Monday, December 31, 2012

End of the Year List!!!!

There are thirty minutes on the kitchen timer and a warm cup of coffee sitting on the table next to me.  I am allowing my self that much time, no more, no less to come up with the 10 best things that happened to me in 2012.  (Only ten things?  This might be hard.)

1. House.  We bought a house, (with a lot of help). That is pretty amazing right?
2. The Clay Studio of Missoula.  I finally talked my self into taking a ceramics class and leaving bedtime to Adam.
3. Joined the YMCA.  Why, oh why did I wait until September to finally get all the paper work together to join the Y?  It has been one of the most liberating, fun and affordable things I have done this year.  This morning on my way to yoga class Ivory gave me a hug and a kiss and Sylvan opened the gate into the drop off center by himself, turned to me and waved me good bye with a big smile on his face.  It made my heart melt. I had to take a moment to proudly observe just how big and independent they are both getting.  Best of all, I could walk away with out the least bit of guilt - knowing they are both having a blast while I am upstairs, upside down, breathing myself into a better mama.
4. Family Visits.  My dad and step mom came to visit, we got to travel to Pennsylvania for my brother's wedding and Adam's folks came to visit us....  there are many other family members dear to me that I would have loved to see and touch, but I am thankful for the visits that happened and for skype, facebook and phones that keep every one in touch.
5. A bike trailer for two. So much faster than walking. Enough said.
6. MADE fair. rocked.  Hopefully Adam and I can figure out all the little details and come up with a legitimate business plan and business in 2013.  I am excited.  More great things to come from Sticks and Stones Workshop!!
7. Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes.  While I and everyone else in our house was sick a friend replied to a facebook post in which I lamented not having anything to read by bringing me a few books.  This one being one of them.  It was perfect: just what I needed.  I recommend it to every person out there not quite willing to buy into the usual 9-5 grind and looking for an alternative existence.
8. I applied for a job. I got rejected. It was perfect.   I applied for a full time job at a company I believe is doing good, nay, great things, for our future.  As soon as I submitted my application I knew I just wasn't ready to go to work.  All I could think about was what was going to happen with the kids, the garden, the chickens, the laundry... and who was going to bake all the bread?  It seems like I just figured out how to rock at being a happy, content, stay at home mom... and now I was going to switch everything up???  Sure more money would be great, but would be need another car? would I need to buy new clothes? where would we be able to find childcare at this time of the year?  While I was waiting on a reply I read the a fore mentioned book, and decided that maybe we were on track after all...  our own track, that happens to make sense for us at the moment.  Sure, maybe we don't buy new things often, go out to eat or travel much, but I get to cuddle up with Sylvan ever afternoon at nap time, Ivory and I get to work on projects and we can make anything an adventure because even the mundane tasks of grocery store runs are allowed to last all day.
9. Walks in the woods.  Any of them.  and we need more of them.  It should be a family new year's resolution.
10.  Meal planning.  I always try to have an idea at least the weeks meals in my mind before I go to the grocery store... but towards the end of the month we always still ran low on our food stamps.  (Yup. We have food stamps.)  A few months ago I got serious about planning our meals.  Really serious.  I plan about three weeks ahead of time and have almost the entire months grocery list compiled in advance.  It requires me to use more recipes, which is a bit new for us, we were pretty good at concocting our own dishes..  but this way I can divide up the shopping in the most affordable way and we manage to eat mostly organic, fresh and home cooked meals.  Another perk is that if Adam ever needs to cook dinner he can just flip open my calender, find the days listing and get started.

The timer just went off..  there: the top ten I came up with in thirty minutes.
I feel blessed to lead a rich, fulfilling life surrounded by a loving family,  inspiring friends and neighbors in one of the most beautiful places I have ever lived...  The only down side is that the rest of our families are so far away, but hey, they get to come visit us here...  in one of the most beautiful places we have ever lived.

On to the new year!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

We spent our Holiday Baking (my Mother's Ginger Bread House Recipe)

Throughout the holiday season our oven is turned on, the house smells like cinnamon, and cooling racks line the little counter space we have.
We baked and iced eight different kinds of cookies and piled up tins filled with dozens of holiday treats. Anyone lucky enough to stop by our house went home with a plate of goodies.

We made cardamon braids and delivered them to friends and neighbors.

We made a ginger bread house.

Last year's gingerbread house was made from a recipe I found on the internet, but the final dough was disappointing at best, and this year I wanted to use the recipe that my mom used when I was a little girl.  I can picture the green clad, almost square cook book of German Christmas baking recipes sitting on her shelf in the living room, but that book is hundreds of miles away.
I finally remembered to ask her for the recipe.

My mom emailed me the recipe.
Adam made the dough.
I cut and baked the shapes.
While Sylvan napped we glued it together and decorated it, breaking open the many (way to many) bags of candy I brought home from the store days earlier. Making a ginger bread house was on my to do list for weeks, but admittedly, it did not actually happen until the day after Christmas.

When Sylvan walked into the kitchen he squealed in delight at the colorful little house that still  adorns our kitchen table.  Little bits of it's decoration are slowly disappearing, but for now it still is a miniature winter wonderland. 

I tucked the house and tree templates I cut from a cereal box into the front of my recipe binder.
The recipe is jotted down on the back of a scrap booking paper partially over run by an Ivory art project.  I better jot down the recipe now, so I can find it next year and maybe succeed in getting the gingerbread house built before Christmas.  

Ginger Bread House

This recipe is weighed out..  all measurement are in grams.  It comes from a German cook book.  This is half of the original recipe and the spice blend is what was recommended by my mom.  The fresh baked cookies initially taste a little bland - hold off - don't eat them right away.  Let them sit for a day or two (or longer) and the ginger bread develops great flavor. 

125 g Sugar
375 g Honey
50 g Butter
563 g Flour 
125 g Almond Flour
1.5 teaspoons cinnamon
1 egg
10 g baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cardamon
a dash of white pepper
  • combine the sugar, honey and butter in a sauce pan and stir over medium heat until melted
  • combine flour, almond flour, baking powder and spices in a bowl add the egg and honey mixture
  • stir and then knead by hand
  • the dough should be firm and slightly sticky, let sit for 30 minutes
  • roll out on a well floured surface and cut into the desired shapes ( we made two roof pieces, two wall pieces, two gable pieces, three trees and had plenty left over for other shapes)
  • bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes
  • let cool on a baking rack (it is better to let them sit overnight and build the house the next day)


2 egg whites
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
powdered sugar
  • whisk the egg whites until they are very foamy and white
  • add the lemon juice
  • add powdered sugar until you have a think mixture that does not run off of the spoon or whisk
  • use this to glue the house and trees together, to affix the candy and to glaze any other shapes you may have
 Happy Holiday Baking!!!  (even if it is next year) 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Family Flower Pillow

Many, many months ago I ran across this image on Pinterest:

i'm going to make these pillows as Christmas gifts for the grandparents!
Keepsake Hug Pillow
"This is a great gift idea for grandparents", I thought to myself and I dutifully pinned it onto my craft ideas board. Perfect, because it can involve our entire family, because I have a giant stash of fabric and perfect because the final gift folds in a small envelope I can ship across the country. I don't however have a fancy sewing machine that would make nice neat letters and numbers, and as time went by I kept coming up with new ways to design our hand print pillows.  
We traced our hands onto a thick cardboard folder.  I cut them out and then traced them onto Wunder Under.  Ivory pealed he paper backing off of the fabric hand prints and I ironed them into place.  While I sewed one, Sylvan paraded the other two around the house. 

Each of our hands a single petal of a flower.

Red, orange and yellow thread added a little detail. 

And there they are: three 14" square pillowcases ready to folded and slipped into envelopes.  

This Family Flower Pillow stayed with us.  

It was my prototype, so some of the stitched details are a little off and the corduroys has a little less luster than the fabric I chose for the grandparents.  Sylvan kneels next to it on the couch, shouts: "Five!", and slaps the hand prints.

With each time the fabric passed under my sewing needle, each spin the hand prints took as first red, then orange and yellow lines wove across the palms I couldn't help but think of flowers and families, and families and flowers..  and then that families are a little bit like flowers... we all bloom and grow together. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Bright Purple Overalls

Ivory has been asking for a pair of overalls.  My little girl, who I have to wrestle into anything but leggings, skirts and dresses, or dress up clothes, wants a pair of overalls.  Not just any overalls: She wants purple overalls.
Sure, I could probably google purple overalls and buy a pair.  I could walk into a clothing store. But the truth is, I haven't even tried.  I try to avoid shopping as much as possible.  I try to avoid it so much that I just put the button holes and slip stitched the leg cuffs on the brightest, most purple overalls at one in the morning.  Here they are.  Done.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Tying up Loose Ends

I finished knitting Adam's present yesterday morning, but didn't manage to tie up all the loose ends until just now.  In between icing the Almond Star Cookies and pulling tonight's pot pie out of the oven, I sat down for a few minutes and now the gift is completely done! FINALLY!

I based the hat on a free pattern that I found online.
I made a few changes.  The most obvious is that I added the curled edge to the hat to make it more hat like.  I also permanently attached this mustache rather than making a few different exchangeable staches.

Well, dinner is ready and Adam just came inside.
The pot pie smells fantastic!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Snow Day

There are moments when time morphs.   It takes on a different dimension for a minute, an hour, an entire morning.  We awoke Saturday to a bright white world of snow.  I pulled the red currant danishes out of the freezer.  I had been saving them, much to my husband's dismay, for a morning just like this.  They were sweet and tart and the summer sun warmed the back of neck as we gazed out of our dining room windows.

We pulled on wool socks, snow pants, boots, coats, gloves and hats.  The kids and I stepped outside - Where was that sled again?  We stomped around the yard, poking the shovel into snow piles only to find a piece of wood or nothing again and again.  I had seen it not too long ago, when Sylvan was sitting in it, pretending to be in a boat.  I finally discovered it leaning up against a raised garden bed, hidden under the snow.

Now we were finally ready to go.

I ran down the street,
dragging the sled behind,

over curbs,
past the grave yard,

around icy curves,
to the park.

It felt good.

We swung and slid,

romped and rolled,

and desperately tried to pack the snow into something more than a tiny ball.

We walked around the neighborhood, taking a tour of massive giant snow men along the way, and finally back home, where my inability to pack a snow ball, yielded a monster.

Our fingers cold, noses red, thoroughly wet we finally stepped back inside.  As we pealed off our layers and hung them to dry in front of the furnace I glanced at the kitchen clock. 1:00.  No wonder my little man was suddenly a blubbering puddle at my feet.

As I put lunch on the stove, a snow monster glinted through the kitchen window, the only reminder of the hours that turned to minutes and our morning that disappeared into snowy laughter.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Results of the Soda Fire... and Onions

I posted images of the soda fire results here: at my new Sticks&Stones Workshop site.

In addition to getting ready for the Holiday MADE fair (Dec. 9th from 11am - 6pm), I have been cooking dinner, keeping the house (some what) clean and trying to mark a few of those other nagging projects off of my list.

I finally sewed two fabric baskets that I have been intending to sew for eons.  My sewing machine has been stashed away for months now because Sylvan can not resist climbing onto my lab and turning all the dials and pushing the few buttons while it is in use.

That dilapidated little cardboard box held Ivory's shoes and then Sylvan's as well and moved with us not, one, but two times and it is finally being recycled.  In it's place there are now two fabric baskets: one for Ivory's shoes and one for Sylvan's.  They took me only a few hours to make and were absolutely free.  I inherited the fabric when we bought our house

Adam has been spending countless hours out back in the wood shop, cutting and gluing, cutting and sanding, and finally polishing the cutting boards he is making for the MADE fair.  Somewhere amid the hustle and bustle he still manages to come inside, dust off his clothes, wash his hands and help me fix dinner.

Last night he took over making the Naan, while I made an Indian dish called Royal Tomatoes. Having both of us work together cuts down the prep-time dramatically, and best of all, divides the daunting task of cutting up the many onions that are the key ingredient of both dishes.  We dance around each other, in and out of the small space that is in front of our stove.

Ivory was skeptical off the Royal Tomatoes, (she is in an anti-tomato phase, except for ketchup, but agreed the paneer was yummy), and tore into the Naan.  This is a girl that only thinks she doesn't like onions!

Soon dinner is ready and eaten, the dishes are washed, the kids bathed and Adam back in the wood shop and I am putting the finishing stitches on a fabric box.  Life is busy, but as long as we can  share dinner, and share cutting up all those onions, we will be just fine!

Naan (a flat bread from central Asia)

(we double this recipe) from the 1987 edition of Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of

3 tablespoons butter
1 cup finely chopped onions
1/2 cup warm water
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 to 2 cups flour

  • cook the onions with 1 tablespoon butter unil they are soft but not brown
  • cool to room temperature
  • melt the remaining butter, combine the butter, water, onions, salt and flour (1/2 cup at a time) until the dough forms a ball
  • add flour until it is no longer sticky
  • divide into 8 small balls and roll to be about 6" across.  
  • fry on a dry skillet over high heat, turning once.  Both sides should be browned.

Royal Tomatoes

1/2 cup cubed Paneer (I make my own the day before...  it is super easy)
1 pinch tumeric
  • put in bowl and cover with water and add the tumeric
2 finely chopped onions
1 teaspoon ginger 
4 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon garam masala (I use
cardamon, cinamon - a nice big sprinkle of each
14 ounces diced tomatoes
salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3/4 cup half and half
  • fry the onions in oil until they start to turn orange, add the spices, add the tomatoes and sugar and cook until it boils and simmer for 5 min
  • blend and add the cream
  • stir in the paneer, let it warm and serve with Naan (or over rice, I just prefer Naan)

Friday, November 30, 2012

Chores: the Game

Ivory is four.  

She is somewhere in the nebulous realm of  needing an afternoon nap and stubbornly staying awake.  By four thirty or five in the afternoon, she acts like a monster.  She is a block throwing, screaming, crying, supper tired child which no reasonable speaking, pleading, bargaining, or threatening seams curtail.  And then I act like a monster.  Night time books are taken away, toys are confiscated and, yes, I find myself screaming.  We both hit a wall and the only place to go is to bed, but we still have to make it through dinner and picking up toys and getting ready for bed before that can be realized.

So in the footsteps of my mother (who made beautiful water color and pen and ink chore charts for my siblings and I)  and many other mothers I have created my version of a chore chart.  Here is my attempt at a solution:  

Chores: The Game

Please excuse the slightly blurry image of our cookie pan game board, but reflective surfaces are a little tricky to photograph and after many frustrating attempts this is as good as it gets.

The idea is this:  Ivory (and Sylvan) both have a visual representation of a list of things that I expect of them during the day.  They can look at it in the morning (when everyone is still well rested and chipper) and throughout the day, as they complete those tasks, they move from the game pieces from the To Do column to the Done column.

Ivory's chores are: 
     make her bed and put up pjs
     brush her hair
     feed the chickens
     pick of dirty clothes (put away clean ones)
     help set the table
     pick up toys
     brush teeth
     be kind

Today, she has already made her bed, brushed her hair, fed the chickens, and been kind (this is a game piece that can be put back in the To Do column, if she starting being unkind to, well, especially her little brother).

Sylvan's chores are:
     make bed and put up pjs
     feed the dogs
     pick up toys
     brush teeth
     be kind

Today, he has already made the bed, fed the dogs and been kind.

At he end of the day, if all of the game pieces are in the DONE column the little girl tile (Ivory) and the little boy tile (Sylvan) are allowed to move forward one space on the game board.  After successfully completing their chores for 30 days (which might as well be forever in their world) we are going to go on an outing to Big Dipper to get ICE CREAM!!! (Ivory's favorite flavor is Licorice, which is this dark purple color, hence a purple ice cream cone as the final destination.)

The cost: < $3.00
I bought the cookie sheet for $2 at Goodwill, as well as the two tiles ($.69) that have the faces painted on them.  I had acrylic enamel sitting around the house from a college art project as well as a multitude of weak magnets left over from some other project.  The chore game pieces are stiff cardboard that I pulled out of the recycling and painted with the acrylic enamel.  They turned out much nicer than I had anticipated.  And of course, time.  This took me about three hours, but I hope that it will be worth it.

What I hope to gain:
I hope that this game board can function as a tool to communicate my expectation to the kids in a visual and tactile manner while it also enables me to keep my cool when things get tough.  I hope in the process we can learn some good habits, a little responsibility and eat some delicious ice cream. I don't expect this to work forever. Ivory is four.  And this will work for now.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Our First Thanksgiving Alone.... a cabin, a wood stove and a chicken

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  
It is even better than Christmas. 
Well, it has all those things I love about Christmas (good food and family) and none of the things that makes Christmas stressful (the shopping and gift giving). 
Thanksgiving has always been this big family event where we bustled around in the kitchen for days rolling and stirring and baking and then all this food is brought fourth and set onto a beautifully decorated table (or two).  People could be counted on for certain dishes.  I would make sweet potato casserole, my mom cardamon bread, Linda and Gigi would bring this cranberry salad I yearn for, my grandmother her Swedish fruit compote, etc...   and then we would all sit together and eat and laugh and go on a walk through the neighborhood and start all over again.  
The last few years, we have spent Thanksgiving with friends and neighbors, sharing food and laughs and listening to a few folks jam while the children played.  
This year however, I just felt like I needed a time out - a breather - and for weeks I have been suggesting that we just get in our car drive a few hours and spend a few days nested in the Swan Valley away from everything in a cabin with no running water (yes, it has an outhouse, but the view is amazing while you use the facility), no electricity and barely a phone signal.  And that is just what we did.

It rained.  
I can't think of anyone else I would rather be rained in with.  
We also didn't stay in the whole time.  
Ivory and Sylvan took a short ride in the old truck.  The truck took them half way to our destination: the creek. 

The big task of day number one was to walk down to the creek and fill up our jugs with water.  The wheelbarrow took them the rest of the way.

Ivory ground our coffee beans.

Our Stew simmered away on the wood stove...  as our clothes from our earlier adventure dried.

We brought blocks, crayons, paper a few books and stuffed animals and the kids were entertained the entire time.  (Most of the time playing with a set of flowerpots and a bottle they found at the cabin.)  I read an entire book, curled up in an armchair by the fire, while the kids jut played! AMAZING!

Thanksgiving morning a slight dusting of snow was on the ground.  Adam snuck out early to try his luck at tracking elk and while he was away we explored the woods.

 I started cooking while Sylvan napped and Ivory and Adam took turns shooting a .22 at a target in the clearing bellow the cabin. She walked in, waving the target excitedly. "Look Mama, I am practicing to shoot deer", she pointed to her shot that had hit the large orange circle.  (This is definitely something I never imagined my little girl doing or saying, but hey, she is growing up in Montana.) I had planned on keeping our dinner simple.  A turkey wouldn't fit into the propane stove, so we had a chicken baked with carrots, potatoes and celery. I steamed broccoli and made some gravy.  "What else are we eating?" Ivory asked. We all stared at the table in silence for a moment. "I forgot the stuffing." I got up to grab it off of the wood stove where it had been staying warm...  and the macaroni and cheese and suddenly our little table was crowded.  In spite of my effort to keep the dinner simple it turned out to be excessive and we were all holding our bellies even before the apple and pumpkin pie were brought to the table.

The evening was spent just as the ones before: huddled up in front of the stove reading a book.

I miss sharing Thanksgiving with family.
I am going to have to make myself that cranberry salad sometime soon (and eat it all myself - no one else in my house likes it).   Between now and Christmas I will bake Cardamon bread, and make sweet potato casserole and serve fruit compote.  Little tastes to celebrate the people we love while we give thanks for all those little things that make our lives, well, our lives.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Soda Fire!!!!

In the wake of the great sickness, I frantically glazed all of my plates, cups, and bowls.  Each item was then carefully wadded onto it's spot on the kiln shelf.

Each shelf carefully balanced on the one before. 

By the time we lined up the rows up bricks to close up the door and spackled shut all of the cracks our hands were freezing and it was close to one in the morning. Many hours later we noted with pride no flames escaping from the top of the arch.  Our firing was consistent and even.  

Firing Shedule

12:45 am
mudded door and started candling, with peeps and damper open

8:00 am 
closed peeps, shut damper half way and turned up gas a bump (1/8th of an inch or so) and adjusted the blowers
11:00 am
checked on kiln
11:35 am
turned up gas slightly and closed damper to 2"
1:00 pm
cone 012 down, strong reduction, turned up W burner slightly 
2:45 pm
turned up gas a bump, damper mostly open, cone 012 completely molten cone 4 glowing at the top
3:45 pm same
4:45 pm
second cone 4 down on top, soft on bottom
6:00 pm 
second cone 4 down on bottom 
7:00 pm same
8:00 pm 
opened damper almost all the way
9:00 pm
cone 5 starting to go 
11:00 pm 
cone 5 down on bottom, soft on top, closed damper 1/2"
1:35 am 
cone 5 down on top, cone 7 soft on bottom
3:00 am
cone 7 down and 8 soft on bottom
7 soft on top
4:00 am
cone 8 down on bottom and 9 soft
8 soft (45 degree angle) and 9 just starting to bend on the top
4:30 am
cone 9 down on bottom 
cone 9 down on top
SODA from 4:30 to 4:50 (4lbs of baking soda)
6:00 am 
no change on cones
opened damper all of the way and turned gas down just a touch
7:00 am
bottom cone  10 starting to bed on top and bottom 
8:00 am 
bottom cone 10 at 45 degrees
(top cone 10 not visible)
bottom cone 10 down (top cone 10 not visible)
bottom cone 10 down, 11 bending
shut off kiln. covered blowers with kaol-wool.

These records are primarily for my own reference (or anyone else who is going to fire the soda kiln at The Missoula Clay Studio).  The overall gist is - it takes a LONG time.  It took us just over 24 hours.  In the future I think I would time the whole thing a little better and go home and sleep a few hours.  

Adam and the kids came and brought me breakfast and we all went home.  I took a shower and started cooking in preparation for our great getaway.  A few hours later I crashed on the couch while nursing Sylvan.  While I was unresponsive to the activity in our house Adam loaded the car and as soon as I opened my eyes we left the bricked up cooling kiln, our house and all media behind and drove off into the mountains. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Sickness

Time has been getting away from me.  The days jam packed with little happenings that it seems like I have hardly had a moment to collect my thoughts, much less, to put them into writing.
So I will back track a few weeks.

HUNTING - a success.  Adam brought home a deer.

and then THE SICKNESS - we ALL got sick.

Almost two weeks ago, Sylvan climbed into bed next to me, whimpered tucked his hands into my shirt, fell asleep and then proceeded to puke all over me... changed sheets..  and again..  changed sheets...  and -  then he and I got up.  We only have three sets of sheets for our bed.  So, at four in the morning, he and I started a load of laundry and curled up on the sofa to wait for the rest of the family to get up.  I wrapped my body around his, frustrated by my inability to make him feel better.  The one thing that I can always count on to make him feel better, nursing, made him violently ill and my refusal to do so made him very sad.  So instead we cuddled, sipped water and tea and just waited...  And then Adam got sick - and Ivory - and before noon I was five loads of laundry into the day with no end in sight.  I felt great.  While the rest of the family watched movies, dutifully sipped broth and munched on dry cheerios, I planned the next three weeks of meals, made grocery lists and sorted through little piles of stuff that I had been meaning to get through for ages.  The next day, I left my still somewhat under the weather family at home, while I breathed my way through a yoga class.  I felt great.  A recovered Adam and I wandered around town, two sleeping kids in the stroller, holding hands - as close to a date as we get these days.  I started cleaning the kitchen and Adam started frying bacon for dinner and that was the end of my cleaning.   The next twenty four hours were the most curled up in a ball, impossible to focus on anything, with mad dashes to the bathroom while leaping over now well and playing children in my path, hugging the toilet and cursing my procrastination of said toilet's cleaning, that I have experienced in a long, long, LONG time.  (I actually had to call and cancel my coop shift. I debated:  I could just go in.. I don't sound sick..  she will never believe that I'm sick.. I can do it!.. no... no. I can't.)

back to HUNTING - so once all of our stomachs were settled, Adam began (the stomach turning - to some) chore of butchering the animal suspended from the garage ceiling and we FINALLY got to all sit down for an actual meal.  (and yes, I am putting a picture of food in a post that primarily is dealing with, well, the purging of food.. the inappropriateness of this is entirely apparent to me, but it was yummy and pretty and I was excited to eat an actual meal.)  So here it is: Pan fried Venison back strap with a butter head salad topped with honey caramelized walnuts, onions and mandarin oranges. Yum.

The celebratory meal (celebrating both the successful hunt and the passing of the sickness) was of course followed by:

The Mad Scramble to Catch up from THE SICKNESS: more to come on that later.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Great Pumpkin comes once a year!


Please leave me some candy. (heart) Ivory

Thank you for the candy and I hope you like what I left for you and your brother.  I got your note and I left you some extra pieces for when you're extra good.
See you next year, 
                        (pumpkin head)

In our house there is no Santa Clause, no Easter Bunny, and as of now, no Tooth Fairy visits...  I have a general dislike of lying to children, but in spite of our attempt at honesty there is the Great Pumpkin that comes around once a year. Never heard of the Great Pumpkin?  Well, I borrowed the idea of him from a friend who enlightened me to the existence of such a being last year.  The Great Pumpkin visits children's houses after Halloween and trades all (or most of) that candy for a useful item or a toy.  

When the children get older, I hope that we can simply give them the option: You can 1) keep all of the candy (short term satisfaction) or 2) trade most of your candy for a toy (that provides long term satisfaction).  

Last year, the Great Pumpkin brought Ivory a jump rope.
This year he brought her a ridiculous pink head band and two card games (old maid and go fish).  Sylvan got a bright blue bumpy ball.  
They were both delighted.
(As was Adam, who promptly devoured the majority of the candy.)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Hunting Season

Ivory practically jumped into bed last night.  Gone were the tears that had been running down her face, and the numbing ear drops I carefully dripped into her ears after dinner must have been working.  Slipping smoothly under the covers of my bed she grinned at me singing: "Sleep over, Sleep over, it's like a sleep over.  But it's not a sleep over.  It is just laying down in Mama's bed."
Adam had driven off just a few minutes earlier to spend the night with his rifle, in spite the icy Montana air, on the side of a mountain alone in a wall tent.
I had moved two giant pots filled with forty pounds of halved and cooked apples into our unheated back room to become apple sauce in the morning and decided to cuddle up with Sylvan and Ivory and call it a night.  When Sylvan nudged me awake to nurse I glanced at the clock - almost six in the morning - I don't remember a time that I have slept for that long with out interruption   "Seven thirty three", I thought to myself, "is shooting light.  That is an hour and a half away."
Since breakfast I have been in the kitchen. First turning the handle of my little food mill - separating the skin and seeds from the soft flesh - and a pink sauce flows into a big bowl, then ladling hot food into jars.  The kids have been building boats and castles from the wooden building blocks that are now scattered throughout the house.  Sylvan naps and Ivory colors the afternoon away.

Our house is infused with the scent of simmering apples, cinnamon and cloves.  Six quart jars and sixteen pint jars are standing in neat lines on our kitchen table.  Apple butter is cooking away on the stove and a third of my giant pot is still filled with sauce.  I am completely out of jars.

The afternoon light is fading and I try to recall what the time was that marked the end of shooting light.
I wonder when to put on a pot of coffee.
I wonder if Adam will be driving home soon with a carcass of a deer crammed into the back end of our tiny car.  He is sure to be tired and cold and hungry.
I marvel at the rituals we go through to bring food to our family table.

The kids are tucked into their own beds tonight.
Adam is home, stringing up a deer in the garage.
I wipe down kitchen counters.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

We Survived! (and I voted - you should to)

Our noses and whiskers are washed off.

The kids are in bed, and I am going to give myself a pat on the back.  Not that I was a stellar mom today.  I was not. Not that I put any sort of fantastic effort into our Halloween festivities.  I did not.  But, we survived the day and that is good enough for me.

Today was one of those unbelievably difficult days combined with a long list of things to do.  I got up extra early so I could sneak in a shower before the kids woke up, but before I had managed to shave my legs, my little man pushed open the bathroom door and climbed on in splashing happily in the water.  By the time we ate breakfast my ballot was filled out, all of the month's bills payed, our bank account balanced (oh, and what a balance remains) and the corporate office of Suzuki had successfully been called. By eleven the recycling was sorted, our bank errand completed and we piled out of the car to wander around the interweaving paths at Kelly Island.

I took a picture of  Ivory and a friend hiding in the grass...  but they are hiding so well, all I can see is a little tiny cat ear sticking out. (Yes, we did everything in costume today..)
The morning was a little more busy than usual, but it was the sound track of Ivory's almost constant crying that made it challenging.

A slight smile for the camera.   Check out that tail! (Yup, we borrowed Dad's dress socks.)
During nap time, I wedged up five balls of clay and threw a few plates, finishing the last plate just as I heard Sylvan calling me from upstairs.  I had really, really hoped that the nap would cheer Ivory, but  instead, while I frantically put together the last few details on Sylvan's kitty cat costume and stirred the last few ingredients into my current default dish (made from scratch Mac-n-Cheese; the secret ingredient - Worcestershire sauce) for the annual Halloween potluck, she was reduced into a sobbing pile on the kitchen floor over socks, shoes....

I just wanted to sit down.  I just wanted to sit down in the middle of the floor and give in - call it a day - go to bed, whiskers and all.  But instead, we made a list on Ivory's dry erase board.

I packed Ivory, Sylvan and my pot of Mac-n-Cheese into the stroller and walked, my kitty tail wagging, through the neighborhood.  Ivory had fun.  She ran from door to door in a pack of cohorts, often a house or two ahead of Sylvan and I, lugging a growing bag of candy.  When she declared the bag to heavy to hold herself, it was time to go home.

I am eternally grateful that the day is almost over.  Our day was more than tears.  It was also filled with sunshine, yellow leaves, friends, good food, cute kids in costumes and candy (lots of candy).  And now, they are in bed, I hear whispers and singing.  We survived the day, and it was good.

Monday, October 29, 2012

It is Monday... again.

This morning I rolled over in my bed and stared at the clock. Guiltily I calculated that Adam had left almost two hours ago, and that I wouldn't be seeing him again until Sunday evening. This weekend went by too fast.  I attended a lecture by Julia Galloway Friday night and her workshop most of Saturday.  Sunday was spent cooking for Adam's week away, and if I had not curled up next to his warm body for two nights, I might not have realized he had been home at all.  I continued staring at the clock, willing my self to get out of bed.  

Since I haven't been able to spend late nights at the Clay Studio my dining room has become, not only the play room, but also a make shift studio.  During nap time and after Ivory and Sylvan finally fall asleep I attempt to wrap up the list of things I am trying to finish for the upcoming MADE fair.  

Today, during nap time, I attached the handles to bier-steins and trimmed a few plates.  I put it all out of reach as soon as little feet pattered across the floor upstairs and resolved to spend the rest of the day doing those house hold chores that keep the household flowing somewhat smoothly: laundry sorted and loaded, dishes washed, dinner made and eaten. I have been trying to figure out what to do with my failed black licorice making attempt from the weekend and finally came up with a solution - soft molasses cookies spiced with anise and nutmeg rather than the cinnamon the recipe calls for.   The result was incredible.  Without restraint I dunked my finger into the bowl every time I walked past, each time I loaded up a new cookie tray, and honestly, anytime I entered the kitchen.  

While the kids splashed wildly in the bathtub, I pulled the last few cookies out of the oven and started the unbelievably frustrating chore of putting those two to bed.  (Which is still were we are with our day.  Sylvan, because I asked him to lay down, is at this very moment sprawled on the floor next to my bed, grinning up at me with a look that says: "Mom, you can't be mad.  I did exactly what you asked me." sigh.) 

I hear Ivory knocking on her bed frame and Sylvan is dramatically declaring something - loudly - while climbing in and out of his bed and it feels like the to do list of my day has barely been begun.  It is 10:29.  I am staring at the clock, willing the kids to bed, and myself back downstairs into the make shift studio.  (This girl might just need an 11:00 cup of coffee and a cookie.)

Monday, October 22, 2012

My Product Free Hair Washing Routine

I remember staring at my daughter, when she was still tiny, red and wrinkled, thinking about this marvelous miracle of life.  Holding her, it dawned on me that, I was also cradling my grand children in my arms as her infant body already contains fully formed egg cells. While I have always made an effort to eat healthy and exercise, this realization has sent me on the additional mission to try and avoid products that contain potential endocrine disruptors and mutagens.

Our house hold isn't completely devoid of plastic, all organic or full of eco-cleaning products.  The lists of complex ingredients on the back of bottles gave me headaches.  Trying to remember what was good, all right and bad while actually examining a product in the store was beyond me.  Many of the products I felt confident purchasing were beyond or financial ability, so I took a different approach.  There is simply a long list of products I don't buy.  I don't buy commercial sunscreen, shampoo, conditioner or household cleaners. Instead I rely primarily on baking soda, vinegar and apple cider vinegar.  

I finally figured out a product free hair washing routine that works for me.  It leaves my hair soft and clean and best of all, I no longer worry exactly what the shampoo and conditioner are doing to me, my children or the environment. I have devised a three step process for myself that involves baking soda shampoo, a vinegar rinse and an herbal rinse.  

Baking Soda Shampoo

1 Tablespoon Baking Soda
1 cup water
  • you can put the baking soda in a spray bottle and add water or you can do what I do:  I put the baking soda in a cup and add warm water in the shower, pour it over my head, and use a wide tooth comb to distribute evenly (this assumes I remember the cup and the comb...)
  • this is an excellent clarifying shampoo, (great at removing product build up), but it is too strong for daily use

Vinegar Rinse

2 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
2 cups water
sqeeze bottle or spray bottle
  • after the baking soda wash and water rinse, I rinse my hair with a apple cider vinegar wash
  • this helps restore the pH balance of your hair after using baking soda or other soaps, smooths the hair cuticles and leaves your hair shiny and easy to comb
  • too much vinegar can dry out your hair, so if you have dry hair to begin with you might want to try 1 Tablespoon of vinegar to 2 cups of water
  • this can also be used as a detangler for children.  The vinegar scent disappears as it dries. 
The baking soda shampoo followed by the vinegar rinse are the only two steps that are necessary, but I have added a third rinse.  I used the Calendula flowers from my garden to make a Calendula hair rinse.

Calendula Hair Rinse

Enough fresh or dried flowers to loosely fill a quart jar
2 cups boiling water
quart canning jar
  • pour boiling water of the flowers
  • let steep anywhere from 20 minutes to overnight
  • strain out the herbs and transfer to a storage container
  • apply to damp hair, comb through and leave in
The petals of Calendula are soothing, conditioning and good for an irritated scalp.  Over time they may also brighten blond or red hair. 

I found these recipes in a book entitled Making It Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen.  Admitting in writing that this is how I wash my hair makes me feel a little radical indeed, but it belies the very slow journey that has taken me to get to this point and my routine feels anything but radical, it is well, routine. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Glowing Gold

Especially during nap time, the golden sunlight beckons me out side.   I desperately want to get my feet in this:

But rather than frolicking in the fall leaves I have been doing this:

Sorting through the many boxes and bags of fabric and other art supplies and giving them accessible homes for the first time in years.  My husband set up the craft armoire his mother sent me for my birthday, and I am finally moved in.  It was a three day undertaking.

This morning I just couldn't face another day inside.  I know that for my own sanity and the well being of my children (so they don't have to deal with a super crabby mom) I just had  to get outside.  We got dressed, ate breakfast, I packed a back pack and we piled into the car to drive down the highway to the Valley of the Moon Nature Trail on Rock Creek.  We walked along the trail through waves of grasses, wound our way beneath the towering cotton woods, found a picnic table and sipped hot apple cider.  We just soaked it all in.

The rustling of the wind through grasses and leaves, the patter of the water over rocks and the whole world just glowing, glowing gold.

Even on the mountains golden larch trees are standing in their full autumn attire turning the almost uniform green of the summer's tree shrouded mountains into something magical.

The aspen leaves shimmering in the sun, in constant motion.  Those leaves that remain holding onto their stems tightly.  I sat entranced, expecting at least one leaf to give and float away on the wind, but not a single one let go of its place.

I loaded the kids back into the car.  They both sipped on what remained of their hot cider as we drove the twenty minute drive back home.  I felt as if the golden sunlight had warmed us so thoroughly that we all must be shimmering just a bit, waving in the wind, firmly secured in our own places in this world.