Monday, March 31, 2008

Sunday, March 30, 2008

"G" is for "green"

It makes me feel much more on top of my game to be able to post my contributions to the letter 'g' at ABC-Along 2008 right on schedule.

I'm going to ask a favor, and I'll only ask once, and I don't expect anything other than that you'll consider it if it's possible: Dean, for the second year in a row, is walking to raise money for Dog Orphans, a local no-kill shelter. If you'd like to make a tax-deductible contribution of any size (honestly, $5 would be appreciated), please comment and make sure your email is indicated so I can give you our mailing address. Dean found out about this shelter and their fund raising walk last year, and took it on all by himself. Raised the money, got a bunch of other kids at his school interested as well, and did the walk (I walked with him -- it's just a mile but the point is raising awareness and $). His efforts (because he recruited other kids) brought in over $1,000 for the shelter. His personal goal this year is to raise $150, and he's delighted to have his own dog to walk with him this time. Although I expect him to handle his own requests for sponsors, I thought I'd make the one request here just in case anyone can help out.

Meanwhile, I'm just waiting for Joann's to open so I can go buy white flannel and white faux fur to make Dean's polar bear costume for the school play that he needs by Friday and that I just found out about on Thursday....

Friday, March 28, 2008


I am utterly grateful for your kind comments and support from yesterday's post. The biggest thing really is not feeling alone in it. I need a big idea, something to work toward.

You noticed, didn't you, that I finally got around to making a real banner to replace the generic, industrial one? For the longest time I thought there was some secret to putting up a custom banner that I didn't know, but I finally took a good look at the template and realized that it only takes uploading an image. I then froze in the "what would be good enough?" stage for months, really; I kept putting off the creation of the perfect thing to express myself, my blog, my hopes and fears and dreams and all that stuff. Crazy. So yesterday I took a picture of my collection on the windowsill of my office at school and decided this was it. Knowing that I can change it at any time and that putting a banner up doesn't mean marrying it shook me out of my procrastination. Sheesh.

I keep meaning to mention a terrific card game Dean got from the Easter Bunny -- Fluxx is addictive (but it does require all players to be independent readers). We also hit on a couple Netflix charmers:
Akeela and the Bee (some regrettably coarse language, but still great for the over 9 set)
Johnny English (I know, I know, but I honestly did laugh out loud)

Now I need to try and go do something. Wish me luck.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

I get up, I get down*

I discovered a blog that is apparently, in its entirety, a photo of what the blogger has for breakfast pretty much every day. The photos are striking, and she has what appears to be a very strong following. (45 comments on her post inviting others to share their breakfasts. 45.) I'm not saying that I think an all-breakfast blog is a bad thing. To be honest, she inspired me to jot some ideas for the next trip to the grocery store and to make myself some grits this morning (photo taken before the hard-boiled egg, still left over from Easter, went on top). What has me unable to stop thinking about an all-breakfast blog is how many people are checking in to see what she's having. I don't know what to make of that.
Aside from breakfasts, I'm thinking a lot this week about why my energy swings are so vast, so complete, and what I can do to gain a more even keel. I resent the roller-coaster sense of my life -- for me, energy level and mood go hand-in-hand (is that universal?). I'm either walking around thinking about how incredibly lucky I am and what a terrific life I have and working away on my various projects, or I'm brooding about what the point of it all is and how I'm going to find the will to keep going as I sit starting vacantly into space. In the middle of these extremes is the no-man's land where I've been uncharacteristically just letting things pile up. Packages that need to be sent, letters a year (!) overdue, dust accumulating like -- really -- you just wouldn't believe. My own life, for me, is about control; my sense of balance and purpose and contentment comes from feeling that I'm in control. (Incidentally, I do not need to feel control over other people, no matter what Ken may try to tell you.)

Ultimately I'm so bothered because I don't understand the source of my unbalance, of the swings. The outside variables (daily life) don't change much, if at all. Just my reactions and my energy levels change. Oddly, the little card from my project is still sitting in my car because I wasn't able to deliver it as intended. Sometimes it's a snap to put one on a driver's side door, just above the handle, on the window right between the window and rubber gasket, but sometimes the gasket is so rigid and tight that it can't be done. So when this card couldn't be slipped onto someone else's car, I stuck it in the note holder in my car. And it makes me feel better when I see it there. I really do want to be happy.
Not knowing where else to turn with my troubles, I leave you with another source of no small joy. I spent the last few birthday gift dollars that I had on some rubber stamps from this place. I seriously cut back last year on the amount of stuff I bought and have been doing pretty well this year, too. I think the deprivation makes me appreciate things more when I do indulge. I can't decide if that's good or pathetic. See?!? Mood swings.

* Down at the end, round by the corner.
Close to the edge, just by a river.
Seasons will pass you by.
I get up, I get down.
Close to the Edge / Yes

Monday, March 24, 2008

Just add chocolate

Predictably, when I cook a vegetarian meal, Ken will say, "this would be great with some chicken in it!" If it is not vegetarian, he'll almost always say, "if you added mushrooms to this, it would really be great!" Dean doesn't really comment on main dish items, but to any dessert-type recipe he recommends, "add some chocolate next time!"

And so when our friend Lisa gave us her amazing ginger cookie recipe (at Dean's request), I got everything out to bake and Dean said, "why don't you add some chocolate chips to the batter?" Now, as free-wheeling and adventurous as I am when I cook generally, I tend to be conservative when I bake by following recipes precisely. I hadn't had the pleasure of trying any of Lisa's ginger cookies because it would have been cruel to deprive Dean (who took some home with him from Lisa's house), so I had to take a leap of faith that his suggestion would work. (I'm not one to try something on a small scale and bake off just one or two test cookies -- I guess I'm lazy that way.)

Well, we now have THE family cookie, a new classic that is everyone's instant favorite. This is a soft, chewy ginger and chocolate cookie. Easy-peasy, too.

Ginger Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/4 cups flour
2 teas. ground cinnamon
2 teas. ground ginger
1/2 teas. ground cloves
2 teas. baking soda
1/2 teas. salt
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp.
1 large egg, room temp.
1/3 cup molasses
1 1/2 to 2 cups chocolate chips
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 325 f. and line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In small bowl, whisk flour with spices, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In a mixer, cream the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until blended. Scrape down bowl and add molasses. Slowly add dry ingredients and mix on low until just blended. Stir in chocolate chips.

[note: Lisa chills the dough before forming the cookies. I did not and all was well, but if it seems sticky then do go with the hour or so in the refrigerator at this point.]

Put granulated sugar in a shallow bowl. Roll dough into 1 inch balls and coat with sugar. Place on prepared baking sheet 2 inches apart and flatten each slightly with palm of hand. Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until golden brown.

Slide parchment paper off sheet and onto cooling rack. After about 5 minutes, you may slide the cookies off the paper and re-use the parchment for the next batch.

Makes about 4 dozen.

Meanwhile, Raesha blogged beautifully about her Easter and about our Easter swap, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

hippity hoppity

Without any disrespect to the religious holiday, I believe "Easter" means "spring." I believe this in the way that I believe "Christmas" means "light." Our rituals guide us along a journey of hope and renewal and, well, chocolate. And that's all right; it's a process sacred in its own right, sacred for its annual repetition. Sacred for its memories and comfort. The sun is shining here today in an unmistakably spring-like way.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Easter swap riches and local fishes

Oh joy! My Easter swap partner, Raesha, sent me a box full of Easter happiness, including this fabulous banner and...
...many pastel delights! I have to admit that this photo is a recreation of the "just opened" box that is in fact missing a number of things; Dean and I were so excited that we started right in on the chocolates, and I started decorating immediately before remembering to gather back up what I could to take a picture. That flowery fabric you see on the bottom is a vintage pillow case that's been converted into a shopping bag -- fabulous! I had to laugh at the similarity my swap partner and I had in putting our boxes together; I'm anxious for hers to arrive on her doorstep (not many days left, and I mailed it on the 10th!) and hope she likes everything as much as I've enjoyed what she sent.

In other exciting news, a friend of ours (the dad of one of Dean's school friends) has had his book published! The Naturalist's Guide to the Atlantic Seashore is the perfect guide for anyone who spends time on the beaches from Maine (that's us!) to North Carolina. The text and photos are totally accessible to a non-scientist and yet, given that the author is a professor at Wheaton College, it all stands up as solid science. Homeschoolers in this area would get a tremendous amount of use out of this book, as would vacationers or weekend day-trippers. It's exciting to see someone you know become so successful as a published writer.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

And then there's 'F'

Getting a jump on the next ABC-Along 2008 assignment, and feeling a bit better about what I came up with this time.
'F' is for 'frost,' and may I say I'm a bit jealous of those other participants who are posting flowers in bloom for their entries?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Presenting the letter 'E'

Doesn't take much explaining -- my letter 'E' in my ABC-Along 2008 project. But this next one...
'E' is for 'echinoid.' Are you buying it? "Resembling a sea urchin," says my dictionary (where I sought help when repeated walks yielded nothing 'E'-ish for me). Have I cheated? Or have I expanded my vocabulary? It's a little touch of green for you, nonetheless, in honor of St. Patrick.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The lull

Who doesn't need a pair of princess fairy mud boots? Especially here, in the land of Mud Season? Some lucky child at school owns these and I'm on a quest to record more of the little, every day things that make me smile. It's been a busy, crazy, stressful time here lately -- nothing out of the ordinary (busy at work, soccer season starting up, piano lessons and practice to oversee, the pup, the winter that won't let go, no time nor energy for much crafting, blogging, or anything other than the bare minimum of what needs to get done) but I'm trying to step back a little and gain perspective AND joy. Says a lot when you need to work for your joy.
Despite my own lack of crafting, I did get Dean started (at his request) on a Knifty Knitter loom and he's busily making clothing for his stuffed animals. These are basically jumbo versions of a Knitting Nancy (do take a look at this amazing collection) and are perfect for a child who looks at the i-cord coming out of his Knitting Nancy and has trouble imagining what he's going to DO with it. No trouble here imaging the hat or bag or cozy pullover that will perfectly fit one of your stuffed animals (whom you see at the edge, nervously waiting to see who will score the first creation).
And only because he is taking up so much of my time every day, I feel the need to post just one new picture of Mr. Biscuit. I'm not totally convinced that I wouldn't sell him if I had the chance, but he's growing on me and sometimes I even have hope that a really good dog will emerge from this raucous and demanding pup.

I was poised, just by the way, to be perfectly on time with the letter "E" entry for the ABC-Along, but I found out that I didn't really know what "estuary" meant. I only thought I did. And while the Massachusetts coastline is certainly estuary rich, I won't be near the coast any time soon and so am working to photograph "eddy," or perhaps "efflorescence." If we ever have any.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Sunday, March 9, 2008

But there already weren't enough hours in the day

I'll spare you my usual Daylight Savings rant. Just know how deeply I despise it. (OK -- my beef is that our government has the bald audacity to think it has the right to change the time twice a year and not realize how deeply that impacts people. Negatively.) Anyway. I'm lucky that I got some spam-ish piece of email marketing calling my attention to it (by way of trying to pull a sale over on me) or I wouldn't have realized it was time to "spring ahead."

There is a small amount of actual crafting going on here, and I've found almost all the fabrics I need to keep going on the quilt that Helen's pledged to nag me about (she's wonderful at remembering and at keeping one on one's toes about keeping promises). If you want to make one of these little guys yourself, the pattern is here. Now, I'm off to bed whether I am tired, or not.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Ahoy there

The 5- and 6-year-olds at our school are studying pirates. They've brainstormed their list of essential questions (are pirates real? is there such a thing as pirate treasure? did they really talk pirate-y? how did they get people to walk the gangplank without falling in the water themselves?) and are exploring pirates both real and imaginary. They've gone to see a theater production of Peter Pan, and for a few weeks now have had their self-portraits-as-pirates hanging up in the halls of the school. I was passing them every day, smiling, and only just realized that I needed to record and share a few of my particular favorites.
It gives children both incredible power and a meaningful connection to what they are studying to ask them to imagine and portray themselves through that lens.
Personally, if I had to meet a pirate face-to-face, I would most like to meet Pirate Phillip; wouldn't you?

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

I am grateful

Really can't begin to tell you how grateful I am for your positive response to Hope Revolution. Funny how sometimes it's just the timing of the right idea that makes it take off.

Stephanie commented that she'd been thinking about making notes to leave at work but was sure everyone would know it was her; I've started leaving a few at work and I am positive people will know it's me and I think that's OK although of course I will deny all knowledge.... Next time I'm at a bookstore, I want to put some right in to a whole bunch of magazines, and I've been making more notes and thinking about where to leave them out in the world.

Meanwhile, I've made another delightful discovery. As far as I can tell, a teacher presented a poem to his class and then created a template and assigned the students to write a poem in that style. [Just now I can't get that particular link to work, so I'll come back to it.] It's a "exercise in identity," and a number of bloggers (all new to me) have written their own versions. These represent some of the most amazing writing I've encountered online; they certainly tell you volumes about the person and almost always give a sense of the place she grew up. Please go take a look at these and think about creating one for yourself. Mine is in the works.

Days go by
Life's Free Treats
Blue Mountains Mary
Pea Soup
Two lime leaves

Monday, March 3, 2008

Hope revolution

I had seen a project like this mentioned over at hula seventy though I'm not sure if her project of leaving affirming little notes around was spawned by Hope Revolution or not. Here's the story:
A woman in Manhattan started the Hope Revolution web site and project, advocating that we join her in generating small, positive little notes and leaving them in places where other people -- strangers -- will find them. Stumbling across this idea again yesterday, I was ready to act.
I made my first set of notes (see below) and yesterday started leaving them places. On the table after we finished eating our Chinese lunch, in the children's section of a local bookstore. The very top photo shows a note propped up against the Heart Stones book; after taking the picture I decided to tuck the note IN the book instead, hoping that the ultimate owner would find it (and preventing a store employee from just tossing it).
There's a flickr group if you'd like to see more.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

D, deciduous

My latest contributions to the ABC-Along 2008. "D" was also for "deadline" and I squeaked just under this time. (Quick review: I am taking photographs in nature -- two for each letter of the alphabet; one that suggests the letter form itself and one of something that begins with the letter.)

So Helen tagged me and there were quite a few rules along with this one so I better go get them and present them here:

Once you are tagged, link back to the person who tagged you. (OK, so that was Helen, above!)
Post THE RULES on your blog ( this be them! )
Post 7 weird or random facts about yourself on your blog
Tag 7 people and link to them
Comment on their blog to let them know they have been tagged.

Now the challenge is whether I can think of 7 things I haven't said before. I see that I need to do a much better job of indexing my posts since I know I've done a list like this once if not twice before but I can't find those now and can't remember for sure what I've already revealed. So, pardon me if any of this is old news.

1. I am nearly incapable of choosing a single "best" or "favorite" of anything -- it requires more context for me since I love so many things for so many different reasons. I'm much better if I can be given the latitude to at least name my top 5 or 10 of something.

2. I can make balloon animals. I decided (and this is SO like me) that it was an important parenting skill to have (!?). It is also so like Dean that he's never permitted me to perform at any of his parties.

3. If I had it all to do over again, I wish I'd have known how much I love food, cooking, and writing (well, I always knew I loved writing) so that I could have pursued a food-related career. I would have liked to have been a pastry chef when I was younger (so that I could better handle the physical demands of the job) and then to have been a prolific cookbook author after having achieved acclaim in the kitchen(s).

4. I rarely, if ever, use an umbrella anymore in the rain; as long as there's no lightning, I enjoy being out (for a bit, anyway) in the rain and don't mind getting wet. On rainy days at school I am the only person (besides Dean, usually) who doesn't RUN from the car to the front door. I'm not sure how this transformation happened, since I used to always carry an umbrella with me just. in. case.

5. My dad used to say that people have, ingrained, one of two reactions when something drops/falls -- they either instantly pull back or reach out to grab/catch the thing; I'm a reach out and grab type and rarely miss, even if someone else did the dropping.

6. My parents seriously considered naming me "Montana." My mom wanted to name me "Guinevere" but didn't want me to be called "Gwen" so they settled on "Jennifer" because they were just fine with "Jenny," for short, which I hate. I wish I had been named either Montana or Guinevere. It is an interesting aside to me to note that these days, parents have (wield) full control over what their children are called -- parents who name a child "James," for example, who want him always to be called "James" simply do not allow people to say "Jim." Parents didn't used to think they could control nicknames like that.

7. I wanted to be taller. I am 5' 8", which in my younger days made me tall for a girl, but I really wanted to be 6'.

That took me longer than you might imagine. So now I tag these people, with the understanding that if they don't want to play along then that is their prerogative:


Saturday, March 1, 2008

In like a lion

Ah, the weekend. Saturday morning. How magnificent. Snowing, as it has been for most of the night. In New England March does reliably come in like a lion, but often leaves like one too. Finishing up my second cup of coffee and my toasted cheese sandwich (breakfast of champions).

As usual, Helen has got me thinking. Her 2/28 post gives her definition of a good blog and it's the helpful kind of kick in the pants I need to keep me on track. Our definitions of a good blog may vary a bit (naturally), but hers overlaps mine enough to push me in the right direction.

She's also tagged me with the 7 random/weird things about yourself deal, and Natalie tagged me -- what, a million years ago? -- for a series of 8's. I'll start with Natalie's, since she was way first and since I did start my answers way back (I'll try to finish up as I go):

8 things I am passionate about:
My husband and son
Being honorable
Being kind
Being punctual
Nature, the environment
Making things
Disney World
Belief in the power we all wield in our own lives and in the world at large

8 things to do before I die:
Tell everyone I love that I love him or her (here I mean that I think it's important to say it every time, every chance, just in case)
Make many more quilts
Learn to knit
Touch each of the Great Lakes (only have Michigan so far)
Finish more scrapbooks
See my son all grown up and happy
Figure out what my contribution is supposed to be, and make it

8 things I often say:
Hop-tooey-louie (it means hurry up)
Come and look at (the sky) (the moon) (the stars)
Can I get anybody anything?
No, you can do that yourself.
Can you put that away?
I love you

8 books I have recently read:
Julie and Julia
The Apprentice
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Life of Pi
How to Be Like Walt
The Imagineering Field Guide to Animal Kingdom
Cesar's Way
Eating Korean

8 songs I could listen to over and over again:
Grey Funnel Line
Mining for Gold
Amazing Grace
Simple Gifts
Baba O'Riley
100 Years
When You're Falling
Zippity do-da (please watch, and see it for the gentle goodness and not for racial stereotyping!)

8 things that attract me to my best friends: (but this is just conjecture!)
Once I know your birthday, I'll always send a card
I will be on time
You can count on a good meal from me
I'll always listen, and I won't give advice unless you ask
I don't take myself too seriously
I'll support you in whatever it is you want to do, even if I've told you my opinion about it (and it's different from yours)
I'll love your children if you have them, and I won't tell you that you should have them if you don't (because I don't believe that)
Odds are good that I can make you laugh from time to time

That seems like a lot for today. So I'll tackle Helen's 7 things tomorrow. Meanwhile, rather than tagging, I will say that if making a list like this intrigues you, please go for it and let me know so I can come and read yours!