'How many of you are artsy-craftsy?'

On the day most of Los Angeles was distracted by the arrival of the Pope, one group of women kept its attention firmly on welcoming new residents to Northridge.

About 20 members of the Northridge Newcomers attended the organization's regular breakfast meeting Tuesday. Their agenda was to socialize, take care of old and new business and learn how to make silk flower arrangements and some of those quaint little things that appear in houses around Christmas.

As chance would have it, they were also welcoming one new member, a woman who moved to Northridge not long ago from Toledo.

The Newcomers are patterned after an international organization with chapters scattered around the world's cities to help people who have moved feel at home in their new communities. The Northridge club doesn't belong to the international, however, because it has a style of its own.

In the chartered clubs, members are given three years to adjust, then they graduate to a higher-level social group for dancing, bridge and self-education. The Northridge women have just one club for everyone. Some women have been in it 15 years.

There are offshoot groups that play bridge, go on trips and get together to prepare gourmet meals.

On Tuesday, the women gathered at Reuben's Restaurant on Devonshire Street at 9:30, two hours before it opened to the public.

They sat four to a table across a large room.

I sat next to the new member from Toledo. She was Bobbe Bean, a mother of five. Across from her sat Reita Stanis, the hospitality chairman. By coincidence, Stanis also came from Toledo, but she has lived in Los Angeles since 1972. The third woman at the table, Rose Murray, also grew up in Ohio.

"Cleveland, the armpit of the nation," she said. "You can print that."

The women chatted a few minutes before Bean realized she and Stanis had met before. Both had belonged to the Welcome Wagon in Toledo.

"I remember you and your husband, Dick," Bean said. "You moved before we did."

"We moved in January of '72," Stanis said. It was a company transfer. But they liked Los Angeles, so they bought a concrete-pumping company.

"Now we don't get transferred anywhere," Stanis said.

Bean, who is married to a pharmaceutical salesman, has seen a few transfers.

"We moved out East," Bean said. "Then we moved back to the Midwest, and then we moved here." They reminisced as they ate bacon, scrambled eggs and potatoes.

"The kids were really young and we had a coffee group," Stanis said.

"Yeah, we had coffee at Diane's house."

"Have you kept in contact with Diane?" Stanis asked.

Bean hadn't.

"Isn't your youngest around 14?" Stanis asked.

"Are you kidding?" Bean said. "The baby is 22."

Meanwhile, the club's business passed quickly. The treasurer had this to say:

"I'll be glad to take anyone's dues."

President Margaret Hill asked if there was any old business. There was none. There was also no new business.

The business meeting thus over, the floor was turned over to Mary Ann Adams, owner of Green With Ivy, a Granada Hills store that sells plants, flowers, gifts and balloons.

She was giving a demonstration on arranging silk flowers.

"How many of you are artsy-craftsy?" Adams, a girthy and cheerful woman wearing a green T-shirt, asked.

Not very many hands went up.

"When you leave here, everyone should say, 'I am creative,' " Adams said.

She showed a glass vase with a bouquet of silk flowers in it. She said the vase was standard florist issue and the flowers could be bought at Pic 'N' Save.

"This is just a bunch of flowers stuck in a vase," she said. "Anybody have trouble with this? How many of you've got terrariums and they're dead?"

She produced a small terrarium sprouting rich living colors.

"These are silk," she said. "You can't kill them. My mother will mildew them because she waters them. But you can't kill them."

The women at my table liked the humor. But they didn't think of themselves as the artsy type, anyway.

What they did all like was bridge.

"We played 140 hands one weekend . . . " Murray said.

"Including a little shopping, dips in the pool and dinners," Stanis added.

That reminded a woman at the next table that she always wanted to start a dieters' group but figured it wouldn't work out.

"We'd have a diet meeting and serve dinner," she said.

Before long, Adams had two of the least artsy of the bunch decorating a basket of pine cones with something called Stardust Gyp.

"It's dried baby's breath bleached and dipped in glycerin," she said. "What I want you to do is stick them in. There's no art to it."

As her finale, Adams made a large arrangement of silk water lilies while an assistant made up bird's nest with and sphagnum moss and an imitation bird. She filled a small nest with eggs made from florist's clay.

One of the women bought the nest.

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