Back in the Garden

We have spent the best part of this summer in the Missouri Botanical Gardens.   We have been so lucky to live in a city with so many free activities in such gorgeous surroundings.  We have enjoyed many things about this beautiful spot.

In our first year here (pre-Kazuo) we attended the weekly summer Jazz sessions for an evening picnic in the park.  We had a fabulous weekend at the Japanese festival over Labour Weekend and brought many of our overseas visitors to the gardens to enjoy a stroll.

When Kazuo joined us, it became a favourite place to take some exercise, and we even managed a family portrait (thanks to our talented friend Denise) when the O’Connors visited us last March.

One of my favourite aspects of the garden is the variety of well-placed sculpture.  I am always drawn to the exuberant joy of this particular piece:

This spring we discovered the delights of the Children’s Garden and MOBOT has become a regular weekly destination that has featured often in my This Moment posts.  Kazuo loves this well-designed space.  Particularly the General Store where he can carry around fake fruit and vegetables to his heart’s content.  This has become increasingly alluring as his vocabulary has expanded to encompass most of the objects he is playing with.

Today Kazuo and I met ‘Emmy’ and her mama there for a stroll, feeding the koi/ducks/turtles and some free-roaming play in the children’s garden.  It was a beautiful morning – just the right temperature – and the gardens were teeming with locals enjoying the free entry on a Wednesday morning.  As per usual, Kazuo made a bee-line for the store, but we also managed a happy little interlude in the outdoor music area.

We are soaking up the sunny days in this magical place.

Charmed By…

With thoughts of creating a thrifty yet homely and hospitable space in Scotland that finally brings ALL our beloved things from around the world into one place, I have been casting about in my spare time for inspiration.  In the meantime, I have also tripped over a few things that have me longing for disposable income.  But since that may be a LOOONG time coming, I will just post them here and come back and daydream over them from time to time.  And you can enjoy them too.

  • Black seems a theme in our meagre decor and I really like how this guy has done it:

  • Am already dreaming of painting everything I find…so I need to have some good DIY tips to fall back on.  This post is really handy.
  • I would LOVE this beautiful stationery…

  • …and I have been dreaming of William Morris for years.  So if anyone feels like sending me this gorgeous book for Christmas…well you KNOW I will love it, hehe.

  • While seeking handmade double espresso cups, I stumbled across these beautiful Japanese-style pottery bowls…love, love, love.
  • Which reminds me of how grateful I was to receive these darling dishes from my sister when she came (not strictly a covet as I HAVE them…but I would love some more earthy gems to go with them…):

This Moment

{this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

Check out SouleMama for the inspiration.

Ten Things of Happiness

Right now there is a lot buzzing about in my head…here are few things that are making me happy.  How about you?

1. The wonderful images created by Bianca Gomez, especially the wonderful birds she created for

2. Cucumbers, they taste so good right now…looking forward to when they will grow in my yard:

3.  Hoping to find a spot in the new house for crafty things, and with this in mind, I want to source some better quality materials on our arrival, like this wonderful plant dyed wool felt.

4. Gingerbread, and the little one’s delight at eating ‘Men’ – especially the overjoyed dance of foodie ecstasy:

5.  The gorgeous images at The Vintage Moth:

4. Finding some good thinking about eating locally has been going on at our destination.

5. My orange mint plant spilling abundantly out on the balcony – not much else can thrive out there, but this little hardy number gives me some hope!

6. I’ve not worn these for years, but they fill me with thoughts of sandy summer afternoons:

7. Slowly a little Autumn wearing for the wee guy is taking shape on my needles:

8. I know I am horribly conservative here, but my feet are so particular, and the last pair of these I owned were SO comfy that I overlooked the slightly less than stylish thing…and I could walk for days in them and they lasted AGES, it is time for some new ones this winter I think:

9. This bag – I know, not terribly practical, but rather lovely all the same:

10.  These guys…they ALWAYS make me happy…

Summer Days

While our heads are largely up in the cloud of moving-to-Scotland-in-September, the rest of us is down on the ground of our last St Louis summer.  With Kazuo asking about going to the ‘park’ (yes, his words are advancing) every waking moment (even when we are at a park, or on our way home from a park…it is rather relentless), it has had to have been in the high 90’s with 90% humidity to keep us indoors.  There have been plenty of those days in the past few weeks, and even then, we have gone to the park in the early morning and after tea when the sun has waned a little.  But this week – glorious.  Temps in the 80’s and crisp dry mornings have made for a lot more outdoor fun.

Tuesday we  re-conquered the City Garden with our friends Janna and Sofia.  The wee tots tootled about the sculptures.  Sofia larked about in the fountains while Kazuo edged in then veered away from the water in his usual fashion.  It was a delightful morning of sun, water and stylish sculpture.  A place that St Louis should be justly proud of and another space we know we will miss.

Getting Out More

After illness number four of the winter, I had a little bit of a meltdown about how confined I had felt this year.  Silly me.

But in his inimically pragmatic fashion, Akira insisted that the answer was just for me to get out more in the evenings.  Predictably, I balked.  He doesn’t get out much himself…It wouldn’t seem fair…and I am so tired at the end of the day…etc etc etc blah blah blah…

So I took him literally…and have been out three times in the past week – whew, I am tired!  Though in actuality the only night I went to bed later than usual was the night of laundry…and that was to be expected.

Initially it was the lovely Julia who hosted a girly night at her house last Friday – just wine, chocolate and good company.  Then on Wednesday I met this little fella:

He is our friend Ruthann’s tiny little darling and hanging out with them made me realise afresh that new born animals are as much hard work initially as newborn people…but at least a baby human won’t bite or scratch you to bits!  He really is the sweetest wee thing, and I am looking forward to him becoming friends with our little person.

Finally, last night Denise and her friend Ludmila took me out to a gallery opening, first one in a LONG time.  I wasn’t too infatuated with the styrofoam/plastic installation in the middle of the gallery floor (looked like something Kaz might do with the recycling in the kitchen) but the intricate images that Amanda Hughen created on mylar and the tiny worlds Carin Mincemoyer created in discarded packaging:

were quite ethereal and whimsical and worth the trip out.  I also loved the intimacy of the space at Good Citizen.

It is great to be getting out more…I may not take advantage SO much in the coming week (esp since Akira has a birthday coming up and deserves some time out himself) but it does make me feel a little less joined at the hip to Kazuo, and maybe a little more connected to the world at large.  Doesn’t take much!

Crafty Amazingness

Last year when I had a rare crafternoon with Julia (and my sewing machine jammed irretrievably), she was working on the most incredible paper cutting delights with some old Funk and Wagnalls Encyclopedias.  Imagine my joy when she presented us with our very own masterpiece for Christmas:

Here is a side view, including the lovely old book binding – I’m pretty sure my father sold Funk and Wagnalls in the 60’s, so it was a doubly poignant gift:

Today I finally made it a wall in our dining room of arty little companions that I had been collecting up for sometime:

Here they are looking very much at home. I am so grateful for Julia’s crafty contribution to our decor!

New Year

It seems a little silly to be recording my New Year’s Resolutions now, in February… But so far 2010 has kinda caught me by surprise and for a number of reasons, I have gotten off to a very slow start.  So here I am, bearing in mind that it is also the start of a decade, resolving afresh to do all the usual things (be better with money, eat well, exercise more blah blah blah) and also hoping to take a longer view of my aspirations.

I’ve also been reflecting on my thoughts at the start of last year, when I was heavily pregnant and everything seemed to be on ‘pause’ while we waited to see who would arrive and how he/she would impact on our lives.

This year we are in limbo again as we look ahead to the end of our time in the US and try and imagine where we will end up next.  Once again this is totally determined by Akira’s career choices, which is fair since that is why we made the big move to come here.  But I am hoping that this year might bring some clarity for me in terms of potential career-changing new directions.

So what am I resolving to be purposeful about as we enter 2010?

  1. I may need to change the title of the blog as this is the year for returning to the paid workforce in some manner.  Ideally I would like this to be ‘part-time’ so that I can still be primarily focused on caring for Kazuo.  But the increased costs of being resident aliens (we are now ‘substantially present’ here!) and childcare may impact on that decision.  With this in mind, I have applied for a work permit this week, so it will be a few months yet before I can seek out employment, but we are making progress on childcare options for Kazuo…so Not Working may take a change of direction…
  2. I did what I could to stay somewhat politically engaged over the past year and hope to at least maintain my regular attendance at Amnesty International meetings.  Whether I can sustain any more active involvement really hinges on the outcome of point 1.
  3. We need to totally trim down our food outgoings…at the same time that Kazuo is ramping up his solid food intake – sheesh!  So, more creative ideas need to kick in really soon (have been rather meticulous about this lately… doing OK so far) for healthy food that we all love, that is nutritious and appetising and that keeps down the costs.  Being a working mama may erode this resolution… and it seems like a tall order – but imperative nonetheless.
  4. The weather is really cramping my exercising style – last year it took until September to lose the baby weight, but it DID go…now I need to lose my winter layer!  I am keen to get Kazuo and I back on my bike in some fashion in the Spring.  Perhaps Akira and I both need to join a gym…
  5. I still wanna get crafty for cash…I have a few ideas but they do require capital and time, both of which are still a little scarce.  But after the Fall craft shows in STL last year, I felt newly energised.  So need to make this a priority I think.
  6. I would like to become a slightly more chilled out individual this year – I know that seems unlikely, but it might be good for all concerned.  So I guess I need to look out some me-time things that make me feel connected to others, and to myself…yoga? date nights? getting arty/crafty? more weekend girly time? naps?…ideas anyone?
  7. Time for doing the things I love…reading, watching films, listening to music, going to theatre…hmmmm I need to make these things somehow fit into family life.
  8. Kazuo is my number one priority these days…so it is only fair to say I am pretty much resolved to help him grow into a happy little guy.  Guess that goes without saying though…
  9. Become a little more other-centred again.  Life became very insular when adjusting to the newness of parenting, but we are getting a little into the swing of that now, and should have a bit of a hiatus before we consider whether we will go down that route again, so I think that in considering paid employment and any ‘spare’ time I may have, I am keen to think about how I might make my time count for those in less abundant circumstances.
  10. Cultivating wonder was a priority last year, and as I had imagined, Kazuo gave plenty of opportunity for that to happen. Getting outside into the natural world and continuing to foster that wonderment is also important for me right now.   I wish to combine that with an increased sense of gratitude this coming year…

So, that is enough I think.  The year ahead will be galvanising for me personally, for our family life and for Kazuo’s development.  I look forward to seeing how it will all pan out, and hope that having at least some sense of purpose will help when things seem a little murky.

AI Art Auction – Part II

Well, last night was a lovely evening… and somewhat of a success as far as Amnesty is concerned.  Friend and members came out to support the work of Amnesty International, have a drink or two, find out about the Women of Zimbabwe Arise movement and take some art home with them.  We were grateful for the generosity of our friends, and for the donations of the artists and I think everyone was pleased with their acquisitions.

A BIG grateful THANKYOU from me goes to Claire, Katie and Denise who came out on a busy week night… wonderful to see them and extremely wonderful of Katie to buy this wooly beret that looks superb on her!

On the nibbles front, I tried out this recipe for stuffed mushrooms from Purple Foodie, but made some adaptations due to the resources and time available to me, and the limitations of my oven.  My adapted recipe, which made about 60 little button mushrooms – that I thought turned out pretty OK for a first experiment – is below:

Herb Butter Mushrooms With Mozzarella

30 oz. button mushrooms or cremini mushrooms (I used both for a nice mix)

6-8 cloves of garlic, minced

1/4C of Basil leaves

3 stems Rosemary leaves

45g/3tbsp cold butter, cut into tiny cubes

Olive oil to brush the baking sheet and mushrooms

4 oz./115g mozzarella

Salt and pepper

  1. Brush the pan with olive oil and place the mushrooms gill sides up with the stem removed.
  2. Chop the stems in the food processor with the garlic, basil and rosemary and stuff it back into the mushrooms.
  3. Dot the mushroom stuffing with cold butter.
  4. Brush with olive oil and top it with thin slices of mozzarella cheese.
  5. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Slip the pan under a broiler for 5-7 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling and the mushrooms fragrant
  7. Pop the pan into the oven on a low heat (~325F) for about 10mins to allow mushrooms to cook a little more.
  8. Put pan on top of oven for final 10mins to allow mushrooms to stew in their own juices a little…
  9. Transfer to a plate, garnish with cilantro and serve immediately (or in this case… even later in the day they are still moist and tasty)!

I’d have taken you a photo of them… but the day was a little crazy, so I didn’t quite get there… you will just have to imagine as they are all gone.  This might be my new party treat.

AI Art Auction I

OK, I know I have mentioned this already.  But today is the day of our Amnesty Art Auction.  I am going to the farmer’s market/library/post office, preparing nibbles, getting early dinner and pretty much putting everything in order so that I can escape the house – leaving Dada in charge, for which I am extremely grateful – at 6pm… unheard of!  So I don’t have oodles of time for any kinda internet musings.

But I have high hopes for a good night out and some happy fundraising activity.  If you are reading this today… PLEASE come join us at 7pm at SqWires in Lafayette Square, there will be a cash bar (proceeds to AI) and some nibbles (hopefully some from me, if I get my act into gear) and good company!