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.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Divide and Conquer - Sunday

Over our Sunday morning cups of coffee Adam and I penciled a list for the day.  Our list had a few chores around the house, but was mostly comprised of delicious food things to make and bake.  The weather is cool and wet and it is planting season again.  This means our Sundays are full of food preparations and our week days are spent apart.  

I ran off to the grocery store to pick up a few things while Adam tackled the first food item: Caramel Rolls. 

While Adam picked up things around the yard, I rolled up  my sleeves and crumbled together butter and flour to make pie crusts.  I picked the meat off of the bones of last night's roasted chicken, baked butternut squash, boiled sweet potatoes, sauteed mushrooms and broccoli, wilted kale, crumbled up bacon to make my version of the Big Sky Pie that I found in the Missoula Magazine (Page 10) last winter.    

Adam started the Braided Swish Cheese Loaves while I placed layers of potato, bacon and sauteed onions into the remaining pie crust and poured the egg mixture over it: quiche.  Yum.  I turned my attentions to Sunday nights dinner: Butternut Squash Soup (with apples and leeks!).

A clean kitchen and two sleeping kids later, Adam was still rolling eggroll after eggroll, rotating the baking sheets through the oven.  I slipped outside to pull a few more vegetables out of the garden for my last dish of the day: Kale Salad (Slaw?).

At 11:45 pm we finally wiped our hands, stuck the last few things into the fridge, packed up all the non-refrigerated items for the morning and snuggled up to watch an episode of our new favorite TV show Parenthood
When I woke up to take Sylvan to the bathroom at three in the morning, it hardly felt like I had closed my eyes at all.  I vaguely remember Adam bending over the bed to kiss me goodbye.  I snuggled back up to my little baby boy and fell soundly asleep.  By the time Ivory crawled into bed with me Adam had been gone for hours.

We warm up some of the caramel rolls for breakfast and as I grabed the half and half out of the fridge I scrunched down to examine the empty spaces on the shelves.  "Good, I think to myself.  He didn't forget any of the food."

Kale Salad (or Slaw?)

2 bunches of Kale, washed and chopped
2 large carrots, grated
4 small beets, grated
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 apple, finely chopped
1/2 cup of raisins
1/2 cup of walnuts
feta cheese (optional)

1/2 cup oil
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
2 Tablespoon maple syrup
salt and pepper to taste
  • combine the dressing ingredients, blend well
  • prepare the kale, carrots, beets, onion and apple and pour dressing over
  • massage the dressing into the kale mixture, use your hands or two wooden spoons
  • stir in walnuts and raisins
  • let sit a little while, and serve topped with feta 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Divide and Conquer - Saturday

Lately our weekends have been functioning on a divide and conquer mantra.  So while Adam cleaned up breakfast and started his to do list in the shop Ivory, Sylvan and I dug out our rain boots and pulled them on.  We're on our way to the Saturday Farmer's Market.  I'm off to get the usual - breakfast sausage from the pork guy, and the seasonal - pears, apples, leeks and Jerusalem artichokes.

Ivory and Sylvan and their babies buckle up in the chariot and I start peddling down town. 

I pass the four loads of laundry I hung up the day before.  
Of course it rained.  
I hung up four loads of laundry.  
After this summer, it is hard to remember that there is weather.  Rain?  It rains?  I touch a few in passing and am surprised.  They feel almost dry in spite of the early morning shower. 

A damp haze hangs over the street, but it is sunny and quiet.  A perfect autumn morning.

We weave our way through the people from market stand to market stand.  Sylvan runs off one way, Ivory the other and I am left wondering which one to go after first, lugging my every growing bag of produce over my shoulder.  But then they find a puddle, and they are both perfectly happy in the tiny radius of what remains from the morning rain.  

While Sylvan napped, Ivory and I dug our hands into the wet earth: pulling up the last of the purple skinned potatoes and the first of our carrots.

photo credit: Adam West
Adam sends me to look at the giant cotton wood log that sits in our yard.  Adam found it in the mill yard and brought it to our last house balancing on a fork lift.  It grows oyster mushrooms.  Tiny mushroom heads are emerging and in a few days these will be fragrant and large, ready to be harvested and eaten.

Ivory helps me rinse the carrots and potatoes.

She proudly documents the harvest, before I take the basket inside to become the night's dinner. 
There are moments  in which I find my children to be incredibly strange: the last few times Ivory and I have gone to the grocery store she has been begging for - no, not candy or chocolate milk, but - a whole chicken. Yes, a whole chicken.  So some of these carrots and potatoes are going to be roasted with that whole chicken I finally picked up for her at the grocery store. 

photo credit: Ivory West
Hours later, after dinner and baths and putting the kids into their beds, I am folding those four loads of laundry as well as the load that was in the dryer.  It is dark outside and there is an unruly pile of boots next to the door.  In spite of all the things we did do today, my mental to do list seems to not have gotten any shorter.  The piles of junk are still on the roof, none of those sewing projects I have lined up have remotely been begun and Sylvan keeps getting out of bed: to read another book, to pee, to poop.  This is when I start to feel like I am failing somewhere.  He finally quits coming down the stairs, but when I come upstairs he is playing with dolls, reading books, banging Ivory's dress-up shoes on the ground. A giant crash sends me running up to find him sprawled on the floor.  He tipped over in his little rocking chair.  Finally it is silent upstairs.  Completely silent.  I set down the clothes I have in my hands to make sure he is okay.  I walk around the corner and see this: 

Two little feet hanging over the edge of the stairs.
I run to the shop: "Adam, you have to come see this."
We both stand there, laughing.
I scoop him up and put him gently into his bed.

Adam goes back to building shelves to hold our many indoor plants and I go back to folding laundry.
Tomorrow, we will have sausage for breakfast, we will make a list and divide and conquer yet another day.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Taking the Long Way

Ivory is curled up in my bed fast asleep.
The last thing she said to me before she closed her eyes was: "After my nap, can I have some yogurt."
All I heard was:"NAP".  She wants to nap! Oh, Yogurt.  "Yeah, you can have some yogurt."

Sylvan in bopping around the dining room, pulling out random toys and singing to himself.
He fell asleep in the bike trailer, and despite of my best efforts, he is chipper and awake.

It took us almost two hours to get sorted and out of the door this morning.
There was the crying while hair brushing.
The massive melt down while trying to put on gloves.  The pink ones were to bulky for bike handle holding.  The finger gloves to difficult to slip on and the green ones - too green.  WAY TO GREEN! All of these reasons, of course, requiring tears and a knee buckle to floor level.
My solution: NO GLOVES!  No gloves for anyone.

Ivory finally straddled her bike, and I mine.  Our mission for the day: to ride our bikes to the grocery story.  We pushed our bikes up and over the Scott Street bridge, coasted down the other side and suddenly everything was fine.

Two braids dangled down her back ahead of me, and she singing on the top her lungs:  "Platypus, Platypus, Platypus!"  She didn't stop singing until we got home again, adding new lines here and there.  "Platypus lives in the water..  Platypus, Platypus, Platypus...  Platypus lays eggs...  Platypus, Platypus, Platypus."  She stops.  "Mom? What do platypus eat."
"I don't know.  Maybe they eat fish or little plants."
"Platypus, Platypus. What do you eat?  I eat fish, I eat fish, I eat fish."  (Platypus don't eat fish by the way.  They eat worms, and larva, and shrimp, and crayfish. But, we can read all about Platypus when she wakes up.)

I will admit that I had a few moments of desperate begging: "Ivory please.  Stop. Stop the whining.  The  crying."  I had a few moments of desperate bargaining, of threatening: "If  you can't stop crying we can't go on our bike ride."  A serious moment of self doubt: "Is this because I took her out of school?" We almost didn't go anywhere.

I did take her out of school.  Sometimes I feel a little guilty, but most of the time I feel that my decision was justified.  Not being in school means that we can make even a trip to the grocery store an adventure.  We rode our bikes (2.4 miles each way) along the river, across bridges, in the sunshine and autumn breeze.   We had a picnic of apples, bananas and cheese and bumped into friends while I sipped a tiny cup of coffee.

Now she is fast asleep.
Sylvan and I are going to attempt to make some licorice candy.
The play dough making date Ivory and I were supposed to have while Sylvan napped will have to wait until later.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Autumn = Lots of Green Tomatoes

Just a week ago Sylvan was still running around in nothing but a diaper.

Ivory was lounging in the sunshine.

The leaves all around turning every color but green.

I hugged the largest Western Larch in the United States!
A few days later I marched through my garden bed full of wonderful volunteer tomatoes. I picked red tomatoes, yellow tomatoes and many more green tomatoes.  I lugged a giant box inside.
The next night we dragged all those indoor plants that lived outdoors all summer inside.  They now crowd the kitchen table and the space under the window.
The cold sent me unpacking.
Pulling all the winter coats and hats and gloves out of their hiding places. Snow pants and boots and coats were tried on and either hung on their hooks or put in bags to be passed on to the next lucky children to wear them.

Suddenly it is autumn.

The sky is blue and clear (no smoke).

The buckeyes are just about to rain down from the trees.

We rode our bike to the park wearing gloves!

 It is fried green tomato time: Fresh and tart, just like the weather.

It is Green Tomato Relish Time!

It is Green Tomato Pie Time!

The house plants are slowly migrating from the kitchen and finding homes in light filled spaces throughout our home.  In my giant box of green tomatoes only a few stragglers remain.  We are caught up in the busy hubbub of changing seasons, and wearing a few more clothes.  

Green Tomato Pie Filling

6 cups of thinly sliced firm green tomatoes
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 Tablespoons flour
2 Tablespoons corn starch
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
2 Tablespoons butter

  • combine the tomatoes, sugar, flour, corn starch and spices in a bowl until evenly coated
  • melt butter in large saucepan and add the tomatoes
  • cook until the mixture boils and thickens
  • let cool 
  • bake the finished pie for 45 minutes at 375 degrees