Saturday, April 21, 2012

Dutch Toast

From BirdHouse Bits... With only a little coaxing, the children got me in the kitchen last night. They helped me prepare the dough for Alicia Paulson's much loved Dutch Oven Bread. And since I was more familiar with the recipe, and judging by how amazing it smells in the house right now, I think these three loaves are going to be even better than the first round! It is an easy recipe, with satisfying results.
April 20, 2012 2:42 pm

Thursday night: we measured and mixed, then the dough had all night to rise.

Friday: without any haste, I followed the last steps in the recipe for Easy, No-Knead Crusty Bread. By afternoon the house was smelling wonderful, and we ate homemade bread with the spaghetti and salad William made for dinner!

Now it's Saturday, misty and quiet. There's plenty of time for a leisurely and comforting breakfast of French Dutch Toast. No offense to the French, but this is Dutch Oven Bread, after all. There is something so delightfully gratifying about preparing meals with even one or two home-grown ingredients... thank you chicas, for the eggs!

Also delightfully gratifying: finding a thrift shop set of my favorite Pyrex farm themed bowls and dishes... in blue!!! Chickens and farmers, corn and harvest! I swoon. Into the mix go eggs, milk, cinnamon, and vanilla.

I thought the bread would be slightly stale... home baked and sitting in a dishtowel overnight, but it was really quite fresh. A double dunk in our golden mixture, and the bread was ready for the hot griddle. Those big loaves yield plenty of bread, and so with what's left maybe we'll make croutons, later today.

Dutch toast stacking up, keeping warm... time to call everyone to the table!

The leisurely breakfast?
It went fast!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Don't Panic, I'm A Midnight Mechanic

Maria and Midnight Stars :: 2010


Lady Betty Orpington at the keyboard, today. I just popped in to share with you my starstruck passion for FIRST 812 The Midnight Mechanics! They are from The Preuss School. From the very first FRC we attended in 2009, through FIRST Regional Competition 2010 in San Diego...

And again in Las Vegas, and 2011 in San Diego again... well you get the idea: I love cheering, competing, cooperating, and celebrating with those Midnight Mechanics.

FIRST 2102 + FIRST 812 = Midnight Paradox!

As you can see, it's not just a Golden Chica, like myself that loves to cheer for the Team San Diego robotics teams of FIRST! Team San Diego has many dedicated fans.

FIRST Regional Competition San Diego, 2012 :: Maria and Midnight Stars!

This regional, like most, saw some real standout teams, and individuals. Being on a FIRST team can be spirited and inspiring, and it's also about work, dedication, sacrifice, passion! It's not just six weeks of build, or a weekend at a competition. By the time they are seniors, many of these students have given many hundreds of hours to community service, outreach, mentoring, fundraising, networking, problem solving, and designing, manufacturing, and building a robot... which is why it takes a team, many hands and heads, working together.

Linda is on the Dean's List!
Seeing Linda accept this honor was a tremendous highlight of FRC San Diego.

This is one Chica who feels very excited about the future, because there are amazing and capable young people who are prepared to make a difference, today. One such person is Midnight Mechanic, Linda. She made the Dean's List!

"In an effort to recognize the leadership and devotion of some of FIRST’s most outstanding FRC students, the Kamen family has announced the creation of a new award for selected top students, FIRST superstars, to be known as the FIRST Dean’s List. The Kamen family expects that the students who earn FIRST Dean’s List Award status will not only be great examples of student leaders who have led their teams and communities to increased awareness for FIRST and its mission, they will continue on, post-award, as great leaders of FIRST’s ever growing student alumni..."

Now, here's where my *ahem* Foundation, The Lady Betty Orpington Foundation, comes in, helping to get the word out... Linda wants needs to go to Championship, in St Louis. She's earned it! But she's taking it one step further, to literally earn her way to St Louis: she's having a bake sale, so she can offset the costs of airfare, lodging, and food.

So, this Chica is crowing and clucking:
Get yourselves to La Jolla Cove, this Sunday, from 8 am until 1 pm, and make a generous donation, buy some cookies, congratulate a young woman who really is going places!

When you know FIRST celebrities, like Linda, there's no need to panic.

I hope to see you at Linda's Bake Sale, and remember to stay passionate, inspiring, spirited, and FIRST!


Lady Betty Oprington

{this thankful moment}

A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.
:: Inspired by Soule Mama ::

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Kids Are Alright

Ada is growing, and weaning herself from the bottle, too. She likes company, and will make a pitiful maaaaaa-ah! if she feels abandoned. Smart girl has us all trained to rush to her aid, whenever she calls!

Tasha is growing, too... bolder and stronger. She wants to play, and sample everything from pigtails to buttons. Just a taste and a nibble, then off to frolic with Ada. The two of them can run very fast, and then they halt, dance a jig, flip and turn, and maaaaaa-ah! for attention. Everything is a game and play, and a whole lot of fun. The kids are alright.

Max is balancing, and running, again. He seems to have made a complete recovery, after fracturing his tailbone. He had a very rough few weeks, but he's all smiles now. He's also balancing equations in chemistry, and he finds that challenging fun.

William the carpenter. After a whole semester of metals and welding, he has been learning construction skills with his dad. So, what's next? Sewing! He has been asking me about construction with fabrics, and what it takes to make this or that. Yesterday he asked for actual sewing lessons, and we began right away. He learned to thread the machine, how to cut fabric, and then he started piecing squares. After about an hour he stopped for a break, but when I returned from running errands he was at it again... and already has some small projects completed!

Here's the senior. Alex is smiling a lot these days, making plans, enjoying economics, government, and managing to get a handle on an intense physics program. Robotics is still a passion, and he has a few projects he tools around with. The biggest focus, for us all, is preparing for Maker Faire. He started a school club for Young Makers, and three classmates will be making the journey with us.

I don't think we'll bring the hovercraft to the Faire. Alex has plans to make the next one bigger. I vote for quieter! The leaf blower fills the shower curtain, which has holes cut out... the shower curtain inflates, and the daring test pilot rides a cushion of air. Bambi, with her dancer's strength and balance, does a great job of standing and riding across the pavement.

Now stand aside worthy adversary!

'Tis but a scratch!

A scratch? Your arm's off!

No it isn't. I've had worse.

I'm not sure which is the Black Knight, but Dean and Max are both battling with flesh wounds, and missing arms. No pansies, here!

Suki and Maria, and a very little game of Uno. Suki, back from the woods and art and music and martial arts and camping... a well deserved weekend at a festival, with Grant, where she could commune with nature and creative peeps. Seniors have a lot on their shoulders, decisions, plans. I think she's doing an admirable job of balancing responsibilities, and keeping her beautiful smile.

Maria filled her spring break with more laughter, growth, projects, learning, and living than anyone I know. And though it wasn't too easy rousing her on the first day back to school, she came home as enthused and eager as ever. "You know how we learned about emigration, and then about countries and flags and culture? Well, guess what? Now we are learning about animals and plants! We are real scientists, because we are learning about the world! It's great!" She tells us breathlessly, with a squeeeee!

The kids? They are alright... in fact, they are great.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Happiest Places

Isn't it a gift, those times when the happiest place on earth is your own backyard? I'm not being overly sentimental... it's not all a bed of thornless roses. But sometimes, hopefully quite often, we look around, smile, and feel happy because our friends are playing with us, the sky is bigger, there are ideas to share, views to marvel at. We recognize the happiness, appreciate the laughter, and connections, and the many ways it lightens our loads... and we just love it.

My heart is full, grateful for this very kind of happiness I have been enjoying. I try to get smart, wisen up, about misinformation I carry around in my head, the little stresses and habits of weakness I practice, and when I can suppress the naysayers and belittling voices in my head... I find that I am free to enjoy some truly blessed moments and occasions.

It helps, a great deal, to be in the company of kindred spirits... the kind of friends who naturally, instinctively, put you at ease, and join in the play.

Hello Dean! Hello Maria!
On the trail, at Torrey Pines.

Our friends came west, just as planned. Some plans are almost too good to be believed, when they are happening, unfolding... you think you might be dreaming. Jennifer and I have been exchanging notes, comments, gifts, encouragement, smiles, connections, all with three thousand miles between our front doors. And I know, some will find this all doubtful, dangerous, daring, weird, or wild, but Jennifer and I know... kindred spirits are out there, and you can find them, even through blogs.

Blogging. It's such a funny, new frontier. I'm sure it is not entirely understood or appreciated, for the good it can do, for the connections it can make. I cannot say enough, or fully express the tremendous joy it has brought me. Maybe it's what pen pals enjoyed, before Internet and email. Maybe it's what old families, living in the same town, the same house for a generation, or two, have the privilege of experiencing. For me, blogging has been a global gathering, at the computer, where I have found friends, acceptance, reassurance, new perspectives, and a novel sense of belonging, an uncanny reunion... sometimes in person.

This is my friend, Jennifer. She brought her family to California, and we've just enjoyed a really dear and happy few days together. I am full of deep thoughts, and other musings, about how special this has been, even about being sad, because we live far apart, and meetings like this are bound to be very few, and far between. I want to say how very pretty and serene she is, how I felt fine when we were quiet, and how I felt charged when we were talking. How delightful it was to experience the same feeling of connectedness in person, that we've enjoyed online.

Yes, so there is a lot I am feeling and thinking on these topics, but it also feels too special, too sacred. And I wouldn't want to mess it up with words. Some things are too great to be pinned down.

Pinch me, I must be dreaming. It is such a funny, dear feeling, seeing someone you recognize and know only from images on a screen, and they look back at you, and there is mutual recognition, motion, sound... real life! Someone should write about that... about meeting blogging friends, and the new phenomena of blog culture, and the relationships founded there, because it is fascinating stuff.

Gosh. Where was I? I knew this would be a twisty turny, wibbly wobbly post. I get sentimental and thinky, and... ah, yes, happiest places!

I have felt happy. And Dean's message on our wall, put me in mind of trying to describe some of the happiness we have been enjoying.

Alex, Dean, and Ken

We all met in the Panda place, at the Zoo. And then we kept finding other things to do, and places to meet. I am so glad Jennifer decided to celebrate her birthday like this, coming west.

Familiar places are fun to share with friends. I enjoy seeing it through their eyes, hearing their reactions. Come to think of it, I equally enjoy being introduced to new places with friends, and having a sense of their neighborhoods and stomping grounds.

Dean, with the map. Torrey Pines has many trails to choose from, and it was a gorgeous day... so any direction looked inviting... even the trail back to the Bird House.

We love our teeter-totter.

I am developing a theory of hope that practicing balance here will transfer into our daily activities, and we will gain skills in managing to balance our lives... laundry, clutter, schedules, etc... that would be marvelous. Me, never at a loss for wishful thinking.

The reality is, our teeter-totter makes us happy, and that is marvelous, indeed.

Play. Play is happiness.
Is it the other way around?
No matter.

Happiness is fun.

Speaking of balance... Alex is demonstrating his hover board.
Something he has been prototyping and experimenting with.

Q: What can you do with a second-hand leaf blower, plywood, duct tape, and a shower curtain?

A: Play, which is fun happiness.

Maria set the table, and declared this the occasion to celebrate the nearly completed barn.

So I zip tied a lot of lemon geraniums to an old and battered wreath, which we hung from the ridge beam. If we were supposed to do anything more than play, be happy, and eat a lot of food with friends and families, to properly bless the barn... well, then oh well. But I like to think the barn feels warmed, welcomed, and blessed.

Kind of a long post. All over the place. Sort of. Still, I cannot apologize. It's a blog. My blog, and one can hardly be expected to edit, or trim the content when sharing happiness, right? Good. Forward!

Jennifer and Ken wanted to help with the preparations, and since this wasn't our first date, naturally I put them right to work! Michal was over, too, and we were all gathered around the stove, making tortillas together.

Then Jess, and Eli, and Homer joined us. And yes, many hands do make light work, and in no time we had a feast prepared, complete with fresh, hot tortillas.

This, seeing my friend, and recalling how happy I was in her company... well, this is going to last in my heart and memory, forever.

No words. Just Happiness.