31.3.10

Springtime Cliche

Okay... I can't resist sharing this photo. Maybe it's a cliche to post photos of cherry blossoms in the springtime, but how can anyone resist this yearly effusion of arboreal confection? I just can't get enough of these gorgeous, pink trees and I definitely think the Japanese have this one down pat. In Japan, cherry blossoms are celebrated with cult-ish devotion. Observing the yearly custom of Hanami, everyone packs a picnic and celebrates springtime under the cherry blossoms. Check out this blog for a more delightful description of a Hanami then I could ever come up with!
Besides ogling cherry blossoms this is what we did today (before the rain set in, anyhow...)

If you're ever hanging around San Mateo County looking for fun, you might consider heading over to Filoli... With 16 acres of gardens, it's the perfect place for little boys to run around, sniff some flowers, listen to the birds, chase butterflies, sketch a few trees and battle hoards of nefarious invaders using an endless stash of (imaginary) weapons. I have several books on hold from the library to help me better understand this phenomenon... top on my list are The Male Brain by Louann Brizendine and House of Testosterone by Sharon O'Donnell.

Now, I'm off to check the weather. If it doesn't rain tomorrow, maybe we'll pack up some sushi and have our own little Hanami... Care to join us?

30.3.10

Waiting for Baby

On Friday I drove up to attend a midwife appointment with M. (this photo, obviously, doesn't do her justice... she looks magnificent.) It's hard to believe that, after hoping and praying for this baby for 4 1/2 years, he will be here in 3 1/2 months...

Meanwhile, I'm busy preparing. I felt like I hit the jackpot last week when I went rummaging through boxes in the garage in search of baby clothes I had not given away. I found 2 large boxes which escaped the massive baby-item-cleanout when I hit the bottom of despair almost 2 years. All the hand-knit sweaters and little t-shirts were still tucked away. They're now neatly sorted, folded and awaiting the arrival of our little bambino...

I'm also busy sewing soft little blankets and knitting sweet little hats.

The blankets are simple -- 2 pieces of flannel sewn back to back with decorative stitching around the edges...
I'm planning several hats... This first one is made from a lovely, earthy yarn by Colinette. For the next one, I'm planning to dive into my stash of hand painted Mountain Colors yarn...

Knitting little hats is far more fun then sorting through years of accumulated art supplies, books, papers & old holiday cards cluttering up the room we are now preparing for the baby! It's raining today... perfect weather for knitting...

29.3.10

An Entertaining Weekend

On Saturday night Mr. Bloom & I escaped to San Francisco to see SF Ballet's version of The Little Mermaid. The final performance for this season was Sunday, but if it's ever brought back in a future season, I highly recommend seeing it... It was very modern (if you like that sort of thing), largely based on the original Hans Christian Andersen story and definitely not for children. True to the original story, in the aftermath of her "tail-ectomy," the mermaid suffers excruciating pain. It was wrenching to watch... a far cry from the Nutcracker...

And for children... I took Little Mr. to see the movie How to Train Your Dragon. I love taking my Little Mr. to the movies. I love his warm little hand in mine, pulling me toward the warm smell of popcorn. I love sitting with him in the dark, feeling his little body next to me, tense with excitement, his eyes bright and his attentive little face glowing. And besides all that, Little Mr. & I both loved the movie...

Happy Passover Cake

I'm jumping on the bandwagon & singing the praises of Nigella Lawsons clementine cake. I first encountered the recipe on Seven Spoons and noticed it again over at Smitten Kitchen. There were small variations in the recipe with each encounter, and I, in turn, have made a few changes myself.

Tonight is the first night of Passover, and minus the baking powder, this is a perfect Passover dessert... Happy Passover!

Nigella Lawsons Clementine Cake (a la Passover)

INGREDIENTS
4 clementines (the original recipe calls for 1 lb.)
6 eggs
1 cup plus 2 TBL sugar
2 1/2 cups ground almonds
a pinch of salt
2 tsp. vanilla (optional)
(note: I've omitted 1 heaping tsp. baking powder as called for in the original recipe to make this cake kosher for Passover)

DIRECTIONS
Put clementines in a pot of cold water to cover, bring to a boil and simmer for 2 hours. Drain and when cool, cut each clementine in half & remove seeds. Finely chop the skins, pith, and fruit in the processor (or by hand, of course).

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).

Butter and line an 8 or 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper.

Beat the eggs. Add the sugar, almonds, and (optional) baking powder. Mix well, adding the chopped clementines.

Pour the cake mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 50-55 minutes, when a skewer will come out clean; you might have to cover the cake with foil after about 30 minutes to stop the top from over-browning.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the pan on a rack. When the cake is cold, you can take it out of the pan. Ta daaaa!

22.3.10

Leaving the Window Open

A few months ago I was walking my Little Mr. to school and he asked in a serious little voice, "Would you leave the window open for me?" Without any context, this was a strange question. To get clarification I reflected the question back, "Leave the window open for you?" and then I understood. "You're thinking of the story of Peter Pan where Peter flies out the window as a baby (because all babies can fly) and then returns home after a few years to find his mother has given up hope for him and closed the window?" (note: this is not in the Disney version but it's in the original J.M. Barrie book.) "Yes, that's right," confirmed Little Mr., "So, would you leave the window open for me?" I told him that, if he flew out the window, I would (just like Mrs. Darling) sit by the open window all day and sleep by the open window all night, until he came home.

When my Little Mr. was a baby I would sit staring at his sleeping face and think to myself, "You, my baby, will someday break my heart." I imagined a hundred ways he could break my heart. The list started with him saying he hated me and ended with him moving to China without leaving a forwarding address. I never, in all those moments of watching his sleeping face, imagined the beautiful and sweet ways he would break my heart. How could I have imagined he would break my heart by asking whether I would leave the window open?

19.3.10

Quiet Corners of my Home

Our house doesn't have a doorbell. Please knock... Come in, come in!

I was visiting a beautiful blog -- GardenMama -- and was inspired by a sweet post titled Corners of Home. GardenMama in turn, was following the lead of a post by SouleMama... Their posts started me looking around at my own home with new eyes.

In the day-to-dayness of life, I notice the basket of laundry in the living room which needs to be folded, the compost bucket in the corner brimming with carrot peelings, the dust bunnies (or, as Sweet Child calls it, bunny-dust), the art cabinet overflowing with pencils, paints and projects. I notice the clutter & chaos and feel overwhelmed by the impulse to tidy up... I overlook the beauty of our happy chaos and stop noticing quiet spaces in between.

So, I invite you into my home for a little tour of my favorite quiet corners...

First I'd like to introduce you to two little friends who live in the book shelf (or sometimes on the mantle piece.) They have music boxes inside -- the little fellow on the right plays Papageno's bird-catcher theme from The Magic Flute and the little girl plays "Kommt ein Vogel Geflogen." When Little Mr. B. was a baby he liked to chew on their heads while humming to the music...

Here is a quiet corner above the kitchen table...

We also have birds flying around our stairwell...

Here's a close-up of the mobile -- it's by Helene Ige...

I love this corner of our hallway. We've hung a photo of me when I was pregnant, a baby picture of Sweet Child, a series of baby pictures of my husband and (out of sight of the camera) a baby picture of me with my mother. We also a have a print in a gold frame which hung in my parents house when I was a child.
As a small child, I was unnerved by the look of undisguised love on the face of the mother and the happy expression on the face of the little boy. The purity of their expressions served to contrast with the undercurrent of anxiety and sadness I felt in my home as a child. My mother tried to hide her grief when she lost her father but I was not immune to her emotions.

I always assumed that the artist who produced this piece created other portraits of mothers and children, much in the way Mary Cassatt did. A few months ago a friend paused in my hallway, noticing with surprise that the drawing was by Kathe Kollwitz. When I asked her why she was surprised she explained that she had never seen a joyful portrait by this artist; Kathe Kollwitz is known for creating artwork depicting victims of poverty, hunger, and war. Knowing this about the artist makes me love the picture even more...

Thank you for visiting... I hope you'll stop by again soon...

16.3.10

Squirrels

I used to think squirrels were cute until we moved to this house and started our garden. The moment we put plants in the ground the squirrels started digging them up. One morning, in an undignified fit of fury, I flung open the back door, pulled off a slipper and flung it at a digging squirrel. The squirrel did not flinch (I have really bad aim), so I flung my other slipper, then my socks and then a pair of gardening clogs. I swear that squirrel was laughing at me (Mr. Bloom was definitely laughing...)

When I started feeding the birds in my yard last autumn, I bought "squirrel proof" feeders (I was determined to make my garden as inhospitable as possible to them.) Then one day I saw a squirrel eating niger-thistle from the goldfinch feeder. Squirrels do not like niger-thistle. That squirrel must have been really hungry and I felt sorry for it. Off I went to the seed & feed store to buy a squirrel feeder (It's bluejay-proof... I'm still not feeling hospitable towards them.)

Truly, I'm glad my garden is now a welcoming place for all these little creatures. My son and I have sat on my bed for hours looking out the window at the birds and squirrels. Our favorites are the pointy-headed little titmice, but lately, there's a tiny wren who's won our hearts. And I have to say, my heart warms towards those squirrels when my son says, "Today was my lucky day... I got to see three squirrels eat our peanuts!"

We feed the finches, wrens, chickadees, titmice, juncos, doves, robins, towhees, sparrows, hummingbirds and squirrels. If you come to my garden, I will feed you, too...

15.3.10

Bread Mice


We have many favorite baking projects in my house, but the most beloved is bread mice. The first time we made them we laughed and laughed at how fat our little mice grew when they were set out to rise before baking. That night, as I put Little Mr. B. to bed, he whispered to me that he had had the best day of his life. When I asked him why, he answered, "Because those fat bread mice were just so funny!"

This is the recipe we use, but frankly, any bread recipe would probably be fine (I think whole wheat bread dough would make lovely, light brown & speckled mice!)

INGREDIENTS
1 cup warm-to-the wrist water
2 TBL room temp. butter
1 egg
3 1/4 cups flour (plus maybe a little extra for kneading)
1/4 cup sugar or honey
1 tsp salt
1 packet (or 1 TBL) yeast
1/8 tsp turmeric for color
currents (or small pile of raisins, cut in half)

DIRECTIONS
Pour warm water into a large mixing bowl and sprinkle yeast over it. Allow to sit until yeast starts to "bloom" (about 10 minutes.) Meanwhile, gather and measure all other ingredients. Whisk turmeric and salt in with the flour (the turmeric makes the mice a pretty yellow color -- you can omit the turmeric if you wish.) As soon as the yeast starts to really get blooming, mix in the butter, egg, and sugar (or honey), then add the flour one cup at a time. When the dough seems to form a ball and is starting to look dry enough to knead, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes (or if your little one has been at your side all along, pouring and mixing the ingredients, then it's time for your little one to knead!)

After kneading, place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a dishcloth, place in a warm spot and allow to rise approx. 1 hour (or until double in size.) Punch down, invite your child to knead for another few minutes and then form dough into 1 1/2 inch balls. Stretch the front of the ball to create a tear-drop shape. With a clean scissors, make a tiny snip at the tip of the drop and pinch a current inside the cut (making a small cut in the dough exposes a sticky interior -- your currents will stick better.) Then, just above and slightly to the sides of the little nose make 2 more snips and pinch in your mouse's eyes. Finally, take your scissor and make 2 very deep cuts behind the eyes.
Place mice 2" apart on a greased pan and allow to rise approx. 45 minutes.

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees and bake 10-12 minutes.

Squeak!

11.3.10

The Chickadees are Nesting! The Chickadees are Nesting!

Oh, how I love my garden this time of year... First there are the little, yellow jonquils, then the birds start nesting and there is a second wave of blooming bulbs. Some of my favorite bulbs are the ones with wide, white petals and flat, round, orange centers (daffodil tazetta geranium.) To me, they look like fried eggs and so I always think of them as "fried egg" flowers. Finally, to cap off the joys of spring, the bearded irises bloom around our finial (you can see their hardy leaves in the photo above...)

But, back to those nesting birds... a few days ago, from my bedroom window, I spotted a chickadee pulling fiber from a wool ball I had hung in a tree near our feeders. I dashed across the hall to my son's room where, out the window, we have a view of one of our bird houses hanging from a large oak tree. I arrived at the window just in time to see the chickadee, a beak full of fuzz, flit into the bird house opening. I went calling for Sweet Child and Sweet Husband, and we all sat on the bed watching the industrious little bird zip back and forth, building a nest. I'm so happy to know there will be a little bird family growing inside that nesting box...

Above is another of our bird houses -- last year a family of titmice nested here. I hope they're planning to return...


Busy Day

Yesterday was busy. I had my own ideas about how I was going to spend my morning but ended up spending several hours preparing art projects for display in our school art show next month (surprise! they need the art mounted and labeled by the end of this week!) I was feeling annoyed by this change in plans but didn't stay that way for long... How could I stay in a bad mood going through artwork the children had created during lessons I had presented to them?

After school Little Mr. & I had lunch, did some homework (or rather, got distracted drawing pictures of boats and fish...)

practiced flutophone...
and baked bread...
More about that bread soon...

9.3.10

We Sew Pajamas Here!

Through November and December I was busy making gifts for others but I also managed to sneak in something for myself -- 3 pairs of bright, beautiful flannel pajama bottoms. My favorites were made from fabric by Anna Maria Horner

Of course, this brought a chorus of cries from my family, "Make pajamas for us, too!"

Tomorrow is Mr. Bloom's birthday so I'm finishing a pair for him (and a matching pair for Little Mr., just for fun...) New pajamas for everyone!

Another Day, Another Hat

Today Little Mr. requested we drive to school because he wanted to listen to our book-of-the-week on CD (we're listening to the second book in the series of The Sisters Grimm in the car -- it's a fun one...) but it was a beautiful morning and I saw no reason why we should drive to school. I told Little Mr. we would "listen to the world" instead of the book-on-CD. For a minute or so all I could hear were sounds of whining... then the rest of the world took over. We listened to a little wren (or maybe it was a sparrow high up at the top of a tree) warbling it's heart out. We saw a squirrel dashing in and out of a hole in an oak and Samuel said, "He's off to pay homage to King Acorn!" There were giant raccoon-prints in the mud and worms to rescue from puddles on the pavement. We waited at the corner for our friends and twirled around the pole...

And today Little Mr. wore the beautiful striped hat I made for him out of Noro yarn. I love making things to keep my family warm...

8.3.10

We be Pirates (arrrrh!)

Little Mr. B. wanted to be a pirate for Halloween. He wanted a good pirate hat so we found a pattern which suited his vision on .Ravelry. I made two hats (one for me and one for him), but after Halloween they were tucked away in a drawer to await another turn next fall.


Recently, however, they were dug out of the drawer and are being worn around town. Now we are pirates every day (arrrh!)

Weekend

It was a busy weekend around here. My parents drove up from Los Angeles to take care of Little Mr. so Mr. Bloom & I could go to the Ballet in SF (and eat at Arlequin Cafe) on Saturday night. They came up for a visit between my father being diagnosed with lymphoma last week and starting chemotherapy tomorrow. Coming to visit was a good thing for my parents. They've been trying to stay busy.

While they were here we went to the Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park and Samuel played with the penguins. If you slide your fingers around on the plexiglass, sometimes the penguins will follow your movement!




My father also brought us some home-made kumquat jam (like I said, he's been trying to stay busy.)


If you're reading this and so inclined, I hope you'll keep my father in your thoughts tomorrow and in the months ahead...

We Gestate Here


I never thought I'd have only one child. I thought I'd have at least three. After two rounds of IVF, we were lucky and very blessed to conceive our son (see above), but we were not so lucky with our attempts to bring home baby #2. The second time around, we went almost directly to adoption, thinking, "How hard can this be? We will sign up with an agency, fill out reams of paperwork, and at some point our second child will join our family." After more than 3 years of anticipation, then sadness, grief and problems we had never imagined, we gave up. Sobbing, we packed up and gave away car seats, strollers, board books, baby blankets, clothes and the little hats I had hand-knit in anticipation of our new arrival.

And from this I learned that sometimes you have to let go -- really let go -- to find the right answer.

I couldn't give up the idea of having a second child and then an answer I had never thought possible came to me. I met a mother in my son's kindergarten class who had been a surrogate. I thought to myself, "We've been through too much already and my husband will not have the heart to try again." At first he didn't accept the idea, but after some difficult conversations he came to a place where he was willing to try. It took only 5 weeks to find our perfect surrogate. She's everything we'd hoped for and more. She's a blessing, a miracle and generous beyond all imagining. We are expecting a baby the second week of July.

I'll keep you posted...

4.3.10

We start here...

I've been thinking for weeks about starting a blog... but I got stuck on the questions. Why blog? Is there a theme or focus? Who is it for? Me? The lovely friends who might peek in and read it? What do I call my blog? How do I start?

I thought maybe I'd start with a quote... something beautiful comparing children to flowers and in this way, cleverly refer back to title of my blog, which is (cleverly) a play on my family name. But really, I'm not that clever.

I did, however find some good quotes. The sweetest quote I found was, "The only thing worth stealing is a kiss from a sleeping child (Joe Houldsworth.)
The one which made me laugh was, "Boy, n.: a noise with dirt on it." I have a boy. Sometimes he's noisy. His hands and knees often have dirt on them. He likes flowers.

I'm expecting another boy. More on that soon...

With each child the world begins anew. (the Talmud.)