Friday, January 31, 2014

{this moment}

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{this moment}
A Friday SouleMama ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.
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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Inner Workings

I had a much anticipated meeting today with a few friends. As an engineer, I'm trained to learn or even design the inner workings of things. Stuff. But lately, I've become more interested in the inner workings of people, especially in relation to the environment and climate change.
This group will be exploring how to process, and help others process, the emotions that come up when we live in this world that sometimes falls just so short of our hopes for the future. Sorrow and song, grief and joy. It's hard to separate the two, even on a day like today.

Happy! Wild skating on pristine ice, well cared for by some unknown kindred spirits.
Perfect conditions for a wild ice skate, yes. Kids who choose the 'nature rink' over the more populated artificial structure in the middle of town, because 'nature makes us happier'. But also knowing that those conditions won't last, even though it is January in New England. It'll likely thaw and rain tomorrow and into the weekend, crazy cycles we're seeing. It's hard for me to ski happy anymore, even as I spend the last few hours of the day breaking in my new cross country skis by lantern light with a friend.

I'll be a lazy blogger and let you continue reading Kaat's perspective, who is so much more eloquent and well read than me. It's good to have friends when you feel like you're living on the edge.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Paper dip-dyeing: Take 2

My rainbow-obsessed middle daughter was getting on my case about having a craft session like we did last year. Sure thing, I said, and tried to make a few modification from last time, being that one is supposed to learn from prior experiences. I made the green tea and turmeric dyes much, much stronger and filtered the turmeric through a coffee filter. Sorry about the lack of pictures, iPhoto ate them. I think it heard me bitching about apple iProducts on the internet. My bad.

At the kids' suggesting, we added a blueberry dye that was a total winner. We boiled a handful of blueberries in a little water, mashed with a potato masher and then strained the juice. Plain, it's a beautiful deep violet (7th from the top in the picture). Add some baking soda and it makes a purplish gray that later dries into a beautiful green (9th down)! Who knew? Here's a picture of the full color palette and one of the set-up:

The beet juice was made like the blueberry juice and came out really thick and intense. The cabbage juice was frozen from last year and definitely a bit pale in comparison. We played with the pH-indicator properties of red cabbage juice to make three different hues.

This time, we used rice paper, which took the color beautifully but was really fragile when wet. Still looking for the perfect paper - maybe I'll shop in Germany on my next visit. For folding and more detail on the 'how to', refer to the old post and the links in it.

A bit of a gallery of our artwork:

Friday, January 17, 2014

{this moment}

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{this moment}
A Friday SouleMama ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.
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Thursday, January 16, 2014

January Jailbreak

The chickens are beyond relieved to be able to go stretch their legs in this warm spell. It's a soggy mess but it sure beats being cooped up under several feet of snow ... quite literally.

I was at the feed store yesterday, planning the arrival of my next set - thinking I'll raise six this year, after this last year's complete and utter failure. Looking at the hens, I like variety. Thinking of some new Ameraucanas, since my two are not laying well at all, and possibly Barred Rocks, which I've never raised. I'd love another Speckled Sussex, if I can get my hands on one. I am thinking of not getting any more light colored hens - they have been so much more susceptible to predator problems, probably because they're so much easier to see when it's dark. Think chicken camouflage!

Ah, spring, ever so deceptively, is in the air. Every year I fall into the same trap - I smell spring in the air, my friends and I talk seeds, I get ready for baby chicks, and then.... it takes oh so long for spring to actually get here. As a sort of antidote, I splurged on a new XC skiing outfit, equipped to handle trail blazing in the woods. We'll see how long I'll get to use that.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

On the mend!

Today I feel rather clever and pleased with myself. I'd procrastinated fixing a leak in a kid's down jacket, because frankly, I didn't really know how to best do it. After they came home insanely muddy from preschool yesterday, the jacket was washed and screaming to be mended, but how?

I ended up ironing on a tiny patch of pale blue fabric using a bit of steam-a-seam, using just the tip of my iron. Functional, in that it will keep the small rip from getting bigger, and it will keep the down from spilling out, but I was disappointed because the patch was a little obvious. But then I remembered a packet of fabric markers and just gave it a shot to match the pattern of the jacket on the patch:

Zoom out for a sense of scale:


zoom out a bit more - not too obnoxious, now!

I know, it's just a little thing, but I'm pleased to have one more trick up my sleeve to make those kids' clothes last a little longer ...

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Sourdough half-wheat baguettes

I started learning to handle sourdough just around Christmas, really, I needed yet another thing to feed and take care of like a hole in the head, but you know how that always works out. I followed a recent article in Mother Earth News. My first couple of attempts were going OK, nothing to write a blog post about, until a friend mentioned making homemade baguette. Et voila! 
Some of the challenges I have had with homemade bread is that I like to bake an oven full if I'm going to have the oven so hot for so long (as regular loaves take), and then it never gets eaten fast enough. I freeze some, but it just isn't the same. Also, while I love crusty bread, the kids are just too used to bread with a 'crust' in name only... so it's a constant struggle to get them to eat more than the middle three bites. I think that baguettes are an easy answer! They bake for only 15 minutes (unless, ahem, you sort of forget them in the oven.... I don't recommend that way to make chicken food). They are a little crusty but mostly soft and delicious inside, even with the bit of whole wheat flour I use. 

I finally got everything right today - as evidence I submit the fact that one of the three baguettes was gone before I could even download the pictures!


1 cup fed sourdough starter
1 cup whole wheat bread flour
3/4 cup tepid filtered water
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
 a pinch of sugar
1/2 tsp instant yeast 
1 cup of all purpose flour, or a little more 


I mix the ingredients more or less all at once, trying to add enough all-purpose flour to get the dough to the point where it only just forms a ball and leaves the bowl clean. Stickier is better than too dry, for the rising process. I let it knead in the mixer for 5 minutes, then let the dough rise until doubled at room temperature with a loose fitting tupper lid over the mixing bowl. (What is that business with letting dough rise in an 'oiled clean bowl'? Does anyone actually do that, and then you have to wash a whole another bowl?). When the dough is big and puffy, I punch it down, and form three equal strings that I lay into my french bread pan. It rises there again, for maybe 30 minutes while the oven preheats or something else is baking, and then I bake it at 400F, with the convection on, for 16 minutes. There, pretty quick and painless. And oh la la! Delicious!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Bee Alive!

On this very warm and sunny weekend, I was able to observe some modest signs of life in both bee hives.

Oh happy day! By no means out of the woods, I'm still glad to see that at least some of the bees made it through the ghastly cold of the recent weeks. It's very hard for this type A beekeeper to just trust and have faith, waiting for spring and then seeing what unfolds... especially as there may be another shortage of package bees... Patience! Bee patient. Inhale......exhale..... stick tight to your community when the going gets tough .... take a cleansing flight if the weather is nice. I have so much to learn from the bees.

Backyard Farming Connection

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Belated New Years Resolutions

I don't usually believe in New Year's resolutions, so this post is a bit tongue-in-cheek and not all that serious. Serious will happen in lent, when I'll try out a few changes to my lifestyle for seven weeks... for now, I'll simply declare my intention to never use a certain two words in 2014: 

#1 BUSY   

I won't touch the b-word, unless maybe in a reasonable context such as 'the phone line was busy'. Are phone lines even busy anymore? This scenario may or may not come to pass, but I will henceforth never describe my life or my state of being as 'busy' *) **). Presumably, everyone has 24 hours in every day and does stuff for most of that time. Which brings me to the other word. 


I won't say it. Except in a chemical, biological or engineering context, when you'd mostly use the singular of the word-which-must-not-be-mentioned, which would be OK, and I may potentially find myself in that situation. Why do I feel so strongly about one of the most ubiquitous mom-words out there? Because to me, it implies something interesting: Unless a child is enrolled in an ***oh dear, I almost typed it***, she isn't doing anything worthwhile or valuable. Given what those things typically cost, the connection isn't a stretch - but is a kid sitting at home with a puzzle or a good book really not doing anything? Are children who play street soccer (do kids still play street soccer? I mean, without little league coaches and all that?) several times a week less active than those who meet once a week after mom forks over a check and a signed waiver? We don't play soccer at all, but the same applies to kids' cooking lessons, craft classes, etc.  By the way, notice how 45 minutes of "activity" is typically framed by quite some time of inactivity, strapped into a car seat, going to and fro? And the siblings and moms sit in the hallway, typically entertained by small electronic gadgets ***). "Activity" is sort of a misnomer, you see. 

Anyway, I may be overanalyzing the whole matter, and I'm not usually a splitter of verbal hairs, so this is just my own personal resolution, I simply promise to never say "my kids are busy with activities" if you call to schedule a playdate. In fact, don't bother calling, just come over and try (y)our luck.

*) There is a much more eloquent and smart article written by a much more fabulous blogger than me, that inspired me to go through with this, and articulate it publicly instead of just continuing to hate the four-letter B* word in private.

**) Upon proofreading this post, I realized that I will not be able to say 'Not now, I'm busy' to anyone for a year. Hmmmm. This resolution may be more serious than I anticipated.

***) I don't want to misrepresent ours as a family that doesn't do any of that - we do. I'm just trying to be very judicious about the amount of driving and hallway-sitting involved. Instigated by my oldest, who needs ample time to hunt dragonflies and read books after her long school days, we have come up with a family rule of only allowing scheduled afternoon stuff to happen every other day, with 'do nothing days' sprinkled in between. I can only recommend this sort of balance, especially for introverted children and moms. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Bread Pudding

Suppose, hypothetically, you were totally enthusiastic about bread baking, yet a little challenged by the minor details such as baking times. Of course, this is a story that happened to my friend's cousin's neighbor, I would never over-bake this wonderful baguette - nooo! Not I! But just in case this terrible fate were to befall you, too, I've got you covered: Bread Pudding.

I took this recipe pretty much the way it was, except I did 5/8 of the amount due to the amount of bread and eggs I was working with. The result was pretty custard-y, and I might use a bit more bread next time, but the caramel sauce in the bottom is really genius. It reminds me of those glorious little cups of flan I used to eat as a kid during our summers in France. You had to pop the flan out of the plastic cup and the caramel sauce would run all over it. Same concept here, same glorious sweetness and juiciness. I will, however, now get a LOUD timer for the kitchen so that I can post more about my new found fondness of sourdough baguette. Just as soon as I stop over-baking them.

Friday, January 10, 2014

{this moment}

. . . . . . . . .

{this moment}
A Friday SouleMama ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.
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Thursday, January 9, 2014

A skate on the Wild Side

Well hello! I'm back from my holiday hiatus. In case you've missed me, I feel most honored and apologetic, in case you've never noticed, I feel relieved. Part of the reason for the hiatus is that I am really sensitive to seasonal changes in the light and as such, I get into a slump every year, just at the worst time, right before Christmas and the solstice.

Enter some decent snow, a few skiing excursions, and time off with the whole family, and I'm soo much better already. Only half an hour more light in the day, and I'm a different person altogether. In that spirit, I continue to try pretty hard to get the kids outside, if the weather allows at all. I worked on getting used XC ski gear for the whole family (check!), and started scoping out wild ice skating places earlier in the week when it was ridiculously cold. Success! We went for a test skate yesterday, and today after the oldest came home on the bus, went for the real deal. I dare say a grand time was had by all, including the 3-year-old babee, who apparently just needed a challenge. In the rink, she refused to skate on her own, but out in the wilderness, she discovered her wild side!

What a difference a day of reasonable winter weather makes! I do hope we get some more snow, but if not, I'll be happy as long as the ice stays safe....