Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Power of Water

Today's high winds and the show being put on out on Lake Michigan are our little brush from Sandy, a storm that made landfall a thousand miles from here, yet is giving us a little tap on the shoulder, so we can acknowledge her presence.

Water is to be appreciated and it's power should not taken for granted.  We learned first hand, and were awed, by how something as simple as water can be so devastating when our other house flooded in 2008. Yet, that was just us, individuals, who fortunately had a network of amazing friends who rallied around us to help us through.

Nothing puts personal struggles in perspective like seeing this massive storm and what water, that basic building block of life, can do to the entire Eastern Seaboard of our country including much of it's infrastructure.  What would you do if your support system was also going through what you were?

Thankfully, my family in New Jersey has no power, but is safe and hasn't suffered any major damage.  There are so many others who were not as fortunate.  If you are inspired by the urge to help go to the American Red Cross website and donate, or you can text the word STORM to 80888 to make a $10 donation. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012


 Life is busy.  How we respond to that busyness is what will define if we are truly living life, or if it is just carrying us away, losing us in the shuffle.  What good does that busy schedule do you if all it results in is fatigue and no recollection whatsoever of what your day, week, month consisted of ~ just a blur?  Many of the reasons that we moved to the Midwest, and then to the homestead involved wanting to slow down, live in a way that we could appreciate each moment.  This goal certainly doesn't exempt us from getting carried away with busy schedules, but it does give us something that grounds us.

Last week when I stopped at a local coffee shop, they had a framed copy of the following article on the wall.  It is from a monthly feature called "Ten Things" in The Nation magazine.  It was published originally in December of 2010.  There are tons of great links embedded in the article, if you'd like to read them you can here.  What things are you incorporating into your life to slow down and live in the present?

"1 Say no to fast food and join the Slow Food movement instead. Fast food cares nothing for the health of your body or the environment, and the taste doesn't begin to compare to home-cooked and comfort food. Try new cookbooks.
 2 Slow down to the speed limit when driving. Driving at the speed limit saves gas, increases safety and can reduce adrenaline-fueled road rage. Everyone's cursed the driver who weaves through traffic at high speeds for the sake of arriving at a destination a few minutes sooner. Is a gain measured in minutes really worth the risk of a serious accident?

 3 Slow down your conversation. Don't cut people off in your haste to get your two cents in. Listen—really listen—to what others are saying, instead of using the time to compose your rebuttal. Stop to think before saying (or posting or texting) something you may regret later.

 4 Be slow to judge. There's no good reason others should think, act or dress just like you. Honor diversity.

 5 Tune in, not out. On the outside, it appears that the world holds 7 billion people of different beliefs, skin colors, religions and levels of education. Look inside, and discover that we're all the same species, all of us related, all of us in the same boat. Why persist in rocking it so vigorously? Reduce time spent on social networking sites and take more time tuning in to the real world around you.

 6 Not so fast—do you really need a new [fill in the blank]? There will always be something that's bigger, better or more fashionable than what you've got, but down that road lies the biggest garbage dump you can imagine. It's called the earth.

 7 According to the American Heart Association, one out of every three adult Americans has high blood pressure. Research indicates that time spent relaxing or meditating can reduce blood pressure. Wouldn't you rather meditate than medicate? As Fran├žois de La Rochefoucauld said, "When we are unable to find tranquility within ourselves, it is useless to seek it elsewhere."

 8 One of the most delightful (and insightful) ways to slow down is to take the time to read poetry daily. "And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow," wrote William Butler Yeats in "The Lake Isle of Innisfree."

 9 Take time to consider the children. How does your next action affect the world they'll inherit?  It's easy to act out of habit or because everyone else is doing it. By taking the time to notice what you're actually doing, you'll be able to decide if you really want to be doing it at all.

10 Don't rush through life. Be aware of moments you can picture yourself later reminiscing about fondly, and then realize that you're actually living them right now. What's the future got that the present doesn't, except more wrinkles and gray hair?" 
conceived by Walter Mosley, with research by Rae Gomes
"Ten Things" is a monthly feature. Readers who wish to propose ideas for it should e-mail NationTenThings@gmail.com.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Only An American

Though I have strong feelings, I shy away from posting (or speaking for that matter) much of anything to do with politics.  People are far too divided, far too ingrained in their own thoughts and perspectives to even open their minds to others.  Unfortunate really, because I am afraid this country will have to learn some hard lessons, and maybe many of it's citizens can learn some of the basics that we try to teach to our kindergartners about listening, respect, sharing, and compromise.

That said, I had the opportunity to see our First Lady yesterday and what an experience!  Being up close with the First Lady was so moving.  I was able to shake hands with her and talk to her for a moment, enough to move me to tears.  I have tremendous respect for the process and those symbols, and figureheads that we, as a people, have put in place, agree or not.  Just as I was so excited to have Air Force One fly over my house a few weeks ago, or how I get the chills every time I hear our National Anthem, seeing the First Lady yesterday was an honor and you don't necessarily have to be a supporter to feel that way, only an American.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Thankful Thursday

It has been quite a while since I did an edition of Thankful Thursday.  It has been so busy that I have let more days pass between posts recently than I would like.  Today I am thankful for:

:: the fall light, in all of it's forms

:: little girls growing confident in themselves

:: new friends and the steady comfort of those we know so well

:: being a part of a community of women who pull together in amazing ways to help a friend with   cancer

:: hours lost in a good book

:: listening to the rain as I go to sleep

:: friends who moved into the other house

:: a basement full of canned garden goodness

:: a spookily decorated house

:: little boys who never cease to entertain, and who's innocent insights are so profound

If you stop and take a moment to look, what things are you thankful for today?

Monday, October 15, 2012


What a difference a week makes.  The trees are becoming more bare by the day, yet the shedding of their leaves has its own beauty.  After a busy weekend with our clubs soccer tournament, complete with drenching rain both days, the puddles left behind in today's sunshine reflect the contrast between two falls.  The one of light and color, and the one of a grey cold rain, giving you the excuse to huddle under a blanket indoors (or on the soccer field depending on your situation :)  Both of these falls are saturated in their own hypnotic colors inspired by the suns new lower angle.

Suddenly all of the hostas have finished for the season.  It happened overnight, and not just to us. While out today I noticed everywhere the brilliant yellows of hosta leaves that have lain down for the season.

We are still eating predominantly from our garden harvests.  As we finish our fresh produce and have all but completed our canning,  I am spending lots of time researching new hearty soup recipes and baking up a storm.  This growing season has been so successful, and we are ready to finish buttoning up the garden and tending to the few remaining beds that will produce through November.  Even as I turn my energies indoors,  I am eager to watch and care for the cold weather greens as they mature so that we can enjoy them, a last fresh taste before we surrender to the seasons end.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Worth The Tears

After tearing down the garden delicates on Friday, our kitchen was overflowing with produce that had to be dealt with this weekend.  Yesterday was salsa day, and oh my the house smelled like roasted goodness.  Our tomatillo salsa has very few ingredients and with the exception of olive oil, salt and pepper, everything we produced.  We did a combination of ancho chilies and some little spicy red peppers that have quite a kick.  As I finished slicing tomatillos, B seeded and chopped the red peppers.  I could feel the capsaicin hit my nostrils and my throat catch; we both began to intermittently cough.  Then came peeling onions, because our onions were relatively small, yet abundant, we peeled and quartered lots and lots of them.  Both of the kids had friends over and B and I were coughing and crying, it was quite a sight!  What we ended up with for our trouble was 10 quarts of amazing tomatillo salsa.   Well worth the tears!!

Tomatillo Salsa 

A big bunch of tomatillos (we had 20 lbs)
Lots of Onions, Garlic, and Chilies (to your taste)

We did 4 rimmed cookie sheets full of halved tomatillos, One cookie sheet full of quartered onions and 2 heads of crushed garlic, and one cookie sheet full of ancho chilies with a handful of spicier chilies added to the mix.  Everything was tossed in olive oil, and sprinkled with salt and pepper, then roasted at 400 degrees until soft and browning on top (about an hour).  We through everything in to a large bowl and pulverized with an immersion blender.  Placed in hot jars with a two part lid and canned in a water bath caner.  

Friday, October 5, 2012

Winter is Coming

As I look at this title, I think to myself, oh I could go so many places with this post!   However, I'm going to take the literal approach.  As today only reached a chilly 48 degrees here and we are under a frost advisory for this evening and watching for a freeze tomorrow night, this afternoon we have been busy harvesting what we can and preparing the more tolerant plants for what is to come. 

We have about 25 pounds of tomatillos, and a large bucket of green and partially ripened tomatoes that will hopefully be processed this weekend.  It has been a successful tomato season for us, what we didn't eat we canned, giving us the best stockpile that we have been able to store yet.  We should be able to get a few more jars from what we harvested today, and will try our hand at ripening the larger green tomatoes in the basement this year.  Maybe we will have ripe tomatoes come Thanksgiving. 

 The tomatillos are destined for salsa and we picked a handful of ancho chilies to go into that.  The rest of the peppers will join the brussel/kale plants and eggplants (of which we harvested eight), having been gently covered to see if we can further coax ripening once the danger of frost passes.  We have been very successful with the early preparing of beds for next season and covering them for the winter.  We will  continue this  ritual of tearing down beds as they finish and the final step will be when we plant the garlic for it's winter hibernation.  It arrived earlier this week and 6 1/2 pounds of it should set us up nicely for spring scapes.  But we won't discuss spring right now, the magic of fall is upon us, and of course, winter is coming.

Apple Jelly ~ One Ingredient!

I have been a public radio fan since I found it shortly after our move to Las Vegas eighteen years ago.   We were thrilled when we moved to Wisconsin to find that our area had two local stations WPR and WUWM.  This week on WPR as I was driving from errand to errand, the guest on Here and Now was Kathy Gunst, a Maine chef who focus' on local and seasonal dishes monthly.  My mouth was watering by the end of the program.  One simple recipe piqued my interest not only because I am apple crazy this time of year, but because all you needed was a few hours of time and one ingredient!

Apple Cider Jelly.  All it takes is some patience and a gallon of the refrigerated apple cider that is all over this time of year.  Pour it in a big pot and bring it to a boil, then simmer it for two hours.  When it gets to where it is just coating the back of the spoon, pay close attention and let it continue to thicken and reduce.

What you are left with is a dark brown reduction of beautiful jelly.  The natural pectin in the apple sauce does all of the work and the caramelized effect of cooking it down allows for no added sugar.  I did stir in a teaspoon of Ceylon Cinnamon at the end and then put it in a mason jar.  As it cooled I skimmed a little bit of foam off of the top and then refrigerated it.  The one gallon of juice yielded me one pint of amazing apple jelly!  I will definitely be doing this again!  I may also have to try her easy baked apple sauce.  Just click the link above for the recipes.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Dratted Fungi

For those of you who tried to read my post last night, there may have been some pesky and all together inappropriate pop ups that interrupted.  Apparently the Instagram widget for blogger was either hacked or had a bad html code.  Whatever the reason, I have removed it and taken all of the steps that Blogger forums advised me to take.  Hopefully it's gone!  Please message me if you encounter any craziness from this point forward.  So sorry if your eyes were invaded by the dratted fungi!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Taking a Few Moments

Today as I was headed to school pick up number one, I took the time and left a few minutes early taking a detour.  We are closing in on our 'peak' color in the next week or so, and I wanted to attempt and catch some of it in this amazing fall light.

After I picked up Sid, as we were headed to get Charles, we took another little jaunt, at which time she took my camera from me to let her eye capture some of the vibrancy around us.

Those few extra minutes added miles out of my way, yet that distance was somehow on the way and did more to ground me than anything else.  I began to recapture that illusive sense of calmness,  I could feel it peaking around the edges, ready to return. 

Proof positive that simply taking a little extra time to slow down and enjoy can be trans-formative.   How are you enjoying the color around you?

Monday, October 1, 2012

September in Focus

September came and went in a gust. New schools and sports seasons started and routines have been established. The fall is upon us with crisp mornings and colors only just beginning to bloom in their vibrant displays. My favorite time of year has arrived and I look forward to what photos I will capture over the next few months as we take advantage of every outdoor opportunity, eat warming foods, and prepare to cocoon ourselves into the warmth of home as we roll into the holiday season. Here is what our exhilarating September looked like. September in Review
1. 9/1/12 Sunrise on Fall, 2. 9/2/12 Susans & Tomatoes II, 3. 9/3/12 After Shrub Removal, 4. 9/4/12 Tomato canning season is underway!, 5. 9/5/12 Anyone else see the tree of life in this bowl of vinegar?, 6. 9/6/12 Garlic, 7. 9/7/12 Three Babes, 8. 9/8/12 Money Plant, 9. 9/9/12 Field, 10. 9/10/12 Tomatillos ready!, 11. 9/11/12 Silvery Leaves Blowing, 12. 9/12/12 Fall is here, 13. 9/13/12 Cones, 14. 9/14/12 Gorgeous carrots, 15. 9/15/12 Freshen, 16. 9/16/12 Harvesting Honey, 17. 9/17/12 Shimmer, 18. 9/18/12 Fall Sunsets #whoneedsafilter, 19. 9/19/12 Among the cool weather Kale Starts, 20. 9/20/12 Liquid Sunlight, 21. 9/21/12 Beeswax, 22. 9/22/12 Not every day that Air Force One flies directly over the farm, pretty low too!, 23. 9/23/12 Fried plantains, 24. 9/24/12 A little light frost, 25. 9/25/12 Watched Pot, 26. 9/26/12 Eating Schedules, 27. 9/27/12 Barn Glowing, 28. 9/28/12 Bower, 29. 9/29/12 Athletic, 30. 9/30/12 I love Fall in Wisconsin Created with fd's Flickr Toys


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