Saturday, November 28, 2020

Excellent Messes*

*Now updated. I added some important links, and a few reflections. It's the last day of November, which you probably realize, but I am trying to comprehend this, and I need reminding.
Delia and Ron's Forest, in Oregon.
No peeking! I have to keep this underwraps, but I am happy to share that these gifts were purchased at BoyGirlParty, where friend, author and illustrator, Susie Ghahremani has a shop full of books, art, clothes, buttons, pins, totes, everything! Shopping locally, or from artists, or from local artists... these choices make a big difference in the lives of your friends and neighbors.
Friend, artist and author, Lauren Scheuer has an Etsy shop, and that's where I found these masks. I love that she had her clucky hens made into a fabric print!
Cairo is overseeing our latest project. Max has one Christmas wish: A bedroom. We are doing a furniture shuffle, and creating a space he can call his own, and about time, too. I always feel my Grandmother with me, when I tackle these kind of projects, because she was a genius for moving furniture, making things fit, and recreating a space with whatever she had on hand. If she showed up with her yardstick, you knew things were about to get done!
Another photograph from my Mom, and her woods in Oregon. I just keep thinking on the many wonderful visits I've enjoyed, or imagine what the next visit will be like, whether I will drive up, or fly over, and what we will get up to. It's one of the happy occupations I enjoy, and feel conforted by.
Did you get some of your favorites on your Thanksgiving plate? I am passing this can along to a friend. We gotta look out for each other!
I'll be back to say more, but just know: We have been making some exceptionally worthwhile messes.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Giving Thanks

I am sure, more than once, I have written about being thankful for the Internet, and wifi, for mobile phones, and cameras, for all the devices and technology that keeps us connected. This year, well could we ever have foreseen just how thankful we could be? Last April, Maria showed me how to do live, face to face video chats, helping me get comfortable with the process, and being "out there." And of course I have no reluctance to blog, share to Instagram, and text. More recently, my Mom persuaded me to add WhatsApp to the mix, and now we have regular chats with my brothers, and sisters-in-law, and Mom. I am thankful not only for the devices, methods, and options, but even more for all the people staying in touch, reaching out, connecting. I can count many friends, even near strangers, that have reached out to me, and that I have reached out to. We are all in this together rings so true, when a text appears and someone is checking in on me, asking how I am doing.

I am thankful for our pets, as well as the wildlife that we see around our home. Sometimes, the coyotes yip a little too close for my comfort, and I am not at all happy about the damages rats have done to idle cars, but cute bunnies, countless migrating birds, and resident birds, like owls and wrens, and quail, are dear. The goats are as sweet and ridiculous as ever. I have spent hours in their company, and they do my spirits a world of good. After their initial eagerness for snacks and affection, they will settle into a soothing, mellow pace, and it's impossible not join in, and chill. The hens. Oh, the hens have been just as expected... noisy, bossy, endearing, messy, generous with eggs, and feathers, pretty, curious, and funny. I am glad we had our old girls, the Chicas. I was relieved to acquire the Chiclets. And I could not have imagined a happier outcome than what we have enjoyed since the Happy Campers arrived. And I cannot forget to mention our cats, our cats who live inside, and might as well be small people for their personalities and antics, for the spaces they occupy, and engagement we share with them. Cairo, Sakamoto, and Feynman are good kitties, which is to say, they are soft, warm, scratchy, destructive, affectionate, needy, amusing, hilarious, messy, distracting, playful, curious, and cute.

One of the first things we did when we moved here was to remove a tree that was damaging the house with its roots. It was a shame to take it down, because it looked pretty, and at least one neighbor objected, until we explained about the house foundation. In place of one oversized and domineering tree, we had space to thoughtfully lay out a small orchard, including apples, a peach, plum, and apricot, and a lime tree. We have enjoyed fruit, and sharing fruit, every year since. And yesterday, when I decided to revisit a favorite recipe, I found I had no limes. I visited our tree, walking slowly around, and hoping. I found two, just ripening limes. Small gifts. I am thankful for our home, and gardens, for the improving soil, the native trees, the wild flowers, and the bees. And I am thankful for the lime, because I love to add it to this Cranberry Nut Bread recipe, from Oceanspray. I made a double batch. The recipe only calls for grated orange peel, but I dice up lime and orange, and throw in some of the fruit, too. I use, butter, not shortening, and the nuts I add are pecans.

There's more, but just now I need to take care of the dough rising for bread.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Fun & Games & Cranberry Sauce

It isn't all fun and games, but it helps tremendously to focus on the fun, to look for the silver lingings, and to make the extra push to create good memories, share some joy, distraction, light. When I think about where I wish I could go, what I wish we could do, I feel two ways: I feel thankful that we have enjoyed those traditions, those experiences, and visits, because they were good, or how else could I know that I want to enjoy them again? And then, I can feel terribly sad, even muddled and out of sorts about all of this. This... lock-downs, masks, isolation, distance, staying home, missing loved ones, lost connections, death, the knowledge that so many are struggling, the toll and losses from misinformation, and willful indifference. Stop me. We know, right? It's not far from my thoughts, from my heart, all of the ways this year has been cruel, challenging, frustrating.

We ordered a Christmas tree, and I bought a whole turkey. The tree purchase will help the high school lacross team fund-raise, and we get the tree delivered, which is nice touch for safety. So, even though I debated whether I had the heart to do all that, I'm glad the committment is made, and we can put up lights, and sit beside a tree on quiet, early mornings. Truthfully, as much as I adore this time of year, holidays, and winter nights, it's not easy to muster the energy, the faith in cheery-merry-bright things. Maybe it's not very interesting to read about my internal dialogue and how my attitude swings back and forth between Scrooge, and Buddy the Elf, but if you struggle, too, I hope it helps you to know, you are not alone. Of the seven of us, only five will eat turkey. I could have make life easier and just fix some chicken. But a roasting turkey fills the house with that distinctly Thanksgiving aroma, and I can fix some plates to share with another family, and freeze the rest. And I am prepared to cry, to miss my extended family, to be nostaligic, then frustrated and disappointed, too.

Seeing that nothing of the hard parts of this holiday season will subside, or abate, in my best moments I make plans, take actions, like buying a whole turkey, committing to a tree, decorating our mantle, making yet another holiday playlist, gathering all of the ingredients for the gnarly cranberry sauce that only I relish. And I even made a calendar, something Advent-y, and personal, to remind us, to coax us into celebrating, into planning, anticipating, and participating. I'd like to think this could be pure joy and spontaniety, but sometimes these things require a nudge. I even asked Alex to remind me of all the holidays. I ran out of space to illustrate all of it, but there's also Hanukkah, St Lucia, Twelth Night, New Year's Eve, Boxing Day, and how about Repeal Day, National Fritters Day, Put On Your Own Shoes Day, and Roast Chestnuts Day? I represented Christmas Eve, which should be in Ruth's home, as it has been for a few years, with a bird, like the ones she decorates her birch tree with. We hope for the best, right?

Last May we ordered our first half cord of wood in about seven years,
and this was the night we just about finished burning the last of it! In less than six months, we enjoyed enough social distance fire nights to use as much wood as we burned in seven years! It has been one of the best purchases of the year, and we eagerly called in another order... half oak, half piñon, and now it's cold, we will probably use this order up even faster than the last!

Some nights we watch movies. We have hosted 20 movie nights, and a few nights of simply hanging out. I used to think our driveway was annoyingly big, too big. Now, I see it as a tremendous gift, with lots of room for safe, happy gatherings. Last Friday Leslie wanted to introduce us to a game... a "socially distanced word game," and she assured me it would be easy and fun, because she knows I can get a little anxious about elaborate games. (I rank laughter above competition.) She totally pegged us with this one, and we had a great time! And we can't say enough about how hard Leslie worked to make this, otherwise straightforward game, work for each family to remain distanced, and not sharing anything but laughs. We even used texting. One person has to guess the word that inspired the list of words, like you see on Leslie's white board. Should I go on? I'm never any good at following game instructions! Ok... if you saw "Color, Submarine, Fever, Journalism, #FFFFOO, Amira, and Bellow (Bellow?? I don't understand this clue) what word would you think these clues indicate? We played many rounds, and we want to play again, soon.

Janece, Paul, and I joked about our plans for upcoming birthdays, and special occasions, about how to celebrate them. Because the answer is always the same, "How about a bonfire?" "Well, we could meet in the driveway, have some fires going..." What if we sit around a fire, watch a movie?" We cracked ourselves up with our funny because it's true joke. It might seem like the same thing, but it's special, unique, every time, and I look forward to more.

Last Christmas, Geoff gave me a big box of beautiful colored pencils. I’ve touched them, held them, admired them, and saved them. Recently, I finally played with them. I made a color chart. I labeled them, in English and sometimes French. Bleu. Aubergine. Brûlée. Then I washed over them with a brush, and enjoyed the colors diffusing into tones of shade. I am loving the pencils. They are fun to use, and just brushing my fingers across them, noting each color, makes me smile. I want orange to be the sun, and fruit, and fat hens, again. I want words to have value and meaning, and kindness to be as heartfelt and deep as bleu nuit. I want everyone to have their own box of colored pencils, heath-care, equal rights, hopes that can be fulfilled, and freedom from want. I want everyone to stay safe, and well, to enjoy warmth and laughter, to have some kind of merry holidays.