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(l)Tristan kite-flying! (r)compost hole

Yesterday, Sunday, was very industrious. We finished digging our compost hole in the backyard, and it got to be so windy that we decided to give the kite another try! We went back to the very place where my kite-flying memories took place, back in the junior-high school field. After several nose-dives our big-fishy kite took up, up, up to the sky! My husband is from Iran and told me that when he was young he would make and sell kites, so he taught me a couple of things about flying yesterday. Once you've got that baby up there, put the string directly onto the ground, not the roll of string, the actual string, and the kite will start to come right up above you. And when it starts to nose dive, give it some slack instead of pulling on it, and it will float in that tiger wind instead of fight it. Yeah! We have different ideas on how to get it up in the air initially, he likes to unreel it and have another person lift it up and let go of it once it catches a wind. I'm more of a DIY kind-of-gal (he might say stubborn!) and I like to hold the reel and let a little string out until the kite catches a small wind, then unreel slowly as it goes up, pulling and releasing as necessary. Both ways worked yesterday!

When we came home for soup and garlic bread, my son decided he wanted to go to our neighborhood ice cream shop after lunch, so I volunteered to make ice cream instead (not wanting him to have the sugar, especially just before nap!). I'd been wanting to try this ice-cream in a bag anyway that everyone except me seems to know about. I'd bought some rock salt, put it in a big bag with some ice. Combined soy-milk, strawberries, half a banana and a little agave syrup in our little Bullet (small blender) and blended it, poured it in a smaller bag and sealed it, then put the whole thing in the bag of ice and salt, sealed that and shook it vigorously for 5 minutes. At the end of all that, we had a small serving of soft ice-cream (although not as soft as I thought it would be). All the online recipes called for milk, sugar and vanilla flavoring, none of which I wanted to give Tristan - he's never been a cow-milk drinker since his dad and I are lactose-intolerant, and I attribute sugar to many of the worlds problems (not to mention a diabetic epidemic on my hubby's side of the family)!

While Tristan napped after lunch, I finished my latest collage-card paper-cut scene - A field of poppies! I like this one. Then I watched T.V. - Sunday afternoon? Not much on. Came back to my "office" and started making this cute door-handle bag with a free pattern I got from a great new blog I discovered called JCasa Handmade (on sidebar too). She's got some free patterns, interesting subjects and is fun to read.

So it was no wonder I slept like a log and woke up a little groggy...ah Monday...gym day. I'll knock this groggy-ness right out with a steam-room session!



Great blogs, backyard composting 101

backyard wisteria, early spring

I am having so much fun looking at all the great blogs and then finding lists of more blogs in the great blogs I'm seeing! I've found some real treasures and great resources, ideas, free patterns, good writing and just plain fun. I've listed some of my favorite finds in my blog list in the sidebar.

Today is a beautiful Northern California day - sunny, 74 degrees and a great day for being outside. This morning I decided to take on the task of starting a small composting space in our backyard, something I've wanted to do for awhile. I looked online for some guidelines, and then spoke to our neighbor whose backyard faces ours (only a cyclone fence with ivy, honeysuckle and wisteria separating the yards) and open up to each other via a little gate at the end of the fence. His backyard is a huge organic garden and it is a pleasure to watch it grow and blossom. He gave us a little seasonal tour, showed us the new ground for soon-to-be-planted veggies, let us pick some snow and snap peas, and gave a little advice on starting a compost.

After our foray, or perhaps I should say our forage, my son and I reached into the nether corners of our shed and pulled out two shovels and our aerator - I think that's what it is called - the four-pined ground breaker-upper might be a better description! Anyway, I got to work watering the ground and breaking up the dirt, then Tristan and I shoveled the dirt in a pile next to the hole. We dug about 6 inches down into dirt I thought was dry as a desert - and found 3 worms!! That took about 45 minutes and my little guy was a great helper - he loves dirt! Still have a ways to go. I will post more about this when there is more to tell.


Kite history and other stories


Yesterday it was a balmy California day and there was just enough wind to try out our new kite! We took it to the park and tried to get it up but by the time we got there and walked diagonally through the back-to-back ball games, the wind had mostly died down. We were unsuccessful this time but will try again - today is looking a bit breezy too...

I have a great memory of flying a kite with my mom. We took our kite to the local junior high school field out behind our house and I recall mom yelling, "O.k. now RUN, RUN, RUN!" And I ran and ran and ran and the kite was so high in the sky. I could feel the tug of the spool of string in my hand and I remember thinking, "I can't believe how high it is!" It was an exhilarating feeling to have gotten that kite up in the air.

I don't have a snapshot of this event except in my mind's eye so I cannot convey it in any way except through words. This is one of the reasons I love oral history so much. I love sitting down and listening to a story from someone who lived during a time way before I was born. The feeling of the event told shines through the words and conveys the event in the rise and fall of the voice and the emotion of the event always comes through.

Last year I got the chance to interview my dad through Storycorps, a wonderful oral-history project through NPR that gives two people the chance to sit down and have an hour-long interview. A Storycorps booth provides everything you need: a sound-recording system, a table, a dimmed, soundproof room, and a facilitator to help you through the technicalities. All you need is someone to interview and your questions. Afterwards, you get a CD of the interview and that interview also gets its very own spot in the Library of Congress, so your great-grandchildren or someone else who may need to do research on your family can listen to it someday too. NPR also has a Storycorps broadcast that you can listen to on your local public radio - that comes in podcast form too - my favorite way of listening!

Since I'm on the subject of the Library of Congress, let me include here the reason for its place on my side bar. The Library of Congress has this neat section called the American Memory Digital Library. All you need is what's in front of you: a computer with speakers. Listen to oral histories, folk music recordings, ex-slave narratives; see advertisements from the 1800's, maps from the Civil War, photos from the turn of the century...this place is a history lover's delight. Anyway, click on the link above and you can browse the collection by topic. This is where I'd be all day if I didn't have a thousand other things to do! Enjoy!


Confessions of a dilettante and the joys of sharing sleep

dining room table and chairs

I admit it, I'm a dilettante. A dabbler. A gal with lots of interests and no specialty. My aunt, whom I would say is a master hand-craftsperson, gave me some leeway today when I mentioned that to her. She said she went through that and that's just something people have to do to find out what they are really interested in - what strikes their fancies...well, she is so generous. I have an unfinished quilt (but 4 finished squares!), somewhere between 3 and 6 unfinished knitting and crocheting projects, one unfinished apron, several patterns unattended to, embroidery thread and materials that were generously given to me by my mom and aunt but never used (the interest rose...and then fell - not to say it won't return someday). Does this sound familiar to anyone? These have accumulated over the past 5 years and I truly hope to someday get to all of them. One thing I find myself finishing over and over again though are these little collage-card scenes. Glad I can start and finish something.

Speaking of completed projects, Ida Pearle (see her website on my sidebar) put out out a book recently called, A Child's Day: An Alphabet of Play. I am always so happy to see her charming artwork. She uses paper-cuts also, mostly of children in play mode. The children in her work have no features, but they have so much EXPRESSION!! Amazing what this paper medium is capable of...

And while I'm on the subject of children's expressions, very early this morning as I lay with my son while he slept soundly after having been nursed back to sleep, I heard him giggle. Oh the sound of a child giggling in his sleep must be close to heaven's music...it delights me and gives me hope that I am doing something right! I feel so lucky to share my sleeping hours with my son, as his sleep-giggles occur at least weekly, if not more often. When it's light enough in the room I also get to see the lovely smile that accompanies the sweet laugh. As tired as I was, it was a joyful way to start the day.


Play, sugar, and peanut butter

vase of flowers

I read this brief but moving article about the untimely deaths of Natasha Richardson and Jade Goody, but more importantly, making sure your kids are cared for in case any thing happens to you: http://www.newsweek.com/id/190782?GT1=43002

O.k., so it's not the most uplifting of thoughts to begin the day, but what if something happens to you before your children are old enough to care for themselves? Even a few small measures can take care of that. More importantly, and this is what I am discovering lately, that you take better care of your children if you take care of yourself too. I find that if I have time to myself in the morning, I do so much better playing with my son during the day! I can jump in with my cup o' coffee and sit on his playroom floor and just PLAY!, leaving other stuff for later. If I don't have that time in the morning, I'm admittedly not as fun and maybe a bit more grumpy. I try not to be for his sake, but it certainly helps if I wake up earlier than he does!

Speaking of grumpy, sugar is a major culprit in our house, at least for my son and me. I can handle it a little better, but I'm a known label-reader (ask my ever-so-patient mom) - I scrutinize labels ridiculously for sugar or "evaporated cane juice" as they call it in health food stores. It wreaks havoc on my son's personality and I would bet the same is true for all kids, whether parents realize it or not. So Tristan loves these little Late July brand sandwich crackers with cheese and peanut butter inside. The cheese ones, no problem, but the peanut butter ones - well, let's just say I discovered their sugar content once I saw my son's personality change. Could be that he's 2, but I'll have to find out for sure by cutting out these crackers to see if he changes BACK to the boy he was a few days ago, pre-p.b. cracker. Peanut butter is so naturally sweet anyway, I just don't understand why sugar needs to be added to it.

And speaking of peanut butter, I made another batch of cereal yesterday (I got the original recipe from a Facebook friend) - but lacked the shredded coconut I usually put in there, so I put in peanut butter instead! It was delicious, and I was able to use less oil because of peanut butter's natural oil. I used Santa Cruz Naturals, but usually I've got Maranatha brand. And in case there was any question, neither have added sugar.


Sign of the Times

couch, lamp, early spring

The "clothesline" collage-card scene that I posted on March 21st seems to be following a trend of ideas that are indicative of the current economic situation as well as the environmental crisis that we face. I sit here everyday and can easily see our neighbors yard. He had a ton of space and used it to create a huge, beautiful organic garden including a small orchard with trees that have blossomed. It's great to see such bounty so close to such a busy street.

I've noticed the trend in my own home too. We are going to farmer's market lately - more often than we used to, and we are making a lot of our own food. My husband makes great homemade yogurt that we all love to eat daily. We strained it through a cheesecloth and made some yogurt-cheese to use hopefully instead of cream cheese. I've been making my own cereal by using old-fashioned rolled oats, nuts, dried fruit, honey, oil and spices and it is delicious. I eat cereal often and it is not cheap, so making it saves us a little bit o' money. We've been eating brown rice and veggies or salad with homemade dressing (also saves a bit).

On the going green gradually front, I've asked my hubby if he minded if we stopped buying the big plastic trash bags for our tall trash can and go back to using the paper bags we get from the store. He said yes - the only downside there is we'll have to be more conscientious about taking it out more often when it gets full. Also, I got the clothespins I've been looking for. Now my hubby has the lovely task of hanging a rope out somewhere in our backyard and I'll try a hand at NOT using the dryer!! We'll see how that goes.

Little by little is how this is going. Oh, and I found this great site through Elizabeth Mitchell's (the musician, not the actress) website. It gives specific info about having a healthier home environment for your children - (and more friendly for our Mother Earth) in "Five easy steps." If you have a child, this is a must. See the website http://healthychild.org/5steps for more information. I've also posted this in my "Places I like to go in digi-land" list.


Music, Lovely Music

It's amazing how music has the ability to form a mood, break you down, lift you up and carry you through the times. Yesterday, we watched a taped episode of Jon Stewart with a solo Bruce Springsteen playing "Working on a Dream." It brought me to tears...I just love the guy and all he does.

I added a site this morning to my "Places I like to go in Digi-land" - the Elizabeth Mitchell site. She's created 3+ albums of children's music that is wonderful - it is playful, mellow, and completely engaging. Totally for mom's ears as well as kids. I used to walk/nurse my son to sleep to "You Are My Sunshine," then "Going Down the Road," (back when he would be asleep in 2 songs flat...). "Going Down the Road" is a cover of this old bluesy song by Elizabeth Cotten - an African-American woman who lived earlier this century and was this very natural musician. Here it is on a YouTube (this isn't a video, but there are videos of her singing other songs): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwdFhWNL0_M
Elizabeth Mitchell does a lovely, stunning rendition of this song.

Yesterday we also caught a PBS special (accidently dvr'd!!) honoring Paul Simon and watched Alison Krauss and Shawn Colvin singing "The Boxer" - I love listening to Alison Krauss. What a great voice.


Happy New Year! No rooz Mobarak!

Happy New Year! Friday was March 20, the first day of spring. In our house this is a big deal - my husband is from Iran and the Persian New Year is the biggest celebration of the year. We made a haf-seen, which is an arrangement each family makes in their home with seven things that begin with the letter "S" - in Farsi. Each item (grass grown from grain, coins, mirror, goldfish, garlic, saffron, a hyacinth and other items that are placed in arrangement for beauty and enhancement) represents something, for instance, rebirth, bounties of the earth, a new start, beauty, light. It is a wonderful tradition and I enjoy the symbolism of it. I don't get as excited about it as my husband, but he doesn't get as excited about Christmas as I do either! Nevertheless it is a wonderful way to ring in the springtime and celebrate along with the trees and flowers and birds.

Yesterday we went to the farmers market in Davis and got some organic veggies. Not so unusual but we are on a kick since leaving Esalen and having been fed so wonderfully for 5 days. All organic veggies fresh from the garden and whole grains - brown rice, quinoa - at every meal. Great toppings and homemade dressings to choose from...mmmm...we were spoiled and came home with an abundance of energy and feeling great! We just want to continue this into our own lives with such a running head start. Keeping away from sugar and dairy is hard sometimes, but the payoff is wonderful when I'm able to do it.

This morning my son woke up yelling for me - he had had a bad dream about DINOSAURS!! Specifically T-Rex. He is afraid of T-Rex, and turns the pages of all books that have pictures of T-Rex. Long necks however, I'm thinking, Brachiosauruses and Brontosauruses, he likes and thinks are helpful. I attribute this to the book "The Littlest Dinosaur" by Michael Foreman. Great book for children. We have checked this book out from the library continuously for about 2 months. I'm afraid if one day we don't have it there might be some tears, but it is slowly going out of our reading circulation. The story idea has not and we are constantly talking about Mr. Long Neck saving -someone- by pulling them out of the mud. Anyway, whenever Tristan is scared he holds his tummy as if to show where the fear is! Amazing...I told someone about this at the Gangaji retreat and they said that's where fear comes from - the solar plexus (if I'm remembering correctly).

It's Sunday and we took our almost ritual family walk - along the river this time - and saw so many beautiful wildflowers! I never knew such beauty could proliferate along a polluted river! Tristan got his train tracks too, although not the train ride unfortunately. The track was under construction, hopefully a sign of infrastructure dollars at work? Some wildflowers we picked and Tristan with his daddy.


Clear windows and Crafty Mamas


This past week at Esalen in Big Sur, my hubby, son and I got a chance to rest and play. Tristan enjoyed the meadow, the ocean, the expansive organic garden and the Gazebo school while I got a chance to hang out all by myself for the first time since before he was born. One day I volunteered to work in the garden (not a selfless act, I love to garden occasionally, especially now that I don't have my own)! Two of the days had morning pranayama (breath) and yoga classes, which I thankfully took part in. Thomas was the teacher and at one point in the class he talked about how conscious breathing was like a window, and if you paid attention you could really see things - everything around you - clearly. I'm paraphrasing there, so it might not be exactly what he said, but it was very clear in that moment, and I was breathing consciously and seeing everything quite clearly at that moment. What a wonderful moment! Nothing in front of me, nothing behind me, just right there. I love being a mom but it does make for a very busy mind!

A week or so before leaving for Big Sur I got my new copy of Mothering magazine where I read a great article about crafty mamas! I began to look at these women's blogs and was hit again with inspiration...and a little envy! How I wished I could whip up something as quick as the Soule Mama and Angry Chicken moms can! Anyway, it inspired me to make a little wrap-around-skirt with a great fabric of colorful umbrellas hemmed with a forest green grosgrain ribbon. My first effort - not bad. I'm lucky to have been raised by a mom who grew up sewing her own clothes (even her own wedding dress!) and spent some time with me during my youth teaching me a little about how to use a sewing machine. I got my own machine while I was pregnant hoping to finish a quilt I started working on. I finished all the cutting but by the time I was done, I was 6 months pregnant and my hands were crippled with pregnancy carpal-tunnel, and I just couldn't finish...someday though! Looking at these women's blogs daily though, gives me further inspiration for what may someday become a master's project, or at least somehow incorporated: the history of women's handwork (in the United States). Lots of women bringing this back into vogue - through expression of creativity and sometimes necessity these days, I am so excited to research this topic. Someday soon hopefully...

On your mark...

well, I guess I should start by saying how excited I was to come up with "gennysent page" - it's my first name, middle initial and first 3 letters of my last name "genny s. ent" and "page,"which is obvious. Rhymes with "the innocent age." Innocent being this time in life where my son Tristan, 27 months, is and hopefully will remain for quite some time! "The Innocent Age" also refers to Edith Wharton's book of same title, a nod to fiction, which I love to read, and also a nod to history, which I can't get enough of. I will hopefully start school again in the fall to finish a masters in Public History. Part of the reason I've started this blog is because of the ideas I am coming up with in the areas of history I am most interested in, mainly material history: the history of things - that which you can lay your hands on, the physical evidence of time past/passed. At the moment I am in the middle of a creative explosion which came upon suddenly in the form of one of those materials: paper.

I've always loved paper, to touch fine paper, write on it with a good pen and now, as this creative endeavor has been going, to draw on it and cut it out and paste it onto cardstock in the form of something. A couch and lamp, a vase of flowers upon a table over a persian carpet, a dining room table and chairs, zoo animals, clothes hanging from a clothesline, and on and on...Initially this started because my friend Felicia sent out postcards of collage art every Chinese New Year with that year's animal. During a trip to Amsterdam last May at a sweet little brunch cafe there was some wall art of a cut-out tree with many leaves, each leaf separate and placed individually onto the wall like wallpaper. These two things started the idea, as well as falling in love with the chiyogami paper at the art store...

I have one son whom I love more than words can say, as all mothers love their children. I'm also crazy about my hubby who I've been with for 9 years. We had/have a mutual love of travel, which hasn't seemed to dissipate even with a young child. I find myself in the unique?, lucky?, position of traveling often and occasionally far, as my husband follows his teacher, Gangaji, from place to place. This took us to Amsterdam in May, took him to Vancouver, B.C. in July, and we took an East Coast trip to Boston, Berkshires and NYC last September when Gangaji was at the Kripalu Institute in Lenox, Massachusetts. Yesterday, we returned from Esalen in Big Sur, California, where Gangaji had satsang that my hubby attended. Tristan had his first hours away from mom (or, I should say, mom had her first hours away from Tristan) as he played intently with other children and teachers at the Gazebo school. And mom, yes, yo, got to have some serious down time. The first in over 2 and a half years. You are doing the math with the 27 months there, I can tell, so let me just ask, is it really possible to relax when you are past 6 months pregnant?