Saturday, December 31, 2011

Blank Pages


 My word for 2011 was Cultivate.  A word that has many diverse meanings and reflects much about my life.  It is something that I have done, and will continue to do.  It is inspiring to read so many words of affirmation and hope as we close the old and anticipate the new.  I was reading Miss Buckles's post this morning, that she closed with a Norwegian saying,  Blank Pages.

I picture entering the new year with a fresh moleskin, opening it up for the first time tomorrow to fill with dreams and accomplishments.  It will sketch the steps toward a new business. We will plot the growth of our homestead. It will be peppered with snap shots of light capturing the growth and laughter of our children. B & I will chart our way through a year of hard work and focus, coupled with love and joy.

Yet the pages are still blank, itching with anticipation to be filled with illustrations of the growth, risk, challenge, uncertainty and reward that will come from jumping in wholeheartedly to the next chapter of our book.  

A very happy 2012 to you, may your blank pages be filled with new adventures!

The Coupon Book

 Just before we left town, Charles could hardly contain his excitement as he gave us the Christmas present he made for us at school. Looking forward to opening the annual ornament, we were surprised by a little coupon book! Such a cute idea! There are ten coupons:

Feed the kitten 
Clean my room 
Set the table 
Spend time with my parents, for 1 hr.
Be nice to my sister, for 1 hr. 
Do the dishes 
Vacuum 
Make my bed, for 1 week 
Mow the lawn 
Don't complain about food

His eyes lit up as we read them, but he jostled a little from foot to foot and mentioned that each coupon was only good for one use. We loved how thoughtful the illustrated book was. It wasn't just ideas that every kid wrote down. There were two that are favorites of mine. Mow the lawn, with a picture of himself driving the tractor. Obviously he feels he is old enough now to be responsible for that task. The second is 'don't complain about food.' This showed me that he was being thoughtful to include things that we would especially appreciate.

When we returned from vacation and walked into the house he noticed the little book right away where we left it on the window sill. "mom", he said quite seriously, "remember when you use a coupon, you have to give it too me so that I can shred it." This struck me as hilarious! He is such a conscientious kid, and for the most part doesn't need a coupon book. I think he just wants to be sure that we don't pull the 'be nice to my sister' card more than once!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Swan Song

After a week in balmy sunny weather, we have returned home to a steady, yet surprisingly warm rain (is it really December 30)?  Adjusting to the time change and the general quiet monotony of the driving rain is just what we needed today. A time to quiet ourselves and relish being lazy peaceful.

 I fell in love with swans when I lived in England.  There was something so wise and elegant about them.  Swans are one of the oldest and most powerful totems in folk lore.  "They reflect the power and longevity that is possible as we awaken to the beauty and power within ourselves. The swan is the totem of the child, the poet, the mystic, and the dreamer."  A perfect picture to have in my head while reflecting on the past year and preparing for the new. Wishing that your 2011 ends in a swan song and you all a safe and Happy New Year!
*quote found at tribe.net

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Solstice

  When I awoke at five this morning, it was pure darkness.  Then this afternoon I stopped for just a moment to look up and this is what I saw at 4:15 pm.  It took me a moment in my blur of the week to remember that this is the longest day of the year.  I posted a poem on my facebook wall yesterday and I thought it was perfect for reflecting upon and celebrating the solstice.

"From December to March, there are for many of us three gardens -
the garden outdoors,
the garden of pots and bowls in the house,
and the garden of the mind's eye."
- Katherine S. White

Indeed beginning tomorrow, the light will once again slowly be in our favor.   Where ever you are on this darkest day of the year, may you find peace and warmth in the season!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Blur

It is only Monday, and the week has begun to go by in a blur.
Christmas gift exchanges, markets and parties at school.
Wrapping up year end at work,
contemplating packing,
mentally reflecting on this year and planning for the new.
Nothing better than a cold evening, family and the house lit only by the light of the tree.  
Oh what a lovely blur!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

First Snow

 What a surprise when I woke up this morning to snow on the ground.
It seems that I have finally succumbed to the virus B and the kiddos have
dealt with since Thanksgiving.  Thankfully, it's before we leave for California!
 Nothing stops our little barn kitty from staying close to us,
not even what I'm sure was the unexpected sensation of a first exposure to snow.
Wishing you a weekend full of firsts!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Where Am I?

Rain or moon surface?

It is surreal that it is December 14, Christmas cheer is everywhere.
I am humming winter wonderland and wondering where our's is?? 
We woke up this morning 43 degrees and a rain storm!
"It is going to be a real soaker", they say.  "If this were snow it would be many of inches!"
I thought this picture that I took this morning, said it perfectly.....
am I in Wisconsin or on another planet?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Taken a Hit

Fungi
As I was catching up with my Postcards to Blog Camp group on flickr this morning, I thought to myself  What?? It's the 13th of December and I haven't posted a single photo this month!  That is a first for me in the last two years.  So as I was sipping coffee and getting the kids ready for school, I opened iPhoto so that I could upload photos.  I was shocked to see that I've taken precious few shots in the last two weeks.  The vast majority were either barn kitty, gnomey or before and after Norwex shots that I could use at shows.  Obviously my photography has taken a hit as I find a new balance getting my business up and running.  I feel pretty good now after the first 6 weeks and I think that as we head into holiday travel I will be focusing more on my lens. After all, it is an amazing way to look at the world, capturing life as it sits in each moment. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Little Visitor (a gnome story)

Last Saturday, I received Gnomey. He's been traveling far and wide this year on his sabbatical from his home garden.  After a long day when I reached the mail box and saw the package postmarked from Denmark, it put a smile on my face!  Oh we will have such a busy week, before he heads on his way to his next adventure!  Here is a glimpse of what his week looked like.
He was instrumental in picking out the family Christmas tree.
He was quite helpful to me at my Norwex show on Sunday, doing his best to entertain the kiddos in the room while I talked to the moms.
He didn't get the least bit woozy when he observed B in surgery on Monday.  I was quite proud of him!
 Finally, this morning we went on a short car ride to see Lake Michigan.  Gnomey had really gotten into the spirit while here, and sported his own souvenir cheese head to show his spirit for the Packers 12-0 season.  I think he liked a few moments on a frosty morning to clear his head by the lake and prepare for the next leg of the journey.  It was great having him!


If you would like to get a glimpse of all of Gnomey's adventures this year, please check out Karen's blog The Roaming Gnome.  Such fun!

Cyndy, he's headed your way next! ;-)


Seconds and Thirds Please

Cookie Exchange 1
When I was wracking my brain for holiday cookies to bring to last weeks cookie exchange, I decided that I wanted to tackle something new.  I love our traditional cookies, but was just feeling like a challenge.  I came across two recipes one from Martha Stewart called Chocolate Espresso Snowcaps, and the other from the kitchn for Chewy Molasses Cookies.  I linked the chocolate ones above, but made a key change with the molasses ones so am sharing it here.

I will say they were both very easy, and quite decadent!  I also really liked that they both were deliciously chewy and stayed that way.  The doughs can be easily made ahead and chilled or frozen and then baked off when you have time.

Cookie Exchange 2 Chewy Ginger Molasses Cookies

1/2 C unsalted butter
1/4 C orange infused olive oil ( I had a blood orange olive oil that I got as a gift from a friend and it     was to die for!  I was stunned at what a huge difference it made in the flavor of the cookie)!
1/4 C molasses
1 C brown sugar
1 egg
A good chunk of fresh ginger ~ 3 inches, grated
2 1/4 C flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. powdered ginger
1/8 tsp fresh ground black pepper
granulated sugar for rolling

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

Cream butter, olive oil, molasses, and brown sugar together. Then add the egg and whip until smooth and add grated ginger with any juices.

In a separate bowl mix together flour, baking soda, salt, powdered ginger, Cinnamon and black pepper.  Add to wet ingredients until completely incorporated.  This will produce a soft dough.  Place in refrigerator for 1- hour. (I made the dough the night before I baked them, so just chilled it overnight).  

Take small 1 inch chunks of dough, roll them into balls, then roll them in granulated sugar.  Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 12 minutes.  Once cool you can choose to ice them or keep them plain.  The flavors are strong enough that it doesn't need the icing.  If you ice them a simple glaze made from a mixture of powdered sugar, granulated sugar, and lemon juice is a nice touch!

We are a big chocolate family and the kids loved both cookies, but when they went back for seconds and thirds, it was the ginger molasses that they went after first!

Monday, December 5, 2011

This Little Gentlemen


The last four days seem to have just flown by!  It was a cookie exchanging,  back to back Norwex partying, Christmas tree finding weekend!  We once again loved the fact that we have a truck when we could pick our Christmas tree, toss it in the back and head home. 

Early last week we asked a dear friend if she could contact her mom to let us into her father's antique store.  He passed away three years ago and since the store has been closed.  For years and years we had loved to peruse the store and over time had purchased a number of cherished items.  B always coveted a glass ornament and Christmas light collection and wanted so to make them part of our home.  Graciously they opened the doors to us and as a result, this year we have a vintage ornament tree, with all of the ornaments from his shop.  The one pictured above is our centerpiece and this little gentlemen we placed last.  I'm keeping the tags on all of these, because they are in my friend's father's hand.  This particular tag says Santa Ornament CZ 1850. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

November in Review

A little summary of what November was like in my corner of the world through my lens.  The holiday season is officially under way, and I'm headed off to a cookie exchange with a group of wonderful ladies this evening.  As icing on the cookie,  it's being held at a friend's fantastic creative space where she has her photography business.  A great way to get those creative juices flowing!  Happy December!

November in Review

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Inspiration Mojo


Today turned out to be one of those days.  The first day back from vacation and there was a lot of catching up to do at work, but it all went smoothly!  This fall has been busy, happy, but seemed to be lacking a little bit of that inspiration that drives me to look at things and makes me want to create.  Don't get me wrong, I have been productive, but just not quite feeling it.

The tide really turned when I was driving the kids home from school tonight.  Like so many other's this fall, the sunset quickly put on a show, changing every second as it reached it's twilight crescendo.  What was different about this one?  I am not sure, the frosty and very windy air, that makes you quicken your step gave it a breathless feel.  Giving me the warmth that winter brings to your soul as you rush in the door at home to ward off the cold.  I snapped a number of shots and I was taken by each one. 

Then I hurried into the house to put together the Norwex order that arrived from one of my shows.  That done, went straight into making cookie dough for a cookie exchange that I am going to on Thursday.  Each dough was decadent and outrageously good raw, I'll share more about them once they are cooked tomorrow!  I then busied myself with a simple pasta sauce all made from garden items that we are storing...(aside, I have no idea why I decided to run a scene from American Horror through my head when I went into the root cellar tonight, but I sure beat feeted it out of there)!  As dinner is simmering away, I sit with a glass of wine and plug in the camera to see if any of the shots look as good SOOC as they did through the view finder.  I asked B to come over and check out the sunset from tonight.  His first comment was wow, so striped and with the deep blue, that looks like the flag.  What do you think??

I think I am getting my inspiration mojo back!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Just Open Your Eyes

Colorful Cabbage
I was running to get gas the other day, cruising down a road that I often travel and saw this rainbow of cabbage.  What struck me, other than the gorgeous color, was how I had missed this during it's growth?  Surprisingly, from "America's Dairyland" we are also a large producer of the nations cranberries and cabbage.  In fact, my township of Franksville, was once home to volumes of open sauerkraut fields.  If you have ever seen Franks Pure Foods Co. it began here in 1907 and the label you will find on many a bottle of sauerkraut. 

Aside from this little history lesson, this is about what happens when you just open your eyes and look beyond whatever your current distraction is and find joy and appreciation from the simple beauties that surround us.  Since we are staying home for Thanksgiving this year, last night B and I went out to the garden and pulled beautiful fennel bulbs, leeks, carrots, celeriac and arugula that we will incorporate into today's meal.  What a lovely thing, to be able to harvest produce for our harvest meal.
We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. ~Thornton Wilder  
A Happy Thanksgiving to All!


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Just Sit And Create

Front of Purse
We are on Thanksgiving break this week and due to a number of circumstances, we are spending it at home this year as just our immediate family.  The last few days have been peppered with sleep overs and play dates.  Last night, Sidney and her friend were up until 1:20 am diligently working on a duck tape project.
Wallet Outside
They each made their own unique purses and wallets.  Sid's reflected what most consumes her thoughts these days...can you guess?
Back of Purse
I was stunned at the thought that went into these, and how they just made up the patterns and went with it.  Sidney even has an iPod holder (pocket) built into her bag!
Wallet Inside
Now, I love to craft, but this pure ability to just sit and create, from nothing?  It is all hers, and I am so proud!


Monday, November 21, 2011

Buttoned Up

The last few days have been our final closing up.  The garden is stripped (except for abundant cool weather greens and radishes), the leaves are collected, and the compost is cooking up a storm.  We have gotten cold weather housing completed for all the critters, and everything has taken on the barren look of the coming winter.  We had our final bonfire of the season to dispose of things that won't compost for us; woody berry canes and asparagus fronds.
The light is now gone at just about 4:30 pm and last night, the glowing warmth cut through the cold air enough for a few of us adults to stand around the fire reflecting on how amazing our fall has been.  We have so many things to be thankful for, today I am thankful that we are all buttoned up.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My First Annual 39th


 Funny thing, I come from two conflicting perspectives.  I always send e-cards for birthdays, Mother's Day, Fathers Day etc.  It's better for the environment  and then there's the disposal in general.  I always feel guilty getting rid of cards because I want to save the sentiments.

On the other hand, I have loads of beautiful note and post cards for sending on random occasions for the purpose of the written (handwritten) word not getting lost in our ever digital lives.  I'll tell you though, it sure is nice to open a couple of honest to goodness birthday cards from loved ones.  You know, the moms and dads who knew no different in their coming of age.

I used to save the cards, then cut them apart and put them into my intricate scrapbooks.  Alas, I haven't scrapbooked for several years, what with blogging to have a legacy of writing.  Now there are a pile of cards.

Hmmm, I think I just figured it out.  Take a pic of the lovely cards, and then blog about them!  Problem solved.  See I'm getting smarter and smarter and all on this my first annual 39th!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

How Fast The Weekend Goes!


I can't believe that I let the weekend go past without a post, and here we are already Tuesday!  It's not for a lack of things, going on. Rather, there is a ton of fun stuff going on.  My new business is up, running and keeping me on my toes as I learn the ins and outs.   We had an amazing day with friends celebrating an early thanksgiving.  These kinds of get togethers are so much fun.  Lot's of food and drink, conversation and hysterical laughter, and an impromptu game of charades...what could be better?  Maybe just that on an occasion when you get 18 or so adults together with the kids, we are handily outnumbered by the latter,which is always an adventure! 

It's hard to believe how much the kids have grown!  Sid spent her shadow day at middle school yesterday, to try it out before the real thing next fall.  She absolutely loved it, and she's grown so lean and tall, she really looked the part.  Being a "middle schooler yesterday" was the first thing out of her mouth this morning when she met up with her friends.   We walked in our town's holiday parade this weekend with The Northcentral Maltese Rescue, not only a client and friend, but the origin of our crazy farm poodle Xander, who joined in the parade! It never ceases to amaze me how fast the weekend (and time in general) goes.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Crafty Mamas

 I am not ready to thrust myself into Christmas shopping.  The bulk of that will happen after Thanksgiving and final harvests.  However, when thinking about hostess gifts, teachers gifts, and nice little things that are homemade, you do need to get a bit of a jump on it.  A small group of ladies decided in September that maybe we should gather a few times before the holidays, drink wine, and make gifts.

Last night was the first such session and was filled with laughter, friendship, storytelling and snacking with a little bit of crafting mixed in.  I chose two crafts.  The first was making a chai tea mix.  The recipe was simple and came highly rated.  Trying to keep the powdered mix as natural as possible I substituted the powdered vanilla creamer with the vanilla sugar that I had made with the remnants of the vanilla extract beans.  This worked perfectly, but altered the final volume amounts so I didn't end up with as much as I'd anticipated.  I was about three cups short for filling jars, (we got 14 half pint jars from a double recipe) but I was pretty happy with the ease of it.  With the jars will be a tag for use instructions and a recipe card with the chai cake from Domestic Sensualist (check it out)!

The second craft smelled amazing and I am excited to try.  We did bath teas.  Little tea bags filled with floral goodies, salts, and essential oils that can hang from the bath faucet with the water flowing through, or just bob in the tub.  The unbleached satchels I had for putting the mixture in may also be used to rub the skin.  They smell fantastic and are the perfect little hostess gift wrapped in a box in twos or threes. (with a double recipe of this we ended up with 35 generously filled bags)

Not to shabby for a crafty mama's night where trust me, we did more gabbing than actual crafting in the end!

Happy Friday!! 

Bath Tea
(single recipe)
1 C sea salt
1 C Epsom salt
8-10 drops clove oil
10-15 drops sweet orange oil
mix the above together, then add
1 1/2 C hibiscus flowers
1/2 C chamomile 
1/2 C lavender

Then place 3 Tbs. into each bag

There are tons of variations so if you're interested peruse online.  I don't think the proportions are are set in stone, just make a mixture based on preference.   I like the idea of adding oatmeal to them too.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Sunrise, Sunset

Sunrise Sunset 
The fall light is nothing short of spectacular.  After yesterday's sunrise, I made a point to be prepared to capture the sunset just so we could see how a day that began so beautifully would end.  It did not disappoint.  Happy Monday!

Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly flow the days
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers
Blossoming even as we gaze
Fiddler on the Roof

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Thanksgiving Comes First

golden moon
In our right now, twenty-four hour society, everyone is always looking to the next best thing.  The grass is always greener. So much so that it seems there is no time to savor or be thankful for the present moment.  If you do not watch out you can get swallowed up by life.  It just keeps going faster and faster.  No need for any retailer to tell you that you need to be prepared for the next thing around the corner.  Now I know, I am guilty of being busy, thriving on it.  But, when it comes to seasons, holidays, family, I slow down and soak in the energy around me.

I wrote last year about memories of my youth, the special Thanksgiving moments.  This year I write as someone who wants to linger in memories of the past yet savor every precious moment of the present.  This time last year I had just lost my Gram.  Last week, my other grandmother was given the information that her time on this earth is very limited.  Why is it we all choose to live life in fast forward?  Why rush?  Why choose to minimize one thing so that we can hurriedly get to the next.  By doing such, don't we completely miss all that is important?

Moral of the story?  I am by no means anti-holiday.  To me, as we approach year's end the holidays are very special.  Thanksgiving does come first.  It is a time to celebrate the bounty of fall harvest.  To take comfort in the enduring love of family and friends.  Tonight, we "fall back"  why don't we take that as a cue to slow down and enjoy the many blessings around us.  Each. one. at. a. time.

Please join Suldog for Thanksgiving Comes First!

What's Better Than Jumping In The Leaves?

Jumping on a trampoline covered in leaves!
Alas, the trampoline comes down for the season tomorrow.
Don't forget to fall back!

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Hunter

At sunset
This morning Sid came running up to the house, "Mama!  see what Sage brought me!"  I went to the porch and she presented me with a deceased mouse (in a paper towel).  She said "Sage came up to me with it in her mouth, dropped at my feet, looked up at me and mewed!"  As any good hunter should do, I'm sure.  I asked her if she praised the grand hunter?  She said "of course" and trotted on her way.  Tonight, we got to see a little bit of our hunter in action.
the hunt begins
prowlwatching
She's a cute mouser isn't she?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

OK By Me

Evening
Our house is now empty, our guests have returned home.
November is upon us, a time for reflection and thanks.
This weekend we fall back and the light will be shorter
and shorter as we approach the solstice in December. 
If this is an example of the sunsets we have to look forward to
during the darker time, then it's ok by me. Beauty

Shameless Self Promotion


I  mentioned last week that I was contemplating a new business venture.  Well I made the decision and jumped in.  Over the summer I was introduced to a line of exciting home care products that I fell in love with.  So much of my life is focused on what is healthy and sustainable for our family.  I began making my own cleaning products a little over a year ago with different combinations of vinegar, water, castille soap, essential oils (that have antibacterial qualities), and baking soda.  After observing the compelling demonstrations and then using these products I embraced them fully. 

There are so many health and environmental reasons for reducing the chemicals in our homes.  Norwex allows us to get rid of these products of multi-colored liquids by using just WATER and an amazing microfiber cloth that has properties that will not only clean but kill nasty germs too!  Over all what's in it for you?   If you're interested in saving time, saving money, and more effective cleaning that is better for the environment to boot, then it's for you.  Sounds like a win, win, win!  For those of you for whom it's important, this is no fly by night or un-tested thing, it is EPA and FDA approved.  You may or may not have heard of Norwex.  If you haven't check it out!!  My website is amyray.norwex.biz  Feel free to ask me about it, I'd be more than happy to fill you in!

***End**Shameless Self Promotion**** 

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