Monday, December 8, 2008

Traveling Through Egypt

My friends and Starlight customers Gayle and Marty were headed off to cruise the Nile and visit to the pyramids in Egypt. Fellow lovers of whimsy, they took home some Starlight mice and set up a hidden camera to see if they could catch these little stowaways in the act of stowing away. Little did the mice know that Gayle and Marty were already planning to take them along on the trip.

It didn't take long for the mice to find the travel brochure and start planning. Those pyramids didn't look all that big to them, they commented in a barely audible whisper.

Here they are on camera, looking their sneakiest. A few seconds later they were deep inside their suitcases, burrowing quietly into carefully packed shirts and socks.

Taking pity on them Marty and Gayle coaxed them from the suitcases and assured them that they were welcome to travel carry-on class.

One problem with burrowing is that it's hard on your ears especially if they are made of sliced almonds. But no matter, these were two happy mice sharing a window seat with Gayle.

Then onto an air-conditioned bus!

Marty photographed them jumping for joy as they caught their first glimpses of the city through the tour bus window. Then they posed for a more formal photo.

And that was just the beginning! Next stop, the Nile River.

They reserved their own sun deck for the cruise down the Nile. Well-fed and pampered, it was a Starlight mouse's dream come true!

At stop in Aswan, Egypt... a photo opportunity.

Then back to Cairo to see the pyramids.

"Hey, this looks like the brochure only a LOT bigger," he said.
"Yeah, and I don't think I want to ride on a camel either," she said.

Gayle assured them she could get them safely past all nearby camels and they really shouldn't pass up their chance to scamper about on a pyramid.

In the end, they agreed that actually standing on a pyramid was awesome!

And all too soon it was time to go back to the United States. But they had to admit feeling a little homesick when Gayle and Marty took out for Sbarro Pizza at an airport in Egypt.

They were feeling a bit road weary but after nibbling on a pizza, sharing a can of Pepsi(?), and some refreshing bottled water they were ready for the long flight home and eager to share their adventures with other Starlight Mice seeking similar adventures.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Mouse Meets Wolfe

Every year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, my family and friends come to bake cookies at the Wolfe Family Cookie Bake. I mean a lot of cookies... like so many you never want to see another cookie again for a while... like a day or so.

Hmm, we probably should have warned my nephew Ed about the Starlight mice.

Our two-year-old friend Maxine was not intimidated at all by the appearance of a Starlight Mouse. In fact she found them quite enchanting and took one home with her.

Learning to make cookies from the more experienced, this Starlight Mouse watched gratefully, nibbling on few dough scraps while he watched.

You can see that this is an especially good table to be at if you like sugar decorations on your cookies (click on the photo for an up-close look).

A Starlight Mouse quickly heads toward bit of chocolate dough when Lorna isn't looking.

Fortunately for man and mouse, we serve sandwiches between desserts. So while the rest of us were slaving over pans of hot cookies, Dave and Nick were busy making sandwiches.

For a Starlight Mouse, life can't get much better than this.

Friday, November 21, 2008

OSU Tailgate Party

My cousin Peg reads our blog regularly, so she knew about the spread of the Starlight Mice. But you can imagine her surprise when she arrived early for a football game at Ohio State University to discover that these Starlight Mice had arrived earlier and had chosen the best seats. They'd already had a little wine and cheese and were warmed up and ready for the game.

Peg and her husband George decided to join them for a little pre-game food and talk (after a few photographs since Peg knew I'd be amazed to learn that there are Starlight Mice in Columbus, Ohio!).

Peg and George are both academic advisors at Ohio State so they have no problem initiating discussion with fellow football enthusiasts.

But the really amazing thing is that by the end of the game, two of the mice had signed up for engineering courses and one was going to look into becoming a library media specialist online through the Ohio Learning Network.

Go Buckeyes!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Visiting Portugal

Recognizing that their second Starlight mouse needed a little sunshine, Lucy and Bill invited her to join them on a visit to sunny Portugal. (Their other mouse preferred to stay in Belgium to explore rain-soaked streets and alleyways with Jolie, his new cat friend... quite adventurous for a bread dough mouse).

You can see in this photo that the trip perked her right up. Here she is enjoying the sunny balcony of their beachside hotel in Bergau, Portugal.

Turns out that before leaving, this bright little mouse had been checking out Portuguese tourist information on their friend Gary's computer and she'd read about the Wind Rose Compass at the fortress of Prince Henry the Navigator in Ponto de Sagres (sometimes referred to as "the end of the world"). When she told Bill the Sailor and Lucy the Librarian about it, they too were excited about seeing it.

She explained that way back in the 1400s Prince Henry organized many expeditions to explore the world beyond Portugal. Henry was especially interested in the development of maps and navigational equipment. This compass is said to have been built at his fort during his lifetime. It was a seafaring tool used to identify the directions of the winds. The wind rose compass evolved into the compass we use today (which is much easier to carry in your pocket).

And she found a really cool looking rock right nearby to sit on...
so Lucy could take her picture.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Stalking the Giant Pumpkin

You might or might not have noticed over on the Starlight Bakery blog that one of the Starlight mice joined us in our visit to the Padaro Floral Pumpkin Patch in Carpinteria this week.

The pumpkin patch is located on Via Real to around behind and to the right of the Padaro Floral building. We got off at the Santa Claus exit, turned left over the freeway and right onto Via Real. Then headed toward the large pumpkin balloon floating above the patch.

The patch is run by Michelle Van Wingerden (owner of Padaro Floral) and her parents. The guy on the left is a representation of her dad, who has sold pumpkins, gourds, and Indian corn from the patch for over 10 years. (If you click on the photo, you'll see our fearless little mouse sitting in his hand.)

Taking a closer look at some Indian corn still on the stalks, I found my mouse friend had gotten there before me and scurried up the stalk to see if he could peak at the colorful kernels inside the husk.

A few minutes later I found him gazing at some nearby egg-shaped squash or gourds, still attached to the vine.

He suggested that this gourd when dried, could be made into a boat just his size.

And this turban squash would make a lovely home with a few windows and a tiny door. Romantic, but not really very practical. However, these squash do make lovely pumpkin pies.

Aha! There it was, just as he had expected... the giant pumpkin he had hoped to find.

We were quite glad we'd invited him because he helped us see the pumpkin patch in a whole new way.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Belgian Cat Meets Starlight Mouse

One of Lucy's Starlight mice, the most adventurous one, decided to explore the house Lucy and Bill were visiting in Belgium. Lucy forgot to warn him about her friend Debbie's cat, Jolie.

Jolie obviously had never met such a brave little mouse before and wasn't quite sure where he had come from or why he was sharing her chair. I suppose Belgian mice are more hesitant to greet a cat face to face.

Within moments, however, Jolie recognized that a smart little mouse like this could make a good friend. Plus she found his American accent to be quite adorable.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

An American Mouse in Belgium

My friends Lucy and Bill were leaving for Belgium last week so I went over to visit with them before they left and give them a few challah mice. I guess I should have reminded them to check the freezer before they left to be sure that all the mice were accounted for.

They had two stopovers on their way to Belgium. The discovery of the first Starlight mouse came in Denver when they were checking on their flight to Washington DC.

This little stowaway apparently hid in one of their carry-on bags. Starlight mice like to travel, so it is best not to leave your suitcase unattended while packing for your flight. I have to admit, if I was small enough to get into a carry-on, I would have been on that flight with them too. But I guess the next best thing is to enjoy the trip through the eyes of a Starlight mouse.

Oops, make that two Starlight mice.

Already a bit fatigued from travel and waiting between flights, these two mice rest together, people watching in the waiting area before they board the plane for the long trip over the ocean. I'm curious how they made it past security. I think it helps to be cute.

So Lucy emailed me that they all made it safely to Belgium. She says it's raining quite a bit, but that isn't stopping them from exploring.

Here's Bill taking a photo. Note the little alcove to the lower left of the large wooden doors. Looks like a good place for a Starlight mouse to get out of the rain. Unless you are a mouse, you probably wouldn't have noticed this. We would have just been looking at the size of those gigantic doors and wondering if a giant lived there.

I'm anxiously awaiting more photos from Belgium. I've also heard that there have been Starlight mouse sightings in Portland Oregon and Columbus Ohio, and possibly Berlin Germany, but I have yet to see actual documentation of them. I'll post it as soon as I do.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Making Friends

I made a crop of salt dough mice this week to send off to distant places. I put them on a plastic nursery tray to dry. My golden retriever, discovered them this morning. She has a fascination for small animals. She will sit for long periods watching the my fish swim around the fish tank. (She also likes to follow the cursor as it moves around a large computer screen.)

On her way through my office this morning she bumped into the drying tray (retrievers are especially good at bumping into things). When she saw the mice, she must have realized that the mice were staring back at her. So she sat down to study them.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Big Sur

The drive up the coast from Cayucos to Big Sur was foggy in places so we couldn't see the drop from the edge of the road to the ocean... a good thing. At least we could see the yellow line between lanes.

However the sun was out at Big Sur. The recent fire had burned down to the edge of the road on both sides, but it is still a beautiful place with some huge redwoods. Many of the trails are closed while they evaluate and clean up after the fire. The rangers sent us down to Andrew Molero State Park to walk the trail to the ocean, which is still open.

The beach is full of rocks being polished by the waves. As the waves recede, the rumble of the rocks sounds like an audience applauding. We made a couple of announcements about our hopes for the upcoming Presidential election and waited for the applause, which came on cue.

After our 2-mile walk, we were hungry for lunch, so we consulted with Henry to see if he'd join us. We needed to find a restaurant that would welcome mice. As we approached the River Inn Restaurant, we noted that the sign read "Country Food." That sounded hopeful.

Turns out it they had excellent food. Dave had an Angus burger on a delicious ciabatta bun with sweet potato fries on the side. I had a carrot ginger soup that was absolutely the best balance of those flavors I've ever tasted. We were too full to try their famous apple pie (made there since the 1930s). Later we were sorry we hadn't tried it. Oh well, next time we'll eat fewer fries so we can try the pie.

After lunch we went for a walk in the redwood part of the forest. Henry came along thinking maybe he would find Rosemary. We tried not to dash his hopes but we didn't think there was much chance that she'd show up.

Okay, what do I know about the ability of Starlight mice to communicate over long distances. This was a very exciting moment for both Henry and Rosemary!

As Rosemary shared the stories of her adventures with Henry, we could see that he was meant to stay in the forest with her. So we said goodbye to them and headed back down Highway 1 with an empty glove compartment, but the sun was out and we were happy to know that we'd done our part to help re-populate the forest.

I am no stranger to the reproductive power of mice... ever since my purchase of two pregnant mice back when Michelann and Shaun were young. That experience turned into a marvelous lesson in exponential mathematics. Within months our laundry room was filled with aquariums containing baby, adolescent, and adult mice. No matter how hard we tried, we couldn't get the boy babies separated from the girl babies fast enough to prevent new litters of happy healthy baby mice. Eventually we found homes for all of them in the wild hills of the San Marcos Pass.

So I was not terribly surprised when I arrived back at the condo and opened the freezer the next morning to get some challah for breakfast.

Looks like we'd brought along a pregnant challah mouse without realizing it. I expect more Starlight mouse adventures lie ahead.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Waiting for Updates

A Hitchhiker

You can imagine my surprise when I opened the glove compartment of our rented car to find a Starlight mouse sitting on my map to the condo we are staying in. We were almost to the turn-off so I needed to think quickly.

I used our cherry tomato basket to keep this little guy in the glove compartment while we found our way to the condo. He doesn't look too happy about this.

However, once we got to the condo, he cheered up a bit. His name is Henry. He was particularly fond of Rosemary, the mouse who jumped from John's plane into the Big Sur Forest. He didn't want to be left behind on our visit to Big Sur so we agreed to take him with us.

The next morning when I opened the curtains, I found him resting on the balcony railing. We decided to take him with us on our visit to Cambria that day. We are staying in Cayucos, which is very close to Cambria.

In Cambria, we visited my favorite herb garden and shop called Heart's Ease.

I was barely out of the car when I spotted Henry sitting on an ornamental garden swing... just his size.

He insisted that the Welcome sign was meant for Starlight mice because otherwise why would they have a swing just his size?

I tried to explain that this was a whimsical garden ornament... but then what is more whimsical than a Starlight mouse sitting on a garden swing?

It was easier to let him stay on the swing than to try to convince him not to come into the shop.

The shop is filled with dried herbs for seasoning as well as fragrant potpourri mixes you can buy by the ounce, cosmetics, books, seeds, and lots of lovely gifts.

Behind the shop is the garden with winding paths, butterflies and flowering plants and herbs for sale. It takes at least an hour or two to visit this shop. All purchases packaged and tied with sprigs of a fresh fragrant herbs.

Luckily it was lunch time when we finished and right across the street is Robin's Restaurant. Robin's offers a changing selection of deli salads as well as healthy tasty entrees. I chose a selection of three salads: Asian calamari, eggplant, and snowpeas with asparagas. Fortunately for Henry, I couldn't eat it all myself.

After a stop at Harmony (population 18) to buy some pottery, we went back to spend the rest of our day in Cayucos.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Rosemary Meets Rosebud

My friends Anne and John Wiley flew to Monterey on Labor Day weekend. They took some Rosemary Mice with them on the trip. As John flew over Hearst Castle (Citizen Kane's aka Rosebud's home), Anne gave Rosemary a chance to look at the Castle from above.

Apparently Rosemary became so excited when they were flying over Big Sur that she jumped from the plane. John says, "We were alarmed at first, but then realized she would survive the leap and do quite well among the other critters repopulating the recently-burned forest. We held the other three Nancy gave us all the tighter so they'd finish the journey with us."

Dave and I have plans to visit Big Sur this week. Wouldn't it be amazing if we saw Rosemary in the forest?

Rosemary Mouse Sighting

Guess what? I discovered a Rosemary Mouse sitting on my cutting board this week! I think they are breeding.

Actually, I've been making vegan challah for the co-op (an egg bread without eggs...), and using the scraps to make challah mice, birds, and hedgehogs. This week when Dave and I were forming the Rosemary Potato Bread and Buns, we had some leftover dough so I made Rosemary Mice!

When I made a delivery yesterday to the Breast Cancer Resource Center, they were just putting together a platter of cheese and fruit. We added a rosemary mouse. Now who could look at that and not laugh? I can visualize these mice spreading to cheese platters across town.

Since we always have a little dough left when we loaf the breads, we may find our freezer filling up with Swedish rye mice, Anita's black bread mice, Rustic white bread mice, and multigrain mice as well as Rosemary Mice.

Rosemary mice meet to discuss breeding plans.

The Story of the Rosemary Mice

The first Rosemary Mouse was discovered in my friend Kathy's kitchen in Ojai, CA. Not a good marketing story, but too funny not to share. Kathy lives on a hill in Ojai. Sometimes her cats bring in mice to play with... because after all, they are well-fed well-bred cats who don't actually EAT mice.

On a recent visit, I'd taken Kathy some of our Starlight Bakery Rosemary Focaccia. A few days later while cleaning her counter top, she noticed some mouse droppings. This led to a thorough cleaning of everything in the kitchen, including the drawers and cabinets. She applied herbal deterrents to any space that might harbor an undoubtedly pregnant mouse.

When the job was finally done, she rewarded herself with a bowl of soup and a piece of Rosemary Focaccia. Tired, but satisfied, she took her dishes to the sink to wash up. There on the cutting board were more mouse droppings... the cutting board she had used to cut her slice of Rosemary Focaccia. Then she looked a little closer and realized that the mouse droppings were actually just bits of rosemary that had fallen off the bread.

In the end she had a good laugh and a really clean kitchen.