Tuesday, November 30, 2010

this and that

Today I have nothing cohesive to write about. Lots of this and that going around. Chilled heads, wearing hats, drinking hot chocolate. We also went to see Tangled today which was very very cute. Very well done. Even if the mother issue was so familiar, so in line with one of our culture's biggest mother-fears. You know, that mothers mainly hold people back? That we are all frightened and un-trusting that our children will be able to handle themselves and so we step in and prevent them from living out their dreams? Yeah, that one. Anyway, they did a good job of making this mother-issue so over-the-top-enough that I think almost anyone would be hard pressed to think she had Rapunzel's best interests at heart.

We started reading Tom Sawyer. So far so good. Some of the language is archaic and some of it is just plain not said anymore, which makes for interesting discussions.

And it's that time of year when keeping well and keep warm seem to be synonymous. I take vitamin D religiously now and that seems to help quite a bit. I drink warm beverages and take warm baths. One of my migraine triggers this time of year is a cold head, so I wear a hat indoors much of the time.

Which also means I am knitting a new hat. Even though I also bought yarn for mittens. For myself. Eva wants new hand warmers too but she wants a different pattern, which makes it slightly more tedious than it would have been because I already know the gauge and size and pattern, etc of the other hand warmers really well. Oh well. I will learn the new ones soon enough and they will be purple with hearts, lots and lots of hearts.

I was also perusing this blog for holiday things to do around Portland in December and that got me thinking about the little walk around downtown Portland we didn't make last year because we were all sick- the gingerbread houses and the big tree in Pioneer Square. Hot chocolate. The new Santa village thingy in Macys. Although I'm told it's not the same as the old one. {What ever is?} That whole tour I had planned. And I was thinking of doing it this week and caught myself and thought is it too soon? But you know- as I go back and forth with myself right now as I am writing, real time self-introspection, if you will- this whole month has the potential to just fly by. Why not this week? And get in the holiday spirit.

And one more thing. I am actually considering putting up holiday lights this year, which is something I have never done. Something I never thought I would do. Would want to do. But I saw these lovely periwinkle colored lights on a few houses as I drove home tonight and I think I may have been sold. I also may want one of those reindeer whose head move. Or something. Although I don't know yet. I'll have to see how much they cost and then decide.

And on that note- it's time to go to bed. Time to read. Time to drink another Emergen-C and some more Kombucha, gear myself up for taking care and keeping warm. Extra vitamin C. Hot tea. Astragalus. That sort of thing. And try and finish my hat, for winter's sake. It seems like it goes by so quickly, but really, it's winter here until June. Or at least that's when I stopped wearing my winter hat last year. So as usual, I really do have all the time in the world.

Monday, November 29, 2010

card making project

So I've decided to make holiday cards with Eva this year. I got the idea after being totally inspired by Martha Stewart and her pumpkin dessert recipes for Thanksgiving. And Eva had a lot of fun making Halloween decorations this year, some of which were inspired by ideas we also saw on Martha Steward online. After Thanksgiving- or during?- I started looking at Holiday decorations, particularly the card making section, and I was hooked. Today we went out and bought a few bits of craftiness for the cards. It's hard to go into Joanne's for long stretches because all of the smells- I'm thinking the glues and perfumes and other odd bits- tend to make Samuel feel sick. So I try to be as thoughtful as I can while rushing most of the time. It worked fairly well this time, although I may need to go back. Maybe I can go somewhere else.

Here's what we got-
card stock in various colors
smallish plain cards
snowflakey decorations
small glittery snowflakey decorations in two sizes
red poinsettia decorations

I am still thinking about stamps. And buttons. I have a list across the room with other things written in it that I am also thinking about but I am going to leave it there for now as Agnes is currently sleeping in my lap and I don't want to disturb her. I'm sure there will be plenty of time for list reading later on, but I never know when Agnes is going to get up and move into the other room...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

guinea pig nail trimming

One of the challenging parts of taking care of guinea pigs for me is trimming their nails. When they do need to be trimmed, the guinea pigs and I can usually handle one paw a night. This obviously is not a hard and fast rule. And they make such a fuss, particularly Albert, who starts squeaking when he sees the nail clippers, that I am almost always behind. Their nails are consequently quite long most of the time. It's most often Eva's idea to do the clipping. She holds each guinea pig while I clip their nails. They struggle and then are given treats afterward.

I want to stress that while Albert is very upset in the following video, I swear I am not hurting him. Nail trimming can be a harrowing experience, even without physical pain, which is another good reason to do it as infrequently as possible. And you'll notice I only really got three nails trimmed and not even one full paw done. It's just too nerve wracking for me and the pigs.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

tut tut...

I was a huge Facts of Life fan at one point in my life. And while there are a few scenes that I remember fondly from that show, there is one scene in particular that has stuck in my head all these years and that continues to come up over and over for me still, particularly when I am reminding myself not to worry.

The scene I am remembering was with Tootie, during a time when she was being punished for something or other. (It seems like this was a common occurrence for Tootie on the show.) On this particular occasion, she was required to write something 100 times or more, something along those lines, on the blackboards in a classroom. At some point during the punishment, the camera came into the room- I can't remember if it was followed by a teacher or not. Eventually, a teacher did come into the room, though, and told her that what she was writing on the board wouldn't work as her punishment. Tootie had decided to write double quotation marks (as in " ") over and over again underneath *each word* in the first sentence rather than writing out the sentence word for word, over and over, line after line. And she thought she was being quite clever, too, because while she wrote, she sang the song, "Tut tut Tootie, don't cry. Tut tut Tootie, goodbye."

I love that. Tootie, in her roller skates, skating back and forth across the classroom, writing double quotation marks and singing that song "Tut tut, Tootie...". (To be honest, the last word isn't necessarily goodbye. I sing it alternately with my my at the end, depending, and have been doing so for years. Just now I tried to verify it on Google but sadly it did not show up. Nor on YouTube, as it were.)

I was reminded of this song again this evening when I told Eva I was going to take a break from cutting out Christmas trees because my finger was getting sore and she rolled her eyes at me and said, "Tut tut." I chuckled. Oh Tootie, you have made your mark on this world and it has stuck. I have no doubt that Eva's "Tut tut" came from my singing Tootie's song around my kids for all these years. Of course, the meaning has altered slightly, over the years, morphing to suit our family's needs, depending on the situation and nuance required, but that is, after all, what all language does anyway.

Just for fun, I decided to go over to Netflix to see if they have the Facts of Life {on instant watch or otherwise} and put it in my queue. It seems like it might be a fun thing to watch with my kids. They can finally see Tootie in her roller skating glory singing the "Tut tut" song they have come to associate with me. I'm fairly certain of what their response will be. A little eye rolling, a groan and a definite, "Tut tut..."

Friday, November 26, 2010

which day?

Today, as well as being Black Friday, aka the busiest shopping day of the year, is also known, in other circles, as Buy Nothing Day. Buy Nothing Day, as it turns out, works better for me simply because I don't relish shopping or large crowds, so basically a very-crowded-shopping-day experience is not something I {usually} consciously choose. Although, truth be known, I did check out some deals in various stores to see if it would be worth it for me to go out in the crowds. It wasn't. I found one deal but honestly I knew that wasn't going to make it worth while for me and I felt rushed and unprepared, what with our no-power-day on Wednesday and Thanksgiving yesterday. It there had been one more deal on one big ticket item in particular, I might have considered it. Emphasis on might. But no luck.

And I wondered today if it counted that I didn't buy anything today- does lunch count?- but bought A LOT the other day so that I would be done before today? My impetus for shopping Tuesday and Wednesday {online} was to safeguard against the-things-I-needed-to-buy being sold out (not so that I could not buy anything today) by the time I got around to buying them, which I had hoped would be more along the line of December 3rd or 4th, not the day before Thanksgiving. Still, it worked out that way and as it turns out {again} it's always nice to have a break. From almost anything. Even if I didn't plan on it. Sometimes especially if I didn't plan on it. One of my very favorite things is when things just work out.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

cats like thanksgiving too

Miss Magoo right before we sat down to eat. (Those are Eva's turkey decorations in the background and her place settings on the table.)

pumpkin thoughts revisited

I went with the pumpkin cheesecake. It was delish. (I'm happy to say it also turned out.) And- I'm also happy to say, I'm happy I made it. It was definitely the right decision {even if I did break my mixer while trying to whip up the cream cheese}.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

thankfully warm

Today was one of those days. Although, to be fair, my feelings and thoughts about it have changed so frequently that now I just feel grateful to be home, washing my dishes and making french fries, all preparations for Thanksgiving put on hold a bit longer. As Samuel put it earlier, it was a fun adventure. But now it's not.

Our power went out this morning around 4 or 5 am and by the time I finally got out of bed at 8:00 am, all of the things I normally enjoy in the morning- heat, light, Internet, food, hot water- were long gone. It was so cold that my guinea pigs, usually morning larks like myself, stayed huddled in their igloos, concerned eyes looking toward me, barely coming out for their greens.

I took Samuel and Eva first to the pancake house for breakfast and coffee. Then we did a few errands, making light of the matter, taking advantage of the holiday feel of the day to peruse shops. When I checked in with the electric company, though, the estimated time for the power to be reinstated had been moved back a few hours. And that was the way of the day. We found another warm spot, drank more warm beverages, perused more warm stores. And the time was pushed back again. And again. Until finally it was late afternoon when we reached another warm, well lit place, packed with happy consumers, flush with the glow of the holidays approaching.

And then a call- one call from the electric company- and we packed our things immediately, without a backward glance, without buying more coffee, without perusing more objects. And we skipped and ran, giggling, back to the car. Never happier to be going home. Never happier to be immersing my hands into warm soapy water, finishing off a sink full of dishes. First delighted, then grumpy at the turn of events, turning a day that should have been filled with baking and good smells in preparation for tomorrow's feast, to one filled with cold hands and fussy children, tired of seeing shops, tired of smelling coffee. Hungry. Cold.

And my thoughts turned to things like generators and chargers and self reliance and irritation. For a brief time, I wondered at the gratitude that comes from deprivation, at the exercise that gratitude can become when we are taken out of our element and we must make do, even if just for a day, and it seemed fitting to have such gratitude the day before Thanksgiving, even if the other part of me sneered at the perfect poetry in this lesson and mocked the simplicity found there.

Still, I enjoyed washing the dishes. Am looking forward to a hot bath. Can't wait to continue to stay warm. And while it has been a day of looking at what I am grateful for in that deprivation-sort-of-way, it is also a reminder to me of the time I make each day to be grateful. And how what comes up for me each day is different than the next. And that today I am particularly thankful for heat and light and home.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

grocery store {ped}antics

There are various checkers at the grocery store we frequent that I generally avoid if I can help it. Today I added one more to the list. Although- when I think about it- it seems like I was already avoiding this checker for a reason I can no longer remember. Whatever the reason was before, he's definitely back on my list now. And closer to the top. As in the first or second slots. Although to be fair, the first slot is very solidly held by a woman who I avoid as close to always as possible, even though Samuel sometimes eggs me on and asks me to go through one of my banned checkers' aisles. Just for fun. He likes the thrill that annoying people can sometimes bring. Plus I think he learns a lot about social acceptability and how to handle difficult people. Plus he likes to laugh afterward. Or practice his scowl. Who can say really. I rarely, let it be known, take him up on it and mostly choose to stick to the checkers I prefer. The tried and the true, if you will.

But things happen and today, the teen who helped me carry my turkey to the checkout line picked this particular checker's line and I didn't feel like quibbling, saying something like, "Um. He's on my banned checkers list, could we move a row over?" So I stayed and thought I was feeling magnanimous enough to get through whatever encounter presented itself, irritating or not. I'm usually able to rise to the occasion, I just don't always feel like using my energy in that way, if you know what I mean.

So it's our turn and he starts checking out the couple of things I couldn't get when I ordered the bulk of my groceries online last night. He asks the kids if they want a sticker- a common occurrence at this grocery store. When they say yes, he then says to them very seriously, "What's the magic word." Good grief I am so tired of the magic word patrol and all of it's promptings. My kids are polite kids. They say please and thank you. And not because I prodded them and poked them with talk of magic words their whole life.

So they stared at him and made no move to answer or to take a sticker. I laughed and said, "Abracadabra?" He did not look amused at my attempt to divert attention from his magic word trick and said very seriously to me, "Please. That's the magic word to me, please." As though we really didn't know what the magic word was. My children- ruffians- running about in the world, not knowing what the magic word was. I laughed some more.

There are a couple of things here that bug me. The first is offering someone something and then demanding them to say please before you give it to them and accusing them of being the impolite one. Did I mention you'd already offered it to them? Also- can you imagine saying that to an adult? And then- why is the checkout person at the grocery store deciding to become a member of the etiquette police with my kids? While I'm spending money at the store he works at. For Thanksgiving. Over a sticker he has already offered to them. This constant desire for people to turn into the etiquette police around children, faultless users of the magic word themselves, I'm sure, is sometimes humorous. But more often nosy. Meddlesome. And pedantic.

Thankfully, our transaction with him was nearly finished. Before we could leave, though, he asked me one more question, which led to another, while I was punching in my pin to pay for a donation to the food bank. He asked if the schools had been closed today because of the snow. (We got a little snow last night and it's not unheard of for Portland schools to close over less.) I should have lied and said yes. Or lied and said no. Because I didn't know the answer and instead I said, "I'm not sure. We homeschool." So we're nearly done, right? Almost out of there. When he asks, "Oh? And what have they learned today?" But not curious. Serious. With a hint of the pedant still lurking about. And now he's quizzing me.

On another sort of day I might have felt irritated or I might have simply laughed at his question and then left the store, but today I said with a smile, "The magic word?" Yep. And he blushed. And I still don't know if he thought he really had taught my kids the magic word or if he knew I was calling him on all of it. And I wished him a happy Thanksgiving and we left the store.

I don't know. Normally I don't say anything. I don't like to match the pedant's pedantism with my own lesson-teaching. Some days, though, the fussiness and meddling and nosiness become tiresome and I just wish someone would ask {simply} if we are enjoying our day. And I would ask them the same. And then we could smile and recognize that we are sharing this human experience, this day. And that would be enough. Plenty, even.

Hence the banned checker list. And the tried and the true.

Monday, November 22, 2010

immunity tea

I was checking out an immune boosting herbal tea mix at New Seasons the other day and was disappointed to see there was echinacea in it. Ah well, echinacea is a wonderful herb for immunity but I am unfortunately allergic to it. So, I checked out the other ingredients and decided to try and recreate it as best I could at home. This is what I came up with-

2 bags rose hips
1 bag peppermint tea
1 bag tulsi tea with green tea
something like 3 Tbsp dried red clover
2-3 Tbsp dried nettles
fresh grated ginger
orange peel

I realize that in this mix echinacea looks like it would be the immunity power horse and that without it, the tea doesn't look like much of an immune booster. I really think, though, that with all of the different herbs together, particularly the red clover, it still makes for a good mix. Next time I will probably add fewer rose hips and more peppermint and ginger. Fennel seed and cayenne were also suggested to me, but I'm not sure how I feel about those flavors in this mix right now. I think calendula would make a nice addition as well and was in the original mix I saw at New Seasons. But- it was raining torrents outside that night and I knew if I went outside to pick calendula in the back garden I would melt. I actually didn't dry any calendula flowers this year either. I thought about adding chamomile as well but I don't always like how that flavor takes over. Oh- and someone also suggested thyme, which I have definitely enjoyed in tea in the past and which I have in large quantities on my patio. Next time.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

more pumpkin

I just read through my pumpkin post discussing what type of desserts there will be on Thanksgiving. And while I like my practical side because it is so much a part of who I am. I like where it gets me. How thoughtful it can be. How it can take care of everything. Sometimes- sometimes- it leaves just a little bit to be desired in the choose-what-you-really-want category. I don't want to say it's lackluster. That seems a bit harsh. Let's put it this way. It's not exactly the part of me that chose to go ahead and buy the cashmere yarn today. But! it is the part of me that chose the neutral color. So- the idea is that when I put the two sides together, something lovely can come out of their agreement. When one side or the other goes crazy alone, it can feel more than slightly off balance. Not exactly what I want.

After thinking about it a bit more (Thankfully, both sides like to over-think things. {Ahem.} Or is it think-things-through?) I feel like I'm actually leaning more toward the pumpkin chocolate tart or the spicy pumpkin bundt cake. Or cheesecake. I've been thinking about cheesecake a lot lately but am still not {quite} convinced about pumpkin cheesecake. Plus, I need to buy a springform pan for that recipe. Although, the bundt cake needs a pan, too... Ah. So many recipes. This could be another reason my practical side sometimes steps in. It can be oh-so-much-easier to make choices from my practical side. And then? Then it's all taken care of. Decision made.

Right now, though, I'm going to think a little bit more about pumpkin recipes and if I still can't find one I am absolutely thrilled with (and choose from that place), I will go ahead and make the squares. Which, by the way, I am sure will be tasty in their own right. Not really lackluster, as I said, just not as exciting as I would like either. So there you go.


I've been thinking quite a bit about Thanksgiving dinner lately. Or should I say, Thanksgiving dessert. Even going so far as to peruse Martha Stewart for pumpkin recipe ideas today. The problem for me is not whether I can make a particular recipe, but rather whether anyone else will actually eat said recipe. I mean, I will eat some. On Thanksgiving Day, Ellen and Evan will eat some. Then I will send some more home with Ellen and Evan. But if I make a pumpkin cheesecake, for instance, that will still leave quite a bit of cheesecake sitting around. Because you know there will be other desserts as well. Ellen might make a pie. And there will also be pomegranate granita. Maybe some of those Pepperidge Farm cookies of the Milano variety because the kids like to keep that tradition going. Samuel will want fizzy apple cider as he so lovingly calls it. And, you know, it's just a huge influx of food all at once to keep track of.

So- while the ginger pumpkin bundt cake looks amazing- or the pumpkin cheesecake- or the refrigerator pumpkin pie- or or or- I am going to go with the pumpkin-chocolate-chip squares (so far) and hope that the chocolate chips do enough talking to persuade everyone that the pumpkin really is alright after all. Otherwise, if that doesn't work, I can always freeze those really easily and eat them one-at-a-time until the other Holiday cookies start kicking in.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Holiday Blooms

Christmas cactus in full bloom. Should I rename her Holiday cactus? She will most likely bloom like this through December. Then- if I'm lucky- she will take a break and bloom again in February/March when the sun changes it's slant again.

Friday, November 19, 2010


So I caved and bought a gyroscope today. (For one dollar more than I could have bought it yesterday at OMSI, I might add. But who's counting. I am open to irony these days.) It seemed like a good omen, too, having seen it twice in two days {after learning about them yesterday}. Plus! I was seduced by visions of gyroscopic? tricks and hours (minutes?) of thrilling science fun. And- Samuel can be very persuasive.

On the instructions that came with the gyroscope, there are pictures on the back (the advanced tricks...) of the gyroscope resting on a pencil tip or spinning on a piece of string like a tight rope spinner. I knew those tricks would take a little time and expected a bit of a learning curve for us to get to that point. I didn't, however, expect us to not be able to get it to spin on the little stand it came with- a little black stand made just for gyroscope spinning. Who knew? But- after getting it to spin several times, we still have yet to be able to keep it standing on it's little stand, much less our finger tips. I am planning on leaving it on the table for a few days so everyone can have a chance to fiddle around with it a little more and {possibly} master the art of getting our gyroscope to stand upright. We shall see.

Here is a five minute video about the gyroscope. Our gyroscope does not yet do any of the tricks in this video. It does, however, do the part about dropping and falling over {so far}.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

segway segue

so this morning after i woke up i came into the kitchen and realized- after i hastily went through my email- that we had to get going early today because i was taking the kids to a class at omsi where they would learn about and then ride on a segway. i'm glad we went. samuel was glad he woke up. and all three of us, at it turns out, got to ride the segway. first the kids and then the adults. i never expect to participate in these types of classes and am always tickled when we get to try too. it was smoother than i had anticipated and much easier to turn and maneuver. and yes, i giggled when i first stepped onto it, leaned forward and got it to move.

but before riding on the segway, we learned a little about how it works. turns out there are 5? or was it 3? gyroscopes inside it helping to keep it oriented and balanced. and- to demonstrate this point, we each got to hold and try to move a gyroscope that was already rotating. and that was a fascinating sensation and i thought immediately about going to the omsi store after the class had finished to buy us our very own gyroscope to look at more at home. of course, when we got there, they had a different kind of gyroscope, not one you could hold in quite the same way as the one in the demonstration and i decided against buying it and was thus not out the $7.99 or so it would have been to bring it home and make it our own. i did, however, buy the kids rock candy because, as i was reminded by samuel, they so rarely get to eat rock candy. true. and i remembered that there comes a time, or at least there did for me, when i no longer wanted to eat rock candy. so- no rock candy and no gyroscope. for me.

but-before we left the house this morning, before i even woke up the kids, i stood next to the stove getting ready to make scrambled eggs and i saw out of the corner of my eye what looked like a bird flying across the living room. so- i went and stood in the middle of the room and as it turns out, it was a bird- a wren- who had flown across the living room, from one closed window to the next. and i wondered, how on earth did he get inside the house in the first place? and how long had he been there, perching briefly on my now blooming christmas cactus? for a moment i thought about how my one cat who would have possibly brought a bird into the house had recently passed away and how neither of my other two cats would catch a bird much less bring it into the house. and how- also- there seemed to be no open windows or doors.

i followed the little bird as he hopped along the window sill, hiding behind the curtains. he finally flew behind eva's table and perched on a cardboard box filled with animals or legos or ugly dolls or somesuch and peeked out at me when i peeked in at him. i expected him to fly pell mell through the living room when i finally found him. instead, i opened up the window for him and he flew, as though attached by a string, straight out the window and into the freedom and fresh air beyond.

and today was also the day that i picked up maxwell's ashes and paw print and fur clipping from the vet. and i wonder a little bit if the bird and his inexplicable presence in my living room this morning was a good luck wish from maxwell, a sweet hello from beyond. maybe.

later, as i walked out of the vet's office with my kids into the pouring portland rain, carrying my cat's ashes and wearing maryjanes and a sweater, thinking fondly of my new rain coat and boots warm and dry at home in the closet, i laughed and cried at the absurdity of it all. of missing maxwell. of trying to be prepared. trying to understand. of the whole day with the bird and the segways and the other moms in the class and all of us- all of us- really just trying to live our lives the best we can. the best we know how. which is all maxwell ever did in the first place. and which is probably one of the many reasons why i still miss him so much.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

body art

Eva loves to do body art on herself in the form of tattoos and drawings that she does herself. Today she literally covered herself in body art. I got some pictures of my favorites. One of the owls is on my hand. She also did a lovely bird on my forearm that was too difficult to photograph.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

indoor sliding

Two videos of Eva's indoor slide she made yesterday from various supplies she cobbled together from around the house-

Monday, November 15, 2010

mushroom madness

The sun came out today and I went outside to take a few pictures of the amazing mushroom madness happening out in our front yard.

Eva and I talked a little about who might be eating the mushrooms. We decided it could be squirrels and/ or slugs. Then we found this little guy munching on one of the larger red mushrooms. Clearly slugs have an appetite for mushrooms!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

leap of faith

Caught myself falling back down into the {to be dramatic but truthful} abyss recently and was shocked {again} at how quickly it can happen. *It* being one of those slowly then all at once processes, much like the seasons turning or meringue whipping. Or birth. Or death. Two of the transition biggies in life. Some might say Life. I'm not sure if I would. Sometimes. Maybe. But not now. If there is a Life then there is a life and that has a grass-is-greener effect whereby you {or You?} waffle back and forth between the particular sorts of wisdom {or Wisdom? Hey, now that's going too far, don't you think?} and love to be found in each. When really it's just life. {Italics.}

I saw this morning that it is still too soon to read inspiring articles with titles like Ten Ways to Find Contentment in Your Life. I push it away with my hands, swatting at it. No. Because that, to be honest, is one of the problems. My mind gets busy with that sort of list and will certainly, at some point during the day, after having had fun trying out each of the ways, point out to me that I don't know how to be content enough. Or that I'm being content wrong. And I'll actually believe it {nine times out of ten. Seven on a good day.}. Such is the abyss.

But I did start doing some reading. Ummmmm. Existentialism. Absurdism. Postmodernism. You get the idea. And that has been good. I have actually found it to be reassuring. All of those thinkers, thinking these same thoughts, wondering these same ideas. The meaning of life and all that. I went so far as to read through several quick synopses of different philosophies {about life} and was relieved {again} to see there really is no consensus. Just thoughts. Some I agree with, some I don't. There are quite a few common themes out there among them. Some common conclusions. Still, as far as we know, we don't {really} know. And that's the truth of it. The biggest truth of it. And it comes down to this, as far as I am concerned- Which leap of faith are you willing to take? It was Soren Kierkegaard who coined the term leap of faith and while good old Soren and I have come to a few different conclusions, I thank him for his leap of faith concept. And I thank Albert Camus too, for looking so closely at the world and putting down his thoughts for others to relate to, so many years later.

And on that note, on that not-knowing note, here's a slice of our today-

Eva's ring collection. Ten rings, two for every finger.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

birds *with* trees

This evening {starts so soon these days. I can't decide when to start calling it evening and when it is still afternoon...} Eva and I hung a few more of her drawings up. I wanted to get some of her fairies and well-dressed-ladies up on the wall. Afterward she was inspired to have me trace her on some of the rolled up paper we bought at the art supply store last month. The tracing turned out great and she is now working on decorating her paper-self. Photos to follow after she has finished. Turns out it is a pretty large project and the light in here is very dim.

Like I said, the lighting is rather dim. I can't help it. The blog must go on. And this {lighting issue} is what I'm dealing with {currently, in this life}.

This fancy fairy is one of my all time favorites and here is a lady in red. High heels for everyone.

These birds were done today and were a part of a larger photo story about how the birds are sad when we cut down all the trees. These birds are still happy and are shown in the larger drawing with trees. I know I feel better with trees too.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Dinner tonight

was ground mild Italian chicken sausage with a few potatoes from this week's CSA basket and sauteed greens (from last weeks basket)- what looked a bit like collards, but smaller than you usually see them. Plus apple crisp with three different local apples- Pink Ladies, Gala and Braeburn. I really must get to the farmers market this week for more apples because as local and seasonal as the ones I bought from New Seasons were, they were nothing like the ones we bought a few weeks ago at the market. I missed the apple upick this year and am definitely feeling it now. Still, three kinds of apples will make a very good crisp. Plus- and here's the best part, in my opinion- this amazing salad with cabbage, mesclun mix, arugula and carrots, all fresh from my own garden tonight! I added pomegranate and slivered almonds, our first pomegranates of the season. We have all been nibbling on those and the first satsumas of the year all evening with visions of pomegranate granita dancing in our heads. I had all but forgotten about satsumas (how does that even happen?) until a woman at the grocery had some in line ahead of me and I rushed back to pick out a few of my own. It is still a little early so they are on the expensive side, but so worth it for the boost in spirit alone. {Not to mention the taste.} {Not to mention how excited Eva is.}

The day started out slow as they have been of late and I bought two blues buster light bulbs at the store this afternoon AND took a walk in the middle of the day in the sunshine AND went out to the garden to find vegetables for a fresh salad. All of this contributes to a better mind-set. The salad was the icing on the cake, to make it stick a little longer. Plus, I found a few baby sunflowers just now blooming on thick stems bending down toward the ground and still so many flowers outside for November. My Wisconsin-trained-mind never can remember how warm it stays here for so long.

Carrots planted a few months ago picked tonight. Petunias still blooming...

Baby sunflowers blooming, several on an already bent stalk. Salad!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

current books

Around the time that Maxwell died, the kids and I finished up several ongoing stories we had been working on. We finished the 7th Harry Potter book (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) and are now eagerly anticipating the 7th movie due out on November 19th. We finished up the back seasons for both Glee and the Office. Since his death, I have also indulged quite a bit in Grey's Anatomy and am now officially caught up on that. I've also watched several Woody Allen movies which have been a lot of fun.

Since finishing up Harry Potter, we have read the Princess Academy by Shannon Hale, a Newberry winner and are currently reading the Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo, also a Newberry winner. When we finish Despereaux, I think we will go ahead and watch the movie- it's usually interesting to see how the movie compares to the book and one of the things that we enjoyed about Harry Potter was ending each book with the corresponding movie.

Before reading either of the above books, we started reading A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. We ended up not finishing it because we actually weren't thrilled with it. I'm not sure why, it seemed to differ for each of us. I had originally started reading Wrinkle... to the kids because we are supposed to see a play based on it in the spring and I thought it would be fun to read the book beforehand. I had also never read it as a kid and had always heard good things about it. The good that came from starting it in the first place was that it got me to check out the list of Newberry winners again, another great place to find new books to read.

Two books that are sitting in our reading pile that I think we will read next are The Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg and Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. The kids are also reading the Lord of the Rings series by J. R. R. Tolkien with Matt. He read them the Hobbit last year. They are really enjoying the story and are looking forward to the movies once they have finished reading.

In addition to watching Woody Allen movies, I have also been reading a few different books including Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (actually my first Vonnegut book aside from a feeble attempt at a short story in college) and Sentimental Education by Gustave Flaubert (I am a sucker for French 19th century realism and it has been too long since I've bitten off a book like this one.). I've also been reading the Chocolate Cake Sutra by Geri Larkin. Although I confess that my attention for reading hasn't been what it could be and I have been doing far more knitting than reading lately. I'm currently looking for owl knitting patterns and am excited to have found a pair of fingerless gloves on ravelry with owl patterns on the fingers...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Look closely

Seeds in the garden-

Four sunflower shots

and one cardoon.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


And now it's most definitely fall. For this brief bit of time, the season is balanced. Fully itself. Caught between where it has come from and where it will eventually go. Everywhere I look there is evidence of fall. Where better to notice these changes than in the food that surrounds us. Apples on the counter. Banana bread. Cauliflower cheese soup. Each vegetable in this week's produce basket was filled with fall. No more lingering tomatoes. It's all cauliflower and fennel. Cabbage, not salad mix. Celery root has made it's second appearance. Fall.

The leaves have changed. Many have fallen. Bare trees, those first to turn last month, share space with other trees only now just changing their colors. Some of the neighbors have been raking for a few weeks now. I'm lucky that our oak tree is comparatively late to drop its leaves. We will have red leaves in our front yard for the next few weeks. Yellow leaves from our maple blanket the backyard lawn. My plans to mow one last time gone now that the rain has begun in earnest. Fall.

And it's looking for indoor spaces. Indoor time. Sunshine but mostly rain. Crisp leaves underfoot. It's carrying hats and gloves wherever we go. It's boots. It's darkness beginning each day earlier than the day before. I breathe deeply the crisp, cool air. I let it sink into me. For this moment, just for this moment. It is simply fall. Fall.

Monday, November 8, 2010

on bowling alleys and food found therein

Today, while getting ready to go to the bowling alley for home school bowling, I told Samuel and Eva that I wanted us to eat before we left the house because a) we have a lot of food in the house and b) I didn't feel like spending very much on food while we were there. The last time we went bowling there were fries and pizza and sodas and any number of other foods of that sort. And I really wanted to go to the bowling alley on the cheap. Or at least think about it. Plus, it seems like we get in this habit of going places and eating food everywhere we go and it adds up and the food that we have at home just sort of sits there. So.

So Samuel said to me, "I'm not hungry now." I raised my eyebrows at this. It seemed slightly suspect to me because he had been up for a few hours and had so far eaten nothing. But who am I to presume hunger on someone else? Or so goes my motto {usually} {at least}. Still, the ticking of the clock and the idea of efficiently eating lunch at home before going to the bowling alley were also sitting fairly solidly in my mind. Oh the balance of it all.

In the time that it took me to go over these two points of view and make myself some lunch, Samuel had come up with more information. These are his exact words. He said he didn't want to "waste an opportunity to eat good food." I actually did a double take. Then he said something like, "Don't get me wrong. The food we eat at home is good. It's just normal. The food at the bowling alley is a treat." This is hilarious to me. It has been a long long time since I considered anything served at the bowling alley to be good food. Much less a treat.

And. In addition to doing a double take and suppressing a bit of a chuckle, I was really grateful. Glad even. That Samuel had chosen to phrase it just like that and let me know what the bowling alley food meant to him. It completely shifted my perspective. Don't get me wrong; I didn't *not* want us to eat lunch before leaving the house. No, I still wanted that. But- I did see how and why he might look forward to a grilled cheese at the bowling alley. And how that has very little to do with the food I had planned for us to eat for lunch. And how a normal we-eat-this-every-day turkey sandwich might seem just-a-little-bit like a let down after thinking he might have been able to have bowling alley food. And who knows- again, not I- how long he had been considering the bowling alley food. When in I march, with all sorts of plans for eating at home and such. It's good to get all of the information.

And do you know? While at the actual bowling alley, all Samuel ended up wanting was a bag of chips and a soda. So not really much of a surprise there. Still on the cheap. And so much less of a break in connection than if I had gone through all of the actual motions of putting-my-food-down. Not that I necessarily relented. Once I understood where he was coming from. What was important to him. What was on his mind. The whole thing became a sort of non-issue. Amazing. Plus, now I know. At least for the time being.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

I'll be honest. There seemed to be very little of interest or anything inspiring to post about when I woke up this morning. Contrast that with other times, other days, when it seems as though each thing I think about or see can pass itself off as the meaning of life. I've been feeling very down and thick in the head and that sort of feeling can be challenging to write with. It's not that I don't recognize the beauty around me when I feel like this or the endless possibilities inherent in life. I do. It's more like a stream of so many blah blah blah's filling up my experience and laying a film of what else? on top of everything.

Yes. So I cleaned the bedroom. Which was amazing. Which is amazing. Because now! I can sit in this incredibly clean space and feel the sensation of the blah blah blah's washing over me and it all seems that much more manageable. It is that much more manageable. In fact, it almost seems like nothing at all. Almost.

And, I'm *pleased* to note, there turned out to be something of interest to write about after all. I love it when that happens. So now, I have a clean room and a blog post. And both came out of a very bad mood. Remind me to take stock of the day nearer to the end than the beginning more often.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


I watched this Ted Talk by Brene Brown this morning and loved it. I was reminded of my own recent thinking about wholeness.

The talk is about twenty minutes and finishes up with the idea that the way to live life is to let ourselves be seen. Live by practicing gratitude and joy. And live by believing we are enough. {And know that when we try to numb out all of the bad things, we end up numbing out the good things too.}

Watch here now.

Friday, November 5, 2010

rock opera {zen}

The kids and I went to see Alice and Wonderland performed as a rock opera today and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. I had no idea what to expect going in and kept pushing aside the phrase rock opera, as though it weren't really important to my understanding of what show we were going to see. Or even more likely, I wasn't interested and/or didn't have enough energy to figure out what a rock opera of Alice in Wonderland might look like. I imagined something vague, with a bit of music thrown in. A few songs.

Well, I was wrong. It was the kind of show where if someone had tried to tell me what it would be like or if I had really understood what it would be like or {more likely} thought I understood what it would be like, I would probably not have bought tickets. And that would have been too bad because it was also the kind of show where I actually burst out laughing at the beginning of the second song because of how ludicrous it seemed. It was then that I truly understood what I was watching {what a rock opera of Alice and Wonderland *actually* looked like.} Oh, I get it now, I thought. Rock opera. It all suddenly became clear. Rock opera.

Around about the time that I burst out laughing, one of the other mom's there sitting next to me turned and smiled at me. She said, "This isn't what I expected at all." No kidding. And yet, I knew there was a choice to be made right then and there. I could either immerse myself. Thoroughly enjoy myself. Get involved in and swept up by the music, the inspiration, the hilarity of it all. Or, I could decide it was too cheesy. Too weird. And count down the minutes until it ended. I chose the former. And am pleased to say that now I will forever continue to chuckle as I remember a man dressed up as a large egg (Humpty Dumpty, no less) singing a rock! rendition of the Jabberwocky. I'm not kidding. It was that good.

My kids, I am happy to say, made the same choice, though I would not have blamed them if they hadn't been able to transition over to the appreciating side. If they had continued to grumble until the end, it would have been completely understandable. It was that crazy. Out-there. Unexpected. Samuel turned around for good around about the time that Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum sang about the Walrus and the Carpenter. Something about the little puppet oysters, I'm sure. And those guys really had a way about them. I was partial to the Mock Turtle's song and his Don't Mock Me Tour. Clever.

Still, I have to say that the choice to enjoy or not to enjoy doesn't always work. Or rather, it isn't always the wrong choice not to enjoy. Sometimes, the amount of enthusiasm necessary to muster outweighs the actual enjoyment. Sometimes, you've already tried. Sometimes, it really just isn't your thing and no matter how much you try, you can only go so far. This time, however, it worked. This time, I was able to meet the show head on. This time, it was me and the rock opera. A perfect match. And I loved {almost} every minute of it. (When I remembered to, that is.)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

slice of life

What I love about cats (one thing) is their ability to find comfort just about anywhere. As long as it's the right place. Here is Agnes doing her signature lounging. Check out how the knitting book is propped up on the bowl of dried flowers.

That there *is* a bowl of dried flowers on the table. {Flowers from our garden. Picked by Eva.} With the walk man. The kids are both listening to the Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia Wrede. So far they both like the first book, Dealing with Dragons, and are less thrilled (much less thrilled, in Samuel's case) with the other three. I love hearing them discuss the books together.

There is also a bag for my knitting. And my current knitting. And the knitting book. A glass of water that was mine but has no doubt by this point become Agnes's. A mouse she will not eat. Cat food in the background she has already eaten. Oranges from Chili to the left. Mostly for Eva. A bowl with agates from the beach and a river rock from camping this summer.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

poncho love

OK- turns out I love the poncho. I am actually wearing it right now. We have been having lovely fall weather complete with sunshine and warm winds. I took my sweater off today and put on a short sleeve shirt. The poncho with that out on the patio is just the thing.

Today I was going to write about this migraine that I had yesterday, all last night and half the day today. I am actually still recovering from it and have to take it easy and go to bed early lest it get reved up again and return, as migraines in the past have been known to do. This morning I had an amazing time out on the patio with the sunshine and fall leaves and migraine. The wind was blowing and the trees were dancing. This type of high pressure, warm wind weather, while lovely, also reminds me of migraines, probably because it seems to be a trigger for me for migraines, at least some part of it. I'm not sure if it's the dry wind or the sudden increase in pressure or both, since the warm winds don't seem to exist without the increase in pressure, at least not around here.

For the geese, though, this weather seemed to be all about flight practice. While I sat on the patio eating potatoes and drinking coffee, enjoying the fresh air after a sleepless night, the geese flew over our house and back to the park several times. Each time I would first hear the build up a few blocks away. Then I would see a few of the first geese to take off, just behind the trees a few houses over. Then a rush of dozens- perhaps 200 geese?- as they flew up and around the trees, past our house, over to the left and back to the park. What I love most about watching the geese stretch their wings is just how much they have to say to one another about flying, while flying. It felt to me at times like their energy, their sheer numbers, could pull the migraine up out of my head and release it into the air. Free. The migraine now free of the boundaries of my head, constricting it's movement to dull pounding, could pulse unbridled through the air with the geese. My head, now free of the migraine's insistent pounding, could bask in the silence. In the peace. I breathed a sigh of relief just thinking of it.

But now- even more than then, I am tired of the migraine's presence in my life. It should have gone away hours ago. It should never have come. And I don't wish to talk about it- much less write about it- any more.

So, there will be pictures of Eva's art project today. And a video of how it's done.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

halloween 2010

This year the kids were sick before, during and after Halloween. We went out trick or treating despite the illness. In fact, I'm really glad it's all over so that the kids are finally able to stop worrying about whether or not they would be able to go trick or treating even-though-they-were-sick. In my mind, they would have had to have been pretty sick to keep them in from trick or treating. If they opted to stay in, I would absolutely have honored that too. Still, there are only so many of these dress-up-and-go-trick-or-treating nights in your life and this Sunday was one of them. So we went.

In contrast to years past, Samuel didn't have a costume idea that he was looking forward to for long stretches at a time. He liked his costume and had fun with it but he didn't have the same level of enthusiasm about it that he did with, for instance, the Darth Vader costume (either the first or the second time around).

The weather was gorgeous and the trees really did their part. I love Halloween for getting people out in their community and saying hi to their neighbors. I am always so pleasantly surprised at how friendly everyone is and remind myself each year how much I love this part of the season.

The kids decorated the front of our house and Eva explaining her piles of candy to me after she sorted them.

One of the things about them being sick this year is that we have SO much more candy lingering around the house. I can't remember a time when the candy has lasted this long. Both of the kids have eaten a few things but for the most part have steered clear of the candy while they are feeling sick.

Here they are ready to go out- Eva as a cat and Samuel as Mad Eye Moody from Harry Potter.

Monday, November 1, 2010

poncho gone shawl-ish

I finished up the poncho I had been working on. Actually, I knit the second panel while spending time with Maxwell during his last week with us. It's a nice memory, thinking of him sitting on my lap while I knit that poncho. Which is probably the main reason, now that I think about it, that I will keep it regardless of its actual likeness to the poncho I had imagined it would be.

After I finished up the bath puppets a few days ago I decided to sew up the sides and *finish* the poncho once and for all. There were a few issues with the size and shape, it turns out, the first being that how I had conceptualized it looking and how it actually looked varied enough to get me thinking about other ways to construct it. I looked at several poncho designs and finally decided on sewing one of the edges to an end and adding buttons to the other side to give it the flexibility of being either a poncho or a shawl, depending. (I found the buttons at the Button Emporium.)

But once I had sewn it up and added the buttons, I realized it was still too big to be worn {by me} in the way I had wanted. Oh well. It still makes a lovely shawl-ish throw type garment, though, and both Eva and I have used it today to warm up. It seems actually quite appropriate for us to be using it while sitting warmly inside. I'm positive that if Maxwell were here with us today he would have found a way to wrap up in the poncho as well. It really is the perfect bit of cat knitting.

One of the buttons before I realized that idea wouldn't work. Also- the many colors. The yarns come from various sources- a few from Flock and Fiber, a few from my stash, one bought for the project and two waiting around for the perfect rainy day.

Here it is on me. See what I mean about the size, particularly on one side? The yarn is pretty heavy, which also contributes quite a bit to how it drapes. I think, though, it could be doable if I get one of those shawl holder thingies (can't think of the name). It's worth a try. I have a stitch holder keeping it together in the picture and it isn't quite strong enough.

And really, this is the best possible use for it. Here is Eva warming up with the poncho in the morning. I guess I will keep calling it a poncho, for lack of a better word. Shawl-ish is good but doesn't seem to quite roll off the tongue, at least not yet.