Mother & Child Reunion

 surrogate son & his brother from another mother:
words fail me. pictures say it all tonight.


Cherry Cheesecake? Mais Oui!

The ineffable pleasures of this past rainy weekend for me included a little bit of this:

and a little bit of that:

I enjoy a little history with my cheesecake, so Mr. Last and I watched the PBS production of Empire: Napoleon and it was quite an exciting drama that filled in some of the rather gaping holes in my knowledge of European history.

And in keeping with my experience that everything is connected, this followed on the heels of watching Jim Caviezel as Edmond Dantes in The Count of Monte Cristo just last weekend:

The connection here is that the entirely fictional Edmond Dantes is cruelly and unjustly imprisoned on an island for years because he was accused of being a traitor to France and a "Bonapartist" before he escapes from his island prison and remakes himself as the Count of Monte Cristo. Whereas the actual, factual, one-time Emperor of France and aspiring Emperor of the World, Napoleon Bonaparte was born on the island of Corsica and died a prisoner on the island of St. Helena. And his life between being born on one island and dying on the other seems like a made-up adventure story but it really happened.

Of course the more important connection is that I could have enjoyed my cheesecake with a side of beefcake if I'd planned better. Perhaps next weekend I'll continue the French adventure with the Three Musketeers. Ooo la la!


Crashing the Gates

You'd think that any self-respecting California State University would welcome these two smiling faces, especially the youngish one on the right. You'd think. And in fact, an institution of higher learning in Fresburg got wind of the youngish one's excellence and practically begged her to grace their campus. Yeah. Well.

I dragged her to CSUB for Engineering Day to give hope to those concerned about "the shortage of scientists and engineers, and the negative impact that shortage has on American competitiveness in the world." Well, yeah, that, and...to check out internship possibilities.

Because we were there independently, without matching polo shirts and a high school teacher, they almost turned us away. But we smiled (see above) and said "please???" and they let us tag along pretending to be with a pre-registered and pre-approved group. Geez.

So far both of our local state universities have only succeeded in convincing us that California has far less to offer than out-of-state schools. That is kinda sad.

But you won't see the smiles (see above) fading from our faces any time soon, because the youngish one this week got invitations from the top two universities of her choice in a neighboring state to continue her excellent scholarly ways with either of them. And today just convinced us that she continues to be headed in the right direction.

Well done, Youngish One.


The Things We Do For Those We Love

This is my beautiful 28-year-old mother reading to me after my third birthday celebration. It is a story about a queen who longs for a baby girl with skin as white as snow, hair as black as ebony, and lips as red as blood. I love the way her hand is under her chin supporting our lean into each other and her feet are tucked up under us both.

Look how she curled my hair, and put me in a party dress and sweater with a faux fur collar, and put a dainty heart necklace around my little neck:

My mother loves me something fierce. What started out as a sweet and simple relationship blossomed into one that encompassed so many others. My sisters and I brought into her life our boyfriends, eventually sons-in-law, grandchildren, greatgrandchildren even. The joys and the sorrows multiplied. It's all rather complicated now but I'd like to get back to the simple love. Perhaps one day I'll put her in a pretty party dress and curl her hair and put a dainty necklace around her neck and read her stories and make her a special cake. I love my mom an awful lot.


Love actually IS all around

Proof positive:
I highly recommend paper plates in your art supply stash. They are inexpensive and they encourage playful creation. You don't have to worry about being less than Da Vinci -- they are paper plates, for pete's sake, so go ahead and scribble to your heart's content.

Chalk is another cheap art supply that encourages creativity:

A new (to us) Feb Fourteenth Fave:

This is one of my sweet twenty-five cent purchases from library discards and it is destined to become a family classic. As the Bears prepare to hibernate, Mrs. Bear sets her alarm for Feb 14 to surprise Mr. Bear, but the tables are turned when Mr. Bear has a love gift all prepared for her when Valentine's Day arrives. It is a darling story and the illustrations just make you say "Awww..."

Speaking of things that make you go "Awww...", Stina gifted me with the cutest (and really useful) birdie bag she designed herself with help from the Big Sister. I love you grils:
 Hope you are feeling the love today and every day. Happy VD!


...'appiness is bloomin' all around 'er...

...the daffodils are smilin' at the doves...when Mary holds your hand, you feel so grand. Your 'eart starts beatin' like a big brass band...

I walked into the backyard, saw these beauties waving at me, and immediately I heard Bert the Chimney Sweep singing about how the world is a better place with Mary Poppins in it. The fruitless pear trees are also bloomed out all over town with white snowflake petals so the almond orchards can't be far behind. In the next two or three weeks the pink blossoms of peach trees and nectarines and plums will arrive and it will once again be Springtime in the Valley!

Jaeger says it's time to plant veggies:
Mr. Last always listens when Jaeger speaks. He started peppers and tomatoes from seed:
I planted basil. Radishes can wait. I'm radished out right now, but the colorful seed packets look so pretty together:
It's really too early to plant outside just yet. Tomatoes and peppers from seed take a loooooong time to mature so we start them in Jiffy peat pods that sit in a tray on the dining room table for now. There they get lots of warm southern sunlight before we introduce them to the big outdoors in about a month. Growing food is a very satisfying hobby.

...ooohhhhhh...it's a jolly 'oliday with Mary...Mary makes the sun shiiiinnne bright...

Gotta run.  I hear a one-man band approaching.


Pelican, Egret, but no pigeons

This weekend Mr. Last and I returned to one of our favorite places on Earth,
where we saw:

After sunset we fell asleep to the rhythm of the waves
and awoke the next morning to sunshine and blue skies:

Then we made our way down to Santa Cruz to Natural Bridges, famous for its eucalyptus grove of overwintering Monarch butterflies.
 Alas, only one Monarch was found:

so we practiced self-portraiture in the butterfly grove:

and then ate our picnic lunch:
and had fun spotting these guys:
before we returned to the Valley to find gray skies
heavy with rain. It did not dampen our spirits any
because our senses were full of the sights and sounds
of the California coast. 


Winter garden

Mr. Last suggested I "take a turn about the garden" and so I did. (*whispered* Don't you love a man who quotes Pride & Prejudice? I DO!)

 I found:
salad just being born


sweet radishes



and oranges

Not bad for our first attempt at winter gardening. OK, the oranges and lemons are kinda cheating because they've been established for years. And we would starve if we just had to live off our own produce, but we are learning how to be small time farmers and that's a start.

We are off to Pigeon Point lighthouse now for a fabulous coastal weekend. It's another one of the great things about living in California. Running to the coast as needed. 

Look forward to lovely photos when we return.


Infinitely Creative

I really do NOT enjoy those divergent thinking tests where you are given five minutes to come up with as many uses as you can think of for, oh say, a paper clip or an envelope or a brick. Or some combination of the three. Rather than stimulating creativity, such exercises shut me down and cause me to feel about as smart as a paper clip, or an envelope, or a brick. I just cannot be creative on demand.

And yet…I do consider myself a fairly creative individual and I have even bragged immodestly about my not inconsiderable gift for improvisation and repurposing of all kinds of goods. I have been collecting bits and bobs for months now and this weekend I was possessed with a demonic crafty fever and I created: a book for the GrandBoys, a clever felt camera case, and a charm bracelet for me. Look!
I did not make teeny tiny photos, those are thumbnails that were on an old Snapfish calendar. I glued them to paint chips (you know. sample cards of paint colors you get from Home Depot) and then laid them picture side down on clear packing tape to seal the image by cutting the tape and wrapping it to the backside over the paint chip.

Then I poked holes in the edges and joined the little charms with jump rings and a lobster clasp from an old tarnished bracelet I never wear anymore.

The Interwebs are endlessly bountiful and I wish I could remember from what crafty blog I got this idea, but I am here confessing that someone else should be credited for the original idea, I just don't know who. 

A long, long time ago my life demanded for me to be creative and I just felt stuck and sinking in quicksand. In a quietly desperate moment I made a big poster with this affirmation (from Shakti Gwain, I think): "Every moment of your life is infinitely creative and the universe is endlessly bountiful. Just put forth a clear enough request, and everything your heart truly desires will come to you." I looked at it for weeks and months. And I said the words to myself. I tried every creative thing I could think of to get moving in a upward direction. Even stuff that was hard. Or scary. Sometimes I just quit flailing and held very still listening and looking for the endless bounty around me. And eventually the quicksand solidified under me and I was able to walk on.

I am not a true believer in magical thinking, but I do believe words have weight. So I'm suggesting that it doesn't hurt to focus on positive thinking and staying open to the endlessly bountiful universe while you are working on being infinitely creative. On demand or not.

Oh, and if you like the teeny tiny charms you should see what I can do with paper clips, and envelopes, and bricks.