Sunday, December 30, 2007

Too much time

Okay, I know it's my second post today--I do have too much time on my hands. It's sleeting and Rob is visiting his grandmother, so I'm stuck at home with the kids. Plus it's Sunday, and the places I'm interested in visiting are closed on Sunday...and I just went to the grocery store yesterday, so I don't need to go to these places just yet...

because "these places" are farms! That sell grass-fed beef and chickens that actually lived like God intended chickens to live--not stuffed six to a crate to lay eggs.

Let me backtrack. I just finished reading "The Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollen. Boy, if ever there were a book that made you want to live off the grid, this is it. Now, I live in a development, and thanks to the previous owners, I don't even have a back yard to speak of (although I have a lovely koi pond and a huge patio). I did take a strip of land behind the garage and grow tomatoes and peppers on it last summer, and that's about all the garden space I'm going to have for a while.

My husband grew up on a farm of sorts--as much of a farm as one can have in suburban New Jersey. They had laying hens, goats, pigs, even a cow or two. I think Rob is somewhat amused that I'm moving in this direction. It wasn't that long ago that I was saying I had no interest whatsoever in the renaissance of the Evans family farm. That baton has been passed to my sister-in-law Cori. And she actually has the property to do it.

It's cold and sleety today, so I've been on the internet way too much, but I've found a farmhouse on 1.5 acres around the corner from here! The house has been renovated in the important places (kitchen and bathrooms), and an acre and a half should be enough for a decent size garden and some laying hens. And did you know that you could just buy some laying hens for like $2 each?! Think Rob would go for it? Hmmmm? Just put this palace up for sale (in this soft cushy market!) and buy an acre and a half. Ha! We haven't used our lawn mower in two years. I realize my daydreaming about hormone and antibiotic free eggs is getting out of hand. I guess this is just aspirational for now. Although it would be nice to have some semblance of a yard so the kids could go outside and play--or pick vegetables for dinner.

Since I realize my farmstead dream (for this week anyway) is unlikely to happen, I've been looking online for places where I can buy grass-fed beef and chicken and eggs. I've found a couple of places that are about 15 miles away. Better to start small than not to start at all.

Catching my breath

It's been a crazy week or so around here. My whole family (mom, dad, brother) was under one roof for several days for the first time in years...that was interesting! Everyone was able to stay sweet, so maybe that's the Christmas miracle! The kids had a blast on Christmas day. They're slowly working their way through all their presents. I don't think anything is broken yet (yet being the operative word--it's all a matter of time). Here are a few pictures!
Mike instructs Bobby on how to strike the right pose.
The kids decorate the gingerbread house.
Caroline waits patiently to open more presents at Aunt Cori's house.
And Caitlin and Molly go for a ride on Buttercup.

I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas, and may you have a happy and healthy New Year!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Second Time Around the Tree

I've received most of the ornaments from the swap and I wanted to show them off! I'm very glad I participated, and I look forward to doing it again next year. I'm definitely gonna raise my game, though!

This was what I sent out.
Here's a little tree. All the patterns are great.
A pretty snowflake.
This is a "tuffet." It's so cute--wish I had taken a better picture.
Caitlin named this one Twinkle.

And this, of course, is Frosty!

This one is just awesome. I don't know how she made it. It's hard to tell from the picture, but it's a map of my area. My town is in the center!

This was the first one I received. So simple, and yet so nice. It looked a lot nicer before one of the children got hold of it--I had to try to put it back as best as I could. Yet another reminder to keep children far away from ornaments!

I think this one is my favorite. I love dragonflies, and the colors on this are great. This girl actually makes decorative pillows, and I may be adding a dragonfly pillow to my household soon!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Surrounded by clouds of flour

This time of year is what I call the baking season, and it is in full swing! Yesterday I pulled out the stand mixer and got to work. Actually, the baking season kicked off on Friday when I made a Sour Cream Bundt Cake, but I didn't bring out the stand mixer for that one (and boy was my mixer arm sore). Sunday, I made White Chocolate-Coffee Cashew Biscotti. Then I followed up with another batch of tasty cheese straws. Yum! Rob burned his fingers and mouth because he went right for the cheese straws as soon as they came out of the oven. I did remind him that they were 250 degrees... Next on my list is my candy-covered pretzels. Then I have to search the grocery stores for one ingredient so I can try the Asian-spiced pecans. Did I mention that I'm putting some of these things in gifts? We're not just sitting around and eating all of this (well, maybe the cheese straws, if Rob has his way!).

Happy Baking Season!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

'Tis the Season

Christmas is less than two weeks away, and the kids are frenzied. Ever since about a week before Thanksgiving, they've been nightmares to take out in public. They whine for toys, candy, anything--and they don't (really) do this any other time of year. Bobby just falls apart in Target--he can't handle looking at any toys. He freaks out if I say something like, "Christmas is in a couple of weeks, maybe Santa will bring you that toy you want." It sends him over the edge.

They can't concentrate at school. The sing-alongs and the Christmas crafts just add to the slowly building pressure and excitement. Caroline has forgotten her homework two days in a row.

And they won't go to bed! Caroline and Bobby at least require ten to eleven hours a night. Caitlin is my night owl who can get by on less, but Bobby has been up until after nine for the last couple of nights. And Bobby is going through this phase where he's scared of the dark or doesn't want to sleep in his room by himself--it's always something new. I got him a nightlight a few weeks ago, but lately we're finding him in all sorts of places other than his bed. One night he was on the floor in the girls' room--in between their beds. One night he was sleeping on Caitlin's bed down at the foot of it. One night he was in the hallway. And last night, we found this:

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Tour around the Tree

Here is our tree in all its glory!

We bought this ornament in Cape May--we usually try to get one from our vacation each year.

And this commemorates our trip to Seattle last June.

This is our star--I just love it! When I was a toddler, I used to call stars, "dars." With a story that cute, you have to put a dar on top!

I have several Snoopy ornaments. This one is the nicest. The children have managed to break several of my other Snoopy ornaments. After the second or third one went down last year, I called an abrupt halt to tree decorating. Then I ran out to Target in search of plastic ornaments. That's pretty much all I'll let the kids do now. I put up the breakables.

This is the last Snoopy I have from a set of three--the other two crashed to the tile floor last year. I still have them, they just have to be glued back together.

Here is a soft one that I'll let the kids hang up.
And here is my other childhood idol.

If you've ever lived in or visited Chattanooga--or even driven through Eastern Tennessee and seen "See Rock City" painted on a barn.

This is engraved "Christmas 2002." I bought it to commemorate Caitlin's birth. It does ring, and I want Caitlin to learn the line from "It's a Wonderful Life" about "every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings." She would sound exactly like the girl in the movie!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Off to the Post Office

Here are my creations for the ornament swap I'm participating in. I have to mail them out tomorrow. This has been a real self-esteem rollercoaster for me! I mean, how hard can it be to make a Christmas tree ornament? Oh, boy, was I not prepared for the answer!

First, I thought I'd stuff them--make them into three dimensional barn stars. The stitching looked awful, and I couldn't get the fabric to go smoothly through my sewing machine. Then, I wanted to embellish them with pretty silver beads. That was comical--beads all over the place. My fingers were too fat to manipulate the beads easily, half of the beads wouldn't fit over the needle, then my own stitching was not even. Then it was on to fabric glue, followed by sewing through the glued fabric. Not easy. I have stabbed my fingertips with a needle too many times to count!
Then, for the self-esteem part, many of the other ladies in my swap group are artists--not amateur pseudo-crafty moms like myself--but real artists! Wow, am I going to have a gorgeous tree! And don't I feel like my ornaments don't represent! I will say, they look cute in the picture--it's on close up that their flaws become apparent. It has been an humbling experience, but shouldn't we try to remember to be humble in this season of excess? That's the lesson I'm taking from this experience--that, and gratitude to these other ladies.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Happy Holidays

Here's our Christmas card for ths year. I did use the red-eye reduction on Caitlin before I ordered the card--those edits were made at Snapfish and this copy is unedited. Anyway, they will arrive in a couple of days, so once those go out, I'll really feel like the season is underway. Next weekend we'll get our tree, and then we'll be getting really excited!