Friday, November 26, 2010

Pajama Day!

We may, or may not, leave the house, but I have every intention of staying in my pajamas for as long as comfortably possible.

Our Thanksgiving was mellow, homey, delicious, and well worth being thankful for. Michal and Helen came with delicious food... I love that for Thanksgiving people want to share their favorite dishes, because it means there will be plenty, and everything will taste wonderful!

I forgot to make a salad! We had a scrumptious roast turkey, which was kindly cooked in Helen's oven. We tried our first Tofurky, which was declared: Eh. We had green beans cooked with yams and chestnuts, which I declare: Yum! I made red cabbage, and two dressings/stuffings. I baked two apple pies and two pumpkin pies, and of course there was cranberry sauce! Mine, Helen's, and Alex's favorite can-molded variety! Michal and Helen brought mashed potatoes, a favorite with everyone, especially William, and they brought two more pumpkin pies and fresh whipped cream... which reminds me... breakfast!

Max refreshed our message board:

I love that Thanksgiving is so dear to people, that it can be celebrated in so many ways, and that each of us has specific, treasured memories, and ideas of what makes Thanksgiving special. This morning my cousin, Ashlie, shared Katalina's thoughts on enjoying a spectacular Thanksgiving:

"You can have a spectacular Thanksgiving in three glorious steps. First, go to your cabin in the mountains. Bring skis or snowshoes. Play on the zipline and on the rope in the cabin. Play in the fort. The zipline goes about three meters! Eat turkey and pumpkin pie. The turkey will not be smoked and the pumpkin pie will be just right! Having a spectacular Turk Day is a breeze!" by Katalina

Katalina, I am ready to reserve a spot in that cabin for next year! You know how to celebrate!

Max and I watched Alton Brown bake pies a few nights ago, and as Mr. Brown is a highly respected Geek cook, Max insisted we follow Mr. Brown's exact directions. So, now we have a pie bird. Two, actually. I found the traditional black bird, and this little chica! And yes, it worked! Since moving to this kitchen, I have had multiple pie blow-outs, but the pie-chica kept everything intact.

Apples set one by one, in a circle, and baked in a tart pan... just like Alton's.

It's funny... I never take enough pictures during Thanksgiving. It was the most gorgeous day here. The cloudless sky was jewel blue. We were all home, and with our friends. The house was fairly-nearly-practically clean! So, many wonderful opportunities for photo memories. Maybe I just, for once, focus on the moment, and leave the camera on the counter.

Maria, on the other hand, is developing quite the blogger's eye for artistry and documentation. Lately she insists on having her snacks photographed for posterity. This pear, for example, was so cute, and small that she could not possibly eat it until I snapped a picture.

Well, here is one picture from Thanksgiving day, when Maria was sharing her phonograph with Michal.

Alex, Maria, and I made two red wagon trips down the street to bring over the dishes that Michal and Helen were sharing. Later, after we feasted all we could hold, we took a leisurely walk down our street. We saw a hot air balloon, found a penny, noted the pretty houses, and the fragrance of cedar and pine trees. And we anticipated those pies. Pie.

Where did I recently read someone's favorite statement: "Hold on to your forks, there is pie." It's sheer poetry. (*Found it! Thank you Jane's Apron!)

Maria opened up the barn doors! Two by two, she thoughtfully posed our farm animals all the way to the top of the stairs.

With a bit of domestic shame, I reminded Maria: Please do not give tours of mommy and daddy's bedroom, or mommy's office. They are the two most neglected spaces in the house. Maria loves giving home tours, which can be quite thorough, and thoroughly embarrassing. (Of course, I have just managed to reveal my embarrassing *secret* on a very public scale!) So, true to her promise to respect my mess, she gave a tour announcing, "We are not going in there, or there... mommy says they are too messy."

Hmmmm... I suppose it wouldn't hurt to clean my office, as long as I am home, in my pajamas anyway. Well, it might hurt a little. But first, I will need something to fuel me, maybe, I dunno... pie?!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

With Thanks

Yesterday a flock of birds stopped in the tree by our garage. Cedar waxwings? They were high up, and back lit. They made short, sweet whistles, a tst tst tst. I am glad I was there to see them stop in our tree, so thankful to have heard them.

Ferris watched parade float activity... twelve! robotics members were here working on the float and decorations. 12!

I am thankful for our space, our resources, our opportunities.

I am thankful for our pets... the cats, rabbits, chickens, the Ratty-rats. I am thankful for Dr. G, our kind veterinarian. I am thankful for fresh eggs, purring, bunny noses, and Pepper's whiskers.

I am thankful for rest, and comfort, for warmth, peace. I am thankful for home, our shelter, and the base from where we can launch our dreams.

I am thankful for the laughter we share, for things we have in common, and the unique things we bring to the mix. I am thankful for love, for my husband, my children.

I am thankful for our good health. I am thankful for what we have learned, where we have been, and for our hopes, for where we may go.

Natalie, tia Rosario, Hans, Abuela Antonia, prima RosaMaria.
Las Tinajas, El Valle.

I am thankful for memories, and heritage, for cool water at the end of long walks. I am thankful for familia.

I am thankful for friends. I am thankful for our community. I am thankful for our neighbors. I am thankful for the kindness of strangers, the friends I have not met yet. I am thankful for the friends I have met here, at Chickenblog.

I am thankful for robots. Real and imagined. I am thankful for God, and science, for math, art, music, inspiration, glitter, glue, and curiosity.

I am thankful for joy... the plentiful joy that inspires smiles and love, and makes each day good. I am thankful for the parts of life and people in our lives that brought us here, to this place and time, where we can reflect and give thanks. Life is messy, and funny, and hard, and beautiful, it knocks me down, makes me cry, it lifts me up and pushes me forward, it is good.

I am thankful for emotional expression, and smiling back at happy pictures.


The Pine Cone Bandit!

Caught in the act.

I was blaming the kids. Pine cones and walnuts were all over the table, several times a day. "What are those kids doing?" I would mutter.

Ferris! Time for some corporal cuddling!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Fresh Eggs

The Silkie sisters, Puff and Zelda, are laying! Everyday! We have not had this many fresh eggs since our days on El Rancho, with Gracie, Luna, and Rosie. And we have never had so many tiny eggs. Puff and Zelda make petite oeuf.

These are the most endearing huevecitos ever, and even after an entire month of gathering these tiny eggs, they still charm me. I love seeing them in the nest box, picking them up. I love the pale, warm color, like cream in my chai. I still remember the first time I cracked one open and made Alex a fried egg on toast for breakfast... it cracked me up! I am a sucker for anomaly humor, for seeing something out of scale, out of place, unexpected. That tiny, over-easy egg looked hilariously adorable sitting on the big slice of toast.

I have a question for you fresh egg farmers: Do you ever find yourself not eating the eggs from your chicas? Do they ever accumulate, in spite of how delicious and good they are? Do you think this line of questioning is a bit nutso?

I did read one blog, where the farmer admitted she had a hard time eating the eggs produced by her own hens, and while she could not explain "why," I understood what she meant. Maybe I get too enamored of them, seeing their pretty forms, amassing my collection. I some times do consciously think: Save them for something special.

I am still learning. I still need to remind myself that special is now. Too often things are wasted, or neglected from me preserving them for the right occasion, the best time. And so I renew my pledge to use it or lose it! And I bring out the good dishes for any occasion, and suddenly any occasion feels special. No more hoarding the glitter, withholding the good stuff... now is the time to play, and celebrate, and sparkle! And use up all the pretty petite oeuf! <-----That is what I am still learning.
One more question: How do you know when an egg has gone bad?
I place the egg in a bowl of water. A fresh egg stays at the bottom. An egg that is old has absorbed air through its porous shell, and will not stay at the bottom of a bowl of water. A bad egg rises, and floats... proving it has been around too long.

Apparently older eggs, still fresh, but not the freshest, make the best boiled eggs. I think it has to do with the absorption of air, which makes the boiled egg easier to crack, and to separate the shell from the egg. Does anyone know which egg whites are best to whip in to foamy meringue? Warm or cold, extra fresh, or less fresh? I bet there is a difference.

For hencakes, three, fresh, huevecitos are just right. Gracias. Amen.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Virtual Geek Festival

We give thanks for all things Geek, in this season of peace, joy, love, and Comic-Con registration aggravation. Okay, we can do without the Comic-Con ticket sales glitch, but we still hold Geekness in high esteem.

Geoff moved the Green Goose, our beloved first home, to make room for holiday parade float construction... and for the first time since last spring, when we were in Las Vegas for FRC, I saw our spirited robotics paint job. Oops! Someone forgot to clean all the windows. Maybe we should just leave it. Now that we are fully immersed in building a robotic arm float to represent Team Paradox in the parade, we may as well keep our colors flying!

Yes, it's Thumbs-up and full steam ahead on construction. Geoff is mentoring, and William, Alex, Eli, James, and Suki have been designing and building.

On the first day we had some enthusiastic marketing representatives here too, cutting cardboard for the initial vision of how the float should look. I wonder if Lonnie, Sammay, Emma, Taylor, Lauren, and Annie would recognize the float now?

Generally speaking, the robotics team is made up of two sides: Marketing and Build. They are not entirely separate, because they must work with and for each other, but club members tend to gravitate to either marketing or build. Some members can do it all. Suki. Marketing muse, artist. Suki, does the build team know how well you handle power tools?

I have to admit I have already lost count of the hours and days, the nights, of work that have gone in to designing and constructing this float. The initial idea was some decorations and lights on a trailer bed... but it has definitely grown.

James, Alex, and Suki are placing the wheels on the base of the robotic arm. It's basically a giant lazy Susan. After the parade, I am going to get them to convert it in to a dining table. It will be awesome. Trust me.

Robotics is fun.
I am not just saying that as a supportive mom, a pumped-up science loving marketing mentor... I am saying it as a witness. I see great students getting together in their spare time to share ideas, make plans, work out problems, design moving parts, and build something from those ideas and plans. I hear power tools and laughter, discussion, debate, resolution, and more power tools. I smell sawdust.

The core of the arm is foam, and for added stability they have wrapped the foam in plywood. And that is the end of my description. Geoff mentors build.

I am resuming my role as semi-marketing-mothering-tormentor, which means I make food runs, give sewing lessons, write, photograph, counsel, and say things like, "Do we have a budget?" "How can the float best represent this year's theme?" "Why not invite other teams from Team San Diego, for good outreach?" And... "Who's hungry?" Maria keeps spirits up, and matches people with their favorite Winnie the Pooh character in cookie form.

While William has not been an official team member in the past, he has always participated. Now he is fully on board, an indispensable builder and designer. Without William, I never could have been as successfully and whole heartedly immersed in robotics as I have been, and it thrills me to see him enjoying his own role in this family obsession activity. Robotics is fun, especially when you can hang out with creative, hardworking, intelligent, supportive people, which is like always.

All of this is fun, outreach, team building stuff, which is a great warm up for Build Season. Build Season begins in January, with FIRST Kick-Off on January 8th! From that date the robotics club will be all about preparing for regional competitions, and Finals in St Louis, Missouri.

Hey, if you dream it, design it, and build it you can be FIRST.