Monday, March 01, 2010

Trying For Understated

Some persons want things to be quiet, reserved, low-key, understated, when it comes to their special day. I need to respect a particular person's right to come in under the radar. This is hard to do.

A birthday is personal. Mine is personal to me, and yours is personal to you. But none of us are born alone. Someone bore us, and I have understood and appreciated this since March 1, 1991. Actually, the concept was really contracted home for about twenty fours prior. His birthday is my birthday, and while I do not see this as license to take center stage, I cannot help feeling connected and responsible, involved.

I will save all my messages and affection, my deep thoughts, and other musings for him alone.

And for the record, I will talk about pie.

My mommy dreamt up a pie. It was a feeling, an emotion, an expression of culinary destiny. I think her vision's mission statement is: Pie Should Not Be Understated.

When she came in December she and I were on the lookout for varieties of chipotle jelly, jam, chutney, preserves and powder. We were going for something without dyes. Something that didn't taste pickled or overly processed. She already had great success with her developing recipe when she baked pies in Southampton, Ontario, and over Thanksgiving with the Soquel family and guests.

The pie she baked while she was here was declared "the best pie ever," by her three grandsons. "The best pie ever." This is huge. A statement like this, from the founding fathers of The Pumpkin Pie Club, children who frequently vote for pie over any other dessert... this is monumental. I probably should have a separate Chickenblog label for all of the dear, life altering, life affirming pie moments we have shared. Homemade pies, birthday pies, road trip pies, wedding pies, local pies, a tragic salted pie, Wisconsin cherry pies, Central Coast Olallieberry pies...

Seriously. Their statement about Grandma BooBoo's Chipotle Apple Pie is a landmark in the legacy of pie.

Mom found a marvelous chipotle jam and sent it to me, and the boys have waited in patient anticipation for me to attempt making Grandma BooBoo's Chipotle Apple Pie. As yet, there is not an "official" recipe, and my mom was a bit disappointed in the version she baked while she was here, using chipotle powder. She was disappointed, but the boys were clearly not. I added half this jar of jam, decreased my sugar, and proceeded to make my basic apple pie, and... Success!

I wish Delia were here so we could fine tune the recipe and make scientific measurements, but the boys are completely onboard with this spicy chipotle pie, so we must be in the right zone.

Pictures. of. finished. pie.
Uh, well sorry, but there was a bit of a pie frenzy and no one wanted to pose or look natural, so maybe next time.

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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Remembering Two Years Ago...

If we got in the car right now, and only made quick stops, we might be able to get here in time for a late hike and dinner. Part of me is imagining "here" as the same time and place, but I know that is not possible. Time travel. Not possible, except in our memories. Thank goodness for memories, and photographs, and blog archives.

And moving forward, we have a special day to celebrate. Time to harass William a bit and force him to choose some kind of something to do in his honor.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Older and Wiser?
Nothing confuses, frustrates and distresses me more than my birthday. Except taxes. And the wrapping on a DVD. Oh, and choosing paint color. I digress.

Nothing confuses, frustrates and distresses me more than my birthday. My birthdate falls in the void between Christmas and New Year's Eve. People are tired, shopped and partied out, out of town... etc. It's too soon after the big build up of the holidays to imagine one more party-celebration-cause for gift wrapping. We have gifted all we can. We need time and space to replenish our stores of good will and party stamina. Who can bear to look at another cheese platter? I know. I understand. This is why it's been eleven years since I last offered myself a party in my honor.

I was going to say more, but at this point confusion and distress are seeping in to my thoughts. Do I really want a party? How about just a take out container of sauce slathered ribs, some onion rings and one of Geoff's Margaritas? I could invite my most tolerant friends over to alternately cry and laugh over a ridiculously rich chocolate cake.

I am confussed. I cannot spell. Oh dear. I really am getting old. All my girlfriends have been warning me about reading glasses... how in your forties everyone needs reading glasses. I still hadn't noticed, until recently when I realized that I have no idea what I am shaving under my arms. I am armpit blind. Seriously. It probably looks like some cattywampus mow job, or like I have mange.

This is the year I am going to start lying about my age.

My name is Natalie.
How old am I?
Why, I am fifty years old tomorrow.
What's that?
I don't look a day over 43?
You're so sweet.
Have a Margarita.

****Uh... evidently lying about my age was not such a hot idea... I am getting sympathy and encouragement. I must actually look closer to 50 than I thought.****

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Fine Art
Guess who got a portrait paint set for her birthday?

Admission: I let the children make messes, but what may appear as utter chaos, near anarchy, is my own version of controlled chaos. No one get hurts and the mess can be easily rolled away in one fashion or another. This is evidence of my creative-liberal mothering and my semi-control-freak mothering. I will hide paints, playdough, glitter, glue, and 42,000 piece puzzle sets until I am ready to play.

Maria must know she has to make her move fast if she's gonna get her chance. She did not give me two seconds to shelve the new toy. She did not ask for help to pull off the cellophane, to break open the box. She found her own apron, and while I was gabbing on the phone distracted, she asked me to tie it on for her. She was a stealthy and dedicated anarchist.

She was deep in to her project before anyone noticed what she was in to.

Please Note: She was not alone. Geoff and William were equally immersed in their own project, at the very same dining table... only inches away from the artist. This proves that being in the room and being aware are two different kinds of supervision.

So this is about the point when I was called in. When frantic voices were rising up. When paint had hit the table and floor. Big glops of wet acrylic. Wasn't she clever to remember an apron? Didn't she do a good job setting up the easel and opening those little jars?

Disclaimer: No, that is not a faux pumpkin, leftover from two months ago, sitting next to Christmas presents. No. Who would do that? Please.

Ta da!
I slipped in some butcher-type paper under the easel. I wiped paint from the table, the floor, her extremities. I slipped in a few tips about painting with acrylics and letting the paint dry between layers... just a few basic suggestions. Obviously she didn't need too much advice.

Speculation: See the olive-green paint? The one at the edge of the table? Want to guess what happened? Technically no one knows the specific details of what happened, but we can make educated guesses, right? I am thinking that the little jar didn't merely tip and fall... I think it flew in a terrific arc, because the paint was not only on the carpet three feet behind her chair, but it also hit the ceiling, the wall. We never will know how it went down, because being in the room and being aware are two different kinds of supervision.

The self portrait is coming along. She's going to finish it tomorrow. Today her class is singing Holy Baby in the school pageant. Max's school break starts now, which is wonderful. I am very, very looking forward to having all of Team WAMMO in the house.

Priscilla, I am afraid that if I thank you for the birthday gift, you will think I am being disingenuous or trying to implicate you in a crime. It's not like that at all. We loved the secret mission style delivery. We loved the still warm from the oven brownie cake. And we love the paint set... every drop. Honest. So, thank you. Thank you. Let's get together soon and make some new kind of messes... whether it is fine art, or fun art, or fun-fine art. Or we could just eat more brownie cake.

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Saturday, December 05, 2009

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Surprise-Flower-Cookie Party

Happy Birthday Maria

It is a beautiful day for celebrating and she gives us reason to celebrate every day.
So, what's it to be ?
Nothing as elaborate as last year, when she never ran out of ideas for themes and activities to enjoy with her family. Our initial plans are on a bit of a weather-health delay, which is clearing up on both fronts, so we should be good to go for next week, and in the meantime we can have extra hugs, more singing, lots of coloring and gluing and decorating, we can eat triangle pasta and mandarins, and we can finalize details on her vision for a "Surprise party with cookies and planting flowers."

::I wonder if she wants a new camera, like uncle James' camera which, with his sweet skills, takes amazing photographs, like these. I could get one in her name and hold it in trust for her::

Marie and Maria, Parker's personal pit crew.

Max and some camera-envious, crazy chicken woman.

Maria, let's play!

::Thank you for sharing these pictures, James.
What kind of camera did you say you have?

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Little Trip... Big Fun

On Friday the children and I made a spontaneous trip north to be with Grandma Eunice for her birthday. It's hard to believe it's been seven years since we had the big celebration with family friends. Now I am inspired to start planning her 88th birthday extravaganza!

Whether it's a big blow-out fiesta or a family dinner, Grandma is a fun person to honor and celebrate with. She gets almost as giddy as a four year old. She's so appreciative and happy. She told me about all the fun she had in Oregon and how she came home with lots of "stuff," so I chose a pretty fabric box for her to tuck in her treasures. Of course Maria thought this was wonderful, since she too has a small box where she stashes her treasures.

My aunt Becky's home has the loveliest porch. It was another hot day in Pasadena, but the morning on the porch was comfortable. I always enjoy the view, the tree lined streets, the gardens and comfortable homes. Grandma got a a chance to catch up with the boys and discover new books. She shared some of her favorites with them and they are going to be sending some of theirs to her.

My grandparents lived with us for eight years. Eight wonderful years. Max was born during that time. I remember how great it was that the boys could pop over to Grandma's and chat with her. I remember doing the same... just enjoying time in each other's company. We were so lucky to have those days.

Maria ran around and around and around the ginko tree. And when she spotted dandelions and other fallen treasures, she began collecting flora for little nosegays... pretty leaves and blossoms, that she delivered to me and Becky and Grandma.

She's waiting for me to count: 1-2-3 on your mark... get set... go! She loves to run.

Grandma was enjoying a laugh over her "wild ways." It seems she has a certain attraction to purses. It seems it has become a bit... much? Never mind Grandma. it looks harmless enough. You're the best looking *bag lady* I've ever seen!

And what good is a nice purse without a hat to go with it?

Maria, Alex, Max and William enjoying the company of their great-grandmother.
This one needs to get printed and framed.

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Saturday, August 08, 2009

I Can Quit Anytime, Honest

Geoff, won't you please make your move and finish crushing me in Lexulous?



Please feed Lady Betty Orpington

Does the neighbor still have the free rabbit hutch on their curb? I keep thinking of it.

No one's emailed me in the last thirty minutes. Do you think there is a disturbance in the force something in my teeth something wrong with the Internet?!

Call Grandma. She is 87 years old today!

Happy Birthday Grandma! See you soon!

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Friday, August 07, 2009

Taking A Spin

It's easy enough to take a spin or twirl around if you are four years old, especially if you have a swirly skirt.

If the spin is a little road trip, a spontaneous visit northward, then a bit of planning is required.
Visit el banco... get those ducks in a row.
Disclutter the car. Disclutter is a real word. It means to make an unsightly thing pretty again.
Call ahead and see if anyone wants to see a bunch of people out for a spontaneous spin.
Leave a big bowl of cat chow.
Pat Joe.
Let Betty out for a quick roll in the dust.
Showers! Really must not forget.
Pack a snack.

What am I forgetting?
I'll bring my camera.
Maybe some swimsuits.
Call Anne and assure her that I can get the key any time Sunday.

That's all in preparation.
Hopefully along the way we will remember to stop and smell the posies.

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Monday, August 03, 2009

The Marvelous Birthday Boy

HaPpY BiRThdaY MaX!

This child is a joy. And today he is eleven years old, so we are going out in the world to drum up a bit of fun. He was planning a movie-at-home party, but he's put a hold on those plans... Instead of having three friends over for ice cream and hot dogs, buttery popcorn, to watch "Road to Morocco," he insists he can wait until we are in the new house! He's taking a huge leap of faith and willing (eager even) to delay his celebration more than a month, so he can enjoy a party in our own place.

(It was not my idea. I did not hint or suggest. It never occurred to me. But I gotta admit it's something of a relief. Domestically we are in that awkward stage where we are almost certain we are on the brink of a life altering move, but we are holding back on a full scale commitment... our brains are scattered and the rest of nervous systems are equally overloaded. It's just a phase.)

He loves Ramen noodles and even numbers. He loves LEGO and frogs and reading. He loves his brothers and his sister. He calculated the exchange rates for my Euros to dollars, and he always knew which stop we needed to get off for the Metro. He respectfully endures my humor and silliness and he's learned how to get pretty silly himself. He is dutiful, organized, mindful, brave and polite. I admire his resilience and his strength in perseverance, his patience and his kind tenderness. He gives sincere, full hugs that fill me with deep gratitude and determination.

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Catalunya. 8 de julio 2009.
I feel profound joy.

8:16 AM
Update: Poor Max! He's sick. What a bummer. I'm on hold for the pediatrician. Max crawled back to bed.

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Not Bad For A Monday

Maybe it's because two children have begun break, or because it rained on Saturday. Maybe it's because the house is very nearly clean and has a post party glow. Maybe it's because I finally found us a place to stay for the two nights in Belgium, so that we won't have to ponder the possibility of shutting our eyes in a train station... Whatever it is, I have to say I feel pretty good for a Monday morning. There is still lots to be done and the days are zipping past, but I feel kind of mellow and kind of *ready.*

He he hee hee...

That's my nervous laughter, as I consider the reckless daring of thinking I might be *ready!* Please note: I am not tempting fate. I know there is plenty left to accomplish. I have not forgotten the state of the garage or my our closet. It has not slipped my mind that Geoff is working right up until take-off, that my to-do list still has 42 items that have not been crossed off. Honestly, "I feel kind of ready" is more of a spiritual state of mind, a coming to peace with the relative state of our situation, than a "mission accomplished" kind of declaration.

Okay then. That's better.

In our usual fashion we have extended our celebration of Alex's birthday. One day of honoring and playing is just too brief. We had a cook-out. Low key and so very nice. Holly and Rich came with the cousins and Tutu, and the boys' school friend, Tamara, joined us too. We didn't go to In-N-Out, but we did bring the indoors out. Our dining table looks good on the patio... I wish it could stay there actually.

Even Chango approved, and he looked adorable enjoying the evening from the cushioned comfort of the Radio Flyer. Betty followed Izzy and Maria and did a pretty fair job of keeping the floor clean of melon seeds and chip crumbs. Good Betty. (Betty is a Chicken, if you don't know. Just saying, so no one thinks we abuse guests.)

Alex and Geoff went out and found a piñata. They make 'em tough these days. We all took some serious swings, with direct contact and the piñata withstood the beating admirably.

Of course a plastic bat is probably a pretty flimsy tool for the job. You can see Maria meant business. ¡Dale, dale, dale!

Here come the big boys. Even Holly and I gave it a whoopin'. Hey, Geoff put dark chocolate in there. You'd beat a dinosaur for dark chocolate, wouldn't you?

I think everyone had a good time.

Even before he blew out his candle, one wish came true: Tutu Ruth brought Alex's favorite dessert, her rhubarb-strawberry crisp.

So, what was his other wish? I hope it comes true.

Another wish come true!
Nice hat Alex!

Goodness. I was tempting fate. It seems we may get our foot in a door... a selling agent is meeting me later this morning to write up an offer on a place we kind of, sort of want to buy. I am trying to be focused and optimistic, yet detached. If we even make it to the next level of negotiating it could mean our lives will get about 99% more complicated, and naturally this would all come as we are about to board a plane heading to Europe. We need a very good house inspector. We need goodness and light to align, God to bless us (more) and all conveniences of this modern age to serve us well and true. Suddenly my Mellow Monday Morning feels jittery, anxious, sort of nauseating, deeply hopeful, yet full of trepidation and fear.

It's a blue house. There's a fig tree. It has nooks and sunrise views.


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Friday, June 12, 2009


Happy Birthday Alex!

Remember last year? Alex and I had a memory chuckle over the croissants I burned... actually it was more like a kitchen fire than just well-done buns. This year the croissants are golden and light. I was sighing because it's hard to believe he is fifteen years old and because I am dizzy with good memories, happy recollections of life with this boy. Sigh. He deserves a lot more than unburned croissants! Which is why this post has got to be short and sweet... there's so much to do!

Alex is great. Really great. I've said it before and it's as true as ever.

I just came from the high school. Maria and I took a huge cake to share with students and staff... that was a big hit. The principal led everyone in a warm and sweet round of "Happy Birthday." I could not be more eager for summer to begin, but today I realized how much I like their school... I am going to miss all those great people.

On Sunday we are going to do something. A cookout. Light some tiki torches. Ruth is making Alex strawberry rhubarb crisp. As you can see, we are limited by space when it comes to backyard activities... not that it keeps us from having any fun at all, but it has occurred to me that we do not even have an outdoor table. Maybe we will have a cookout and an eat in. Of course, inside we don't have much in the way of chairs... lol.

Maybe we should consider In-N-Out. Take it down to the beach.

Chango would vote for a backyard party, without the hose play. Alex gets the deciding vote.

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