27 December 2008

the wall, she is gone

"Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls." 
~~Joseph Campbell~~

Architects, in their quest for a balance between design and function, are willing to try unusual features in homes. We had (yes, I am so excited: h.a.d.--past tense) a wall which separated two areas of our home and housed the fireplace. It has always felt like it blocked the flow and energy and light in the house. It didn't quite go to the ceiling (it was a wall, it was not a wall), included a recess for a television (which we used to store baskets and pottery), and partially blocked the ingress/egress of the door to the back patio (I ask you, who designs a wall to partially block another doorway?).

It's gone {let's hear a squeal and do a little happy dance}. The rooms are now a single, greater room with space to breathe and visit and move. This very much delights me. The light from the windows aren't impeded by the wall anymore. Everything feels brighter and cheery.
We had no need for the fire place. We live in a climate where it does, on occasion, lightly frost, but truly our winters are mild. The chimney hole will become a sky light this coming summer. More natural light!

I would like to thank my husband for continuing to putt up with me and my ideas of change. "This is just a small wall, can we take it down? What if we push out the side of the house a few feet on the west side? See this space here, which we really don't use to its best potential--what if we take off the roof of the garage, use this space for a staircase, and add on another bedroom, bathroom, exercise room, and gathering room up there. It's "do-able", isn't it? Let's build a walled-in terrace, our own little grotto." These proposals are but a few of the many I have thought up.

I would also like to thank our daughter, for being such a good worker and great sport about her nutty mother. And then there's the great big thank you to her for having strong bones and not breaking any of these said strong bones when the wall fell on her (oh, yes it did!)--actually it somewhat bounced on her several times as gravity pulled it down, then it pinned her leg as a final assault. Just to make it clear, it wasn't the dry wall that fell on her...it was the massive amount of wood framing. She has bruises--big bruises--and scrapes. She's a red-head--she rarely bruises. Sorry daughter, for sending you back to your home with lumps and bumps, back to the barrister world of the courtroom, skirts, and heels with bruises.

26 December 2008

boxing day...day of goodwill

I rather love the origins of "boxing day", and I see that South Africa continues that genuine spirit as "day of goodwill" where gifts are given to those less fortunate in society. I like that. Our home is blessed with gifts, electricity, warmth, a refrigerator and pantry of food, friends, relatives, and love. Sadly not everyone can claim this to be the case.

I have added a button to the sidebar for Free Rice. This is a small, but I believe sensational, way to help others through the UN World Food Program. Oh, and a bonus: you can help yourself through extending your knowledge of vocabulary, grammar, geography, math, language learning, chemistry, and art. We have such a rich language and so little of it is used. I blame video games and television (but I digress).

Go to Free Rice. Play. Have the kids play. Watch your bowl of rice multiply.

24 December 2008

peaceful evening

Observing (and participating) in different perspectives and persuasions of the season's festivities within our extended family this time of year is a grand, yet delicate, waltz.

May peace surround your time with friends and family.

May the darkness be lit by warming fires and spirits.

May the delight of laughter fill your home and heart.

20 December 2008

the wassail is on the stove

We are busy preparing for one of my favorite changes in seasons. We have a tree...this is not a normal routine for us, but I love the smell of the pine in the house when it is so cold (yes, it is too cold here in California--just not the same kind of cold as my friend in the northeast) and dark, so many long hours of dark. Solstice gifts are wrapped. Tree decorations are waiting. Drums and strings are tuned. Candles are set out. And the wassail...oh, I have been given a wonderful recipe for this most delightful and warming drink. Give it a try (make adjustments to the quantities, depending on the number of folks who are thirsty and cold):

1 quart fresh apple cider
1 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup unsweetened pineapple juice
6 whole cloves
1 stick of cinnamon
**simmer (do not allow to boil) these ingredients on very low for 1 to 2 hours. serve warm.

02 December 2008


What is the color of fear? Of pain? How does one journey along that tangled, grey-toned and thorn-infested pathway with grace?

One period of waiting is over. Another begins.

I am reminded of this:

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.


14 November 2008

moment of madness

This morning I was running late. Now my "late" is probably long before most folks think of getting up for the day, but I was meeting with a parent for a conference at 0'dark-thirty this morning and my commute time depends greatly on my "start" time. I left the house with only a banana washed down with a single cup of coffee to fuel and propel me through the morning. By the time I had driven a few blocks, I knew I was going to need more of that delightful elixir, and in my caffeine-deprived brain it made more sense to continue on to a Starbucks than to turn around and go back home for a sturdy stainless steel to-go mug.

I stopped, got the biggest cup o'joe they have, decided to throw caution to the wind by adding a dash of raw sugar and cream (why not...it was going to be a long day), and drove along my merry way. I could smell the coffee, the hint of cream and sugar (yes I could), all the way to work. The cup sat in its well-designed (thank you Honda), pre-designated safe spot just to my right, cooling during the commute to the ideal temperature to drink.

I had a small, yet over-flowing, box of papers, report cards, and graded work, as well as that amazing cup of coffee, to juggle all the way back to the classroom. I sat the box on the hood, placing the cardboard cup with the easy pop-off plastic cap next to the box, and shut the door.

The laws of physics will not be denied. There are no exceptions to these laws for teachers who are running behind schedule, who have been smelling a perfect blend of coffee, sugar, and cream for over thirty minutes, who have been up late the night before on the computer fretting over the comments section of report cards, or who just wanted to have a few minutes of quiet and caffeine before the long day began. The movement created by the shutting of the door caused the papers to shift ever so slightly in the box, hitting the side of the cup which was on a slight incline (damn that aero-dynamic design). Like slow motion, I watched as the cup tipped and tumbled over the edge, began a beautifully executed somersault, and landed at a flawless thirty degree angle. This popped the lid off, allowing the coffee to puddle around the cup onto the parking lot. Steaming creamed-and-sugared coffee. All of it. On the asphalt. Taunting me with its rich scent.

I believe I stood next to it saying "no, no, no" for several moments. I can't be sure. Shock is a funny thing. I entertained the possibility of sucking the teaspoon of liquid still remaining in the cup and the lid, but I have "issues" with germs and public surfaces. I picked up the cardboard cup and useless lid, throwing them in the trash. Periodically throughout the day I thought of that coffee, the aroma, what it would have tasted like. From now on, I will keep a back-up stainless steel to-go cup with a screw-on lid in my vehicle.

05 November 2008


Does the sunrise this morning look just a bit clearer, a bit brighter?  The frenzy and push of politics trying to create dividing lines between families and friends is over.  I think the country has spoken as a united front.  Change is needed.  Change is coming.  What an amazing time we are in!

15 October 2008

comfort food...let's start with dessert

I have a cold.  One of the insidious bugs that settle in for serious one-on-one time with my lungs and voice.  So, I have a need for comfort food.  Something somewhat quick, not too complicated, yet rib-sticking and completely, deeply satisfying.

I have started with dessert:  angel food cake (this is the only light part of this meal, so hold on to your britches) with enough half-and-half to soak through the entire piece of cake, topped with fresh raspberries (at an insanely high price tag).

In the oven is my version of heaven in potatoes:  a white onion sauteed until brown and sweet; chunks of ham added until they, too, are browned and sweetened; layer these two with shredded cheese and cubed already-baked potatoes in a nice big dish; add a bit of chicken stock and milk with fresh ground pepper.  Stick this tasty fare in the oven until it bubbles and the smell drives you crazy.

I have the salad ready, on my plate, in anticipation.

Then I will end this meal with my second serving of dessert.

What a great way to begin and end a meal, a Wednesday meal!

22 September 2008

autumn begins

New school, new agenda for me this fall.  The super early mornings and piles of paperwork are taking their toll.  Kicking me down the lane, actually.

Even though there are still quite warm days in the ninety's, the evenings and early mornings have a change, a snippet of chill.  A sure sign of season's transformation.  We don't see the dramatic changes of color one gets in the northeast, but I do see shades of yellow, orange, and brown around town.  Each season is a wonder to me and I look forward to them all.  But the endings and beginnings are especially noteworthy in my eyes.  I am ready for a revision, a modification.

Welcome autumn!

01 September 2008

a day off

Yahoo! September is here! A month full of birthdays, an anniversary, and buckle-down-get-serious-school-days.

Today was created as a day off for the workers in this country, but no one gave my husband that memo. He labors today.

Looks like I need to patch up these labor-work pants! At the end of the day, an ice-cold beer (low-cal) really hits the spot in the back of a parched throat.

I labored too.
Yes, it was work! Serious work. Pleasing work. Creative work. Work that is destined for a much colder, "real winter" climate come this late fall.

We also had these beyond-hot peppers to get rid of--oh, I mean "use"--so I made a double batch of hot pepper jelly. It only made four half-pints. Yikes! That simply won't be enough. We ate the left-over bit that wouldn't fill a jar completely just with our meal today! A pleasurable balance of hot and sweet, with a nice "after-glow" in the mouth.

31 August 2008

august days :: thirty one

My desire that the triple digit temperatures stay in August may be a bit over-optimistic, but a girl can have ambitions, right? This month just seemed to slink away from me much like the ocean tide recedes slowly and quietly back into the great vastness, leaving scraps and wreckage scattered about.

Well, I refuse to see this last month as "the cup half empty". My nature is to look and see what can be salvaged, what was good, solid, and true. Sure, my cup isn't completely full but I see potential to the scraps and wreckage we experienced this month. There's a bit of recycling, scrap-booking, and re-purposing to be done. It was a month of peaks and valleys. But that's life, right?

28 August 2008

august days :: twenty eight

Amber gold...nectar liquid. We have fresh honey from my brother's hives!

How sugar-rich nectar from flowers is converted to honey is so amazing. Each year I share honey with students, as part of my attempt to add ecology, biology, and other sciences into their lives. First we taste and savor {I have had students who have never tasted honey before!}. Each flower's nectar is distinctly different in taste, which affects the color and taste of the honey, so I like to have several samples to "test". With that sweetness still lingering, we learn and discuss about the world of bees, their important role, and beekeeping. Lastly we learn the steps of making honey. Of course, this "lesson" takes several hours, which is spread over several days.

So, do you want to know the nitty-gritty of making honey, too? The worker bees (yes, they are the women of the hive) gather the nectar from flowers and return to the hive. In the hive, they swallow and regurgitate the nectar several times. Once the partially digested product is the right quality, it's stored in the honeycomb. Left alone at this stage, the nectar would ferment since it still contains a large amount of water and natural yeasts. The bees leave the honeycombs unsealed and use their wings as fans to slowly evaporate the excess water and condense the sugar to amber honey. Then the combs are sealed.

This honey? Notice how there are two distinct hues, one darker than the other. The lighter one is nectar from mandarin orange trees, up in Newcastle. Oh, yes, you can taste the hint of orange in the honey. The darker one is from the area by Rough and Ready. {I just love the name of this little town, don't you? It is the only mining town to have seceded from the Union, only to vote itself back in three months later so that they could celebrate Independence Day with the rest of the country. How fun is that?} Sorry...I can't remember from what flowering plant the nectar originated. But the overall "flavor" is much stronger.

A few of these jars are destined as sweet gifts of summer delight.

24 August 2008

august days :: twenty four

The wisteria is blooming for the third time this year! (Oh, yes, and the seed pods are still exploding on occasion.)

23 August 2008

august days :: twenty three

These two have slept like this, close to each other, since they were kittens. Brother and sister, together, always.

22 August 2008

21 August 2008

august days :: twenty one

Love Thursday:
Is this not a wonderful, beautiful specimen? I don't know what her "title" is in the arachnid world, but I just love her fuzzy blackness. Do you see the white heart on her back? How about the cobalt blue eyes?
She lives in the the amaryllis foliage. This is a good thing since she tends to keep the population of insects under control. At last sighting, she was about an inch long, head to toe. Of course, this is only a guess.

I don't know that this spider is a "she". I just tend to say that. I find it interesting how things like ships are named as female. I named my vehicle and computer female names, but not my calculator or dishwasher. I will have to ponder on this a bit more.

Really, look again at this magnificent spider. She is amazing.

20 August 2008

august days :: twenty

My wall of potted plants gives me great joy. These are plants that, for most people, would be under the category of "indoor", but here at our house they live outside year round. If one happens to die because of a freak frost, I replace it with another plant, giving it a try for hardiness. Drip irrigation makes this display of greenery pretty much carefree, even in the heat of the summer months.

19 August 2008

august days :: nineteen

Good morning to...ha...yet another day of triple digits!

18 August 2008

17 August 2008

16 August 2008

august days :: sixteen

Oh, my! This is me! Jen Gray is channeling me, or I am her...whichever, it is a bit liberating to read that another soul is feeling fragile and splintered. Thank you, Jen!

15 August 2008

august days :: fifteen

This is my first year growing okra, and I think I will grow it again. Sliced and added to soups, it makes half-inch stunning, round arrays of seeds which seem to dance among the other vegetables.

How can one go wrong with okra when learning that it's related to both cotton and cocoa!

14 August 2008

august days :: fourteen

Hibiscus mosheutos to the botanical types, but most people know this brilliant flowering plant as a "Dinner Plate Hibiscus" or a "Swamp Mallow". These popping flowers range from eight to twelve inches in diameter--a definite show-stopper in any garden!

13 August 2008

august days :: thirteen

Falling deeply for:
  • already-shelled sunflower seeds--a slightly salty, crunchy snack that reminds me it's summer.
  • still-warmed-by-the-sun deep-red tomatoes from the garden paired with aromatic basil leaves and slices of fresh soft mozzarella cheese. yum.
  • "Eat, Pray, Love" and getting lost in language.
  • the intricate designs of spider webs.
  • Simple Carousel Hemp shoes--made with recycled rubber car tires, organic cotton, recycled paper pulp, and hemp (I think I really need a pair).
  • the re-emergent popularity of the fondue pot in tandem with a love fest of the outstanding variety of cheeses available.
  • freshly made lemon sorbet with roasted almond slices sprinkled on top.

12 August 2008

august days :: twelve

I recently traveled with Amtrak, on the corridor between the bay area and Sacramento. Now, the train doesn't go up regularly to my town from Sacramento, but Amtrak does connect travelers in that direction with a bus. It was an easy, stress-free, and delightful journey. Yes, even the bus ride...although, I must say it was due in a large part on my ability to be one of the first passengers on that bus and immediately acquiring the front seat with a free view of the road ahead. You see, I have a sensitive inner ear and motions tend to upset that delicate balance between ear and eye. Now you know: I am not astronaut material. I can make myself car-sick driving on twisting roads. Yup. Sad, I know.

I got some knitting done on the train. This is a good thing since the holidays will be upon us soon and, of course, I am behind. I don't have a picture of my progress, though, because I had to frog it (no laughing DeeDee)--lace stitches can be so aggravating if one is not paying attention.

However, I couldn't just sit there, knitting away, without a conversation to go with it. I didn't have my iPod Touch with me. I had prepared a variety of listening pleasures for myself but left it at home. No, I don't want to talk about my "grey" moment of forgetfulness. I forgot to bring my phone too, but we won't talk about that either. There I was with no podcasts, no NPR, no music, no communication. The train was quite full and I found myself sitting next to another woman. I tried several times to strike up a conversation with her on a variety of subjects, without any success. A small smile and a slight acknowledgment of a few words do not make a thriving exchange. Tragic, really, because we could have solved world hunger or maybe at least discussed the menu choices at a restaurant, who knows. About fifteen minutes outside of Sacramento, my "seat mate" excused herself for the restroom and, well frankly she never returned. It was then that I realized "huh, maybe I am that odd person who talks to strangers." I didn't fair any better on the bus ride either.

When I mentioned this to my husband, his response was along the lines of "well you are known as being that crazy lady who talks to just about anyone." I think he pictures me in my old age sitting with a couple cats, mumbling to strangers on the street. My daughter says that I broke the golden rule of public transportation: one is not supposed to talk to another person--ever--no eye contact--no conversation. Hum. That's difficult for me. It's just not me.

Ensete ventricosa, or better known as Red Banana. This plant will not produce bananas since it is strictly speaking just an ornamental, but it is just gorgeous with its red edges. So luscious.

11 August 2008

august days :: eleven

Lagerstroemia, or around here in California they are recognized quickly as Crepe Myrtle. These trees and shrubs are so fantastic right now. They are happy and colorful, lining streets and adding "pop" to homes. This is my favorite color, but they also bloom in lavender, pink, and white.

10 August 2008

august days :: ten

Alas, the specific type of wine grape here eludes me at the moment. My first inclination would be chardonnay, but these grapes are a bit dark for white wine. I love to watch them magically appear over the season.

09 August 2008

august days :: nine

Brugmansia datura, or known by the common name Angel's Trumpet. The flowers are over six inches long and very sweet smelling. In tropical climates such as Hawaii, these plants will become trees. Oh, the sight!

08 August 2008

august days :: eight

Cyperus papyrus, or better known by its common name of papyrus. If you have never seen the stocks of this wonderful plant, I will tell you that they are in the shape of a triangle, not a circle. So very amazing.

07 August 2008

august days :: seven

I am feeling fragmented right now. Small shards of me are circling around like the rings of Saturn, just out of reach, and I can't quite seem to get my footing. New territory for me. This temporary departure from the norm is at odds with the colors, sounds, and tastes of the summer. Argh.

So, for a few days, I will be posting scant words. Instead, you will find entertainment in visual treats.

06 August 2008

august days :: six

Behold, a new leaf set on one of our sago palms (Cycas revoluta). New, fresh leaves and growth on plants always makes me happy. We seem to be attracted to plants with a history dating back to the age of dinosaurs {curious? read about it here}. Don't be fooled by the soft look...these leaves are quite stiff and extremely sharp.

05 August 2008

august days :: five

Hello, moisture up from Mexico-way, bringing a few clouds to enjoy in the evening! I am loving this sunset. No, I haven't "doctored" this photo, although I must admit it was even more stunning mere moments before, but alas I didn't have my camera with me.

04 August 2008

august days :: four

Insects seem to be in abundance around me this summer! This lovely nest, however, will be "disappearing" later today, since it's directly next to a pathway used several times a day.

03 August 2008

august days :: three

I had a box of crayons,
All shiny, straight and new.
I lent a friend one crayon,
And -- oops -- it broke in two!

My friend said she was sorry,
But I said, "I don't care,
'Cause now we both can color
With one crayon -- we can share!"

I can't remember where this little rhyme came from, but I love the way it expresses turning a negative into a positive. It's a remnant of working with children and is floating around in my thoughts today. Celebrate and honor your friends, this day of International Friendship.

02 August 2008

august days :: two

I find myself walking gently into August. I want to savor the moments, the subtle changes around me. Hurray for Shutter Sisters this week with their superhero photo challenge: a self portrait of one's own feet. Hurray for pedicures and a hint of tan line from flip-flops. Hurray for swinging lightly in my Air Chair on the back patio, sipping iced Moroccan mint tea and reading a book. A lazy day, indeed.

01 August 2008

august days :: one

The traditional end to summer, a hold-over from classic school scheduling, begins this month. It's a bitter-sweet time. While still filled with quiet early morning bike rides, idle afternoon dips in cool water, and late evening night-crawler hunting, this month also hosts the stocking of pencils and paper, the buying of new clothes, and an ending of late-night movie watching.

30 July 2008

neglect, part two

A quirky thing about me: just prior to leaving home for a road trip, whether it be short or long, I have this uncontrollable freakish thing about completing both stocking and deep cleaning projects all around the house. It becomes almost a manic thing, running on over-drive and caffeine, throwing aside sleep.

The kind of deep cleaning that involves: scrubbing the abyss underneath the burners and drip bowls, where the fossilized boiled-over bits of past meals have found a home; taking the bins out of the refrigerator and scrubbing the walls and shelves in the back, where dehydrated bits of food cling; removing all the items that "decorate" the counter-tops and scrubbing the tile grout with a brush in a futile effort to rid it of coffee and tomato stains. Let's not forget organizing drawers in the bathrooms as well as the pantry, and getting all the laundry done (including blankets and quilts). Granted, some of these things are done each day, each week, to some degree, but usually just "surface".

Almost out of baking powder and vanilla? Down to the last one-third tube of toothpaste? Laundry soap half gone? These things need to be purchased, along with anything else even remotely perceived as possibly running out before I return.  I give it a one-month window of stock.

My thought behind this behavior, I have come to realize after years of self-therapy and reflection, sits on the premise of my potential demise while gone. Don't laugh. Who wants strangers and family to see a disorganized, messy house? This "problem" of mine is exponentially heightened when the only one leaving is me. I don't want my husband to have to worry about the cleaning, the lacking of basic things being stocked, or any disorganization while also dealing with me not being there. I don't want him to become overwhelmed with daily things or house details in my absence. He is quite capable of being on his own...I just don't want him to have to worry about it.

So, when my doctor called me recently at seven in the evening telling me, ordering me, to go to the emergency room right then, my retort was "Are you sure? Can it wait until Monday?" After all, my obsession of leaving the house and affairs in a certain state was kicking in at a record-breaking speed. I didn't hear much of what she said after that because I was running through my mind the time it would take for me to do certain "necessary " things before I trudged off to the hospital. And I had to pad some of that time-line since I wasn't feeling well. OK, so on hindsight, my frame of mind wasn't "normal". I had a small meltdown as I tried to do some laundry, straightened up a few projects, and generally bounced around the house. I stalled by packing a bag, thinking that if I packed it, I wouldn't be staying and would return home later that evening...and I wouldn't be leaving anything unfinished.

As a result, the refrigerator never got updated. It had only been two weeks since it had been gutted and scrubbed, so how bad could it be? Then I was gone for two days, followed by several more when I was out of commission. I remember my dear husband saying something about a bag being squishy, but I was on medication and I assumed he took care of it.

This morning I went to the refrigerator in search of soup-making ingredients such as green onions and spinach. What I found were bags of green slime and soft indistinguishable substances. Food for my worms, already partly digested. A soup only they could appreciate. A soup that dripped from the bags as I lifted them out of the drawers. A soup that led to everything being removed and scrutinized for freshness. See why I have this abnormal cleaning and stocking issue?!  Really, it's not his fault at all.  I "came" this way.

It now sparkles. No odors. No questionable containers or packages. No outdated, over-ripe, products. I'm ready for my CSA box!

28 July 2008

neglect, part one

Because I have an organic yard, free of chemicals and full of beneficial insects, keeping the shade structure and garden from looking like something out of a horror film complete with leg-tangling-throat-catching-spider-webs takes an almost daily sweeping of a broom and spraying of the hose. Sadly I have been preoccupied the past week-plus.

This morning I ventured out to have my morning coffee while surveying the explosion of vegetables in the garden when I came to an abrupt stop. My little wall of tiered pots, while bursting with color and growth, have also become a habitat fit for the arachnid kingdom. Most spiders are indeed beneficial and I don't begrudge them their spot in the yard and cycle of life, just not quite so close to me or my Air Chair. I am both drawn to and repulsed by them--always have been. This one is quite colorful and her web is stunningly large (over three feet in diameter). I guess that means she has been quite busy eating and growing. There are several other spiders of different varieties which have built mesh-like, tent-like webs between the tiers and pots as well. All in all, the quantity and medley of web designs give the entire potted area a shimmering light display in the morning sun worthy of fairy magic. I am not quite sure how to proceed with her. I think for now she will remain, under my watch. If she sticks to her side of the posts, I can live with that.

When I was hiking Lamoille Canyon a couple weeks ago, I came across a fallen tree that looked much like a walking stick insect, complete with legs and all. I wonder how many dozens of hikers, pushing their way up the trail to the lakes, just pass it up (both going up and coming down the trail) without a thought. I sat on a granite rock in the shade (admittedly allowing my at-sea-level-lungs to actually take in what little oxygen exists at that altitude) admiring its unique shape. What an amazing art find!