Monday, July 30, 2007

My father as Barry Bonds' "Clarence" in "It's a Wonderful Game"

My father is an actor. He has done some really great stuff before but I really like this one as it includes three of his passions - baseball, "It's a Wonderful Life" and Fark TV - this group of writers who make videos that are parodies of what's going on in the news.

Click below -
My father and "Barry Bonds" on an episode of Fark TV

Ms. Whit, our 102 year old friend

Ms. Whit and my father.

I have never met anyone more uncomplaining, resilient or good natured than Cornelia Whitten. My family met her when I was nine years old and my brother was six. The first thing he said to her was, "I think I shall call you Ms. Whit." She laughed and their bond was sealed. Over the years, she saw a side of Kenneth that the rest of us seldom saw and she appreciated him unconditionally. We visited her tonight - Nicolas, the kids, my father and I, to watch a Braves game with her (she never misses a game, even the ones on the west coast that go until 1am). She talked a lot about Kenneth. "Oh, that boy! He was just so special. So smart! I couldn't beat him at any game!" Tonight, when she kept repeating this (in one way or another) in the middle of conversations about the Braves or pizza or the dog, we all laughed.

But she's right. My brother was always really smart, funny and special but as a kid, I often couldn't get past our sibling issues (we had lots) to see it. As adults I have been so proud to call him my brother and been stunned by how much he has accomplished, on his own, just with his smarts. I am thinking of him a lot lately - both he and his wife, Naomi, in Australia, so positively hanging in there as they hope for at least five more weeks of hospital bed-rest before their baby arrives.

Ms. Whit is awfully special herself. I think that her patience and her ease with unconditional love may be her secret to such a long life. It isn't about her food habits. She has a cup of coffee every morning, often accompanied by a donut.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Setting goals, briefly and then pondering them, at length.

We set goals this morning, filling up a few cool Lotta Jansdotter sticky note papers with our goals for the year and then other smaller Lotta sticky notes contained the steps we wanted to take this week towards those goals. The sticky notes are lining the side of the freezer. I found Gillen's in the dog's water bowl at one point but the ink hadn't run and it stuck really well once it was wet. Good thick Lotta paper! They came up with substantial goals. The notes will need to stick up there for awhile.

Gillen's are: to have his turkey business up and running; to cook more desserts; to have a _Farmer Boy_ day when we don't use electricity; to sew a quilt; to get on the best soccer team; and to sell out all of the plants in his new nursery (of course, first he'll have to stop giving them away, which would be sort of sad).

Jesse's are: to get first place in a yu gi oh tournament; to make enough money farming to buy his own laptop; to reread the 5th and 6th Harry Potter books to himself; to make a movie and a game; to learn French better, and to learn Chinese.

My sticky note had things like go to the bank and buy a clothesline. Clearly, I will be needed in my childrens' major creative and business pursuits so I'd better keep mine simple!

They succeeded in doing one thing, each, of the list they made for the next week. But after finishing these self-appointed tasks, they had more fun together, in a Harry Potter spell-off with their wands, than they have had, together I mean, in weeks. And this turning-to-unlikely-pursuits continued all day. Something got shaken by writing down these goals. They energetically pursued forgotten (or brand new) interests in order to temporarily move away from the lists! And, making the lists created new ideas that evolved later in the day.

I think some of the greatest bouts of creativity or productivity I have ever had happened when I was "supposed" to be doing something else. I wrote a screenplay in college when I should have been studying for exams. I took my best photos when I was supposed to be looking for a job while living at my mother's house, decades ago. There's nothing like blogging when I have beans to soak, tomatoes waiting to be made into sauce, and grain to grind. And creativity can be inspired by the boundaries placed when collaborating with others or when costs limit your possibilities. But I digress; back to the sticky notes and the boys moving away from them towards other possibility.

Freedom of choice can lead to freedom of fear-of-failure. If you have the feedom to pursue lots of ideas, you can always move on to the next thing when one doesn't work out. Barbara Sher (up there with Barbara Kingsolver in my "favorite authors who have my former name category") wrote a book called Refuse to Choose about "doing everything (in italics) that you love" rather than picking one path or career or interest and sticking to it. A friend lent it to me, but I'm kind of afraid of going even further that way. I have finally narrowed myself down to three passionate pursuits,peripheral passionate interest vision strictly hidden by blinders, and I'm feeling that this is a big step towards simplifying. Because my freedom to choose, so far, has maybe been a way to not finish and therefore not fail? Maybe I will bump that book up to the top of my pile of seven.

I don't know. I do know my main goal - no Lotta paper needs to be written to remind me - to be with my children as much as possible and to help them pursue their goals, while not losing complete sight of other creative goals of mine, and to only write long blog posts once a month.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

More moon and stars and a beautiful visitor

Lately, we experience a new full moon in Gillen's garden every day, and often in pink.

Soon to be sizzling in a cast iron skillet, Alton Brown and NY Times style.

It took a lot of waiting, yesterday at dusk, to get this shot.

My two SILs are both awaiting the births of their first babies, both due in about six-eight weeks. They are both on bed rest. One at home and one in hospital. Now that is waiting. May their beautiful new babes both arrive safe and soundly as many moons from now as possible and may these two amazing women both be able to stay as patient and positive as they have been so far. Send some good thoughts or prayers their way, if you would. Thanks.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Sights on our rural walk

The unquenchable thirst of this tree for green.

These were mostly taken while the kids were at their cousin's last week, when I took about an hour to walk around the loop of our local dirt road, a walk that normally takes us 20 minutes. It was good to see so slowly. Our road is heavy with green right now, with passionate bits of red and purple and white asking to be noticed.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Moon and Stars watermelon

It's a three-man job to hold this one.
See the moon and stars that give this variety its name?

This watermelon has an interesting story. It is an heirloom variety that was thought to be extinct but was rediscovered a few years ago and has been making a big comeback. The article below, from the San Francisco chronicle, admires it as an old-fashioned seed-spitting variety (I'm paraphrasing).

This is the company where we bought our seeds.

Here is some more cool information about its origin.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The "Requiem for a wizard" experience

I lifted this picture from my friend Kelli's blog. I have not seen the cover myself. We went to the greatest party last night at Little Shop of Stories in Decatur but didn't want to wait in the long line at the end of the night to pick up our book. I knew I had the one (without a cover) at home and we will go there for the _Farmer Boy_ book club on Thurs. and can pick up our copy then.

But we did get to visit Hogwart's and Diagon Alley at the amazingly decked-out store. Both boys took written multiple-choice quizzes that they gave to a woman with an owl on her shoulder ("Hegwog", Hegwig's sister) to interpret and were then each given their own patronus. Gillen's is a phoenix and Jesse's is a dragon. After being ushered back to "Gringott's" by a huge, friendly "Hagrid", they were given a handful of sickles and galleons with which to shop at the assorted stores. They concocted potions out of glitter, spices, feathers and herbs at the potions store, bought butter-beer, fake blood, an oozing (marshmallow) eyeball, and an acid pop (colorful lollypop) at the Weasley Brothers' Joke Shop, had their futures prophesized by an appropriately googly-eyed Professor Trelawny, and were told what house we were in by the sorting hat (we each were in a different house, none in Slytherin)

We also ate some great "brown sugaah vanilla" ice cream at Jake's - the homemade ice cream parlor that is inside Little Shop of Stories, lots of chocolate covered pretzels (chocolate frogs) and we shared a black licorice wand.

But the highlight was the Dumbledore-like robed and hatted magician who wowed us with his "spells". Jesse compared him to Chris Angel (his magician hero) - he was that good. He even made a sickle (piece of construction paper) that was handed to him by one the spectators, float! I have no idea how he did it. Later we are going to take out our magic set and start practicing. We were very inspired. But first, we have to finish Book Six!

Here is some information about what various bookstores had planned last night, including Little Shop of Stories. Do you remember anything like this about a book, that your parents were as excited about as you, when we were younger? It's been so cool. Once this series is over, can another book follow the act? It's something to strive for. I do have an idea...

Beautiful vegetables to come soon.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

I'm a rockin' girl and I feel fine.

Cami, who it turns out has a truly rockin' blog herself nominated me for this rockin' girl award. So cool to be rockin', and not just be alone in my office dancing and singing loudly to Regina Spektor.

The other cool thing about this award was telling Nicolas. He was driving and on his cell phone, early this morning, when he called me to make sure I was awake and leaving the house to deliver an order to Atlanta for him.

"I got a rockin' girl blog award just now!"

Long pause.

"You got a rockin' bra award?"

I'm still laughing. Maybe it is so funny to me because of the not-rockin' nature of my bras right now. Getting a bra, without my boys with me, was one of the 32 things on my list to do this week. I didn't get to it - paid for their soccer instead during the time I had alloted to this errand.

I was nominated because of the farm. So I feel pressure to get posting about the vegetables. I'll get to them again soon. I promise. We're having a "moment" right now about the farm. As I write this, Nicolas is finishing the painstaking chore, for the twelfth year, of the paper work for certification. Actually, he has gotten used to the mounds of paper work. What is getting to him right now is that he has to pay for an inspector's eight-hour drive from FLA to inspect our farm. There are no longer GA inspectors. The inspector gets $10-12 an hour and .42/a mile. Not a bad job, if you're looking.

So, I get to nominate others now. I love to give recognition. But how to give all the awards I would like to give... I'll just give two.

One is to Julie Persons, who already has tons of recognition (just saw that there is a blog ring of people who love this blog!) but I can't resist - She has red hair, lives in Maine (one of the best places on earth), has a seven year old son named Jesse and is a writer/artist/photographer (my absolute favorite photos on the web)/ unschooler extroardinaire.

The other goes to Stephanie Roberts who is very different from Julie and equally inspiring. I love her writing and how smoothly she juggles a successful career with being a mom, artist and wife. A conversation with her last fall inspired me to look into blogging again.

Oh. Just one more. Diana Jenner - for her humor (watch the video there about why they love Scotty), her authenticity and because she is such a survivor. And all of that is on her blog.

Rock on all blogging women.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The first paragraph (not for those who are patiently waiting for 12am, July 21st)

From Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J.K. Rowling :

"The two men appeared out of nowhere, a few yards apart in the narrow, moonlit lane. For a second they stood quite still, wands directed at each other's chests; then, recognizing each other, they stowed their wands beneath their cloaks and started walking briskly in the same direction.

"News?" asked the taller of the two.

"The best," replied Severus Snape."

Despite the adrenaline rush I am having right now, I am not going to read any further. I so want to, just one more paragraph, just a few chapters... "Hermione", the friend who bestowed this book upon me, has already read the entire book, in two days - while taking good care of her three boys who are under the age of 7. She is a fast reader and read a lot at night and - it must be really good.

My kids are gone. They are at a skate boarding camp with their cousin and are staying at his house for five nights. I could just fall onto the couch, brace this very heavy book (759 pages) on my knees and read until the very end, the final end, the tantalizingly mysterious, unknown end. So tempting.

What's stopping me is not the list of thirty-two things that I wanted to get done during this first big span of time at home without my kids. I've checked a few things off on the list and will hopefully get to a few more - but I am a list-maker, not a list-finisher. It's not that. It's about my Harry Potter team - made up of me, Gillen and Jesse. We are up to the last chapter in book six. I am not even going to read that until I pick them up on Friday afternoon. Then, I'll read it to them in the car before we drive to the very cool bookstore, Little Shop of Stories, in Decatur. They are hosting a "Requiem for a Wizard - an evening of magic, remembrance and farewells" for which they sent us a beautiful invitation on parchment. It is only open to those who have pre-ordered the book through them. The party starts at 10pm and goes until midnight, when the book can be released.

So I'll go to the mechanic's, maybe make some tomato sauce and pesto, take some pictures, and glory in having my own thoughts (even now, they are frequently about my kids) and time, until I can rejoin my favorite two boys for another journey into the world of Harry Potter. At least, that's the plan. If I have insomnia, all bets are off.

Monday, July 16, 2007

We have the last Harry Potter book!!!

I thought that it was under lock and key until midnight July 20 - this coming Friday. But a friend of ours, who shall remain nameless (lets call her Hermione), got two copies from a warehouse where said friend's husband (that would be "Ron") does business and where he was offered the books, casually, for free, by a receptionist!

I told them to sell it on Ebay. I kind of love that they'd rather read it, despite needing the money it might bring them. Though we are only five days out, and it would be horrible if the receptionist got into trouble. I will get it from "Hermione" in the next few days and if anyone is interested I'll post the first paragraph, or the number of pages, or the last paragraph (the last would take some bribing). But I would give a big warning for those who are purists and want to wait for THE day. Here is an article about how seriously the fans take leaks of the book's info. I'd better be careful or I could face being transformed, hexed or sent to Azkaban.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Friday farm photos

Vibrant zinnias
Grasshopper smile

And finally, two of the main reasons for all of the thriving life at the farm - irrigation, and Farmer Nicolas. He is working really long hours right now with very few days off, and he ended up talking for a full hour today at Harry's Farmer's Market about heirloom tomatoes, despite having gotten up at 4:30 am to go work at his farmer's market, in the rain. The life of a farmer is often just too challenging. I wish I were more durable and could switch places with him for awhile. But I have had to make peace with the fact that "green acres is the place for me" with a camera, not a hoe. I get dizzy every time I turn over to pick a vegetable - low blood pressure. I am not a fast picker or planter and Jesse can only do the farm part-time as well. I did farm regularly for a few years when we had no kids yet and I was younger. But I did theater at the same time to stay sane. I'll have to help him by earning some money another way - cooking value-added products, or farm tours, or proofreading (how do you get a proofreading job?) or writing a brilliant ode to the heirloom tomato, that inspires a rap song, that gets bought up by a horror movie producer looking to remake attack of the killer tomato (that was a movie right?), that gets an academy award... Anyone know how to get a job, from home, proofreading? I'm pretty good at proofreading.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Tomatoes part two - the heirlooms

Bite of a Brandywine

Russian Black Krim

Striped German

Green Zebra

Thursday, July 12, 2007


They are abundantly ripe right now here in GA. Jesse wanted to make dinner tonight for the first time ever and I was so glad that the recipe he chose was pasta with fresh tomato sauce. We collected the eight tomatoes off of the kitchen windowsill where Nicolas had placed them yesterday, dipped them in boiling water in order to easily peel off their skins (x-ing their bottoms with a knife first), chopped them up into a pot with lots of garlic and a bit of olive oil and cooked it for 15 minutes. Jesse ripped up some basil from the farm and sprinkled that over the sauce on each plate and we all added parmesan cheese to finish. That and a tossed green salad with homemade dressing made up our first Jesse meal. It was simple, delicious and made up mostly of vegetables from the farm - our favorite kind of meal. The cook was inspired by having seen "Ratatouille" earlier in the week. It's great. And I have a rat phobia. So that's saying a lot.

Tomorrow - Jesse has planned to make tomatoes and mozarella with basil. Last week we had tomato sandwiches and BLTs. Next week I want to put up tomato sauce and salsa.

Nicolas has been asked to lead an hour-long cooking demo. on heirloom tomatoes at Harry's Farmer's Market (expensive chain grocery store) in Alpharetta - this Sat. He had thought he'd be the side-kick to a chef. He found out yesterday that he is the main man. I heard his shocked response to this update when he was talking to the person from Harry's on the phone -

"How will I demonstrate cooking heirloom tomatoes for a whole hour? There is only 5-10 minutes of talking I can do about this - you slice them, add salt and eat them. You can add some cheese or basil or bread, but you don't need to... I'll give you 15 minutes."

He is so right. An heirloom tomato, when in season, doesn't need embellishment. It is perfect on it's own. We would never even use it in a sauce. I'll have to take some pictures of these big old ugly, lush fruits in the next few days. I hope you're getting to sample some this summer and if you have any clever ideas for the Alpharetta shoppers, please let me know.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Jesse and the new Nikon

On a day when all I wanted to do was play with the new camera, Jesse was feeling like dressing up and being seen. Yes! An enthusiastic, cute model.

One of his ideas was that I should photograph him walking on water like the magician Chris Angel. So he jumped into his bathing suit, planned his strategy of how to be as light as a Basilisk lizard and I got all set up to take the picture. It wasn't as exciting as he had hoped so we moved on to the trampoline. I even took a picture of myself - well, my leg anyway - the shadow of it doing an attitude above the grass. I'll have to get better at the self-portrait thing. Maybe I'll include a face one day soon. And the most exciting shot was of a humingbird; actually many shots of two of them, taken from a few feet away! That was incredible, especially because Jesse was also a few feet away, noisily digging up the grass in order to bury a coat hanger (!?)
and Tuki was growling at a trapped squirrel that ultimately got away. Those hummingbirds must have been really thirsty.

Some of them are next door -----> in my new flickr window.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The High and banana birthday cake

I just realized how the title of this post could be misconstrued... No, the sweet cake was not as a result of the High. It's all about photography and turning 29.

My sister and her husband were back for a few days on Sunday. That day, while the guys all chose to stay home, we went to the Annie Liebovitz exhibit at the High Museum of Art. It was fantastic. I loved being with someone who wanted to take as much time as I did looking at every picture. My three guys would have been through it in a matter of minutes, while we took almost two hours.

When we got home, dinner was ready (our first pesto of the season made with basil from the farm) and as soon as we had eaten, Gillen ran off to our 90 year old neighbor's house, giddy with a secret! We soon found out that he had looked up a recipe for banana bread in his Molly Katzen kid's cookbook, had made it all by himself and then had cooked it in our neighbor's oven -our's is still broken. My sister's birthday is later in the week but we won't be with her. I was so impressed by his thoughtfulness, and the cake was delicious.

We received so much from these two while they were here. Gillen and Jesse are sporting new hair cuts (Bhu was once an Aveda hair stylist). Gillen has a new appreciation of his goofyness and has greatly improved his frisbee throwing ability. Gillen has a plan (drawn up by artist Matt) for his emerging pheasant/quail/turkey raising business. Matt raked the gunk out of our old frog pond. Jesse has new yu gi oh cards. And then there's the fact that Bhu saved me from murdering my hard drive, advised me about my camera and of course GAVE me the camera.

Matt and Bhu had to leave for my father's tonight and will fly away tomorrow. They will be very missed.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Gillen's style

My sister, her husband, Gillen and I went to Borders on Tues. to get gifts for my father. Gillen brought his own money, just in case. He used some of it to buy a used game cube game (Tony Hawke) and also went to the childrens' section of Borders to look for more Little House books. He found Little House in the Big Woods, which we have already listened to on CD. I think his plan is to reread all of them to himself. The book came with a chain that has a small, Pa Ingalls fiddle on it. He put it on before we even left the bookstore. It broke before we left the store as well, but talented Matt (my BIL) fixed it for him when we got home, using fishing line as a needle to reconnect the tiny, cheap, "gold" links.

Gillen is very picky about his clothes and hairstyle and accessories. I have finally grown to appreciate this, especially when it has him proudly wearing a Pa Ingall's fiddle around his neck. The "shiny" shirts (polyester) that he used to love and the too-small old baseball hat haven't been as endearing, to me. But I've learned to keep it to myself.

I found him here yesterday, watching a bunch of miniscule ants carry a worm into their nest.

It's cool that his "cool" is muted by interests in nature and farming, and by Laura Ingall's Farm Boy.

Friday, July 06, 2007

A few first photos

Decorating the gifts;
Gillen bird watching;
Jesse floating

When I'm 64...
I hope I still have my cute,
young partner
smiling at me,
like my father has Dina.

He's pretty cute himself.
I'll have to get better with the camera
to do him justice. My sister had him take
off the green tinted reading glasses in her
pictures. Smart girl.

The finale fire crackers of the night. Not bad for having sat in the attic for four years, and no one lost a hand.

Giving and Receiving

Aunt Bhu
It was my father's birthday on the 4th. We bought our first grill in honor of the event and rummaged through the crawl space for the duffel bag of fireworks that were left here by my brother years ago. My sister and I spent a few hours that morning decorating the white paper with which we wrapped his gifts. I think he was happy with our book and DVD choices, and he loved the art work. After dinner we called my brother and his wife in Sydney, where it was the morning of the next day (and a winter day at that) and had a video call with them. My father hadn't seen Kenneth and Naomi (even on skype) since my sister's wedding here, 15 months ago, so that was really great for him. I sure wish they could have been here in person. But they are busy growing a baby and a business.

It's my sister's birthday next week and my friend Helen's is tomorrow. Lots of birthdays in July. I think I scored on their gifts.
The giving is easy. It's the receiving that can be hard.

The morning after my sister arrived, I was running around the kitchen getting coffee and breakfast made, packing towels for Jesse's swim class, checking out movie times to meet our dad later for a movie - in multi-tasking hyper mode - when my sister interrupted me.

"I have a gift for you," she said, casually handing me a box.

"I'm going to kill you.." I started to say (our usual response to each other's gifts).

And then I noticed that the box had a picture of a camera and I realized what she had done.

She has given me her Nikon D70, the really expensive camera that I was hoping I had enough put aside to buy. I was completely freaked out. I quickly walked outside to the back deck and paced and yelled at her and tried to convince her how wrong she was to be so foolhardy - that she had future babies to think of and her own businesses to start (are you reading this Bhu? I say it again!). None of it worked. In the end, I had to receive this unbelievably generous gift. I am still overwhelmed.

I have taken 181 pictures in the last 24 hours. The camera is amazing. My ability is lacking. So many bells and whistles - at least a hundred buttons. But I will learn! Gillen is getting to use my old camera and has gotten some great shots of hummingbirds, early in the mornings in his garden. I'll post lots of pictures tomorrow. Now, my brain needs some rest so as to process all of this, and in order to learn what buttons to push and when.

P.S. I guess it's redundant now to say how cool my sister is; pretty obvious, eh?

Monday, July 02, 2007

My sister is coming!

My young (16 years younger than me), tall, beautiful, hip, goofy, brilliant, super-organized, married to a great guy, beautiful picture taking sister is coming from Montana!! And her husband is coming! She is so many things I am not (especially the tall and organized bit) but we also share many passions and beliefs. We both love photography. Years ago, when I quit acting, I wanted to be a photographer and was given a Nikon FG by my mother. I loved that camera. I still do, just don't want to pay for film. I am really sensitive to chemicals so at the time the dark room experience was challenging. I ended up directing theater instead.

Now, however, in the digital age, I am taking pictures like crazy but am frustrated by my camera. My sister has just bought herself a new one and is selling her Nikon D70! I won't pay less than the best price she can get but do have a lot set aside for this.

Whether I buy her camera or not, it will be so much fun to take pictures together. We have never before been passionate about this at the same time, in the same place. She can teach me so much, as she does about everything.

I'm off to the the kitchen for hours to cook macaroni and cheese, chicken stock (actually rooster stock) for still sick Nicolas, and gazpacho made with all of the new farm summer vegetables.

Sunday, July 01, 2007


I know that nostalgia can be my worst enemy, that it keeps me from living in the moment, from reality, from what really matters. As a young adult I was terribly sentimental. It never got me anywhere. I have pretty much kicked the habit. When I get around to making a scrap book page, it is to remember my childrens' favorite moments (for them), but it is just as much about playing with different art mediums - an excuse to use stamps and paint, cool papers and pens. I no longer revisit movies, moments or music from my past in order to rehash the feeling, sentimentally.

That said, every once in a while, a smell or some other sense will bring me back to the past, and I don't just see it and then move on - every once in a while I want to hang out there for a while.

Today it was a memory of a Fourth of July. My brother, mother, Jody and I were on the roof of our apt. building on Marlborough Street, in Back Bay, in Boston. We were up there to listen to the Boston Pops, led by Arthur Fiedler, play their annual concert in the half shell on the Charles River. We ate lobster! We got sun (could have been dirt) from lying on towels on our private tar beach. And at the end of the night we watched amazing fireworks while listening to the "1812 Overture" ring out from our radio as well as from the river. I loved it. It was one of many spectacular events that were choreographed by my mother (with help from having chosen to bring us up in Boston). I had a moment today when I really wished I could just fly home and meet her up on the roof. I wanted to be the daughter.

Making dinner, changing sheets and a walk with my dog pretty quickly shook me out of my nostalgia for Boston and my mom. I have moments to choreograph with and for my children now. And it doesn't have to happen on a holiday. You can't recreate the past for your kids anyway. I gave mine lobster on Block Island and they were not very impressed. And fireworks still scare Jesse. So we choreograph ( or just receive) our events and our every days - together. Until the next smell whisks me back, I lovingly, and with so much gratitude, kiss the past and my mother goodbye.