Thursday, October 3, 2013

These Are The Days

...these are the days
you might feel a shaft of light make its way
across your face
and when you do 
you'll know how it was meant to be
see the signs know their meaning
it's true
you'll know how it was meant to be
hear the signs know they're speaking
to you
to you

--excerpt from a 10,000 Maniacs song

I was listening to an old mix tape in the car on my way to work and this song came on.  You know how you can hear a song many times but sometimes lyrics jump out as if they were new?  That's what happened here.  I really heard the words and thought about how they apply to my life.  Like most people, I am carried along through the day, keeping track of ALL the little things I have to get done.  Sometimes even hurrying through the bedtime routine with the kids because I just have to get back downstairs and load the dishwasher, make lunches, etc. 

No, these ARE the days to remember, to enjoy the metaphorical shaft of light across my face.  It's Fall. It's time to sloooow dowwwn and take the time.  To be present in the moment.  To sing an extra song at bedtime.  Kids are only little for a short time, so remember to look at those little hands and clear eyes and cherish the days.

That's what the signs are whispering to me and sometimes I strain to hear, but I'm trying.  Being a parent is hard and lovely.  My kids are good kids but we have our struggles.  Caroline is having some temper issues and it's tough.  These days I have to focus on showing her what I want to see mirrored back.  It's work and not easy. I'm a yeller sometimes, but I'm seeing that it's not helpful and poor modeling.  When I'm frustrated with her behavior I need to be able to not engage and let her calm down.  I need to remember that she is little and needs my help.  I know how it was meant to be, and it's my job to teach her. 

And to remember to hug these days close, stand in the light, and listen.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Mischief Managed!

On July 15, Caroline's 9th birthday, we celebrated with a Harry Potter Party!  It was a right jolly good time, indeed! Here's the invitation:

And here's the party:

chocolate frogs!  

party favors

No, it's not THAT kind of spin the bottle!
Here we are at the wand choosing ceremony.  The wand chooses the wizard, not the other way around, so we used Ollivander's Magical Wand Divining Bottle to match wand to wizard.  The wands were roots from my holly tree which were unearthed when we shored up the chicken coop (from rats!) by digging around the perimeter; they were knobby and perfect!  I held up each wand and told the group where it came from and what was in its core, i.e., 'This wand is from the Whomping Willow tree and has a unicorn tail hair in its core.' Then Caroline spun the bottle and the wand went to whomever it pointed.  

 The next step was for the wizards and witches to glitter the tips of their wands!

birthday girl!

It's impossible to use too much glitter!!!!

Party snacks:  Flobberworms (gummy worms), Gillyweed (seaweed), Bowtruckles (pretzel sticks), and fruit wands (strawberries, grapes and blueberries on skewers).  The Gillyweed was especially popular.  Too bad we didn't go swimming!  (Gillyweed enables you to breathe under water!)

After they ran around casting spells with their glittery wands--the best one was a chicken coop rat banishing spell, Ratbegonigus!, it was time for Divination class.  They drank their tea and paired up to read each other's tea leaves.  In the center of the table is the crystal ball (a snow globe), the Sorcerer's Stone (an agate) and a Remberall to help me remember what comes next during the party (a wine aerator).

 They stared into their partner's cup to look for pictures and symbols.
Kelsey gazes into Lola's cup where she sees a butterfly, signifying that Lola is growing and changing. Lola sees a monkey in Kelsey's cup, signifying Kelsey's athleticism and playful spirit.  The kids really got into this!  Then Bridget dressed as Professor Trelawney and told crystal ball fortunes.

 After the fortune telling, we set off for the forbidden forest!

The Forbidden Forest is down in a ravine with a creek, just next to the park near our house.  Here the witches stand in front of a GIANT mossy rock at the edge of the creek.  Then we played Werewolf Attack.  Gino volunteered to be the werewolf, and everyone else hid.  Then he stalked them and when found and tagged, they became infected and turned into werewolves, too.  Then they hunted together until everyone was a werewolf.  This was a very fun game and we played it twice!

Then they had fun playing in the creek and especially collecting bits of clay from the creek bed.

Does Angelina see a unicorn?  Or maybe Buckbeak the hippogriff?

Peter and Gino with their clay.  We could have stayed in the Forbidden Forest all day.  Luckily, we did not run into Aragog or any of his GIANT SPIDER descendants!

Back home, it was time for Professor Sprout's (Hogwarts Herbology instructor) famous Rose Cake.

The birthday witch opens her presents!

Gino swigging his Butterbeer 

This was so fun for me to plan, as I love Harry Potter so so much and luckily, so does Caroline! Later that evening, Caroline, Bridget, Peter and I went to Ixtapa for dinner:

Happpppy Birthdayyyy, Ponchita!

Happy Birthday to you!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Morning Light Comes Tapping at the Lid

The Unextinguished

Clouds glow like coals just fresh from fire, a flare
Of western light leaps with intenser blaze
To conflagration in the upper air.
All distant shapes turn brighter to the gaze.
The fire of heaven dies; a fire unseen
Wanes to the febrile smoldering of sleep;
Deep-hidden embers, smothered by the screen
Of flesh, burn backward to a blackened heap.
But morning light comes tapping at the lid,
Breaks up the crust of cinders that remain,
And pokes the crumbled coal the ashes hid,
Until thought crackles white across the brain.

--Theodore Roethke

This is one of my favorite scenes to photograph.  It's on my way to work, looking east toward the mountains with the sun rising behind.  There is a stop sign on the country road I drive, due to a structural problem with one lane; instead of fixing it, they just reduced the road to one lane and both sides of the stretch have to stop and take turns.  There are a couple of interesting things about this, I think.  One is that if another car is on the other side, it's always a competition about who goes second.  Every time I see a car approaching from the other side I slow down, ensuring the other car reaches its stop sign first and therefore takes the lane before me.  Despite this,  the other car always waits me out and I end up going first, giving a hearty wave as I pass.  Second, I used to blow through the stop sign if no one's on the other side, but since a friendly, merciful Johnny Law reminded me that it is a STOP sign, I now stop every time, and I relish it!  It gives me time to pause and look at the beauty before me, a physical stopping and a mental stopping.  Stop hurrying, stop worrying, take a photo maybe, and just be in this exact moment.  

In other news, we got a DOG!  Oakley is an 11 month old Australian Shepherd and he is absolutely wonderful in every way.  

Thanks to this dear dog, I get to go on lots of walks.  Beautiful, long walks.  This is the best thing that has happened to me in a long time. When Oakley and I walk on the trail, we are in a rhythm, we are in the zone.  We break from the trail when we see a path leading away into the open space.  Off goes the leash and I open up my stride and just breath in the air, trying to make it a part of me:  the heavy scent of plum blossoms, swamp cabbage, moss, and water.
This is Harris Creek, taken from a foot bridge. I always stop here and contemplate the world.
Looking out, beyond the trail, dreaming of roaming the where-ever.
Always remember that love is all around.  Look for it and you will see.
Here, there is no rule that weeds can't be beautiful.
And floods either for that matter!
Take a minute and smell the flowers.
And smile. Just smile.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Hello To This New Relief

Relearning Winter

Hello Winter, hello flanneled
blanket of clouds, clouds
fueled by more clouds, hello again.

Hello afternoons,
off to the west, that silver
of sunset, rust-colored
and gone too soon.

And night (I admit to a short memory)
you climb back in with chilly fingers
and clocks, and there is no refusal:
ice cracks the water main, the garden hose
stiffens, the bladed leaves of the rhododendron
shine in the fog of a huge moon.

And rain, street lacquer,
oily puddles and spinning rubber,
mist of angels on the head of a pin,

and snow, upside-down cake of clouds,
white, freon scent, you build
even as you empty the world of texture-
hello to this new relief,
this new solitude now upon us,
upon which we feed.

--Mark Svenvold
Winter is here now; I can finally accept it.  I seem to have a bit of denial at the change of every season, well, except for Spring--I greet that eagerly.  The blur of the holidays has passed and things are more peaceful. For me, winter has alit like the snow geese in the valley.  I'm doing my best to embrace the quiet clean of the season.  The stark white of the sky.  The purity of the rain.  The other side of it involves making lots of fires in the woodstove, cacophonous times with friends and neighbors, and making soup.  Here are a few pictures from the weekend:

Caroline and Bridget with Easy Bake Oven red velvet "cupcakes" 

The Treehouse Club ate the treats at their meeting.

A fun thing I've been doing lately that gets lots of positive feedback from the younger set is to put out some appetizers when I'm making dinner, les amuses-bouches, si vous voulez. 

carrots with vinaigrette, apple slices, toothpick fun: salami, artichoke and mozzarella

carrots and green peppers with parsley pesto and celery with peanut butter
The new recipe this weekend was chili.  Unbelievably, I had never in my whole life made chili.  I found a good-sounding recipe on the intermawebs and it turned out to be delicious.  Here's the recipe, followed by a picture of it on the stove and of the happy eaters enjoying their requested chili dogs. 
All-American Chili
  • 6 ounces hot turkey Italian sausage  and 1 lb ground sirloin (I used a pound and a half of ground turkey with Italian seasoning)
  • 2 cups chopped onion (I used one onion--just fine)
  • 1 cup chopped green bell pepper (about 3/4 of a large pepper)
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound ground sirloin (see above)
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, chopped (didn't have this--used about a TBS of chopped chili in adobo instead--yum!)
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 1/4 cups Merlot or other fruity red wine--I used Syrah, I think
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes, undrained and coarsely chopped (I used chopped tomatoes--worked great)
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans kidney beans, drained (I used pinto beans, chili-spiced and regular)
  • sharp cheddar to top it off

  • Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Remove casings from sausage. Add sausage, onion, and the next 4 ingredients (onion through jalapeño) to pan; cook 8 minutes or until sausage and beef are browned, stirring to crumble. (I just browned the turkey with the onion, pepper, garlic and chili in adobo)
  • Add chili powder and the next 7 ingredients (chili powder through bay leaves), and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in wine, tomatoes, and kidney beans; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  • Uncover and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Discard the bay leaves. Sprinkle each serving with cheddar cheese.
  • Note: Like most chilis, this version tastes even better the next day.
    From Cooking Light Magazine

they loved it!

I hope you are finding celebration and new relief of Winter in your own dynamic ways!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Liquor of Indolence

Flute Notes from a Reedy Pond

Now coldness comes sifting down, layer after layer,
To our bower at the lily root.
Overhead the old umbrellas of summer
Wither like pithless hands. There is little shelter.

Hourly the eye of the sky enlarges its blank
Dominion. The stars are no nearer.
Already frog-mouth and fish-mouth drink
The liquor of indolence, and all thing sink

Into a soft caul of forgetfulness.
The fugitive colors die.
Caddis worms drowse in their silk cases,
The lamp-headed nymphs are nodding to sleep like statues.

Puppets, loosed from the strings of the puppetmaster
Wear masks of horn to bed.
This is not death, it is something safer.
The wingy myths won't tug at us anymore:

The molts are tongueless that sang from above the water
Of golgotha at the tip of a reed,
And how a god flimsy as a baby's finger
Shall unhusk himself and steer into the air.

--Sylvia Plath

Oh, to drink the liquor of indolence! I do love it just a little bit this time of year.  On the other side of the bright silver coin is industry, and that appeals, too.  Can't I have both?

Driving to work today, the sky was cobalt and a bright star (or planet?) hung low on the eastern horizon, right over the Cascades.  26 degrees.  Frosty roads, trees, fields.  Walking in from the parking lot, everything sparkled with a cold glitter.  I ran my finger over a frosted rail and it felt like sandpaper, pleasing me.  Looking out my office window now, the evergreen rhodies' leaves droop down, the buds topping each segment pointing straight up, like gold stars on Christmas trees.  And the sky now a clear aqua, frost becoming droplets of cold water wherever the sun touches. 

 I love the boreal beauty of this sky's blank dominion.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Polished Little Circles on the Sky

Malheur Before Dawn

An owl sound wandered along the road with me.

I didn’t hear it—I breathed it into my ears.

Little ones at first, the stars retired, leaving

polished little circles on the sky for awhile.

Then the sun began to shout from below the horizon.

Throngs of birds campaigned, their music a tent of sound.

From across the pond, out of the mist,

one drake made a V and said its name.

Some vast animal of air began to rouse

from the reeds and lean outward.

Frogs discovered their national anthem again.

I didn’t know a ditch could hold so much joy.

So magic a time it was that I was both brave and afraid.

Some day like this might save the world.

--William Stafford

This is one of my very favorite Stafford poems.  I thought of it when I saw the gorgeous sunrise this morning:

I love to take pictures at this spot on my commute.  There is a stop sign there because the road goes down to one lane, due to some structural problem with the other.  I used to blow through that stop sign if no one was coming the other way, but since I was scolded by a policeman, I stop!  Which, really, is a gift.  If no one's behind me, I often take a picture;  looking through the black winter trees,  over the pond,  toward the sunrise and the mountains is spectacular! 

I am learning that it's important to obey the stop signs in life, whether literal or otherwise.  Take a minute, pause, not everything has to get done NOW!  Slow down and enjoy what's in front of you. 

Someday like this might save the world.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

And All Goes Well


Sometimes things don't go, after all,
from bad to worse.  Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don't fail,
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.  

A people sometimes will step back from war;
elect an honest man; decide they care
enough, that they can't leave some stranger poor.  
Some men become what they were born for. 

Sometimes our best efforts do not go 
amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow 
that seemed hard frozen:  may it happen for you.

--Sheenagh Pugh

Happy New Year, Friends!  Such lovely sentiment in that poem.  I kept waiting for the BUT... but it never came.  Yay!  Such an apt message on the first day of the new year.  I tend to be a believer, anyway, that things tend to work out, but this poem is a good reminder, even for me.  

The fall came and went, the holidays blew by, and I am feeling just right on this January day, full of hope, full of inspiration.  The last few days have been welcome quiet for me and I have enjoyed them.  I made a whole bunch of new year's resolutions, too. One is to write more here, which ties in with another one--to make one new recipe a week, and then share it with you, along with a review of it, both by me and the children.  Doesn't that sound fun?  

Wasting no time, because that's the kind of gal I am on New Year's Day, I made the first new recipe tonight:  Black and White Chicken Chili from Cook's Country Best Lost Recipes. I love soups and want to try making lots of new ones.  I almost made chicken noodle instead, but then I remembered that I'm being more adventurous (another resolution!) and trying new recipes this year.  I am glad I did, too.  This is one tasty soup/chili/whatever.  Here is a picture of the finished product (this is not one of those blogs that shows photographs of every step; I think you can imagine what a pile of chopped onions looks like):
I topped it with cilantro and avocado, and although you can't see them, there are some tortilla chips in the bottom, for fun.  Here is the recipe, with my notes:

Black and White Chicken Chili
serves 4-6 

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper
2 TBS olive oil
1 onion, minced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
4 (or more) cups chicken broth
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups frozen corn, thawed
1 (8 oz.) can chopped green chiles, drained
garnish with cilantro, tortilla chips, avocado and sour cream, if you like!

Here's how the cookbook says to make it:
1.  Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.  Heat 1 TBS of the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high until just smoking. Cook the chicken until golden brown on both sides, about 5 minutes, flipping halfway through.  Transfer chicken to a plate.
2.  Heath the remaining 1 TBS oil in the pot over medium heat until shimmering.  Add the onion and 1/2 tsp salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes.  Stir in the garlic, cumin, oregano, and 1/2 tsp pepper and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the broth, scraping up any brown bits.  
3.  Return the chicken, along with any accumulated juices, to the pot.  Bring to a simmer and cook until the thickest part of the breasts registers 160-165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 10-15 minutes.  
4.  Transfer chicken to plate.  When the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred the meat into bite-sized pieces and return it to the chili; add the beans, corn, and chiles.  Return to a simmer, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 15 minutes.  
5.  Off the heat, stir in cilantro and season with salt and pepper to taste.  

Here's how I made it--serves more like 8-10 (I also threw in 3 chopped carrots and a can of pinto beans, plus another 4 cups of broth and a little more chicken).

1. Put the chicken on a foil-lined rimmed cookie sheet an drizzle with olive oil. Season with garlic & parsley seasoning, salt and a little pepper.  Bake at 375 for about 22 minutes--depending on how thick the chicken is.  Then cool and shred.
2.  While the chicken is baking, heat a couple glugs of olive oil over medium heat, in a Dutch oven.  Throw in the carrots and the onion and saute for about 10 minutes, until they begin to soften up.  
3. Now add the garlic, cumin, oregano, and a little more pepper and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. 
4.  Add the broth (8 cups), beans(smash a few with your spoon to release starch and help thicken the soup), corn and chiles and bring up to a simmer, cover partially and cook, stirring occasionally until thickened, about 15-20 minutes. Throw in the shredded chicken during the last 5 minutes or so of cooking and voila!  
5.  Ladle into bowls and top with avocado, sour cream, tortilla chips, and or whatever appeals.  

The kids weren't here tonight, but we're having it for dinner tomorrow,  so I will update this after getting their feedback. I thought it was delish!
UPDATE:  Caroline said, "I love it!" and ate 2 bowls.
Jack said "YUM!" and ate 3 bowls!  
This recipe is a KEEPER!  

Happy New Year!