Saturday, February 28, 2009

My Kids Are Thinking About Their Future

My daughter just asked me, "Mommy, what will it be like when I have a wedding?" I answered, "It will be however you and your husband want it, and Daddy and I will try and help it be that way."

My son chimed in, "I hope my wife likes Star Wars, 'cause then we can be married on a replica of the Death Star."

Yes, that would be a very sweet, intimate and romantic spot. I'm surprised more people don't arrange that for their weddings.

Here, we can see what it might look like as the wedding party and guests fly towards the venue.

NOTE: My son just saw this post and said, "No! That's Death Star number 2!! I was talking about Death Star number 1!!" Clearly, I don't know what would be gauche and tasteless for a Star Wars themed wedding. I'm sorry if I've offended anyone with my positively clueless suggestion of Death Star number 2. What was I thinking?!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Guess What We Got

After one of the kids' classes the other day, we went down the hall where there are a couple of resale shops. We bought:

  • A Folkmanis animal puppet
  • A 6 ft. stuffed snake
  • A heavily lidded purplish stuffed lizard of some sort
  • A small stuffed mallard that talks in triple quacks
  • A large stuffed mallard that doesn't talk
  • A very huggable stuffed raccoon with Velcro hands so he can tightly hold onto your hand
  • A small lamp to decorate
  • A small copper pot with lid that someone can use to make a bechamel sauce or pâte à choux
$24.08 total.

I hope there are other kids that still play with stuffed toys the way my kids do. They're missing out, if they don't. This particular group of stuffed toys came home with my son and daughter and blankets and pillows were thrown to the floor to become water and grassland and nests and there were extensive scenarios that were played out all the rest of the afternoon.

At some point, I'll get on the pâte à choux and maybe I'll make gougères or cream puffs or chocolate eclaires. Vive la $10 copper pot...

Thursday, February 26, 2009

It's All a Science Experiment...

I've given up washing my hair...


Yes, you heard me. I'm not washing my hair any more--at least not with shampoo. I've started the no shampoo method of hair washing and it's working great!

I dissolve 1 Tbsp. of baking soda in about a cup of water and massage that into my wet scalp. I rinse. Gets it squeaky clean. Next, I take an apple cider vinegar solution, 1 Tbsp. of cider vinegar in about a cup and a half of water, dip the ends of my hair into it and then pour it on top of my head and work it through my hair. My hair instantly feels silky and smooth. I rinse that off and towel dry. No vinegar smell, just a smooth feeling and a lovely shine.

What happens when you wash your hair with regular shampoo? Generally, it strips out all of the natural oils in your scalp and hair, and you have to use a conditioner to seal the hair cuticle to get it smooth again. The next day, your hair might look very oily or greasy, because your body thinks it needs to produce much more oil for your scalp as you've stripped it all away...Nice vicious cycle there, no? Talk about "wash, rinse, repeat".

There is supposed to be a period of adjustment when your body still makes more oil than it should, and so your hair can look a bit greasy at first and for a couple of weeks. But, I've not encountered that. This is working great and it's ridiculous to think I can keep my hair clean and smooth with baking soda and vinegar...or, I can have a volcano on my head if I need a little extra something to get me going in the morning.

Remember, rinse in between.

Later today, the kids and I are going to extract our DNA and look at it. We're kind of mad scientists around here, and that's how we learn.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

DoulaMomma's Art Moment Last Week

My cyber friend, DoulaMomma, recently wrote about being caught by her 4 year old son throwing out said 4 year old son's art work...Oh. My. God. Can you imagine the reaction?!

Read about it here. May I offer my deepest sympathies for everyone involved.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Winter's Last Hurrah...Maybe

We got a good couple of inches of snow a couple of days ago, so we could take the kids sledding yesterday. They love to go sledding. They get completely bundled up and don't mind the cold. I used to hate to take them sledding or any outside activity in the Winter time when they were little kids. It took an impossibly long time to get them bundled up, the layers upon layers, and then they would be too cold after a couple of minutes. I joked that it took a half hour to get them properly dressed and then we would only go outside for 5 minutes, but I don't think I was really that far from the truth.

Look how much fun they had sledding:

Too pooped to pull.

Man down.

Race ya...

The place we go sledding has a giant resevoir that fills with flood water in the Spring and Summer and makes a great sledding crater in the Winter. It is right next to a parking lot in a big park. The parking lot gets plowed and the snow gradually builds up through the winter into a giant mountain. The kids were done with the sledding and then went over to the mountain to explore.

They loved it up there. And then they saw me down below in the parking lot taking pictures of them. They started to throw snow balls at me. "OK. But, just don't hit me!", I naively yelled up to them. They thought that was hilarious. "Really, you guys. Don't hit me, because that will probably hurt...I mean it!!"

She missed.

Oops. "Sorry, Mom! Are you OK?" My son nailed me, and then we went home.
Aaah. Happy Winter memories. Good times. ( I was OK.)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

I Like All Kinds of Music

I like loud music and soft music and slow music and fast music and "ethnic" sounding music and old fashioned music and jarring, modern music. I like Rock, Classical, Jazz, Blues, Bluegrass, Klezmer, Irish, Folk. I also like music that is a little more nondescript and difficult to pin down.

I like Brian Eno's Music for Airports and I think if it was actually played at airports it could be very soothing and calming. Even though this music just sort of hangs langorously in the air like an amorphous cloud, I think this would be preferable to any kind of Muzak sounding music, which isn't really music any more. That's a perversion of music, whatever the original genre. It doesn't matter what the music once was, once it's been pushed and stretched and squeezed and beaten into a different shape, it no longer fits.

This has a nice shape. This has a nice tone. This fits.

Have a soothing Sunday.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Plans for Spring

Do you have any gardening plans for Spring? We are just starting and we really don't know what we're doing.

I have planted perennials in the past. Things like lavender and echinacea and some ubiquitous suburban hosta. I've planted tomatoes and zucchini and even a pumpkin vine that, unbeknownst to us, went shooting into the neighbors' yard where they very kindly mowed around it until we found out about it and saw that the only pumpkin was growing over there. We pulled the vine through back to our side and it grew a teeny, tiny green pumpkin that eventually blushed a little orange on one side. Poor thing. We've never really had a sizable vegetable garden.

This year, we want to grow tomatoes--lots of them. I want to make my own tomato sauce, catsup, pizza sauce, etc. I want to grow Napa cabbage to make more kimchi. Can I just say here that the kimchi I made is positively delicious? My gut flora thanks me every day. I want to grow lettuce and peas and zucchini and perhaps some broccoli.

I want to make a raised bed and enrich it with compost--as soon as we have some compost with which to enrich it. We want to make a compost pile with which to enrich our garden.

Inch by inch and row by row, gonna make this garden grow...

Friday, February 20, 2009

Help Me!!

My daughter just put me in "..personal diamond crystal jinx!" Which means only she, and she alone, can get me out by saying my name. My son can't help me. My husband can't help me. My friends can't help me...

What am I going to do?!?

She's smiling a sly smile as she sees me typing this right now. OK. Now it's a grin.

Help!! Help me!!! Let me talk!

Look how big that font is--that's a LOUD yell.

My Kids are Hippies

My kids are hippies. They are free and fun and feel comfortable in the dirt. They love nature, they have sympathy for animals. They feel protective of Mother Earth. They cry about poverty and injustice.

All of that is true. But, I must say there's a bit of a rigidity in there somewhere. They're not completely live-and-let-live, as much as we try to instill that very loving virtue in them. Frankly, they're kind of uptight about MY HAIR!

I have almost always had long hair, because I'm a bit of hippie myself. It kind of went along with the territory. If you can imagine a tall, angry, long haired teenage girl who wore embroidered gauze shirts while Reagan was in office, you pretty much have an accurate image of me in the 80's. How fun was that? I knew the Brazilian rain forest was being cut down to make room for cattle grazing so people could have their Big Macs, but my peers didn't seem to be too interested in that. Huh. Go figure...

My husband wore an army jacket and also had long hair, because he was cool like that.

When my kids were babies, I either had my hair up in a twist with hair sticks or clips, or up in a pony tail. If I had it down, it got in the way of our marathon nursing sessions. Did you know that an infant can nurse for 45 minutes, take a 10 minute break and then want to nurse again? No? Well, they can. Any way, mine did. I was of the belief that what a baby wants is what they need. They don't know about manipulation or the idea that they should be more independent. Who thinks like that any way? Shouldn't a baby be dependent and feel that constancy and trust so that they can become independent when they feel ready? Isn't that the path to independence? I thought so. If they wanted to nurse, they needed to nurse. If they wanted to be held, they needed to be held. Case closed.

My kids were used to my hair being up. My son particularly would get upset if it was down. A little bit uptight there, I think. A little bit possessive and territorial about what is after all my hair. I know he just was in love with his mommy. Mommy looks like that, that and that. But, not like that.

I don't want to have long hair. I grew it out for a couple of years to give to the Pantene Beautiful Lengths program that collects donated hair and turns it into wigs for women undergoing chemotherapy. I felt good doing that. It was easy and then I got a cute haircut. I haven't been back for a haircut since and the kids were thankful that my hair was growing back out. Lately, I've been talking about getting a haircut again.

My kids are not having it! "NO!! Don't cut your hair!" "NO--Mom, you can't cut your hair!!" they both wail. My husband gets in on it too. "I don't think you should cut your hair." But, he says that calmly, even if he's also wailing inside.

Hippies, the lot of them.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

First the Teasing, Then the Quiet

My kids have a love/hate relationship. Well, not really hate as much as frustration. They can get on each others nerves. They can tease each other mercilessly, which I think is typical while it is supremely annoying.

Last night they were going back and forth teasing each other and I was being driven insane. "Can't you guys stop?!", I wondered loudly in my head. Yes, they could stop. At some point my daughter asked me if I knew where her Daring Book for Girls was, and I suggested where I thought it might be. It was!

The kids then took her book and his, Dangerous Book for Boys, and traded pieces for the other to read. Quiet. Focused attention. Shared interest. Calm conversation about what they had read. Exchanging of ideas. Mutual respect...

If only they could skip the first part.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Right On Mayor Bernero!

Let's listen as Lansing, Michigan Mayor Virg Bernero schools a Fox News Anchor.

Damn right Mayor!

Less is More

See all of that fantastic information over to the left? See all of the links of places to go to learn more? See that? I need to get rid of almost all of that, I think. Why? Because it's too cluttered around here, that's why. I think I need to streamline here.

Have any of you gone to any of those links? Which ones? Did you find them useful? Do you think they are good resources? Did you learn something new? Did you learn something that will help you in your life?

If this was your blog, how would you make it look different? How would you declutter?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

No Time to Post Today--Again

This has happened before. Real life takes precedence over cyber/internet/youtubes/google/blogspot/facebook/ life. My real mother is here and my real father will be coming back from a lunch with friends shortly.

I'm enjoying hearing my mom read to my kids right now as I type this out. Earlier, my son wrote out a googol for my mother--a one with one hundred zeros. That's a big number.

Any way, see you cyber-people later. I have a real life to live here, you know. I know you're real too over there where you are. I don't mean to diminish your reality... But I don't interface with that--I just get pixels from you people, so it's not really real to me. Really.

So, no time to post.

Monday, February 16, 2009

You're Going to Make What?!, or Why There are Two Parents...

I heard my son and husband talking very animatedly in the kitchen the other day. "Yeah!! mumble, mumble...OK! Yeah, that would be great!! mumble, mumble." I didn't catch it all, but they sounded very happy.

Later, I asked my son what they were talking about. Somehow I thought geometry was involved. I thought I had heard my husband saying something about angles.

"Dad and I were talking about how we're going to build a big trebuchet." "How big?", I asked nervously. "Oh, about 8 feet--it's going to be great!!", my son told me very enthusiastically. Huh. 8 feet. That sounds powerful.

I won't build 8 foot trebuchets. Not only that, but when my kids were babies, I didn't toss them above my head and catch them. No, I cradled them gently in my arms and sang them lullabies. And, I didn't wrestle them in the bed--at least not as long as my husband was around. I nursed them back to sleep laying next to me. Also, I have not introduced my little children to power drills or power sanders as my husband has. Instead, I've given them homemade play dough scented with lavender oil, and several different types of crayons.

My husband and I have different approaches around here--and both are necessary for our kids. Thank God for a crazy father who will toss the kids, wrestle, help them help him build stuff, and this summer, build a giant trebuchet.

Does our park allow 8 foot trebuchets? It won't let the neighborhood dogs take a walk...

Sunday, February 15, 2009

We Like to Surprise Our Kids

We like to surprise our kids. Sometimes I get something from Goodwill or from somewhere and I just casually put it on the couch in the living room after the kids have gone to bed. The next day, at some point, the kids discover it and get excited about it (usually, although not always), and we do it together or read it. Extra origami paper has ended up there. New plastic animals. Books. Strewing works well around here.

We also like to surprise our kids with activities. Before our homeschooling group formed, and we were just in a small playgroup with other homeschoolers, I had what I called--ready for some great alliteration here?--Field Trip Fridays!! I would take the kids to a new place every week. Sometimes it was to local libraries or nature preserves, and sometimes it meant drives further afield into Chicago to museums or to Dave's Rock Shop in Evanston. The kids loved not knowing. It added to the thrill of it all. They loved guessing where we might be going--and it didn't matter where we ended up. It was all wonderful.

Today we're going to go to a movie! The kids don't know it. Ha ha ha ha! I still love to surprise them and they still love to be surprised. It's playful and the kids don't get dissappointed if something falls through and we can't get to somewhere we were planning on going. If we tell them and then it falls through, they are really crushed. These are enthusiastic, feeling kids I have here. The ups are way up and the downs are way down. They emote too. They don't just keep it all to themselves and simmer. No. They let it out. No one will ever have to figure out their mood--it is written in their faces and bodies and language and tone of voice and demeanor--crystal clear.

I think they will love the movie. Shhhh! Don't tell...

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day everyone! I hope you are either with the people you love today, or you're doing something you love today. Either way, it's still all about love...

The homeschooling Valentine's Day party was a huge success. The kids delivered valentines to each other's decorated bags.

Let's look in the bag, and see what's there.

Let's look closer...

These kids love each other and it shows. Sometimes you can measure love in glitter alone--look at how sparkly that all is! Look at the pencils, the hearts, the handwritten notes. The kids played games together and ate treats and went home happy.

I hope you find happiness today too.

I love you husband, and kids. Happy Valentine's Day to you! God only knows what I'd be without you...

Friday, February 13, 2009

An Explosion of Paper on My Table

I bought the kids new construction paper the other day so that they could make valentines for their friends in their homeschooling group. They've done this every year and each year the number of kids grows a little bit. So, I have the kids start on their valentines a few days in advance because they will get soooo tired doing it. Everyone should have problems such as these.

If you saw my kitchen table now, you would see red and purple and blue and white and pink scraps all jumbled together and spilling over the edge onto the floor. Pretty, but messy.

I have to do my part and make cookies which we'll bring to the party later today. The kids will all decorate bags to put on the gym floor to deliver each other their valentines. Everyone will eat too much sugary, baked treats and candy. My kids will bring their valentines home and add them to the others from previous years which they will look at for a few minutes. I will find little bits of paper on the floor hiding underneath the table legs or behind the cabinet somewhere weeks from now...

Homeschooling is fun.

What was that question about socialization again?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

You Must Have Patience, Grasshopper

Over a year ago, I posted about getting useless junk mail. I used to get tons of it every day and then I started removing myself from the catalogs' mailing lists. My friend Unnamed had told me about the site Catalog Choice where you can enter in your request to be removed from the mailing lists and then you won't receive those catalogs any more.

Slowly, bit by bit, I received fewer and fewer catalogs every day. It is a mere trickle now. However, the other day I got a notice from Lands End saying they were just then removing me from their list. It has been a year. And, I might still receive some catalogs already in the pipeline.

They suggest that I might appreciate their e-mail newsletter instead. No, that's OK, thanks.

Everything comes to those who wait. Or, in this case, doesn't come any more.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Making of Kimchi, a Photo Essay

Well, I made the kimchi. I used the recipe I found in the great traditional foods cookbook, Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon. and had one modification in that I used 2 teaspoons of red chili paste instead of the red pepper flakes--next time I'll use the flakes. Oh, I couldn't find Napa cabbage either, so I used bok choy instead. There are all sorts of vegetables and even fruits that can be made into kimchi, so I felt OK about that substitution.

What is kimchi? A mainstay of Korean cookery, it is a fermented, intensely flavored cabbage condiment. It is made in a similar way as sauer kraut, but is full of ginger and garlic and has a tangy, spicy taste. Because it's fermented, it is full of probiotics and helps with digestion. Why am I making it? Because I don't want to spend around $8 a jar for the very good kind of kimchi that I've gotten at Whole Foods...

Look what my husband got me for my birthday.

It's a crock! And, I mean that in only the best way possible. In this very countrified 1980's crock, I can make as much kimchi as I want.

See the pretty decal on the side?

It was this, for 5 bucks at Goodwill, or a Harsch fermenting crock for over 100 dollars...Say what?!

Beautiful, isn't it? Oh well, I can easily forgive my crock the cutesy little flowers at the top. I will defile it with stinky cabbage and that's just going to have to be OK.

Let's look at what I used to make kimchi.

Here's the whole group of ingredients: Bok choy, green cabbage, carrots, daikon radish, scallions, ginger, garlic, kosher sea salt, red chili paste.

Look how great all of these veggies look. Doesn't this all look so healthy?

To make kimchi, you have to salt the cabbage and other vegetables, which inhibits the growth of bad bacteria that would rot the vegetables. What will happen instead is lactic acid fermentation which preserves the veggies and has all sorts of healthful benefits to me, my gut and the billions of micro flora that are always having a party in my intestinal tract. (yours too, by the way...) Par-tay!!

You shred the veggies, salt them and then add the flavorings--garlic, ginger and the chili paste. Mush it, mash it and the salt will begin to draw out the juices from the vegetables.

I got tired of mashing at this point and recruited my husband--even though he thinks kimchi is completely heinous. Love is expressed in many ways, isn't it?

Here, we're pretty much done. See all of the juices that have been drawn out? The vegetables will remain submerged under all of that and will ferment in a few days time.

Here's the kimchi in the crock and...well, it looks, uh, kind of...well, perhaps not so palatable. I will admit that.


It's a good thing that kimchi is not about looking, it's about tasting. And, I tasted it on Monday and again on Tuesday and it is already delicious. Crispy, yet softened up some, juicy, gingery, garlicky, and spicy. Yum.

I've made kefir, yogurt, kombucha tea and now kimchi. My journey into whole, fermented or cultured traditional foods is expanding. I think I'm going to try to make cheese next. Ricotta is supposed to be easy. I'll let you know.

NOTE: I forgot to add this picture that shows my creative daughter's idea for what to do with discarded carrot tops. That girl has an eye.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Melt

Here you see the melt. So, that means that my husband has finally started riding his bike to work again. It has just been too cold, and while my husband usually still rides even during the winter, the arctic weather we've been having has been too much even for him.

You know what I did yesterday...I didn't buy anything new!! Still!!!

I just thought I'd throw that out there in keeping with the original purpose of this blog. We're still not buying it.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Hey, Bud...

I loved our trip to Mexico. That's very true, and maybe you can tell that from the pictures I took. I could not stop photographing everything I saw--people, plants, animals, ruins...There were lots of opportunities to capture picturesque scenes. But, we have some beautiful stuff right here in front of our faces in Very-Republican-Town, Illinois. You just have to look.

Hey, Bud...

Sunday, February 8, 2009

You Are Welcome, Joe.

During the presidential campaign, I gave to the obama candidacy. I gave and gave. Additionally, I gave to the Democratic Party, because in order to get Obama policies through the congress, we would also need Democratic Representatives and Senators.

I guess it worked...

Look how President Obama took the oath of office.

Look how Vice President Joe Biden wrote me a nice thank you note for contibuting to the Democratic Party.

See? It's personally addressed to me.

Vice President Biden signs it.

My pleasure, Joe. Any time...

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Today I Attempt to Make Kimchi

Yep, I'm going to finally try and make this. I love kimchi, but I don't like the $8 or so price per jar of the very good stuff I get from Whole Foods. That's too much for flavored, fermented cabbage, don't you think?

I couldn't find nappa cabbage, but I did find bok choy and a head of regular green cabbage. So, that's what I'll use, and considering I read that you can make kimchi out of all sorts vegetables and even fruits, I should be OK with my bok choy.

I'll add carrots, scallions, daikon radish, ginger, garlic, red chili paste and salt. Really, how can any of that go wrong? I'll let you know how it turns out.

What are you doing today?

Friday, February 6, 2009

Is it Kefir, or is it a Pet?

My son, through a long and increasingly earnest list of comprehensive questions, has discovered that kefir is a living organism. Oh my God!! That is soooo exciting. He has decided to brew his own jar. Yesterday afternoon, I gave him some of my grains and I showed him how to gently swirl it in the milk and explained that in the morning or early afternoon, the milk will have converted to kefir. Amazing!

Later in the evening I asked him if he'd like to swirl the jar. "No. You can do it. Thanks." And he went back to happily playing with his sister.


He even drank a glass of my kefir, not hidden in a fruit smoothie as usual. I was so impressed. Kefir can be quite tangy and not at all sweet, unless you sweeten it. Which we did with honey, maple syrup, and then flavored with vanilla and cinnamon. He liked it and thinks he will be able to drink kefir more often. (!!!!!!!!!) My daughter tried it and didn't like it, but didn't mind eating a grain, which will also impart good stuff to her gut.

I have Kefir Kids!

Now, how can I get them to eat liver...

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Uh oh...I've Discovered Facebook...

Well, I am now a member of Facebook. You know what that means don't you? I will never experience reality again. Never. All of my understanding of the world will come through Daily Kos and Huffington Post and and now my connection to my friends will come through their and my Facebook pages. On the other hand, I wasn't calling anyone, and no one was calling me and I have now had little chats here and there yesterday and the night before with the fun, caring people who are my friends, but when do we have time to connect? We don't.

I've slipped into the Matrix...or have I? Or was my life before the Matrix?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Orchids at Xcaret

We walked on a path through the jungle vegetation on the way to an orchid greenhouse. I was struck by the beauty along the path.

I'm sure you can grow these anywhere in the world, if you get the conditions right. You don't have to go all the way to a greenhouse at a Mexican eco-park. Still, I was overcome by these orchids' beauty while I was there.

Today, here in Very-Republican-Town, Illinois, it is hovering around zero degrees with a wind chill of negative 14. And, in the summer it will be in the 90s with 80% humidity or even higher. We'll get ours in a few months from now--but, the wait is very long.
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