Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween.

May your lanterns burn brightly, may your disguises sparkle or spookify, may your mischief be sweet-spirited, and may all have a happy Halloween!

I'll be back in this space soon for a belated show-and-tell of our use-what-we-have and make-what-we-need costumes!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


A portrait of my kids every week for 52 weeks.

Henry... well, being Henry... with a bucket on his head.
Audrey trying to make a hay bale.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Right Now

Right now, I'm...

...steeping teas, wiping noses, and tending to aching little bodies... what I thought was an allergy attack has taken a swing for the worse- a bug has a grip on our house.
...watching more episodes of Sesame Street, Dora the Explorer, and Max and Ruby than I'd care to keep track of... but at least it causes stillness and rest.
...feeling grateful for the grayness that's slipped in behind the sunrise, and the natural slowness it'll bring to our activities.
...planning and making soups, broths, and more soups.
...finding a silver lining in it all- at least both babies still want to cuddle when they don't feel good!

We'll be laying low today, and wishing everyone else a healthful, happy Monday!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Jack 'Em Lanterns

I finally broke down and bought some carving pumpkins. Up until now, all my pumpkin indulgence has been focused on the kind we can eat, but when our co-op offered gigantic carving beauties for only $3.75 apiece, I had to go for it! I mean, think of the children!

(My kiddos are a little obsessed with this seasonal activity... as soon as they get the go-ahead every fall, It's The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown makes it in to our usual bed time story rotation, not to mention a few showings of the vintage cartoon itself.)

For going on the second year, our "Jack 'Em Lanterns" as they are called around here are designed by the kiddos using a big Sharpie marker, then Mama does her best to execute said design with the carving knife. It gets a little challenging interpreting what is negative space, what is pivotal to the design's integrity, and what was just a line from the marker touching pumpkin skin when the artist wasn't paying attention. Seriously, though, last year's lantern was so great it totally was worth the carpal tunnel after the painstaking carving and scraping... and let's be honest: there's no way I'd come up with stuff like this.

They take their jobs very seriously. Every line is intentional, and there's no doubt there's a vision with each design (I have to admit I was halfway expecting Audrey to try and talk Henry into "modeling" for her design, as she thinks that particular part of the Charlie Brown story is hilarious... I'm happy to report it didn't come up).

While we carve, we talk about the way the pumpkin seeds feel (don't throw the seeds at each other guys!), how they got in the pumpkin, why they smell the way they do (no, Henny, don't eat the pumpkin goo), how they were once grown simply to feed animals through the winter (no, Henny, Leeloo does not want a bite of your pumpkin), how people used to carve turnips instead of pumpkins, how candles were the only way to see in the dark for so long... you know, the good stuff. 

Then, after dinner and sunset, we ceremoniously carry the pumpkins to the front porch, drop the tea lights inside, and light 'em up. Only then is the fullness of the artistry and the insight into these little minds realized, and oh, it's so magical.

Even if I do have to write about it chicken-pecking with my left hand while my right wrist recovers from carving duty... until next year!

Friday, October 25, 2013

This Moment

Playing along with Amanda today... in her words: 

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


A portrait of my kids every week for 52 weeks.

Audrey at the zoo on the brass kangaroo that stays polished by kids like her.
Henry contemplating the vehicles we pass while out and about.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Right Now

Right now, we're sweeping up confetti, cupcake crumbs, and sand from all the floors, we're finding frosting hand prints on window panes, walls, and furniture, we're doing loads and loads of laundry, and we're finding sparkly stickers everywhere.

Right now, we're coming down from a three-day marathon of celebrating our girl's fifth birthday.

It was our first birthday party at the house with other kids, and we had fun. It will be a tradition to be repeated, and it wasn't a bad first time for the grownups, either.

And now, back to the real world, and the fun prepping that comes with the week before Halloween!

Happy Monday!

Friday, October 18, 2013

This Moment

Playing along with Amanda today... in her words: 

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Five Years

Five years ago today, after 9 hours (through the night) of active labor (with no meds), the most perfect, squishy lump was placed in my arms. In that moment I felt the weight of the world pressing in on the walls all around me, bearing down on my shoulders. At the same time it was like a veil was lifted from my eyes, and I could see that world... like I could see through it, really. It was like, in one moment, I was given the terrible responsibility to protect a helpless, innocent, brand-new being that was- only hours before- intangible and unknown to me, and then given the strength, resiliency, compassion, and will to do it.

All at once.

Happy birthday to her.

Happy birthday to me.

I didn't know it then, but until that moment, I was only a half-person, walking through my days feeling fulfilled and accomplished only because I didn't know any better.

It was like before my daughter was born I was happy in my kiddie pool in my fenced-in backyard, and with my daughter I was given the beach and the ocean.

Happy birthday, Audrey Grace. You have been my mirror, my teacher, my comedic relief, and my constant companion, and it's only been five years. I can't imagine what else is in store in the coming years... but I am so glad I get to find out. You are amazing.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


A portrait of my kids every week for 52 weeks.

Audrey in the morning breeze, making castles out of sand.
Henry on his Radio Flyer tricycle.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Right Now

Right now, I'm...

...listening to the wind chime and the rain falling, sipping hot coffee out of a chipped mug, and making our menu plan for the week.
...wondering why my coffee pot keeps overflowing in the last five minutes of it's brewing process.
...smiling every time I open Henry's top dresser drawer and catch sight of the cutest, smallest cotton briefs ever... then sighing as it's almost time for him to start using them, and after that I'll have no more babies in diapers ever again...
...sneaking over to Aunt Peaches here and there to read a bit and laugh... she seems to write what I'm thinking, only wittier.
...learning about medicinal plants, and adding them to the garden plans for the coming spring.
...buckling down and cranking out the last of the to-do's for Little A's birthday party this coming weekend, and feeling a bit less anxiety about it now that I have a functional sink once again (read: new faucet!).
...still in denial that my girl is about to turn five years old. Five years old!
...attempting to narrow down and focus my kiddos' costume choices for this year's Halloween... Audrey has declared she wants to be a cow- no wait, a kitty- no wait, a horse- no wait, a cowboy- no wait, a train... you get the idea. Henry, on the other hand, will be a cowboy.
...loving a weekend that, upon reviewing it's photos, was apparently spent almost entirely outside.

Today, tomorrow, and all the spare moments after that will be spent in a whirlwind of Dora the Explorer party preparations, and this girl of ours couldn't be more excited. She'll be five on Thursday, and we'll be celebrating her practically all week long.

As Dora would say: 'C'mon, vamanos, everybody let's go... c'mon let's get to it, I know that we can do it!'

And so we shall. Happy Monday.

Friday, October 11, 2013

This Moment

Playing along with Amanda today... in her words: 

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Something Simple

I have been reading Chop Wood Carry Water: A Guide to Finding Spiritual Fulfillment in Everyday Life by Rick Fields, respectively. I came across it at a thrift store, and it seemed like more than coincidence, so I bought it (for fifty cents). 

In the first chapter, Abraham Maslow is sighted in an explanation of 'peak experiences,' wherein people experience "...pure, positive happiness when all doubts, all fears, all inhibitions, all tensions, all weaknesses, were left behind." He says people experiencing this were "far more common than [he] had ever expected... as a matter of fact, [he] suspect[s] they occur in practically everybody although without being recognized or accepted for what they are."

I read the first chapter yesterday, then I went outside to play with my kids.

It's funny how something simple can point out to you something so big, make something so obvious, that before was so taken for granted... have you ever noticed that?

"Each morning when I open my eyes I say to myself:
I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today.
I can choose which it shall be.
Yesterday is dead.
Tomorrow hasn't arrived yet.
I have just one day, today, and I am going to be happy in it."
~Groucho Marx

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


A portrait of my kids every week for 52 weeks.

Audrey walking the invitations to her fifth birthday party out to the mailbox,
and chatting with excitement about the party details.
Henry back with the neighbors' horses, where he could stay for hours if allowed.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Right Now

Right now, I'm loving...

...rediscovering something magical from my childhood...

...and introducing it into hers.

...puddle jumping on a gray and chilly evening...

...and the rainy day that produce said puddles.
...waking up to the bright sun and crisp air that followed that rainy day.
Right now I'm loving everything fall, from the wet chill of the weekend's cold front and the apple cider we had with it, to the crisp morning we woke up to and the toast with apple jelly we had in the sunshine.  We have our windows open, we have our socks on (at least until mid-morning), and we are having our fill of soups, apples, an cinnamon!

Right now we're all loving fall!

Happy Monday!

Friday, October 4, 2013

This Moment

Playing along with Amanda today... in her words: 

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

What to do with Prickly Pears

My parents have a gigantic prickly pear cactus (aka paddle cactus, where nopales come from) growing in/on their "compost pile."

Seriously, it's huge.

This year, it's also covered in prickly pears... and my mom doesn't want to deal with them this time around.

Lucky me!

So I grabbed me some. Well, as many as I could before the skies opened up and poured down rain, halting my foragers' harvest.

I got enough for a little something, though, and if you have access to these "desert pears," too, you might be wondering just what to do with 'em. Here's what I'd do:

First, I'd harvest the fruit with as little contact between me and the pears as possible.
Seriously, these little buggers may not look spiny, but they have clusters of super-fine,
flesh-colored hairs that are nightmarish. Use tongs. Use heavy-duty gloves. Use caution.

The next step is getting rid of the hairy prickles. I've heard of people burning them off, scraping
them off with the back of a knife, scrubbing them off with a bottle brush or brillo pad, and worse.
The best way I've found is to just rub them off with a firm, rubber-glove protected grip under
running water.

Now that they've been de-prickled, what to do with them? You should know what parts you actually want first. Don't
be tempted to pop a whole one in your mouth, or bite in to one to taste it. The skin is like papery leather, the seeds
are inedibly rock hard, and the edible flesh is both spongy and slimy at the same time... so ya know. They have a green,
grassy quality with berry notes and a bright tartness. If you do want to eat them fresh, I would suggest dressing them
with some kind of sweetness (like a sprinkling of sugar, a drizzle of honey, and maybe a squeeze of lime juice), but you
have to peel them and scoop out the seeds first, and that's a lot of trouble, my friends.

What I now do when I have a cleaned batch of these pears is cut them in half, toss them in a pot with about 1/2 cup
of water, cover them, and cook them over medium-low heat until they're mushy and have given up their juices.
Juice is the ticket, in my opinion. The most yield for the least amount of effort.

Once your prickly pears have lost most of their bright color and are very mushy, dump
the entire contents of the pot into a colander or fine mesh sieve lined with at least 2 layers
of cheese cloth, placed over a bowl of some kind to catch all their juice.

Allow the pears to drain for 5-8 hours or over night with a weight of some kind placed
over the top (I put a dessert plate on top of the cheese cloth-wrapped pears and then
placed a large jar of lentils on top), or you can squeeze and twist the cheese cloth
until you get every last drop of juice out of them... but beware: this juice stains. It stains
clothes, it stains fingernails, it stains kitchen towels and washcloths. You have been warned.

Once you have yourself a few cups of prickly pear juice, the possibilities are nearly endless! You can make jelly (though I've had particular difficulty getting prickly pear jelly to gel... though I've used a failed jelly as a sorbet in my ice cream maker and it was amazing, once I got over how much sugar was in it). You can make prickly pear lemonade or prickly pear mimosas. How about a prickly pear granita? I was only able to collect about 2 cups of juice from the pears I brought home this time around, but it'll make for a fun cocktail hour this weekend.

In the past, I have found success making prickly pear marmalade, as the pectin in oranges helps set the prickly pear part of the concoction. I would have loved it if I'd cut the oranges thin enough (think paper thin!). I've also tossed raw prickly pears (peeled, seeded) into salads along with other things for their tartness, and it wasn't bad, but it's true about the texture- spongy and slimy. However, prickly pears and strawberries go brilliantly together, and if you mix them 50/50 with strawberries, you can make an amazing crumble or pie, but again it's labor intensive as you have to peel and seed each one.

SO for me juice it is, and juice it will probably be in the foreseeable future if I go back for round two with my parents' plant, that is if the weather holds.

Does anyone know if prickly pear juice pairs well with tequila...?