"She refused to be bored, chiefly because she wasn't boring." Zelda Fitzgerald

Monday, January 31, 2011

Vegetarian Times Of Year

We are, as of tomorrow, vegetarians.

Don't freak. It's just one month. See, A has this co-worker who is going vegetarian for the month of February and he challenged A to try it too. I was just as shocked as all of you when my husband, beef-obsessed man that he is, came home and asked me if I would consider taking the family vegetarian for the month. I agreed and then asked, "Why? In heavens name, why?" All the explanation that I really got was that a co-worker asked him to. I don't know why the co-worker is doing it or why in the world the idea of his co-worker asking him to do something was compelling. No telling.

I have however, a sneaking suspicion that maybe his pal was alluding to this movement which was (so the website tells me) born last year and takes pledges from participants from all over the country (USA and now, Canada).The idea is to protest the unhealthy eating in our culture, to protest the bad animal husbandry practices of the modern meat industry and to take a stand against environmental poor stewardship. I support those ideas so, I guess I qualify.
My cookbooks (at least most of them...I need another bookcase)

Yes. So, we're vegetarians in the morning. (Except for Dee's birthday this week for which he as requested steak) I roasted some grass-fed beef marrow bones for lunch and we had marrow on toast...we had bacon for breakfast and tonight our last dinner before the great influx of vegetable matter, will be roast chicken. I'd always choose a roast chicken for my last meal. When in doubt, roast a chicken.

I am already combing the Epicurious app on my phone and my cookbook collection for possible vegetarian cooking ideas. I didn't actually realize that the fabulous cooking blog 101 Cookbooks was vegetarian but is sure is on my radar now. I also was quite smitten with this beautiful veg blog. Such glowing photography! Oh and it suddenly feels handy to know an Indian food blog or two since so many Hindus are also vegetarian. And I also take suggestions....feel free to enlighten me!


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Early Morning Habit

One of my resolutions this year (I didn't share all of them publicly, a girl has to reserve something) was to get up every morning, at 5:30 (i.e. before everyone else in our house), do a yoga routine and have a morning window of peace to arrange my mind before the house was a wild, humming hive of short males. I have decided that when I am sick sleep is good so, my recent sinus headache was a legitimate reason for "sleeping in" but otherwise, I am now up and at 'em. So, I get up, turn up the heat, make a mug of tea, unroll my yoga mat and light a candle or two.

And I have to tell you....I love it.

The head-start is pretty priceless, the time of stretching and mental dusting and conscious movement is good for my body and soul and folks you have to admit, the stunning sunrises I've been taking in, are a totally swank bonus.


Here are a few other little bits and nibbles that might help you make the leap to an early morning start yourself.

I have been doing some of the yoga routines from yogayak on YouTube...all free. I especially like their heart-opener morning routine...yoga in the Costa Rican jungle is very refreshing this time of year.

This little gizmo of a website will help you be sure you can catch the sunrise where you live...and honestly, it's become one of my favorite things about the start of my day.

And then there's this clever little sleep-cycle calculator which will help you be sure that waking is less painful. I am planning to give this a try for the first time this weekend. I will aim to go to sleep 10-ish since that's when the all-wise Cyclometer says I will slip into an effortless rhythm allowing my painless release at 5:30. Wish me luck.

I promise, if you live in a busy household, it is one of the only things I've found that give you a little island of peace in the middle of the madness. Even if it sounds painful, even if it IS painful...try it. I almost promise you won't regret it. :)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Veggie Fever

The catalogs have started arriving in droves...A brings in another few every night or so it seems. Last night we were chuckling when he leafed through the mail and said, "I swear you've had this one already!" and indeed, he was right...so I had. This fellow garden blogger's beautiful post reminded me fondly of some of my favorites companies and really, I can't have too many seed catalogs, right....?

Especially this year.

It's always good to clean out your seed box every once in a while but I didn't mean to do quite as drastic a job as I did recently. Heh. When we moved in, all the gardening gear went out to the garage, including my big box of seeds. I never thought to pull them in before the cold weather started and I just realized "Oh crud. Lots and lots of those seeds aren't frost hardy." Guess I kinda need that stack of seed catalogs now, right? *grin*

On that topic. I've been busy today thinking about what layouts would be best for our vegetable beds. We've decided to  tripling our veggie space this year (Hooray yard!) and since I vegetable garden exclusively in raised beds I'll be ordering two more to match the one we already have from this company.

I wish I were handier with a saw, I realize it's not expensive to build them, but with three littles and a husband who is more executive-type than bashing-out-handmade-wood-products-type I'm thrilled somebody out there has decided to make and sell wooden beds for me. Free shipping is my friend.

Yes. And just look at these wonderful, glorious kitchen garden designs from The Gardener's Supply Company (a New England business, no-less!) I realize they intend for folks to buy the seed packages they are selling but I think personally I'll just magpie the plans and integrate into my own little green world. I am fond of Cook's Choice, Fun For Kids and High Yield. What strikes your fancy?


Friday, January 28, 2011

Poetry Friday: A Mug of Verse

All this snow has created a wild trend for hot drinks in our house (not that we weren't already headed down that road on our own, I'm just saying...) which translates to a lot of hot tea downing and increased hot cocoa consumption in the last few days. 
To top it off, I just finished a fabulous book you should all read on chocolate. Chocolate Unwrapped by Rowan Jacobsen...the long and short of which is...the Meso-Americans were right...chocolate is good for us. I once doubted but, having read an entire, very short book on the subject I'm a believer and will now join A in his nightly dark chocolate tastings. I also encourage you (if you're curious about the book) to check out the review post at The Bonny Glen by the inspiring Melissa Wiley which led me to it in the first place.

And yes, Today is Poetry Friday which means....hot chocolate becomes a poem. Enjoy...and make yourself a mug, you deserve it! :)

Aztec Drink In January

Hot cocoa in my mug
Puffed whipped-cream peak, soft umber in the cup, the glinting handle-arch
Velvet smell of cocoa, comforting whiff of hot milk, acrid scent of glowing burner 
Bubbling whisper in the pan, gurgling cascade pour, chiming ting of whirling spoon
Inviting sweet of sugar, soft round of creamy milk, hint of bitter cacao kick
Toasty heat under the palm, moist twirl of rising steam, warm river down the throat
Hot cocoa in my mug

If you enjoy poetry and want to read more from the other bloggers participating today you can check out the host of Poetry Friday this week, Wild Rose Reader.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

An Exotic Felt Pelt

A little update on some of the latest work in our playroom/homeschool room today. We've been deluged with another immense divine bucket-load of snow and so (those of us not hopelessly enamored of shoveling...hello Ru!) have been indoors, holed-up with cozy interior projects.

Today I decided to tackle the bright, no-sew felt rug that I mentioned before. I have learned in the past that a nice rug is one of the best ways to tie a room together, make it look lived in and give it a cohesive, warm feel.

Note to self: Thou shalt have cool rugs.

This particular rug has been picked up on a couple of different blogs and featured...(I'm not the only person out there who likes it! Hello other cool people! *waving*) Alchemy Junk and also Design Dazzle for instance...(Golly, I have something in common with the design blogs.

Yes. Right. Back to the rug.

So, I'm lazy, and impatient so instead of all that boring business in the instructions about printing off the pattern and enlarging onto gigantic graph paper and then cutting out the pattern before you even get your hot little hands onto the felt itself...I just decided..."Let's freehand it." Heh heh heh. (You can see my mark, re-mark, re-re-re-mark pen drawings on the wrong side of the felt below)

I am not necessarily recommending this technique to readers. Directions are good. But, I will say that felt is cheap and sometimes short-cuts work. That's really what I did though....I free-handed it. I sketched with pen on top of the fabric (glancing at the pattern on my iPhone for guidance) and  then just went at it with my ballpoint. Then I took the scissors and snip, snip, snipped the whole thing out. The only slightly taxing part of the whole business is cutting out the holes that become the stripes for the top layer. That said, it really isn't bad and if I can do it with an 8 month old climbing me, a two year old bopping back and forth over the fabric and a four year old asking questions, then you can do it too.

After the pieces are all cut out, you just drizzle glue on the layers and sandwich them together. The top "stripey" layer is slightly more involved because a random and total glue drizzle would  leave alarming sticky patches open to the world so, you have to lay down the layer and then peel up one section at a time and glue-ify it before a firm press to adhere the whole business.

One thing I couldn't tell at a distance: I wasn't sure if a rug made out of felt would feel substantial enough to be walking on...but, yeah...it does...it's not mongo thick and cushy but it feels good enough. There are three layers here which you can't tell at a glance and that's the secret. So, yeah! Hooray felt!

And it's mostly done! I have to add more glue to the top layer and for that I will need another bottle so, a craft store run is in my future. I also think I might glue a non-slip rug cushion to the back so that it will be less like a giant tempting sled for little boys who love to slide through across wood floors on their socks. Heh. But, yeah!  It's done enough for  me to be very pleased, and proud of myself and to be recommending it to all of you. 

Go, make many safari rugs out of felt! And prosper!


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Little Finger Pluckin' Warmth

I wish I could play the banjo to my little men but, in lieu of that, on this chilly, blizzardy night (yes, another snowstorm, rolling in) I suggest you all enjoy this video on me. I love the warm cozy house this baby is in...sweet mama with a kerchief and her strings, papa teasing from behind the camera, wood stove and quilts hung over the chairs.What a warm moment to play over and over...


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Snowy, Snow, Snow, Snow

Today it snowed some more. It's the latest thing. Everyone on the East Coast is having the same...it's all the rage. A even caught himself thinking longingly about a snow-blower until I reminded him that this year is a severe anomaly. We normally don't lose sight of our grass for very long stretches during the winter and real accumulation is more of a wish than anything else. I always head to Michigan for Christmas, thinking fondly about how absolutely cock-sure it is that there will be a deep blanket of white.

Somehow it seems "right" to me to have blizzards and snowy walks and a sifting blanket of white on these winter evenings. It is after all winter.  It seems like winter ought to come with snow. And really, Ru is rarely happier than when he's out playing in the white stuff. It's a year of sleds, snowball fights, and shoveling, shoveling, shoveling. He couldn't be more pleased. It's so very lucky that we bought a house just before the record snowfalls of 2010-11 so that he could get hands on walk clearing lessons by his daddy's side almost every evening.

That said, I am not sure how much longer I want this snow to stick around. December was a lovely month to be snowed-in and January is still quite jolly...no holidays just snow-days. February now...that ought to be the end. I'm willing to let the white stuff linger this one last month and then I hope to see signs of spring. That's about as long as this wussy girl from The Great White North manages to hold out with any amount of good cheer.

I love this sign that we pass on our way to the next town when we take the back-roads. I'm not the only one who's starting to dream of budding flowers.....

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Handsome 8th Month

Nib, our little big-man is 8 months old! 

 He continues to be sunny and easy-going although he's starting to "mature" into a more opinionated fellow: he'll go to most anyone's arms for a grinning visit but he requires a strong right shoulder pin these days to keep him on the changing table while you reach for a wipe.

  We are starting to think about how we'll celebrate his birthday (Oh wow does it sound good to have May be looming!!!!) and are happy to see him blooming and opening and becoming his own, shining, little person.

He says "Dada!" clearly and proudly, cruising on furniture incessantly, eats most anything besides cow's milk, honey and citrus and is the triumphant owner of seven teeth. He dances, he sword-fights (thank you older brothers) and his favorite food is ice-cream. Ladies, he'll be available in about 18 years for bids...until then, swoon chicas, swoon. This one's a winner.


Friday, January 21, 2011

Poetry Friday: A Winter Shovelling Piece

I am finally, finally able say (after 24 hrs straight) that I am headache free, and able to properly appreciate the existence of my sinuses. Thank you Lord for allowing the invention of Sudafed. One little pill, that's all it took. Whew.

In other news....
(photo credit to A)

We just got another snowstorm last night. We've had an inordinate amount of snow this winter for our part of the world. It feels like every time we turn around again, it's snowing. After the snow has ceased to fall, I watch again this scene unfold, across the street, as our neighbor comes out with his snow shovel and sets to work.

Upon The Death of His Wife Before The First Snowfall

He has shoveled the drive clean,
Snow heaped up the sides in turrets,
A sweep of steady, open concrete,
Leading generously to the garage.
But to his front steps, he has
Cleared a tight, widower's path,
Off the broad steps and walk
Room for just one to stalk 
Neatly back to the door.

Poetry Friday can be found, today at A Teaching Life.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Cozy, Little Rituals

Been thinking about the holidays and parenting and doing a little post-processing. I love family tradition so the holidays feel like they're all highlighted as "Best Time Of Year Ever" or at least that they ought to be. It's the time of year when we actually do special, little family traditions, right? Although that's true, I am starting to feel like the December mania is a little too panicky to be my favorite and it feels slightly absurd to press all our energy for family ritual and "specialness" into that one month.

Instead, I've started thinking about the ways that we have little rituals scattered through our whole year, or even every day. We don't just hang stockings, make wishlists and sing carols...we also:

  • Make a traditional clown cake for childhood birthdays (if they want one). A special passed down tradition from A's mother who did it for her seven children.
  • We Eskimo-kiss. This is a new one, I started nose rubbing with the boys as our own variety of a family secret handshake. 
  • I pray the same blessing/prayer over the boys, every single night before they go to sleep which, my Mama did for me too. I remember finding that really comforting as a child.
  • We tell old family stories in the car. Not every time we're driving, just when I or A can think of a good tale and we're in the mood to spin a good yarn. The boys love it and we've been able to enliven a lot of the family legends and past figures this way.
  • I light a candle in the morning when I get up to do my yoga and I slowly wake up to candlelight.

What do you do? I'd love to hear what little family traditions or rituals you've woven into your life, little ways you have made familiar, sweet or silly moments for yourselves.


Monday, January 17, 2011

Run Carlie, Run

Well friends, I can't rightly believe it myself but, it's true...last night, I went running by myself, for the first time in my life.

I had made an amendment resolution that besides just doing yoga in the mornings, five days a week, I'd  do one aerobic workout on the weekends. A huge, huge thing for me to promise. I hate aerobic workouts. But friends, there are lungs and a heart, not just leg muscles to stretch and a mind to relax so I bit the bullet. It's a new year, it's a new me.

And yeah, my friend Sam has been inspiring my eyeballs out, AND my friend Anna, two non-runners who suddenly positively athletic. I had told myself that once it was warm out, I'd run outdoors like Sam was. (Barefoot running! So exciting!) Yeah. Barefoot running will be cool, and I sure can't wait for outdoor warmth again but if I'm doing an aerobic something anyhow...why not run now. And then I forgot about it. Heh.

And then there I was last night, reading a book in which a woman makes positive life-changes (one of which is exercise) and I remembered..."Oh crud. I was supposed to run this weekend. I blew that." And then, I realized it was still Sunday night and before I lost my nerve, I dug my old tennis shoes out of the closet, pulled on a sweatshirt, a scarf and a hat and bolted out the door.

I didn't do anything impressive. I went around the block. And I don't mean I ran around the block. I ran down one side of our block and I walked the rest, in slight pain from the running bit. It hurt and I felt fat and pathetic and super uncool but, I also was so proud of myself and the night wasn't nearly as painfully cold as I'd imagined and there was Orion winking brightly over the corner of our neighbor's roof. So, that was something.

I'm trying to block the memory of the searing burn in my lungs and just ride the high of finally being big enough to do something good, even if it's hard and scary. Next Sunday night, you know where I'll be.


Friday, January 14, 2011

Poetry Friday: A Peachy Memory

Even in January we can have a day in laud of peaches. So say I.

Last night for dinner, I cracked open a jar of our homemade canned peaches for the boys as a treat before we left for our weekly parents-only-date. Home canned peaches can be counted on as a reliably well received treat. I love remembering summertime as I open each jar and thinking fondly of how great this summer ahead of us will feel when it finally arrives.  I love that they can so well so that I can keep these golden reminders in my pantry.

And then this morning, cleaning out the diaper bag, I found this poem that I wrote over Thanksgiving break, wedged into a pocket. Seems like fortuitous timing.

A bunch of the folks in A's family are writerly types and since there were lots of us word lovers all together in one place we decided to write poetry. Searching for some unifying theme to write on, we settled on Mahatma Gandhi's Seven Deadly Sins, and each of us selected one. I chose "Pleasure Without Conscience" and used a peach as my vehicle. Happy Poetry Friday!
                                A peach in my hand, during canning this past August.
Peachy Keen
"Stolen water is sweet, food eaten in secret is delicious." - Proverbs 9:17

I tell you, Old Solomon
Can keep his guilt-sweet water
 I'm full up myself on the
Zinging, musical chin-drip
Experience of this single peach
Sun-warmed, love-fed, brought
To market in the back of an
Honest man's pick-up
No semi-haul, pest-spray, gmo-fest
Lowered-standards, mealy-fleshed corner cutter
Just 8 hard earned dollars from
My tip apron
And a sunset globe in his open
Brown hand that has wiped the
Sweat from an honest brow.
 If you feel like joining in on Poetry Friday or reading more poems today, hop on over to Laura's blog.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Babyproofing NOW!

Our little baby, who is the only still being in this picture, is solidly cruising and crawling and about to join his brothers on hyper speed. Time to babyproof. I realize that some incredibly organized mothers keep baby proofing touches current through the life of their family (i.e. whenever there are babies or might be babies) but I am just not that cautious.

I can't stand all the plastic covers and little latches and fumbly hindrances, the high-up, put-away, sanitized look of it all. I think it really is just ugly and I try to get away with as little of the whole business as I can and rely instead on a few key aids (I will for instance baby latch the cupboard under the sink since he sits at my feet there while I do dishes and prep dinner) but plants will stay down where they always are and all breakable items will not be whisked away into Deep Space. I tend to go for the hard-headed and slow method of teaching my children painstakingly "Be gentle to the plant. No pulling." and continuing to enjoy my greenery and my pretty little touches, without the plastic safety garnishes. The toilet stays unlatched, doorknobs don't get little plastic cages and there aren't little caps on the corners of all our end tables. I care too much about beauty, and feel too strongly about spending my time on useful instruction rather than working to create a carefully constructed world of babyproofed sanity. Will I pay for it sometimes by screaming at A when he comes home "How do I keep the house together????" Oh yes. Yes I will but, maybe I'm just too much of a glutton for punishment to have that make me change my ways.

That said...that Christmas tree has got to go pronto. Am off to whiz all those breakable ornaments into boxes...immediately.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Virtual Cooking Lesson #2: Morning Glory Muffins

We did indeed get our blizzard last night, everyone's off school and work and out whooping in their driveways at the neighbors, flinging snow from shovels and winging snowballs at each other. We have had a steady stream of nice young men knocking on our front door, with snow shovels over their shoulders, looking for work. I hope they are finding work elsewhere because I keep turning them away so that Ru will be able to shovel the walk with his daddy tonight...the great longing of his heart. Cute little man.

I have been busy baking, cold, snowy weather almost demands it! So, we find ourselves in the middle of our second installation of Long Distance Cooking Lessons. I wordlessly took a month off in December but, fear not...the program is not dead. I just needed a breather, as did many of you...cooking is all very jolly in December without any assignments.

What we're baking today are: Morning Glory Muffins, a super classic recipe that has everything but the kitchen sink in it, is loaded with fiber and vitamins and tastes a bit like carrot cake for breakfast to boot. My boys say "Yum!" This variation comes from King Arthur Flour and has whole wheat flour and no pineapple although some variations have it. I have a mad love affair with muffins which, are often not such healthy items so this hits my sweet spot, so to speak.

Morning Glory Muffins
1/2 cup raisins
2 cups whole wheat flour or white whole wheat
3/4 cup of maple syrup (or honey)
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups carrots, grated
1 large apple cored, and grated
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup sunflower seeds or wheat germ, (optional)
3 large eggs
2/3 cup olive oil, coconut oil or butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup orange juice or water
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin tin, or line it with papers and spray the insides of the papers.

To make the muffins: In a small bowl, cover the raisins with hot water, and set them aside to soak while you assemble the rest of the recipe. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, spices, and salt. Stir in the carrots, apple, coconut, nuts, and sunflower seeds or wheat germ, if using. In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs, oil, vanilla, and orange juice. Add to the flour mixture, and stir until evenly moistened. Drain the raisins and stir them in. Divide the batter among the wells of the prepared pan (they'll be full almost to the top; that's OK).

To bake the muffins: Bake for 25 to 28 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven, let cool for 5 minutes in their pan on a rack, then turn out of pans to finish cooling.

These muffins freeze well and also are great for snacks on-the-go and they are at their peak after a day or two of storage as the flavors just meld and marry with a little time to kill.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Lots O' Links

Am just kind of confetti brained tonight and so am sharing with you all the shiny bits, tossing around inside my cranium. Have a lot of interesting non sequitur fun with  me! Hooray random, fascinating, sparkly thoughts!
(I am a magpie in my soul)

  • I am planning to be grounded tomorrow by the blizzard that's sweeping in and am hoping to make this with the extra milk we have in our fridge at the moment. How fluffy and alluring does that bowlful look? I learned to like cottage cheese as a grown-up. Sometimes I learn slow.
  • I was reaching past a woman for a whole roasting chicken in the grocery meat department the other day and I was suddenly stopped in my tracks by her breathtaking perfume and I forgot all about the bird and started an animated conversation with her about why I must someday find a way to get some of her Estee Lauder perfume. Usually I find floral scents well meaning but in the end, fake and overwhelming but this one was spot on gardenia, totally exotic and romantic.
  • I took two paintings in to be framed at this art shop and accidentally happened on a 70% off sale they were running on custom frame work. The framer was artistic and thoughtful, I cannot believe how good my paintings look in the hands of a professional. 3 weeks and I can go and get them back! Hooray! Can't wait!
  • This video made me almost cry.

  • Still shopping for beekeeping goods but am so excited to drool all over they keyboard at this site while I mull. I think I should join. Support is good.


Monday, January 10, 2011

Adventures In Zero Oil

We have been running, running, running....wildly, panickedly...our lists fluttering from our back pockets while we stamp out fires and buzz in a labyrinth of manic circles. And then sometime this weekend we remembered to check our oil tank and ordered another round for delivery on Monday morning and then wondered aloud to each other, "Just exactly how serious is that ominous 0 where the needle is hovering?"

Heh. Heh. Heh. And again I say, heh.

Late last night, after dinner was over and the washing up in full swing we began to notice it was oddly chill in the house suddenly. And by the time we were ready for bed we were huddled in blankets in the living room, crammed as tightly together as possible for body heat and I had drunk two full mugs of tea, not bothering with the sugar or cream but just gulping quickly.

We set the space heater up in the boy's room, put an extra layer on the baby, unrolled another quilt for our bed and tucked in. And I swear that there was starting to be frost hovering in the air over our pillows as we switched out the light.

When you wake up in the morning and there is no heat in your house and it is January and you're having a cold snap with a foot of snow on the ground...you have to find a warm place so that the kids can flow from pajamas to clothing to breakfast in relative calm. I lit a fire in the fireplace, dressed kids in front of the bedroom space heater (sweaters, jeans, t-shirts, turtlenecks, sweatshirts, hats etc.) and then plopped the big boys in front of the crackly blaze with blankets while I strapped the baby to my back in a carrier and whipped up breakfast and another mug of tea.

Later as we all ate our breakfast together and we watched the coals settling and snapping as the logs burnt away I thought of my mother as a new bride, watching her dishes shatter from freezing suddenly in her new house without a furnace, or proper doors and walls, just an inefficient woodstove and a lot of hope. Made our pink fingertips and noses seem  quite bear-able. I like to think I would have made a good pioneer woman but truly, I am so kidding myself. I'm soft. I am so glad that the oil man came this afternoon and that right now,  the radiator next to me is kicking it out for all it's worth. I really like automatic heat.