Friday, April 23, 2010

Top 10 Indicators You Need a Break From BREAKAWAY

I do not want a break from BREAKAWAY and robotics, but there may be a few indications that we need a break.

The closing ceremony of FIRST Championship games in Atlanta included a Top Ten list of "Indicators You Need a Break From BREAKAWAY," and there were some funny ones. OKay, I admit some were funny, and some were true, so I had to reflect for a moment to realize that they are kind of humorous... like: "Build workshop is primary residence." Well, part of the build workshop has been in our primary residence since January, and I have often referred to the school's metal shop as a second home. This isn't normal?

And when I saw indicator #2, I thought, "Cool. I could totally go for that. I painted the RV in team colors. And I have seriously been thinking of pimping my ride with some sweet details. Why not bumpers?" This isn't normal?

And "Yes. Yes, I have been thinking about St Louis. Can we get there? What will they build? How many more T-shirts should they silkscreen? Which FRC events should we they elect to go to? Is there an aquarium?"

I think it may be time for me to reflect on my own Top Ten Indicators I Need A Break from BREAKAWAY.

10. We are exhausted. Yes, I still feel the energy and love robotics and FIRST, but we have been worn a bit thin, by the intensity of these work-school-laundry-robotics schedules. I need a nap. Several naps.

9. We are still trying to move in to our home. We have made great progress, but there are still unpacked boxes and empty walls. We need to reapply ourselves to being moved-in.

8. Every time someone does something well, or needs encouragement, my arms spontaneously shoot up and I pump phantom pom-poms.

7. That thingy, in my leg, that makes the muscle hang on... it's still not hanging on. Don't tell my mommy. She worries.

6. Maria has been tagging every clear surface with 2102 and Paradox illustrations.

5. I think I can dance. This one is embarrassing. I know I cannot dance, but for some reason I do not let this fact keep me from doing the Cha-Cha slide. In public. Before cameras, and people whose respect I hope to earn.

4. Every post about robotics has been a detrimental blow to Chickenblog readership. Actually, this reason sucks. I will never take a break from posting about robotics! Hence the new header.

3. The house is a mess. Oh boy. This one is serious. I used to at least pretend that I was trying to be a domestic diva, but I gave that act up. I love robotics and 2102 and FIRST, and given any excuse I will write, photograph, sew, and beg for this team... especially if I can get out of mopping and dusting.

2. The house is a mess.
I said that.
That's okay.
I think it bears repeating.

1. From Blogger: "FTP publishing will no longer be available after May 1, 2010
You currently have blogs that are published using FTP. You must migrate your blogs to a new custom domain URL or a blogspot URL."


Uh-oh. This one is a doozy.

Chcikenblog Chickenblog is going away. All the deep thoughts, and flowers, and hencakes, Betty, Chango, Joe, Benjamin Franklin Thunder Cat, and the Ratty-Rats, the quilts, Geeks... all of it.

But not for long.

I hope.

Geoff? Will this take long?

Geoff is taking a break from BREAKAWAY, so he can do... he can make... he can... you know... make Chickenblog come back slicker, and shinier, and bloggier than ever.

This may take a few days. This may get glitchy. This may make me really nervous. It will confuse me too, but I am familiar with that sensation. Mostly I just hope we don't make you nervous and confused. And I hope we don't *poof* leave the Interwebs, forever lost in cyberspace.

While Geoff is banging his head and sitting on hold with someone named "Josh" in Bangalore migrating the blog to a new custom domain URL or a blogspot URL,
I will be reassuming my role as a domestic diva, *ahem.*
Pray for me. For us.

For your viewing pleasure, I would like to leave you with an original work of art, torn from Alex's english notebook. (The very same notebook where he is supposed to be writing English notes.)

"Dostoevsky Esky Esky Esky" by Alex V2"

He's reading Crime and Punishment.
It's done in pen. The teacher took a picture of it with Flat Stanley.

I love this blog.
Please look for us on the other side.
We will be back.

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010


I wish I had never bothered. With the stats, that is. Checking the daily-weekly-monthly numbers of readers, skimmers, lurkers visiting Chickenblog was slightly amusing, kind of interesting, and ultimately intimidating. I learned that Sunday and Monday are slow days, not too many visitors. I learned that most visits to Chickenblog come on Tuesday. Like today. Today is Tuesday and there may be ten or more people here. Seriously. Wow. Wow.

I mean whoa. Like when you drop your head, turning it slowly and sort of sigh disappointedly, whoa. Actually it could be horse talk too... like when you pull on the reins and say firmly "whoa!" It could be like bringing a horse to a quick stop, because it feels like that is where the blog is headed: A complete stop.

After three times checking stats about Chickenblog, I also leaned that readership has plummeted. Dropped. Nose-dived. Tanked. Imploded. Evaporated. *poof*

Where did every body go?

Ah come on. No one really believed I was writing this blog for the heck of it, right? Regularly dragging my brain through html and proofreading my own deep thoughts and other musings, just so I can have an excuse from scrubbing toilets? I am in it for the book rights, the movie contract, the ad revenue (eighteen cents to date). I've been blogging so Ellen would catch wind, and ask me to bring my favorite robotics team on to her show, so she could bestow plane tickets to Atlanta on them, and give me dance lessons. I've been thinking how to sound interesting, modest and super cool for my Fresh Air interview. This is my job people. I am not going down without a fight. *power fist in the air... cheesy grin on face*

Just kidding.

Or am I?

Just kidding.

I don't need a job. I have Molly and McGee to fill my time with productivity and interest. And children, and laundry, and Betty.

Oooh... look, Molly is preening.

Maria did not want to miss the executives' meeting yesterday. She loves this team. Gee, do you think I've had some influence on her? I honestly do not dictate art assignments for her, or drill her on the Paradox dance. She has an internalized passion, that is self-motivated.

I didn't want to miss the executives' meeting either. I keep showing up, uninvited, and they are starting to accept it. I was even offered a private mentor's swearing in ceremony, as soon as Isaac can locate his wand. I hope he wasn't kidding. I plan to mention it, casually, to Terry. I crave ceremony.

This post is mostly random. And I am okay with that.

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

She Has Not Learned A Thing

Yes. It's time for another edition of What Not To Wear I Wore It

Why? Because I do not seem to be getting the message about personal appearance, pride, dignity, pretty & casual vs. pretty casual.

To be fair, and to assure my mom that I do try: I am not a morning person to begin with, and the government's insistence that playing with our clocks twice a year "is necessary," really messes with my already hampered routine.

Speaking of hampered, despite appearances, none of these clothes was pulled from a hamper. I did sleep in the red, floral pajama bottoms and a tank. The flip-flops I added, after I got up. Even the kitty shoes could not have helped this ensemble. Thank goodness I have some sense of modesty, propriety... I grabbed Geoff's, clean, shirt from the dryer on my way out the door. I think it helped. Or did it?

Nothing was brushed. Not my hair. Not this image. Not my teeth.

Alex and Max are grateful to be getting a ride to school. Okay, Max does cringe sometimes, and I know I can make him really nervous if I ask about coming out of the car to meet his friends. Betty does not care what I look like when I come to feed her.

But this is a pointless survey. Asking two boys and a chicken whether I am "presentable" is hardly worthy evidence in a trial of my grooming habits and personal appearance.

What I really should be taking in to account is that I know people in this town, more every day. And I am very likely to cross paths with these people. And even though our clothes and pedicures are a superficial layer, their effect and impression can be anything but superficial. Like it or not, (and I am lecturing myself here, so feel free to leave. Go see if Ree has a new donut recipe or something. Don't tell me though. About the donuts. I don't need to know.)

... where was I? Oh, yes...

Like it, or not, Natalie, you have got to... to...

Hold on.
I am trying to put this the right way.

Natalie. Shape up. Long walks. Small meals. Buy an alarm clock. Use it.
Please see an optometrist... for goodness sake... thread-repaired glasses from 1994 are wrong. Leave your husband's shirts in his side of the closet.
And one more thing, and please don't take this the wrong way,
but maybe you don't need to share *everything* in Chickenblog.
Just saying.
Love, Your Inner Voice

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Funniest Great White Chicken With Dreadlocks

Yes, the "funniest," "great white" "chicken" with "dreadlocks" was reportedly seen wearing "snake stomping boots" at the "Chicken Blog Worst Mommy Blogging Contest." Anyone feverishly searching for these key phrases may, or may not, have found everything they were looking for here, at Chickenblog.

Other key phrase searches include:

"Star Wars Lego People"
"Chicken Polish" ( the breed, I hope, and not a cleaning product)
"Fall and Can't Get Up"
and "Sparkle Me Clean"

I think anyone searching for "dreadlocks" or "sparkle me clean" had to have left sorely disappointed.

Have you guessed? I decided to dance around in the blog stats... a mine field of ego crushing numbers and facts related to how many people read the blog, where they come from, what they like, and what they were actually looking for.

Staying Long?
No wonder there are so few comments. 83.3% of visitors to Chickenblog stay less than 30 seconds.
I guess it doesn't take long to figure out that I am not going to help anyone 'sparkle clean.'

Building a TreeHouse?
Oh. I bet people are hoping to get treehouse tips, not realizing that these posts are about our days renting a house that was surrounded by trees, where we felt like we were living perched in a treehouse.
Sad note... the landlord built his Tuscan dream home there and took out every single beautiful, mature, lovely tree. It looks like somebody dropped stucco on Isengard.

Just kidding. I could never harass someone for misspelling chcieken. I misspell chieken every single time. Ironic, don't you think? So, if you are looking for chieken, then welcome!

Dude, change your thesis.
Who was trying to score information for their term paper?
"... related studies and literature of a roasted chicken and who discovered the roasted chicken"
Let me help... I may have a few servings of Roasted Chicken literature:

Shakespeared: From roasted chickens we desire increase,
That thereby dinner's rose might never die...

John Rooster Milton: A good roast chicken is the precious lifeblood of a blogger spirit.

Mary Hen Shelley: It is a farce to call any roast chicken virtuous whose virtues do not result from the exercise of its own seasonings.

Shockingly, there are very, very, very few people who come around Chickenblog looking for information on robotics, or building robotics, robotic competitions, or what to wear to a robotic competition, or how to get to a FRC.

Why Tuesday?
This post might not be read by anyone. Tuesdays are the busiest days, with the most visits to Chckinblog Chickenblog.

Maria wrote her name. I do not know who wrote the quote, but I find it applicable and comforting.

I'll see you tomorrow.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Look at me still talking when there's science to do.

Look at me still talking when there's science to do. I am not going to annotate this, because maybe one of you will know where it comes from. No fair Googling.

Alex and Max do wear many hats.

Today is Maria's one hundredth day of school, which in kindergarten culture means a bit of a party, lots of counting and even stickers. In my own mind it means that the days are passing much too quickly. I am glad I was (finally) free to help in her classroom. We guided the children counting ten different snacks, so that they each wound up with a baggie of one hundred treats.

10 craisins
10 seaweed puffs
10 cheddar crisps
10 banana chips
10 edamame crisps
10 Joe's O's.... you get the idea.

Saturday Karen and I shared Robotics lunch duty. We grilled hot dogs and burgers. I should say Tom helped too, because he was actually the one at the grill. Even though we were feeding about 30 people outside the metal shop, in a parking lot, Maria thought it was awesome. I thought it was awesome too. The team is working hard to finish the robot, with only about six days to complete it and program it. I bought this year's team shirt, so we can look super cool when we are in the heat of battle at regionals. Anyway, it's been robo-crazy, much like last year, and it feels good to bring sustenance to students and mentors who have been working eight, ten, fourteen hour shifts... they need the fuel.

After Robotic's lunch Max spent the rest of the afternoon and night with his best friend. They were celebrating Max O's birthday with a movie and pizza. It was a treat seeing Max glowing with post-party satisfaction, and getting the low-down on the good time he had.

(It is a Parrot-Ox... get it?)
I should scan Maria's Parrot-Ox drawing... she is officially the youngest contributing team member.

Hey, Geoff came home yesterday and the sun was still shining. Sure, he had to go mentor, but we are recognizing and appreciating an easing up of the crunch-mode at his day job. (Shouldn't that be his day-night job?)

William has been posting images on FB, which I think is bold of him. He has amazing graphics skills and comprehension, but he doesn't readily share what he can do. I should get him to write a post for Chickenblog and have him explain the fun he is having working with Mudbox.

Betty is happy. Joe too. I finished the job started by the storms and tore down the shantytown, we called a barn. I moved the rabbit and chicken to the side of our house and I think if I plant a shade tree there, they can survive another season or two without actual structural improvements. Small steps. I get a bit discouraged, because starting over is frustrating, but things are coming along.

But there's no sense crying over every mistake.
You just keep on trying till you run out of cake.
And the Science gets done.

The Ratty-Rats are super. Best pets, those rats. We had Cheddar, Maria's class rat, over and we had a blast hanging out with the three of them. They are so sweet and easy going.

Is that it? I was trying to remember if I left anyone out. Geoff talks about us having a dog. A dog. I love other people's dogs. I really do. I even keep a box of dog biscuits for other people's dogs. I am in the middle of a long and subtle campaign, subliminally convincing Geoff that a vegetarian dog might be they way to go. They can do almost all the same tricks, they are affectionate and loyal, but there's no need to scoop up after them, which is huge in my book. It's not an immediate plan. No urgency. I just think it should be seriously considered as a viable option.

Ah, but look at me still talking when there's science to do... and cake. Did I promise someone a cake?

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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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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Forget the Turkeys, I Need Help
::I read all of your suggestions, after painting the bench red. The primer looks very promising and when the final color goes on, I think it will be what I wanted. In case I didn't make myself clear: This was only about those benches, and now they pop with their warm cranberry-rose shade. Thank you for playing. Pictures soon.::

Put down your cookbooks and mini marshmallows. I am face to face with a real life paint crisis.
The crisis is: In real life I do not enjoy the stress-anxiety-responsibility of choosing paint colors.
I recognize a wrong choice, but I am not immune from making the wrong choice.
Help me Santa.
Paint fairies?
Friends, wise counselors?

Okay. Here is what we have, and your job is to advise me where to go...
paint wise.

This is the very best of the Bird House blue. Most times and in most light it does not look this bright, this perky.
I wish it did. I like this trick of my camera, that the blue came out so energetic and decidedly blue.

This is a slightly sadder version of what the blue typically looks like. It goes a bit drab, a bit gray.
Where are my good camera battery and charger? I cannot believe these two pictures were taken in the same place and time. One is facing north and the other south... it makes a difference I guess.

So, around the corner from the entry is where I need to paint. But first take a moment to admire the beach pebble set down over the new drainage pipes. The objective was to keep plants, mud, ponds, creeks and salmon from living against the foundation and siding.

Note: Those round pavers are abundant here and I have been moving them around the yard and making very good use of them. I am prone to making good use of materials on hand. I did struggle with the decision a little bit, because they are slightly not super pretty. "Function, paid for, and easy" won my heart in the end. So, yesterday at the garden center I went looking for five more... I only need a measly five more to finish the path to the door. The guys at the garden center rolled their fancy eyes and said, "Oh those. Yeah, we don't carry those anymore. Nobody wants them. Except you," chuckle, chuckle.

I want to know what color to paint the benches.

It needs primer for sure. That dry wood is going to suck up primer like Gatorade at the Super Bowl. After primer comes color. Help. Seriously. I want to enjoy choosing, but I feel so split, so wishy-washy.

Alright. I am sorry if you were doing something important, if I interrupted yoga or delayed you from leaving a comment on PW's blog... something that actually matters. But I know some of you enjoy this kind of thing. Some of you are good at this. Left to my own whimsy, this bench could get painted red, and after Christmas, I could come to regret my seasonal inspiration.

I did consider matching the shutters, but I am not too crazy about the gun metal gray and dark benches would not feel welcoming in the hot summer months.

The house is trimmed in white, which would stay cool and coordinate and... get dirty easy and quick.

Yesterday's post was so much more interesting and meaningful. I do hope you got a chance to read about this wonderful South African artist, but if you didn't, please help me first, before you follow the link. In twenty minutes I am going back to garden/home center to buy paint. Those fancy guys are going to roll their eyes at me again when I leave the store with a gallon of Christmas Red paint.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

A Turkey A Day :: Day Three

More turkey hands, but this time they fan together to make a turkey tail. We love our very own garden variety Torrey pine cones.

Today I am thankful for humor: Jokes, the good and bad ones, absurdity, puns, nonsense, wit, observations, randomness. Thank you, thank you, thank you for making me laugh. I find humor in a lot of situations, from many different sources, but I must make special mention of my brother, Bill.

Dear Bill, you are so very, very funny. And I see that you are sharing your sweet, twisted, and daring style with your son. The legacy lives on. Long live ˇMemo Libre!

(I did get permission to post this image and if you don't want it on the World Wide Interwebs then you will have to come here and make me take it down. Or pay me. Your choice.)

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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Love All The Pretty Nines

I admit, I like numbers. I like it when the digital clock reads 1:23 or even better: 12:34! I like it when numbers make patterns or when they appear in an order that triggers a happy memory, a birthday or anniversary. The significance I apply to numbers is really only about the novelty or prettiness. I did not think Y2K meant anything more than a cool new year, a change from all those 1900s I was accustomed to. We created numbers, dates and minutes; systems for keeping order and categorizing the things in our world. Calendars aren't even universal or particularly accurate... just ask any kid born on February 29th! Anyway, 09/09/09... well, I think it looks really cool and it's fun to say and tonight for less than a second we will be aware of a unique accounting figure... when it will be 9 seconds after the ninth minute, after the ninth hour, on the ninth day of the ninth month, in the year oh-9! It calls for a home cooked meal, maybe dessert, or a walk on the beach and a splash in the seventy-four degree Pacific!

Mom and I had a midday break on the bluffs. A little lunch, a little breeze and a whole lot less heat than last week. What a relief! I plan on downloading all the beautiful pictures she's been taking and then posting them here on Chickenblog. I'll take all the credit and glory. She will be the honored guest photographer.

We've been riding our own kind of waves with all the house ups and downs... and honest, I am not trying to belabor the point, but the waves do keeping coming! Don't worry, I am still standing and I think my humor is intact. Dude. It's totally gnarly.

Paranoid-superstitions... every time I make real progress with packing, we have an escrow setback. There could be a connection. I may try unpacking today, just to see what happens. I have also thought of ordering checks, personal stationary and address labels for Garage Mahal... to ensure that escrow closes on the Blue House and we get to leave our rental palace!

Before 09/09/09, we had 09/08/09 and that is a date I will always remember. On September 08, 2009, our family had four children in four different schools. We are spanning an academic spectrum of grades. It is quite an accomplishment. Last night I had a moment's relief as I reflected on the day. I sighed and thought: I did it! And then I remembered that I would have to do "it" again, and again and again! Until June, 2010. It's a bit early to be taking a bow, or looking for accolades.

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

It's A Brand New Day...

The entire soundtrack is buzzing through my head...

"Even in the darkness

Every color can be found

And every day of rain

Brings water flowing

To things growing in the ground"

Sweet Penny...

"I cannot believe my eyes

Is the world finally growing wise

‘Cause it seems to me

Some kind of harmony

Is on the rise"

From Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, of course. And of course if you know the whole story, you recognize I pulled out the happy lyrics.

Janece, when did you post about the initial release of this hilarious, yet heart wrenching, tale of good vs. evil? That was a good day.

Well, this brand new day comes after a fun filled night. Visitors from Chicago and Wisconsin have been filling our last days of summer with laughter and a whirl of activities, and really good Spam Musubi! Paul came out on business and to his surprise his aunt Margie was in town too. Fortunately there has been time for Paul to mix business with pleasure.

No flash... which really captures the whirl of activity. Paul, who Maria calls "Paulm," has elevated his status to favored uncle. He demonstrated enthusiasm and boundless energy when playing with Maria and Izzy. I think they all got quite a workout. On the way home, still giddy from all the excitement, Maria explained in elaborate detail all the great "... imagination Paulm did when we played." She thought it was great that he ordered food from their restaurant and gave piggy-back rides. When she realizes he's going back to Wisconsin today, I know we are going to hear an Autumn in Wisconsin Campaign from her... I would take her side.

The party was spread all over Holly and Rich's place... courtyard and backyard, watching local Little Leaguers win their first game of the Series in Pennsylvania. I even got to have a new crochet lesson from Margie... there was something for everyone. And even though we were all over the place, something did finally bring everyone together! Deanne and James brought dessert which, no surprise, was a big hit.

Brownies and ice cream... grandchild magnets!

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Not Whining

Last week I saw Julie and Julia and it was great. My only false step was in eating theater pop corn and not having a good dinner plan, because watching all that beautiful food and then going home to cold cereal or leftover spaghetti was... well it was just plain tragic. The movie was great because of the performers and because of the food and the whole blog connection, it was a fun escape in to kind of a familiar place, with plenty of opportunity to laugh and relate. I very much enjoyed learning about Julia Child, not the one from SNL. Do I need to say Meryl Streep was supremely good? Well, yes, she was supremely good. So was Amy Adams; she's quite capable of bringing depth to the roles she plays.

The only criticism of the movie I have read is that Julie Powell "whined." She got a little self-absorbed and in her blog she hit "publish" when her failures and personal trials were getting the best of her. None of this is kept out of the movie and some critics take issue with the weakness of the character. I could take issue with it too... it's not pretty to see a grown woman cry over aspic or torture herself over what readers think or say or don't say. It's disappointing to watch a capable woman get needy and weak and flustered and overwhelmed and... oh wait... gee... maybe she's human. Yeah, I recognize how unpleasant our my human frailties are, but nonetheless they are real. I think when we don't share those same weaknesses, when we cannot relate specifically to why a spilt aspic is cause for tears, then someone else's whining can be irritating, but the thing is we do all have weaknesses of character and we do all at some point lose perspective or need to express our frustration. And for every person that does not understand Julie Powell's crisis, there is someone that can totally relate, someone that will feel connected to the honesty of the moment.

This is not a blow-up movie with hostages or aliens, neither is it presented as a documentary about the ideal heroic figures of the last hundred years. I am not saying it is a movie above reproach, but the criticism that Julie Powell behaved like a flawed person is weak, it lacks empathy or an ability to see and accept a person in full light. And maybe it helps to understand blogging to understand the movie and the character of Julie Powell. Like Julie Powell I started blogging in 2002. We weren't the earliest pioneers, but the Blogosphere was a pretty wide open frontier in those days. Blogging is not journalism... well, it can be journalism, but most of us bloggers are telling a personal story. Blogging is new frontier in writing and it does not have the same parameters or rules, as we expect from traditional essays, magazines or short stories. Blogging can be raw and honest, it can be personal and newsy, and it can be insightful and intelligent and I could go on and on with more examples, because blogging is anything.

Because blogging is anything, there is a lot out there that will never be meaningful to me, so I don't read it. And there is a lot out there that will never be meaningful to you, so you know... don't read it. It's interesting to consider what "should" and "should not" be published in a blog. Remember there are no guidelines or definitions in this medium and though critics may decry all the "whining," there are many who embrace the open and honest conversations about the small joys, personal trials, doubts, fears, successes and reflections. I think it is interesting to see how all of this publishing and expression will get sorted out. Blogging presents a tremendous shift in our social culture and our ways of communicating. A lot of bloggers are unlocking their diaries and leaving them out on the coffee table... this is weird stuff, and some of it is very interesting. Anyone uncomfortable with vulnerability and emotions might want to be careful when navigating the Blogosphere. And I know as a blogger I am constantly feeling for the walls, for the limits of what to say and what to keep to myself, and I have hit "publish" when I was less than heroic and then regretted it because I felt whiny and wide open... but then someone says thank you or I understand and then it makes sense to be honest, to reach out and admit how human I am.

We are accustomed to getting our news and information from "real publishers," from established sources like magazines and books, but I think those sources are a bit untrustworthy... untrustworthy in the sense that their ultimate objective is to sell you something. I am the first to admit that a glossy layout from Martha Stewart makes the world seem shiny and bright, but the luster fades when I try to apply the stylized, censored, edited version to my real life. Oprah's publication is loaded with advice and pearls of wisdom, but every other page is a sales pitch for favorite things and Fall fashions and stuff to sell, and that doesn't included the actual ads, so all the feel good messages, for me, get lost in translation and ultimately I feel disconnected. I'm cool. I like buying stuff and I like to wishfully plan a beautiful meal or decorate my living room for success and aesthetics, while saving the whales, but I need other sources and resources too. I like to read about the real experiences of people, their setbacks and successes. I like to know that there is a greater possibility that what I am reading in someone's blog is true, their truth, and that I am not getting a filtered version with good lighting and heavy content editing.

I don't think Julie Powell whined too much. She just told her whole truth, and sometimes it was less than glamorous and sometimes we wanted her to be a better person, but I think an honest person is better... better than a fictionalized, dressed up version of the truth. Not all obstacles are in a battlefield, not all battles are fought in trenches, and not all stories are tragic or meant to change the course of justice or include a huge pointed message about the will to live. Thank goodness.

All week we have been swinging from crisis to crisis and I have been less than glamorous, and I just thought I would point out that I have not posted a single whiny post. I am so proud. And yes, I do appreciate that *bragging about not whining* is almost as irritating as actually whining, but it's my blog. So there.

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Technology and The Simple Life

So. This post is all about technology. This post is all about how I hope that something I did will generate huge traffic and lots of buzz for Chickenblog, and that I will finally take that call from Terry Gross and earn more than $00.08 of revenue from Google hits. Sure, I blog for the love it, for the purity of the process, but come on! Don't think for one second that cash and book deals would offend me. We have mouths to feed!

In the Kingdom of Blogosphere there are Queens, women whose blogs reign supreme in popularity, finesse, ad revenues and enviable success. I was visiting one such blog and found a link to Hewlett-Packard and their HP Makeover Contest. At first I was like ˇWow! A makeover! I totally need a makeover. My feet look like Medieval peasant feet and I'm not sure how I am feeling about going gray naturally. Turns out the makeover is for computer equipment, copiers etc. Cool. Maybe I can digitally color my hair. So, to make a short story long, I entered the contest, submitting a 200 words or less story about How Technology Has Simplified My Life.

I do feel slightly disingenuous writing on this topic, because while it is true that my Netbook is really fun and I do love it and I did use it a lot while I was Chicken Abroad, it is also true that I rarely ever feel like anything has simplified my life. But I did put on my optimistic, idealistic, cheeryistic thinking cap and entered the contest and if you click on the mosaic link you can see my picture there among the Queens of the Blogosphere. What a poser.)

My children are the ones that really know about technology. They blow me away. They amaze me. They are so clever and creative and inspiring. William has this tremendous patience and wonderful ability to share what he knows without being condescending or too technical. Using correct terms, he patiently guides Maria through Spore and he's taught her how to use tools in 3-D Studio Max. Most recently William sat with Maria and together they made a stop motion animation. She chose to use her Playmobile figures, and in no time at all she was independently operating the camera, using the computer and moving her characters. She made a movie! And can you see the camera hidden in the Lego contraption? That is a special stabilizing dolly that William designed and built. It keeps the camera in the same place between shots and it moves with the soundstage. Very cool innovations. Seriously.

My children, my husband, my ridiculously abundant fabric stash... these are the things that matter most in my life, so really there is no cause for disappointment, no excuse for whining. But I do have wishes and dreams, and I am hopeful that somehow I can do more to support this great family, to ensure our security and provide more opportunities, and to buy a frickin' house. Is the path through Chickenblog? Through online contests, ad revenues, wishful thinking? Maybe not. Maybe not if I don't have the savvy to include my blog name and a link in my 200 word HP blurb! Honestly, what was I thinking? "Natalie Chickenblogger?! From this I thought something would happen? Good grief. What a poser.

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

TI, A Drink With Jam and Bread

Irresistibly bloggable. I would have been delighted to see this in person and I am very grateful to Gretchen for sharing this spoonful of sugar... a nice perk in my day.

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Saturday, January 03, 2009

The Best Made Plans...
So, Alex is in a robotics club and today was the first day of strategy meetings for regional competitions. Today was the first day of many and even though I am not in the club, I have just had a small taste of how hectic, busy and robotically absorbed our lives are going to be. It's really cool stuff and I actually loved hanging out and checking in. But, um, wasn't I supposedly doing something else today?


I so totally blew that off... the whole thing where I was going to come clean with projects and cleaning, post about it and show the process. My bad. Ah, but not all bad. If you want to see how the process was supposed to work, then I suggest you visit "Infinity More Monkeys" and see a successful version of what I had hoped to accomplish today.

And now I am going to talk Geek with my guys and see what's up for tomorrow. My plan is to go with the flow.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Rain Clouds and Dragons

Maria's illustrations are getting very elaborate, and she narrates as she goes, which is fun to listen to. She does the voices and acts out the little dramas and trials. Standing in the gate of this castle is a king and he is being visited by a family of dragons, including a baby dragon. The flag at the top of the castle is waving, despite the rain falling from the clouds, and the rain has done little to dampen the flames of the torches on the two balconies. I am sorry you cannot see the king's horse. The horse is grazing on daisies, behind the castle.

I think her latest work was inspired by the discussion I was having with Alex and William. We are trying to come up with an illustration for original chess pieces. William knows a lot about the origins and history of chess... game play and art. Alex is familiar too and he's been helping me design pieces for a chess set quilt... a checkerboard and playing pieces in fabric. There are a lot of options and ideas to search through, and we really enjoyed the very oldest game pieces, which were once quite elaborate... so while we were talking about knights and horses and castles, rooks, kings and bishops, and sketching rough plans, Maria played along.

Max did not join us in the chess conversation, though he would have enjoyed it. He is sick. Very. He's done 3 things today... listen, sleep and vomit. He has a fever and chills, he sipped three spoonfuls of broth tonight and the rest of the day he has been either asleep or listening to Alex read from the 6th Harry Potter book. Holly lent the boys her copies of the last 2 books in the series, and I am glad for Max that he can still enjoy being read to. And I am glad that Alex likes to read aloud. There's no school tomorrow, which was supposed to be a good thing, but it's now become just a necessary thing.

Don't ask me how I am feeling... I am flatly refusing to acknowledge any uncomfortable symptoms or the fatigue I am feeling from too little sleep. I feel perfectly fine. Thank you.

Tomorrow I am going to post about quilts and other WIPs. Tonight I am going to sip hot lemon tea, and listen to Alex read. And you? Stay well. Sip tea, and keep rain and dragons at bay.

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Friday, November 07, 2008

Well, That's Embarrassing

I must remember not to overestimate my significance.

Wednesday night we dropped off the face of the Earth when our phone service and computer modems went *blip* and stopped working. I spent days hours many long, tedious minutes on the cellular phone trying to get to the root of the problem, and fortunately I discovered that the fault did not lie with me, this time. The damage was big and wide spread and they could not be sure when we would have service again.

In my mind I am detached... I have no dependance on these modern conveniences, these virtual realities. I can quit anytime.

No Internet.
No dial tone.
No incoming calls.
No calls out.
No email.
No blog posts.
Utterly cutoff from the real world... or...

Yeah. OKay. I see this is somewhat overstated. I was cranky and frustrated and certain that I was going to blow deals, miss deadlines, lose my bearings and fall completely out of step with friends, acquaintances, and total strangers. I was edgy, a bit disoriented. As the hours without my beloved Internet and email passed, I began to imagine my importance in a grander light... I began to consider how much I matter, how necessary I am to the flow and function of the universe. I just knew people were trying to reach me. They needed my ideas and suggestions, my wise counsel and sage advice. I felt the weight of my duty to keep Chickenblog updated, to finally answer lots and lots of emails and to finish photography jobs. I fumed and clenched my fist in angry scorn of the phone company and their silly cables. Heads would roll!

In my mind I am detached... I have no dependance on these modern conveniences, these virtual realities. I can quit anytime.

Now for the truly shocking part: Without my tools and resources, without any means of communicating or being engaged with the real world, I cleaned house and made actual progress, including folding laundry and putting it away. I cooked dinner and washed the dishes. I built a fire in the fireplace, crocheted a scarf, cleared the car, and flossed. I watched a funny movie. I churned butter, cleared the gutters, alphabetized our wines and replaced all the dead light bulbs... it's true... all of it... except the light bulbs part. Seriously, I did get stuff done and found inner peace, harmony and wisdom.

Then, early this morning as I was reclaiming my desk from debris important stuff, I accidentally bumped the mouse and lo and behold our server is back. It happened just as the sun rose above the horizon and a heavenly shaft of light illuminated the room and my heart skipped a beat. I held my breath as emails came streaming in. I counted them, the evidence of my significance and worth in the world, the proof of my existence.

23. Only 23 emails.
7 junk.
10 ads that I actually subscribe to.
3 housing listings, which are sure to lead to disappointment.
1 my beautiful mommy, because, thank God, at least I can count on my mommy.
2 from my cousin, and I better get back to her asap, because I am so happy that after 40 hours of being cutoff from all, that someone actually was trying to reach me.

After 1, 246 posts, after blogging since May 2002, I still cannot profess to know why I do it. Why do I hang out my laundry, dirty and otherwise? Why do I post the good, the sad, the ugly, the trivial, the happy and dear?

Every now and then I hope my Internet disappears, so that I can be reminded that I do not need it. I love it and like it and enjoy it. I depend on it and rely on it, but I do not need it... not everyday, not all day. For 2 days I thought I was missing something important, but it's when the service is working that I am more likely to miss something important, when I am distracted by the Whole Wide World and failing to notice my real world. This is not a total rebuke of computers and blogs and Internet... it's too good and useful to dismiss. My mistake is overestimating my place in it and paying it too much heed.

I'm glad I can talk to my cousin, that we can make a connection and make plans to get together. I'm glad mom and I are exchanging emails, discussing the details of Thanksgiving. And, with some embarrassment, I am glad I was reminded that it's not a big deal if I am out of the loop with Whole Wide World Web.

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Friday, September 19, 2008


I had to keep it real, which typically means being glaringly honest, but it's not fair to paint chickens as completely without redeeming qualities. My last remarks, about their less than glowing characteristics, was colored by having just cleaned out their coop. Er... Swabbing down the poop deck, as we pirates like to say. Gee, some things really do feel better when spoken in pirate!

The lady geek at "Farm Natters" reminded me that the chicas have much about them to love. Their feathers really do smell sweet, especially when they've been dozing in a fresh pile of clean straw. In the evening, when they're too mellow to be flighty, they are fun to sit with and hold. Their feet are surprisingly soft and very warm on the underside, their pads. And yes D.A., those fuzzy bottoms... I guess we were including that under the general heading of "funny." Ruffly, downey, ample chica b00ties are very dear. Bug eating= awesome. Dear Diane spotted another thing to love about the chicas: Their sleek feathers are pretty, and just under their feathers they are warm and downey. And thank you Chris, who is not "completely whacked," for pointing out to me that there is something spiritual about chickens and what they do for my soul. They have tiny heads and tiny thoughts and they do their best to get on with their silly day and it's a calming, amusing, endearing sight to witness. And we have to mention "dust baths." Dust baths is in the Top 5 of Reasons to Keep Chickens. A sigh of relief just naturally alters my state, even thinking of them. Unless, I've been swabbing the poop deck!

Now, don't forget: It's Talk Like A Pirate Day!

Ooh arggh, ye land lubbers, sail over to "Farm Natters" and watch the very important, yet dazzlingly entertaining, documentary about preventing scurvy reclaiming our rightful treasures keel-hauling the White House lawn, because food matters!

Now step in to the galley fer yer hardtack and ale... these "Cake Wrecks" be the height of hilarity, but I think the professional bakers responsible will be walkin' the plank.

Blast! The crew be stirring and I has to be setting the mainsail. We're short a man, since Chango the Pirate Cat, is recovering from an emergency procedure. Yesterday was a nail biting day. Seriously. Releasing my inner Buccaneer has been great fun, so I give ye fair warnin'... avast me hearties, I may be back for more!

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Monday, June 30, 2008

Tempted to Machine Quilt

June Jamboree at Starry Night Hollow was not only fun, it was an inspiring place to be for anyone who loves fabric. I love fabric.

I love how the seasons change light and colors, reveal shades undetected. And with nature's changes my preferences change... sometimes in ways that surprise me. I have favorite colors, but looking through my fabric stash, I doubt you could guess which are my favorites. Most colors are well represented in my collection of fabrics, but citrus tones are the colors I have the fewest of.

I thought orange was a favorite color of someone I want to make a quilt for, but it turns out to be a little too much like pink, or something like that. Orange definitely qualifies as a color I don't gravitate toward, but I am loving the Fresh Squeezed collection from Moda Fabrics. It's sweet and tart, it's sharp and refreshing... it's an idyllic summer.

So with some complementary fabrics from my stash and a charm pack from Starry Night Hollow, I got busy designing and piecing. And I wasn't the only one enjoying the new color scheme... Alex, Geoff, William, Max and Maria offered layout suggestions and expressed appreciation for the Fresh Squeezed theme. It's extra fun to work on something that everyone likes.

I bought extra yardage to sash the charm pack squares, and more for the backing. It has to be finished before the end of summer. It's definitely a take me on a picnic kind of quilt.

Under blue skies, near shady trees. The colors of the quilt are so invigorating, so reflective of summer... maybe it could brighten a dark winter day, when one is beginning to think wistfully of lemonade and garden beds.

So, how soon before we can take it for a test run? How many days or months will it take me to hand-quilt this quilt and the special quilt I am trying to finish for Ruth? The truth is, my fingers and shoulders will give out before I can finish either quilt, especially if I push myself to finish both before the end of summer. Hand quilting is so slow, so hard. I am emotionally attached to the traditional ways, to the look of those dear stitches and even to the meditative leisure of sitting with a quilt on my lap, a needle between my thumb and fingers.

But I already have new quilt designs I am aching to try, and I really would like to make use of my fabulous fabric collection, so I have this irresistible urge to try machine quilting. Machine quilting has it's own challenges and limitations, and I'm not sure my machine is even up to the task.

I need to learn more about my machine, and more about machine quilting. I am hoping I can learn to do something pleasing enough to be worthwhile. Certainly it will be faster than pulling a thread and needle by hand, but I don't want to compromise the hard work and integrity of the quilt top just to finish faster.

I am simultaneously worked up about this issue and pleased... in truth, it is a blessing to have these kind of minor dilemmas to ponder.

This just in:


As a 1930s wife, I am
Very Superior

Take the test!

Thanks to Sara for the fun link. I cannot account for my results.

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Sunday, June 29, 2008

House Hunting... From Chickens Who Blog

Riding home from Oregon, we couldn't help but do a little house hunting. We should have asked to ride down some country roads, because we think it's farm houses and off the beaten path kind of places we are really attracted to. However, if offered a home in town... say a place with integrity and character, something with history and interest... we could be persuaded...

Big enough? Likely, yes, but a bit ornate. Besides we don't think that fence would keep the riff-raff out. Pass.

This may be too small, but it does have its charms. We wonder how far back the yard goes? Is there room for a workshop, a pool, veggie beds, goats, an orchard?

If there's no yard in the back, then forget about it. Otherwise We kind of like the side by side aspect. One for us and one for guests? Wonder if we could modify them and create a secret passage between them? Secret passages, attic rooms, gables, window seats, built in shelves, natural light... bonus points for all of the above.

Hmmmm... too many floors. We know very well those extra floors would be an unwelcome obstacle on cleaning day(s.)


Modest. We like the colors... very fresh and cheery. Looks well built, but not over built. There's still room to add our personal touches. Secure, snug... good and good.

We'll take it! Love the kitchen, the yard, the open floor plan... the whole look of bringing the outdoors in... we love that look!

Oh, and it's mobile. Unexpected, yet practical. Somewhere the grass is always greener and we'll have the option of moving there. Hard to believe this was a picnic table. We really must thank the architect and the builders. Our new home is just right.

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Playing a Meme with Anne.

A. List seven habits/quirks/facts about yourself.
B. Tag seven people to do the same.
C. Do not tag the person who tagged you or say that you tag "whoever wants to do it."

Here goes, and mind you I have decided to really let it all hang out... it's what girlfriends do.

A. Habits, Quirks and Facts
1. Even though I am fat, I secretly feel happy and comfortable. Why secretly? Women are trained to be small, admonished and ridiculed for being bigger than they are... When I forget that I do not look like a supermodel or like the many residents of our body conscious neighborhood, I feel just fine, curvy and capable, strong and full. When I see that clothes made for the masses do not fit me, when photographs of me do not match airbrushed celebrity faces, then I feel ashamed and low, and very small.

2. My chickens blog. Actually they have to tell me what to say and I post it for them. They make a mess of the keyboard, otherwise I'd let them take care of the whole thing.

3. I am censoring myself, because a surprising number of habits/quirks and facts about me, at this time, are not happy. I am trying to avoid these facts, but I will acknowledge that it's an issue.

4. Every time I type "chicken," it comes out cchiekcen, chikcen, or chckine. It never comes out right the first time. Same with "because." "Because" always comes out becuase.

5. My highest Tetris score was 154,000 and I love it when the rocket launches.

6. I have 2 beautiful quilt tops waiting to be quilted.

7. I wish I could fly. Me. Over hills and along the coast, just flapping my arms or floating magically. I dream of it. I know what it would feel like, as though I am missing something I used to do all the time. My second wish is to be able to sing. I imagine singing would be like flying.

B. 7 People to Play Along
1. Tarie
2. Amy
3. Em
4. Pam... She did it!
5. Carol. Carol, you should have a blog. I think you would have such excellent things to share.
6. JenniferYes, she did it too!
7. Cristina

C. I do tag "whoever wants to do it," becuase I am a rebel.

Looking back... 6 years ago today.

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