Saturday, January 3, 2015

Sick car, so time to...

The car was not working.  Check engine light was on again.
The car was left with the dealer.  We waited to hear -
a) what might be wrong with the car
b) what might need to be fixed
c) when we might get the car back

We had places to go; visit my parent's graves in East Los, see Colores de Mexico tile store, deliver Christmas cookies, and so on.

James took the car in at 7:00 a.m.  I began to bake the last batches of cookies.

Poor communication on the part of the dealership.  We ended up with their paying for a rental for us since it was possible we were going to be without the car until Monday.

I did what any good baker would do.  When in doubt, bake cookies.

Rental car has now been returned, we have our car, and cookies are delivered.

Baked goods are a variation on Snickerdoodles.  My version of pfeffnernusse that I call Fauxferrnussse (no nuts present).  Brownies and Duff Goldman's Rainbow Cookies mix.  

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Things ephemeral

One of the words that rears its head in the Archivelands is ephemera.  The word is always accompanied by a bit of a challenge.  How does one categorize something or store something that is meant to serve the experience of a particular day and/or time.  It can be something that is meant to last for only a short time.  It can be a record that helps to define cultural, historical, personal, or political context.  It can be forgotten because it may not have a sort of historical heft to it.

The program for a memorial service or a wedding use that bit of paper to tell what's about to happen.  I think they are more likely to be tossed than saved.  It is a form of ephemera.  Papel picado can be created for particular day and time.  A bouquet might thought of as a bit of ephemera.  The design of the bouquet tells so much about the time when it was created.  Storing it can be a bear.

Our grand daughters making a village of gingerbread and then eating it was a study in ephemera.  The Gingerbread Village was an expression of creativity and time shared as a family.  There was a narrative to the set up of the village and the experiences of those who "peopled" it.  It was meant to last for an evening and then was to be eaten with great relish.  It will have meaning to those of us who helped them make it and to those who helped them demolish it.  Seeing a picture will keep it clearer in our mind for a longer period of time .  Without the picture we're likely to forget, but that doesn't mean the experience didn't take place or that it didn't have meaning.

I think about this and because I, along with my kith and kin, have lived through a cancer chapter.  The end of the year is a time when one may reflect on things mortal and immortal.  Won't write more about what that might mean because like all things ephemeral it will have meaning and resonance for different people in different ways.

If I am lucky this experience will become a memory and will gradually need an image or a phrase to trigger that memory.  Life will go on and the chapter will take less and less space in my life's story.  A visit to the oncologist or a question from a friend will bring the chapter back to mind; then, it will be back to life as usual.

I'll end 2014 and begin 2015 by sharing something I zoomed by on Facebook.  I offer this as a point of departure - imagine your own little strips for those things that were most meaningful or needed by you in the last year and those things which you hope to give and get in the New Year.

This would be much easier to store than the bouquet but would be a fun bit of ephemera to keep.

See you around. 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A bit Portland in Pasadena

Usually by this time of the year I've made loads of shortbread and a couple of batches of fudge.  Not this year.  Due to unforeseen circumstances the Portlandians arrived two days late, so that threw off the schedule.  I know more time available should have allowed me time to bake, but I found myself painting the fireplace mantle instead.  Led by my Construction Muse, I guess.

Many of the plans we'd made to cover the space of almost a week became compressed into the things we really wanted to do in about four days.  

Two of those mornings I went to breakfast with one of the girls; Lili, the elder, and I ate at Andy's, Cheli, the younger, and I ate at Fox's.   We're on a roll - the girls were the ones who requested the breakfasts.  I think this really is a tradition for them.  Yea.

Another bit of time was spent allowing the Portlandian parents to do last minute shopping while I had a chance to do some Christmas activities with the girls.  The worked on Christmas ornaments that they shared as gifts.  They spent hours doing this and spent a lot of time working on a gingerbread village.  

We did our first gingerbread house when Lili was 2 or 3.  So we've been doing this for more Christmases than she can remember.  
I was in charge of the structural icing this time and they did the rest.  

They came up with the idea of walkways to the iced-over pond.  You know the one where the uncooked pasta space people are skating.  To the left rear is a campfire.  Please note the red and orange candies in the circle center.

This year we also had some Ninjabread cookies.  To be honest I used a mix bought at CostPlus, but baking was still involved.  Contrary to popular belief it is possible to mess up a mix.  You see only the well baked Ninjabread.

Of note: I am extremely proud of the girls and their decorating skills.  They both know how to use an icing/piping bag.  They also decided that they wanted to use the package images as a guide more than  as something to try to copy.

The final result of their and my efforts.  It must be noted that they also made a point of having boy and girl Ninjabread.  After all, the elder shared that girls can be Ninjas, too.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

You can't reach back, but you can move forward

There are those times when life picks you up, begins to take you in a forward motion, and you can't reach back.  Seems like December has been one of those times for me.  Maybe for you, too?

Because of the weather, and because I was feeling stubborn, I was determined to not start to get Christmassy too soon.  I will shop for a deal that can be a Christmas present at any time of the year, but I won't decorate for the holidays until after Thanksgiving.  It's a more narrow window but it allows me to revel in rather than dread Christmas prep.

Except that Thanksgiving came late this year; window more narrow.  And there are changes that we are making in the house.  After years of using the back rooms of the house for storage we are now prepping them for use as real rooms.  This has meant that there should be a change in paint color and furniture.  The former will demand new paint, the latter will accept old furniture moved to a new position.

The first room we've tackled was the back bathroom.  It had been neglected for about a decade.  It was worn and tired.  The best it had going for it was material I bought at Olvera Street a couple of years ago and that was being used as a curtain.

Nights were spent looking at local shops like Habitat for Humanity and places like Ana's, IKEA, Lowes, Home Depot, and the like.  Finally we decided on dimensions and designs that would work in the bathroom.  A call to Don Jesus and we were well on our way.  Rather, he was on his way.  We had the vision and he provided his artisan's touch.  He also had the tools.

The end of Day One

The end of Day Two.

End of Day Three

We were able to do this just prior to the Portlandians coming down for the Christmas visit. 

On to the next room... 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The lifespan of an ornamental cherry tree

Some things are more finite than others.  Turns out the lifespan of an ornamental cherry tree is about 25 years.  

About 26 years ago James gave me a tree of that sort for either my birthday or an anniversary.  This is best picture I have of it.  Every season the birds in the area come by for a visit.  Unlike the backyard it has been a plant I've pretty much taken for granted.  It's roots caused us some plumbing problems, but the tree was lovely and had great meaning for me, so I voted that it should stay.  

And stay it did.  It greeted me most mornings when I looked out the window and made a mess on the ground when it dropped its fruit.   I often thought of the  financial sacrifice James made when he bought the tree.  It was very dear to us.

Last spring it became clear that the tree was in it's 26th year.  There were virtually no buds and by summer there were no leaves on the majority of the branches.  

So it was with a bit of heavy heart that I contacted my neighbor, who has a tree and landscaping business, to come and take away the tree.  

They took a chainsaw to the tree on a Friday.  A little like putting your toe in the water before you dive in.  They took a talacho to the roots the following Monday.  This was followed by tying of a rope; one end carefully placed around the tree, the other tied to a truck.  "Dale" meant it was time for the slow, sustained tug.  

Before you know it, time to undo the rope and to take the stumpy trunk on its way.

We've planted a Ray Hartman ceanothus.   Pretty sure it won't last for 25 years.
Doesn't look like much now, but it'll grow and will give several springs and summers of color.

Who knows it might look like this at some point.
We'll just have to hang around and see, I guess.

Image from Las Pilitas Nursery.  It's a fun field trip

Thursday, November 20, 2014


Growing up my family reinforced the idea that I was a citizen of the United States of America and that the home of my family roots was in Mexico.

Not the quaint Mexico we saw on TV; most folks don't think of their families as quaint. We were living in the Land of Mid-century moderne, so the actions and attitudes depicted in the movies had nothing to do with our Rock and Roll infused teen years, nor with the cousins who would from time to time come to visit from Mexico.

Mexico was the family home where my grandparents were born; where they lived and worked before they decided to come to the United States to live a better life.  The stories my grandpa told were about Chihuahua, Los Angeles, El Paso, and Pueblo.  He told his life as a story that had connections of one experience to the next; it wasn't one life lived in Mexico and a different one lived in the U.S.A.  It was his long life that spanned 19th and 20th century; a life lived in two countries.  Both those countries having been his home.

When I was growing up we rarely heard Spanish on the radio or read about Mexico in school.  My world was a Spoken English World.  Both my parents were born in the U.S.A.  Both had lived through the 20s, the Depression, WWII, and the post-war WWII Boom.  I heard Sousa and Berlin growing up.  The GIs had seen the world and had brought back an expanded view of their place in that great big world.  I learned that you could like, or at least be intrigued, by parts of the world far from where you lived.

I suspect all those experiences and sentiments allowed our family to embrace where we lived and where we can from in about equal portions.  We live here, and wouldn't live elsewhere, but our ancestral home was still very much a part of our heart.

Ni de aqui ni de alla (Neither from nor from there) is a commonly used phrase when describing Americans with Mexican roots.  In some ways this is true, but in many ways for me it is a contradiction to my sense of place.  I am from here and I am from the land of my ancestors.

For this reason I will wear black today joining others who are disgusted with and are dismayed by the chaos that is in México. I will wear black in commemoration of the 43 students of Ayotzinapa who were slaughtered.

I joined in the voices of those who were outraged at the killing of young men and that taking of young women by Boko Haram.  I hope that there will be those who look to learn more about what has happened in Iguala, México and feel a similar outrage.  If we can not be outraged at the murdering of those who would make lives better through education, what will charge our sadness and anger?

I hope that folks will call our news agencies on the lack of coverage of this story to date.  It is a huge story.  It is complicated.  Perhaps that is why some news organizations have not covered it.

I don't know.  But I do know that there is news out there you've only to Google Ayotzinapa and you will find lots and lots of links.  I do wish more people were aware of what is taking place.

The sign above translated - "Why in Kansas City?  Because, I , too am Mexican".  
I do not read this as anti-American, but to acknowledge that our family home is in deep trouble.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

By morning's light

In our household the days growing longer and cooler triggers the mental transition from fall to winter.  

The holidays and days of remembrance change color codes from the browns, oranges, and purples of fall and Día de los muertos to the blue and white of Hannukah accompanied by the green, red, white and black of Christmas and Kwanzaa.  

We also have purple.  The forty days of Advent need their due.

It shouldn't have surprised me to look at my counter and see the transition there, too.  Fall enough to save the seeds and cool enough to make my daily plans around times needed for baking.

Hope you're enjoying the change in the weather at this time of year.