dakota

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Greetings & Gratitude

Here is the happy sight that met me when I came downstairs last week. Is it art? Yes. Yes, it is art. It's also a fine example of how little it takes to amuse me, and I am thankful for this gift.

William began a Thanksgiving menu; part grocery list, part recipe list, and wholly inspiring. Vegetarian Yorkshire pudding? It's on the list. I think we should schedule a test run for some of these recipes. I am looking forward to trying the pumpkin soup Bambi made for Alex, and I am even considering having a go at that fancy cranberry relish I love so much. One of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving is hearing people talk about their favorite dishes and traditions. They get so enthused, even defensive, when explaining why it's not official without one particular dish, like dressing, or pecan pie, or never-never-never add marshmallows to the yams, or definitely do! I love these stories, these treasured sentiments. My own Thanksgiving isn't official until someone has shared an impassioned anecdote about their favorite green bean recipe, or the best mashed potatoes!

I love Thanksgiving. I think I immerse myself in it all month long {while I also try to suppress my bursting Christmas enthusiasm.} Today, Veteran's Day, feels like a good time to begin my deeper reflections on gratitude, to highlight some particularly special things that I appreciate... like planning for the holidays with grocery lists, revisiting traditions, and tidying up for guests. There are men and women who have done brave things, made small and great sacrifices, and I wish that they could enjoy our respect and gratitude everyday, but I am happy to pause on this day especially and say, Thank you. You've done so much for our freedoms, for our everyday lives, and ordinary pleasures. I cannot take any of this for granted. I hesitate to single someone out, because he's a modest man, but... Hans, you bring tremendous integrity and honor to everything you do. Thank you.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Home and About

Nothing too surprising, here. Either I am home, and that is good, or I am out and about, and that can be good, too. At home, we are loving flannel, quilts, reading, the change in the weather, silly kitties, MTG games, making our holiday plans, weekends, and home baked bread. Out and about we are loving Barnes & Noble Mini Maker Faire, baby goats, wee chicks, thrift shops and Jack-a-lopes, dance class, Mom's Night Out and friends, oh, and did I mention those baby goats??

It's already the ninth day of November! And so far, it's been really quite sweet. I love the light, the briskness, the anticipation of more home days, more outings, more visits with friends. How is your November coming along?

Friday, November 06, 2015

Home Season Moments

Out of the clear blue sky it became winter. Summer. Summer. Summer, then winter. No fall. No autumn. Halloween day it hit 81 degrees Fahrenheit! November 1st? It was as hot as July, and we've become so accustomed to it, unfortunately, that we just carry on, in flip flops and shorts, with only pumpkin-flavored-everything to remind us that this is mid-autumn! But two nights ago a storm blew in, something for us like a Polar Express, chilling cold, with lightning and thunder, and everyone in my FB feed was posting about socks! Cold weather, at last!

And at last we have an excuse to cook, to bake, to wear clothes, to light a fire, to hold hands, and hug friends, to wear our socks {with flip flops and shorts, naturally.} At last, home season is here! I love this time of year, when all things cozy are appealing, like a quilt on the sofa, and hot soup for dinner, like reading aloud by the fire, planning for Thanksgiving, thinking of Christmas, anticipating making special recipes, like Bourbon Pecan Cakes, tamales.

Speaking of special recipes, I am so happy to be baking Dutch Oven Bread, again! I always start it the night before, because it doesn't require kneading, but long hours of rising. One loaf is nice. Two loves is a good start. Three loaves and you can have friends over!

And while it's baking, the house fills up with just about one of the coziest aromas there is.

William was reading aloud, Alex researching for a commission he's working on. Max was nearly done with homework, while I added another crocheted square to my stash, and Geoff was about to walk in the door... and that bread was cooling on the porch. Home season! What else could we add? Lightning and thunder, and big downpours? Yes, please!

I don't even use the Dutch Oven anymore. The recipe works just fine on a cookie sheet.

Alex and I ran errands yesterday, and when we were in the home building store I lost my sense of proportion and order, and actually admitted I'd love to jump in, drink the koolaid and decorate for Christmas! Crazy. I know. But... it's all so pretty, uplifting, sentimental, homey, comforting, shiny, twinkly, sparkly... stop me.

Sorry. It is too soon.

Just for the record: I am on board with all of the love and joy, lights and glitter, home and hearth, loved ones, and daydreaming hopes of this season. And I am on board with goats and chickens, blue skies and fluffy clouds, rotted pumpkins, rain quenched gardens, friends calling, all the sights, sounds, and blessings of home.