Sunday, November 29, 2009

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like....

Well this is it. The true beginning of the holiday season. As I mentioned here, we're trying to focus on a homemade component to what we do this holiday season. It gives us an opportunity to give more of ourselves as well as gives me another arty outlet to kid time.

I've always been a bit of a type A about the whole Christmas card thing. I always mail them December 1st. So above you see what the kids and I have been working on the last few weeks in preparation for my fanatical mail drop.

Now this evening I begin the most despised part of my fanaticism, the addressing of envelopes. Grrr. Well with a glass of wine in hand, I'm off.

**Aside: In wanting to share ideas for homemade gifts, I do have a dilemma. I've photographed a lot of the gifts we've been working on and as much as I want to share what we've been up to, I don't want to spoil the gifts for those recipients who read the blog. Posting after the holiday's is ridiculous. As much as I love them, the cathartic cleaning and take down afterwards that helps me to focus on the new year would directly conflict with wanting to think about next years festivities. Hmmm. Maybe I'll see if I can do a wordle-like photo collage that show's bits and pieces without giving it all away. Thoughts?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Little Kindnesses

Norman Rockwell's Thanksgiving

On this Thanksgiving while thinking about what I'm thankful for, so many things began spinning in my mind. As one thought led to another, I began to think about how we live our lives and what small actions that we take may be what someone else is thankful for.

There are examples that illustrate this through the ages in books and movies. Touching holiday films such as
A Miracle on 34th Street. Or Dickens' A Christmas Carol whose premises, though written in 1843 hold as true today as they did then. Or a book like The Five People You Meet In Heaven.

While we were at the Chili's inside
O'Hare last week eating our supper, a businessman sitting next to us stopped by before he left and thanked us. You see, he has two kids about the age of our kids and misses his family very much. We made his night, just by being able to simply watch our family sit, eat and banter.

I've written
here about how choices that people make can so quickly effect others. But in contrast to the above mentioned post, so many of these choices are simple kindnesses that can change the course of someone else's day or life. A friend of mine posted this morning a simple quote from John Fitzgerald Kennedy that I think fits here perfectly: "As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."

This Thanksgiving, take a moment to not only think about what you're thankful for, but how you live and what little things you can do to make those around you thankful.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Complete Frivolity

Yesterday I found, and made a purchase of a much needed item. Last winter was very hard on my gloves. I learned the important lesson that one should never spread ice melt while wearing leather gloves. By the time my task was done, the gloves looked as though they would fit perfectly on a gnome. As a punishment for my stupidity poor choice, I squeezed my hands into the elf gloves for the remainder of the winter.

On an excursion yesterday with my mother and daughter, I came across the perfect pair of wool winter gloves. Where better a place, you might think, to find this item than in Southern California? I assure you these beauties will be the perfect warmth for me in our sub-zero temperatures.

Here's the part that completely excited me...they are Echo Touch gloves. They have a little patch on each thumb and forefinger so that I will have no need to take off my warm stylish gloves to access the touch screen on my iPhone! This was exciting not only to me, but the salesperson as well. We huddled around the display and played with my phone accessing applications with the touch patch and then without it, and giggling at how cool this was! Quite a funny sight, I'm thinking now, in retrospect, but one that I'm sure has played out many times with this item.

So while we use today to prepare for the real things to be thankful for, I leave you with this little bit of frivolity that made me happy yesterday.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

First Tooth

Amazing how much a blueberry flower looks like a lost tooth!

It has been a time of great excitement and angst for my little boy. Yes he's had his first wiggly tooth. Charlie's been trying to get his teeth to wiggle since his sister lost her first tooth, very early I might add, three years ago.

He's been working on this first tooth for a few weeks now and in the last week it's gotten so loose and he'd started taking the boo boo bear to bed with him because it was painful. He would fight sleep for fear that he'd lose it in the middle of the night and swallow it. We assured him that he'd know when he'd lose it and to relax.

He was so conscious of this tooth, that it never occurred to me he'd miss his big moment. We're at grandma and papa's this week in California and yesterday morning his tooth was hanging by a thread. How could it not? There is this monster mutant adult tooth right behind it! The morning progresses, I'm at the table talking to him and I say, wait a minute Charlie, where's your tooth??

The search then begins, he's played basketball outside, been all over the house and had his Flintstones vitamins. Goodness. He's broken hearted. We assured him that the long awaited tooth fairy knows when all children lose their teeth. This doesn't console him much, he just wanted to relish this long awaited moment and to hold this little bit of himself in his hand.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Carrot!

Check out this Carrot!!

Charlie, our resident carrot farmer picked this beautiful root in honor of my birthday this week and it tasted wonderful roasted. Yum! (As you can see he takes his carrot farming very seriously).

I'm preparing to head to California tomorrow for Thanksgiving. I'm taking my journal and both camera's. I'm sure the holiday, vacation time and a family wedding will be fodder posts. Maybe one or two while I'm there ;) I'm bringing all of my plugs!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Simple Things

Thanks to Christina at Soul Aperture today is a post dedicated to life's simple blessings. Today is very fitting as it is my birthday, I reflect and begin anew.

These are a few of the simple things that make me whole:

A breath of crisp air

A kindred spirit

Watching my kids in pure unadulterated play

Hula Hooping


Soft pillowy flannel sheets

Long discussions of dreams and goals with my dearest love

The aroma of fresh baked goods in the oven


Groovin' family dance night

A hot cup of tea



Sunrise, Sunset

The Road Not Taken

Please play along and share your simple things, just note this post so we can all share with you. As Christina closes her posts;
One Love
(that does say it all doesn't it)?
Thank You!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Through the Rabbit Hole and The Root Cellar Completion

Yes, when you walk down into the basement now and catch a glimpse of the distance, you will feel like you're being welcomed down the rabbit hole through this oh so posh pink door! Alas, insulation for the root cellar door must take place from the outside. I do assure you, the inside is color neutral in white accented by the earthy red floor.
Once you decide to take the plunge down into our newly completed all natural refrigerator/produce crisper/wine cellar you may feel like you have followed Alice to another time and place maybe accompanied by the familiar anthem altered only slightly... All in all, we just took another brick out of the wall
Our mini-start to the wine collection
Brian drilled out through the foundation wall to put in this venting system complete with a fan for air circulation.
The potatoes and squash are once again at home.

Unexpected Treasures

One of the games the kids love to play is treasure hunt. Living on a 120 year old homestead, we're always finding bits and pieces when digging in the garden, or sifting through the barn. These farm treasures have been saved in a special place and will at some point we will use them to chronicle this place we love.

Brian is at the home improvement store picking up the few remaining supplies for the venting system in the root cellar, and called to ask me to check if we had a caulk gun. Drat! though I'm sure there's one somewhere, I cannot readily find it. So it must be added to the list. (as an aside, there are so many tools in so many different places between the house and two barns that tool organization is a major winter project for us).

Even though this search was in vain, it wasn't fruitless.

What I did find was a can full of wonderful old hinges and door lock plates. Just another piece of history to our wonderful old home and proof yet again, that you never know what you'll find hidden away in an old Sanka can.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Tis the Season

The trees have taken on their winter pallor and though we've had a run of beautiful warm weather, there is a cooler and new crispness in the air as our temperatures begin their decent toward the winter season. Our town's holiday parade is this weekend and I'm sure that many will begin outdoor decorating as to avoid having to do it just before our first snow or bout of really arctic air. With this my thoughts are turning to the warmth of the holidays.

I love the rich smells of the season and am known to place a pot of mulling spices on the stove, just to scent the house. This year I am focusing on a handmade holidays and will be trying to make as many gifts and trinkets to those around us from the heart. Though, in some respects it also helps us in being economically responsible this gift giving season, I've found that not all handmade things are less expensive than what you may buy once you've assembled all of the components. True as that is, it means so much more to put the time and love into what we're doing, and teach the kids that it isn't just the gift, it's the process, the time we spend as a family and the little bit of us that we give.

I'll be posting tidbits of things that we're making, and would love to hear any ideas that you have on little things you do with your family to make the season special.

I found the above leaf today. I'd pressed it about 3 weeks ago. I came across a wonderful way to preserve leaves a few years ago:
Gather the leaves.
Place them between two sheets of paper toweling.
Place that between two sheets of newspaper and press in big heavy books for 2-3 weeks.
The come out beautifully having retained their colors and not being too brittle to handle.

You can then tie the stems with fishing line and hang them from a light fixture (they appear as if they're falling), or place them among your centerpiece for Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Leaf Love

We've been very diligent on making use of things that were here on the farm when we bought it. Though there are a number of things that we could really use to make life easier, we must wait until we sell the other house. We did break down and purchase an item that we'll build off of in the years to come. A leaf vacuum. After two falls of raking the acreage, dragging hundreds of pounds of leaves on a tarp over to the compost pile then putting armful after armful into said compost pile, enough was enough!

Our 1986 Gravely tractor is running, but has difficulties. It now has a brand new color coordinated ornament to drag behind it (totally not planned that way)! As the transmission is near shot, there were moments of lunacy as Brian was run pushing me driving it, to get it going as we collected leaves this weekend. Like something out of Little Miss Sunshine, quite the picture!

So we can mark one thing off of the wish list, and dream of the other things in the future. The matching tractor w/ ride over mower deck, snow blower, front loader etc, etc, etc. We are very fond of our little workhorse tractor and it has done well by us. Hopefully another band-aid type adjustment will see us snow blowing the driveway this winter.....without the need for the running push start!
Our leaf and grass clipping collection to be turned with our kitchen scraps into next year's compost, Brian said it was even getting really hot in there as of this morning.....the cooking has begun!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

One Step Forward

Labor of love, tragedy, and learning this has been our bout with these crazy chickens of ours. It's difficult to discern the difference between pet and food animal. Though we've committed to only layer hens at this point, our little girl is no stranger to the difficult lesson we are taught by the circle of life.

One step forward and two steps back, isn't life full of these moments? But I suppose it would be no fun, and you would learn nothing along the way, if you got there, wherever there is, right away.

We learn from overcoming obstacles, and Sidney's thought process has matured in the last 18 months of raising chickens. Her beloved farm poodle got out on Friday and killed one of her chickens, the newest member of the family our beautiful Dominique.

Far from the horror and hysterics that came with the loss of her rooster last fall, she was contemplative upon hearing the news. Sad even, that it wasn't one of the other ones because they had lived a longer life and "Striker" had just begun hers.

We went upstairs last night and were greeted with the entire families funeral attire laid out and labeled for us. I'm so proud of my girl who has run the gamut of emotions learning how to reconcile her farm animals lives into her life. She has determined that the most important thing is the happy life they have.

We will begin again, allowing our two matriarchs to lead the way. This winter's project is now a large chicken tractor, so they can attempt to free range some, but in a much more restricted atmosphere due to a 7 pound farm poodle with a taste for poultry.
The orange note is simple "Striker's Funeral"

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Root Cellaring We Go

It's been quite a process for us to get our root cellar built. Now that we're virtually done, I thought I'd give you a pictorial update on the construction.

We've researched hi and low the best way to get a storage cellar done and what all of the optimal storage temperatures are for the range of food we want to store. Funny enough, Brian found the most detailed and best information on root cellaring on a website by a group dedicated to surviving the second coming and return of the anti-Christ. Oh God I thought (no pun intended) is this what are friends and family think? That we're trying to prepare for the tribulation, or begin our own militia? I expressed these concerns to Brian who laughed at my sudden concern.

So before I begin with the photo show, we are trying to find a better way to preserve our garden harvest so that we can continue our path down self-sufficiency, sustainability, eating better, knowing the source of our food and saving money while enjoying all of the above. For the record, I didn't even know about the tribulation until he found that site. There, I said it! :)

I must add, that through many of the phases it seemed like a wonderful husband and wife comedy of errors. Lifting, holding, and nailing up things like insulation, ceiling joists, water barrier, then the ceiling itself. I must say that we both maintained good humor and sarcasm as we were standing with our arms constantly over-head feeling the burn, burn, burn ohh is that last screw or staple in yet?? WhewInsulated Rafters
Ceiling Joists
Moisture barrier
Blown in insulation
Ceiling almost up!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Little Bird Told Me

I'm sorry to say, I've been flat on my back with the flu. Even though I have not felt at all like moving, I did feel like stringing a few words together for the blog. Drat! If only I had laptop to accomplish this. I've been in a limbo of mindless television and staring blankly out of the window. I took a tip out of Martha Stewart Living a couple of weeks ago and placed bird feeders all the way around our wrap around porch to attract different varieties of interesting songbirds this winter. Well I can now say, my blank window stares have been quite entertained by tons of birds speeding across the sky to get to their free lunch.

I can't think of any other circumstance where I'd spend so much time staring out our living room windows. An important lesson learned. Take the time to slow down, and enjoy the little wonders around you. More later, be well!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Taking Down

As much as I love the preparation, anticipation, and each holiday in and of itself, there is something somewhat cathartic to the take down. *oink* I don't know whether it's the taking back of my house from festive paper crafts and the mass of the kids beloved window clings, or the excitement of preparing for the next festive season. *oink*

There are events to prepare for year round, but none is so intensive as the fall season, where one holiday leads directly into the next. *oink* Now I'm not one who relishes seeing Christmas decor in August, I think the retailers are just tapping into our consumer driven society's need for more stuff. I like to get creative with the kids and am trying to make more quality decorations each year rather than purchase. *oink* This year we're also trying to make many of our Christmas gifts. I'd give you a blow by blow of this, but that will have to wait, as some of you may be recipients of these. *oink*

As you can see today it appears that I have turret's. I don't know whether it's sympathy pains for my dear little niece whose under the weather or if it's the fact that I spent large chunks of my week around a combined 150 little petri dishes 1st and 3rd graders, but I myself am under the weather today. I'm wondering, a bit tongue and cheek, if that since I had my regular flu shot and the other one isn't available here yet, whether I have a touch of the swine.

So I have melted myself onto the couch with a hot cup of tea and mindless television to sleep, rest and try not to *oink*


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