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

Friday, November 30, 2012

Poetry Friday: A Vacation Memoir

Happy Poetry Friday everyone!!!! Its been ages since I wrote a poem. My poety self disappeared for a bit there under knee x-rays and layers of homeschool curricula. Am back and am not to be beaten down. Feeling very inspired by all the determined women who made office during the recent election. If they can all manage to accomplish political careers and break glass ceilings then I will battle to squeak out a poem on Fridays. Huzzah!

This week I am thinking of our recent trip to Hawaii. We spent some time visiting A's brother Miq and his wife, the inimitable  Penny (visiting family is a good excuse for trips to exotic locales!) and then we also took half the vacation to island hop about on our own and explore. We came to Hawaii for our honeymoon ten years ago so we were returning after a decade to not only enjoy the tropical breeze but also to remember where we started and celebrate having made it this far, back in a kind of grand circle. It was kind of a family vacation/second honeymoon/relative visiting trip...just a little of everything in there.

It was fun to go back as a painter. I feel like it changes the way I see so much of life...I notice amazing colors, the way light glows along an edge, and the soft quality of the air in a vista. One of things that really has stayed in my mind was the fruit. Its a beautifully agricultural and lush place so there's no shortage of ripe, juicy, glistening fruits everywhere. The fruits we have here are equally lovely really, there's just something very fresh about things you don't have where you live. This is what I am remembering now as the weather crisps and blusters outside our house and December looms large.

A Ripe Visit 

Staying in their teak, jungle bungalow
Was beautiful, like the breakfast papaya:
Glistening crescents of spoon-soft gold;
Florals melting into the walls of your mouth. 
They smiled easily and shared their croquet set,
The balls rolling into a dip under the banana tree.
Life there was warm and soft, rippling onward.
We stripped magenta ramubutans slowly and read
Languid stories to the children about dragon gold.
I got up one morning with the roosters and
Watched dawn rise over corrugated metal to the
Nutty snap of a longan skin between my teeth.
We made outings like good vacationers do 
To Chinatown for highlighter pink dragonfruit
To a local farm stand for starfruit with a song
Like a raspberry catching the crest of a sunset.
And to the pineapple plantation where the fruit
Rises like trophies out of a vast plain of thorns.
We picked guavas in a baking crater and ate them
Dripping juice on the gearshift in the front seat.
We found one wild lilikoi, plump and dangling from
Vines tangled with lipstick, wild fuchsia blooms.
That night when we sawed it open at the table
And passed around sips of the jellied seeds
They told us about a friend's newborn daughter
Improbably named after the passionate little fruit.
On the last morning of our visit, hustling for the plane
We ate breakfast together standing in the kitchen
Scooping up avocado flesh with spoons
And then hurling dripping mango into our mouths.
Desperate to eat up paradise before our flight.
We drove out of their bouncing lane and
Saw them framed by an enormous santol tree
Wrapping his arms around them in the sun.

Our host today for Poetry Friday is Amy over at The Poem Farm. Please drop by and savor some of the other contributions if you find yourself sitting with a mug of tea on Saturday morning in a quiet hour. A little poetry does a body good.

Have a beautiful weekend!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

November Brewing

Am writing a budget for our eating and am spending all my waking idle moments (and some dreams!) plotting and planning all the ins and outs of this new and thrilling challenge. You might think I was being cynical. I'm not. I'm being authentic geek. I like these kinds of things. Am ready with this week's sample beginning and raring to hit the grocery aisles and see if I can come out still in the black!

Am also making bone broth for drinking on snug autumn mornings and evenings in a big heavy mug...plotting new quick bread adventures....sighing over the dream of a chest freezer (must find a way!!!)....planning to dust off my yogurt maker.....considering getting my kombucha on again....thinking about buying a little firewood....dreaming of chickens for next summer....and picking out a wall paint color for the boys room!

Stay tuned...lots going on in my little corner in this slate colored time of the year. November is for gleeful hand rubbing!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

He's Off!!!

Whiz! Bang!

He's mobile! 

This is what happens these days when you change him and then turn your back to the baby for a second to hunt up his booties. He doesn't lie still on that mat for love or money. There's a world out there! Why waste time!

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Touchable Creche

Am spending today being festive. The online invitation service I used ate the Thanksgiving invitations instead of giving them out so we had an unexpectedly quiet and personal celebration here together. It was very peaceful and it was a very grown-up feeling to be serving a golden turkey to a table crowded with happy faces that I am mother to.

Today though, the house is warming up to the smell of the live fir we brought home. We've got a new spot for it this year, a little fresh thinking and furniture rearranging turned up a cozy new center of the room spot for it...directly across from the fireplace, nuzzled up the couch so we can read storybooks in the glow.

Yesterday the great decoration endeavor began. All the pumpkins went to the kitchen to be roasted, all the bittersweet went out the compost pile and the bronze ribbon was folded carefully and tucked into the "Autumn" shelf in our basement storeroom. There is a small congregation of red and green Rubbermaid tubs in the living room now and we've hauled all manner of glittering things out and tucked them here and there.

This year I set up our ceramic look-but-don't-touch creche on the top of our dining room bookcase to keep it farther from tempted fingers but in full view of everyone who wanted to look. Then we got the glue gun out, rooted through the toys and the fabric scraps and made a new, kid-friendly wooden creche for the old spot on the top of the cupboard in our entry hall. The boys had so much fun helping me make tiny little shepherd's staffs and special magi costumes and we used up a whole bunch of the sticks they love to stash making our little version of a stable.
 The whole kit and caboodle is basically a bunch of wooden peg dolls that we decorated and a cardboard box. We draped a gauzy curtain across the painting hanging behind it, dangled white twinkle lights inside and topped the whole thing with an extra tree-topper star we had sitting in the depths of one of the tubs. The boys were already up there playing several times, imagining angel songs and names for all the unknown characters. We added the wooden two farm animals Big Grandpa cut out of plywood one time when we were visiting up north and there's a little brown basket for a manger, waiting for the Christ Child. We're talking about what we'll make him out of on Christmas Eve. I may have a new tradition on my hands!


Monday, November 19, 2012

Carpe Minutum!

Am feeling a little more in control of my life again at the moment which I realize is probably a passing fancy here, on the brink of The Holidays...but hey! Today I took the kids to their first theatrical production and left the baby for the first time...(He did great, my friend Nutmeg rocks!) and feeling thus emboldened...I decided to paint a little. There are such ugly risers on our stairs...potentially pretty but so scuffed and chipped and splotched with various colors that they are pretty uninspiring. Have been itching to paint them a nice gloss white for ages and ages. Why not now?!? Since dinner is in the crockpot, the kids are asleep and I don't have to dash out again for the afternoon doctor's appointment for another half an hour...I'm all over it. Ha! Feels so good!

Am trying to become an expert at carpe diem and even more realistically in my life carpe minutum...seize the minute. My life is a woven thatch of moments right now and so there are not often whole days but there are always moments. Must read more books and less reflexive facebook checking, must clean one little spot, sort one little box, lay out an outfit for one child and spend less time standing there wondering what I was doing, wishing I had more energy or lying in bed hitting snooze. There is a place in life for letting go and relaxing your mind and your frenetic To Do List but there's also a lot to be said for doing little things here and there to make your life more peaceful and happy and productive. Am ever inspired to do better with what I have....better than most people say I have any right to expect I can be. Thus we achieve...by trying.

Friday, November 16, 2012


New this week: Pom is an upright sort of a person! He can sit up for a short period of time and he's sturdy enough to be slung on a hip while standing at the window or stirring dinner. This is a good development...he's getting really heavy! He's also a grab-machine. This afternoon while I was trying to eat lunch and stopped to pour the two year old some water, Pom took the opportunity to grab my fork off my plate and throw it across the table excitedly. Love watching him discover the world. He's high on crinkling paper munching, curtain waving and slobbery kiss-giving right at the moment. Soaking it all in....Happy Weekend Y'all!


Thursday, November 15, 2012

That Glorious First Snow

One week ago we had our first snowfall. Last year was a very light winter, but we did get one big "winter" storm at Halloween...the year before that was of course a real doozy for us New Englanders with record amounts of snowfall. All of us out here are oh, so curious about what in the world this winter holds for us. I enjoy the light snow version for ease of use but I do appreciate a hard killing cold for the sake of bugs and the fluffy downpour for the sake of my house full of snow bunnies.

The boys were out of their skins over the snow last week. I basically gave up any hope of structured lesson time and let them have free-reign outdoors. They played outside until their fingers were numb and then came sobbing indoors just like I used to as a little girl...shaking all their fuchsia appendages while I rubbed them warm again by the radiator.....then back out again with soaking wet mittens before I could stop them. They made a giant snowball together, pulled out the sleds for a test run and threw snowballs at each other until they were all exhausted.

I know the snow will be back again and winter will come for real eventually whether real accumulation comes with it or not but there is something special about that first snowfall, isn't there? I love when it happens in daylight and we can all rush to the windows and shout and holler while we watch the flakes start falling and I also love it when it happens overnight and we wake up to a world newly sparkly and white like there were visits from snow fairies while we slept.

When I was a girl we often made snow ice cream with one of the first snow falls. I totally forgot this time around but I am all ready for next time with this childhood experiment. I think the boys will flip. I've never made anything with snow before and I have a feeling they'll be begging for it every time there's any white stuff on the ground. Ice cream is well-loved at our house. Traditionally snow ice cream is made with sugar and milk but I think this year I'll try a version sweetened with maple syrup and mixed with heavy cream for the real deal experience.
 For those new to this dish, go see Angela's wonderful recipe and directions over at her really great blog Salt of the Earth Urban Farm. I super-dig this blog about urban/farming living and homeschooling in the delightful city of Portland. Inspiration by the bucketful!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Why November?

November is one of those maligned months...it isn't very colorful, its the end of fall and before winter. And then the holidays come tromping and stomp right over whatever is left of November's own personal identity. Today we sing the unsung hero...what makes this month lovely in its own right?

10 Good Reasons To Love November 

1. All the leaves fall down and reveal vistas we forgot we had......suddenly the world looks all new again, even out our own familiar kitchen windows.

2.The bird feeder goes up in the window like ours did today. Its great to get personal with some of the birds again just as so many other are leaving for parts further south.

3.You can reliably light a crackly fire in the fireplace for the first time.

4.Our own local New England cranberries come into stores again! I love cranberries for their bright color, the way they naturally thicken when boiled down for a sauce or a jam, for their tart tang (I'm a tangy girl!) and the fact that they come so unmistakably from here. We don't get cranberries shipped in from Chile!

5. Hot tea becomes the thing again! I get to dig out my favorite, cozy mug and try to decide between English Breakfast, Chai and Earl Grey. Tough problems.

6. Roasting vegetables in the oven, low and slow sounds like a good idea again! Toasty carmelized parsnips and carrots and cauliflower and butternut squash is divine munching material. Toss any veg in olive oil and drop in snips of thyme or rosemary, generous doses of salt and spread them on a cookie sheet. Bake at 450 until toasty and fork tender!

7. Leaf kicking starts! October gets all the attention with the pretty displays but all through November the leaves are accumulating in drifts and piles and everyone is raking and leaf blowing huge heaps of crackling leaves. No time like the present to jump in!
8. Ticks, mosquitoes and other pests of the woods go away! I love being outside in crispy, worry-free November on a hike! Sets my mind right at ease.

9. Its stargazing season again! One of the things I love about summer night is their long light but it doesn't make for good star watching; for that you need early nights. I love that by the time we've come home from getting A from work the sky is dark and we can walk to the house with our heads tipped back enjoying the show.

10. The air gets cold enough to play dragon! I tell my boys that's what we're doing when we blow big clouds of misty breath in the cold. :)


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Woodcock Echo

What does it mean to receive a woodcock echo? I just got one and I'm still mulling it over.
Two years ago when we lived in a condo unit near some swampy marshland a couple of towns over I wrote a blog post about birdwatching out our back windows, inspired by my sighting of a woodcock. I hadn't seen one since my college ornithology class and was surprised and excited to catch a glimpse of the funny, plump bird shuffling through the leaves out back.
Yesterday the boys and I were on a foraging expedition in a leafy, forested sliver of property around the city block from us. Its kind of a forgotten, weedy little patch of land with a little-used trail winding through it, mostly a lot of overgrown brush under some big oak trees a place where the surrounding houses dump their garden clippings in big piles along the path. The boys and I were hoping to snoop out some wild witch hazel but came home instead with wild cherry bark, sassafras root, ribbed plantain leaves, heal-all stalks and white pine needles for various medicinal syrups and salves and recreational cups of tea. (Hooray!)

On the way into the woods scuffing through the leaves we almost stumbled on the small, fawn-bellied body of a dead woodcock. I imagine one of the neighborhood cats took him out in an evening stalking session and then was disillusioned after trying to drag the large prize home and left him there in a pile of maple leaves on the sidewalk.

Its interesting blogging one's life. There are small, odd things I notice, and sock away for writing "material." And small memories often stick in my mind more cleanly...like the last time I saw a woodcock walking along on a January evening off our back patio.

I am not a squeamish girl but dead animals make me catch my breath in my throat. I stood there calming my death-panic and my brain cycled all my related memories: my backyard sighting two years ago, my college class watching woodcock mating flights at dusk, my Papa bird hunting in the fall when I was little, the funny pictures of the round little bird in our over-sized bird book at home and John James Audobon's giant paintings of woodcocks in the big, quiet library at Yale...especially the one of a dead bird, posed so exactly like the still one at our feet.

Life echos are strange things.

The boys and I stood there quietly and then I told them everything I knew about woodcocks: how they were once thought to live part of the year on the moon, how they have eyes that can see almost 360 degrees around them, how they probe their beaks into worm holes and cleverly tweak even hidden food up to the surface for themselves, how they migrate in the cold, how shy they are, how they lay their nests on the ground and how the female raises the babies alone and all about the rocketing sky-show a male gives in the spring sky at dusk. They listened and admired the pretty shades of rust and chocolate on his feathers and his long, fine bill and the gentle tuft of his small, fluffy tail. We talked about animals dying and the circling pattern of life and Nib bent down and wished for a doctor, concerned over what it meant for this pretty bird to have left his body empty, here on the sidewalk.  I squeezed their sad little hands and we scuffed off together through the echoing leaves.

At dinner over a pot of sassafras tea the boys told A all about our encounter and all the things I'd told them about the little bird. I didn't say much, mostly listened but I was interested to see how much they'd soaked in and wondered about what it meant for this bird to echo in my life this way. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Fresh Apple

I forget every year just how good an apple tastes. A real apple. An apple that grew near you. An apple picked from an actual tree. An apple that drips juice on your chin and tastes like the rusty leaves, like the nippy wind, like the tart chill in the air.

Ru turning the press wheel.

Apple cider! At least in small quantity.

My boys wild apple picking with Big Grandpa (my dad) last fall.
I no longer buy oranges unless its the dead of winter and I think this year I'm done buying apples unless its fall. Yes, they are edible all year round but they become a bland, pale shadow of themselves, something that gets old so fast its hard to time it. I really love a good apple but every year when it is apple time I have to polish off my enthusiasm and convince myself to go apple picking because a whole year of completely pitiful, mediocre grocery store apples has stolen their thunder. I don't hate regular apples, they're edible I just don't actively like them either and they are so ubiquitous and so overdone that they completely steal the thunder of a real ripe tree fruit.
Wild Michigan apples come in a.....
....beautifully varied palette.

Our homeschool co-op plans field trips most fridays once the weather turns nippy. This week they planned a pint-sized, cider pressing instruction. Pretty darn cute! My little boys were big fans.  I think Ru would like a cider press for our backyard so that he could spend some time every day feeling really important, turning that big crank.

Fallen apples at one of our local orchards.
Red Delicious on the branch!
We don't really buy store-bought juice at our house but we do occasionally indulge in cider in the fall. (Especially if we can find it raw!) Cider feels more authentic to me than most juice. I fondly remember romping around as a little girl at chilly, annual cider pressings with our local congregation and also at least once as a deal split between two families sharing the sweet rewards of all the apple picking and the use of a borrowed press. I grew up in a place where there are wild apple trees on every corner. Getting fresh apples is as simple as harvesting them from an ancient roadside orchard or craggy wild tree down the nearest lane. Most of them simply go to waste although a few are gathered up for deer, bait piles for hunting season and never even tasted by a local human.
Big Grandma and Big Grandpa, my parents with Ru, after a wild apple ramble.
Here in Connecticut they are slightly harder to come by. I know where one wild tree is but mostly we pay money to be let into a cultivated orchard in counties north or east of us. I'm okay with that though, the fruit snaps when bitten and the flavors are nothing, nothing you can buy in May in the corner grocery store.