Monday, December 22, 2008

It's Brrrrrrr in Portland

There are 4 snowplows in Portland which means that on our street no one went to work today. After a week of steady snow and freezing, it's just not safe to drive unless you have chains or snow tires. Most of us have neither.

I stocked up in a big way a week ago and had to try 8 times before my car finally mastered the very gentle slope at the end of my street. Except for occasional bouts of cabin fever, I have been content to stay home.

It's really pretty outside.

My blue fence is a welcome splash of color against the winter grays . . .

But I like this black and white look, too.

Wherever you may be, readers and lurchers, I hope you are warm and safe.


Monday, December 15, 2008

A Lovely Surprise

Cheryl of Jojo'Joys has honored me with the Proximidade Award which "focuses on the development of friendship and camaraderie through the blogging community. "Bloggers who receive this award are exceedingly charming, say its authors. They aren't interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement but to propagate friendships."

Now my happy duty is to bestow it on 8 of my favorite bloggers and here are the first seven:
Winos and Foodies
Paris Breakfasts
A Foothills Life
Cupcakes at Home
I need orange
A Brush with Color
Laura's Watercolors

The eighth one will go to JILL, formerly of "Charades in Brussels", who is in transcontinental transit and has not yet started a new blog in the U.S.

Now it will be your turn to choose 8 friends from blogland. Keep in mind that, "Bloggers who receive this award are exceedingly charming, say its authors. They aren't interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement but to propagate friendships."


Sunday, December 7, 2008

A December Amaryllis

One December, when I was a young girl, my father brought home a big fat bulb, bigger than any I had ever seen. With the family watching in a semi-circle he filled a big pot with special soil and set the bulb in its middle. It sprouted and grew centimeters almost as we watched. Its thick green head got rounder and rounder till it split right open, and the stunning red flower unfolded. I fell in love right there and then, and one of my Christmas tradition was born.

I caught these shots as the sun suddenly shone on an otherwise gray day

I tried a black and white look,

but I really do love that bright red!

Monday, December 1, 2008


At dawn my plane plane whizzed past Mt Hood on the way to California.

I arrived in time to admire the big sister's new short hairstyle,

and the little sister fetching beret.

We did some pre-Thanksgiving baking and then relaxed each in our own way. The family artists created cards,

with pigs and mythical goats,

till they had a stack of them.

The little sister started on a new colorful winter hat,

and the cat rested

while the grandmother sipped wine and leafed through all the wonderful art and craft books.

On the big day

the turkey was roasted,

glasses were raised and thanks expressed,

and great amounts of food were consumed. We played many games, and returned home to recover.

On the next day, we celebrated the big sister's 16th birthday. She received pretty things,

an apron embroidered with her favorite foods and

a homemade vintage dress which

needed some altering under the dog' sleepy supervision.

No one wanted to cook so we had lunch at the Naked Café where this picture of the sisters was taken.

And then, all to soon , it was time to

fly away home filled with happy memories.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Blood Red + Pale Yellow = Green??

Never one to waste food, I found a use for 3 blood oranges and a banana past their prime: turn them into muffins.

I dragged out my Sunset cookbook published in the age of Aquarius to check the recipe for "Sunshine (what else?) Muffins".

True to its age, it calls for honey and wheat germ neither of which was on hand. Never mind, I skipped the wheat germ and substituted a mixture of white and brown sugar instead of honey.

I followed with the usual creaming of butter, sugar and eggs and added flour. So far so good.
Then I added half a cup of bright red orange juice to the basic creamed mix which curdled on the spot. Bother. I went on anyway adding the flour mix and after a good beating it seemed smooth enough to me. So in went the mashed banana, a pinch of cinnamon and grated orange zest . Finally, I threw in some raisins and the last of a bag of walnuts for good measure and the mixture was ready to pour into my new red silicone muffins cups.

True, it looked a bit grayish but I thought nothing of it. Into the oven for 25 minutes and then out they came . . . GREEN. Uh,uh.
As pistachio muffins they would have been perfect, as Sunshine muffins, very strange to say the least.

Still, they tasted perfectly normal, with the expected mingled flavors of orange, banana and cinnamon. My friendly neighbors had one each then took more home. And today we are all three still healthy and well.

What alchemy took place, I wonder? What chemical reaction did the heat precipitate inside my oven? I'll never know, I suppose, unless one of you readers can clue me in.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Bragging Again

I love it when the talent and hard work of family and friends are duly recognized!

After she retired from a successful career in publishing, my friend Shelly moved to New Mexico where she morphed into a gifted and exacting photographer. The impressive landscape on the cover of the New Mexico Treasures Calendar 2009 says it all.

You can see more of her pictures, including people, flowers, birds and landscapes on her site.

Isn't it dramatic?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Day Late

Not from the fields of Flanders but nevertheless in grateful memory for the soldiers who fought and died to liberate Belgium.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

My Unsung Heroes

On June 21, 1964, Father's Day and the first day of "The Freedom Summer", thousands marched through the streets of Chicago in support of the Civil Rights Act that Lyndon Johnson would sign the following month. I would not remember this march except for its timing: it took place on the day my second son was born.

I shared a room with a tall red head who had been brought to the hospital by her husband and then unaccountably been left alone to give birth to their child. "Oh, he had a more important place to be" she explained with a bright smile. More important than the birth of his son? Unbelievable! Late in the day, her young husband came bounding in dressed in stiff collar and black pastoral clothes, smiling from ear to ear. Pinned on his chest was a button which read " I care, and I'll be there".

Over the next day I learned that he was a young Methodist minister in South Side Chicago, a place of poverty, violence, drugs and despair. We lived not in the reclaimed Obamas' Hyde Park of today but in the Hyde Park of 45 years ago, dangerous and derelict. It was there that I saw a small black girl whose arm, when she was an infant, had been mangled by the rat that fed on her in the night. This horrific possibility caused me to leap out of bed at the slightest peep from my older child's crib.

On that Sunday, the young pastor had opted to march at the head of his congregation through downtown Chicago. This was a brave choice: though it wasn't known yet, that day 3 young Northerners would be murdered in Mississippi for trying to register black voters. In Chicago, the police's brutal responses were feared by one and all. A few months before, terrified, I had seen a gun drawn and aimed at my husband who, while rushing across the street in pouring rain in the dark, had failed to understand that the order to "Stop where you are!" was meant for him. My scream had prevented the worst.

At no personal risk, I had protested the invasion of Hungary in Belgium and I had marched to "Ban-the-Bomb" in England but in the US, I felt foreign, fearful and disengaged. The choice the pastor made the day his son was born pointed out the obvious: to raise two American children as one should, I couldn't sit on the fence indefinitely. And I didn't.

On election night as I basked in Obama's eloquent speech, I remembered with deep affection my unsung heroes, this young staunchly committed couple, and I hoped that they were still in Chicago to enjoy their share of this splendid victory.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


I love these cheerful "Topiaries", a creation of my gifted daughter-in-law!

They were installed last weekend in Palm Desert (with some help from my son, her husband). Her work dots the landscape all over the southwest.

You can see more of it, installations, murals and ceramics, right here

Maybe you like them too? or not much at all? Either way, I'd like to read your comments . . .

E-mail from the artist added Nov.1. (Ellie,13, is her younger daughter, Duncan, her husband):
The comments are so nice!! Thank you so much for forwarding, I work in such a vacuum (Ellie do you like this? Duncan what do you think?) it is very gratifying to hear comments from people I am not related to! Xo Christie

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Fall Garden

“Autumn, the year’s last, loveliest smile.” (-William Cullen Bryant)
(shamelessly lifted from A Brush With Color to be shared with those who lived with me on Bryant Street)

The garden lives and changes caring nothing for financial crises, elections or guns, and reminds me that after these chilling and uncertain times spring and summer will return.

click on lower right corner for a larger image

Here in the Northwest, fall is at its best, crisp morning air turning into warm sunny midday. An explosion of yellow, orange and red foliage lines up my street, the last roses strain toward the sun and the hydrangeas are ready to be harvested and dried for winter pleasure. Soon I'll plant the spring bulbs: yellow crocuses between the flagstones, a border of red species tulips and blue forget-me-nots; and for the house hyacinths and amaryllis. I am already smiling in anticipation!

Thank you to all who e-mailed or commented on the previous entry

Thursday, October 16, 2008

What Happened in School Today

The phone rings. It is my daughter Amy calling from New Hampshire. "Mom?" Her voice is strangled. I brace myself but nothing has prepared me for what follows. "Stephie's school is under lock down. There's a gunman in the school. Steph called me on her phone ". Amy is on the verge of crying now. My heart beats so hard I have to sit down. Just last night she sent me Steph's senior picture. Shiny-eyed Stephie, eighteen years old, a high school senior poised on the edge of her adult life. Amy continues, "I could hear the teacher yelling, 'Be quiet. Listen to me. Stay down! Stay down!'" Old newsreels flash through my mind which rejects them immediately.

Central High is a big school, 4000 or so students in a vast group of older buildings. Twice last year the school was locked down with students inside. Once because a wife beater who had just killed a policeman was suspected of hiding there, and a second time when a student brought a weapon into the school. Now, I want to know where my granddaughter is in relation to the gunman, but there is no way of finding out. Amy herself lives close by but she is miles away at work and the whole high school neighborhood is cordoned off. She worries about the safety of 15 year-old Josh alone at home, not feeling well.

Failing to rob a restaurant across the street, three men are cornered by the police. One is arrested, another shoots himself, and the third one runs across the street into the high school. My mind weighs the information. Is he more dangerous than a desperate alienated teenager? Less? Will he surrender or take as many people as he can with him? I launch into a string of reassurances that I try to believe, "She'll be OK. She'll do as she is told . . ." Amy interrupts, "Steph is calling!" I sit on the edge of the bed. I have been there before, these terrible moments when you are alone, fearing the worst and can do nothing, nothing at all. Soon, Amy calls back: Stephie's class is out of harm's way. Eventually, all the kids are removed safely. It'll play itself out between the police and the gunman now.

Fear ebbs away and in its place rises a great rage against that bastard who terrified us, against the NRA and its specious arguments. Obama is in New Hampshire today campaigning away. Neither he nor McCain has touched on the issue of gun control. What if it were their daughter or granddaughter in that school? Stephie and her classmates are safe this time. What about next time?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Green Card Adieu

Green cards haven't been green for a long time. My first one was though.
1962. My new husband, a new doctor in physics, has convinced me that a post-doc year in Chicago will be the crowning glory of his education. "It's just for a year", he says. Pregnant with my first child and having recently made the transition from Belgian girlhood to young pregnant wifehood in England, I have no interest in crossing that ocean. But, believe me, you are at a real disadvantage pleading your case haltingly in a second language, offering the futile argument of preferring home and friends against climbing the ladder of scientific success. My own family reminds me that a wife's duty is to support her husband, and that a year soon passes. Ha!

Husband does all the paper work; I just sign where necessary, completely unaware that I am applying for permanent residency. I have never heard of the "brain drain". I am fed information on a needed basis only and trust that nothing important is withheld. While I believe we are on the same page, we are not even in the same scenario.

Soon before departure, we are summoned to the American embassy for a group ceremony to take an oath facing the flag. A small girl stands by me. She points at the eagle glaring over the huge American flag as her high-pitched voice pierces the respectful silence, "Look at that big parrot, Mum!" A wave of laughter is soon suppressed by the glaring bureaucrat in charge. We mumble our promise not to misbehave or cause harm to the United States of America, and I am handed that all-important
3 1/4"x2 1/2" piece of plastic which will redefine my life path.

November 13th, 1962. I rise early from my berth on the lowest level of the Queen Mary to stand on deck in the frigid morning as we sail past the Statue of Liberty. New York looks grey and uninviting but I try to feel the same excitement as my husband's. In time, I come to understand why we traveled on one-way passages, what the green card really means, that my child will be American whether I want it or not, and that selected pieces of the truth can and do amount to a lie.

September 30th, 2008. This time, I know what I am doing. I am tired of being challenged by immigration officers, of being taxed without representation, of this terrible government, of seeing my grandchildren's future imperiled. Two days short of my 70th birthday, I surrender my (now white) green card with its fancy hologram and electronic chip. For a moment I feel insecure, defenseless.

Then, along with a diverse array of like-minded people, hand on heart, I repeat the pledge, collect my certificate of naturalization, and drive straight to the Obama Headquarters to register to vote. It's 10 a.m., my legal status has changed but I feel just the same as ever. At home and not.

I'd love to show you but . . .

Thursday, October 2, 2008


This is difficult to read but, **please**, do so. Then pass this story on, because at some level through our government's lack of action we were complicit, and because there but for a twist of fate go we all.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Interesting Times

May you come to the attention of those in authority
May you find what you seek
May you live in interesting times

Chinese curse

Well, I am about to become a citizen so obviously the authorities have neatly raked my past history and forgiven me for whatever sins I may have committed in the turbulent 60's. As for finding what I am seeking, I am safe on that score.
So that leaves the third curse, and these are certainly interesting days we are experiencing, aren't they? Whichever end of the political spectrum we, voters, may favor, we are united in uncertainty and anxiety about the future.

As a respite from the disturbing news and somber conversations, I revert to simple occupations: drawing onions on a plate, lining up quinces to ripen on the window sill, picking the last of the apples for applesauce, and last but not least reading about the much more disturbing XIIIth century* while 20 year old Gris gently purrs on my lap.

And you, how do you keep a sense of balance in these uneasy days?

*"Four Queens" by Nancy Goldstone is a splendid page turner even though, since it is non-fiction, you know how it ends. Thank you to Peter who recommended it.