Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Home Again

Everyone has heard the marketing quip... What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.
Well, it's a lie! A smelly, dirty lie. Okay, so the "smelly dirty" part is in the washer, but I am still disillusioned.
We came home with three loads of spirited laundry. Something that smells of fear, and cheer, anticipation, and earthquake-road trip survival... and none of it stayed in Vegas, baby. It's all in my laundry room.

Fortunately, before I was up to my nostrils in Vegas memories, we had the most amazing and comforting welcome home, Happy Easter ever. We drove west Sunday morning, and it was a doozy. The five 6 hour drive was plagued with high winds, and closed restaurants, then an earthquake... which, to be honest, we did not notice traveling at 67 mph in wind gusts, but still! Were we ever whooped.

But, the Bird House was open, and Ruth was in the kitchen filling the air with fragrant aromas. Holly and Rich were ahem... The Easter Bunny had just left, and eggs were hidden all over the backyard.

I am ruined forever. From now on, I will always secretly hope that after every road trip we are greeted by family or friends, and a beautiful and abundant home cooked meal. That the children will have fun awaiting them, that there will be chilled wine on the patio, cut flowers in a vase, and that all the cares of the road and long weekend will evaporate as we laugh and play.

It was nice putting off laundry. It was a relief not having to search for any open market, so I could throw together a healthy holiday dinner. It was comforting, after the melancholy of saying good-by to family, to be greeted by more family. Every detail and nicety was considered and thoughtfully planned, and our only expectation was to enjoy ourselves... and we did. Very much.

Since then, I confess, I spent an entire day doing next to nothing. Writing, downloading pictures. Trying to figure out why FB would not let me get into Lexulous... important nothings like that. What a luxury.

Then we started to reacclimate to our domestic climate. I started in on the laundry and dishes, bought cat food. Alex, Maria, and I went east to our old El Rancho neck of the prairie and we visited our favorite thrift shop. Now we have more forks, a new table cloth, shirts that fit Alex, and a little, metal Peanuts lunch pail that Maria cherishes. We also stopped at the tortilleria, and brought home some hot corn ones, and some jamaica flowers for punch.

Back home, Geoff reaffirmed his commitment to unpacking. And the first box he opened revealed something like a Christmas present! Not since 1997... that's how long it's been since our bread-maker was been out of a moving box. We packed it when the cord was destroyed, and it never came out until now. So, Geoff and Alex set to get it back in working order. All of those moves, six total, must have shaken stuff loose, because they had to do more than replace the cord. I think they kind of enjoyed themselves. And when I figure out how to crank her up and get her baking again, we will all be enjoying ourselves. Toast 'n' Jelly Days, coming soon!

I still do have chicks on the brain. It is spring, and I want chicks. But. Always with the big but. But, I have to get prepared, and time things, and be responsible... blah-blah-blah. Being an adult can be so overrated. Hopefully, signs and articles, and circumstances will align and Polish chicks, or Silkies, will be more than just hencakes on the griddle.

Now, there's nothing to stop me from making some salsa to go with those fresh corn tortillas. So I roasted one chile verde, and I have tomatoes and a jalapeño simmering on the stove. Cilantro from the garden, a bit of white onion finely diced. Sal. Pimiento. Ajo. Blend, and go!

We're home.

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Sunday, April 04, 2010

Family First
Naturally I have heard the expression family first before, but recently, a bright and wise young woman reminded me how important the meaning really is. No surprise she's a Robotics alumnus... Amy K. you are smart, and friendly.

In that spirit, family first, I want express my love and gratitude to some dear family. We have been immersed (such an appropriate word) in robotics. As you may have noticed, I went a bit bonkers with the love, leaving my personal comfort zone to pump up a program I believe in. I am not apologizing for my enthusiasm, but I do want to acknowledge that the heavy focus on robotics did take away time and energy from at least two young men, who are not actually on a team. William and Max were in scripted into robo immersion, and though I asked them to step out of their comfort zones, they have never complained. They have missed Alex, and Geoff. They have filled in around the house and taken care of a certain little sister. They have spent long days traveling to FRC events, and longer days in huge and boisterous arenas. They have contributed as much, perhaps more, than some certified team members, and they done this with quiet humility, and endless patience.

William, thank you for being kind and dependable, for caring so deeply about each of us, and for doing your best each and every day. I appreciate your intelligence and humor. I appreciate that you have been sincerely supportive of Alex's dreams, and his well being, and that in your own way, you have been a Gracious and Spirited team player.

Max, thank you for being patient and supportive. In our home, in school, no matter the challenges and distractions, you stay true. You work diligently, steadfastly, and you give us every reason to be proud of you. If it wouldn't make you terribly uncomfortable I would do a “cheer” just for you. You Inspire me to be ethical, reasonable, and to do my best, and better.

Geoff loves robotics too... well, just about anything Geek gets him charged, but I do want to thank him. He was happy to be a programming mentor, to extend his time to the build team, to build a mini-robo world in our home, so he could extend his hours even more... but, when things got extra intense, when Atlanta become an option, I asked him to take it to the next level. We certainly did not need to put off domestic duties, like moving in to our home, or repairing the roof, but I basically implored him to ignore all the *homeless* whining I did for the last six years, and turn all of our reserve energy and focus on Atlanta, the team and robotics. I promised not to make a single complaint about boxes, leaks, and domestic perils, because I felt such drive to see this through, for the team to get to the next level.

Thank you Geoff. You taught me that dreams can come true, that it takes work to make it so. Thank you for being a mentor, for being a father, for being my partner. Your time away is never easy, and volunteering to be away from home is a bit nuts, especially after your “regular” office hours, but I love what I have seen. I love the programmers you mentor, the talks about design, the energy and dedication, the metal shop industry... the teamwork. I love when ideas are made in to creations, and creations are tested and run... succeed or fail, the pleasure and rewards are in the journey and the learning. Thank you for the pleasure of being a witness to your grace and professionalism. (I love your mind)

Maria. Maria, you spirited, smiling, dancing, inventive robo-princess. Thank you for wanting to be in the arena, for stuffing plushy wings, for sitting through long meetings, and longer FRC events... actually, you hardly “sat” at any FRC event. Thank you for cheering, and building alliances with your chocolate eggs, for walking to the pit to “check on the robot,” for learning the songs, dances and cheers. It's such a joy to witness your Team Spirit.

Alex, thank you for bringing us in to this exciting world. Thank you for sharing your passion and excitement for robotics, for design, for build, for engineering, for creation. You have some sweet skills, and more importantly, you have challenged yourself to learn more, try harder, and push yourself. Thank you for letting me nudge you onto the “dance floor.” You are a quiet thinker, a reserved young man, and I greatly admire your willingness to delve in to high school, this new social world... it's a big world, and I know you are going to find a welcoming and appreciative place in it. Thank you for appreciating me, for welcoming me in to math, science, sportsmanship, and engineering... you are an inspiration in so many ways.

We are in Las Vegas on this Easter morning. And we will be heading home soon. Thank you Mom and Dad for flying here to meet us, to cheer! What Time is It?! I know we always have your support, but it made me extra stoked to share the event with you guys. It was fun for me to turn and see your faces, to know you were keeping score, waving pom-poms, tracking our Maria-Mini-Paradox, and sharing in our joy. Thank you-thank you-thank you!

And back home? Ruth and Holly have been our pit crew, feeding Betty and the Ratty-Rats, chasing cats, and keeping the peace at the Bird House. No team is complete without all of its supporters. Thank you Ruth, for bunking at the Bird House, for waiting to welcome us home. Thank you Holly for your support too. We'll see you all soon.

Overflowing with gratitude, and spirit... what a wonderful way to begin this Easter day.

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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sun Day

Hey, before the sun goes down, rush over to The Owl Box and see what's hatching... it's a live peek at a barn owl and her hatching chicks. It's amazing.

My own chicks had a little fun of their own before the sun set.

Happy Sunday.

Happy sun day.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Something in the Air...

Mom: sniff*sniff*sniff*sniff*sniff*sniff*
Maria: Mmmhuh?
Mom: Something is a bit stinky.
Maria: I don't smell inthing.
Mom: I think it's your feet. (leaning in) sniff*sniff*sniff*sniff*sniff*sniff*
They smell like Easter.
Maria: Then that means they smell wonderful!

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Easter Brunch

After our morning at home, we went to Tutu's house.

A big blue sky, like a hint of summer.
Cousins and uncles and aunts and mommies and daddies and a Tutu,
and a big green lawn to roll around on.
Birds. Chocolates. Flowers. Stories. Bees. Dirt.

Ruth, aka Tutu, served us a Sunday brunch in her pretty home. Izzy and Maria were in their
new dresses, and sometimes donning Easter bonnets... Minnie Pearl style.

Uncle Paul was in town. He came all the way from Wisconsin. He made a wish list for his stay and I think everything came together... brewery tours, beer tasting, a machaca burrito, classic So Cal weather, and hopefully an In-N-Out burger on the way to the airport.

For me his visit was especially nice, because there was finally someone to share Barcelona pictures with... someone who has been there and loves it and could appreciate my obsessive photographic collection of rooflines and Gothic doors. He had photographs to share too, and lots of good suggestions for sights, stays, wines and good eats.

Paul brought Spanish wine and a generous supply of Wisconsin brats, including venison brats from his own larder.

We spent most of the day together, enjoying the good weather, the delicious things to eat and each others company.



Happy Easter.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

No Two Are Alike

When we dye eggs any number of tools, appliances and media come to the dining table...

Geoff enjoys his three year tradition of fixing an egg to his drill.

Alex relies on pencils and markers...

He gets an Iron tough egg.

It took a few tries before Geoff remembered that his successful method involved hot glue... just like our gingerbread houses!

William patiently added a fractal pattern to his egg.

Max, a focused artist, began with concentric squares on the top of the egg, that morphed into concentric circles on the other end. Time to re-introduce him to Escher.

This year I made fabric eggs.

And for breakfast we had hencakes.

Then finally I got around to painting an egg. Gee. What inspired me?

Once Geoff attaches the egg, he lets the drill spin and brings out his Sharpie collection...

In motion, the second black stripe.

Three stripes and your out!
Just kidding.
I'm so punny.
Not to be confused with puny.
I am not puny.

Here is Alex's striped egg.

We colored 27 eggs this year. It's the first time I bought eggs in a long time.
Our backyard eggs come pre-dyed.

Maria could not wait to find what the Easter Bunny left, and just outside the front door were four baskets with our family Spring traditions... new underwear, a chocolate bunny, and both Trader Joe's Fruit Leathers and their dye-free lollipops! (God bless them) After making certain that Maria's fingers were not broken when they were smashed in the closet door, we gathered all goodies, children, roasted potatoes and an ice pack and headed for Tutu's house!

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Easter Monday

Tasty, tasty Easter grapes.
We spent the morning with Izzy and Nick, Holly and Rich. My Mommy is staying with us, after her stay in Pasadena helping her sister and mom, so she came too. Holly and Rich are exceptional hosts. I am having yet another giggle at my own expense... thinking of what a full house they had with neighbors, friends and family over for brunch and an egg hunt. I have to remind myself that we make it a crowd when we arrive with 7 people!

Earlier, the children went in to our backyard to wish Joe, the rabbit, a Happy Easter and that's when they found their baskets. Baskets with Legos and a little chocolate bunny and the traditional pack of underwear. Such a thoughtful E. Bunny. Maria's basket had "Goodnight Gorilla."

For a few years I have been aware of how shy and elusive Nick can be when I come around with my camera, so I was pleased to catch him unaware. He was enjoying a quiet moment during the party.

I heard Rich telling friends about Izzy's passion for chocolate. I think her appetite was well satisfied, and you can see she is still enjoying a last smack of chocolate goodness.

Speaking of goodness, this carrot cake came out pretty good. Max thinks I need to work on my carrot decorations... true, but I thought they were pretty convincing. The best part is that we have food dye that is derived from real life edible plants and not petroleum junk. Thank you Seelect. Many years ago I fell in love with a carrot cake, Janice's carrot cake. Oh, it was so yummy and good. To compensate for not decorating for Easter, for not holding my arms wide open to welcome Spring in to our house, I got it in to my head to bake The Carrot Cake. Janice kindly shared the recipe and we agreed it is slightly rich. (rich = full of fat and sugar) So, I got cocky. (cocky = I can adapt the recipe and make it healthier) Being cocky in the kitchen, with a dish intended to be shared at an Easter brunch, is very risky. No one wants a dry, tasteless cake... a too healthy cake, during a holiday extravaganza, may not be too satisfying.

I only modified 2 parts, and next time I am going to take it a step further and reduce the oil to just 1 cup. The results were very well received, and the real test was that I liked it a lot. I am sure it isn't a recipe that falls under the heading of Health Food, but it is delicious.

Janice and Natalie's Carrot Cake

3 cups grated carrots
2 cups sugar
1.5 1.25 cups of oil
4 eggs

Stir these ingredients together. And I am thinking that next time I my go to 1 cup of oil and maybe add more carrot or even some zucchini.

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup of walnuts
1/2 cup of oatmeal (I like the old fashioned kind)

Sift the dry ingredients together and then mix in the nuts. The oatmeal was something I added. I love oatmeal. Next time I will probably make it a full cup, especially if I increase the carrots. Start adding the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir 'em up. I did this by hand, since I did not want to over-mix the batter.

Choose a favorite cake pan, and I lightly oiled mine, and bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit. A cook time would be helpful, I know, but I don't have one. Expect it to take more than half an hour... it will smell good and an inserted knife will come out clean... you'll know when it's done.

I am not capable of following directions. Something in me must resist. So even though Janice gave me her perfectly tasty recipe, by the time I was ready to frost the cake, I just made it up.

1 stick of butter
8 oz of cream cheese + a healthy scoop of some leftover whipped cream cheese we had leftover from breakfast
a largish, perhaps 2, teaspoons of vanilla
powdered sugar... more than you want to admit, less than a box... I did not make it very sweet.

I whipped all of this together, and set some aside to turn orange and then frost the cool cake. The carrots looked even less like carrots until I topped them with celery greens!

Well, that was our Easter. Enjoying a beautiful day, laughing with family, making new friends. We came home for a quiet evening and we watched Live From Lincoln Center, "Madama Butterfly." Now it is Easter Monday, a warm day with a blue sky and errands to run and chores to complete. How was your Easter?

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Expect to be Surprised

Part wisdom, part affirmation... expect to be surprised.

I thought our invitation to Mitchell and Julie's was for a potluck picnic, or something as casual. I should have brought our tuna salad in a prettier dish. I should not have brought Fritos. What can I say? Sometimes a bag of Fritos are a rite of Spring, like daffodils and new shoes. We arrived to a garden and home in full bloom. Julie had set the table with her beautiful china and silver, and elaborate dishes were coming out of the oven.

And they even had supplies for decorating eggs, and Alex mixed the potions, so we could get down to business. I realize these pictures may cause a bit of a stir in some parts of the country where snow is still falling... yes, it has been gorgeous in Southern California, and yet, I think I would actually enjoy a few more weeks in Wisconsin.

This little bunny dropped egg after egg in the cups of dye, so the artistic part of the program went fast.

Alex made a newly hatched chick. She's still popping out of her shell.

Here's the hen that laid her.

Most fun things, and even some difficult things, are more fun when shared. Our afternoon together was beautiful, and fun, relaxed. Mitchell's a sweet boy, with an easy laugh.

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