Tuesday, July 21, 2015

book artist

heavily engrossed in her various projects this past academic year, diana wisely, i think, opted to defer working on some of her girl scout cadette badges until summertime. we deliberately chose NOT to enroll in any summer camps (though we simply had to get in on the 3d printing workshop camp for a week next month at a local art & creative technology center. had to.) so that we could leave lots of blocks of open, unscheduled time.

when diana was done with her academic schedule (meaning, we gave her a test to submit scores for evidence of academic progress and then declared her to be done), she and i talked about what she wanted to do. she had liked my suggestion of doing a badge mini-camp, spending time every day for a week to focus on all of the essential elements of a particular badge. she thought it would be more fun to do this with a friend, and we were all pleased that taryn agreed to participate.

the girls had looked through all the possibilities, narrowed down their own lists of choices, found the similarities, and eventually settled on book artist. i helped identify a week and time block that could work for the three of us and diana took over from there, planning the schedule and activities and collecting supplies.

at first, i just wandered about the house, occasionally peeking in to see if i could be of some use, but learned that i was not needed. the girls collaborated and compared and discussed and decided.

diana invited me to get involved about halfway through when they started to make their own books. she told me about different techniques and options and pros and cons. for multiple hours over three days, we tried and failed and changed and succeeded and followed our own paths and shared with each other.

i actually hand-stitched actual pieces of paper together with thread!

hot glue gun - an essential tool for our work

lots of papers and cardboards and good cutting tools

diana's book in progress

taryn adding decorative edging to her pages

checking the outer binding

rubber stamps for the win!

diana's cookbook (left). taryn's journal (right)

happy book artists
after we were all done, steve served as our primary appreciative audience member. i asked both girls to tell us what surprised them about the process, if and how things ended up compared to what they had originally envisioned, where they encountered problems and how they managed those situations. we all came out of this week having learned quite a bit about what we like to learn, with whom we like to learn, and what we need to do to make an experience meaningful to us. it was enough for us to call it a success. i also consider it to be a pbh mentoring win for me.

now i have a proper birding journal

Monday, July 13, 2015


diana and her friend, fellow girl scout cadette taryn, volunteered at ekoji temple's obon festival this weekend. because they were to be there for several hours, i took the opportunity to explore and sit quietly and eat and soak in the festival preparations and activities.

these lanterns were strung attractively all over the grounds

all signed in, adorned with badges and fans, awaiting the beginning of their shift
i am not familiar with the shin denomination of buddhism, having practiced zen in st. louis and shambhala in davis, ca, yet i felt comfortable and welcome on the grounds and within the community. in keeping with the festival's purpose, i placed memorial candles in the garden for those family members who have recently passed, sheldon and my uncle paul. i sat in the shade and listened to the aloha boys, whom i had first heard at a ukulele festival a couple of years ago. i stood in line to purchase a feast of festival foods: bento boxes of chicken teriyaki, bowls of chicken curry and gyudon, a delicious cold noodle salad called japchae, and butter mochi. the girls were volunteering in a different food area, preparing orders of yakitori, hot dogs, somen, and watermelon for hungry festival attendees. i chatted with some older women who were also new to this temple and marveled at the beautiful kimono and yukata worn by many women and children, and even by some men.


prepping buns for hot dogs

adding sauce to somen


more dancing

when the girls were finished with their shift, we watched the obon dances (the girls even participated a little bit, as all were invited to do so) and diana shopped (of course she did - and found the perfect new thing to collect - tiny cat charms) and we listened to the powerful percussion of nen daiko.

these tired but happy girls are planning on volunteering next year for certain!

i know the woman in the middle - she's new and she rocks it!

we did not stay for the kimono fashion show, nor the ceremony after the lighting of the memorial candles, but i hope to next year. we are definitely, definitely coming back.

Friday, July 10, 2015

the gift that keeps on giving

i've mentioned recently about my own personal PBH project of learning birds and bird songs.  what has brought me the most joy (i.e., the most birds) day after day are my feeders, carefully and thoughtfully selected from the bird feeder.

the squirrel buster has been quite effective at encouraging the birds, and the hot pepper sunflower seeds have discouraged the squirrels enough that they aren't climbing the window screens anymore, thank goodness.

this handy feeder has attracted the following so far:
  • cardinals (males & females)
  • black-capped chickadees
  • chipping sparrows
  • goldfinches (or perhaps yellow warblers)
  • tufted titmice
  • eastern bluebirds
the other feeder i have is for suet and features a tail prop. the never melt hot pepper seed suet cakes i put inside are quite popular for these birds:
  • catbirds
  • blue jays
  • black-capped chickadees
  • downy (probably, possibly also some hairy) woodpeckers (male & female)
  • red-bellied woodpeckers
  • eastern bluebirds
  • (probably house) sparrows
  • just yesterday, i think i spotted house wrens on the deck below the feeder, picking at little dropped bits
the local robins seem to care for neither seed nor suet, but a pair has built a nest underneath our neighbor's porch and we can see them coming back and forth and sitting on what hopefully contains some eggs.

the crows and grackles don't bother our feeder birds much, preferring to scare the daylights out of me by massing in the parking area and calling loudly to each other.

i was out yesterday in the incredible heat index, grilling our dinner and noticing how so very many of these birds inhabit the golden rain tree and the other tall trees near our home, preening and waiting for an opportunity to swoop over my head and seek seeds in the suet feeder. the chickadees and catbirds are the bravest. this morning i witnessed an in-air battle between a blue jay and a robin near the suet feeder. mild-mannered birds sure do extend their tiny talons and fight fiercely. though distressing for me to witness, it was a good reminder to me that these are, in fact, wild creatures and their space and habits require respect from me.

these feeders and food i carefully selected to celebrate mother's day have been some of my best choices ever. i sit and watch for the birds every time i am near the dining room table or our computer desk, both main hubs of activity for my family, and i narrate what i see aloud, even if it's only me around to hear. rather than growing tired of my excited squeaks when i announce a new arrival, my husband and children have started to identify the birds, too, and let me know when they see one so that i can see it, too. while she was here, leigh grew adept at noting the varieties and genders of woodpeckers and fell in love with the curious catbirds and their catcalls and their habit of fanning their tail feathers. laura is unfailing in her enthusiasm and encouragement for me when i describe a newcomer. her birding knowledge keeps me buoyed as i struggle to notice details and differences in order to decipher the clues.

i'm almost inspired to start washing windows so that i might take clearer photos. almost.


red-bellied woodpecker

robin's nest

american goldfinch, i think, though possibly a yellow warbler. these come infrequently and don't stay long enough for me to see details on the head and back. the beak is just too small for me to see. regardless, it's probably a female.

chipping sparrows

cardinal, male

eastern bluebird, photo by diana

downy woodpeckers, male & female, photo taken by leigh

Thursday, July 9, 2015

spectacular spectacle

we enjoy fireworks, if by fireworks you mean watching them from far enough away that they aren't too loud or bright or scary. (or for me, too hot or humid or buggy outside).

i grew up experiencing red, white & boom in columbus, OH, listening to the orchestra play in time with the famlight show. over the years i have watched fireworks displays near galesburg, IL as is tradition with with steve's relatives' family reunions. as diana and ander have grown, each year is a different experience for us, depending on where we are, whom we are with, the weather, and our collective moods and comfort levels.

our dear friends from st. louis were in town with us for a visit. they were not particularly interested in going to see fireworks, though i'm certain they would have come along if we had planned an excursion. at first, i thought we might indulge in an extravaganza of explosives we could purchase from any number of roadside stands, but seeing their expense, i opted for a honkin' big box o' sparklers.

best. decision. ever. diana and ander liked seeing the larger fireworks on the 3rd in our parking lot set off by our neighbors and their guests. diana was somewhat disappointed that i did not purchase some for ourselves, but i think she was appeased by the number of sparklers she could light up herself. all three kids danced and posed and admired their own tiny, quiet, handheld fireworks displays.

holding a flower sparkler, a gift given to diana by our neighbors the night before.

oh, just for fun, our family photo taken by marin to show off our individually-designed-and-crafted patriotic shirts. a spectacle, indeed.

ander doesn't care to be in group photos much. he agreed to be in it on the condition that he did not have to show his face. of course we accommodated. he just might have been a bit warm from being outside playing with sparklers with his patriotic shirt on over his space pajamas. as you do.