Monday, February 28, 2011

A Cup Of Hot Tea


Today feels the appropriate time to chime in on Jillsy's prompt me from last week.  I'm sitting home this afternoon with my little man who has finally caught the funk that went through the rest of the family over the last few weeks.  So as he lays low, I'm scurrying around doing chores and have just stopped for a cup of tea.

I was never a soda drinker and didn't learn to enjoy coffee until college.  My drink of choice was iced tea, until I studied abroad.  I lived in Kensington, England for six months and learned to savor a good cup of hot tea with milk and occasionally a touch of sugar.   Something about it always takes the chill off and soothes the soul like nothing else.

I start my day with a cup of coffee, yet as soon as I get the kids dropped off and am settled at work, I switch to tea.  I enjoy many kinds, yet black with a hint of citrus is my favorite.  I always drink from a mug.  I recently read and then blogged about Wabi-Sabi and one of the ways to use it in every day life was to  "Cultivate Vision.  Start with the container you use to hold your morning beverage.  Treat yourself to pottery that feels solid and heavy in your hand.  Admire your mug's shape, textures and colors every morning to strengthen your ability to find beauty in the rest of the day."  excerpted from Mother Earth News.  

Today as I was contemplating this post, I went to the china cabinet and pulled out a cup and saucer.  This set, and the dishes that go with it, were my grandmothers and came to my home last fall.  We have used the dishes, but I think I'll have to start using these cups more often.  Now that I think of it, maybe I should host an afternoon tea, what fun!  Off to plan! :)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Tell Me What Democracy Looks Like.....


THIS Is What Democracy Looks Like!


Yesterday my family and many of our friends and acquaintances went to Madison to participate in the rally. It was one of the most profound things that I have ever experienced. The feeling of solidarity, peaceful protest, and belief in democracy was so overwhelming I found myself close to tears on many occasions. I was honored to be able to introduce myself to and thank Assemblyman Cory Mason for what he is doing. There are some very big and very disturbing things happening here. No matter what your political philosophy I believe a couple of things....if you don't vote, don't complain. And, if you don't make the effort to stand up for change or your beliefs, people will not do it for you so be satisfied with whatever the outcome.

This conversation is too big for one post, so here are some important highlights from my perspective. Unions need updating, re-vamping. However, this world would be a much scarier place without them. Our Governor has decided that now is the time to cut them off at the knees and bull doze through legislation while his party has complete control of our state government. There are many things of concern in this bill that have nothing to do with repairing the budget. That is fine. BUT, they should be put though the process on their own merits and not under the guise of immediate monetary benefit and if we don't pass this now then there will be massive lay-offs. (Those layoffs may very well come when the budget is announced regardless of passage of this bill). Trying to gut collective bargaining is ridiculous. The unions have already agreed to increased sharing of health care costs and pension contributions. **An aside here, the Wisconsin state pension fund is a highly profitable one. It is one that has been recommended as a model for the country. It did not suffer devastating losses in the recession because it was managed very carefully. It has enough money to sustain the retiring workers for many years. And this is accomplished with ZERO tax dollars. Regardless, these are tough times and the effected union workers are more than willing to make these concessions. The Governor has made it clear that there is no compromise, period....how very un-democratic.


As the above pictured sign says, I am a non-union, private sector tax paying Wisconsinite, I am a business owner and this effects all of us. My children proudly attend the public school system. This recovery bill is only the first leg of the fight. When the budget is released the Governor has already said that there will be extreme cuts in education. Our superintendent has also gravely let us know that there are many very significant challenges ahead. These public workers, school teachers, nurses, rail workers, police and fire (though they were exempt from the governor's collective bargaining segment, they also are marching against this bill), these people, are our clients. And we need, as virtually every small business does, a vibrant middle class to survive.
Madison 2/11
I am proud to have been able to participate in such an important time in our State, and indeed going forward our Country. I'm equally proud that my children are able to learn such important lessons about democracy, freedom of speech, and standing up for what you believe in.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Tongue Tied

I'm the apple of my daughters eye :)
Sidney's clay creation: "The Apple of My Eye"

I have been tongue tied this week.  My inspiration seems to have been weighed down by a heavy blanket.  The goings on in my beloved state are unsettling.  I have found myself bouncing back and forth through a myriad of emotions; aggravation by the bullying, concern for the repercussions to my community, and sick over what is to come for my children's schools.  My later angst only to be confirmed in its gravity by a letter released last evening from our superintendent.  This is no hyped up media blown thing.  I have not been anywhere in the last 10 days where there hasn't been a hum of discussion.  Grocery stores, coffee shops, the lobby of my office.  It is very real and there are very real people and issues involved.

I have had many starts, yet my thoughts are fragmented.  Please do go visit A Sustainable Life, many wonderful conversations are taking place and I hope to add my voice back this weekend.  Today is winter break day for the kids, the sun is shining and the sky is blue.  This weekend, with renewed energy I am going to surround myself with the camaraderie of good friends, ignite my creativity (code for finish the quilt top I started last weekend), and prepare myself for the energy needed to support my community in this turbulent time.

Happy weekend to all, my friends.  May the sun shine brightly and clear away some of your winter gray. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Fighting for Spring


We had a full week of gorgeous weather that hinted at spring.  As the grass slowly began to emerge from under it's down-like blanket of snow, I got to try out my new boots.  I headed into the yard and picked up after the dogs and collected fallen branches from months of winter winds.

It was so nice to be working outside again!  I could hear a few birds testing their voices. So in my exuberance, I refilled all of the bird feeders and watched a joyful feast ensue.

Sunday morning it began to sleet, then drop these amazing large wet snowballs, then just downright ice, then rain.  This pattern lasted all day long.  At the beginning of the storm I was upstairs and happened to glance out the window overlooking the service berry tree.  This lone bird was sitting there, hanging on to dear life as it was pelted with snowballs.  It was holding a silent, stunned protest grasping against the dramatic change.  Ultimately, she flew to safety, seconds after I took the above shot.  It's not a great one, but the movement to me illustrated her battle to hold onto spring.  It looks as if that fight will be won another day.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

If I Were...

Ready to garden
I'm playing along with julochka in a game of If I were....how would you fill in the blanks?

If I were a month I'd be October

If I were a day I’d be Friday

If I were a time of day I’d be sunrise

If I were a font I’d be script

If I were a sea animal I’d be a  jelly fish

If I were a direction I’d be North

If I were a piece of furniture I’d be a wood burning stove

If I were a liquid I'd be an ice cold chardonnay

If I were a gemstone I’d be a fire opal

If I were a tree I’d be a hickory

If I were a tool I’d be a level

If I were a flower I’d be a peony

If I were an element of weather I’d be a summer storm

If I were a musical instrument I’d be an acoustic guitar

If I were a color I’d be blue

If I were an emotion I’d be easy going

If I were a fruit I’d be a peach

If I were a sound I’d be the ocean

If I were an element I’d be the wind

If I were a car I’d be a hybrid

If I were a food I’d be chicken tikka masala

If I were a place I’d be the cliffs of Moher

If I were material I’d be denim

If I were a taste I’d be rich

If I were a scent I’d be Aveda Chakra #6

If I were a body part I’d be eyes

If I were a song I’d be sung by Michelle Shocked

If I were a bird I’d be a loon

If I were a gift I’d be the kind that keeps on giving

If I were a city I’d be Madison

If I were a door I'd be open

If I were a pair of shoes I’d be my new Bogs boots

If I were a poem I’d be The Road Less Traveled

Happy Weekend!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Blossoming

Blossom
Our little girl is transitioning into a little lady.  The wonderful thing about this transition; she is ecstatic about going to a dance with her daddy.  Here's to savoring these short years where daddy is her sweetheart and thus forced to listen to screeching tweens dance to Beiber and Perry :)  Here is to watching in amazement as she blossoms.
Father Daughter Dance
Check out the other's blossoming over at jillsygirl!
Happy Weekend!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Difficult Decision

Shoo
Our farming adventure dabbling in livestock with chickens has been rewarding and a huge learning experience for us and our daughter Sidney.  When we had our first predator problem, she was devastated. After time faded the wounds of losing something that she had raised, she began a quest that we never harm or eat any animal from our property. 

When one of our hens grew up to be a rooster last season, we warned her that if he turned out mean, he would have to go.  He developed a fair amount of sass, yet nothing compared to our first rooster (subject of above referenced predator problem), he was plain mean. "Feathertail" didn't bother us adults much, but challenged and went after the kids. We allowed him to continue on on a trial basis, for Sidney's sake.  Yesterday, when I went to collect eggs, he had gravely injured one of our hens.  We did all that we could for her, but it was too late.  Sidney referred to him as a "murderer" to one of her friends.  She knew he had to go, but we had to find a place for him. 

Today I checked around, but no one wants a rooster who is both aggressive to kids and hens, and I couldn't pass him off as some docile avian.  After much heartfelt discussion B and I made the decision to take him into work and euthanize him.  Then we had to decide whether to tell Sidney what we had done or to lie about it.  We feel strongly, especially with what we do for a living, not to pass it off to her as we 'sent him to the farm.'

Of course, the first words out of her mouth when I picked her up after school were, "did you find a farmer to take him?"  Once we had settled in the car, I explained to her that no one wanted an aggressive rooster, and I couldn't lie to someone and tell them he wasn't. She asked what we were going to do. I let her know that we had already made the decision.  That daddy had put him to sleep...not the 'farm way', but the way we put down dogs and cats, and he never knew. 

This was the moment that I was dreading.  She understands philosophically the circle of life and knew what needed to happen for every one's (especially her remaining hens) safety, but emotionally I was not sure how she would take it.  Her first spoken response, after an extended silence, was that we were selfish to put him down, and we should have called the school to tell her so she could talk us out of it.  I explained to her that we had few choices, it was a horrible decision, but we couldn't put anyone elses kids or her other hens in danger.  I also explained that we thought about talking to her first, but didn't want her to feel solely responsible for what the decision was ultimately going to have to be.  She thought about this, and to my surprise , accepted it. 

She spent some time in the barn with her hens this evening, the first time she has been able to go in by herself in a long time.  Now the fear of being attacked is gone.  The setting feels much more relaxed, and she has learned from, and I think found peace with, a very difficult decision.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Sound of the Thaw

Thaw Sunset
 Last night's gorgeous sunset two ways, real time and  with some zoom action

After an extended deep freeze and copious amounts of snow, yesterday was 45 degrees and the day that we took our junior girl scouts cross country skiing.  What an amazing day! The girls were determined and down right good at it!  I haven't cross country skied in several years and I definitely caught the bug again yesterday.  We skied glove less,  with coats unzipped or tied around our waists, enjoying the balmy air and soaking up some much needed vitamin D.

This whole week is to be in the upper thirties with a cap out around fifty on Thursday!  As I stepped outside this morning, into the cool, now damp air, it sounded like a rain storm.  Water sounded to be pouring down, running off of every surface around me.  This was the sound of the thaw.  A good third of our snow melted yesterday and if the week holds true to the temperature predictions the snow will be virtually gone by Saturday.  A little bitter sweet for me, now that I'm fired up to ski.  Ah, I'm sure we haven't seen the last of the white stuff, but spring does seem to be teasing us a bit!

This evening as I hear the chatter of happy kids home from school and I busy myself getting dinner started, I smile.  I have been so blessed with two amazing kids who never allow for a dull moment and am fortunate enough to be married to my soul mate.  I realize that the love of this family of ours is deep and appreciated every day.  We don't need one holiday in February to express it.  But having an excuse to make our every day even just a tad more special is just fine with me.  Happy Valentines Day! 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Meet Topaz & Shade!

 Today we trekked up to Mequon, WI to meet one of the few Silkie breeders in the state, and as we found out, this part of the U.S.  We ended up with a pair one female and one... we'll see.  Due to the nature of the breed they can be difficult to sex when they are young.  They are both 2 months old and adorable. 

The breeder is the state representative for the American Silkie Bantam Club, incredibly active in 4H and was happy to give Sid some tips for showing. She also let Sidney know that her birds always show well and, any show they have been entered in have yielded 1st or 2nd place ribbons.  We learned a couple of new things right away....Silkie's have 5 toes!  Crazy to see, especially since we are so used to our little three toed flock.  Also, we learned that the roosters are very broody! 

So the little ones have been settled in, had their first baths (yes these are birds that need to be groomed) and are happily nestled in the basement.  Sidney has also already drawn templates into her 4H journal to use as introduction cards for them when they are shown. A new adventure has begun!

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Hearty Afternoon

 So what should someone do with a day when there's a light snow outside and the kids are home early from school and entertaining themselves peacefully??  Make soup! I found a recipe in Almost Vegetarian, and then tweaked it to make it mine.  First I prepped:

1 sweet onion, chopped
4 carrots, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
1 small fennel bulb, chopped
4 teaspoons garlic, minced
and then I set them aside while I did this......
in lieu of olive oil, well pork fat rules and I'm a huge sucker for pancetta!  I took 1/4 lb pancetta and diced it up, tossed it into a hot stock pot and cooked it until crispy.  I then pulled it out and set it aside, leaving the drippings and brown bits in the pot. Then I took 1 cup of pinot grigio and de-glazed the pan....ahhhh, now that's how you prep to cook veggies! :)  I then cooked all of the prepped veggies above until just soft.
 Then add one bunch swiss chard chopped, and cook about 2 minutes until just wilted.
 please don't be too distracted by the steam :)

Then add:
1 C Italian tomato puree
32 oz. veggie stock
1 C lentils, rinsed

Cook for about 20 minutes, or until lentils are just soft and then add 1/2 C brown rice and cook another 25 minutes or until the rice is done.  Then mix together 1/4 C grated Parmesan cheese and 1/4 C chopped Italian parsley. Toss combination into the pot and stir until incorporated. 

To serve, ladle into a bowl, drizzle with some good aged balsamic vinegar and garnish with crispy pancetta and grated parm.
 Happy Weekend!
Enjoy!




Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Web of Sunlight


Today I was struck by the golden web of sunlight that transformed the branches of our serviceberry tree.  I love the snow and have so learned to appreciate winter.  There does come a time when I long for open windows and gentle (above zero) breezes.  Though those early days of spring are still a ways off, we are visited by beautiful crystal clear sunlight beaming in a pristine blue sky.  This washes away the grey of extended cloudy days and injects our souls with some much needed vitamin D.  This is a most treasured gift.  

This week's prompt for Prompt Me Wednesday courtesy of jillsygirl is treasured gift.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Ice Boulders

 As I drove back to work this afternoon in that post viral, still feel like I was hit by a truck fog, I realized that the landscape that had been blanketed so thickly in close to 3 feet of snow over last week now takes on a different feel.  The magical wonderland has transitioned into one out of the middle ages.  The efforts to make roads passable until snow can actually be removed has enclosed us in a city that is protected by giant walls of ice boulders.  This isn't and isolated phenomena.  Either side of the road, the medians, parking lots, truly anything that you would see when out in the car has been transformed into walls ranging from 4 feet to 10 feet or higher.  So as we settle into our evenings and the kids have gone to bed, we watch BBC Masterpiece classics (so love Netflix on demand!) and are transported to times and places where fortified walls encapsulated communities, much as ours has been, at least until the thaw.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Go Pack!

I grew up in a heavy football culture.  We had season tickets to the Los Angeles Rams and every Sunday that they were home, we were there.  I remember breakfasts or post game at the stadium club.  I remember watching my grandfather do the wave in the stadium or chant Eeeeverrret when we got a new quarterback, with one ear phone in so he could hear the commentators in the press box above.  I remember watching Eric Dickerson dance across the end zone.  If we weren't at the stadium, we watched from home and spent halftime running plays in the front yard.  My dad would use the palm of his hand to illustrate when we were young, then just give the play and critique afterwards when we were older.  This past Christmas, the tradition continued as dad took Charlie out front and began on the palm of his hand to show him how to "go out ten and button hook", and be sure to "cradle the ball."  Charles, grass stains and all, was in heaven.
 It wasn't horribly long after I moved away from home that Georgia moved the Rams to St. Louis.  They were still my team and I continued to root for them.   We were fortunate to ultimately end up in a town/state that also has a very rich football culture.  I was young and not often doing the grocery shopping on a Sunday when I lived at home, but you can't step foot out the door anyplace in Wisconsin on a Sunday without seeing a sea of green and gold.  Charlie comes home from school full of Packer facts, and Sidney wears her green and gold with pride.  Today as I head to church, I know I will be met with a green glow from within the sanctuary.  We will then spend the afternoon with our nearest and dearest (our family away from home), to root on the home team to a Super Bowl win. 
Go Pack!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Warmth & Support

Blizzard Project
What to do when you are holed up during a blizzard and it's aftermath? I have not picked up the knitting needles in quite awhile and had an urge to try out this cool yarn that I bought. I realized when I began, that much larger needles would be easier, but heading back to the store in white out conditions on un-plowed roads wasn't in the cards so I'm using size 10 needles. I'm making a scarf and since my stitches are fairly small it will be very warm, but also take quite a bit more yarn.

There is something so comforting about knitting something warm when it is so bitter cold outside.  Christina over at Soul Aperture is looking for some warm positive thoughts and prayers as she undergoes some testing tomorrow.  Please join me in offering this beautiful lady support!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Blizzard 2011

Through the Window
This was it....The Storm.  The one that you see coming and prepare for, yet wonder if it will just fizzle out like other big predicted storms have.  It surly lived up to it's prediction and then some.  Our first real blizzard, which ended up being a historic one.  We sat last night as a family on the couch bundled up in blankets with all of the lights off gazing out of the windows and listening to the whipping 60mph winds.  If you have lived in a snowy area before, you know the snow globe effect...large white thick puffs coming down and everything looking like a fairy tale?  Now, you know how it looks if you shake up a snow globe really hard and it just looks a blur?  Last night, we were awed by that blur.  Blowing and heavy thunder snow that made it look like it was so foggy outside you couldn't see far beyond the porch.   It made for a wonderful family evening, curled up together in the quite, simply reveling in the event.

In the pre-dawn hours as I went to let the dogs out and couldn't get the front door open, I slowly realized that around our whole house was a giant drift and that the driveway was at least thigh high in snow.  I called the skeleton staff that we'd planned on coming in to work this morning and told them to forget it until at least mid day.  There was no worry there, none of them could get out either!  We began to dig out and realized the road out front, which is a state highway,  hadn't been plowed at all. The fact was, no matter how much we got done, getting to work was not going to be in the cards for us.  Today turned into a dig out family snow day following a record breaking blizzard.  Our little town received more snow even than Chicago (or at least that's what our weather people are saying).  We had 23.6 inches over night, and that was on top of the 5 inches we got the night before!
Blizzard 2011

Now the digging is done for the day and kids are playing like they have never seen snow before.  They will have warm cookies and fresh bread waiting for them when they come in.  Now,  I am just going to sit for a while and take in the world around me, in awe of ole man winter.

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