Saturday, February 27, 2010

Childs Play?

It seems that I've entered a pattern of play.  I suppose you could say it began last summer when we, along with some of our closest friends joined a co-ed kickball team (equipped with beer on the sidelines).  It was a great time and we learned that we had some aches and pains that we didn't remember from the last time we played.  To top it off, our team full of thirty and forty somethings played and placed amazingly well for the season, among teams that were mostly made up of twenty something bartenders.

Last night several of us checked out a free open house and lesson at the Racine Curling Club.  We had joked a bit about the sport the week prior, and thought it would be fun to see what it was all about.  We had a great time learning how to slide, balance, sweep and stay upright all at the same time.  I don't think any of us plan to become regulars at the activity, but it was a great thing to do with good friends (you know, those you're not too embarrassed to really make a fool out of yourself in front of). 

Then today, my co-leader and I took our Girl Scout troop to Skatetown for lessons and free skating.  It was a blast.  The girls were amazing.  And by the way, it felt good to know I still had it.  I don't think my concern was crashing, so much as being crashed into by one of the 75 or so kids on the rink all at different skill levels.  Well worth it, fun for the kids and oh we've got to have an adult night at this too!

I'm really beginning to see a pattern here.  We're participating on an adult dodge ball team two weeks from now for a  charity event.   When was the last time you had fun at play?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Snow Mask Adventure


You may recall yesterday I made a comment about smashing our faces into the snow.  Last week when I was inspired by Julochka's amazing snow masks I was just biding my time until we could try.  We've had quite a bit of snow this week and I went searching for the right conditions and light.  This turned out to be quite a challenge for me for some reason.  The kids had a blast and were way too excited with mom smothering her face in snow, as it turns out multiple times.  So these are the best we were able to accomplish with this fun and cold experiment.

Charlie made two attempts, and ran screaming both times (with rosey cheeks and exhileration, once was first thing in the morning before school!)  The main challenge we ran into was he couldn't keep his face down long enough to push it in.  The cool thing's you can just make out are his furrowed brow and pursed lips.

Sidney also made a couple of attempts and this one turned out the best.  I liked it also because the hair shadow around the impression is mine since the sun was behind me when I took the picture.  It's kind of like a mother/daughter merge.

Finally mine,  it did seem to come out the clearest, but that may be due to the fact that I'm a lunatic and placed my now red, chapped face in the snow multiple times trying to come out with a good shot.  Then had equal trouble trying to balance the light. 

Overall the project was a ton of fun!  Brian felt the images were a bit too disturbing for his taste, and he totally objects to cold, especially intentionally inflicted cold, so he did not participate.  The kids and I however, had a bit of winter fun.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Slow and Easy

Earlier this evening it suddenly began to snow, not slow easy flakes getting heavier as the time passed.  No, the sky opened up with giant flakes pouring down with wild abandon.  As I'm outside snaping vigorous photos and plopping mine and my kids faces in the snow (explaination for another post, hopefully tomorrow), I can hear the snow hitting the ground and trees like you hear a downpour of rain on the roof.  It was an absolutly beautiful sound. 

Now warm and inside, I'm watching the cars out on the road go by.  It's almost magical what a good snow storm can do.  It's a forced slow down.  The cars are all driving carefully, almost in slow motion, oh so carefully so they do not to stop to fast at the corner and slide. It makes you think.  Why is it that we are always in such a hurry?  It's almost relaxing to watch these cars in a rather odd slow motion, not that they're thinking of it this way, but why not?  Why are we always in such a hurry to shave mere seconds off of parts of our day here or there, just to get some fragment done.  Or arrive somewhere 30 seconds faster, most probably frustrated by the process that got you there that fast?  So this evening, take a moment to slow down and appreciate what is around you, it may make you realize that the 30 seconds is part of the journey and shouldn't be rushed.

Monday, February 22, 2010

More Snow

 Do you see the light in the forest?  Can't you just imagine a hobbit living there?

Last night we had a heavy wet snow.  The kind that sticks to everything it touches and you can just feel it's density in the air.  It makes the trees look like they or overburdened yet graceful and stoic at the same time.

The garden fence looks as if it's taken all it can bear as it waits patiently to enclose it's bounty.  Granted a major to do this year is to replace our currently beautiful, yet tattered fence.

And finally, you can just feel the continued battle of the forces of Winter and the coming Spring.  Guess who wins?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sounds, Light, and Sweetness

No, we aren't this green right now, I took this last spring :)

Even though we are awaiting the arrival of another 9 or so inches of snow, there is something different outside this morning.  So much so I just had to pause and listen, take a deep breath and visualize.  It's coming, the ever so illusive Spring.  It's just around the corner.  How do I know?  The birds are chattering.  The air the last few mornings has become more and more vocal.  More than just the little finches that have been snacking from our feeders.  I'm seeing different varieties whose voices have been hidden all winter.  I haven't seen the tell tale robin yet, but I know he's coming!

I'm not the only one on this thought process.  When I went out this morning, Garrison Keillor's opening song on A Prairie Home Companion was on and it was illustrating much the same feeling. 

Our days are getting longer, we are no longer heading out for the day and coming home from school in darkness.  And we are close to having the right conditions to attempt our first collection of maple syrup.  B has spent time this weekend analyzing our different maples to determine which ones may produce for us a sweet clear sap.  I'm looking forward to what we can make of this sticky experiment. 

I'm just waiting for the crescendo of sounds, daylight and the sweetness that is Spring.
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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Whimsy

 

Meet Tom.  This little robot is the collaborative work of a getting along great today brother/sister duo.   I think Charlie has been worried a little about his big sister and today she seems to be feeling better than she has been.  She's more engaged in playing than she has been in almost a  month!  So we start our Saturday morning out with a little bit of whimsy, a little more coop duty, and preparing for more snow that's headed our way.

Friday, February 19, 2010

It's Coop Day!

 Signs of Spring

We had deliciously warm weather yesterday, a balmy 38 degrees with sun and today promises to be more of the same!  So we plan to stretch our snowbound wings and clean out the chicken coop, adjust their lighting and lay down some fresh straw.  Oh but I love the smell of fresh straw!  I know this doesn't sound a bit like a glamorous task, and it isn't.  But there is still too much snow cover for much else and I'm thrilled with the thought of being back outside and working on the property.

I'm sure it will be quite a sight.  You see Cinnamon, one of our hens, has just finished molting so right now it looks like  chicken blew up in there!  We may be getting some more snow on Sunday afternoon through Monday morning.  If so, I think we'll try the great idea that julochka posted this morning.  You really should go and take a look!

Happy Friday!

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Path

Funny, the seemingly trivial events that have a profound effect on your life.  When I was in High School I had an American Literature assignment.  Thinking back, I think American Lit. was my Junior year. An experience that I was not alone in, as I'm sure if you think back, you'll also remember being required to choose, memorize, and recite a poem.  In retrospect, there were probably few assignments that were as formative to me, both in solidifying my identity and in developing a love for prose.

I reflect on this now, as I've added an additional statement to my blog's title.  Whenever in my life that I've needed affirmation I've held onto this phrase like you treasure an old friend.  It has given me strength.  To me it is more than just a cool poem, it has been my life's path.  It has, and continues to make all of the difference.

 Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

...Robert Frost

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Creative Process

A while back I took a new tact with the kids.  If I got frusterated or angry, I began to under-react.  By this I mean lower my voice instead of raise it, and not get over wrought over those childhood annoyances that really aren't worth over-reacting to (the accidental spill even though I just finished cleaning and they should know better, you know that stuff).  I've found that the reaction my kids have is fantastic, they are quicker to respond to my even tolerance of a situation, than the fly off the handle one.

I've taken a similar inner count to ten approach as I begin new creative projects.  Teaching myself to sew for one.  You'd think I'd completly lose it after the repeated bobbin threadings as I began, or the time I sewed a pocket on upside down and had to pick each individual thread out.  You know what?  I didn't; just laughed and went on.  The process was much more enjoyable.  I also like that it's so much more an immediate gratification, when compared to something like knitting that takes me months to complete an afghan.  So I can afford to take the time to mess up and figure it out.  (though I think I may try to learn crochet, guess I'm a glutton for punishment :)

Yesterday I made a great rice pudding, and for some reason the stars were way out of sync.  The rice, for some reason, took forever to absorb.  And even though I took pains to carefully tempur my egg, what happened?  It of course scrambled when I incorporated it.  So taking the same under-react tact, I patiently skimmed all of the scrambled mess out and didn't just pitch the whole pot.

Today B and I spend time pouring over the seed catalogs and officially lined out our berry patch.  How exciting!  Even though the ground is now frozen solid and the plants won't even be mailed until April, the planning is progress in and of itself.  So inspired we were, we dug out all of the beautiful red currants we froze last spring (which here was June) and made our first Red Currant Jelly!!  It tastes divine.  We'll see, we seem to be having problems with it setting up, either it will by morning, or it will be a great syrup for pancakes or over ice cream.  You see, this is the type of under-reacting that I need to keep my sanity.

Guess what?  It works!

Moments That Melt Your Heart

On Friday I helped at my son's Valentines Day party at school.  I was taken by surprise when he found that he had an extra Valentine, he came straight up and gave it to me, with a shy smile.  It melted my heart.  Here's to a day full of heart melting moments to all.
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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Let's Make Jam

Where has the last week gone?  I'm not entirely certain.  I've been distracted, and therefore remiss in posting.  My daughter has been dealing with some perplexing medical issues, so it seems that I've been consumed by our wonderful medical system.  I can't imagine why anyone would think the US would need healthcare reform?  Sigh.. That sentiment will be for another post.  I'm just steamed because I just got a form letter from the insurance company today letting me know they were going to review the request and let us know if they'd cover my daughters CAT scan.  Humpf.. I can tell you what their answer better be, but again for another post.

Today I had the pleasure of hosting a play date for Charlie.  It is so amazing to listen to the intense 'dude' filled conversation of six year old boys.  Sidney laid low and worked on some school work while the dudes played wildly.  I managed to do some Saturday chores and finish the two aprons I'd been working on for a friend.

I've joined a photography 365 group on flickr (you can check them out from the flickr badge on this page).  I only began participating the beginning of this month, but it has been a fantastic experience so far.  My biggest frustration has been that though I've had some beautiful shots, I'm getting tired of all of the white.  It has been a beautiful backdrop, but is making me feel like I'm caught in a winter rut and I'm becoming increasingly antsy for Spring.  While craving the taste of Spring, I dug deep into the freezer and found the rhubarb that I'd chopped up last May and prepared a fantastic Rhubarb Jam.  I can't imagine it will last the week, hmm maybe not the weekend.  So, renewed by the taste of what treats are to come, I'll look outside and enjoy the beauty of the winter wonderland we live in.

Rhubarb Jam

1 1/2 lbs Chopped Rhubarb
2 Cups Sugar
1/2 Cup Water
1/3 Cup Orange Juice
2 tsp. Orange Zest 

Bring all of the ingredients to a boil, then reduce heat to medium high and cook for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Place in sterilized jars and in the fridge.  Yum!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Snow Day

Today is a snow day.  It is first one that I've ever been able to experience with my kids.  In the past they have gone to a friends house while we are at work.  We did all trudge into work this morning, the kids happily worked on school projects and played with the 'work friends' while I got my work done.  (Even in Wisconsin there were very few people out and heading to the Vet this morning).  This afternoon has been all ours!  

As I'm sipping on my hot cocoa, I can barely see where B plowed at lunch time.  We've got about 7 inches now and that's expected to double by tomorrow morning.  The kids have played with wild abandon barely able to see one another, I've made fresh bread, Sidney made a beautiful gingerbread angel for her mama, we've played a little Wii, and now we're sitting, doing our own thing, sipping, and enjoying a beautiful snow day!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Third Time's a Charm

Beautiful Anne Marie Horner Fabrics from this week's spree

I am amazed at my patience level with this teaching myself to sew thing. I love that I've just completed my third apron, and have been able to expand a bit from the original pattern. Learning through trial and error what works and what doesn't has been more exciting than frustrating. I've whittled my time down as I've gained some confidence and now my only obstacle seems to be a technical issue with the machine, and I'm fairly certain it's not it's operator!


These fabrics came from fabricworm's great store

Around The World



Back in January (it already feels like a long time ago doesn't it? Time seems to be flying at record speed) I sent out a dinner party idea to some friends. We've done an annual round robin for years, but it's gotten a little bit more difficult for us to host since we don't live in the neighborhood anymore. So, I invited everyone to bring a dish reflecting some aspect of their heritage and a complimenting drink, aka lots of wine!

What that produced was an evening of gastronomical delights and great friends. We began with an amazing Swiss fondue, provided by Simply Spent, that we bathed bread chunks, apples and celery in, and truly could have been a meal onto itself. We contributed Jaeger Schnitzel over mashed German butter potatoes (from the garden), which was accompanied by a Polish/Middle Eastern combination of a stuffed cabbage roll that was to die for, thanks Krystyna! At this point we needed to take a digestion break before we started dessert, Jackie brought two! A fantastic Scandinavian almond cake and a Swedish cheese cake.

All in all a great evening and amazingly, virtually no left overs! We successfully ate our way around the world! How was your Saturday night?

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Generations


Memory is a funny thing. It seems to come in snapshots of occasions or snippets of conversations. Then in time, the day to day love and warmth become the impressions and the greying film of nostalgia.

Yesterday digging in a box long since put away I came across a stack of letters, oddly placed yet lovingly saved. Letters that came from my grandparents when I first moved away from home seventeen years ago.


The letters brought me laughter and wonder, the wonder of my gram's beautiful handwriting, and laughter at her quick wit, no nonsense conversation, love of a new recipe stemming from fresh produce purchased at Plowboys or recollecting a conversation with my mom. I am blessed to still have my gram, and though she is clouded by dementia, I still get to see glimpses of the light that touched the letters so lovingly written so many years ago.



They brought immediate tears upon seeing my grandpa's deliberate handwriting. Brightened my mind in hearing again his gruff and loving tone and being able to once again picture him with me. Counting in Latin, playing cards, singing Irish blarney, and sharing with me life lessons: the importance of respect, debate, education and most of all family. My last conversation with him reflected his approval of my husband to be, saying: "he's a good man."


Here's to the overwhelming power of family. I hope that we create an environment where our kids can bask in the love of their elders and pass their memories whether vivid or antiqued to the generations to come.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

I see an addiction coming on...

One of the items I've been thinking about, I sketched him today and then started to play with scraps, the roosters below are the shell to a microwavable heating pad I'm making too.

Let me pre-position this for you. Last month was the first month of our commitment to wants versus needs spending. I was thrilled to see how well we did too! We spent right about $200 in total on things like dining out, coffee, non-grocery items, entertainment and $78 of that was a bike computer on sale that Brian needed. It was remarkably painless too.

In the spirit of learning a new craft to gift with and maybe sell or barter with, I've jumped with both feet into sewing as well. I find it surprisingly relaxing, for how frustrating portions of this learning process have been, and I've brainstormed all kinds of ideas for things I want to make. My biggest barrier is finding cool fabrics. Well that is to say it was, until yesterday....

Thanks to a blogging universe friend, I was introduced to a fantastic etsy store full of amazing fabric sets. OHH so many pretty colors, and patterns, complete eye candy, and I was overwhelmed with the possibilities. My mind and shopping cart were racing against some imaginary time clock, which may have been my spending conscience. Well let's say the little devil prevailed and I spent half of our entire discretionary spending of last month on beautiful fabrics that will spur my creative juices forward into this, the month of love.

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