Sunday, March 28, 2010

Other People's Kids and Kittens

Schoolyard Sketches

hot day in the schoolyard
pencil and marker on paper

pink balloon
pencil and marker on paper

I am still trying to make a habit of daily drawing by carrying a sketchbook everywhere (and actually taking it out of my bag). Here are a couple of quick sketches I made while the girls played on the playground after school.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Life in Bloom

Yesterday after school, the 7yo went to play at a friend's house, so the 9yo and I headed over to the library to pick up Calling on Dragons, the book she'd requested. After we picked it up and put in a request for another book, The Silver Door, she asked me if we could go to the greenhouse. I realized it was within walking distance, so we headed over. As we were walking over, I remembered that they have an annual bulb show at this time of year. Sure enough, when we got there, there were beautiful flowers everywhere. And unlike most times when I've been, where you have to fight the crowds to see anything, we had the whole place nearly to ourselves. It turns out one of the reasons for this was that we were there a half hour before closing time. So we did get the bum's rush as I was frantically snapping pictures. Still, it was a lovely afternoon.

Happy Spring.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Mourning Dove

I was taking pictures of the girls on their bikes the other day and this mourning dove flew into the frame. That gorgeous Spring light has been replaced today by cold grey rain and wind. Though this morning it felt so cozy, by late this afternoon the girls and I were feeling cooped up.

I was just reading a friend's posts about the flight of youth. Her memories put me in mind both of flights of my past and the flights in my girls' future. Sometimes it all seems to be happening in the same moment.


Friday, March 12, 2010


watching the Irish dancers

Last night at school there was a special event, "Celebrate the World," where families with members or heritage from other countries set up displays around the cafeteria with information about those countries. Folks also had foods for sampling, as well as books & pictures, toys & money, etc., on display. Since this was the first time the school was trying such an event, no one knew what the turn out would be like. It ended up being a huge success and quite a lot of fun. It felt good to look around the room and see so many people from the school community.

In the hours before the event, the 9yo had a meltdown because this is exactly the sort of thing she dreads--big noisy crowds of people, as well as something new and unfamiliar. I originally thought that the best thing to do would be to arrange for another adult to supervise the 7yo at the event, as she was very much looking forward to it & already planning to meet classmates there, while the 9yo and I did something else for the evening. Then I talked to some very generous, thoughtful friends in my virtual community and they helped me realize that I should help the 9yo attend the event and have a successful evening. And that is exactly what happened. We all had a great time. If you look at the photo above, you can find the girl who was dreading going, right there front & center (the 9yo is the one in the orange tank top with the cup).

I am not a big fan of crowds, either, and last night helped me realize how I've managed to find a way to cope as an adult. I find my peeps, hang out, and share laughs.

my peeps

The fella doing the Rah!Rah! is the drummer for my band, as well as the dad of the 7yo's classmate. He always makes me laugh, no matter how nervous I am.

I am grateful to have such wonderful friends.


Monday, March 8, 2010

Sunday Adventure

Nothing like a rusty truck in the woods for a good photo shoot

Yesterday was another gorgeous day, so we headed out to Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary. My plan was to do our usual quick loop and then have a snack at the birdhouse. However, the 7yo told me her plan was to get lost, like we did once a few years ago.

That time it was also a sunny day in late Winter/early Spring, but the ground was still covered deep with snow. We had tried to extend our short loop just a bit, but never found a place to turn right to loop back. None of the paths were marked, and there was no way for me to spot the trails in the snow. I ended up leading us out by heading to the road at the far perimeter, and making the loop back on the road.

This time the paths were clear of snow and better marked, but still, we eventually got to a place where we couldn't tell where the path was. This time, we just back-tracked the way we had come until we found our way back. Even though there was a point where we didn't know which way to go, we were never actually lost. There was still enough bush-whacking, bank-climbing, and hill-sliding to make it an exciting adventure.

We did see a few people out in the woods yesterday. We passed one group heading deeper into the woods, just as we were trying to find our way back. Then, when we were back on a familiar trail, we crossed them again coming down exactly the path we had tried to find. When I asked how they managed to find it, they said it wasn't well marked, but they just followed the river. Somehow this is beyond my abilities. Girl scout fail.

Here's hoping my daughters, who are growing up hiking the woods, instead of just biking the asphalt (like I did in southern California), will have the ability to read the land.


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Signs of Spring

On the rails-to-trails bridge over the Connecticut River

The first crocuses of the season, spotted at school

Sugaring on the Hadley Commons

Yesterday was a gorgeous sunny day. The girls and I headed out on bikes for a day's adventure. First stop was breakfast at Jake's. Then off to the last of the Winter farmers' markets for five pounds of honey for twenty bucks (what was I thinking???). Then we went to the local bakery that makes olive bread only on Saturdays, to buy a loaf. We also got some fancy juice spritzers at the local health food store. Then we headed over the river for a picnic.

When we came back to town, we checked out the new rails-to-trails bridge over Main Street, a very fun view. We made a pit stop at home, then rode back to town to rent a movie and get ice cream cones. Yes, it feels like Spring.

Today is also gorgeous and we're about to head out for another adventure. The girls are just waiting for me, so I'll come back to put all the links in later!



I made some cookies the other day. Yes, snickerdoodles, using this recipe, except the girls rolled half of them in the traditional sugar and cinnamon mixture, and half in a sugar and ground ginger mixture. Yum.

While I was making the dough, the 7yo begged me to let her eat some raw dough. I was extremely resistant because when I was little, my mother didn't want us to eat the dough. My memory is that she said the raw flour could give you worms. Since then, of course, there's been all kinds of raw egg prohibitions. I do seem to recall eating a little oatmeal chocolate chip cookie dough with my roommates when I moved away from home. And I lived to tell the tale. I asked around (okay, I posted the question on facebook), and it was unanimous that I should, indeed, let the 7yo eat the dough. And so I did.

We also ate all the cookies.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

I called him Al Weisel

The internet is a strange bird.

Al Weisel was a good friend of mine in college. I completely lost touch with him and didn't know he blogged as Jon Swift (but that explains why I didn't find him when I googled in the past).

Jon Swift, aka Al Weisel

Al was on his way to his father's funeral in VA when he suffered 2 aortic aneurysms, a leaky aortic valve and an aortic artery dissection from his heart to his pelvis. He had 3 major surgeries within 24 hours and sometime during those surgeries also suffered a severe stroke.

I gasped when I read my friend Libby on twitter today write that someone named Jon, aka Al, had died. I gasped again when I clicked the link and saw his picture, looking exactly the same as he did when he used to make fun of me for comparing beautiful moments in nature to paintings.

It's good to read that all who knew him as a blogger thought he was as sweet and funny as I did.

May he find his way to the Summerlands. May his friends and family find peace.

Update: I am finding comfort in reading others' remembrances of Al. Here is a collection of links to posts. This one is particularly beautiful, and articulates a lot of what I'm feeling for "my long lost pal."

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Art of Clutter

My alma mater used to have an annual book show, inviting students and alumni to contribute. Though there were books by Martha Stewart and Erica Jong on display, for the most part it was visual artists who contributed, so what was considered a book was loosely defined. I think this wooden box book was my best work for the series.

[Full disclosure: they may still have an annual book show, but I have not been invited. If I've been excluded, I blame the below self portrait that I sent as my contribution to a non-book gallery show in honor of the then new college president. It turns out they didn't hang the drawing because they thought it was too scary. It seems pretty unprofessional to me that they didn't let me know when they received the drawing that they didn't want to include it. It turns out they didn't anticipate my showing up for the opening. Oops. Well, we got it up in the show. At least for the few hours I was there!]

Anyway, back to the book.

I designed the box and a friend generously made it for me. For the pages, I made five. Each page represents a member of my family. I used objects collected from nature as well as treasures from my supply of clutter. I hadn't made anything like this before, and I haven't really since. I love it, though, and would like to try something like this again. So that's my excuse for keeping all various sorts of rusty things and ribbon around.

page 1

page 1, close up

page 2

page 2, close up

page 3

page 3, close up

page 4

page 4, close up

page 5

page 5, close up


Lemon Pear Cake

I'm still going a little crazy baking, using up the lemons I bought.

I made this cake yesterday as a quick alternative to scones. As I've said many times here, I make biscuits a lot, and the scone recipe is pretty much a fancy biscuit recipe, so it's not hard. It's just messy.

For a quicker path to a coffee accompaniment, I followed the lemon scone recipe below, except instead of butter, I used a quarter cup olive oil and one egg. I mixed this in with the yogurt/milk mixture, before adding it to the dry ingredients. I also chopped up some pear to add to the dough. It looked like it could use a little more liquid, so I added the juice of half a lemon. I lowered the oven temperature to 375° for no real reason!

I melted a couple tablespoons of butter in the pan in the preheating oven, a la upside down cake. I did not add brown sugar to the butter, but you could. I assembled what few pear slices I had left in the bottom of the pan. Then I spread the dough on top of that. I baked it until it looked golden and it passed the toothpick test. Yum.