Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Of Aztecs and didgeridoos

On Saturday, I dragged Jeff and Mum down to Salem to the World Beat Festival. I was a woman with a mission. First, I wanted some new ethnic instruments, and this festival is a great place to buy instruments. Second, I wanted a skirt and blouse that would make me feel pretty and still be comfortable. Plus, I wanted to indulge in some funky world beat music experiences.
So off we went.
The day was a little warm, but quite perfect for the occasion. The venue is the Riverfront Park, which I would love to show you in photos only I ran out of battery. Or rather, my camera did. It is gorgeous, overlooking the wide, flowing Willamette River, which is spanned by several bridges and flanked with trees. I spent some time ogling various offerings from the many vendors. Bamboo outdoor screens and furniture, tatami purses, flowing clothes from India and Africa, garden art and indoor art and instruments galore! I bought four little maracas from Peru and a drumhead from Africa. 
Then Jeff said No More Shopping
What would you like to do? I said sweetly. Listen to music?
Listening to music it was. 
First off, the Aztec Dancers.
My goodness, their costumes were astounding, their head dresses extreme.
Downright studly, if you ask me.
Then we entered the tent where the Zimbabwe Music Workshop was being held.
I have a fondness for music from Zimbabwe.
Marimba bands, don'tcha know?
Plus, I love typing "Zimbabwe".
The great Musekiwa Chingodza, straight from Zimbabwe, accompanied by Bud Cohen, played their mbiras and taught us a couple of "call and response" songs. I had a blast, passing out my newly acquired instruments so that we could jam as well as sing. We sang and sang and played and played, until Jeff had had enough and left to get some lunch. Mum would have left too, but her favourite daughter was still jammin' so she stayed till the bitter end. 
I will spare you from the video.
Just know that it exists.
Those big round things are resonators for the mbiras.

Next, to the Asian stage, where these gorgeous young things were getting ready to dance. Mum and Jeff were very taken with them...
...and I must admit that I liked the dancing more than I expected.
It is very precise and visually appealing.
I set off to find the didgeridoo.

But I kept bumping into these two.
Yes, those are drawn (tattooed?) stocking lines on the back of her very white legs.
Then I found him.
Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Jake Duncan, Didgeridoo artist extraordinaire.
He was sitting on the grass under a tent, surrounded by four enormous didgeridoos. I was blown away by his playing, I had no idea that the instrument was so versatile. Didge players use circular breathing and can sustain continuous playing for some time. Wikipedia has an entertaining and informative article on the instrument, if you're curious. I sat in the shade and listened to him until he took a break, then I ran off to the next arena to find Hubby and Mum. You've got to hear this, I told them, so they trotted along after me. 

Sadly, he ran out of time and didn't play again.
Happily, I had thought to buy a CD before they disappeared.

Jeff was getting grumpy.
Mum was tired and hungry.
I wanted to stay till it eleven.

Grumpy and Tired won the day, so we went home.

I made them listen to the didgeridoo all the way home.

And I told them that next year I'm going with my friends.

What about the outfit, you ask?
Success is measured in very small doses around here!
Wanna come next year?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Moving on

Elder O. left yesterday. He's been in our town for six months and we (I) got very attached to him. He loves my cooking. Therefore, I love him. Every time he saw me at church he would ask, When are we coming to your house for dinner again? And then he would eat everything in sight. The missionaries came over for dinner a lot. We had them over the day after Father's Day because no one else had signed up to feed them. I told them no one else wanted them. We had leftovers: pulled pork on homemade hoagie rolls. Goodbye leftovers. More to come on that topic, but enough of food already.
Elder O. is friendly and sweet-natured and smart and funny and kind to his companions even when they're slightly weird. So I will miss him. 
Darn that obedience thing! 
You know, the "I'll go where you want me to go" thing.
For you non-LDS readers, that's an inside joke.

I'm thinking about writing his Mom and asking if I can have him.
Think she'll go for it?

Why can't we get all the people together in the world that we really like and then just stay together?  I guess that wouldn't work.  Someone would leave.  Someone always leaves.  Then we would have to say good-bye.  I hate good-byes.  I know what I need.  I need more hellos.  ~Charles M. Schulz
Promise me you'll never forget me because if I thought you would I'd never leave.  ~A.A. Milne

Walking Tall

I love this song. I happened to download it from somewhere and noticed as I was running the other day that it fits my cadence perfectly and encourages me to lengthen my stride.  The words are pretty inspiring too.
I was talking about Ziggy Marley a while ago and Bethany said, We saw him in concert at the zoo, remember Mom?
Well, I didn't until she said it. But then it all came back. That summer of zoo concerts with our friends the Kellys. Lugging the coolers and blankets in from the car. Sitting on the zoo lawn on the damp grass in the oppressive heat, watching the raptor show and laying claim to our spot. Then, later on, listening to almost-famous bands as the sun went down behind the Africafe. Watching all the weird Portlanders dancing to the music. Women with unshaven legs stand out prominently in those memories, for some reason. Not that I am obsessive about shaving my legs, mind you! Then fighting the crowds in the parking lot and driving home with a car full of tired but happy kids. 
Those were the days.

Walk tall, walk tall
Even if you fall get up
Stand tall, stand tall
Even if you fall get up
Life is a lesson that we must learn
If you play with fire you might get burned
If you worry too much you gonna get stressed
So brush off the dust and lift up your chest
Everyone creeps before they walk
Everyone cries before they talk
There comes a time you gotta be strong
So pick up your feet and sing this song
Don’t you worry ’bout how it looks
Not everything was written in a book
Some things you learn as you go
But here’s one thing you already know
Nothing is ever gonna keep me down
I jump over hurdles I’ll come around
And if at first I don’t succeed
I’m gonna try it again till I get what I need

Monday, June 28, 2010

A trifling matter

If you're English (which I secretly am, in my heart-of-adopted-American-hearts), it's mandatory that you have the ability to make a mean trifle. And as I have matured, my definition of trifle has expanded waaaay beyond my Mum's fruit-in-jelly-topped-with-custard-and-maybe-whipped-cream. "Maybe", because as a child I hated whipped cream, can you believe it? So, with our overabundance of strawberries, exacerbated by my gleaning another twenty pounds on Friday morning, visions of strawberry trifle were dancing in my head.

First on the list was a cake. Angel-food cake usually fits the bill, if I can find one on the clearance rack or for a stupidly low sale price. Otherwise, a nice pound cake or buttermilk cake will do. 
Only, I'm almost out of unbleached flour.
No bleached flour in my kitchen.
I mean to say, who in their right mind wants to use flour that has the word "bleached" in the title?
It's just not right.
So, I perused my collection of cake mixes and found just the thing:
A Duncan Hines orange cake mix.
On the side was a gussied-up recipe, which turned out to be quite delicious.

Orange Pound Cake
1 package orange cake mix
1 package (3.4oz) instant pudding
(I used banana cream and it proved to be a fortuitous choice)
4 large eggs
1 c sour cream
1/3c oil

Mix all together. I added about 1/4c of water because it seemed to be a little stiff. Grease and flour a bundt pan (I used the Pam with flour included, it never fails me) and fill with cake batter. 
Bake at 350 F. I think it was about 45 minutes but might have been an hour. Just keep an eye on it and take it out when it's done, for goodness sake!
For this kind of trifle, I like to use a 9x13" pan, although you can layer it in a nice big glass bowl too, it's just a bit more work. 
First, cover the bottom of the pan with chunks of cake. I used half of the cake for this pan.
Then cover the cake with a generous layer of sliced strawberries.
Cover the berries with cooked vanilla pudding (you'll want two packages for a nice layer of pudding). Or, if you're English, custard.
Then (getting the idea?) slather the top with whipped cream.
None of that Cool Whip, mind you. 
That would be blasphemous.
We want no blasphemy in our trifle.

I made a second trifle on Sunday.
But I was out of whipping cream.
And the custard was lumpy.
We ate it anyway.
It was its own kind of delectable.

Friday, June 25, 2010

More Hot Cocoa...

...and I ain't talking about the delicious beverage.
I glanced out of the back window this afternoon and noticed how delightfully the sun was shining through the rose petals.
Here it is, in all its glory.

Seeing red

One must ask children and birds how cherries and strawberries taste. Goethe.

It seems that summer is finally here. Our spring has been so damp that almost all my rose bushes are covered in blackspot. That, and I've been to lazy to go out and spray them. At this point, it seems easier to just let them have their first flowering and then cut them back before I spray. This particular rose bush, Hot Cocoa, is my favourite this year because it is almost completely free of disease. It had aphids early on but I just gave it a hard spray of water with the hose and it has been fine ever since.

This photo (not mine) shows the colour more perfectly. It has a very unusual shading of midnight on the outside petals, its smell is divine, and the cut flowers last for days.
The perfect rose. 
I'm going to try to propagate some of my roses this year. It's a fairly simple process with a statistically reasonable success rate. Some of my grafted bushes are getting old and would be much better as rooted bushes. Did you know that rooted roses (also known as heirloom roses) can live to be 100 years old? I like the idea of my roses outlasting me.

My strawberries are performing abysmally and are just asking to be torn out, so I went picking with Bethany on Wednesday morning. Here are the kids, all raring to go.
Josh and Natalie ate many berries, evidenced by the state of their faces, hands, and clothes. Josh refused to let me photograph his red hands, for some reason. He looks armless.
Kenzie picked about 10 lbs of berries and Daniel was very helpful running buckets of berries around. I picked about 20 pounds and then went out gleaning this morning and picked another twenty. I think we're all set for strawberries this year.

Doubtless God could have made a better berry than the strawberry, but doubtless God never did.  William Allen Butler.

One batch of freezer jam.
I foresee a strawberry trifle in my near future.

My raspberries are in full gear. These kids cannot get enough of summer fruit. They love to go out to the veggie garden and eat them straight from the vines.
Oh yes.
Not a single cherry from the tree this year.
 It, too, is asking to go the way of the mimosa. 

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sunday flowers and more

Kenzie left me some honeysuckle and a love note on Thursday.
Jeff could take a few pointers from his grand daughter.

Julie's flowers were lovely today.
I could hardly tell they were fake!
Everyone came over for Father's Day.
This is Jon on day shift.
The great entertainer.
Too bad he goes back onto night shift this week.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Dear Bethany....

...I hope you don't mind me using your children as blog fodder.
If you do...too bad!

After Daniel talked me into the sleepover, we met Jenny and the boys at the school playground.
Plastic slides do strange things to the hair of little blonde children.

The six darlings, in various states of co-operation.
Why is it that they are never all in the mood for a photo at the same time.
Oh, I know, it's because one of them is Natalie.

The sky was splendiferous.
Which I'm sure is a word, even if spellcheck doesn't think so.
Which is okay, because spellcheck doesn't think that "spellcheck" is a word.

I helped Jeff up this ladder, but he wigged out at the top so I lifted him down. 
Natalie and Josh decided to give it a go.
Natalie is not happy.
Can you tell?
Josh is dourly contemplating the wisdom of his actions.

Natalie was offered help, but determinedly backed down under her own steam.
Josh refused help and also refused to budge.

He moved his feet up a notch and found himself in a predicament.

To everything.




And then he decided to brave the mid-ladder turn-around.

Meanwhile, all the other kids are having a ball.

Back down the other side....
and then.....
For about five minutes.
He says.

Until, for no apparent reason, he backs up and he's done.

The whole time, Bethany and I were almost wetting our pants laughing.
Well, maybe I did.
Can't really speak for the state of Bethany's bladder.

And the sky was still in a state of splendour.

And then we went home.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Saturday's child

I know what it is about me that feels like a failure if I don't have anything tangible to show for my day.
I was born on Saturday.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the poem, it goes like this:

Monday's child is fair of face,
Tuesday's child is full of grace.
Wednesday's child is full of woe,
Thursday's child has far to go,
Friday's child is loving and giving, 
Saturday's child works hard for a living,
But the child who is born on the Sabbath day
Is bonny and blithe and good and gay.

I looked up the birth days of my kids, just for the heck of it. 
Because I have birthing amnesia and couldn't remember a one!
Bethany and Annie were Sunday babies, Jon on Tuesday and Charlie on Monday.
Go figure.
This website will tell you what day you were born.

So this week, I made some progress on using all my fabric stash. Only not much, because I got sucked into buying these irresistible lovelies. At least I used up all the new purchases and used a few existing ribbons and laces besides.
This shirred fabric sewed up quickly into sun-dresses for Kenzie. It is priced by the inch, if you can believe it. Kenzie likes them, but I'm not sure if I'm very happy with how the shoulder straps turned out.
Why, oh why, can I not resist adorable baby flannel? I sent the last batch of baby blankets to Haiti. Wonder where these will end up? Lovelovelove the roses.
So, Bethany and the kids came over this afternoon. Almost as soon as they got here, Daniel started nagging me to have a sleepover. We went through several scenarios, with me saying an emphatic No to each one. It promises to be a busy weekend and I suggested that next weekend might be better. After his asking me about 20 times and me answering the same way, I finally caved and said that he could stay tonight. He smiled quietly to himself and started making plans for Papa. I told him Papa has  to work tomorrow but he said that was okay, Papa could play tonight.

A little while later, I went into the living room and found this:
Apparently, my reputation as a pushover is assured. He never had any doubt but that I would say "Yes".

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sisters, sisters....

...There were never such devoted sisters. Irving Berlin.

Kenzie and Natalie spent the night on Friday. Now, you have to understand that Natalie is adorable, full of personality and audacity. She also has regular meltdowns, being possessed of a "sensitive" disposition. So life is amusing and .... interesting ... when Natalie is in town.
I wasn't sure if Natalie would sleep the whole night through. Last week she slept in our bedroom and woke briefly in the wee hours of the morning, so I was a little worried. I awoke feeling very rested on Saturday morning and thought to myself, "Wow, Natalie slept all night, how great was that?"

Here is Kenzie's story.
Nana, Natalie woke up screaming. I had to get her out of the playpen, she was really heavy. I put her in bed with me, next to the wall so that she wouldn't fall out. But I couldn't sleep with her in my bed so I had to put her back in the playpen. She was really heavy!

All that and I didn't hear a peep! 
Kenzie and Natalie slept late.
So did Great Nana. 
Their rooms are next to each other.

Kenzie is a devoted big sister, full of love and patience. For all her "blondeness", she is all heart. I wish that I had been half as good a big sister as is she.

Sunday flowers

Sorry Karen, I tried to crop you out!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Beautiful vagabonds

Jeff and I have been bird lovers for a long time. We spend a small fortune on black oil sunflower seed and Nijer thistle seed every winter to feed our small friends. It's getting to the point that we feed them all summer long too. Mum and I bought two nice sunflower seed feeders for Jeff for Father's day. A little early, but he needed them now, not in two weeks. We were soon rewarded with some resident chickadees, who have been infrequent visitors until now. I love their song and their friendly habits.The photos aren't very spiffy, I haven't managed to get close enough to the birds. I need to spend some more time waiting patiently, but it won't be this week.
The nicest surprise has been the hummingbirds that are rewarding my planting efforts with some quality time at the coral bells and other flowers in my garden. Here is a cute little guy at the bleeding heart  that spent a long time in the side yard yesterday. 
This hummingbird was sitting on some honeysuckle vines which I passed as I was walking to church last night. They look like a completely different bird when sitting and fluffing their feathers out.
There has also been a hummingbird visitor with a ruby throat that shines iridescently in the sun, on those rare days that we have actually seen the sun.
The ubiquitous blue jays love the sunflower seed too. They are so common here that I almost don't like them, because they have a habit of burying most of their food in my garden, so I have to contend with little nut trees and stray sunflower plants. But my Mum comments on them all the time as if they were a rare species, so I have to remind myself that not everyone gets to see blue jays in their back yard. Or on their mimosa stumps!
And, of course, the voracious goldfinches that cost us so much in thistle seed. But they are so adorable that we don't even flinch as we raid our wallets any more.

Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird. Harper Lee, in one of the best books of all time.

A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song. Chinese proverb.

I hope you love birds too. It is economical. It saves going to heaven. Emily Dickinson.

I once had a sparrow alight on my shoulder for a moment, while I was hoeing in a village garden, and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance than I should have been by any epaulet I could have worn. Henry David Thoreau.

And on that note, I will say "Amen".