Thursday, August 28, 2014

Baking Cookies

Today I made these snickerdoodles and a new era was begun. 


When I was a little girl, I used to bake cookies with my mom. Standing on a chair so I could reach the counter, I watched in fascination as she creamed the butter and eggs in the mixing bowl, then gradually beat in the flour. I was allowed to help, but only if I was very, very careful. Breathlessly, I waited for permission to lick the coveted beaters, but honestly, I loved this as a special time for us girls to do something alone together. As much as my three brothers loved to eat cookies, they didn't care to help bake them, so I savored - then and now - the rare opportunities to spend one-on-one time with my mom. I remember these moments well, and the memories are precious.

* * * * *

Then along came my own four little girls, and cookie-baking jumped to warp speed. As the master chef, I quickly learned to relax my standards and give each of my apprentices a full share of participation in the process. 

Just envision the chaos of ingredients flying toward the bowl from all directions, measuring cups handed back and forth, eager little bodies straining to get a turn to lick the assorted spoons and spatulas. 

Imagine four excited voices pleading to be assigned another job, clarifying instructions, and appraising the others' efforts. 

Picture forty little fingers cracking eggs, measuring spices, and sneaking toward the chocolate chips. 

Yes, compared to the blissfully calm cookie-baking moments of my childhood, chaos was a fact of life during my days as a mommy with a kitchen full of young 'uns. Still, I cherish the zany memories and wouldn't have had it any other way. 

* * * * *

Of course, those particular cookie-baking seasons of my life are over. I no longer need a chair to see into the mixing bowl, and my daughters can each turn out a batch of cookies in the snap of a finger, without a lick of help from me. 

Today, much to my surprise, a brand new season of cookie-baking began. I'm here in Michigan, visiting with my mom, who suffers from dementia. While she still prepares her own meals, cooking has become a tedious chore for her and I'm afraid her baking days are mostly over. 

This morning, she asked me to do her a favor. "Sure," I said, "What do you need?"

"Would you like to bake me some snickerdoodles?" 

Of course, I did. Right after lunch, I whipped up a batch while my mom looked on. Then we sat down together at the table and each ate two, while they were still warm from the oven. 

And this day will be a precious memory too. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Live And Let Live

Often times, on a warm summer day, I like to go out in my backyard and lounge in the sunshine. 

Of course, my faithful boy, Ranger, loyally accompanies me. When he seems me settle in to my chair, he saunters out into the sunshine and drops down into the cool grass beside me for a nap. 

But Ranger does not have the same passion for sunbathing that I do, and after a short while in the sunlit lawn, he gets up and looks for a shadier place to snooze. 

He can be quite inventive. 


I don't particularly appreciate the 80 pounds of gravity he inflicts on my poor tender plants. But I admire his creative problem-solving and his unending faithfulness to keeping me company 

So I have decided to live and let live

Sunday, August 24, 2014

California: Free Associations

Southern California is a land of imagination. The entertainment industry centered here is known for its unique ability to captivate the world with its stories, special effects and endless innovation.

Now of course, there is much more to SoCal than Hollywood, but as I zoomed across the region not just once but twice in two back-to-back days, I noticed my own creative energies kicking in. So please allow me to share with you the free associations of my mind as I roamed through this magical, thought-provoking countryside.


^ South of Stockton

Plunked down in about the middle of the state, the city of Stockton might be considered the gateway to Southern California. Heading south from there, toward the famous and fantastical city of Los Angeles lies about the most forlorn stretch of scenery that you can imagine. 

Brown, dry, wrinkly hills. Dried scrub grasses. Rusty fence posts. And a whole lot of nothing.

I'm always amused to consider this contrast. 



 ^ Bakersfield

When I was a little girl growing up in the heartland, I fantasized about living in Southern California. 

Which is not that surprising. A lot of people do.

But I didn't dream of seeking my forturnes in Los Angeles. For some reason, I was sure that I belonged in Bakersfield.

I have no idea why. I knew nothing about the city except the name. Maybe I read about it in a book 

I just thought this hardworking city sounded like an exciting and exotic place to live, and I smile at my childish notions whenever I drive through.


^ Joshua Trees

Just beyond Bakersfield, the Mojave Desert springs up, full of these adorable Joshua trees. They remind me of U2, who named an album after them. And while this song is not on that particular album, I'm always reminded of this, my very favorite U2 song, and I sing it in my head as I pass through this quirky desert forest. 





 ^ Desert Rest Stops

When my daughters were young, we crossed the Mojave Desert and stopped at a rest stop. The air was hot and dry, the winds were surprisingly fierce. As I watched my tiny little fourth-born scampering along with her sisters on the way to our picnic shelter, a momentary but overpowering fear swept through me as I considered how quickly she might succumb to those natural forces. 

Of course, she survived the outing quite nicely, and my fears were only fleeting, but whenever I roll in to a desert rest stop, I'm reminded of how precious and fragile our lives can be.


^ Edwards Air Force Base

In the middle of the Mojave, beyond the expressway, lies the legendary place where Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier, and the shuttles often touched down on their way home from space. My mind always drifts off to childhood memories of the Apollo flights, the day we landed on the moon, and what I was doing on the day that the Challenger exploded. 


^ Wind Turbines

Near Palm Springs is a giant collection of wind turbines. They look to me like an alien army, marching in formation across our landscape and plotting their takeover. Honestly, I can give myself the shivers with these doomsday fantasies, and thankfully, the crazy traffic in the area usually snaps me back to reality.


^ Chiriaco Summit

A hundred miles east of Los Angeles, the Colorado Desert has a landscape even bleaker than the Mojave. Though there are bits of natural greenery here and there, and plenty of irrigated farmlands, it looks like the moon to me.


^ Palm Trees

These graceful giants are iconic to Southern California, and even when I see them here in the harsh desert, I'm overcome with the same feeling when I first came to SoCal as a tenderhearted teenager: this is a strange and beautiful place with a magic all its own.


^ Colorado River

Somewhere around 900 miles after I drove into the northern border of California, I am finally driving out. The southern boundary is marked by what's left of the Colorado River, after most of its volume has been stripped away to irrigate crops, water golf courses, and fill the swimming pools of this strange and interesting land.

Farewell, Southern California! As always, you have given me a lot to think about.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Meanwhile, Back At Hone


So this is what my dog does when I am away from hone for a few days. Irish charmer that he is, he hops up on other people's beds and cuddles, using his best, "Pity me cuz I'm lonely" look. 

Dang, he is so cute. 

I can't wait to get home. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

California: Taking It From The Top

When I drive through California, I start at the  top. Mile 793 is the northern border with Oregon, deep in the heart of the Siskyous Mountains.


 The views are dramatic and sweeping at every angle, and the expressway winds and weaves between the peaks for over 100 miles. 


The layers and muted colors of the range are classically Californian yet I feel quite at home in this rugged landscape. 


Then, somewhere around Mile 690, after careening down the steep pass, Interstate 5 delivers me to central California. 

Redding. 
Red Bluff.
Sacramento.
Stockton. 

The landscape radically changes to irrigated farmlands and distant brown hills. 

Rice. 
Almonds. 
Grapes. 
Tomatoes. 

We sleep tonight among the fields of plenty, somewhere around Mile 472. 
    

Tomorrow, we keep driving south. 


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Saying Goodbye


Today was the last full day of my fourth-born's summer break.

Early tomorrow morning, we begin the long drive down to Arizona to deliver her back to school.

*Sniff*


Tonight, as has become our custom, she and I went down to the beach for one last sunset. The air was brisk and cool, wild waves raced across the water, and the colors reflected in the clouds were just about perfect.

Taken together with the handful of other evenings spent here this summer, we now have a fresh batch of happy memories to see us through till we return here together, three long months from now, at Thanksgiving.

*Sob*


But on this night, we went to the beach for more than just the natural beauty or the fond memories.

My daughter brought with her a small glass jar full of murky water

Carrying this treasure, she walked out to the far end of one of the docks. She knelt down, unscrewed the lid, and dumped the contents of the jar into the Sound. Pulling a scrubbing pad out of her pocket, she carefully scoured out the inside of both parts of the container. When she was satisfied with her work, my daughter sat back for a moment, looked around at sea and sky, and drew in a breath. Then, slowly and thoughtfully, she dipped the glass jar into the salty water, filling it up to the very top. While the waves rocked the dock and knocked us to and fro, she painstakingly screwed the lid back on without spilling a drop.


Just as she did last year and the year before, my daughter will take this little portion of Puget Sound to school with her. During the long year ahead in land-locked Tucson, it will sit on her desk, reminding her of home, of family, and of the beautiful place where she belongs.


As much as I hate to see her go, I love sharing this ritual with her; this special way of saying goodbye.

*Smile*

My Homemade Enchiladas


If you like mariachi music, oversize sombreros, and spicy comfort food, have I got a recipe for you.

Feast your eyes on this festive dish of enchiladas, a classic south-of-the-border favorite that has been in my family's rotation of tried-and-true meals for more years than I can recall.

Like any good family favorite, the ingredients are simple and the preparation technique allows for plenty of interpretation and approximation.

a package of ground beef, browned
10-12 soft tortillas
a can of refried beans
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups diced onion
half a can of red enchilada sauce
half a can of green enchilada sauce
(freeze the extra sauces for next time)

2 cups sour cream
4-6 green onions, chopped

1. Generously oil a large baking dish. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Put a tortilla on a plate, spread a spoonful of refried beans down the center. Then sprinkle on some ground beef, onions and cheese. Roll it up and place in the baking dish. Rinse and repeat.

3. Keep an eye your ingredients and balance your proportions so that you will come out even. Honestly, that's the trickiest part of this whole shindig.

4. When the baking dish is full, pour on the sauces. I like to pour the green down the center of the tortillas, and then splash the red along the ends. Sprinkle on more shredded cheese and any leftover ingredients that did not make it into an enchilada proper.

5. Cover the dish with foil; bake for 20-30 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly and the cheese melts. If you can stand to let them sit for 10 minutes before eating, they will be all the more delicious. Serve with sour cream and chopped green onion.  


Take note that there are countless ways to substitute or add in more ingredients to pump up the flavors. Here is a partial list of our successful experiments:

rice
jalapeno peppers
cilantro
corn
chicken
red, green or yellow bell pepper
salsa
black beans
spinach
fresh tomatoes
sun-dried tomatoes

Clearly, the options for personalizing this crazy delicious comfort food are through the roof. 

And now, to complete the Mexican mood with the aforementioned sombreros and mariachi, here's a interesting mash-up that sure sets my toe to tapping. ¡Ay, caramba!



* * * * *

Ready for more stories about my most dearly beloved, tried-and-true homemade meals?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Teaching My Own: Learning To Read

If you are a parent who worries about teaching your child to read, this story is for you.

* * * * *

Once upon a time there were two little girls.


Correction. Once was fairly good-sized, for a six-year-old, and the other was a teeny tiny baby.

Now, the older girl was a whiz-bang reader. At the tender age of four, without any formal instruction, she simply began to read. Oh sure, her parents had read aloud to her for her whole life, but never did they try to turn this pleasurable pastime into a phonics lesson. They all just enjoyed the stories together, occasionally answering the child's questions about letters and the sounds they make. And suddenly, one day while reading  a chapter book to her, the parents noticed that the older girl was following along - not just memorizing a familiar text, as young children often do, but actually deciphering each word.

That's a fairly unusual accomplishment.

Taking her parents' astonishment in stride, the child quickly became a non-stop reader. She read all day long, devouring picture books, magazines, chapter books, comics, newspapers and every other printed material she could lay her hands on. By age five, our little bookworm was reading at a fourth-grade level, and her kindergarten teacher threw up her hands in despair, unable to adjust the classroom curriculum to accommodate this prodigious skill.

So her parents took her home, declared her a homeschooler, handed her a library card, and set the literary buzz saw free to read to her heart's content.


Along about this time, baby sister showed up. Obviously, she was born without any reading skills, so there was a bit of an ability gap right from the start. But as the years flew by, and this little missy reached the ages of four, five, six and seven, it was clear that she was walking a longer path to literacy than her older sister.

The parents were still committed to read-alouds, and devoted hours each day to saturating baby's eyes and ears with books and spoken text. Now an experienced homeschooling mommy who had helped to make readers out of Daughters Two and Three, the mother gently nurtured the youngest toward mastery.

But Baby was just not having it.


See, she quickly came to understand the mechanics of reading. But when it came time to put together the basic word recognition skills and actually make meaning from a text, our girl just could not do it. Or more accurately, would not do it. She simply did not want to read.

As you might imagine, Mom got a little worried. She tried incentives, threats, straight-up begging and other desperate measures to get this reluctant child on the reading train, but to no avail.

More years passed. Maternal frustrations mounted. Baby grew strong and tall, a capable learner in every other measure but she still refused to read.

And then one day, without warning or explanation, our girl picked up a book and began to read.

Delightedly.
Effortlessly.
Unstoppably.

In the blink of an eye, she absorbed all manner of advanced fiction and nonfiction, reading smoothly with perfect comprehension and deep passion. Overnight, this "failed" reader became a fearless reader.

She was ten years old.


Fast forward a decade and the two little girls are now very big girls. Adults, in fact.

Both of them love to read.

They both read every day for pleasure.
They both frequent the local library.
They both keep a stack of books near their beds.
They both request - and receive - books for birthday and Christmas gifts.
They both have amassed large collections of favorite books, and consider them to be prize possessions.

But surely, the extreme difference in the ages at which they learned to read must affect them today. Right?


Wrong.

As you must surely know by now, these two girls are my two girls. My first-born and my fourth-born.

Every detail of this story is true. The eldest taught herself to read when she was barely four and has been a book worm her whole life; the youngest held off on reading fluently until she was ten and has been making up for lost time ever since.

I am here to tell you that when it comes to learning to read, age does not matter. As long as a child believes in herself and is adequately nurtured by a caring adult, she will start reading when the time is right.

* * * * *

So, worried parents, listen up:

There is no 'right' time for a child to begin to read.
There is no such thing as 'falling behind.'
There is no one perfect way to teach a child to read.

And there is nothing wrong with letting a child take her time in learning to read.
Or anything else, for that matter.

Instead of worrying about your young reader's emerging literacy, I recommend that you relax and enjoy the story of your child's life as it unfolds before your eyes.

Buttercups


Dear August has reached her tipping point, and summer is coming to an end. Soon, the high school playing fields where Ranger and I walk each day will be overrun with students and their various practices, and our quiet walks will give way to crowds and chaos. This is a bittersweet time of year for me, and I hate to think about how quickly and completely our routine will change.

So for now, we will walk among the buttercups and enjoy these golden days of summer.

That's A Wrap


Sometimes, in this plan-ahead, Pinterest-picky, To-Do list-oriented world, I find myself aching to live in the moment and shoot from the hip.

And so it was with this (ridiculously belated) birthday gift for my eldest. See, at my house, I have a stash of pre-printed wrapping papers, carefully purchased and cautiously tucked away for all my gift-wrapping needs.



But you know what? When I looked at those papers today, cute and colorful though they were, I was bored silly. None of them seemed special enough for this gift; none of them brought much spunk or sass to the table. They all just felt wrong.

Here's what happened next.

Sensing my distress, my youngest stepped in and solved my dilemma by wrapping the gift in a brown paper shopping bag. With the printing on the inside, of course.

A solid first step.



Then, I grabbed a bottle of acrylic paints and a brush, and simply started to paint on the paper.

No planned color scheme,
No forethought to the design.
No desire to make it perfect.

I just went with the flow, and kept at it until I felt done.

What a completely spontaneous and remarkably freeing experience.



Later that evening, I presented my first-born with her gift. She tore right into it, like a good birthday girl should, and squealed with delight over the goodies inside. Of course, the gift wrap was quickly cast aside, lost in the excitement of her new treasure.

But for me, the gift wrap was the gift, and it taught me a lesson that I won't soon forget.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

#icebucketchallenge

"If your friends told you to jump off a bridge, would you have enough sense to say no?"

During my formative years, my mother posed that question to me more than once. And while I can proudly say that I've never jumped off a bridge, it's probably only because no one ever dared me.

Because I'll be honest. I'm a fool for a good dare. I can't resist.

So when my niece tagged me in to an ice bucket challenge yesterday, I immediately knew what I would do.

You can see for yourself what happened.



You've heard of the ice bucket challenge, right?

It's a fundraising and awareness-building viral campaign for a terrible disease called ALS, also known as Lou Gerhig's Disease. This deadly degenerative disorder causes muscles throughout the body to weaken and ultimately cease functioning. Most victims die from respiratory failure within 3 to 5 years. 

The idea here is that by dumping a bucket of ice water over each of our collective heads, we can help this very worthy cause.

Consoling my #icebucketchallenge buddy. He took it like a champ.

And while I am usually skeptical about gimmicky internet stunts, this crazy notion is actually working. Reports are that donations to the ALS Association are skyrocketing.

I'll be posting this on Facebook and tagging five friends to follow suit, but even if I don't specifically name you, consider yourself challenged. Go ahead and dump half an iceberg onto your head in the name of compassion and care, and be sure to show me the video.

Just don't ask me to jump off a bridge.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Sticktoitiveness


A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I redecorated my home office.

Just kidding. This event transpired right here in the Milky Way Galaxy, as my adventures usually do.

But it was a ways back. Eleven months ago, I embarked upon the project of redoing this room from top to bottom. And nine months ago, I called the job complete.

Except for one glaring exception. The door.


^ See? This photo, taken during the celebratory post-project home tour, highlights the problem. There ain't no door.

That's because the poor beast had been banished to the garage, where it was quietly waiting for a fresh coat of paint.

Red paint.

On the inside only. Just for fun.


So why on earth did I delay this final task for the better part of a year?

Well. Pardon my lame excuses, but doors are best painted on the driveway, over a pair of sawhorses. And here in the temperate region of the globe, the outdoor painting season is limited to summer. And here in the Pacific Northwest, summer boils down to a few random weeks between the Fourth of July and Labor Day when the planets align and you rub your lucky rabbit foot and somehow the sun actually manages to come out and warm your permafrost bones for a few hours a day.

So let's just say I was looking for a slim window of opportunity in which to complete my project.

But oh, happy day! This weekend was the perfect opportunity, so I whipped out my paint rollers and the dusty can of paint, and wrapped up the job without complications.

Well. There was that trail of kitty tracks that appeared on the door while it sat out on the driveway. But they were just dusty paw prints and I easily wiped them off. No harm, no foul.


This shot most accurately captures the true color of the door: Behr Lipstick.

Tonight, my red door is finally hanging where it belongs, right in front of me as I type.

And at long last, the galaxy is at peace.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Far From The Madding Crowd


^ Usually, when I'm at Mukilteo Beach, I crave a view that look like this one.

Calm, serene, natural landscapes with nary a human in sight.

I love to come here to this beautiful place and take a break from mankind. I come because I crave a deserted place, away from my hectic friends, Romans and countrymen.

But the truth is that this beach is a popular hotspot in a busy suburb and I can only enjoy these idyllic scenes by rubbing shoulders with crowds of humans. 

Even during my visit yesterday, on a quiet Monday afternoon, there were groups of people gathered here and there along the shore and throughout the park. And while I usually try my darnedest to ignore the other human beings, on this day, I found myself fascinated with their goings-on.


^ Scuba divers chit-chatting above the water about their adventures down below, as the ferry lazily rolls in.


^ Groups of all ages and stages of life amiably share the sunshine - little ones play on the rocky beach as their parents sit near the shoreline, grandparents enjoy their quiet solitude on the beach logs, and several packs of teenagers congregate out on the docks.


^ And the crowds are not just composed of humanoids. These two women attracted a massive flock of pigeons and gulls, only a few of which stuck around to pose for my picture.


^ Then the flock attracted these two darling little girls who made it their day's work to chase the birds away. As many as fifty winged beasts would cover this lawn, hunting and pecking for crumbs, only to be swooped down upon by these two feisty lassies. In a flash, the entire group would rise up and flap away in mass hysteria, as the girls beamed with pleasure.


^ On the far side of the parking lot, I noticed these rail cars, parked on a siding and covered with beautiful graffiti. Though the artists were nowhere in sight, my mind's eye imagined a group of seasoned spray can artists gathered around these steel behemoths in the dark of night. I hear the clinking and clanging of the mixing balls inside the cans, as they are shaken over and over again in the painting process, and the faint hiss of the paint escaping the nozzles. I'd love to see the graffiti crowd in action.


^ Walking to my car, I heard a highly distinctive kind of laughter. Yep. A crowd of teenage girls, engrossed in a volleyball game, were giggling as only teenage girls can giggle. And I noticed something else. They were all wearing long sleeves, long pants and headscarves. Instantly, I thought of my Malaysian friends who imagine America as a place hostile and unaccepting toward Muslims, and I smiled to myself. If only they could see - and hear - this crowd of young Muslim girls, they would understand.

* * * * *

I'll be honest. I still prefer to focus on the natural elements of my hometown waterfront: the sea and sky, the wind and waves, the forested island across the channel and the rock- and tree-strewn shores. This is where I find true relaxation and beauty; these are the sights that soothe my soul.

But today I learned that when I give them half a chance, the crowds at my local beach can cultivate my curiosity and inform my imagination in a different yet satisfying way. Maybe humans aren't so bad after all.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Ice Cream Did Not Smell Like Roses


These past few days, it seems that everyone in the greater Seattle area has been enjoying the delights of a flawless summer weekend.

Backyard movie nights.
Outdoor music festivals.
Family picnics at the park.
Camping trips.
Kayaking excursions.
Neighborhood barbecues.
Outings to the water park.

My  friends and neighbors found limitless ways to take full advantage of the wonderful weather and summertime bliss. They are truly making the most of this fantastic time of year.

You know what I did all weekend?

Worked in my garden.

Now, I'm not complaining. No one forced me to spend my entire weekend digging holes, pruning rose bushes, chopping limbs out of overgrown trees, or pulling a mountain of weeds. I did those things of my own free will, and when I wandered through my garden today, I thanked myself for investing my time as I did.

But last night, on Sunday evening, I'm not gonna lie. I was feeling just a little bit sorry for myself. Too much work makes anyone dull, and I delivered an uncompromising lecture to myself about taking some time to stop and smell the roses.

Well. Technically, to STOP smelling the roses and do something else for a change.

So today, on yet another gorgeously perfect Seattle summer day, I headed down to the Mukilteo waterfront. I bought myself an ice cream cone, then I walked over to the beach, sat down on a bench, and read my book in the warm sunshine.

And now I feel better. The end.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

SMILE


Imagine that you were driving through the side streets of Mukilteo this afternoon. Say, around 5:15 pm.

As you pulled up to the four-way stop at the corner of Harbour Pointe Boulevard and Chennault Beach Road, you noticed a woman on the sidewalk by the Mormon church.

She was behaving strangely.

With her was a large red dog. Repeatedly, she commanded the dog to sit and he obediently obeyed. 

But no sooner did he agreeably plant his red booty on the concrete than she tugged on his leash, directing him back up on all fours.

Then she told him again. Sit. He sat again, she pulled him up again. They repeated four or five cycles of this sequence.

As you sat in your car, watching this bizarre ritual, you scratched your head in bewilderment and thought, "Wow. Weird woman."

And you know, I really wouldn't argue with you.

But what you could not have known is that there was a big pink heart drawn on the sidewalk. Written inside was a simple and poignant message: SMILE.

And when that big red dog finally sat in exactly the right place, so that all five letters were visible next to his sweet furry feet, I snapped a perfect shot and brought it here to share with you.

Hope this story makes your day, just as it did mine.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Little Things

Today, in my eternal yet ridiculously futile pursuit of perfection, I ticked off a few small chores on my backyard patio.


^ I finally got around to repainting the back steps, so now they are all fresh and clean. Never mind that I meant to do this last spring...procrastination is no sin and late really is better than never. This happy pot of succulents, along with some globe lights, are adding to the glow. 


^ For reasons I can't explain, my quirky Irish Setter prefers to drink his water au naturel. He ignores his indoor water dish and takes his refreshment in the fresh air. We used to keep a ceramic pot on the patio fulled with water for his hydration needs, but last winter it suffered one too many freezing spells and cracked right in half. So for the past few months, we've were making do with an ordinary pail. 

Now the pail works just fine for Ranger. But the poor cats, who also enjoy a nice sip of water in the backyard, were required to perform some intense acrobatics in order imbibe. First, they needed to stretch way, waaaaay up over the top of the tall bucket, and then crane their little necks way down over the edge until their tiny pink tongues could actually lap up the water. So I thought I'd be a pal and buy a bright new water bowl, with easy access for all. 


^ Three new succulents in matching turquoise pots. The tall guy in the middle has been with me for almost a year, but I've been thinking that he could use a few buddies. Finally I wrangled up a pair of cacti and some matching pots. While they will eventually move inside, right now they are soaking up the sun outdoors.


^ The herb garden has been revitalized - a few fresh plants, and some of the older overcrowded guys were re-potted. Yellow cactus dude is just here on summer vacation, enjoying some fresh air while the sun is shining. My fourth-born brought home a handful of sand dollars from the Pacific coast, and added them to the display. And hey, how about that freshly painted step?!


^ After a long afternoon of hard labor - I went crazy with chores in the front yard, too, but that's a different story - I forced myself to enjoy a chapter in the evening shade. My interlude was made much more comfortable and mosquito-free by this citronella candle placed near my tempting ankles. 

* * * * *

This list of accomplishments may seem trivial but they represent the tiny details that bring me special pleasure when I wander around out here. I love all the little things that make my house feel like home.


 ^ Hey, I ain't no little thing! And by the way, when are we going on my walk?