Wednesday, December 31, 2008

They Made it to around 11:00...Happy New Year!

We have been watching Myth Busters, the Zula Patrol and Gigi. My kids couldn't make it to midnight, and frankly it will be the first time in a long time that my husband and I have.

My son cried that he had a headache, so I helped him to bed and he told me not to wake him at 12:00. Poor kid. My daughter insisted that she was OK and then fell asleep with her head in my lap not 10 minutes past when her brother gratefully was led up to bed. My kids are morning people, there's no getting around that even on New Year's Eve.

When the kids were little, we would toast Happy New Year at midnight in Iceland and then they would go to bed at around their usual time. They were perfectly happy with that arrangement. These days, they have such a great sense of pride and big-kidness that they really tried as hard as they could to make it to the big one two. Not this year...

My husband is now channel surfing and I'm writing this to you.

Any new year resolutions? Any regrets about the last year? (But, don't dwell--that doesn't do anyone any good) Any hopes for the new?

Me? I am going to revise The Compact. I will talk more about it in the coming days. There's a lot to do and just blogging about it doesn't sit that well with me lately. I think it's good to get the word out about the "issues" *I'm doing that air quote thing with my hands*. But, words aren't going to cut it. We need action!! That's where I get stuck...What am I supposed to do? What can I do? Aha! What can I do?! That's it! Eureka! I will do what I can do!! And so will you--and then we will quit kidding ourselves that it's a lot when what's needed is so much more. That's where we can all concentrate--somehow. Hmmm.

Any way--Happy New Year! Do you realize that on January 20th of this new year, Barack Obama will be sworn in as our 44th president? How amazing is that? Also, the 19th will be George Bush's last full day of "work" *I'm doing that air quote thing again with my hands* Don't take any office supplies on the way out there Georgie. Heck of a job, George. Heck of a job...

Happy New Year! See you in 2009. God, doesn't that sound ridiculous?! I still remember Match Game '75--that sounds more reasonable to me...

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Who Would Like Some Kefir Grains?

OK, people I know in real life. Who would like some kefir grains? I have them multiplying like mad and I can give you a couple of teaspoons--enough for you to start your own batches of kefir.

Then, they will multiply like mad for you. When you want to take a break from production, as I often do, you simply put them in the fridge with some milk and they will slow down and sort of go dormant--but, not completely. When you want to make more, simply take them back out, put in some fresh milk and leave on the counter overnight. Voila! The next day--kefir!

Use your kefir straight--delicious to drink with some honey and vanilla. Or, you can mix into a fruit smoothie--your kids won't know it's there. Or, you can take a couple of tablespoons and soak some oats overnight with warm water and make delicious, creamy oatmeal the next day. Or, make kefir dough to use for pizza or calzones. You can soak whole wheat flour with it and make pancakes or banana bread or any other whole wheat baked good. The soaking in kefir eliminates phytic acid in grains and seeds which blocks absorption of minerals--so, if you don't soak, you can actually be leaching out important minerals (magnesium, calcium, iron and zinc) every time you eat anything whole grain, or dervied from whole grain such as unfermented's a bummer to learn that, you know. You think you're doing something soooo healthy by eating whole grains, and then you find out that if the grains are not soaked or sprouted, they're probably not too healthy. Any way, with kefir you can correct that.

OK. Who wants 'em? You can answer me here, or e-mail me at you-know-where...

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Quote From My Daughter

My daughter still mispronounces words occasionally, and far less than she used to. She will continue to grow out of this, and I want to enjoy it for as long as I can because it is sweet, and she is so earnest and enthusiastic.

On the way home from a playdate she said to us all in the car, "I have a fab-lee-us idea!!"

For her it was fableeus, for me not so much, but I love her enthusiasm.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

My Husband Knows Things

My husband surprises me all the time. He knows things and it sneaks up on me. I don't realize he knows the things he knows. You know?

Today, as I was knitting, he asked, "Could you please go do x, y and z after you finish the row?" He knows that I always need to finish a row of knitting before I leave it, or I might get messed up.

"finish the row"--my husband knows that!

He also can expound at length on: why breastfeeding is normal and healthier for baby and mother both, why homebirth is safe and natural, how unschooling works and why, why we support a farming co-op where we get raw milk.

I think he's not listening, but he is. He hears me...mostly. *Charlie Brown's Teacher's voice here*

Saturday, December 27, 2008

New Quote of the Week from Idabel Oklahoma

Check out the new quote of the week,

Ummm...uh...duh..four brains working as one and we can't think of none. Well get back to you on this.

from the four women of Idabel Oklahoma.

Do you know why I love this quote? Because it's so honest and forthright and fearless. I love people who can 'fess up to things and try to give no matter what.

We're not looking for the most absolute profound here, real is real good and is often not easily found. These women are real.

Thanks Idabel! Thanks for contributing.

Is Everyone Recovering?

Are you all recovering from the current round of holidays, as we are? We had a white Christmas, which was lovely, and too much food (obviously...). My parents left today after much radar watching to see if it was safe for them to travel back up to Wisconsin.

The white is quickly disappearing because we no longer have the arctic blast that we had all last week and instead have 50 + degree weather. Almost all of northern Illinois is under a flash flood warning from the snow melt and the rains that are coming. Next week it will get cold again and then we'll have loads of ice to contend with.

Here's the deal with Global Warming--as the air temperature rises, it can hold more moisture, so when you do get any kind of precipitation, it tends to be more than in the good old days of my childhood. We'll continue to get record breaking rain totals and yards of snow instead of inches--my mom has already measured around 36 inches of snow at their house and that's confirmed by official tallies. That's just for December in Madison, WI. Here, in Illinois, we've had a record amount of snow for the whole of 2008.


We all had a fun time with all the visiting relatives, and we all felt extremely grateful for everything we received and have. We played Pictionary and the Father/Me team almost caught up with the Husband/Son team. Sorry for the Sister/Brother-in-law team who barely got off the blocks. The Daughter/Mom team didn't care and my daughter enjoyed doodling in between turns.

So, in spite of the obvious global warming and up-the-stream-without-a-paddleness we are all in, we experienced much joy these last few days.

Here's a great take on what Christmas can be all about from my good friend Neo-Agrarian over at Suburban Agrarian. Here's hoping that you got to experience some of this less commercial brand of Christmas this year.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Feast

We are going to have:
  • Chocolate croissants, red grape, blackberry, strawberry, blueberry salad with honey sweetened yogurt on top, fresh squeezed orange juice for breakfast.
  • Tortilla chips and roasted garlic salsa, various cheeses and crackers and a really nice pate for snacking.
  • Our choice of turkey or ham, chestnut dressing, homemade cranberry sauce, whole wheat rolls, butter, peas, beans, sweet potatoes and gravy for dinner. Cider, spiced cider, red wine or white to drink.
  • Homemade: Sweet potato pie, spiced pound cake with ginger, nutmeg, cloves, orange zest with an orange glaze--served with an orange chocolate sauce. On the side, the best Christmas cookies ever.
  • Whenever we want: my brother-in-law's homemade eggnog--with liquor and the kind without.
Hmmm. Do you think it will be enough?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy Chanukah!

Happy Chanukah everyone for whom it applies!

Myself, I have to go and get candles, because Chanukah always creeps up on me and I forget when it is--why does it change every year again? Plus, I'm always already busy getting ready for Christmas.

Inexpensive menorah I got from a Whole Foods aisle end cap. The display was tiny and pitiful and I felt like I should rescue this little menorah.

As a child of a Jewish dad (agnostic) and an Episcopalian/Unitarian mom (atheist) our winter celebrations always included a Christmas tree, stockings hung with care on the handles of the main hall closet (we didn't have a fireplace), and the lighting of the menorah. We didn't get the eight days of gifts though--kind of ripped off there. We didn't play dreidel or sing the songs. We didn't eat fried foods. We had a Christmas dinner with a turkey and chestnut dressing (absolutely delicious) and plum pudding with hard sauce in keeping with my mother's English ancestry. But, the lights were beautiful and we felt peaceful and proud lighting them.

The story of Chanukah is one of loyalty to one's own religion and fighting for what you believe in and not allowing yourself or your people to be destroyed. We will not succumb. The light for eight days when it was only supposed to last for one is a sign of God's constancy and approval. Let it shine!

We were/are secular people. So God didn't really play into it for my family. The symbolism of the menorah was that we are--and we will be. Our refusal to be destroyed by the Greek king of Syria in the second century B.C. E. is a reminder that in our own lives, we will fight for what is right and not give up. Just as Christmas is about good will and love and peace for us, and not the birth of Christ, Chanukah is about justice and right and perseverance, and not the miracle of the oil.

We have secularized these religious holidays because we are not religious people. The holidays, however, are a part of our culture and family tradition, and, that's very important to my husband and me.

As a teenager, I was home alone for some reason. No one else was there and it was Chanukah. So, I lit the menorah for myself and thought about the years of oppression against Jews across the centuries and how as a group, we have held fast to who we are, even as we became part of the larger societies where we lived. I thought about the tradition of the lights themselves and how others around the world were lighting the candles too and had every previous year for thousands of years. And then, I got bored and snuffed the candles out with a candle snuffer, because I was safety conscious and went downstairs to watch wasn't until years later that I realized the irony of snuffing out the Chanukah candles--you know, the light that lasted when it wasn't supposed to...My only excuse is that I was a goofy teenager. I think it's good that I thought to even do it in the first place.

Happy Chanukah, enjoy the lights! Also, I like Chanukah instead of Hanukkah and both are acceptable--so there.

Menorah trying to steal some of the felt advent calendar thunder...nice try menorah.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

What are You Scared of?

What are you scared of? What scares you and fills you with dread and makes your skin crawl? I can think of several things for me. I wish it was only a few, but I don't like certain things and I can't imagine ways I could possibly overcome it.

I know some people don't like to fly and so they work very hard to distract themselves on flights or they drink some wine or try to nap. They get through it somehow, mostly intact.

Some people battle with different phobias and have to trick themselves out of it. Or, they have to face the fear down and try to conquer it rather than trying to make peace with it.

Whatever works.

Some people can do anything and don't have phobias, but fear for their loved ones' safety. They worry that their kids will get hurt or ill. They worry about their older parents. They worry about the planet.

Me? I fall more into the phobia camp--I'm scared of heights. One time, I froze up for a couple of seconds at the top of an escalator. All of a sudden, I was terrified. And then, I forced myself to carefully hold the railing and carry on. I was OK by the time I got to the bottom. It was silly and irrational and came on so quickly and powerfully.

I know lots of people are not scared of heights. I do think, however, that a lot of people would be scared to make a trek on the side of a mountain on nothing but planks and with only chains to hold onto. "What in the world are you talking about, Laura?!", I hear you saying. "That is patently ridiculous!!", I hear you arguing. Yes, reader, I know it sounds ridiculous except that there is the mountainside in China and there are the pictures to prove it. Go ahead and look...if you dare. I give you Mount Hua in China:

Heifer International

We're going to give a gift of money to Heifer International this year. We've done it in the past--I think we bought a flock of chicks a few years ago. This year we can afford to be a little bit more generous because we've been living more simply ourselves for the past year. That's also what allowed me to feel so free to continuously give to the Obama campaign. I'm sure I would have given once or twice in any case, but I gave almost every month for months. In fact, every time there was a debate, I gave. When issues like Reverend Wright or Joe the Plumber came up, I gave. It felt so satisfying knowing that combined with other small donations, the progressive side was pushing back against the Bush agenda and there was a very good chance that we'd win this time--and we did!

So, I know that when lots of people give to something, even a small donation, it joins together and becomes something much more substantial.

When you give to Heifer International, you are supporting a charity that supplies livestock to poor people around the world. If a family gets a couple of goats, they now have the means of enriching their own diet with fresh milk, but additionally, they can sell any excess and improve all of their lives. It's the same with a heifer, with sheep with a water buffalo. These farm animals supply nutrition, manure for fertilizer, and wool or milk or eggs to sell. Try to imagine the difference these animals might make in the lives of poor people who have nothing or very little. If people's bellies are full and there's a chance of improvement, they could buy building materials to make a warmer house for example, it enriches the people's lives and relations with others.

Part of Heifer Internationals program is teaching the recipients animal husbandry. They will know how to best care for their animals and they will pass on additional animals--that's part of the program too. So, one family's flock of chicks grows to a bigger flock and they pass on some of those new chicks to another family. And so on, and so on, and so on. That's better than a Fabrege shampoo commercial isn't it?

This is a simple idea. And it works. Whatever animals will work best in a particular area is what will be given to the participating families. This is also nonreligious--this isn't about saving people's souls. It's about saving people's lives and dignity. They will manage their own souls.

One idea of self help is "Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps." But, what if you live where there are no boots? You can't pull a strap on a nonexistent boot. Heifer International supplies the "boots". People can help themselves with these animals. They can improve their own lives and begin to make more choices and take more control.

Go to this page to find out more about giving to Heifer International.

Self reliance and choice and care and growth and motivation all can come about when people have a chance at living a healthy life. You don't have any of that if you're hungry. You can't have much of it, if you have no way of making your own money. Heifer's animals supply all of this.

Give if you can.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

We All Excel at Something

Yesterday, my brother e-mailed all of our family to let us all know that his son, my nephew A., had scored the highest in his sophomore class on the PSAT test. He scored pretty darned well at that. We're so proud of him.

Tonight during dinner, my husband taught my son to cross one eye...he now can look directly at you with one eye, and the other one goes wandering into the center like some lost patient with inner ear problems. The eye lists into the center and there's nothing you can do about it. It creeps me out.

My son, however, can not make his eyes go out--he can not make them walleyed. I'm sure he will continue to try though.

My daughter can not do this one eye crossing trick. Instead, she can lift the right side of her upper lip and sneer kind of like Elvis. She got those genes from me--I can also do this. We often sneer at each other for fun as we go about the house. We both can also do the same thing to the bottom lip on the other side. So you can get a good smushed mouth on an angle when you do both moves at the same time.

Do you know what this all means--my nephew's superior scores, my son's one eye crossing ability and my daughter's Elvis sneer?

We all excel at something.

You remember that the next time you feel down.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Best Christmas Cookies Ever

Taste is subjective. So, when I say these are the best Christmas cookies ever, there may, of course, be some people who would think they are heinous...I can respect that. However, they would be wrong, because these are, in fact, the best Christmas cookies ever.

Chocolate Filled Snowballs. Mmmmm. Delicious. A nutty, buttery shortbread surrounds a chocolate kiss that gets softened from the baking. Oh. My. God.

Look. Look! Can you imagine how there's a chocolate kiss in there? There is and it's fantastic. Don't you think Santa would appreciate getting a plate of these?

Come closer.

Closer still.

Yeah, right there. Do you see these babies?! Finely chopped pecans are mixed into butter, flour, sugar and a little vanilla. And then you stick a chocolate kiss in there. Do you even believe that?!

If you are like my family, you will fill cello bags with about 24 cookies, tie with rafia at the top, put a tag on wishing Merry Christmas and deliver, secretly, to your friends' houses putting the cookies in the door and then running like hell to the car where your mom makes a getaway before the people can discover the cookies in the door. We did that for a few years and then I felt it was too much work. It was fun for the couple of years we did it though. My kids felt like they were Santa.

Chocolate Filled Snowballs

1/2 lb. softened butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
1 cup finely chopped pecans
1 pkg. chocolate kisses (5 oz.)

Beat butter, sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add sifted flour (although I never sift, except for do what you will), and nuts. Blend well. Chill dough for an hour. Remove foil and the little paper ripper thingies from the kisses. Shape dough around kisses (about 1 Tbsp. dough for each). Roll in hands to smooth and put on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes. You want the cookies to be set but not brown. Cool slightly and then remove to racks to cool more. Dust with confectioners sugar. Secretly give out to friends and loved ones. Double the recipe, because a single recipe won't be nearly enough.

Happy cookies and Merry L'Chaim!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Two Sticks and a String Equals X-mas Gifts

When we first started The Compact almost a year ago, I thought I might go to thrift stores and find old sweaters to unravel and then I could harvest the yarn. There are people who do this and there are even youtube videos showing you how to unravel the yarn and how to take apart the seams. Fine. If they can do it, I can do it. I thought I would find all sorts of old fishermen sweaters in perfect shape that I could buy as my supply of yarn. That didn't happen. I never found anything suitable. I have tried to not buy new, and I have gotten all sorts of things used, but that hasn't taken away the fact that I am a fiber snob. I don't want an old acrylic sweater to take apart.

So, I haven't been knitting as much as I had done previously. I didn't feel right about getting new yarn, although my husband has gotten new bike parts, new lumber, a new vacuum and just as recently as 2 weeks ago a curtain rod and curtains--Compact cheat. We really haven't been as pure as I had wanted us to be.

Any way, I already had a bit of a supply of wool yarn and I started making felted coasters. They knit up quickly, they're mindless--no they're not mindless...well, they are, but that's hardly the point. I can be mindless as I knit them because it's not a difficult pattern to follow. I can talk with my friends while our kids take classes and lessons together and eventually knit up a pile of coasters.

Here is what they look like once they're knitted and before they're felted.

The edges curl up and you can see the individual strands of yarn. They will look completely different once I throw them into the washing machine with hot water and a little bit of mild detergent. You know how at some time in your life you or your mom or your husband threw a sweater into the wash that shouldn't have been thrown into the wash and it became doll clothing? Normally you don't want that to happen, but I'm going to do just that intentionally to make the coasters felt. I'll go do that now. Wait here.

I did it and they all turned out beautifully. Let's look at them together.

Here's a green set for my Mother-in-law.


After, now that they're felted:

How about a set for my husband's brother and his wife?


And now they are felted. Let's see:

Wow! These are turning out great!! I bet I could sell them on Etsy, except that this is a blog espousing not buying new things. There's some irony there. I could sell, but not buy? I could encourage others to buy? Except, as a friend clarified for me--they're art! Art doesn't count on The Compact, at least not for us. The world needs art--it explains, defines, elucidates, enraptures, provokes and who doesn't want a nice, interesting looking coaster?! Although, I don't think coasters are what struggling people need right now. Do they? I don't know, maybe some universal health care or something like that would be good. Let me know...

Let's see the final set for my sister-in-law and her husband.


Those sure are vivid oranges, rusts and golds; coincidentally just like their kitchen. All of these coasters (except the green set) were knit with Noro Kureyon yarn. It is a hand dyed wool yarn from Japan and it is beautiful.

Let's see after now:

We don't buy it (well, sometimes...confession coming soon) and if we can make it, we do.

Note: Reader Tamsen admired these coasters and wondered about the pattern. I got the pattern from Knitting Pattern Central, which has all sorts of free patterns. The pattern I used for the coasters is here. Wow, I just wrote the word "pattern" like 50 million times...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Speaking of Christmas Cards...

This is a production from the Bush's dog, Barney, not The Onion. Really.

Enjoy, if only for the car-crash-on-the-side-of-the-road-can't-look-away effect.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Monsanto is Evil...and, I have to Address X-mas Cards

I really have to address Christmas cards, but I want to rail about the evils of Monsanto after having read this post at DailyKos...

Here's an excerpt:

Having bought up the normal seed companies, having locked farmers in the Midwest (only an example, it is true worldwide) into patent contracts that remove their right to collect seeds anymore, having set loose a biotechnology that contaminates normal seeds of farmers who do not buy into the patented seeds, having made plain it will sue if even a volunteer plant comes up, Monsanto is now working to eliminate the last man standing between humans and corporate privatized seeds - the seed cleaner.

The farmers has had three choices - to buy normal seed (now almost gone), to buy GE-seeds at huge cost (and going

or to collect their own seeds and use them the next season. If a farmer has even 10 acres, collecting and cleaning those seeds is a huge task. If he has 1000, it would be an impossible task without the seed cleaner whose equipment can separate out seed in just a few hours and whose costs are 1/3 that of buying normal seed.

Thus, the move to eliminate seed cleaners.

The seed cleaner is the man who makes sustainable agriculture possible.

So, Monsanto is picking off seed cleaners now across the Midwest, in Missouri,

in Indiana,

and now in Illinois where they are going after Steve Hixon.

Shortly after someone broke into Mr. Hixon's office and he found his account book on his truck seat where he would never have left it, and every one of his remotely located and very scattered customers had three men (described as goons with "no necks") arrive at their farm, going out onto it without permission. They appear to have serving over 200 farmers. Mr. Hixon and state police who were called in, believe a GPS tracking device may have been put on Mr. Hixon's mobile seed cleaning equipment. All of his customers being sued are being intensely pressured to settle, with men coming back again and again and with daily calls and letters. It appears they are being given a choice between being sued or settling out of court or testifying against Mr. Hixon that he encouraged them to clean GE-seeds.

Monsanto has made a fortune on these kinds of Mafia extortion settlements since no farmer has the money to stand up to them, so paying them off some huge amount even if the farmer has done nothing, saves them from legal costs they can't possibly manage and a potentially worse fate if they hire some little local lawyer to go up against not one but multiple legal teams working for Monsanto and present in court. And almost always the case is set in St. Louis where Monsanto is based).

The first words out of the judge's mouth when Moe Parr, a seed cleaner in Indiana, was sued, were "It's a honor to have a fine company like Monsanto in my courtroom."

In addition to the personal attacks on seed cleaners, Monsanto is getting laws put into place in state after state that themselves are overwhelming and destructive of seed cleaners and all those who save normal seeds.

So any commercial seed cleaning operation (and I'm sorry--but, I didn't know such a thing existed--I am so removed from truly understanding how food gets to my table...) may now be in for a hard time because of Monsanto.

Let's read on, shall we?

If Monsanto can eliminate seed cleaners, they would have accomplished a TOTAL monopoly in the Midwest, the bread basket of the world, and they would control world food, feed and now bio-fuel prices at will. They would, as well, have broken the fragile dam that seed cleaners and seed bankers now provide against the insanely-fast and just plain insane on-coming tide genetic engineering.

And Monsanto is working closely with the FDA in redefining seeds as a potential health hazard, subject to bioterrorism, and under that rubric to create rules for importation (controlling access)

Interim final rules on Prior Notice of Importation

rules for registering acceptable facilities (setting up corporate standards for the storage seeds, threatening small farmers)

Interim final rules on Registration of Food Facilities

rules for talking police control of the seeds (allowing for raids on farmers)

Final rules on Administrative Detention

and rules for a level of record keeping almost impossible for small farmers and ordinary people to achieve.

Upcoming final rule on Establishment and Maintenance of Records.

"These new rules will allow FDA to better identify potentially dangerous foods, as well as respond more quickly to new threats and to handle foodborne illness outbreaks more efficiently."

Using the Bioterrorism Act and the Food Emergency Response Network (FERN), the FDA now has a focus on seeds which includes

  1. Prevention (federal and state surveillance sampling programs to monitor the food supply)
  1. Preparedness (strengthen laboratory capacity and capabilities)
  1. Response (surge capacity to handle terrorist attacks or a national emergency involving the food supply), and
  1. Recovery (support recalls, seizures, and disposal of contaminated food or feed to restore confidence in the food supply).

For those of you painfully familiar with what is happening to real milk dairy farmers and the government use of false "contamination" reports to raid farms, steal products ad equipment and terrorize and destroy farmers, it will be important to see how "bioterrorism" has now moved control over normal food even more tightly into the hands of government/corporate agencies, giving them national reach, crushing regulations for farmers, immense policing power over food, and the use of an emergency to be able to seize and destroy anything they choose.

So, more fear based policy in order to cow (pun kinda intended) us into submission about these crazy agriculture policies that do nothing but make it even easier for Monsanto to take over the control of SEEDS!!! That's crazy!! Under the guise of protecting us from bioterrorism, they can take control.

Wait, there's more:

The FDA talks about "a safety net" for human health but it is one defined by corporations and one that is closing on our small farmers' existence.

And even the FDA's basic food safety is being "set" in a way aimed to destroy seed cleaners and (if you will notice in the short list below) organic farming itself.

FDA's guidance on good agricultural practices (GAPs) can be found in the

FDA Guide to Minimize Microbial Hazards for Fresh Fruit and Vegetables

where the key sources of contamination in seed production include:

Agricultural water sources
Use of manure as fertilizer
Harvesting, transportation, and seed-cleaning equipment
Seed storage facilities

Please note the FDA does not include Monsanto's petroleum-based fertlizers or pesticides, or GE-labs, as potential sources of contamination.

And finally there is this plea:

We need to understand that the effort to defend Steve Hixon, a seed cleaner, is an effort to defend the right of all of us and of our farmers worldwide to OPEN access to normal seeds. We must protect those who collect and clean them and we must roll back the massive corporate efforts to utterly control them - by criminalizing any aspect of owning, growing, collecting, storing and re-using of them.

Seeds are life and survival itself and our human right to access to them is being taken over. That is why people are coming together now to help defend Steve Hixon, a seed cleaner.

For those interested in joining FarmOn, a list aimed at providing funds to support the legal teams gathering to help Hixon, go to and request to sign on.

Now I have to go address Christmas cards and send out our love to family and friends alike...

"Effing Monsanto...", *grumbles while gathering up cards and address book*

Monday, December 15, 2008

That was a Great Break!

Our weekend:

I made banana bread with kefir soaked whole wheat flour. The kids love it. The recipe is from Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon and it always turns out nicely.

I soaked raw pecans in salted water overnight and then dried them in the oven at 150 degrees until they got crispy and so therefore retained their enzymes. Yum.

I made turkey patties with lots of garlic and cumin and sauteed them in butter. Delicious.

My kids performed at a nearby church: dancing, joke telling and singing with a group of other triple-threat kids. Boffo job everybody!

My son made pancakes for everyone this morning. Fabulous.

We made Christmas cards which I will mail out this week. Each of us drew part of a simple image on a blank postcard and then signed the back with our husband's idea and it was a fun project for us all. My daughter was responsible for the yellow star atop the green tree (my part), the brown trunk (my husband's), the red border and red ornaments (my son's).

My daughter started out with Dr. Seuss like stars and realized that she really liked the look of a Star of David instead. Plus, it was easier for her to make. So, in keeping with my family heritage, we are sending out Christmas cards that have a Star of David in a place of prominence. Merry L'Chaim!

We got a Christmas tree and it looks and smells so woodsy and Pagan all glittery with ornaments and lights in a corner of the living room. We all decorated it with our traditional ornaments and our new ones that we made the other day.

We played Crazy Eights.

My husband noticed and discreetly commented to me that my daughter's fancy goldfish looks particularly buoyant. It's floating at the top of the water...I don't think that's good.

To the kids, I read Calvin and Hobbes, Foxtrot and The Gift of the Magi, which moved them both very much.

To myself, I read more of The Audacity of Hope--it's a good book. Obama's a good writer.

I did a load of laundry, dried it overnight on the bar in the laundry room and then had a sorting party with the kids on my bed in my room.

It was a fun weekend. What did you do this weekend?

Any more ideas for the Quote of the Week? Who blew your mind this weekend? What did they say? What did you read? What did you do?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Taking a Break

I'm going to take a break from blogging for a couple of days. I need be with my kids and clean the house and cook and knit and do all sorts of real life non-blogging things.

I will be back sometime next week.

Have a fun weekend.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

New Quote of the Week

See reader Tamsen's quote over there to the left? It's from Julian of Norwich and reads, "But All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well." I thought that it was a calming thought. It's reassuring. It seems simple, but if you actually think about it, it is so hopeful and almost Taoist. It's as if the wheels are turning and you don't have to worry too much about it--it all will be well.

And speaking of Taoism, do you guys know the book, The Tao of Pooh? It sets out to explain Taoism through the wisdom and ways of Winnie the Pooh. And, you know what? It succeeds! It's a great book and you see how Pooh just keeps plugging along cheerfully, not too distracted by the vagaries of life. If there are honey and friends, it's all OK for Pooh. He knows the Nature of things just by being calm with life. He doesn't fight what is. He figures out how to go around with not too much effort. Taoism.

Are there thoughts or words that inspire you? Or maybe frighten you? Has anyone said something so appalling lately that you'd like to share with all of us? Did your kids say something cute?

Share here, and maybe your quote will become the quote of the week next week.

I'll leave you with something to think about for now on the importance of play (doesn't that sound like an oxymoron?):

Play is an essential function of the passage from immaturity to emotional maturity. Any individual without the opportunities for adequate play in early life will go on seeking them in the stuff of adult life.
Margaret Lowenfeld

Rod Blagojevich

With President Elect Barack Obama no longer holding the senate seat from Illinois, the good people of the Land of Lincoln need another Senator to represent us. Along with Senator Dick Durbin, hopefully, we can get someone good in there to represent the people's interests and to help further Obama's vision for our country. We need someone of integrity to move us forward towards sustainable energy, good agricultural policy, and initiatives that energize education, urban planning, small businesses--the kinds of policies that help ordinary people get healthy and have opportunities for success.

Who can help us get someone good in there? Who has been entrusted with the job of choosing a successor? Who? Who has the good sense to judge character and ability? Who will put the people's needs ahead of industry and corporations? Who will act for us rather than for their own personal gain? Who?

Wait, no really, who? It's serious, this. We're not fooling around. It's important. This isn't all some game. We need good people. These are perilous times and we need public servants who will actually fulfill the stated duty of office and their mission of purpose. Seriously.

Who? Wait, who?! No not him!! He's a crook! He can't do it! He has only been for himself from the very beginning. You've got to be kidding me.

Rod Blagojevich.

Sometimes Illinois gets things right, and sometimes it's really, really wrong.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A Sandwich for Santa (for Adult Eyes Only...)

When my kids were little, they knew that Santa was real and that he loved them and gave them wonderful things in their stockings. One time he even gave my little son a homemade man made out of yarn that I had tried to make a couple of weeks previously. My son noticed the difference in the quality between my lame attempt and the obvious superior craftsmanship of Santa's elves displayed in the red yarn man in my son's stocking. Those elves know what they're doing because they are a part of Santa's team. Mom just really couldn't compare with that--no offense to me, but magic is magic and mom is a mere mortal. Everyone knows that.

My kids also knew that Santa is not everywhere. There is only one Santa. Others may believe what they will, but this is what my kids knew.

So, when we would see a Santa ringing the bell asking for donations for the Salvation Army, my kids knew, as they dropped a few coins into the kettle, that that was only a man dressed up as Santa. He wasn't the real Santa. Santa is not walking around Very-Republican-Town, Illinois. He's up at the North Pole getting ready for Christmas Eve. He is exhausted and excited having the elves make all of the toys for the boys and girls all over the world. He is also not at Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg. We may have seen him there, but you know it's not him because you can tell that that guy is wearing a fake beard--it's so obvious. That Santa is there just so kids can get their pictures taken with him. It's just a photo op.

The Santa at Randhurst Mall, however, is real. While it's a very busy time at the North Pole, yes certainly it is, still, Santa wants to take a picture with whoever would like to actually meet him. And we know he's the real Santa because his beard is REAL. That's not fake and you can tell. This guy isn't the Woodfield wannabe, this is REALLY SANTA!! OH MY GOD!! How exciting is it to actually meet the magical man who has given joy to millions of children around the world for hundres of years?!

My kids went to Randhurst Mall and met Santa three years in a row. The third year there was some discussion, on the way home, that maybe he looked a little different than the previous two years. We had the photos to look at, and yes, maybe he looks a little different now, but maybe Santa ages in a magical way too. You never can fully figure out magic. Who are we to try and describe, define, quantify and limit the magic of Santa?

We have always left Santa cookies, milk and a note from the kids. Not only that, but we also always threw carrots up on the roof above our front door for a snack for the reindeer--they need sustenance too, we thought. My kids always excitedly looked to see Christmas morning that Santa had eaten the cookies and drank the milk--on the plate were a few crumbs and a couple of sips of milk were left in the glass. Outside, my kids could see shreds and chunks of carrot on the ground that the reindeer had dropped as they chomped up their snack. The physical evidence of the visit was overwhelming.

It was thrilling for the kids to talk to Santa. I liked to talk to him too. He was a nice man with a slightly sad, but mischievous look in his eyes. The third time we saw Santa, we chatted about various Christmasy things--Did we have a pretty Christmas tree up yet? Were we hoping for a snowy Christmas? Was Santa tired from all of the toy building? Were the reindeer ready to go? Did we always leave Santa a snack?

"Oh yes!" I said. "We always leave you cookies and milk." Santa looked at me for a moment and then said that he would prefer "A sandwich and some cocoa." Pause. Blink, blink. I looked into Santa's eyes and said, "Wouldn't you prefer what we always leave you--aren't you sure you'd rather have cookies and milk?" "Nope!" Santa said robustly with a smile. "I'd like a sandwich and cocoa!" He sat there grinning at me under his beard. I looked at him. The kids looked back and forth at him and me with their open, trusting, innocent eyes.


That Christmas we left the carrots on the roof for the reindeer. The next morning there were shreds and chunks scattered all over the ground. We were going to try to leave Santa some cookies and milk, but the kids remembered what he had said, and they knew he would prefer a sandwich and a cup of cocoa. So, I made cocoa and poured it into a cup and I made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich--just a light snack for the guy. The next morning there were sandwich crusts on the plate and a few sips of cocoa left in the mug. Santa had come!!

The next year we didn't visit Santa at Randhurst Mall--we were too busy and we somehow never managed to get ourselves over there. The kids reminded me that he wanted a sandwich and cocoa, but I said that I thought it was probably just that one time. I knew he would want the cookies and milk again and wouldn't want me to go to all the trouble of making a sandwich and making homemade cocoa. He knew I had things to do to get ready for Christmas the next day. Santa was considerate and thoughtful like that.

When the kids woke up that Christmas, the plate had cookie crumbs and the glass had a couple of sips of milk left. Santa had come and all was right with the world. He even left a thank you note for the cookies and he hadn't missed the sandwich at all...

Monday, December 8, 2008

News Flash!!

Son likes pomegranates...

Daughter LOVES sweet potatoes...

That is all. Carry on.

Quote of the Week--Tamsen's

I really liked the calming quality of reader Tamsen's quote of Julian of Norwich--so it is the quote of the week this time.

Who was Julian of Norwich? She was an English Christian mystic who spoke of God's love and stressed compassion and joy more than any idea of law and duty (according to this Wikipedia article...)

What is the Julian of Norwich quote shared by Tamsen? Here it is:

All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.

Isn't that soothing and comforting? I feel reassured by it, although I don't subscribe to almost all of Julian's beliefs. Still, wisdom comes from wherever it comes from. I can take what works and leave the rest.

Here's a song about Julian of Norwich.

Thanks for the beautiful words Tamsen.

Susie had a funny one that I want to share here too. Susie said to live your life so that when your feet hit the floor in the morning Satan says, "Oh shit...she's awake!"

There were other ideas too, but these stand out for me. Thanks for sharing you guys!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Halloween Revisited--the Horror...

I never posted these photos. Around Halloween, I was so excited about the upcoming election and frankly, the view we were greeted with that night...I shudder thinking about it. It was horrific. I've never seen anything like it in my life.

Earlier in the day, we carved pumpkins. Our tradition is that the kids sketch out what they might like, they fiddle around with their designs, and then they draw the final design on their pumpkin and my husband helps them carve them.

Here is my daughter's jack-o-lantern. Pretty scary, no? She did a good job.

The kids dig out the guts, and then the design begins to take form as my husband cuts into the pumpkins. Little did we know the menace that awaited us all...

I took my son to his play and my husband took my daughter to be with some of her friends to go trick-or-treating. We all had no idea what we would see on our front step when we got back. Thankfully, I had the presence of mind to photograph it. I still don't know what to make of it.

My son's jack-o-lantern was outside on the front step inviting trick or treaters to take candy. It seems that maybe one took some and never got away. Look for yourself.


LOOK!! What IS this?!

Who is this?! What happened?!

It ATE him!!!!

OH MY GOD!!! It ATE him!! What do we do?! Dear GOD!! Why????!!


I think you can all agree that it was quite the nightmare we came home to that night.

You know the funny thing about it all? No one was ever reported missing... No one was ever reported as gone...

I just wish I could get the image out of my mind. It's seared there, forever etched in my brain with all of its horror and gruesome reality--I WISH it had only been a nightmare...

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Flour, Salt, Water Creations

Here they are. Here are our two cookie sheets of decorations. Some may be a little spirited, but 'tis the season of good spirits and, um...feisty...OK. My son likes monsters. He's just like Calvin and is very much inspired by him. What are you going to do?

Bundle up--it's cold! Wear your mittens and hat!

Hey, Daughter. How'd you get that fur to look so good on that stocking cap you made?

A garlic press? Wow! Crazy! Let's see a close up...

Mistle toe. Let's smooch...

Or, how about a kiss. Get it?

This one's purple.

That wreath is pretty, but why is that snowman so droopy?

Oh! Why, it's the traditional Christmas Blazing Sun!

Bulb burnt out. Let's put in a yellow one.

Here's holly and a Christmas tree.

How about a bell and a candy cane?

There's another Christmas Tree on this cookie sheet, and this one even has a trunk.

And here is my husband's teeny, tiny bowling ball and pin. Because that's traditional too.

Happy creating with all of your projects whatever they may be.
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