Sunday, December 29, 2013

Gifts from the Homestead - the List

Last year, about this time, I started thinking about how abundant my homestead is, and yes, even with my miniscule quarter acre nanofarm, I do feel that we have an incredible abundance. So much so, in fact, that I'm embarrassed by the sheer amount of waste we produce. We throw away and/or fail to take full advantage of a lot more of what our farm produces than I am even comfortable sharing.

We. have. so. MUCH!

It was about that time that I started looking at homemade gifts. Over the years, I've spent a lot of time making things for friends and family. One of my favorite gifts was the travel pads I made for our friends' children. It had a dry erase board on one side and a chalkboard on the other and a handle so that it could be suspended from the back of the car seat. I've also made my share of board games, wooden puzzles, rice packs, "mixes in a jar", and my other favorite Dammit Dolls (although the pattern I use for mine is very different than the ones I've found online - the poem I have is different, too).

Last year, though, I started thinking about things we could make from stuff we either grew or produced right here, right on our homestead, and I came up with an impressive list, actually.

The list included:
  • maple syrup (although this is a pretty precious commodity, of which we get only a little, and so we're not as likely to share)
  • honey (see maple syrup)
  • wine and custom, non-hopped beers
  • popcorn
  • dried herbs
  • herbed vinegars
  • herbal tea
  • rabbit jerky
  • knitted items from dog fur
  • soap (although we'd need fat that we don't produce here)
  • beeswax candles
  • salves, lip balm, and hand creams
  • potpourri
  • incense
  • grapevine dream catchers

There are other things, too. This year, we made Dandy Kahlua, using a recipe a friend gave us. The recipe called for coffee, sugar and vodka, but we substituted our own roasted dandelion root for the coffee. We also bake gifts, using some things we've grown and some things we've purchased (or bartered for) - like canned pumpkin bread. I can sew, and I could make gifts from old clothes (like a bath mat or some pot holders or a quilt or cloth bags) or something like pajama pants or a poncho from an old sheet. I have an old copy of a Physician's Desk Reference, which would make an awesome treasure book.

There are dozens of ideas for homemade/handmade gifts, and for me, there is nothing quite like making something special for someone special. I like giving homemade gifts AND I like receiving them. To know that someone took the time to make something for me ... for me ... well, there's no feeling quite like that. One of my favorite gifts from last year was a couple of bottles of hot sauce made by a family member on their rural-suburban farm. We used it all up and savored every drop. And the jellies ... oh, my! This year, I can't wait to crack open the jar of lemon drop habanero jelly I received. I LOVE hot pepper jelly!

The best, unintentional gift, is that my children have caught the fever. This year Precious made for me my very own rice pack - hand sewn. It was a pretty awesome gift!

We gifted some of the items above this year, and all I can say is that I really enjoyed making every single thing that I made, and plans are already in the works for future Gifts from the Homestead.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Capturing December - Scarf

I have this scarf. It's one of my favorite articles of clothing, and I wear it everywhere I go, all winter long - not because I like scarfs, because the fact is, until I got this one, I never really wore scarfs. Scarves always felt kind of cumbersome and in the way.

Not this one. It's special, and having it has made me appreciate how warm a scarf actually is. It's more than an accessory. In fact, when we're out and one of my girls has forgotten that we live in Maine and she should dress for the weather, I'll give her my scarf, and she warms up enough to be comfortable.

I don't know if it's just the magic in this scarf or scarves in general, but I do know, I love this scarf, because it's actually more than just a scarf. It's a friend.

Ha! I know you think I've fallen off the deep end, but let me explain - and how I acquired this particular scarf is actually one of my favorite stories.

Many years ago, through a series of very interesting events, Deus Ex Machina and I found ourselves driving across the country in a little 1989 Honda Civic with our two-month old daughter, a green Iguana named Prometheus and an eight-month old black chow named Yoo-Hoo (the only one of the three that we named was the daughter ;)).

Fast forward many years, and we are living in Maine. The iguana lived to the ripe old age (for iguanas) of twelve, and the daughter and the dog were both nearing their teens. Chow-chows are one of the several breeds of dog that have a double coat. They hail from Northern China, where they were bred for many different purposes, including being used as sled dogs, and they are particularly well-suited to Maine's climate. The flip-side is that they tend to shed - twice a year blowing their whole coat, and during those shedding seasons, we'd end up with bags full of dog fur.

We never knew what to do with it. Sometimes we'd keep it, and sometimes we'd grumble as it clogged up the vacuum cleaner.

This one year (about three years ago), on Mother's Day, my daughter brought a carefully wrapped package to me. Inside was a brown scarf.

The story is that Deus Ex Machina has a friend who spins. He brought a bagful of YooHoo's fur to her, which she spun into yarn. He, then, brought this ball of yarn home and gave it to Big Little Sister, who knit this scarf for me.

It is the most amazing gift, and it has just gotten more beautiful and warmer over the years thanks to a phenomenon specific to pet fur products called "blooming", where the fur gets fuzzier the more one uses it.

I've had people ask me all sorts of questions about my scarf. One woman wanted to know if it "smelled", presumably like a dog. "No," I said. "It doesn't."

We have two new chows, and since we've discovered the amazing quality of dog fur yarn, we have been keeping fur from our new puppies with every intention of having the fur spun (or doing it ourselves when we're more proficient) into yarn to knit into scarfs and/or other knitted gifts for family and friends.

In the meantime, I have my scarf, and I cherish it. I even named it "Yoo Hoo", and when it ends up where it's not supposed to be, and I ask, "Where's Yoo Hoo?" everyone in my family knows what I mean.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Capturing December - Tradition

Every year, around the Solstice, I make "Wish Bread" (a.k.a. monkey bread). Basically, it's a sweet, pull-apart yeast bread. I make a bread dough, which we roll into golf ball-sized pieces, dip in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar, and then, layer in a bundt pan, drizzling melted butter and sugar over each layer.

Wish bread is not something I make by myself, though. It's a family event, as each dough ball represents a "wish." Some years, we just roll the balls, make a wish, and put them in the pan. This year, our "wish" was a nut or dried fruit we pushed into the middle of the dough ball.

The bread is delicious even without all of the wishing, but that little added something makes the process of making this bread - and then eating it - a little more special.

It's one of my favorite winter traditions.

Friday, December 20, 2013

If Poverty is a Disease, Preparedness is the Antidote

I was a very poor college student - married with kids and never, quite, making those ends meet, no matter how hard I pulled at the strings. I don't really know where I fell in the economic spectrum, but income-wise I was probably well below the mark that divides people who are (supposedly) financially independent and those who aren't making enough money to subsist at any level. It was, literally, a matter of shuffling the bills and paying the one that was most urgent (like paying the past due rent so that we wouldn't get evicted and letting some other bill lag).

As a full-time college student with children and a job, I didn't have to time to sit at the social security office waiting for a case worker who would scowl at me, ask me a lot of very personal questions, and then, decide if I was worthy (or unworthy) enough for assistance, and frankly, I didn't want to. It was bad enough applying for food stamps, which I did, once, as a graduate student, when a promised summer job fell through and I was unemployed for a few months.

Being poor is demoralizing, because, as a culture, we tend to take a pretty negative view of those who can't seem to take care of themselves or their families. We always assume that they're poor through some lack of moral fortitude that enables the rest of us to hold down a full-time job.

Unfortunately, since the 2008 housing market crash, the face of the poor has been changing. Our middle-class perceptions of who and what poor people are were never entirely fair, but what's happening now, as discussed in this article, entitled The Growing Problem of Suburban Poverty is that previously middle class people, those who formerly had steady jobs and incomes, some savings, and a 401K plan, are the new poor.

Sadly, however, unlike those who were living just above the poverty line, the average middle-class suburbanite is woefully ill-equipped to handle poverty-level incomes. Perhaps the worse is their own perceptions of poverty that don't allow them to seek the help they need early enough for that help to be useful, but rather begin to draw on their personal resources (which prove to be horribly inadequate), including a positive credit rating that allows them to try to borrow their way out of poverty. Of course, when we're thinking logically the notion that incurring more debt will somehow, magically, help us get out of debt, is ridiculous, but when faced with mounting financial issues and no income ... we do what we feel we have to do.

My daughters and I enjoy a weekly visit to the library, and Precious really likes borrowing movies. Recently, she found the movie Ramona and Beezus about a third grader, her older, high-school aged sister, and their family. The movie is based on the Beverly Clearly series of books, drawing heavily from two of the later books in the series.

In the movie, Ramona's family is a typical suburban family living well, but slightly above their means (I am assuming that they live above their means given that there is a mention of how many bills they have and how overwhelming those bills are). The dad, a Vice President of something well-paying and important, loses his job when his company is bought-out by a competitor. Ramona's mother takes a part-time job at a doctor's office to help stem the tide of bills, but her income isn't nearly adequate to cover the standard of living they have come to expect. Couple that with the fact that they've just applied for and been approved a home improvement loan, believing that the dad's job was secure.

It's a kid's story, and so while the whole economic crisis part of the story is downplayed for the audience, the fact is that things aren't good in the Quimby household. We get glimpses of the seriousness of their troubles: a chat with Ramona's friend whose parents are divorced, reportedly because of similar financial problems; the dad sleeping on the pull-out couch; rumors that they might lose their house (and Ramona's ill-fated attempts to earn enough money to keep that from happening); the car breaking down; dad's continued failures to find a job.

The problem with the average suburbanite, and what gets them into so much trouble in situations like this is the idea that things will get better, and that this little problem is a very short-term and temporary problem. Like in the movie. Ramona and her family don't make any real changes to their lifestyle. The dad keeps going on job interviews and keeps not getting the job, and the whole time, their bills keep mounting, and they keep digging further into that hole.

So, what could they have done differently?

Well, for starters, the Mom should never have taken a job. She was the primary care provider for the kids, and while the dad did an adequate job taking over for mom (in his spare time, i.e. when he wasn't actively seeking employment), their family dynamic was to have one, full-time care provider at home. With the loss of his job and the subsequent employment of his wife, the dad became responsible for more of the household responsibilities, which caused a lot of problems. But here's the thing - if that family intended for the dad to be the primary wage earner (which they did), he needed to have the freedom and flexibility to find a job without having to worry about the safety and security of his children. Because his wife was working, he didn't have that freedom or flexibility, and it cost him a few interviews.

Second, they should have canceled the home improvement loan, or at least changed how they were using it. Instead of employing the contractors to do the work, maybe the dad could have enlisted the help of a few friends to do the renovation, and paid for just supplies, rather than supplies and labor. DIY is a lot cheaper than having someone do the work, and that applies across the board - not just in construction.

Third, the dad made the classic blunder of trying to find a comparable job. He should have listened to his eight year old daughter, who had a wisdom no one seemed to notice. She kept suggesting jobs she thought he could do. Perhaps with some training (which can often be paid for through reemployment programs), he would have been eligible for some of her more radical suggestions (like fire fighter, a job the dad, rightly, said he was unqualified to do - but the fact is that EMT training can be completed in a matter of weeks). Or better, he could have taken the opportunity this job loss afforded him to seek employment in a field in which he really wanted to work - like art. To them, this job loss was not an opportunity, but a hurdle. Reframing the problem in a different way would have made their situation a lot different.

Fourth, the family should have started, immediately, cutting back, and the movie didn't show whether or not they did this, but it is common, in similar situations, to try to keep up the ruse that nothing has changed. Too often when faced with a job loss or other economic SNAFUs, the people involved will just keep living as if it will all be better when they wake in the morning. The day the event takes place is the time to sit down and start making changes, cutting everything from the budget that is not, absolutely, essential. The fourth is the hardest, because so many of our day-to-day activities, we see as being very much a part of who we are, and it's hard to give those things up, but it would be imperative.

I think about this possibility all of the time, and it's not that I don't trust Deus Ex Machina's ability to financially support our family, but that I know anything can happen - and it usually does. Given that situation, the only bill we would continue to pay would be ones related to our housing - like a mortgage and property taxes. As I've said dozens of times, as long as we have our house, our basic needs for shelter, food, and water would be met.

If the family had tightened the belt, immediately, anticipating that there might not be a job for a while, then, they would have been, potentially, better off (although, as a kid's movie, things never really got very bad, and of course, there was the requisite happy ending).

Preppers have become the butt of a lot of jokes. Between the Doomsday Prepper television show and myriad of bloggers and authors speaking on the subject, there is, perhaps, some fuel for the comedy train. If nothing else, preppers are certainly passionate about what they're doing, and the need for it. The problem is that because some preppers (and survivalists) are seen as radical and fringe, and perhaps a bit ... fanatical, the average person, like Ramona's family in the story, aren't listening. They're not listening, because they don't want other people to look at them and laugh. No one wants to be the butt of a joke.

So, most people don't prep, at all, and when they are visited by hard times, they also don't share what's happening - for fear of ridicule.

For many preppers, though, it's not about preparing for Lucifer's Hammer or nuclear war or an EMP strike or the oil running out. It's about preparing for those things that happen every day to ordinary people, like the suburbanites in the article linked above.

There is nothing radical or fringe or fanatical about having food available and in one's home. I can't imagine having only enough food to get me through a day or two. With as busy as my life is most of the time, I can't imagine not being able to whip up something from my cabinets or storage for dinner without having to visit the grocery store first. Other prepper suggestions are similar. There is nothing radical or fringe or fanatical about having a Berkey container of filtered water (and it tastes better, too) on the counter, a few extra blankets (don't you ever have company?), and flashlights with batteries that work.

It's true that a three-day supply of food or a 2 1/2 gallon pitcher of filtered water on the counter won't help if one is unemployed for six months or more, but it's also true that beginning to think in terms of it could happen to me gets us thinking about how to make things less of an emergency when it does happen. It's a difference in mind-set more than a difference in what one has in one's garage.

Some news reports are claiming that The Recession has ended and the economy is on the upswing, but from what I see around me, from jobs reports, from prices at the grocery store and the gas pump, from listening to my friends and family, even if the Recession is over, we have a very long way to go before things return to normal, and rather than reliving what got us here, I think there's going to be a new normal.

Certainly, in much of Suburbia, there is a new normal. It's called poverty, and it's not a lack of moral fortitude, and it's not a shameful horror that we should hide - because the reality is that friends and neighbors usually know there's trouble a long time before that foreclosure sign ends up on the front lawn.

The antidote to poverty is not more money or better jobs, but rather independence. There's that saying, "Make hay while the sun shines," and the gist is that if we squander the happy days, when the bad days come, it's too late. In real terms, a farmer who does not hay his field while the sun is shining will lose the hay, which could be a devastating blow and result in a loss of livestock.

In the same way as the farmer, if we don't prepare the possibilities, we stand to lose it all. The sad fact is that we don't have to.


Capturing December - Tree Topper


Father Christmas

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Capturing December - No Stockings

I decided I didn't want to put a picture of candy canes on the blog, and so I chose a different picture ... one of me, getting firewood for the woodstove.

I've found that my feet don't get nearly as cold anymore ... since I started walking outside in the snow ;).

Monday, December 16, 2013

Capturing December - Outside Lights


Not my lights, because I don't decorate the outside, except with a wreath. I tried, once, but I didn't have enough lights and my extension cord wasn't long enough to reach the outlet. Now, I just don't bother.

But the lights are pretty.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Capturing December - Favorite Christmas song

I don't have a picture for this one, because I didn't bring my camera to the City Theatre's Rock and Roll Christmas Show so that I could take a picture of our friend and member of our Theatre Family (Papa Duck, Peter! ;)) singing my favorite song, "Silver Bells" in his outlandishly amazing Christmas sweater!

I love that song. It reminds me of my Grandmother. I have no idea why.

Sometimes, it makes me cry - in a good way :).

Thanks, Peter, for the gift of you singing my favorite Christmas song.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Capturing December - Christmas Tree


I will admit that we do not, yet, have a tree inside the house. We'll (probably) get one, because I do like having a tree to decorate and put gifts under. I love this holiday season, and the huge snowstorm we're having is just making it that much more "Christmas-y" to me.

For now, though, I will enjoy my neighbor's beautiful lights and their snow-adorned trees.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Capturing December - Family


Every year for the past three our friend, Crystal, from Capture the Moment Photography has followed us outside on some cold December day to capture some amazing moments with our family. It's always in December, for our annual family holiday photograph, and it's always cold - some years more than others (the worst year was 2012, and I swear it had to have been single digits ... and it was snowing).

This year we started at "Indian Jane Rock" and ended at the Scarborough Salt Marsh. We're so thankful to Crystal for her willingness to endure bitter cold temperatures and wet feet to capture these special moments for us. They pass too quickly.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Capturing December - A Beautiful Sight


I love the way the sun spills across my yard first thing in the morning - the play of shadow and light on the fresh snow. It is, to me, an incredibly beautiful sight.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Capturing December - Green


Underneath the snow, the kale is still - kind of - green. It's amazing how hardy this particular plant is.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Capturing December - Wrapping paper


And lest you think I'm kidding, here's a whole blog post about our use of catalogs and newsprint for wrapping paper ;).

Monday, December 9, 2013

Sneak Preview - Handmade for the Holidays

Here's one of the gifts we're giving this year.


I've made rice packs before. It was a lot of fun, and what a great gift! We use ours for all sorts of things. In fact, any time there's an injury, the first thing we ask is, "Do you need a cold thing?", and by cold thing we mean, one of the rice packs we keep in the freezer. We have a whole assortment of them, from a tiny one shaped like a mitten and the exact size of my daughter's hand when she was ten - because it was made especially for her, to ones that go around shoulders.

We keep ours cold, in the freezer, but they can also be warmed. As discussed in this blog post from last summer a rice pack is a good thing for helping us stay cooler in hot weather and warmer in cold weather.

My youngest daughter's favorite rice pack is her "boo-boo buddy", and it has a teddy bear face. We keep it in the freezer too. It's not one I made, but one we purchased from the physical therapist. When I got to looking at it, I thought, "I can do that."

This year, I'm making Boo-boo Buddies for my grandchildren. We found some Ty Stuffies at a thrift store. They were half off their usual $1 price tag. We took out the insides and replaced them with rice that was infused with lavender essential oil and mixed with lavender flowers. The nice thing about lavender is that it's calming, which will make these boo-boo buddies great for soothing aches.

It's not, exactly, a gift we made from things we grew or produced here, but it is one of those wonderful repurposed ideas that I adore. And it was easy and inexpensive ... and I think makes a pretty keen gift.

Capturing December - Something I'm Reading

I know I let a couple days pass on this project, and I won't go back and try to recapture them - mostly, because the day I learned about the tragedy the "capture" was shopping, and it just didn't seem right to, not only be shopping, but to be capturing it for posterity on a day when such an event happened.

I will continue with the project, though, and today's capture is actually something that makes sense to me. It is "something I'm reading."


With thanks to my friend, Anne, for recommending the book.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Loss

The Internet is a pretty amazing thing. I know it will seem very superficial, but I think a lot of us bloggers will be able to relate. I've met a lot of people here, on the Internet - through my blog and through Facebook, and in a lot of ways, I feel like we are friends. I feel like we've made connections.

There have been a lot of times, when the contact extended beyond the blog or beyond posts on Facebook. We private messaged each other. We sent little gifts to each other. We connected and communed. When things were good, we shared our successes. When things were bad, we supported each other.

But we never met in person.

What we knew of the physical person were the pictures that we shared.

I'm reeling today from the loss of one of those Internet friends. She was an amazing woman - struggling to give her children an exceptional life in circumstances that were less than ideal. She had been dealt a pretty lousy hand in life, but she was trying to make the best of it, and I had a lot of respect for her.

What really enamored me to her was her very strong desire to be self-sufficient, and even in very less than ideal conditions, she worked very hard to teach her children that they can grow food, that they don't have to settle for less than what they want or need. Like I said, she was pretty amazing, and so strong.

She was killed yesterday, and I'm just stunned. She was too young, and she had so much left to offer. When we talk about tragedies, this fits the definition.

If you knew Chris, or followed her blog Adventures of a Thrifty Mom, then you've probably heard already.


At the moment, any little petty complaint or inconvenience seems very trivial.

If you knew Chris or knew of her, a Memorial Fund has been set-up for her three surviving children.

More Gifts from the Homestead

Here's another sneak peek of what's happening with the gift giving.


I've spoken many times about the sunchokes (a.k.a. Jerusalem artichokes) we grow here at the Wyvern Heath. They can be incredibly overwhelming, because they grow so prolifically, but that is, in fact, exactly why I cherish them so much. Reading about things like the potato famine in Ireland in the 1800s and other starvation times, I appreciate the sunchokes even more. It's a lot of food in a little space with almost no effort. And they're native to North America and were a food favored by the natives who lived in this area.

I dug two pounds today, which is pretty cool, I think. I dug two pounds of food from my garden, today, at the beginning of December.

In December, in Maine, I still have food I can harvest from my garden.

I just think that's pretty remarkable.

Sunchokes can't be stored without processing for very long (I dehydrate them and make chips or flour). I've kept them for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator. As long as they stay cool and moist, they're okay for a bit, but unlike other tubers, like potatoes, they can't be dug at the end of a season and stored for months on end. They wouldn't keep well in a root cellar, for instance, and really, the best place to keep them, is in the ground. Which makes them a perfect food for preppers, because most people (like the Doomsday Preppers band of marauders) don't know what they are and won't be looking for them. They can't be used in the middle of the summer, because the root gets kind of mushy as the plant puts all of its energy into making the stalk and flower, but in the spring, before and just as the shoots start to appear or in the late fall, when the showy yellow flower dies back, the roots are crisp and delicious ... kind of like water chestnuts meet a carrot.

The sunchokes I harvested today will end up as one ingredient in a special gift I'm planning. It will be the first time I've made this particular item, and, as is typical of me, I will be modifying the original recipe to accommodate the substitution of sunchoke flour.

And for those of you for whom it is an issue, this treat will be gluten-free ... and goes well with tea (a special blend of which I'm also planning to make).

Happy sunchokes!
Picture taken before the first frost.



Thursday, December 5, 2013

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Handmade for the Holidays

Last year at this time, I was overwhelmed with whatever was happening in my life, and so I didn't spend much time thinking about making gifts. We ended up buying most of the things we gave, which isn't nearly as much fun for me as spending the time and energy making things. I like to give gifts, and I don't really mind spending the money to find something nice, but buying gifts at the store always feels less personal and a lot more spur of the moment. We go to the store with a list of people we wish to buy for, and then, we find things we think they'll like. I'm not much for shopping anyway, but the whole experience usually leaves me feeling drained, whereas the creative process involved in making something for someone is invigorating.

So, after the holiday, I spent some time surfing around on the Internet looking for ideas for homemade gifts for the future, things that would be easy to make. I found Martha Stewart's website where there were dozens of ideas for handmade things - some that were kind of chintzy (in an, "Aww, that's cute, but not terribly practical" kind of way), but many that were kind of nice. The list I liked the most was entitled "Gifts from Martha", and featured items that were made from things that were produced her farm - like a sweater from her sheep. I scrolled through the list, all the while thinking, I can make that. We have that. We grow that.

It was just what I needed to get those creative juices flowing, I started making a list of things that we produce here on our homestead, things we can make out of things we produce here on our homestead, or just things that we can make from bought, found and/or repurposed items, here on our homestead.

The list is divided into three categories: food we raise or grow; non-food from items we raise or grow; other gifts. There are at least a dozen items in each category. That's over three dozen potential gifts. Thirty-six plus unique and creative gifts from things we have, right here. And the list doesn't even include some other things I've thought of since I made the list, like an herbal tea blend I could make from things we grew and/or things we foraged, or the drinking glasses we can make out of repurposed bottles, because we have invested in some pretty cool tools over the years.

For the past two nights, my family and I have been working on making gifts for friends and family. Painting, cutting, punching, "un"sewing, melting, filling ....

In the days to come, we'll have some mixing, carving, scoring, baking, blending, grinding, gluing, and sewing happening and then some packing and mailing.

I never get nearly as excited about the shiny, new, store-bought gifts we occasionally give, as I do about the ones that we make (or even the ones we find second-hand at the thrift store or flea market), and this year, with the willing help of my wonderful family (who seem to be just as excited about the plan as I am) and my list, our gift giving - especially the part where we spend the evening listening to music and crafting together - will be an incredibly joyful experience.

Here's a sneak peek of one of our projects.



I was also inspired by the book Handmade Home by Amanda Soule, who is not only an incredibly creative person, but a real-life friend of mine. Her book was a gift to me from a dear loved one, and a reminder that giving of one's creative self is part of what makes a home ... home.




Capturing December - Joyous

RIP: YooHoo Kaye Brown
1997-2012

She enriched our lives more than we knew when she was with us, and we're better for having known her.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Capturing December - Red

Two of my favorite red things.

My goal for December is to decrease our electricity usage by cooking on the woodstove. With my red enamel Dutch oven and our red teapot, it shouldn't be too hard.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Capturing December - Favorite Holiday Movie


After three decades and with hundreds of choices, A Christmas Story is my all time, favorite, Christmas movie.


Like all good films, lines from the movie have permeated our culture, and there are few people who don't know that "fragile" is Italian and an official Red Rider, carbine action, 200 shot, range model air rifle is *the* thing to get for Christmas, but be aware, you'll shoot your eye out
The popularity lies in the fact that it is a story of our culture - Hope. Disappointment. Victory ... and Family.


And Christmas dinner at a Chinese restaurant ;).

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Capturing December - The View

CAPTURING DECEMBER

For the month of December, my goal is to post a picture a day.


Gratitude - Wrap-Up

I almost made it 30 days of daily Gratitude posts. I know most of my posts were kind of mundane and superficial, but that really was my goal - to look at those little things, that maybe we forget are pretty important and remember that I am thankful for those small blessings.

I am incredibly thankful for the big blessings, too, and that's what I spent the last three days of November remembering.

We spent Thanksgiving Day at my sister-in-law's house, where she and her family cooked an amazing dinner. I am incredibly thankful to her, because every year, she tries really hard and works really hard to keep the family tradition of a family gathering on these holidays a tradition. Grammy would be very pleased with her efforts. To my Sis-in-Law: Thank you so much for all you do. I may not adequately express my thanks and appreciation in the moment, but I really do appreciate what you're doing.

Friday, I did not go shopping, nor would I ever. In fact, I spent the day at home, with my family and Facebook, and I posted a lot of stuff about books and adopting animals (our local shelter was having a Black Friday deal on cats - adopt a black cat and all fees were waived). A friend mentioned that she liked the content of my posts - books and cats ;).

In the evening, I took two of my daughters and seven of their friends to see Catching Fire. I read the books, and while I'm not typically a fan of YA fiction, these, I liked, and I think the story should be a warning to us, because it's not too far removed from what we're seeing happening in the real world. The fact is that the book illustrates very well the ways governments keep citizens under control: through fear and intimidation, controlling movement, controlling the food supply. It asks the question: how long do we let them starve us and use us for their entertainment before we fight back?

The last day of the month, we spent with friends. Our daughters' dance team is participating in a parade today, and we helped build the float on which they will ride. It was a lot of fun - my first, ever, float building experience. I'm happy to have spent the day in the company of so many wonderful people, and I'm reminded of how blessed my life is.

These last three days, I've been reminded of how abundant my life is. I have an abundance of amazing people who share this life with me, even if just on the sidelines. I have been blessed with an abundant home, filled with everything I need to stay healthy - emotionally and physically.

Life has been very good to me, and I'm incredibly grateful ... every day.