Sunday, May 28, 2006

A Day in the Garden

As a gardener, I am a pretty solid beginner. I love to read gardening stuff in magazines, but my garden strategy comes pretty much from reading the tag on the plant and figuring out where to try it. So, imagine my delight when the rose bushes I planted last spring have bloomed so gloriously after our long, rainy winter.

I used to fear roses (thinking them fussy and difficult) and I didn't really like the idea of a having a bunch of thorny bushes with little kids playing in the yard. When we rented a house for a few years with a bunch of rose bushes in the sorely-neglected back yard (before we moved in, that is), I figured I couldn't make them any worse than they already were. So, I hacked away at them rather brutally to keep the thorny branches away from playing kids. I didn't do anything special at all to them. And they thrived.

The idea that I could do pretty much nothing special to them and they'd still yield such gorgeous flowers made me decide to give them a try.

I tend to be drawn to the full, fat, old fashioned ones that actually smell like roses. You should see the roses on my yellow bush.

And I even found these little rose trees that were grafted to have half white and half pink roses. They've come back beautifully this spring after a fairly vicious pruning earlier in the season.

The other one seems to be sort of cross-breeding itself, so the blooms are sort of white and pink together. Interesting, huh?

So, inspired by my success, we headed off to Home Depot this morning to get a few more things to fill in some bare spots. Roger immediately headed off to look at tools and pipes and such. But Caroline and I found some lovely bargains and came home and planted most of them before our energy wore out.

Here's a pretty delphinium ... on sale because it was a bit droopy, but I think it might come back...

We got a few of those, including some in a really soft white/lavender color.

And a few gerbera daisies, because they just make me happy to look at them.

I also moved a bunch of stuff around, having realized recently that just because I planted something in a bad place to begin with doesn't mean it has to stay there. I had one climbing rose with teeny yellow roses that I'd put back along the fence, where it didn't get much sun and it just wasn't doing much of anything. I've moved that to a sunny, prominent spot and we'll see what happens.

We have hard, clay soil that makes for pretty miserable digging no matter how much I amend it. So I decided to stop and plant the rest tomorrow. Here's what needs to be planted, still: two foxgloves, a small gardenia (I'm hoping I can get one to take even though I've read they need really good drainage), another gerbera daisy, and some interesting shrub with tiny pink flowers (some sort of mallow, maybe? I forget).

It feels good to have that leg-aching fatigue. Even Gemma was exhausted, after all that running and sticking her nose into new holes in the dirt.

I am looking forward to a long soak in a hot tub tonight!

Friday, May 26, 2006

The Imagination as Foundation

Last Sunday was the Imaginary Festival, a big event hosted by Bella Winery, a gorgeous winery in Healdsburg. The festival raises money for scholarships to the Imagination Foundation, a wonderful children's acting workshop in town. The kids (ages 7 to 17) have been working since September on various performances, and they were all performed on Sunday.

Lest you think that pictures of someone else's kid's drama performance is -- well, less than fascinating, shall we say? -- I am posting them here because I was really impressed by the artistry and creativity of the props these kids were given.

The Imagination Foundation is a shoestring sort of nonprofit operation. There are two drama teachers, a husband/wife team who are energetic and great with kids and really creative and inspirational. They let the kids create stories and then build drama activities around them, so the kids write and design pretty much every part of what they perform.

Oh, they began the festival with a parade down the hillside toward the winery.

They walked toward a large tent, and the show began with 4 teenaged kids acting out little puppet-type stories from these four portable booths.

Can you see the kids' legs underneath each one? Each kid had a booth -- made, I think, from a very light wood frame, mounted on the shoulders with some sort of brace. The fabric was draped over the frame supports, so they could walk around and perform little individual shows with hand-held masks. They also appeared to hold up title cards. It was very cleverly done.

In Caroline's group, they performed a play which they had written from an ancient Chinese legend about how the four rivers of China were formed. (I'm proud to say that Caroline suggested this story and the group loved the idea.) What they accomplished with simple props was really interesting.

Here, the kids are being an ocean out of which dragons emerge. Those blue and white peaks were pieces of cardboard painted to look like ocean waves, so when the kids held them up and rocked them back and forth, it looked very water-like.

This next shot shows a dragon (made up of three kids, one holding the head and the other holding the tail) appealing to the Cloud Emporer to make it rain. The clouds were painted cardboard and the kids held them and gently rocked them to make the emporer's throne.

The dragon heads amazed me the most. You can't see it well in this next shot, I'm afraid, but it was made of rolled heavy paper, hinged to open where the jaw would be. It was so simple, yet so clearly a dragon head and so beautifully done. (Caroline is waving the yellow streamer tail of the dragon here.)

They did a great job and everyone loved the play. They also did little bits of Shakespeare, individual speeches or dialogues that were quite impressive. I especially liked the one kid -- who couldn't say his "R's" -- doing a bit from Hamlet. It was unintentionally hilarious.

And just so you can see the gorgeous vineyard setting, here's a shot of Caroline and her good buddy Christopher enjoying lunch after their big performance. We were sitting on a deck overlooking vineyards and was gorgeous. We grownups had paella (fresh cooked on the premises), field greens salad, and Bella's very lovely pinot noir.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Thursday random thoughts...

After the hectic pace of the last two weeks, I thought I'd share some of the things swirling around my head...

1. Back up your back up: Yes, I have secured and bolted the barn door long after the horse is gone. (When I made this comment to Roger the other night, Caroline looked at me in panic. It is her lifelong dream to own a horse, and when she heard "the horse is gone" she figured she'd somehow missed her chance at having one.) Anyway. Yes, my hard-drive contents were totally lost, and no, I had not been diligent about backing up its contents so I lost a LOT of material. Here's how I've now prepared myself against this potential future disaster:

A. I have signed up with an off-line backup system. (I chose for a bunch of reasons, but there are a lot of different ones out there with different services and fees.) Now, the files I've designated will automatically back up to this secure service every night where I can retrieve and restore them, if necessary. The key part of this is that it all happens automatically (as long as my computer is on) so I don't have to remember a dang thing. And aside from the benefit of not having to do anything to ensure constant backing up, this service means that I could still recover my files if our house burned down, all my computer stuff was stolen, etc. Clever, yes?

B. I bought and installed a DVD drive. Yes! I opened my computer cover, poked around in the wires, and changed the hardware! I am woman! I am technologically competent! (Well, sort of, and ignore that what got me into this problem was --ahem -- technological incompetence.) I was able to then copy all of my Itunes music files to ONE DVD, for additional backup.

C. I bought an extra little USB flash-drive for putting my work documents on all the time. This is, for me, the handiest way of making my work portable. This thingie even comes with a cord so you can wear it around your neck. Honestly, you'd think they'd make them in colors and patterns so they look like jewelry! Anyway, I've found these to be handy for moving work from one computer to another but I needed a bigger one. This is the same device that Gary recommended I use to store my work files in my car's glove compartment and update it weekly...But I'm realistic enough to know that I'm not likely to follow up on that very diligently. And besides, what if my car were stolen or wrecked or broken into? Maybe Gary didn't think of that! Hah! (Now I'm a back-up obsessive. There is none so cautious as she who did not back-up to begin with.)

2. You never know who reads your blog. When computer-fixer Gary came to my rescue on Monday, he said, "So, you said on your blog that I was gonna fix your computer?" A friend of Gary's had apparently told him that he'd read on "this blog by some lawyer who makes stuff" that Gary was gonna fix my computer. Now, I hadn't mentioned Gary's full name or business name, and Gary's friend isn't a quilter or a mom or anyone who I'd think would have found -- let alone read -- my blog. And surely there are other computer repair guys in the world named Gary? "Couldn't have been mine," I replied, although I admitted that I'd mentioned his first name. "Yep," he retorted, "it was you. My friend said there was quilt stuff and lawyer stuff and kid stuff and Healdsburg stuff." Geez. I know I write this stuff and that anyone can read it...but the thought that random people actually do read it is ... well, freaky.

3. You can't get there from here: I've mentioned a time or two before that I regularly read a blog called Treppenwitz, by a talented writer and dad in Israel named David Bogner. (It's there in my sidebar links.) I enjoy it because it's so well written, and I learn a lot about life in Israel from the perspective of a normal, family guy, and it makes me think about religion and politics and other Big Issues, and it's entertaining.

Well, today I got an email from David (which is sort of like having an actor whose show you like suddenly call you on the phone...funnily thrilling and unexpected and flattering) saying that he'd connected back to my blog and he was wondering how I'd found his blog in the first place. Well, I'm gonna have to ponder on this for a while, but at present the answer is "I have no clue." I hop from blog to blog, sometimes, following the links on other people's pages. And given that I'm usually lurking among the quilt/ knitting/ writing/ creativity/ motherhood blogs, I can't think how I made my way to Treppenwitz. (Had I not just lost all of those "favorites" links, maybe I coulda traced back...yet another fatality in the Big Computer Wreck of 2006.) I will ponder this further before replying to him. But isn't it interesting how one blog leads to another?

4. This is a BIG day. Healdsburg schools have just a half-day today and tomorrow off, because today is the beginning of the Future Farmers of America fair. Events will kick off with a parade at 6pm, which is always a hoot. Everyone in town either is in the parade or watching the parade. It typically involves a whole lot of firetrucks, little kids straggling along, high school floats with raucous kids shouting at each other, the occasional band tooting trumpets and trombones, a few horses, and clowns throwing candy at the kids in the audience. I've seen signs that the local animal shelter is trying to assemble a Dachshund Brigade to get all the dachsunds in town to walk in the parade together...This could be this year's highlight!

In past years, I have ridden on preschool and school floats with Caroline, walked with Brownies and girl scouts, and watched with skinned-knee-fears as Caroline and her gymastic classmates cartwheeled down the pavement all along the route. (There were a few memorably difficult year, 5 year old Caroline suddenly and urgently had to go to the bathroom, far from any public we had to dash away from the group and look for a private place, and then I had to convince her that it was okay to just "squat and go" in an emergency. Another year -- the Brownie year -- she had a tooth fall out in the middle of the route, which was unusually bloody. I had to beg some kleenex from people watching the parade so I could prevent blood from dripping out of her mouth as we walked along. I remember an indignant, teary Caroline shrieking..." It's HOT, my TOOTH fell out, I'm BLEEDING, and I have to WALK 10 more blocks? WHAT ELSE COULD GO WRONG?")

Tonight, thank goodness, we will just sit on the curb with friends and watch. And tomorrow, we will join various parents and kids at the fair to look at goats and sheep and bunnies, play ring-toss games, and eat traditional fair fare. I'm sure wine will be involved in these festivities as well.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Better days...

Things are definitely looking up around here, and I am smiling!

First, my computer guy Gary was here for 2 1/2 hours yesterday, in which time he determined all of the things that the problem WAS NOT, which unfortunately led to the unhappy solution of reformatting the hard drive. And, as I'm sure you know, that means being forced to abandon all of the material stored on it. Sigh. The good news was that a) the hard drive itself was not damaged; so b) I didn't have to buy a new computer; c) it's not that hard to re-load software; and d) I was able to reinstall all of the music and podcasts and audio stuff I'd had on my harddrive BACK to the computer from the Ipod, with the assistance of some inexpensive software. So I didn't lose all those music files purchased for 99 cents a song over a long time, the fear of which was causing me some concern.

I have learned my lesson and just got back from CompUSA where I have bought various items to aid me in my FREQUENT and DILIGENT backing up of files. FROM NOW ON. (By the way, Gary pointed out to me that most people back up their files on an external hard drive, dvd or cds...and then store them next to the computer where they would be destroyed along with the original files if there were a house fire or similarly horrible disaster. So he advised me to buy one of those 1 or 2 gig flashdrives, store backup the document stuff on it regularly, and store it offsite, like the car glove compartment.) And as I am suitably chastened by the loss of all of my files, I am going to listen to him.

But now that I can read email, read blogs, and play Toontown with Caroline again, I am feeling much happier. Having a totally nonfunctional computer for 48 hours felt weirdly like being at death's door. I was at total loose ends.

Oh, and I have a new hair dryer which comes with some sort of new ionic technology that is supposed to make my hair look simultaneously fuller and shinier. Regardless, at least it's dry.

Today I even managed to get to the Pointless Sisters art group for the last half (having meetings scheduled on school stuff earlier in the morning) and so I had the chance to admire some lovely quilts and be newly inspired. I was happy to see that Carol Larson (whose blog "Tall Girl Tales" was on the ring for a while until Carol decided to pause the blog for a bit) has joined the group. Carol is a very talented quilter from Petaluma who brought a gorgeous abstract piece of tulip fields. (Sorry, in my rush to leave the house I forgot the camera.)

Afterwards, I had time for a grocery-store-takeout sushi lunch which I ate while catching up with my buddies Pat and Janet, then we had our practical design workshop with Marilyn Felber at 1pm. Marilyn is such a great teacher, and her thoughtful approach to design really turns lightbulbs on for me.

I'm feeling much happier about life today. Oh, and I managed NOT to blow up my sewing machine, too.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

No internet and lank hair

I am officially having One of Those Weeks.

You know, THOSE weeks.

Saturday morning, I worked for about an hour on my computer and then it suddenly froze. Totally, completely froze. Rebooting gave me strange, blue-screened error messages. Despite my valiant effort, I was unable to make any progress on my own and have resorted to placing an urgent call for repair into my Computer Guy, Gary. He promises to be here sometime Monday.

Keep your fingers crossed that it's some trivial thing that will be fixed quickly without file loss. Hah.

I KNEW I shoulda stayed in Hawaii. Ahem.

(I am doing this quick entry on Roger's computer.)

This morning, I was rushing about to get us all to the Imaginary Festival, which was a wonderful event at a local winery featuring performances by the Caroline's kids' acting group, the Imagination Foundation. I got Caroline all prepared in the required clothing, jumped into the shower, jumped back out to style myself...And my hairdryer had died. Totally, completely died.

No computer and no hairdryer, in the space of 24 hours.

I ended up leaping into the car to go to my sister's and use hers.

I am going to try to use this time as an enforced vacation, and perhaps sew. (But I'm a bit afraid to touch my machine, out of fear of my current bad electronic karma!)

Friday, May 19, 2006

The most amazing week...

I should explain why I’ve been so silent all week.

And have I got something to tell you!

Last weekend, Roger’s editors surprised him with an all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii for two as a reward for all of Roger’s hard work on the human sexuality textbook he’s been writing, well, forEVER. His work on the book has come to an end and the book has gone into production at long last. And we were stunned and excited and decided that there was no time like the present. We chucked all of our responsibilities and fled to Hawaii, where we had the most blissful, relaxing week in the sun.

Yep, I can tell you that, all right. But it’s not true.

I could tell you that on Monday I had a burst of amazing inspiration, and so I’ve spent the entire week in a creative whirl, consumed by a new exciting quilt that I can’t wait to reveal.

But that’s not true either.

The reality is so ... well, trivial.

I’ve had work out the wazoo. I’ve been staying up late at night to do it, falling into bed at 1 or 2 or 3 am, scratchy-eyed and fuzzy-brained.

The end of the school year is approaching and our district is reconfiguring the elementary schools next year, so I’ve spent TOO much time at unproductive meetings at school to talk about PTO stuff, arrange teacher lunches, work at the school book fair to raise money for the library, etc.

I’ve been interviewing principal and teachers at a completely different school with the possibility of moving Caroline next year, for a host of reasons.

I’ve been sweeping the dog hair off of the kitchen floor and folding endless piles of laundry and trying to figure out what to make for dinner.

I’ve had my teeth cleaned, seen Caroline’s teeth cleaned, and I visited the orthodontist so that he could install this massively tight steel band around my front teeth which attaches via rubber bands to my lower teeth and has given me a constant, annoying headache for the last 3 days.

And that IS the truth. Sigh.

But let’s just pretend that I spent that blissful week in Hawaii, okay?

Friday, May 12, 2006

Just so you know...

You know, I really like practicing law.... when I'm doing it about 10 hours a week.

And when I am doing it constantly? Every day and every night into the wee hours of the morning?

Well, then..... not so much.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

And now back to normal life...

Do you recognize this picture?

Here's a hint: it's in California. (Blue skies, palm probably figured that right?)



Anyone who went to 4th grade in California can probably tell you that it's a California mission. It's Mission Santa Clara de Asis, in fact, situated on the campus of the University of Santa Clara.

And why is it HERE, you ask? Well, the 4th grade reports and models of their missions are due this friday. So, that's what's been going on at our house! Caroline has built a stunning styrofoam model of Mission Santa Clara and she is finishing up her report on the mission. After school today I will be doing the usual mom-hovering, trying to make sure it's done to decent standards while trying not to impose my artistic and academic sensibilities. This business of letting your kid do her own work is harder than you'd think, sometimes.

But thank you all for the supportive emails in response to my silence and then my post yesterday. It's been a rough week around here!

Things are looking up! I got a solid 8 hours of sleep last night, and then I was able to enjoy my morning coffee with an old episode of the Gilmore Girls (a definite indulgence). I took Gemma for a morning romp with our neighbor dog Sadie, I cleaned my desk, I did a load of laundry, and now I'm back at the computer ready to revise and edit yet another pleading.

I am woman, hear me roar! (And whimper, occasionally...)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

One, two, three, four

... child home sick with bad allergy symptoms and fatigue
... roll of toilet paper left in the whole house
... young dog eager for a good romp outside

Two ...
... lawyers with whom I am having daily conference calls
... moms who helped me this morning to set up lunch for 60 staff people at the elementary school in honor of Teacher Appreciation day
... trips to the grocery store within 30 minutes to buy platters of food for the teacher lunch
... times I was at the grocery store this morning and still forgot to buy toilet paper

Three ...
... a.m., when I finally got to bed this morning after working all night to meet a filing deadline today
... big stacks of documents on my desk needing to be sorted and filed after the frenzy last night
... times the pharmacy has called today so far to remind me that there is a prescription waiting to be picked up
... loads of clean laundry currently on my bed waiting to be folded and put away

Four ...
... massive wads of batting, which is what my head feels like it is stuffed with today instead of a brain
... contestants in the Barbie fashion show/gymnastics/horse show which Caroline has put on for my (ahem) entertainment today
... minutes after dinner is when I’ll go straight to bed

Um, what comes after four... I'm so tired I can't even count straight.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Time to Read

We are a reading family. Just look at what's piled on my nightstand.

Here's the floor next to Roger's side of the bed.

This is Caroline's nightstand.

I was thinking about this recently when I visited my friend Ann's house. Now, Ann is a lovely woman. Her house is organized, immaculate, beautifully decorated. And there are almost no books around. She was showing me something in her room recently, and I was taken aback by the neatly pressed and bright white linen lace pieces draped over each nightstand... Each table had an artful arrangement of lamp, or clock, or lovely knick-knack. They looked model-home gorgeous.....but so odd, without a book to be seen.

I had a boyfriend in law school who invited me to visit his home and meet his family in Utah. I remember that it took me a while to figure out what seemed weird and cold about the house...and then it dawned on me that there wasn't a single piece of reading material visible. No books or magazines anywhere. They did have a tv in the dining room, which was a bizarre revelation to me.

And that makes me think of my aunt, who is a wonderful funny and creative woman. But she doesn't read books. Period. She loves looking at magazines, but she just doesn't like to read. And she has horrid insomnia. I can't even imagine how long and dull an insomnia-awake night would feel if I couldn't read.

Books are warm and comforting to me, and an absolute essential in our home. We have a lot of bookshelves and we still need more.

Caroline has a shelf full of books in her room and she mightily resists my trying to weed out the younger-age picture books, because she still loves to read them.

We have shelves in our room (possibly to be converted to become built-ins with window seats someday) and they're always bulging.

And of course, I need my quilting books and law books and other books in my office.

This doesn't even show you the books arranged on the coffee table in the living room and the shelf in the downstairs hall and the area in the family room where we are planning a big set of shelves built in along one whole wall. (I'm too lazy to take the camera downstairs at the moment...)

Books are part of what make a house a home to me. We couldn't live without them around here.

Monday, May 01, 2006

A Change of Pace

It's been a few days since I've been able to post here, for various reasons. First, there was the cold that turned into a sinus infection...picture me dragging around looking wilty and tired and headachey.

But Roger -- wonderful father and husband that he is -- stepped up and agreed to be one of the parental escorts for Caroline's class overnight field trip to a Miwok Indian camp last thursday night. Roger earns mega husband and dad points for this, as 1) Caroline was thrilled to have him go and share the experience; 2) I didn't have to go and sleep out on the sand and deal with 30 10 year olds for 24 hours straight; and 3) I got to stay home ALONE for those same 24 hours. Here they are, heading out the door...

I hope they didn't hear me leaping about and whooping with glee as they pulled out of the driveway! (I love my family, but time alone in the house? For a whole 24 hours? Priceless!)

So, I napped, I read, and of course, I made a quilt top:

This is a copy of a quilt that a friend of mine, Delaine, made. I saw it at the Bishop's Ranch retreat and was immediately obsessed with it. Hers had different colors, but I was so intrigued by the symmetry that I just had to play with it. So that's what I did with all those green fabrics. I think I'm going to call it "Spring Fields." There's going to be another reddish outer border on it any day now. Still, it was SO satisfying to have a huge hunk of time to sew.

Then Roger and Caroline came home, tired, slightly sunburnt, but with great adventure stories. Here's what the whole crew looked like on their way out of town:

(And wasn't that some nice mom -- not me, thankfully -- who sewed all those indian-type shirts for the kids?!)

Here's a shot of Caroline's Miwok "clan" making baskets with our neighbor and co-classroom-dad, Tom. They camped at a site in the Point Reyes national park, on Tomales Bay. And they slept right there on the sand! (While I was in my cozy bed, I might add.)

Sunday brought an impromptu visit from my best friend Beth and her dog Jake. It was the first time Jake and Gemma met so we made a party of it, complete with hats.

Perhaps it is pathetic that we were so greatly amused at the doggies wearing hats, but there you have it. Jake is one of those relaxed dogs who just sat around with his hat on, looking slightly rakish. Gemma pawed hers off right away.

We had grilled swordfish, summer squash casserole, caesar salad, good sourdough french bread, a great chardonnay (Jessup Winery) and homemade rhubarb pie for dinner. Sorry, no pictures, it got consumed too fast!

Now it's back to the usual schedule and a ton of work. But I'm feeling better and the sun is shining (it feels like summer in fact). What more could I ask?