Saturday, March 29, 2008

Lily of the Valley and 2 Cats

This is my garden of the day. Trader Joe's has the most beautiful plants and flowers, so reasonably priced, I forget my troubles and virtual lack of a garden, and I splurge. Splurge: That looks like in splash + urge... as in gotta-wanna do it. Makes me want to go swimming. Posting my train of thought isn't always worthwhile.

Oh, look who's come to visit the garden. It's Benjamin Franklin Thunder Cat, Cowboy and Explorer. Maria calls him Benbee. He lives indoors, safe from coyotes and reckless drivers. I call him my Furry Baby and Woodgie-Woodgie Love Monster. He's extremely handsome and affectionate. Well, he is affectionate until he isn't and when he isn't a snugly purr box, he becomes a biting, scratchy beast and I have to put him in the garage. The garage is safe and comfortable, but he always come out of the garage reformed and humble.

I love Benbee.

Here comes Chango. Chango had a brother named Bongo, and together they were Chango Biddy Bongo and Bongo Biddy Chango. I am not saying this is interesting, but it's nice to write it all down for posterity. Chango is a survivor. He is the most domesticated feral cat I have ever known. He was a mighty hunter in his Rancho days, and he can still can scale a tree in a flash. He's such a tender, affectionate and sensitive fellow. He gets very nervous, and we always admire his attempts to contain his wild ways and relax. Sweet, sweet Chango. Sweet lactose intolerant, barfy Chango. I love Chango.

Geoff doesn't know this yet, but I think we are going to get another kitty... not right away, but in the next year or two. I also sense that we are destined to bring home a lop eared bunny, 3 or 4 chicks, and maybe even a pair of goats. I like the look of Nubian goats and the personality of La Mancha goats. Max really wants a pet frog. Tee hee. Benjamin looks as though he knows more room-mates are coming and he's not pleased.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Healing Power of Spontaneous, Temporary Art

I am looking for those boots, or any red cowgirl boots with vintage flair and heroine powers. It is my quest. Staying focused on the bright side, the light side, is part of my quest too... an ongoing journey, made easier with your kind thoughts and encouragement.

Alex asked me if I could replace the button missing from his shorts. And I could. And I did.

And it was satisfying to see the problem, know the solution, to have the resources and skills to do the job, and then to make the effort to execute the plan. Alright, so it was only a button, but sometimes we have to acknowledge our successes, great and small.

I asked Alex to pull out some likely candidates for the replacement from the jar of buttons I keep on the shelf. My jar of buttons is one the pleasures in my life... one of the many pleasures. I like to recognize the little, simple things that go right, feel good. He made the happy face, then Maria made the sun.

Next came the whale. By this time his new button was securely affixed to his shorts.

I find this irresistible. I want to play. I want to sort the colors into rainbows and mosaics, mandalas and stories. Alex asked about making a quilt with buttons sewn all over it. I wondered about making a stop-motion animation.

There are many more things that need to be accomplished today, besides attaching one button to shorts. I have the usual list of errands, chores, promises to keep, and projects to wrestle into submission. Alex, Max and Maria scooped all of the buttons and dropped them back into their jar. There are many more things I have to do, but I am so glad we had these moments.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Thoroughly Random Thursday

This is how I feel. I feel drained and drab.

This is how I want to feel. No, not topless... I want to feel cocky and kick-ass.

In high school we used to rent a VCR, then browse through the BETA and VHS selections, and there were few options. I remember we could see Dudley Moore play drunk, in "Arthur." Was he acting? I dunno. There were Clint Eastwood options and plenty of James Bond movies, and of course Franco Zeffirelli's "Romeo and Juliet." Sigh. Seems like we always came home with Bruce Lee, or "Strange Brew."

These boots would help. Not that I need material things to achieve confidence and vitality. But look at these beauties... Bruce had his grin. Superman has his cape, Wonder Woman has her unbreakable tiara boomerang, Batman needs his mask. These boots hold untold powers, and I think I could achieve heroic deeds wearing them, like clean the house, tell the landlord where to step-off, toilet train the cats.

I don't want to feel like this. Sickeningly fat and sugary and wrong. I don't want to be artificial, unhealthy, a glaring testament to what's wrong in the world.

I would rather be comfortable and genuine, like a cat that is loved.

Or like a happy child at play.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Deep Thoughts, Indecision, and Time With My Mommy

Well, thank goodness for the time with Mom and an afternoon at the Wild Animal Park, otherwise this post would be full of me revisiting the ups and downs of the housing market and our recurring where are we going to live? woes. Recently it was suggested that 'we must be in heaven' over the housing market situation, and I have to say: No. No, we are not enjoying the economic downturn, the government's meddling, the waiting for the real bottom of this housing bust. And most of all we are not in heaven, as we have been renting and biding our time in purgatory. Ahem, yes, this is a touchy subject...

Alright, I will admit this much: We are looking. Well, Geoff never stopped looking; he has been taking the pulse of the housing market everyday for 4 years, a pastime I have found excruciating. But as of 2 days ago he has me looking too. It is still excruciating. Why? It is painful to look at home listings because:

1. We do not know where we are going to live... Hawaii, California (Southern or Central Coast), Oregon and Wisconsin are the main contenders.
2. The market has not hit bottom... not even close. We will not wait for bottom, which I predict is about 2 years out. Initial starter rates on adjustable mortgages will be expiring at a peak rate in in 2010, and a lot more homeowners will be faced with increases in monthly payments.
3. I am scared. Being responsible and prudent has me over-thinking and I cannot see our best course, just worse case scenarios and what ifs.
4. I am scared. Oh, wait, I already said that. I am confused. The part of me that knows that this is more akin to a curse of blessings cannot reason with the part of me that wants to choose the ideal place, buy at the ideal time and never, ever have to move again, ever.
5. I am confused. Heh, already said that.

Sigh. It's time for a therapist, I know. I need to stretch out on a firm couch and purge my quandaries, fears, frustrations, regrets, and other bile, acrimony and vitriol. I wonder what pearls of wisdom or affirmations there are for me. I wonder what the cure for my slumped morale might be.

My Mom and I were orchid shutter bugs, yesterday at the Wild Animal Park. At first I thought I would take one picture of a favorite, but then on closer inspection, I realized I had more than 1 favorite. Gee, it's like trying to decide between living in Hawaii vs. living in Wisconsin, between the coast and the country. Good grief.

Delia, my Mommy. She's been away from her Oregon home for a month. I am so glad for the time she spent with us. It was a quiet, relaxed visit, a reminder of how much I miss having casual time with family. Casual time is when there are no formalities, no urgent demands or expectations. We cooked and cleaned, we watched Television. We chatted and laughed and pondered the intricacies of the universe. The children had time to share their interests and talents, and less than flattering aspects of their development... like Maria's crying jags.

There is a lot of walking at the Wild Animal Park, and it was hot. Not too hot, but a gentle reminder of those inland temperatures that can get pretty intense. Max looks like he could use a lemonade.

Make that 2 lemonades. Maria was starting to wilt too.

We came specifically to see the lions. I think every Wild Animal Park post I ever make includes either lions or sledding. The lions are awesome. The sledding?... I don't think the children will ever think much of the 100 square foot patch of ice we used to sled on, now that they have been in real snow!

Until we make an African safari, visiting these lions will not be a disappointment.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Easter Monday

Tasty, tasty Easter grapes.
We spent the morning with Izzy and Nick, Holly and Rich. My Mommy is staying with us, after her stay in Pasadena helping her sister and mom, so she came too. Holly and Rich are exceptional hosts. I am having yet another giggle at my own expense... thinking of what a full house they had with neighbors, friends and family over for brunch and an egg hunt. I have to remind myself that we make it a crowd when we arrive with 7 people!

Earlier, the children went in to our backyard to wish Joe, the rabbit, a Happy Easter and that's when they found their baskets. Baskets with Legos and a little chocolate bunny and the traditional pack of underwear. Such a thoughtful E. Bunny. Maria's basket had "Goodnight Gorilla."

For a few years I have been aware of how shy and elusive Nick can be when I come around with my camera, so I was pleased to catch him unaware. He was enjoying a quiet moment during the party.

I heard Rich telling friends about Izzy's passion for chocolate. I think her appetite was well satisfied, and you can see she is still enjoying a last smack of chocolate goodness.

Speaking of goodness, this carrot cake came out pretty good. Max thinks I need to work on my carrot decorations... true, but I thought they were pretty convincing. The best part is that we have food dye that is derived from real life edible plants and not petroleum junk. Thank you Seelect. Many years ago I fell in love with a carrot cake, Janice's carrot cake. Oh, it was so yummy and good. To compensate for not decorating for Easter, for not holding my arms wide open to welcome Spring in to our house, I got it in to my head to bake The Carrot Cake. Janice kindly shared the recipe and we agreed it is slightly rich. (rich = full of fat and sugar) So, I got cocky. (cocky = I can adapt the recipe and make it healthier) Being cocky in the kitchen, with a dish intended to be shared at an Easter brunch, is very risky. No one wants a dry, tasteless cake... a too healthy cake, during a holiday extravaganza, may not be too satisfying.

I only modified 2 parts, and next time I am going to take it a step further and reduce the oil to just 1 cup. The results were very well received, and the real test was that I liked it a lot. I am sure it isn't a recipe that falls under the heading of Health Food, but it is delicious.

Janice and Natalie's Carrot Cake

3 cups grated carrots
2 cups sugar
1.5 1.25 cups of oil
4 eggs

Stir these ingredients together. And I am thinking that next time I may go to 1 cup of oil and maybe add more carrot or even some zucchini.

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup of walnuts
1/2 cup of oatmeal (I like the old fashioned kind)

Sift the dry ingredients together and then mix in the nuts. The oatmeal was something I added. I love oatmeal. Next time I will probably make it a full cup, especially if I increase the carrots. Start adding the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir 'em up. I did this by hand, since I did not want to over-mix the batter.

Choose a favorite cake pan, and I lightly oiled mine, and bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit. A cook time would be helpful, I know, but I don't have one. Expect it to take more than half an hour... it will smell good and an inserted knife will come out clean... you'll know when it's done.

I am not capable of following directions. Something in me must resist. So even though Janice gave me her perfectly tasty recipe, by the time I was ready to frost the cake, I just made it up.

1 stick of butter
8 oz of cream cheese + a healthy scoop of some leftover whipped cream cheese we had leftover from breakfast
a largish, perhaps 2, teaspoons of vanilla
powdered sugar... more than you want to admit, less than a box... I did not make it very sweet.

I whipped all of this together, and set some aside to turn orange and then frost the cool cake. The carrots looked even less like carrots until I topped them with celery greens!

Well, that was our Easter. Enjoying a beautiful day, laughing with family, making new friends. We came home for a quiet evening and we watched Live From Lincoln Center, "Madama Butterfly." Now it is Easter Monday, a warm day with a blue sky and errands to run and chores to complete. How was your Easter?