Sunday, January 31, 2010

Attempt #2

Freshly finished reversible apron (notice I'm sporting the lovely Tommy Hilfiger tunic sweater that I scored in Friday night's clothing swap)

I'm happy to report that round two went much better than round one! I still had to battle the bobbin, it was epic, but as a result of having fifty or so false starts, I think I'm approaching amateur status.

Far from perfect, this was my first attempt at touching something even resembling a clothing item, unless you count sewing on Girl or Boy Scout patches. As I worked my way through this project (that took much longer than the stated 1 hour) I did begin to gain some confidence in the technique involved. I also began to relax a bit and enjoy the process. Here's to baby steps!
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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Garden Brainstorm

The first few tomatoes from last Summers harvest

A light snow, hot coffee, quite morning, the new Mother Earth News magazine, and my thoughts turn toward spring. Thinking about the garden and how to organize for this year. I loved the dehydrator last year and am inspired to plant loads of lavender so that I can continue to make sachets. We plan to increase our chickens this year for a few apparent reasons. Though we won't have much this year, installing our berry patch will bode well for the future. And the area where the old berry patch was has opened up several more rows in the main garden. Through all of these considerations I've have begun to formulate and idea. I was reading this article the other day from Domestic Sensualist and I realized that a farm box can be much more versatile than I'd first thought.

So here's my idea. This year we find a few families to receive a weekly/bi-monthly farm box from us. We'd provide the best of what's ripe, or what we've created from our farm. I'd say at the beginning of the season that we'd be looking at bi-monthly, then from Jul/August through October we'd be looking more weekly and in the fall we should also be ready to put some eggs in the boxes.

I know this is not a new idea, but why not start small and see if people we know are interested. We've considered setting up shop at the farmers market, but I like this idea better. Maybe $10 a box? Anyone interested in being a farm Guinea pig?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Beginnings and Endings

Looking West
Looking East

The ending of the day and beginning of the evening. Today, in our frigid temperatures, I've been basking in the afterglow of the wonderful spirit and comradarie of yesterday's Simple Things.

I've reflected on the ease of how the sun flows. Peaking over the horizon in the early morning, a new day, pure and simple, untouched and full of promise. As it slips away into the evening, it is replaced by it's alter ego, that has it's own beauty. Showing that one ending just leads to another beginning.
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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Simple Things January

Simple Things is a periodic post inspired by Christina. It always seems to come at an important time for me too. In the midst of our long winter, this thoughtful process allows me check myself, relax, step back and regain my perspective. These are a few of mine...

deep breaths of crisp air * new music streaming from my computer while I cook * fresh flowers on my window sill * the sound of children's laughter, followed oh so shortly by the twinkle in their parents eyes * the smell of lavender * my son crawling into bed at night wanting to snuggle and tell me about his day * listening to the wind rustle through the trees * an owls hoot * then, it's mates response * looking through the lens of my camera * the unexpected and treasured moment * listening to my loves soft sleeping breaths * my growing up, but trying not to, little girl * little bird prints in the snow * clasping onto a hot steaming mug and taking little sips * slowly paging through Mother Earth News magazine * a healthy family * being able to take a moment to appreciate the simple things

Please participate and link back to Soul Aperture or to me so we can all share in your simply wonderful things.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Work Ethic

I spent the weekend with Sidney in Madison at a Suzuki Strings Workshop. It was a great time for mother/daughter, daughter/instructor, assistant teacher (me)/daughter, and assistant teacher/instructor. I found the guest instructor especially inspirational. He also runs the childhood developmental psychology department at the university where he teaches. I love the Suzuki method of instruction and am learning that it is not only a way to approach teaching how to love and play music. It is also a valuable tool in parenting, and recognizing developmental cues in how to approach your child.

There were many key tag-lines all which are applied in violin lessons, but can also be appreciated more broadly as a parent navigating your child through many things.

**Listen everyday and watch for their self-corrections and praise those.

**Abandonment and independence don't belong in the same sentence.

**Ownership happens over time in snapshots, pieces of moment to moment.

**Many times a question asked already has an answer attached to it, so answer a question with a question.

**As a parent you need to find that balance between desertion and micro-managing.

Sidney wanted to go to this workshop. Even if this meant that she was on the young end or the only one from her class there, that was OK. She lights up when she hears a violin. This doesn't mean that we don't have the same practice struggles as other families, she just really seems to dig it. Unlike me at her age, nerves when playing haven't been an issue for her. She's never fretted over a solo, she just enjoys it. Now, she will get bug eyed and nervous when unprepared, but we had a repertoire and reviewed pieces all week. The big payoff was playing at the capitol rotunda today.

This morning after her first session Sid doubled over with stomach pain. She couldn't rehearse for the performance at the Capitol and was devastated. No mom, it's not nerves, I just don't feel good. I can't stand up for long without having to sit down, my stomach hurts! Should we leave or wait to see if it passes? Every time I tried to mention leaving she would begin to sob and hyperventilate. It was a bad scene. When the final rehearsal was happening and we were outside the room sitting on the floor, she would just break down when they played a song she was supposed to be playing. Finally, after waiting until it was time to head over for the recital she said she couldn't stand to play, I said well, lets head home. We got in the car and she began to sob again. We decided to find parking again and she wanted to just go in, see the inside of the capitol, sit and listen.

We found a spot for her to sit on the floor and she asked for me to find her instructor and tell her. I'm often amazed at Ms. Melzer, at how well she handles the kids. She's tuning violins for the performance and I approach her and let her know what's going on. She stops, and walks across the rotunda to Sidney and lets her know it's OK. She'll get to play here again and she has to take care of herself now. If at any point she feels like getting up and playing even part of a song, she's welcome to and she can leave at anytime.

The older kids begin to play and she decides she'll sit on the floor and just play one song when it comes to her levels playing turn. She then plays all of the songs, through sheer will. Instead of bows, she sits on the floor and rocks between songs, then pulls herself together gets up and finishes. She really wanted this. I spent 2 hours wringing my hands and battling what to do, but she wanted to stay. She had wanted to go so bad. She finished through pure will and what will for her be a defining moment in developing her work ethic. I'm so proud of her!

This truly was a moment that converged and like mentioned above she took ownership.
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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sew Crazy

Let me make myself perfectly clear, I was only moments from chucking this machine across the room! Evening one of teach myself to sew complete and I survived....barely.

A little background. I've had one lesson from a friend a year ago, and we got my machine up and running and bobbin threaded through. I've used it several times very satisfyingly on anything that I could sew with the white thread that we loaded it with. It is with this white thread I was going to begin an attempt in earnest at proficiency.

Step one: the whole damn thing came apart and I had to start at square one with the supplied cryptic instructions (thanks Brother)! Step two: struggling, scrambling, cursing at the lower bobbin for the illusive loop to make an appearance (thanks to Brian for finally getting it). Step three: for criminy sake, remember to put the foot down when you've accomplished getting all above threaded, and begin to sew. Step four: give yourself a wide berth for error. Attempt something much larger than this cute (or should I say supposed be cute) project. Step five, survive it, have a glass of wine, bask in your accomplishment and prepare a list of future projects.

I am much embarrassed by the above bird which will take up residence on the machine as a reminder of my humble beginnings. But now you can all hold me to my commitment, track my progress, and know that there's no place to go but up!
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Changing Rooms

I love our dining room. In fact, the biggest furniture investment we've made is a beautiful Stickley dining room table and chairs. I love to entertain. But formal entertaining, you know the kind where you fret over place settings and enjoy a lovely meal in that special room, only comes around every other month or so.

Our wonderful old farmhouse is a very functional space. The downstairs is perfect for the family (and friends). It's where we spend our time and whether we're all doing the same thing or not, there's a sense of camaraderie just because of our proximity to one another. Over Christmas, I began working a puzzle or two with the kids on the dining room table. It's central and a great space to spread out, and worked perfectly.

As I've mentioned before, I have so many creative ideas I want to attempt with my sewing machine, I just need to gain confidence on it and start already! Well, I've procrastinated and procrastinated and realized something. Being upstairs, isolated in the cold back hallway room and situated at my hope chest as a work space isn't conducive of actually getting anything done.

So this morning, I moved the sewing machine downstairs and placed it smack dab at the head of the dining room table. It's easy enough to move when we entertain. Now it's in the epicenter of my home. Somewhere that I can create, share how to's with the kids and still be involved with all of the happenings. It's not too much of a leap to use the dining room as a sort of surrogate craft area. A portion of the built in buffet has been used for kid craft supply storage since we moved in.

Have you switched up any rooms lately?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

What Kind Of Reader Are You?

I relish the story and wouldn't think of skipping ahead to find out what happens. I believe my mom has been known to peak ahead! Sidney recently read Black Beauty and loved it, so I bought her a few more classics that I'm eager for her to read. One of which is Anne of Green Gables. One of my favorites. When I was young my family took a trip to Prince Edward Island to see Green Gables. My mom and I loved the mini-series with Megan Follows and I rented it from netflix, to whet Sidney's appetite for the story. We began to watch it Friday night, and she loves it! She's as taken by the language as I am.

We sat down for our second installment yesterday morning and she said (please avert your eyes if you don't know the story, I'm about to reveal a plot point) "You didn't tell me Matthew dies!" I asked her how she knew this, and she said when she went upstairs Friday night she read the last chapter of the book so she could find out what happened. No, No, No! I wonder if there is some heredity at work here? hmmm grandma?? I found myself pleading with Sid not to get into this bad habit. There is so much to enjoy in a story, don't spoil it by knowing the ending first. I think she's skeptical. Time will tell.

This week was also the week that Charlie decided that seeing things "shiny" was better than seeing things "dusty", so he began to wear his glasses full time. We also found that a little bit of inspiration has him eagerly reading at bed time, on his own. We're off to the library today to let him pick his next reading adventure. This will be a mother/son trip, because Sidney got a wealth of new reading material for Christmas, which she will hopefully read in the correct direction!

So, what kind of reader are you?

The Frost

Only one other time in my life have I witnessed a hoary frost. Both times I was struck by the beauty and peace of the encapsulated landscape.

This has been a week full of emotion. Watching the heart-wrenching scenes from Haiti gave pause to be truly grateful for what we have (you can text 90999 to subject line Haiti and have $10 added to your cell phone bill next month, benefits the American Red Cross International Relief, every small amount helps). Coming to the realization that just successfully navigating this recession in 2008/2009 wasn't going to be enough, sucked the wind out of my sails. At the same time it ignited my survivor skills and opened up new veins of creativity.

There is nothing more life affirming than looking out the window in the morning and glimpsing such beauty to begin your day. Happy Sunday!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Backpack Treasures

Going through Sidney's backpack, I found this little wish list, must have been left in her desk. I was so touched. It was one of those moments when you realize that your kids are developing into thoughtful individuals and are understanding some of what you're trying to teach them about the important things in life.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Taking a Challenge to Heart

We've determined to join some friends, both near and far, in a commitment to really reel in spending in 2010 and determine what are wants versus needs. This thought process dovetails beautifully with our increasingly self-efficient lifestyle and would be good for us in our current heavy house predicament. In addition, we can use this experience to teach the kids the value of money.

Since January 1st, Brian has wanted me to put a Flo-chart of our spending in the kitchen (the non-essential kind, which as seen at Simply Spent has it's own set of rules). I've balked at this idea, because Jeez, That is what quickbooks is for, saving us paper and ledgers.

Today we went to the office supply store to buy a pencil sharpener. I've resisted. I've bought cheap ones in the past and they all break within a month. I was aggravated when at my folks in November. The electric pencil sharpener they bought when I was in 8th grade is STILL going strong! This morning while finishing homework and using a knife to whittle at the dull and broken pencils, I'd had enough!!! So, I bit the bullet! We are now the proud owners of a $38 pencil sharpener and it has been added to the newly put up non-essential expense calender in the kitchen for tracking said expenses.

Moral of the story, I know that my laid back husband is serious about a project when he goes all type 'A' on me, and is asking me, the queen of organization, to chart the project and hang it on the board!!

Monday, January 11, 2010

As I Look Out The Window

As I look out of the window this is what I see. But today is the day we begin to envision much more. Yes, it's only January 11 and we've just caught a glimpse of our first seed catalog. When we were in the car this morning, I prompted: "you know we really need to start thinking about this berry patch if we're going to put a big one in this year" to which Brian said "oh, did you see what I was looking at online this morning?" No in fact I did not, but I can see we're both on the same wave length and ready to jump in with both feet.

The garden is truly a labor of love, but I think that the most satisfying are the things that we put in that become a sort of infrastructure. I talked here a bit about the history that we contribute for future generations. When we pulled the diseased raspberries out at the end of last season, our commitment was made. Now we're researching sod removing equipment and different trellising techniques so that we may plant and/or transplant our raspberries, boysenberries, gooseberries, black and red currents, lingonberries and we're looking at the very non berry hardy kiwi. Yum!

So this afternoon we will turn some of these wonderful peaches, that have been waiting for months for the perfect time to make an appearance, into a sweet peach crisp. We will then get a taste of the sunshine that will inspire our future berry garden.

**I think I will turn my 'garden harvest' area into the 2010 garden plan for now so we can chronicle this years plans as we make them.
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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Growing, Cooking & Learning

We've really been focusing on using the produce we have stored and I've found that my grocery bills have been significantly diminished so far this winter! Last year we used what we had, but oh so sparingly. It was almost like I was paying homage to it. It was all so carefully stored I hated to disturb it. Almost like all of the summer work we had done was too pretty a picture to disrupt. Totally crazy! So, this year we have been digging in with wild abandon and loving every minute. I still feel a bit wistful as the beautifully displayed mason jars diminish, but it's been well worth it.

We are such foodies. I think I'm raising a mini-foodie too. We've developed quite a web and cookbook collection. My most recent acquisition is "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" and I've been cooking from it all week. Sidney has seen me putting together a casserole roast chicken and gotten out her own little cookbook and made the accompanying muffins.

The food frenzy of the grown-ups, using wonderful new recipes with what we've mostly grown, must be catching. Today Sid's cooked breakfast for us and this afternoon made us all egg nog from scratch. I love that she's enthusiastic about cooking and I hope that she can see how much fun and how rewarding it is too. We spent the evening with a few foodie friends cooking impossibly difficult recipes, laughing at the chaos of preparation, and then relishing in the rewards. I've learned that even the most challenging of recipe's is doable. I look forward to continuing to find new and innovative ways to utilize the treasures stored in my root cellar. As I write this, Brian is turning some of our gorgeous summer tomatoes into a savory spaghetti pie and I didn't even have to run out to the grocery store to pick anything up!

Bon Appetite!

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Friday, January 8, 2010

Silent Snow

Just a quiet look at our last twenty-four hours
Snow Poodle
Yes, I was the one out in the snow taking pictures at night.
Dawn Digout
Noon Glory
Happy Friday!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Meet Burp

Sidney created this pottery in art class at school--named burp :)

I wish I could harness the raw creativity that the kids have. The innate and intelligent originality. I went through years learning how to inspire the 'willing suspension of disbelief' when playing a part. I love to try to immerse myself into whatever I'm doing. But I'm conscious of it. I'm willingly suspending. I hope that as the kids grow up they can hold onto to their imaginations and continue to experience the wonder of life, as I do.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Restless Brain

Some people have restless leg syndrome, I have restless brain syndrome.

I guess I always choose to start new projects when I have a hundred other things to do, as a way to prepare myself for the larger ones. De-clutter the brain while I'm working out how to best approach the next task. When I was in school, I always worked best when I was under a deadline. The only deadlines I have for these homey creative tasks are self-imposed but necessary.

I have a favorite magazine that I read cover to cover and hold onto every issue to use for future reference. Well, it has now become a leaning tower on my bookshelf, I can't fit any more, I struggle to put my hands on the reference I need, and honestly it just looks pack-ratty ugly!

So this evening I'm going to begin extracting the articles I need and put them in a great binder that I found when we were organizing the basement yesterday. I obviously have had this thought before, because this little gem is labeled "Mom's Craft and Project Idea Book." It was like a gift finding this book that I had started and was full of ideas.

So now I can add to the pretty colored tabs things like bread making, garden & chicken tips, and energy efficiency. Ohhhh look at all the pretty colors of the dividers! I'm not type A at all! HA! At least I'm a laid back A, who just needs to organize her creative juices before putting them into action. And this time, the idea book will be within arms reach and not hidden in the basement to find 3 years from now :)

Monday, January 4, 2010

Finding Value

I'm sitting on the couch post Sidney's riding lesson, her dad and brother are at wrestling, and we're watching a new show that Sidney has just fallen in love with.

Sid got a net book for Christmas, no it's not an apple, but it will do for an 8 year old who loves to research and thinks google is the bomb! (yes, I've got parental controls). She also got a great gift from Santa, really a gift for the whole family. Season one of the Walton's. Since it was settling down time last night, and I was watching the Return of the King (not entirely kid friendly), she googled it, and then watched the next episode on the Internet.

How did Santa know that her dad's and my favorite past time, in the prime time viewing age before Sid was born, before the news and world took over our nightly viewing, was the one and only Walton's.

We love this show, and now our daughter has developed a passion for it and it's lessons. Call me a sap, but this simpler life is in part an inspiration for what we do. Where love and respect for family, and all of the blessings that we can get from what is right in front of us take precedence. In the time of iCarly, Hannah Montana, and the Suite Life, I am thankful that my family can balance the new with our old-fashioned values and reconcile the two.

Goodnight Mama, goodnight Daddy, goodnight Sidney, goodnight Charlie. Who are you saying goodnight to tonight?

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The Great Sort Begins

Well it's day 4 of the new year and we have taken a small step toward completing one of our winter projects. I'd say that's a pretty good jump start on the year! Operation tool consolidation and arranging has officially begun. The basement has been emptied of the clutter and bits and pieces and they're making their way to the barn for the big lay out and organization.

As we began the pick up and find this morning, Brian said he was frustrated because it seems we just partially moved in. His big love and creative outlet has been his wood shop and since we moved in, we have only partially unpacked some stuff, just waiting for the other house to sell and then get the rest of it moved and set up.

Now, we are at a disadvantage since so many of his main power tools were badly damaged in last years flood. They have been moved here since we had to vacate the rest of the other house for repairs, but everything just sits in a kind of limbo and disarray. So now we begin to clear out, organize, and re-enter talks with the insurance company, with the hopes of gaining some guidance on how to fix this (we've attempted ad nausea to get bids but there are no dealers anywhere in our area).

The tools will come in oh so handy as we continue to build our life on our little farmstead. We've got a list of projects a mile long that they will be useful for. In going with the theme I presented yesterday, this year will not only be a great year as we continue on our adventure, it will also be the year that we move on and try not to start every sentence with "when the other house sells..."
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Sunday, January 3, 2010

Toasting 2010

Today really feels like the first day of the new year to me. We got home yesterday evening and before settling in, I set out a loaf of my zucchini bread to defrost, so that we could start the new year off tasting the goodness of last year. Today has been spent picking up, taking down Christmas, and generally rearranging things to look and feel fresh. It isn't too hard to be dedicated indoors since it is frigid outside.

When we moved into this house my parents sent us a wonderful gift basket of goodies. One of those items was a nice bottle of champagne to celebrate our new home with. I decided to put it in the fridge and crack it open when the other house sold as a celebration of the completed move. Little did I know then, that two and a half years later, that bottle would still be sitting in it's refrigerated place of honor.

I discussed with Brian last night that to start off right, we're going to open that bottle this evening, to accompany our garden feast. We're going to toast the new year and all of the good to come, instead of waiting for the special occasion that would normally give us the extravagant excuse to drink champagne. Toasting our health, happiness and the adventure to come is enough!

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