Thursday, December 31, 2009

Reflection for the New Year

I was so taken by this scene at the Loyola Marymount campus this fall

As the morning progresses my mind is swirling. I've been in Kansas with family for the last several days and pondered writing several times, but to no avail. I've been reflective, yet a bit lazy in the computer sense. Only catching glimpses of what is going on in the world through my iPhone.

I've spent a few moments this morning catching up with the wonderful blog rolls that I follow and find peace and inspiration in everyone's reflections. This year has brought us many gifts and heart wrenching challenges. This decade has done the same. A decade of turbulence and over-indulgence as well as one of technological progress and waxing self-consciousness for the world. A decade that brought us our beautiful children, a new home and business, deepened our family roots, and we've discovered beautiful and kindred friends.

I always approach the new year as a clean slate. Time to put the challenges of the past behind and reach with new vigor for the goals of the future. Our life's adventure has been rewarding. We always seem to bite off more than we can chew and relish every tasty morsel. It isn't always easy, but I must say it's never boring. Always discussing and dreaming. Some of the best nights are the sleepless ones spent in symbiotic reflection and planning. I've learned that finding balance and patience with the process are among the biggest challenges, but there is some fun in finding ourselves through that as well. I wish everyone a Happy New Year filled with peace, love and the road less traveled by.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Iambic What?

Have you ever taken a moment to,
quietly listen to a soft snow fall?
On this day preparing for holiday,
remember to be thankful for blessings
that behold us each and everyday.

As we prepare with love and family,
I look to the coming year hopefully.
And store the past year in the recess of
my mind, to call upon its grand lessons
divine. And in this crazy prose I write,
I wish you all a joyous eve tonight.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Winter fest Hodgepodge

Brian's cousin Amy and her family were in town today. We headed downtown to see the snow-sculptures that were the anchor for this weekends Winter fest. The above were our favorites the first is 'feed me Seymour' and the second is 'first date.' It was a lot of fun to spend a couple of hours with family in the snow.

By the way, all of the kids were playing on the snow hill, you can tell we haven't had much of the white stuff here for them to get sick of, yet ;) Mr. & Mrs. Claus and the reindeer were all in attendance. I had to add this photo, because I was simply fascinated by the reindeer's feet, crazy hugh? (the feet, not me ;) All in all a great way to start the holiday week!

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Treats

Kolachky's are an old family favorite that has a wonderful cream cheese cookie stuffed with yummy jams.

Today was the day, cookie baking. As I write this, the kids are thrilled to be decorating delicious ginger bread men (I finally found an awesome recipe that tastes great, like a crisper version of the wonderful gingerbread I've been making all fall).

I got my doughs ready this morning and then baked this afternoon, once they'd chilled sufficiently. I did two vastly different cookies and it never ceases to amaze me how simple cookies are. They all virtually have the same base and all you need to do is add a pinch of this here or there and viola. I'm about 8 dozen in and think I'll do one more batch tomorrow. The house is filled with such wonderful warm holiday smells. I think Santa will be pleased with this years treat!

Kolachky Cookies
1/2 Cup Butter
1-3 oz. Cream Cheese
1 Cup sifted All-Purpose Flour
Strawberry or Raspberry Jam
Powdered Sugar

Cream butter and cheese together. Gradually work in flour. Chill. Roll out paper thin on floured board. Cut with 2 inch round cutter. Spread with; jam. Fold 2 edges to center, overlapping slightly. Press down lightly so cookies won't spread too much. Place on lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes. While warm, sift powdered sugar on top.
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Thursday, December 17, 2009

My Precious

Ok. That I'm naming this post this creeps my husband out, but in the wee hours of the morning, it is what came to mind. I bolted awake at 2 am after some portion of my subconscious decided that I needed to check my finger. What did I find? My wedding ring was gone! I never take it off, well I take that back, I only take it off to put lotion on my hands. As you can see from the picture above, this ring is the natural enemy of lotion. So I must have been very tired last night. I sat in bed and put lotion on my hands and I must have fallen immediately asleep.

I couldn't find it when I bolted up and Brian said (in a very sleepy voice) don't worry, we'll tear the bed apart in the morning. To which my mind spent the night actively searching. Then I started with the picture in my head of 'The Precious' and since I do not want to picture myself as creepy Smeagol, I looked more to the heroic Bilbo in The Hobbit to console myself.

What if the ring fell out of bed and Garp (our cat, named after another favorite read of mine) got a hold of it? Jeez, more anxiety. All while our dog Puck (do you see a trend in my pet names??) snored peacefully at my feet.

It was found by the light of day beneath all of the covers and under where Puck laid. Thank goodness for that, My Precious and I will rest easy today :)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Little Milestones

Street Performers in Chicago, though the picture is not horribly clear you can sense their speed and energy. I've always had a love for street artists!

Today I'm taking a moment to look back a bit on the last 8 months. You see, it was 8 months ago that I had the idea to keep track of all of our gardening hoopla by blogging about it. From there, this whole blogging thing has taken on a life of it's own and this is my 100th post!

I guess I'm the same type of writer that I am conversationalist. I'm not afraid to talk or offer my opinion, but I've never been good at just coming up with things and filling the space. I engage easily and it's similar with my writing. I've always enjoyed writing, but just can't sit down and do it. For me, I'll be going about my business and suddenly a phrase or thought will come to mind. Then it begins flowing into words in such a fast stream, that I wish I could dam it up if only for a minute to catch my breath. If I don't quickly get this rush of words written down, I seem to lose the eloquence of the speech I just witnessed in my head. Then poof I'm left only with impressions. I guess my brain enjoys the distraction of multi-tasking in order for me to create.

So this post is a cork pop and champagne sip for the little milestone of 100 posts, and my journey through the rabbit whole into the wonderful world of blogging. In this world I've found many wonderful souls, who by journalizing their thoughts and feelings with both words and beautiful photography, have introduced me to a new community of creative thought.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Elephant in My Room

Outside the Chicago Tribune Building, December 2009

This is a post a long time coming. I feel like I'm in a constant quest of good versus evil. The whole fabric of our lifestyle is to buy local, support local. We are local. We are small business owners, small scale home farmers wanting to be so much more, and find a way to contribute to CSA. We want the best of all worlds and are in a constant struggle against the forces to find our balance.

I'm thinking about this especially now as I've had a situation that I abhor, and please don't think less of me for writing my weakness here. The year end, slow season for our business is always difficult, but always doable. It's just ever so more difficult having had two mortgages for going on 3 years.

Now, I have taken huge steps to do many, many handmade gifts for the holidays, there is still some, ahem, Santa purchases that must be made. So I look to my credit card rewards to get gift cards for our holiday shopping. Now I'm going to say it, please don't leave my blog forever for doing so. The best value for my points this year wasn't in Visa, but specific retailer cards. Yes, I'm ashamed to say I got the best value with half of my points through Wal-Mart. ((sigh)) But I really want to be sure my kids have a great Christmas and needed the most bang for my buck. So I bit the bullet and did it, redeemed the points for the gift cards. I just couldn't see any way around it. I did have other avenues through other points and redeemed them as such.

This has been about 10 days ago now, and guess what? In that time, I've found coupons, and deals, and managed to finish my Christmas shopping all without a need for the Wal-Mart cards, just a need for their value. So, now the dilemma. What to do with them? They still have an important value. Should I sell them?

Then I begin to think about this in further depth. I hate what they stand for; the take over of American business and the failure of so many a small town mom and pop retailers (of which I am one). But then I also see that so many need the deal in order to live and provide for their families. I don't fault anyone for whatever situation they're in. I also think that in striving for a Great Value (double meaning, intended) many haven't even contemplated the scope of what Wal-Mart's presence has done in their economies. I don't want to be elitist in my ideals. There is a practicality and necessity to so many for that company. It is unfortunate the power they yield. I just want my life to be about having the ability to choose and support those hard working local businesses around me.

I was prompted to write this evening as I was reading this newsletter. I found out about the organization through etsy and was very taken by this article from the Huffington Post.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Priceless Memories

I had a last minute opportunity yesterday to head to Chicago with a friend for their annual Christkindlmarket (I didn't even know they did this here, and was so excited when I found out)! I was thrilled because this was an experience that I had with my family in Nuremberg, Germany as a kid. I am staunch Irish, treasure my heritage, and have many precious mementos that reflect my beliefs and love for Irish culture. As I walked around the market, I was amazed at how much of my home has bits of my German roots and traditions. These memories are also very strong. My parents had an opportunity to explore this when my dad was stationed in Grafenwoehr, Germany before I was born. Through their experiences and memories I was raised with, and subsequently began my own collection of beautiful German tokens. My Nuremberg Angel, my cuckoo clock from the Black Forest, my precious pewter and pine cone Christmas ornaments and my nativity set from Oberammergau.

I was catapulted back to this when I saw these cookiesI received an one exactly like this from my folks upon their return from a trip to Germany. I bought one to give to my kids so they can have a similar memory. Sidney and Charlie now know that Ich Liebe Dich means I Love You in German. Thanks mom and dad!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Good Enough To Eat

Look what we've been working on this evening to help fill in our "candy tree"
These candy garlands are simple and a great project to do with the kids. Keep in mind the kids will lose interest after about the first dozen, at least mine did ; ) So truly its a great project for mom to do in order to create a festive holiday home for the kids. Yea that's it.
Have a good night!

Let's Get Ready To...Wrestle

On Friday as I was unpacking the school folders, there was a 1/2 sheet flier for the Racine Wrestling Club. I passively handed the flier over to Brian to see what he said. He didn't say anything, but spent time over the weekend watching and showing Charlie YouTube videos of kids wrestling. I thought it was very cute!

Monday morning rolls around and he lets me know that he and Charlie were going to the enrollment that evening and checking it out. Cool I thought. So after Brian gets home Monday evening he sends Charlie upstairs to change into some sweatpants and asks me if he has any clean tennies. I said yes, I just bought him new shoes yesterday, he's only worn them once and there's been no mud or anything. Brian says, he needs clean shoes and proceeds to take his old tennies and carefully clean the bottoms of them at the sink. Going so far as to take the tip of a knife to pick out any stray pebbles. (of course I think this is crazy, but I have no frame of reference here). So Charlie comes downstairs and I insanely attempt to put the clean shoes on him, what was I thinking? When expressing my extreme confusion to what is going on Brian tells me that shoes going on the wrestling mat have to be perfectly clean and only for the mat. I didn't even know they wore shoes while wrestling!

So now it unfolds, ever so slowly for me, a person who knows nothing of wrestling (my high school didn't have it). I get a text about 30 minutes later. The high school gym is pandemonium, over 100 kids show up and there's only 2 coaches and seems very unorganized. He and Charlie end up coming home fairly soon after that. He explained that not only was it a zoo, but they only had one mat and then a piecemeal partial mat and he was completely unimpressed.

Brian wasn't phased though, he immediately heads to the computer to research other area clubs trying to find something that would meet expectations. He finds a club in Oak Creek and is immediately excited. There is still 2 coaches but they strongly encourage parental involvement, especially those parents who have wrestled before to act as a kind of assistant coach. They are very strict with attire, shoe cleanliness, etc. So they're headed out again tonight to check out this club.

This is all foreign territory to me and I seem to have a bit of an learning curve. I'm excited about this possible passing of the torch of sorts between father and son. Now we just need to convince Charlie that he will not be rubber band catapulting himself off the top rope across a ring to tackle someone, as is his current vision.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Tradition, Tradition....Tradition*

When the kids were very small, I wanted to be sure that we began some traditions that were ours. Something that we would take ownership of and look forward to every year in our little family unit. These special things we'd add to the repertoire of festivities we grew up with to create wonderful family memories.

One of those new family customs is heading out each year with some good friends to hunt for and cut down our Christmas trees. This day always seems to be highlighted by trudging through snow of various depths, followed by teeth chattering, frozen fingers and toes, excitement as all of the boys (and Sidney) take their shot's at trying to raze the tree, and topped off with a hot cup of cocoa. Today was the day this year, and amazingly the first year with nothing but a few scant patches of the fluffy stuff (mostly ice now) on the ground.

We've tried several different locations, experienced varying levels of comedy, and I don't think we've found the perfect place yet. We've gone from someone's home out in the boonies, who didn't have the supplies we needed to get the cut trees home. Can you say improvisation?? To a well run, yet very expensive place whose trees seemed to drop all of their needles within 48 hours of getting them home. Then this year's location, something very much in between. We'll keep trying, because... it's tradition. And as Sidney expressed today: "Why would we go and get a tree that someone else has cut down? What good is that?" It's tradition, it's what's expected by my kids from their memories of their childhood (even though their still children:)

Another ritual that I began very early was the Christmas pajamas. Each Christmas morning, the kids have brand new pajamas laying on their beds, waiting for them to slip into before they head downstairs. The first year I did this was when Sidney was 2. At that time princess nightgowns all came in big girl sizes. She still wears that purple princess one, now a thread bear rag. It's gone from full length to mini in six years. I guess I should have thought this tradition through. Come to think of it, neither of the kids will let me get rid of Christmas Jammies past. Hmmm maybe I need to learn how to quilt and make something from them....
I say all of this in reminiscent discussion of what we do and to get ideas of things to come. I love tradition. Music, magic, dreams, wishes, stories, folklore, wistfulness, all of those things that make you feel warm and at home. What are some of your traditions?

*I can't say the word tradition, without thinking of Tevye singing about it on Fiddler on the Roof! :)

Friday, December 4, 2009

In My Free Time

I've been hard at work getting some of our holiday gifts finished. I thought I'd post a teaser of some of the items I've been working on. Can you guess what they are? One of them could be for you! I guess I got an early enough start, because I seem to be ahead of schedule. The kids are working on some great teacher's gifts right now. I got the idea from one of my friends, please check out her awesome website Pre-school Learning Crafts. We're going to put a packet of basil seeds in the pots with a recipe card made out by the kids and our pesto recipe. Yum!I guess that's what I've been doing in my free time (keeping in mind over several weeks :), what have you been up to? Happy Weekend!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Our Special Tree

Not quite like the beloved Christmas tree that Linus wrapped his blankie around in A Charlie Brown Christmas, we have a special tree we inaugurated 16 years ago. Jeez, I can't believe it's been that long already! The tree itself isn't so much the special part as what is on it.

I was reminded of this as I was feeling somewhat down, having a touch of writers block and not knowing what my next blog thought was going to be, and I began to unpack this box. The one where I had to unwrap all of the lovingly protected ornaments we've collected over the years as we've navigated through our life together.

You see, each year, we purchase a new ornament that is special for that year. It tells some story or represents an important event. Things like the year we met, when we've moved to a new place, our wedding, the birth of each of our children, our trip to Prague, our garden, etc. The kids love the tradition of decorating this tree, because they can hear and then tell themselves the stories behind the ornaments.

Last year we gave the kids each 2 new and special ornaments of their own. They have used these as the foundation to their own special tree and they are thrilled about filling it in.

We haven't purchased our ornament for this year. What will it represent? This has been a year of many tribulations, yet I'm a certain we will find the perfect fit that represents the year in both humor and sobriety. Most of all, this tree represents the tremendous blessings that we have in these memories that are paving our life's road.


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