Monday, November 26, 2012


There's a shift that happens right about now with me.  I seriously get into creating this warm and cozy home filled with food and other things made with our hands.  Yeah, I get a serious bug around Thanksgiving to create things that borders on crazy or at least renewed purpose!

I'm trying to keep it real with the kids.  I'm trying to keep us all focused on the true meaning of the season and not get swept away with all that other stuff.  Most mornings you'll find us all huddled around the kitchen table with paint or clay and that, to me, is exactly where I care to spend my time.

I'm still trying to define for myself what "the holidays" mean to us.  I think that when two people come together and a family is made, there's much to blend, compromise and create.  It's always a work in progress no matter how you slice it.

I love Solomon's freckles!
It wasn't until this Thanksgiving that I really embraced the responsibility wholeheartedly of creating a meal and the traditions that we want to pass on to my kids.  It's been muddy in the past but it's becoming more clear to us what defines the holidays in our family.  I'm feeling more like a grown up!

Kabocha squash I used for pie.
Our meal was very simple this year.  We made turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, brussels sprouts, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie.  Everything was delicious (so I've been told!) and the kids helped out with the preparation which is as much a part of the tradition as anything.  We gotta pass on that knowledge!

We set the table with my great grandma's wedding china, our tie dyed napkins and a beautifully embroidered table cloth that a friend gave us.  We said what we were thankful for, enjoyed our meal and went for a walk afterwards in the desert behind our house. It was as perfect really as any day could be.

My kids know that Thanksgiving means dusting off the pretty dishes and being together to make a special meal.  It can be as simple as that really.  And of course practicing gratitude which is as important as the pumpkin pie.

Our family has, weather permitting, cut down our own tree for almost 9 years now.  It's what the kids know and it's how they mark the passing of time.  That rhythm that feels comfortable to them, like breathing.  It's not always been easy (crying babies, slippery roads and cold hands).  We don't always agree on the perfect tree either but every time we get home and start decorating it, their fully invested into the process. We talk about previous years with fondness.

Creating these traditions with my family has been a very healing process for me.

Hot chai with milk and honey!

I am grateful for you all and hope that you had a successful Thanksgiving (if you celebrate it) filled with the traditions that are meaningful to you!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

before 8 and a surprise

All this before 8 am this morning.

Amelia holding her chin up as she listens to dad tell her all the corrections he would make to her essay that was due today (She takes a couple classes with a bunch of homeschooling teens twice a week).  I told her that if she's going to ask him what he thinks about her paper, she's going to see red.  After all, he writes technical papers for a living and he enjoys it very much.  Marking up drafts that is.  She looks pretty bored her but I assure you, we were cracking up at the whole thing.

And a spirited game of soccer in the kitchen.  Please tell me I'm not the only one who lets their kids play soccer in the house!?

And guess who left us a surprise today?

Yep.  Our girls started laying.  I wasn't expecting this because we got them so late in the spring.  I was so excited.  Happy Tuesday!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

working with dad

My kids and my husband have had a little project they've been working on.  I let them do it on their own while I took care of the little one because it involved carrying heavy cables and equipment and frankly, I've been tired on the weekends.  It's a nice break being home, catching up on things even if it involves a 6 year old.  But, every time they came home I would hear some great stories about encounters with wild horses or hobos and the pride in their voice that comes with working on a project with dad.

Whenever my husband does research, it will most likely involve working outside.  This particular day was the fourth reading he took on the Truckee River and the kids were worn out.  I volunteered to carry some equipment because I wanted to see the wild horses and I think he really wanted to be done with it!

We got to this railroad bridge and waited for a time when we knew the trains weren't coming through.  I admit it's pretty sketchy but we wouldn't totally be smooshed by a train.  It would just be extremely uncomfortable.  I error on the side of safety more often than not, I promise.  We waited and waited for a train to come because we knew that it would be at least 45 minutes before another train came.  We were either going to go home if a train didn't come or get over the bridge.

We all made it over safely and got to work before our light went away.

Amelia knew how to set up the geo phones that detect seismic waves.  She worked on one side while my husband set up the other side.  We were working fast, getting the equipment placed so that we could get the 10 minutes of data that he needed.  Meanwhile two trains came by.  There were two hobos sitting between the cars.  It was going to be a cold night on the train.

Solomon is letting out the cable for dad.  It was a really fun trip and of course educational.  It's just a beautiful spot.  We finished up just in time.  The sun had completely gone down by the time we got to the car!  Mission accomplished.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

apple 911

Honestly, I've been staring at these bags of apples in my kitchen for a few weeks now, procrastinating and putting them further and further down on my to-do list.  Yesterday, when we certainly had more important things to do, I looked at my sad apples and knew I had to do something with them A.S.A.P.  

The ways in which I preserve them; apple rings, frozen apple slices, apple muffins, apple sauce, apple pie bars, apples crisps, apples stuffed into my crisper bins.  We still have a 5 gallon bucket of newspaper wrapped apples in the garage that we have to bury in the ground.  Sort of a make-shift root cellar.

This apple-peeler-corer has been one of our best investments.  We've used it many times since we bought it a few years ago.  It's a bit fussy at times but once I get in the groove, these apple slices pile up quickly.

One of my favorite ways I've discovered to preserve apples is by dehydrating them.  My freezer is stuffed which means we have to start getting creative.  At least more creative than we've had to be in years past when there were barely any apples on our trees to preserve.

We bought a sheet aluminum screen and used it in our oven instead of buying a dehydrator.  I thought about it, I truly did but I'm a minimalist when it comes to kitchen gadgets.  I like to keep it simple in the kitchen.  Depending on how long I kept them in the oven, they turned out either like pliable apple rings or apple chips.  I don't soak them in lemon water.  I just slice them and dehydrate them in a 170 degree (F) oven for about 2 hours.

Something else on my mind this past week has been the devastation caused by hurricane Sandy.  The kids  and I have had our ears peeled on the radio listening to what's been going on there.  I'm sending my good thoughts to everyone who has been affected by this natural disaster.