Friday, October 30, 2009

The Witching Hour Approaches

Just a glimpse of the hours leading up to the witching hour. It has been a week full of:Pumpkin farms with first graders, 100 of them to be exact (room 104 & 106 shown here), I never knew a hay ride could be so loud! ;-)Silly buddies and crazy insane complicated party crafts...Screaming banshees parading, amazing how specific an 8 year old's banshee requirements are....
The trees shed the last of their fall blankets, leaving crisping leaves to let your imagination run wild with sounds, especially those of hooves galloping and saying.....

Happy Halloween Eve, enjoy preparations for the night of witching!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Waxing Philosophical

Many thoughts are going through my head this morning as I read the blogs of friends, new blogosphere ones and the traditional ones alike. We all enjoy our lives, yet are constantly pondering the human condition and the age old question: what makes for happiness? Are we ruled by consumerism and keeping up, or is it the simple things of family and creativity that keep us going. We may be at different places in the philosophical shift, yet we are so closely the same in our consciousness. I wonder if this change is widespread for those our age or if I just migrate to those of similar thought and condition.

This morning we are pondering yet another approach to get rid of sell our other home. Many a cutting back lesson did we learn when we bought our farm 2 1/2 years ago to begin our more efficient lifestyle and the economy completely tanked after. Now that we've had our long lesson of living life carrying two mortgages and all of the headaches of a vacant house in a snowy landscape, we're done with it. I wonder if our old beauty of a home, the one we affectionately call "the lake house" will sell if we can make this new strategy work.

I think that as I look forward to my week full of kids activities in anticipation for Halloween, I glimpse the balance necessary and the courage needed to make decisions to get us to that place. But I have learned that everything comes in time, not all at once and it's all about the journey, not just getting there right now.

I leave you with some of our halloween preparation activities.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Bound and Determined

I finished binding off my first full size afghan this morning! I began it in August, and after much distraction and busyness am done. The pattern is called Comfy and that says it all!

Friday, October 23, 2009

You Say Potato, I Say Potato

I've always had a fascination with language. I began thinking about this when we were taking the kids to school this morning. Charlie said mother, in perfectly enunciated English. The kids have lived in Wisconsin for their whole lives, so I've often wondered if they'd develop the "Northern" accent. Since Charlie began speaking, you would think the kid was from Boston! Where did he get this? There's been no one for him to model this after.

Let me back up a bit. I've always been enamored with language. In reflecting upon this, some of my most remembered teachers through school were related, in some way, to language. Mr. Nutman in seventh grade was from England, I loved to listen to him speak. Jan Gist, my college theatre diction coach made me chew words, change pitch and alter my vernacular the moment I got into character. Mr. Larson, my college Shakespeare instructor when I lived in England, made me love Shakespeare even more (I'm still known to pick up our big anthology on a whim, just to be swept away into the poetic dialogue.) My college philosophy instructor, whose name escapes me though I can picture him clearly, guided us through the great philosophers many of whom we had to decipher not only thought but verbiage.

When I meet people I'm frequently asked where I'm from. When I say California, I tend to get one of two responses: "I never would have thought that based on your accent," or "I hear some West coast but something else too." I'm always taken aback when I hear this, because I didn't realize I had an accent. Maybe it's the years that I spent studying theatre, but I've always been very sensitive to the dialect, inflections and the sounds of words around me. I've developed, apparently, my own unique intonation that is the sum of my parts and experiences. Odd hugh?

I'd have thought so too, until I realized this morning, Charles must have some of that sensitivity too. I still can't figure out where the Boston-like sounds have come from. But as he said mother this morning, I see those sounds are starting to diminish. Funny, I felt kind of sad that those sounds were leaving him.

I only hope that he can be swept away in the richness of language as I have.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fire Please

I'm sitting here in my 1890 farmhouse and looking out the window onto a cold steady rain. As I'm a bit under the weather, I want to just curl up next to the fire and relax. One problem with that, there is no fireplace!

The Gifford family who built this house was headed by Wm. Gifford, a very progressive and innovative man. This house was the first with indoor plumbing in the area, as well as the first with a central heating system. Now, he must have revelled in his brilliance and thought that since he was so far ahead of times, why put in a fireplace? We don't need it, we're heating our home and I don't need to haul in wood to do it!

Well, I beg to differ! The only bit of atmosphere that is missing from our home is a fireplace, more specifically a wood burning stove. So, as I dream of the future wood burning, heating, ambiance device that will sit in our home, I'm going to curl up under my afghan, that is now large enough I can curl up under it while I finish knitting it, have a toddy, watch the rain and mend.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Texture of Fall

The sights around me are almost more than my cones can take. The brilliance of the yellows and oranges this year is breathtaking. The varying shades, colors and textures in each individual tree are amazing. I feel like I have to look so closely at everything to make sure it's not a painting. You know, like those intricately woven beauties from pointillism . The ones that captivate me at art museums wondering how they were done. Here are a few examples of the texture of our fall.

Monday, October 19, 2009


I caught the headline this morning....."the Wisconsin legislature is taking up a bill to make texting while driving illegal, for those under 18." WHAT? I guess they are only considering this group of people because they are the only ones unable to multitask as seen here? You would think that those older than 18 would be the ones banned, as the younger you are, the more cat-like your crash aversion reflexes are. But I suppose, being older, you are the more experienced to handle coming out of the fishtail you fly into as you avoid hitting the car you didn't see while texting.

I've seen adults, driving child care vans texting! (I knew the director so called and let her know) I've seen kids texting each other, while in the same car! In this right now society, do we really need to endanger everyone else for our own selfishness? Please, if your doing business, put them on speaker phone and talk, wait to get to the next destination, or pull over if your going to type a message. I wonder if the person I discussed here ran the stop sign because of texting. In this case I hope he did, the alternative pre-meditated, oh I can just beat the group of cyclists is a more disturbing option. (sorry for the digression in my soapbox, just got an email from his insurance company again). I think we should be equal opportunity banners.

So for those of you texting while driving, and all of you innocent ones just driving your families to their destinations, and you legislatures trying to figure out what to do, FYSBGTBABN (for those not knowing the text lingo, I got this off of a peechee folder that I bought for myself while school shopping with the kids this fall: fasten your seat belts going to be a bumpy night).

Sunday, October 18, 2009

I've Been Invaded!

I do not mean to gross anyone out, but since tomato season, it has been an absolute battle of the wills. I'm sad to say that I think my nemesis the fruit fly is winning!

The little parasites arrive every year around the same time, but normally once the harvest is done they diminish rapidly. This year, they've decided to take up residence and their favorite past time is tormenting me.

We've tried it all. A good friend of mine from Simply Spent had luck with placing out a dish of red wine vinegar with a splash of dish soap, not a single taker in the Ray farm house. The damn little mutants seem to love to join me in a glass of wine, literally. Do you know how embarrassing it is to have company picking drunk bugs out of their libations?? Thursday night I set a trap. bowls of red wine all over the kitchen, not a single one in 2 days. Yesterday I bleached the whole kitchen hoping to suffocate the little bastards blessings of nature.

I sit down last night and viola they're diving liberally into my glass of white wine, then flying all around me! It feels like a scene from the birds as I'm batting in the air at these virtually invisible leeches. My daughter logically advised me last night, maybe they like the wine glass, so we set another trap. I come bounding down the stairs like a kid at Christmas this morning to see the annihilation. NOT A SINGLE ONE!!

HELP!! Any ideas??

Saturday, October 17, 2009

I feel a Project Coming On...

At the end of every rainbow there is a pot of gold isn't there?? Every task has a silver lining. Just like I welcome seasonal changes, my creative juices are always searching for their next mission. As there has finally been a break in our weather, we're off to spend the weekend outside at soccer games and the pumpkin farm, This cold burst that we've had has gotten me in the indoor project mood. We're bundling up to go out into the crisp sunshine so I leave you with some pictures of projects to come.

I love the simplicity of this apron pattern. I found it on Maybe I can get proficient at these beauties, choose some bright colors and sell them on etsy.

When my afghan is complete (almost there!), I love the look of these and I think it may become quite a project, I've never tried the cable knit stitching before.

Decoupage is so much fun to do with the kids and will make a wonderful edition to our quiet Sunday hour.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day

Beginning a little over a year ago, Blog Action Day was created as a forum for those of us in the blogosphere to share our thoughts, regardless of position on important issues. This years issue is climate change.

I felt this was an especailly good fit for us, as becoming more self-efficient, reducing our footprint, and making responsible environmental choices are all important focus' for us. I've spoken often about our moving to the farm as a way to do our best to supply our own food, and give the kids a taste of a simpler life not reliant on that feeling of urgency that comes from the rat race.

Another way we've introduced climate issues to the kids has been by participating in Earth Hour for the last couple of years. Brian and I have thought that this would be a wonderful thing to implement in our family on a weekly basis. One hour of consiousness that also is a wind down hour devoted specifically to the family. So I'll use blog action day today to implement our new Sunday evening ritual. Turn off all of the lights, computers, televisions, music and sit in candlelight with the family reading to one another or just having a conversation.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Great Caffeine Experiment

I'm an early riser. Always have been and it works great for me. I'm up at 5 am, have my coffee, sift through emails, watch the news with my dear sleepy husband who thinks I'm crazy to be up so early. Then I get ready and get the kids stuff organized for school. We're off to work at 7:30 and I run the kids to school from work at 8:45.

Darned if by about 2 o'clock I'm dragging and by after school activity time I'm counting the minutes until couch time, which seems a lifetime away.

Yesterday, I assisted at the school in the afternoon with vision testing on the kids. We finished about an hour before I needed to run our girl scout meeting so I ran and got a spluge 16 oz Chai. Wonderful spicy warmth, just what I needed in between managing hordes of energetic kids. What a treat, one I was sure that I'd pay for tenfold at bed time last night. Guess what?? I didn't! I had energy and was in a great mood through crash on the couch time.

Today I'm back to my normal routine and so noticed the difference from yesterday! I was officially foggy mom. So, beginning tomorrow, I'm going to try caffeine after lunch and see if I can't capture that extra couple of hours of clarity. Are you a caffeine fan?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

End of Season Beauty

It's far to early to be talking end of season. Fall only just began! The above photo is the only sun we saw yesterday in the last hour of the evening. You'll notice the sky is clear behind, we've had non-stop rain for the last 48 hours. We had our first frost last night, the dogs went out to do their morning duties and went crunch, crunch, crunch on the grass.

Last night in this fleeting moment of fall beauty, we covered our cool weather crops with the hope to extend the season, if only for a while. Today I'll take care of the remaining prep work I discussed here, with the added task of setting up the heat lamps and adding extra bedding to the chicken coop. This morning's weather channel update stated "tonight's freeze warning will bring an end to the 2009 growing season." It isn't often that you hear such strong words, or is it just that these words especially resonate with me. So it may not be the end of fall yet, Thank God! But it's the end of our farm season.

Brian and I discussed last night, as we defrosted our numb fingers, how we love all of the work: the planning, the coaxing, the growing, the harvesting, the sustainability, but there is also a sense of accomplishment and peace that comes with it all coming to a close. We have a laundry list of items we want to accomplish this winter, from finishing the root cellar, to working on a greenhouse, to dreaming up all of the other things that we want to do. So the end of this our second and wonderful growing season is just another beginning of what's to come!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Fledgling Little Roses

Education, development and understanding all come in distinct stages. Even though I sometimes have to deal with the homework tango, I truly relish this parent-teacher-child-teacher relationship that is cultivating between me and the kids.

What I can so easily grasp now and can relay to the kids, are also concepts that I remember being horribly difficult to grasp when I was trying to learn them. Just because I can relay them with ease, doesn't mean they always understand my thought process either. On the flip side of that, I'm learning anew. I have always loved to write, and fancy myself adequate. However, I wouldn't know a dangling participle if it were hanging in front of my face. Now I'm being re-educated by needing to reinforce the teachings that are happening at school. Whew!

Lesson One: In this process I'm finding what to push and what not to. Kind of like choosing battles. Kids, young adults, adults, we all are constantly growing. As you go through life, things that once seemed impossible click. I'll be the first to say that my children are brilliant, not that I'm biased at all or anything. Even talented kids have stumbling blocks. We just need to encourage their interest and thirst for learning.

For example: I was terrible, and I mean terrible, in math all through school. Then suddenly, I began my psychology studies and statistical analysis. I came into my senior year and hadn't taken basic college math. I proposed to the counselors that if I could pass a 400 level (highest at that time) statistics course, would they waive the basic requirement? They said yes. I got an A! It was in this venue in which math the world over suddenly clicked for me. You cannot learn in a vacuum, for some of us, we need an application or a specific mindset.

Lesson Two: I'm keeping this in mind as I learn from my kids what they learned in school and how they apply it to their frame of reference. I am awed at how deeply Sidney can perceive and apply what she is learning and observing around her. We're working on a paper right now on historic Racine businesses. I asked her if she knew what the Great Depression was. She said no. So I explained, very rudimentarily, that it was a time in history when things were very hard, people didn't have jobs, and there wasn't much money. She interrupted me and said, "you mean like now?" I was stunned at her appreciation for and ability to draw such a parallel. I told her similar, but worse. Maybe her ability to understand worse isn't there yet, especially when her young experience is knowing that friends of hers have parents on temporary or permanent layoffs. Never take for granted your child's unique ability to understand what is happening around them.

I know that my job is encouraging their fledgling and natural curiosity while giving them a safe place of support while they navigate the successes and failures of their learning process. This will make them well rounded, knowledge seeking adults with the ability to be strong decision makers.

Back to the Garden

**please hum the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young tune of the same name whilst reading this post :)

Well it is about to happen. Much too early for my taste, but we now find ourselves scrambling to complete the garden work that must be done before the first hard freeze. Lows in the 20's coming this weekend. Now's the time to pull the rest of the basil and convert to pesto, build appropriate frost covers for the lettuce, snap peas and what remains of the Italian squash, plant our cover crop of cereal rye and pick and save seeds from our last remaining hillbilly tomatoes.

All minor tasks that can be done fairly easily, but now there is an eminent deadline. Brian's at a conference until Friday night, and one of our doctors, sadly, has come down with a bad case of the chicken pox! Saturday is now a workday. But when Saturday afternoon rolls around, hum a great old tune and think of the busy worker bees prepping for winter and watching the majestic V's of geese flying south.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

An Apple a Day

I've been negligent in taking care of my apples from our annual apple picking outing. So this afternoon, while I help the kids settle in and begin to work on homework, I'm putting them in my favorite pot, treating them to a bit of sugar, and a little bit of this and a little bit of that (cinnamon and nutmeg), then going to let them simmer away down into applesauce all while perfuming the house. Ahhhh.

I was re-motivated to get moving on my apples by this issue's article on baking with apple sauce. So the kids will get to eat their fill, but I'll get to try some new things as well.

I've found a new blog that I love called Domestic Sensualist. It's fantastic, especially for a homey foodie like myself. Check out the gingerbread post from today. I'm going to try it this weekend. Hmmm, I wonder if I can incorporate some applesauce?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

What Would Grandma Do?

Today, like many Sundays involved working on the farm. Really, we're just beginning work on fall clean up type tasks in the garden and winter readying the yard. Yes, today I lovingly rolled up and put away the hammock.

It's been very blustery and we've spent some time indoors too, working on kids homework (which I think will be it's own blog soon), and listening to WPR (Wisconsin Public Radio). On today's "To the best of our knowledge" there was a great piece on getting back to the land. It goes into great detail on this movement, which we seem to be a part of.

In a nut shell, more and more people are migrating more toward the country life, even in the city. Growing their own food or participating in farmers markets and CSA's. An interesting question was posed in the story: would my grandmother recognize what's on the food label? Does bread really need a laundry list of ingredients? The loaf in my fridge has 32! When I make my own it has 4-7 ingredients. Yes, I know the ingredient list is all in the name of preservation, but how long does a loaf a bread last your family? For a small amount of effort, you can take back control of what your family is consuming.

The next segment was on reconsidering crafts. This was an interesting discussion on how there seems to be a resurgence in many creative outlets, like knitting. There was a story about a young woman who had moved to New York and began a new job. She had sat down with a number of women at work and asked if anyone knew where she could learn to knit. Almost every woman in the room with her knew how or did knit. Yes, they were all closet knitters and surprised one another when the revelation was made. Almost like it was something worthy of hiding, making you somehow anti-feminist to craft.

Places like farmers markets, art fairs and craft fairs give us an eclectic mix of creativity in our world steeped in mass production. You can find wonderful examples on how so many people are creating on etsy. Overall, any of these activities also bring family time back to the forefront. Sidney and Charlie love to help with cooking in any way shape or form, and they love to craft. Such simple things, many of them that you would do anyway, now become an easy family activity that make the kids so happy and learn a little bit in the process.

Easy Crusty Bread In 5 Minutes a Day (compliments of Mother Earth News):
3 Cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tbsp. granulated yeast
1 1 /2 tbsp coarse kosher or sea salt
6 1/2 cups unsifted, unbleached all-purpose white flour
cornmeal for pizza peel

Heat water to just a little warmer than body temperature. Add yeast and salt to water in a 5-quart bowl. Mix in the flour by gradually adding to water mixture, use either a wooden spoon or a food processor with a dough attachment ( I use my kitchenaide mixer with dough attachment). Don't kneed. You should be left with a wet dough, loose enough to conform to the container. Cover loosely. Allow mixture to rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse (about 2 hours). Refrigerate dough for at least 3 hours before using.

Prepare pizza peel by sprinkling with cornmeal (I just use a wooden cutting board). Heat oven to 450 with pizza stone in oven. Dust your fingers with flour and take out a 1 pound ball of dough. Dust the top with flour and gently stretch the dough around to the bottom on four "sides" until the bottom is a collection of flour bunched ends. Let it rest on the peel for 40 minutes. Liberally dust top of loaf with flour and using a knife slice the top in a grid pattern (4 slices). Place broiler pan on shelf under pizza stone and pour in 1 cup hot water. Slide loaf onto pizza stone in oven and bake for 30 minutes.

This creates enough dough for 4 loaves and is good for 2 weeks. If you leave little bits of dough on the sides of the bowl and then scrape them down and incorporate them into your next batch, you'll begin to create a sour-dough like starter. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Growing Pains

Learning something new can kind of be like getting repeatedly pricked by this lovely thistle. How do you like the new layout of the blog so far? I began to re-format with an email to, and a wonderful reply from Julochka. I've admired her blog's brightness and how it fills the page and so begged some helpful hints. Thank you, Thank you!

Next, I began to do surgery on my "header." You know, the title bar at the start of the blog. It's amazing how many hours you can spend cutting, pasting, resizing by the 32nd of an inch to get things to fit (sort of). I have a Mac at home. Love it, would choose nothing else. I pull up the blog to show someone at work and on the PC's it shows up sized completely different! UGH!

Today I began to troll the blogger help sites looking for how to write html code so I can make some changes to the header. I NEVER thought I'd attempt the black hole of html, but it's not too bad if you can copy what those before you have done. Amazingly, things that seem very thorough can be a bit fragmented and you need to put the puzzle together from multiple sources. Then I find out that my blog appears differently when you view it through different browsers too. Jeez!

Brian thinks I'm nuts to let this bother me. He told me today, "you need to find a new hobby", mocking surprise and hurt I said, "you mean stop blogging??" to which he replied "get over how the header looks." Well I can't let it go. I just can't have the frame cut off by pictures, or microscopic photos, or off centered ones. So if you happen to come across my little blog and it looks crazy different every 2 minutes, it's just me trial and erroring my way to happiness.


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