Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween





Happy Halloween!!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween Indecision

Charlie, on what he plans to be for Halloween this year:

I'm gonna be half cowboy, half pirate with a eye patch, half Darth Vader and half cool dude. That's what I'm gonna be, Mama.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Whole Wheat and Honey Bread

(Sorry for the yellow photo - lighting problems!!)

If there is a nice stage of illness, this is it. William is feeling almost back to normal, but we are still house-bound so as not to share any lingering germs with others. We are forced, every once in a while, to slow down a it, and to enjoy our home and all of the people and things that it contains. It is a great chance to limit our focus to what is around us, and of course to do things like baking bread. I love baking bread but admit that I don't do it too often. The process does not take very much work, but the different steps and stages do take up some time. It is not the kind of thing that you can whip up in a half hour before going out for the day.

This is one of my favourite bread recipes. It is full of honey, and with a nice mix of whole wheat and white flour that the whole family likes.

Whole Wheat and Honey Bread
3 cups warm water
3 tsp active dry yeast
2/3 cups honey (divided)
5 cups bread flour (I used all-purpose today and it still turned out fine)
3 tbsp butter, melted
1 tbsp salt
approx. 4 cups whole wheat flour
2 tbsp butter, melted

In a large bowl mix warm water, yeast, and 1/3 cup honey. Add 5 cups of white flour and stir to combine. Let stand for 30 minutes or until big and bubbly. Mix in 3 tbsp melted butter, 1/3 cup honey, and salt. Stir in 2 cups of whole wheat flour. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead in an additional 2 cups of whole wheat flour (or more if you need to in order to get the right consistency). Place in a lightly greased bowl and turn the dough once so that all sides are lightly coated. Cover with a dish towel and let rise until doubled in size. Punch down the dough, divide into 3 loaves, and place each loaf into a 9 x 5 bread pan. Allow to rise until the dough has topped the pans by about 1 inch. Bake at 350 for approx. 25 minutes. Lightly brush tops with the rest of the melted butter so that they won't get too hard.

Ode to a Pot


When I was younger, I filled my kitchen with beautiful, shiny and new things - streamlined, lightweight, and non-stick. They looked beautiful...and didn't work worth a damn. But, thank goodness, with age comes wisdom. Now, one of my most prized possessions is a wooden spoon that my Nana used in her kitchen for years and years, that I received after her death in 2003. And whenever I can, I cook with cast iron pots and pans. My favourite is a deep sided iron frying pan that I picked up at a thrift store a few years back for $2. It had already been well seasoned with years of cooking, it feels substantial in my hand, and it seems to give off memories as well as aromas whenever I use it. When I use that pan, I am filled with thoughts of how many meals have been cooked up with love for families over the years. Did it have just one owner before me, or many? Who was she? Was she cooking for herself only, or for a family of many? What did she most enjoy making? Was cooking a labour, or a labour of love? This is not a pot that will end up in the trash heap. It will likely be used in my home until I die (or until I am too old and weak to lift it!) and then will be passed on to one of my children. It was created to be used, not just looked at. If it is well cared for, it will not need to be patched, repaired, or replaced. Its durability and history are what makes it beautiful in my eyes. What a lovely, lovely pot.

Fewer and fewer Americans possess objects that have a patina, old furniture, grandparents' pots and pans - the used things, warm with generations of human touch, essential to a human landscape. Instead, we have our paper phantoms, transistorized landscapes. A featherweight portable museum.

-Unknown

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sick, Sick, Sick

Well, in spite of all of the precautions, it has happened. William woke up yesterday with a fever, cough, and headache. Sigh. So we settled in for the duration. Paid a trip to the doctor as a precaution, and was told that it likely is the H1N1 virus, but that since Will is young and healthy, and his symptoms seem mild, there is nothing to do but sit and wait. I am pumping him (and all of us!) full of anything that I can think of to boost our immune systems, and to make him feel better. We are all loving snuggling up in bed together at night, so that I can keep a better eye on him while he sleeps, and I have banished my husband Jim to William's room. I figure that he, at least, has a chance of not coming into contact with too many little virus buggies. The good news is that so far the rest of us are feeling fine, and this morning William is feeling much better. Still very tired and certainly not his normal six-year-old-boy self, but much better.

Anyway, I may not be doing much blogging for the next few days. All of our usual adventures at home and abroad will be put on hold until everyone is feeling better, and with the dull and dreary weather outside there isn't even any good light to take nice pictures inside.

Hope that you and your families are keeping well wherever you are.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Waldorf Fall Fair

We went over to the Waldorf school today to enjoy their Fall Fair. Each time we go to these events, I am struck by how naturally the boys are drawn to the activities that they host. The boys were, well, being boys in the hallway before the puppet show - letting off a little too much energy and brotherly 'affection' for a small inside space. But as soon as the play started, they sat in rapt attention for the duration, eyes forward, hands and feet still, awed little half-smiles on their lips. They focused for a half hour making beautiful wooden stools, that any adult would be proud of, and sewing lovely wool pumpkins for the nature table. There is so much value in exposing kids to beautiful, natural, and high quality things and experiences. It is a refreshing change from all of the cheap. plastic, unimaginative things that pervade our culture.




Friday, October 23, 2009

Simplicity

I have been thinking lately, about how to simplify our lives. I have been feeling overwhelmed by clutter, schedules, commitments, responsibilities, choices........and distracted from the mothering that is most important. I have realized that when our home is cluttered, my patience is lacking. When I am faced with too many outside commitments, we spend our time rushing to and fro instead of enjoying where we are at. In looking for some words of wisdom, I came across the introduction to this book by Kim John Payne about simplifying our lives and thought that I would share.

Here are a few excerpts from the introduction.

In every aspect of our lives, no matter how trivial, we are confronted with a dizzying array of things (stuff ) and choices. The weighing of dozens of brands, features, claims, sizes, and prices, together with the memory scan we do for any warnings or concerns we may have heard; all of this enters into scores of daily decisions. Too much stuff and too many choices. If we’re overwhelmed as adults, imagine how our children feel! Whichever came first—too many choices or too much stuff— the end result of both is not happiness. Contrary to everything advertising tells us (but obvious to anyone who has chosen a cellular calling plan), too many choices can be overwhelming. Another form of stress. Not only can it eat away at our time, studies show that having lots of choices can erode our motivation and well- being.

If, as a society, we are embracing speed, it is partially because we are swimming in anxiety. Fed this concern and that worry, we’re running as fast as we can to avoid problems and sidestep danger. We address parenting with the same anxious gaze, rushing from this “enrichment opportunity” to that, sensing hidden germs and new hazards, all while doing our level best to provide our children with every advantage now known or soon to be invented.

To have moments of calm—creative or restful—is a form of deep sustenance for human beings of all ages. Relationships are often built in these pauses, in the incidental moments, when nothing much is going on. [ We need to discover how to ] reclaim such intervals, how to establish for your children islands of “being” in the torrent of constant doing.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Orienteering

Yesterday was another wonderful day with our boys' co-op. We were learning about orienteering using a compass, which I am ashamed to say I had no idea how to use correctly before yesterday. This co-op has become a highlight of our weeks. A great group of friends doing fun and interesting things together, and this trip was in a beautiful forest that was new to us, as well. We started the afternoon admiring this little brown snake which was as gentle as can be (very important given how little I like snakes!) After a quick lesson on how to use a compass, we set off an a scavenger hunt using the coordinates that one wonderful parent plotted in advance. When the kid all made it back from that adventure, we headed further into the woods for a few games of predator and prey, and to enjoy the rest of a beautiful fall afternoon.











Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Butterflies

This is the third year that the boys and I have raised Monarch butterflies in the summer. It still amazes me to see that transformation..to admire the beautiful flecks of gold on the chrysalis, to see how much the caterpillars eat, and then, of course, to see the butterfly emerge in its place. This year we were exceptionally lucky. During our visit to the Naturium to get the caterpillars (we looked in vain on the milkweed around our home to find any) Michael Powers, The Butterfly Man, was kind enough to also send us home with a newly laid egg. If you look on the picture below (you might need to enlarge it) you can see a tiny white spot to the upper left of the blossoms on the milkweed. That is the egg, that eventually hatched into a caterpillar that we didn't even know existed for almost a week because it was so small......

then grew and grew into this leaf-munching machine...

then spun this breath-taking chrysalis that actually looks gilded with real gold...

and then emerged as a beautiful Monarch.



We were a little worried about our friend, who decided to hatch on Thanksgiving weekend in the middle of a really cold spell. He sat out on the milkweed plant on our back deck for 2 whole days trying to warm up enough to fly away. We ended up bringing him in at night because we were so afraid he would freeze completely. But by the third day, he had taken flight, and is hopefully enjoying the sun in Mexico by now (or at least well on his way).


This is always one of the best 'science' projects for the kids. Seeing nature evolve, change and grow right in front of your eyes, recapturing the wonder of it all, and the absolute awe of what is possible in this world. I have to say that this is not something that I 'teach' to the kids...for me this is about the experience and the emotions that it brings up in us all. I know I have reached our 'learning objectives' when I see my boys race over to tell their friends.."Hey.. you gotta see this!!!"


An Irish Blessing
May the wings of the butterfly kiss the sun.And find your shoulder to light on.To bring you luck, happiness and riches.Today, tomorrow and beyond.







Monday, October 19, 2009

Patience

This morning, I am in need of patience, and I seem to have misplaced mine. We are all still recovering from being sick, we had a busy weekend, and well, Charlie is four. With my baby, the first 3 years were a breeze. He nursed beautifully, loved to be carried in a sling, slept cuddled up next to me, and said wonderful things like "Mommy, you are a flower". Now, at age 4, things are starting to shift. He is still really attached, loves to cuddle, is a sweet and caring boy, and he is also starting to see himself as a separate person - he is beginning to make a point of wanting things to be different from what others in the family want, even if it meens having somehting that he doesn't like so long as it is different. I know that this is all a part of working out more of who he is in relation to others. I get all of this, really I do. I understand how this assertiveness will serve him well as a teen and adult. I know that it is because he feels to attached, safe and loved that he is able to challenge fearlessly. I know that this is really a stage that I should be celebrating, and that I should be excited for the new-found freedom that he is exploring. But this morning, I really just want him to call me a flower and then go down for a nice long nap. In my search for some inspiration I came across this quote. I think that I will go and lock myself in the bathroom with this quote and see if I can find my patience in there.

Peaceful warriors have the patience to wait until the mud settles and the water clears. They remain unmoving until the right time, so the right action arises by itself. They do not seek fulfillment, but wait with open arms to welcome all things.-
Dan Millman

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Apples, apples and more apples

When we bought our home about 10 years ago, one of the first things that I did was to plant two apple trees (one Cortland and one Gala) in the back yard. I love apples (and apple pie, apple crisp, apple sauce, apple butter) and I love the idea of having fruit trees on our property. They are still coming into their own, but this year the Cortland tree did us proud. I am struggling to figure out how to produce usable fruit without spraying them (I have yet to enjoy a single edible apple off of the Gala tree!) but this year there are plenty of delicious, if not all that beautiful, apples to pick. Today I started the harvest in earnest, and turned the first batch into sauce. William helped with the peeling, and the house smelled wonderful all day long.



Saturday, October 17, 2009

Back to the Woods

We woke up this morning and knew that it would be absolutely sinful not to spend the day in the woods. The sun was shining, the air was cool but not cold, and since we have had a few good frosts, all of the mosquitoes are gone!!! Our good friends (and neighbours) were up for the adventure too. These pictures were taken on a section of the Bruce trail just north of Georgetown.









To Nature
by Samuel Coleridge

It may indeed be fantasy when I
Essay to draw from all created things
Deep, heartfelt, inward joy that closely clings;
And trace in leaves and flowers that round me lie
Lessons of love and earnest piety.
So let it be; and if the wide world rings
In mock of this belief, it brings
Nor fear, nor grief, nor vain perplexity.
So will I build my altar in the fields,
And the blue sky my fretted dome shall be,
And the sweet fragrance that the wild flower yields
Shall be the incense I will yield to Thee,
Thee only God! and thou shalt not despise
Even me, the priest of this poor sacrifice.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Family Sick Day

We all woke up feeling under the weather today...runny noses, sore throats, and overall yucky. I was anticipating a day filled with a lot of this...

some of this...

maybe even a little bit of this...

But lo and behold, the neighbouring kids had the day off school because of a doctors appointment, and as soon as William and Charlie heard their voices outside, our oh so quiet 'home day' went out the window. Off they ran to fill their afternoon with this...

and this.

So, by 5pm I had 2 tired, still sick, and very grumpy little boys. Lucky me. This called for some serious comfort food for dinner...

and a little bit of television before an early bed time. Hopefully everyone feels better tomorrow.
Here is the recipe for my favourite Macaroni and Cheese:
1 375g package of elbow macaroni
300g sharp cheddar cheese, grated (I used Baldersons 2yr old Cheddar - yummy! but any old cheddar would work just fine)
500ml cottage cheese
250ml sour cream
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup cubed ham
1 1/2 cup crushed Ritz crackers
1/4 cup butter, melted
Cook the macaroni noodles in slightly salted water. In a large casserole or 9 x 13 pan, combine cottage cheese, cheddar, sour cream, Parmesan, ham, salt and pepper. Add cooked and drained noodles. Melt butter in a medium sauce pan and stir in crushed crackers. Sprinkle over top of noodle mixture. Bake at 350 for 30 - 35 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
This recipe is definitely not of the 'diet' persuasion, but it is great comfort food.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Red Pepper Jelly

I got this recipe for red pepper jelly from a wonderful homeschooling / living blog. It looks like a jar full of rubies on the shelf, and tastes divine. So good, in fact, that it won first prize at the Fall Fair!! This is something that I couldn't resist sharing. It is wonderful to have a few jars on the shelf for when company drops by...very delicious, and so simple to pull together. So whip up a batch, grab yourself some crackers and cream cheese, and enjoy.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Shelter In The Woods

Another beautiful day in the woods with William and Charlie. Nothing makes them happier, or me either!! This was the second 'installment' in our boys club series (last week we made survival kits). Today we got together to play and make shelters in the woods. This group had gotten together last fall to learn about lashing and frapping (using twine to build a shelter out of fallen trees) and so many of the kids already knew what to do. They ran in to the woods, divided up into teams, and proceeded to make four different shelters: one out of a rain poncho, a traditional shelter held together with rope, a cool little cubbie hole covered in pine boughs, and the masterpiece was a shelter big enough for about 6 kids made in the underside of an upturned cedar root. They really could have gone on for hours. This is definitely something that we will miss as the winter creeps in.