Saturday, December 13, 2014

Word From the Chicken :: Cluck

To remind myself that...
Everything has a beginning, a middle, and a new beginning.
And it isn't the end until we stop moving forward.
Still moving forward, here.
And feeling rather clucky about that.
Happy Weekend, friends~
With love, from
Natalie, the Chickenblogger

Friday, December 12, 2014

{this moment}

A single photo, capturing a moment from the week.
A special moment. A moment I want to 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.
An honest to goodness FB fangirl moment, with Pink Martini. Brian Lavern Davis and Maria.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Maria's Shiny Christmas Shop Is Open

My mother makes jewelry. Beautiful jewelry, and she is as generous as she is talented. While she was here, she combined her talents and generosity to pass her skills along to her granddaughter. Delia hit the craft store and set Maria up in her very own cottage industry, teaching not just the basics of making earrings, using needle nosed pliers, and assembling bracelets, but also how to calculate expenses, keep inventory, and price merchandise. Maria absorbed every bit of those lessons, and even with Mister Washburn Foo's eager assistance, Maria was incredibly productive! All those shiny baubles, and more, she made in one sitting, and has not tired of it in the least. Last night she added a few more pair of earrings, before hunkering down to finish her homework.

Speaking of shops, local talents, and small businesses... have you finished your holiday shopping? I certainly haven't... Okay, but it's not too-too late, and it can be an extra gift to our communities, and to artists if we shop mom & pop style. Local is great, but I like to at least consider the independent craftsmen, and American made products. Here are some people and business that are small, great, and open for business:

The ToyMaker... Marilyn Scott Waters, another one of those talented and generous artists, has a new book on the shelves: A Year In The Secret Garden is brimming with her lovely illustrations and loads of activities for the young {and young at heart} gardeners on your list.

In the Fiona Gallery you will find custom art and jewelry, with a caring and heartfelt passion for dogs, and cats... especially dogs! Gina Barbosa also has a very personal keepsake bead company. Sisu Beads are thoughtfully made beads, and Gina is just the talented and sensitive person to help you make these unique memorial pieces.

My friend Jill never lost her fangirl passion for music, and she certainly inherited her dad's entrepreneurial savvy, which is why her Etsy shop, Records and Stuff makes so much sense! They take requests, and make custom orders.

Now for something sweet! I know a young man... just out of high school, actually, and he is putting his heart and good taste into his cottage industry with Mother Tucker's Toffee! Following his Great Grandmother Tucker's recipes, Lucas is building a solid reputation for his delicious toffees, and he'd be happy to ship you a box!

Need an elf in your kitchen this year, someone to help with the baking? Karen's Kookies can do it for you, and with her gluten-free options you are sure to find something for anyone on your list. Those Salted Double Chocolate Caramels are irresistibly good!

Abstract and vivid art, custom orders, too... ArtWork by Janece is an Etsy gallery, open for your shopping pleasure.

Shopping for a watercolor painting, something personal? Visit Art Studio: Yanina Cambareri does commissioned art, beautiful pieces that capture people, and places you hold dear.

Have I mentioned our favorite holiday music?? You are going to want to get up dance, when you hear Pink Martini's "Joy To The World" CD!

{For the record, these mentions are not paid for, not bribed, nor coerced. I am happy to pass along a kind word and support for the busy folks and friends in my life.}

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Get Up and Dance With Pink Martini

We had our annual Christmas in the City outing... in search of music, art, science, good food, lights... all of the above! This year we may have topped all of our outings, past and future. It was too magical to beat. And for extra happiness, we were able to snag one more ticket for my mom... a fitting gift for the Oregon woman who first introduced us to this marvelous, Portland band, Pink Martini. Maria was a toddling, wee thing when we first started playing Sympathique, twirling in the kitchen, and shimmying in the garden. And for the entire drive to Oregon, and home again, we listened to nothing but the beautiful Dream a Little Dream CD... beautiful, gorgeous, a gem. I make playlists for every mood, party, activity, and season, and I cannot think of many that don't include Thomas Lauderdale and his marvelous band.

The night before going to the concert, I dreamt about going to the concert. It was a very happy dream, and I loved the parts of it when I was, in blog-like detail, describing the band, to the point where I was tearing up, feeling deeply enthused. In reality I was hoping we had good seats, and yes... yes, I was really hoping Maria would be able to dance, stand in the aisle or at her seat, and do what she loves, what she can't not do... dance! And then it happened.

We had good seats. Great, really. And the music was stirring, a thrill. Maria and I squeezed hands, she was singing lyrics. Storm Large sang with the purest, most powerful voice I've ever had the pleasure of hearing in a live performance. She has a presence that is riveting, gracious. She moves with her voice, with the band, and weaves all the parts, the instruments, the words, the players into a compelling composition. Fun was happening on that stage, a playful, skilled, collection of artists, who seamlessly project their passion for the music, and bring the audience along for the party.

And then, Storm Large invited the audience to join them on stage, and her words were barely leaving her lips, when I told Maria, "You can dance!" It was a large venue, very formal... imagine the idea of going up onto a stage, with your favorite band playing, bright lights making looming shadows, thunderous applause filling the air, and not surprisingly, Maria was hesitant, but she was the first to accept the offer and reach the stage, and Storm Large herself, took Maria by the hands and led her up, and they danced!

Behind the band the space filled up, and Maria took a place in the midst of all of it, and danced, danced, danced. Shy at first, but after meeting Storm and taking those first steps, she didn't need anymore coaxing. Maria loves dancing. I don't think she noticed anything but the beat, and her joy in moving to the music. This happened four times! They played favorite songs, like Lily, and Brazil, and I thought Maria might burst when Timothy Nishimoto sang Zundoko Bushi! She tried to shake his hand... she really wanted to thank him.

Oh, it was a big one!

I love this band, and now we will have to sell our home, find a place for the goats, and chickens, and travel the world so we can follow Pink Martini, dance, and be mesmerized by their music. It is a happy fate.

Brian Lavern Davis, keeping the beat, danced with Maria, then stepped in for a picture, too. {And I cannot emphasize enough how warm and friendly everyone was... they keep a busy tour schedule, they're playing all over the world, but in that moment, they played and engaged like they were there just for us. It was lovely.}

By the time they announced they were playing the last song, Maria had pulled me out of the wings to dance with her. I'll never forget our dance, sharing her joy, feeling the gift of that special night.

Before leaving the stage, I wanted to get one more picture of Maria, with the band in the shot... and that's when Brian dashed in, again. And he said nice things to Maria, and then...

Then things got even more fun! Storm Large rocked this photobomb!

Dear Storm Large, thank you. Maria is still glowing, and grinning, still singing, and still thrilled to have shaken hands with you. Your singing moved us to tears and happiness, and we hope we have the pleasure of seeing you again.

Yeah, I'd say we had great seats! Didn't use them, much, but they were great. We had fun walking out to the cars, passing my iPhone between us and delving into the pictures and videos. William, Alex, Max and Bambi were happy for Maria... we all knew it was a really special thing to have happened, but she's a special girl. Improbable as it all was, something about it felt just right, like a happy dream.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Bourbon Pecan Cake Smells Like Holiday Jolly Days

All that butter, and bourbon, those cups of packed brown sugar, and bourbon! Whenever I bake this cake, I feel like the holidays are really kicking into high gear! My mom used to make it for gift giving at Christmas time, and I remember dying for a swipe of the rich batter, when I was a little girl. And the warm, sweet smell filling our home right this very minute? It's nostalgic and tempting, for sure, but it's also a bit of torture, because the cakes won't be ready to eat for at least two weeks! After they come out of the oven, I am going to let them cool, then wrap them in bourbon soaked cheesecloth, and seal them up for a long spell. They will get even more amazing over time, but the wait is brutal!

No tree here, yet. In fact there are still pumpkins at our front door. Seems like time is sprinting, and all of the world and its demands, are pounding at the door, but I just putter along at a mid-century pace... 1800-and-something! The faster everything spins, the slower I move, the deeper I slip into wishful reveries, daydreams, and embroidery, or baking. It's pure denial, and self preservation. I smell the last of the cakes in the oven, and they must be ready to come out... I don't think we have enough cheesecloth for twelve loaves and one big bundt! Alas, I will have to go out into that mad spinning world, again! I am dusted in flour, and ready for snow, or caroling, some jolliness! Must be the smell of all that bourbon, butter, and sugar!

Monday, December 08, 2014

Five Good Things

Green Gardens Nursery has magically transformed since our first visit, and I couldn't feel more thankful... full of evergreens and holiday details, I didn't realize how very much I needed a sensory retreat, until I strolled through every corner and room of this wonderful place. I was standing in the midst of all those Christmas trees, seeing flowers, seeds, and feeling the warmth of the day, and I suddenly remembered I could breath. Inhaling consciously, feeling blissed-out by the scent of pine, and the nostalgia of Christmases past... it was profoundly good. And it was nice to be there with a friend, too. Janece and I must have looked like children in a sweets shop, faces aglow, eyes wide, oohing and ahhing over every sparkle and glimmer! I'm glad I realized that Christmas really is coming, and I thought to get some gifts. It would make sense to go back and just finish all my holiday shopping there. Time is running out, and so is my energy! How about fruit trees and paper white bulbs for all? I love the gifts I did bring home... shhh! I must try to keep those under wraps.

What I was most tempted to do was buy a tree. Two trees! I suddenly wanted all the trimmings of the season to be in our car and on the way home. But. yeah, I figured that would be too much to do without the rest of the family, together, debating which tree, and all those Christmas tree choices and options that must be negotiated and debated. When we can we go back?

Good Things...

1. French Toast {Inclined to explain and justify this, but I'll just say this: Sometimes butter and bread and something sweet does everything you need.}

2. Having my mom here, and friends who come with pie, lasagna, who call, or text, who offer to do anything.

3. Corey, Lucas, Alexi, Grant and Max for enthusiastically! playing Maria's new card game with her, and Maria's friend Emma, for giving it to her.

4. Geoff and Alex visiting the same estate sale, at different times, and buying each other the same gifts... a sweet, geek magi-like moment.

5. Pink Martini. A dream come true, at last. It was far, far better than we dreamed it could be!

A new week is here. I have a sprig of pine close at hand, and when I breath it in, I feel a little more ready, a little bit stronger. Good things sometimes come in little bits. I am thankful. I hope you are finding plenty of good things to keep you moving forward, feeling strong.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Dreamt a Little Dream :: Pink Martini

Alternate title: Obsessive Compulsive Blogging Disorder
Disclaimer: Mister Washburn Foo has nothing to do with this post except that he's in it, so he has everything to do with this post.

Last night I dreamt that our home was full of extended family. Family I rarely see outside of family reunions, which shows you just how rarely I see them, because I haven't been to a family reunion since 2004. It seemed only slightly odd, but it was one of those realistic dreams, nothing too terribly surreal, so I was just going with it. Then I remembered that we had a concert to go to, and when I mentioned this, I saw a lot of blank faces, because most of my uncles, aunts and cousins hadn't heard of Pink Martini and my mom and I shared knowing glances, and I decided that I simply had to tell everyone all about Pink Martini.

In exacting detail, I began describing Thomas Lauderdale's bleached blond hair, that he started the band, that they were sure to recognize him, because he would be the one with a beaming grin and sitting at the piano. I mentioned that he liked music "standards," and kind of retro stylings... Mind you, I am not the least bit of a music expert, but in the dream I was confidently certain of all my adjectives and verbs, and it was quite satisfying to be so verbose and knowledgable. An uncle asked for an example, and I choked. I thought of Splendor In The Grass, which is Maria's favorite, but in my dream head, I decided this was not a good example of their retro-standards stylings, when in reality, now that I consider it, I think it is a fine example of their retro-standards stylings. Then my mom looked at me, with a happy and confident smile and she nodded, too, the way someone nods when they are sure you will join in... and she began to sing a retro-standards style kind of song, and I felt bad, because she sounded beautiful, but it was like the one Pink Martini song I did not recognize, and I apologized because, despite the nod, I wasn't able to join in.

Well, next I talked about China Forbes, and apologized that she would not be at this concert. I named all the languages she sings in, like Italian, French, Turkish, Japanese, Spanish, and English, and I probably made up some languages none of us has ever heard of, but, again, I must say it was grand to be a fountain of knowledge and detail. At this point I became so enamored of my description of China Forbe's singing that I became misty eyed, and this also felt great, because I thought everyone would comprehend how sincere my regard for Pink Martini is, and they too would fall in love with this marvelous band, and be enthralled with the concert. On to Storm Large, and I described the force of her presence, how she exudes her passion for the music, and I was all set to talk about her some more, but dream stuff happened and I was getting dressed for the concert.

This was a kind, and generous dream, because: 1. I had something to wear, and it looked good and it fit me. 2. We were not running late. 3. No one asked me to find-wash-iron anything! Yeah, so this was probably the point when some other part of my brain tuned in and informed me... Pssh... you're totally dreamin'

Is this too long?

Yeah, it was about this point, when I was telling Geoff all about my dream, that I realized that retelling dreams is seldom ever as compelling, fascinating or worthwhile as it was for the one who dreamt it. It kind of sounded mundane, rambling. I'd had a perfectly elaborate, exquisitely detailed experience, so real I felt like it was real, and about a band I adore. It was sweet, and grand, and life felt manageable, and good, but it's not easy to put those kinds of feelings and thoughts into words, at least not at 6:26 in the morning. So, I kind of hastily wrapped it up, and sighed... then it dawned on me, and I said, "OhmyGod, I blog in my dreams!"

I have Obsessive Compulsive Blogging Disorder, and I love Pink Martini.