30 September 2007

half a century


It doesn't matter what language it is written or spoken in, fifty is fifty. Yup, I've hit the half-century mark in my life.

I wonder where the time went? In my heart and in my actions, I am not this age my birth certificate professes me to be. I look in the mirror and sometimes wonder who it is that stares back at me. I am the teacher who plays basketball, hopscotch, and tether ball with her students (I didn't say I played with grace or played well...I just play). I am the mother who goes on roller coasters with her daughter or down water slides that push the shorts up the legs to the point of indecency (I don't go without an internal struggle...I don't like fast or high...but I go). I am the woman to whose house children come to play in the mud, make cookies, catch night crawlers in the garden, eat nasturtium flowers fresh off the plants, and draw master pieces with chalk on the sidewalk.

Happy birthday to me!

**Like the high school '70's look? I still shiver (and not in a good way) when I hear the words "leisure suit."

28 September 2007

structure of autumn

Looking at the coming months of cooler to cold weather, my thoughts and actions have been focused inside. For me, autumn is the time to do the major cleaning and gleaning of files, drawers, closets, and boxes. The clutter and collections of the warmer months are mocking me from the desk, bookshelves, and wardrobe. I don't want to be inside with the approaching days of less light, living with the carefree disorder of summer.

23 September 2007

fall equinox

A shift in sunlight, change of seasons. Greetings, fall equinox. We usher into our kitchens: pumpkin pie, fresh baked bread, homemade onion soup, hot oatmeal cookies, slow-roasted root vegetables; into our attire: gloves and mittens, layers, felted hats, wool pull-overs, thicker socks; into our evenings: hot cocoa, hot tea, quilts, alpaca/wool knitting, studying; into our yards: leaf raking, cleaning out flower and garden beds, planting winter vegetables.

19 September 2007

r & r time

Take away those chores and necessities that need to be done each day, each week. Take away the dishes, the essential cooking, the laundry, the sweeping. Remove the dusting (who am I kidding...this chore is never completely done), the grocery shopping. What's left is the sweetness of nothing. Add in the change autumn brings--the chill in the evening that lingers long enough in the morning so that children wear light jackets to school, the yellowing of leaves modifying nature's color palette, the lengthening shadows and light teasing us as the sunlight shortens. What could I do with that time? Here are ten things...

Prepare something that usually takes too much time during the week to make, something comforting, something that requires the oven. Take pleasure in getting close to the foundations and heart of food.

Many other cultures have the right idea of siestas. A midday rest following a meal, or a break to spend time with the family or with friends sounds ideal. I do this in the classroom following lunch recess. I give students a quiet 15 to 20 minutes to cool down or warm up from outside, re-center their minds and bodies from the chaos of playing outside by resting their heads on desks or drawing while I read to them.

Coax my ufo's from the knitting basket. I used to wonder how knitters could be working on so many different projects at the same time, how they could just place one beloved pullover or sock off to the side and start on something else. Choices of fibers and colorways are a factor. Temperature of our environment is another. Crispness in the air naturally leads to wrapping that fine merino wool or baby alpaca fiber around the fingers and through the needles once again.

My listening to podcasts declines in proportion to the warmer weather activities. I-Tunes tells me I have 92 unheard podcasts! Oops! The fusion of listening and knitting makes for a relaxing evening.

Remove the stifling heat of summer, add a pinch of briskness in the air, and we have the beginnings of a recipe for evening bike rides.

With my husband, in love I am. I enjoy spending time with him, whether we are cooking, hiking, watching a movie, reading...

It seems that "unmentionables" and socks in drawers spontaneously appear with holes, yet most of us continue to wear them because we are too lazy to throw them away and buy new. This deferred maintenance of culling the worn is a dandy project for the oncoming seasonal shift.

Meeting with friends, sharing gossip and food...a delightful activity following the busy schedules of summertime.

Donning socks and hiking shoes, throwing the camera bag in my backpack along with a sketch pad, a water bottle, a towel (to sit on), and a bit of knitting, I head for the rice fields or natural parkway.

16 September 2007

and the answer is (still) yes!

Today is our 29th anniversary of marriage. It still amazes me how much in love I am with my friend, my mate, my lover. He says I'm his "rock," but I think that we are each other's foundations.

14 September 2007

early fall days

The garden continues to produce the most delicious foods.

Drainage around the house should be installed this weekend. The clay soil resists attempts to tame it.

11 September 2007

for a month, for a year

Priorities change with time. No little human in the house--she has her own home and life now. Jobs are good but what holds us to them are retirement and the benefits attached. Friends are facing the same predicament and issues. What if we were to move for a month, for a year somewhere else? The answer is different now than it would have been ten, twenty years ago. I would go. We would go. We would be far more likely to go to another country than stay in our own. If you are going to go, go big. Embrace the event. My list would alter if based on jobs. This list is based on "California dreaming."

  • Edinburgh, Scotland. I love the country, the bagpipes, the embracing of life.
  • Toronto, Ontario, Canada. There seems to be many knitters in this city. This is a good sign. The city has a great vision on being "green."
  • Dijon, in the Cote d'Or, Burgundy, France. This city has a gourmet reputation (doesn't all of France). The countryside is dotted with vineyards. Bicycles and walking are great ways to get around the city. The TGV high speed train connects this city to Paris.
  • Malaga, Spain. The history here is so rich. It was inhabited by the Phoenicians, the Greeks, the Romans, and the Moors. It's the birthplace of Pablo Picasso and Antonio Banderas (what more is there to say).
  • Salzburg, Austria. I would go for the beauty of the baroque architecture and the countryside.
  • Perugia, in Umbria, Italy. This region is much less crowded than it's "sister area" Tuscany. The city is well known for its much prized chocolate 'Perugina.' It hosts Europe's largest jazz festival each year. Chocolate...jazz...what more is there?
  • Taos, New Mexico, US. The city rests on a high desert mesa at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, and is known for the artists who live and work there.
  • Seattle, Washington, US. This is a wonderful city, close to the ocean, to mountains, and is a great base from which to explore more of the west coast (of the United States as well as Canada).
  • Bangor, Maine, US. The city has a 650 acre City Forest. It's close to Canada, and has the allure and charm of just being in Maine.

10 September 2007

contest called by slytherin prefect

In the quest to have other students at Hogwarts better understand us, we students of the "Sock Swap 2" class were given the task of answering questions about ourselves.

  • As a pet companion while at Hogwarts, I would choose a cat (since I really only have three accepted choices). A cat will keep one company during studies, both in the House common room as well as the sleeping quarters, and at night curling into the crook of an arm or knee. A cat could travel in the Muggle world without causing a stir. If one could choose "outside" of the approved list, I would have a sheep (kept safe and away from other creatures such as dragons, of course). It could provide fleece much needed for making clothes for house elves.
  • The sweets/treats I would get from Honeydukes Sweetshop in Hogsmeade would be milk chocolate frogs, cockroach clusters (almonds or walnuts), and chocoballs. Ambosius Flume is well known in the wizard world for his variety of fine chocolates.
  • In describing my typical, casual, while-not-at-work Muggle outfit, I would say Levis button-up (blue)-jeans (all the Muggles wear them), three-quarter sleeve black, brown, or blue t-shirt, Birkenstocks, hand-knitted socks (in cooler weather), a wool or alpaca pullover sweater in cooler weather or a hooded-sweatshirt.
  • My favorite subject to study at Hogwarts would be difficult to say. I have three in top running and which one is top on the list changes with the hour/day. These top three are transfiguration, herbology, and potions. In learning transfiguration, wouldn't it be grand to be able to change into other creatures and experience flying, or climbing a tree, or digging a hole? To wander unnoticed by others? With herbology, one could have a fantastic garden and be able to take care of those nasty Muggle viruses right away. Potions demands careful thought and measurement, like a Muggle chemistry or biology class.
  • My least favorite subject to study at Hogwarts would be divination. It is a class only a few can succeed at. Predicting future events carries with it great sorrow and responsibility.
  • In shopping for ingredients in the Muggle world for potion making, In kitchen potion making, I would be looking for black beluga or petite golden lentils, Yama Moto Yama "Genmai-cha" green tea with roasted brown rice, whole bean rich unflavored coffee beans, and raw walnuts. Colors of the potions: earth tones, deep rich tones--nothing glaring or flashy. The lentils provide warmth and comfort, the tea and coffee provide cleansing and restfulness, the walnuts provide a surprise in a salad. In bathroom potion making, I would be looking for chamomile, lemon, or patchouli essences which would be used to wash the body or found in a candle.

07 September 2007

an unveiling

The month of September has started out in a spectacular way with the arrival of several boxes over the past few days.

First, I must say a "wow" and most heart-felt thank you to my pal from KVVS, Cass. Can you just feel the softness? The deep rich color is fabulous. Pure joy at receiving this (Berroco Ultra Alpaca, color 6281):

And then came her box from Tennessee, exploding with the most delightful items (information pamphlets on the National Storytelling Festival and the Center, a pictorial map of Jonesborough, milk chocolate, playing cards with Great Smokey Mountains and Blue Ridge Mountains images, a national storytelling mug, "Storytellers Brew" coffee beans, wildflowers seed collection of the Blue Ridge Mountains, "Tennessee Fire" hot sauce, "Tennessee's Best" apple butter, Prairie Home Companion's Pretty Good Joke Book, an early American "Ring Knitter", and two magazines Blue Ridge Country (similar to Sunset in the West) and WNC: Mountain Living in Western North Carolina). I don't know how she knew that I love storytelling and incorporate these skills (not at the same level as those that attend the national festivals) in my teaching. The chocolate and coffee--divine. I can't wait to plant the seeds in my flower bed next spring. The hot sauce will be with dinner tonight, the apple butter for breakfast. The playing cards will be used regularly. Prairie Home Companion has been my weekly "me" time with the radio for over twenty years. The instructions for the ring knitter says it is the perfect size to make rope. I am so buying some hemp and giving it a try. The two magazines are brilliant. They are a magical way to see my pal's part of the country. There is an article in WNC about bluegrass music (one of my favorites). For years I have wanted to learn to play the fiddle. Between this article, and the post in a favorite blog-read of mine, I am going to have to seriously look into a fiddle with lessons! Again, thank you my virtual vacation pal. I treasure my items. This experience has shown me that Tennessee needs to be on my "to do" list of vacation spots.

Following those, two other boxes were dropped off. They had these, for my birthday (which is at the end of the month):

I can't wait to use them. No more begging my knitting pals to bring theirs to our nights-o'knitting.

Books for inspiration and expansion of my creative side:

I can hardly wait for cool weather. They are the perfect catalyst for a new project or two. Amazon is my friend.

04 September 2007

fire inventory

Although there's been an abundance of rain and moisture, almost to the point of saturation in the eastern U.S., here in California it's been hot and dry. It's not abnormal to have August cook its way towards autumn, and so the month went out as thirsty and parched as it began, with zero precipitation. Trees ill-equipped to handle the hot, dry climate in the valley, planted by landscapers as a cheap, quick fix to the bare land along roadways, in parking lots, and in front lawns of cookie-cutter houses, are showing their stress. The leaves are turning caramel colored and blanketing the baked ground like a crazy patchwork of bronze. The grasses in the foothills, long since given in to the heat, lay like a sepia shag carpet between the oak trees. We are still in the depths of fire season here.

One reads about the items people grab and save in the panic of escaping a fire. Sometimes the items make sense (financial papers, pets, photographs) to be rescued. Sometimes the items are rather odd (from most people's view point) and seemingly random for the effort of rescue (antique chair, suitcase, dishes). I have made a list of ten things I would save in a fire. Remember, this is my list. I have tried to explain the reasoning behind each "save."

  • Of course, I will start by lumping several things together. These items seem obvious to me, kind of a "duh" knee-jerk reaction--thus all under one big "umbrella," if you will: any people and/or animals being threatened or near in the pathway of the fire; important paperwork in the home office (neatly organized in a fire-proof box) like passports, insurance information, and important contact information.

  • My down pillow. Now, it's not an extraordinary or outstanding down pillow, not made from special fluff of a rare goose, not lined with noteworthy Egyptian cotton. It's a pillow that is broken-down, crushed, as they get with time, losing some loft and shape. It flattens easily when needed, wraps neatly between my arm and neck, making me feel relaxed and safe. This pillow always travels with me--to Chicago, to China (yes, you can giggle all you want, but I like to carry my pillow for its coziness and my contentment, no matter the distance).

  • My toothbrush. My Sonicare, electric, vibrating, massaging toothbrush. What pedicures do for the feet, what manicures do for the hands--my Sonicare does for my teeth and gums. A mouth is an entry point for bacteria. I may lose a house in a fire, but I will have a healthy mouth and fresh breath.

  • A sweatshirt with a hood. A sweatshirt is good to keep you warm, to wedge behind your back for comfort in an uncomfortable chair, or rolled up for a pillow (for those times I don't have my trusty down pillow). The hood is very important. It covers and protects the head, in case you find yourself somewhere like a movie theater where who knows how many people laid their dirty heads on the seat-back prior to you taking that seat. Um-hum...think about it.

  • A pair of comfortable Levi's. They don't have to be the brand specifically--Levi's brand-name is used in a generic sense for most people to describe blue jeans made of a canvas type material--although I am partial to the button-up front. The crucial aspect is that they are comfortable and durable.

  • Extra pairs of clean underwear. Doesn't everything have a better outlook with a fresh pair of underwear?

  • A pair of hand-knitted merino wool socks. Mmmmm. Total complete bliss, tranquility, and luxury. One can look at the feet and say they are loved.

  • My backpack. I have some delightful and brilliant bags, as well as baskets, but I still have a hard time kicking the habit of my backpack. It carries so well, snuggles my laptop in padded bliss, and has pockets of all sizes for every need. It fits well under an airline seat, keeps both the hands and arms free for drinking that wonderful caffeine elixir called coffee, as well as retains control of all items within zippers.

  • My Birkenstocks and my Mephistos. I can't decide. My Birks have been with me for many many years. They are truly comfortable. I could walk in them all day without an issue. They look great with a pair of hand-knitted socks too. My Mephistos don't have the history with my feet that the Birks do. However, they did travel with me to China last year. Can't wear socks with them, though.

There it is. My fire inventory list. Why didn't I include my knitting, or a book (or three), or my purse? Well, frankly, all those things are usually by the front door, next to or in the backpack, so I would probably grab it all anyway.

B.: This is a "Where's Waldo" question but much easier to answer--what has been added to this picture that is a surprise? [Hint: look at the toes.] I don't color my toes. I just don't. But I was talked into a slice-of-heaven pedicure today by C. This is the result.