Friday, December 29, 2006

I could have been writing something fantastic . .

But I spent those hours "upgrading" to the new template so I could access all of the cool new features. I think the features are more cool if you know absolutely nothing about html. I found them a bit restrictive, but have found a way to add my image links for the carnivals and the new one for the winter reading challenge which I will do later (My later list is enormous already).

Hopefully, I will get it all done before we travel to the Delta and before the birthday party for the Carnival of Homeschooling.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

More Books for the Winter Reading Challenge

I am still working on the Lay of the Land by Richard Ford. I may have to add the first two books of this triology to my list because there are some holes in my memory. Seven or Eight years is a long time to remember book details with only a single reading. I am adding these unrelated books now.

House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Known World by Edward P . Jones

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Not Christmas Eve Dinner

For the past forty-something years I have been having Christmas Eve dinner at my parents' house. I may have missed one when I lived in Chicago, but I can't remember it now. Even after all my siblings and I got married, had children, and convenience would demand we stay at home Christmas Eve, we persisted in tradition. This year was different. Mom asked everyone before she actually sent the invitation for the day before Christmas Eve dinner.

The change in date was the only noticeable difference. I still provided appetizers, dessert and kitchen assistance, Baby Bear decorated the mantles and tables with beautiful greenery, Susan produced the perfect salad and reminded us about social intelligence, the sons-in-law and my father manned the grill, sister-in-law brought a dessert, and my brother and his family were late (he always has a valid excuse). Even with the activity of a full house and the chaos of the Christmas season, this cooperative can usually pull off a celebration worthy of a food and entertaining magazine. This year was no exception.

We started with goat cheese souffles in phyllo, cheese ribbons, and a champagne toast. My nephew, who toasted, "Let's bump to the future.", many years back has obviously gained some maturity and made a lovely toast. Because it is a standing joke, Susan toasted, "Let's bump to the future."

Since we have outgrown the dining room, Mother set an extra table in the living room that is visible across the foyer when both sets of double doors are opened. We felt together. For dinner we had Susan's Crunchy Romaine Salad, Sauteed Sugar Snap Peas with Sesame Seeds, Grilled Salmon, and Spoon Bread (a fancy cornbread). For dessert we had chocolate cake, coconut cake, ambrosia, and buttermilk fudge. Delicious!!

Then, a singing and piano performance and the PRESENTS!! I'm glad I took extra time to find great gifts. I like the faces when the gifts are a perfect match. Though the gift that captured the crowd was given by my sister - a set of metal puzzles.

Next, tradition was broken. Mother had a dirty Santa game for the men. A couple of the men wear ties every day and a couple almost never, so the game had that interesting twist. After all the ties were exchanged, maliciously re-exchanged, and exchanged again, the girls and women gathered for the yearly bow picture. Then, everyone gathered around the piano for a sing along - traditional, not so traditional, and down right silly.

As the years pass, the traditions seem to gain in importance. The time with my brother and my sisters becomes more precious. I appreciate my parents' efforts to make special memories, and I know I am lucky.

I am over-filled with holiday spirit, and I still have two more celebrations this weekend.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Gift I Wish Santa had Forgotten in His Sack

There is always one of them - you know, the gift that just shouldn't have been. This year it was the pottery wheel. Santa should have included an art studio with the pottery wheel if he was going to leave that thing here. I have clay or clay water on every surface of my kitchen. I noticed as I walked in the office, which is on the other side of the house, that there is clay on the door knob. I have already shrieked, "Get that thing out of my house. Put it in the shed and leave it there." Later, after I relax, we can figure out a way the children can sling pots without slinging clay onto the walls, floor, table, stove, counters, and door knobs. Right now, I want to throttle Santa.

This is not the first time that he has brought messy gifts. A few years ago, there was a dinosaur excavation kit that scattered small stones and sand everywhere. Another year, there was an erector set that still seems to launch pieces into the most unsuspecting places, only to be found when I kneel to get something and my knee is pierced causing extreme pain.

I will send my own letter to Santa reminding him that I need no help making and maintaining a mess.

Winter Reading Challenge

I saw the Winter Reading Challenge at Mother Crone's. Even though I am late joining, I need an excuse to buy more books and read more, so I accept the challenge.

I have only one book in the house that I haven't read. I received a signed by the author copy of The Lay of the Land by Richard Ford for Christmas. Thanks, husband!! This will be my first book.

After that, I will be forced to buy more books, raid my mother's shelves, or go to the library. The children did receive a few books for Christmas. I wonder if they would count.

I will update the list later in the week.

Does anyone have any suggestions?

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas

We've got a break in the action, so I have a chance to wish everyone a Merry Christmas!!


We've had four celebration dinners and one breakfast since Thursday. I have eaten so much garbage I feel sick. I need to fast or at least not eat another mouthful of sugar for weeks. UGHHH. Not yet, though. I have two more celebrations to go.

I'll report tomorrow.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

It will turn into a bow if I tell it to!!

The confidence of the seven year old spirit is mind boggling. Immediately after reading time but before sleep we talk in a random way. We talk about the book. Many times we talk about things we need to do or things we accomplished. Last night I mentioned that I needed to make cheese ribbons (a thinner, wider version of cheese straws). My daughter suggested that we make cheese bows, instead. I tried to explain that the dough was not really suitable for anything other than straight lines.

She said, "It will turn into a bow if I tell it to!" Maybe she is right. Today I will, with her assistance, attempt to make cheese bows. As she says, it is all a matter of will. If we want something badly enough we will find a way to accomplish it.

Cheese Bows - the perfect snack for the never say never crowd.

Update: It is possible, but impractical to create cheese bows. Here is the proof.

Tipping Point Meme

I'm not tagging anyone, so you can relax and enjoy the post. I saw this environmentally friendly meme at Poppins Classical Academy sometime in November and I thought it would be a great evaluation of sorts (I couldn't find a way to link directly to the meme but if you want to see hers, go to the Archive that includes November 19, 2006).

Three things I'm happy to be doing now
  • Driving a fuel efficient car
  • Choosing purchased food carefully to provide a healthier diet for my family, while not supporting industrialized food products like High Fructose Corn Syrup, and petroleum based preservatives.
  • Providing pesticide free, hormone free, antibiotic free, naturally grown eggs, chicken, vegetables, fruit, and beef for my family and many others
Three things I want to do starting now
  • Run my car exclusively on vegetable oil
  • Start a local recycling movement so it is easier to recycle glass and plastic
  • Grow more of what we eat
Three things I want to do someday
  • Rely exclusively on solar electricity for our farm (My husband and I are working on this now. TVA says we are the only ones in this power sector who want to hook up an inverter. I like being first!!!!).
  • Live smaller. I want to purge my family of clutter and have only the things we truly love and truly need.
  • Get and use an Oatsmobile for local errands.
  • I know this is 4, but I want a Jersey so I can have preservative free milk. I want to make cheese!!!!, though it has nothing to do with our sustainability plan.

Where is your Tipping Point?

Thursday, December 21, 2006


I haven't been able to access the Internet since early Tuesday evening. The terrible weather in the west adversely affected my satellite connection. I talked to customer service on Wednesday morning, but after that even customer service was out of order. I know my Internet connection is irrelevant on the list of destruction produced by the wild weather, but what a major inconvenience.

I realize how addicted I am to the Internet for weather, news, blogging community, instant messaging, and to deliver ads that I wait until the last minute to produce. I "borrowed," after giving up on my service, quasi high speed Internet to send my somewhat huge 4-color ad mid morning. The entire time I waited for the file to send, the magazine representative was leaving "Where is your art? The deadline is noon." messages on my answering machine which does not rely on Internet connection.

Late this afternoon, Internet connection was restored and I could satiate my appetite for news (9 papers/feeds), weather, quotes and words, blogs, e-mail, and messaging. Since we have chosen not to have a television, not even local service, I felt completely isolated from world, national, and local events. I had not realized that a huge storm had bruised the Northwest and buried Colorado. I missed Iraq and Bush updates. I didn't get to read the BBC updates of the serial killer arrest. I missed the announcement of the title of the last Harry Potter novel.

I missed y'all!!

Cookie Day

Cookie baking day was Tuesday. My sister and I produced hundreds of iced sugar cookies, biscotti, and other treats for gifts. A few of the cookies in various states of the decorating process are at right. After the cookies are done, we spend hours creating beautiful packaging. When we are finished our children are maxed out on sugar and artificial color and we have the most sought after gifts in the area.

This day of hard work has become a tradition. As we were furiously decorating, baking, and packaging we were planning changes for next year's baking extravaganza - always seeking to attain a more beautiful cookie and a more interesting packaging. Next year, we will start earlier in the morning, so more cookies can be produced. Next year . . . .

Monday, December 18, 2006

What we are reading

Even with all the chaos of shopping, cooking, and activity of the holidays we are still reading.

I just finished The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. I love the way Setterfield writes. She writes for a reader about readers. Her language is rich and her story is full of intrigue. She doesn't rely on shock value, sex, or vulgarity. Incest and rape are there, but we don't encounter a graphic retelling in which the writer is proving her willingness to address the language and horror. What we get is a more mature approach to story telling where the writer trusts the reader to have certain knowledge, to intuit, and to enjoy a less immediate gratification.

With the children I am reading these:
  • The Ancient Egyptian World is our current book in the The World in Ancient Times Series. I still like the primary sources provided with the series in the reference volume. The pictures are wonderful, the writing lively, and the history verifiable. Egypt is such a fun study because of the possibilities. We have made Egyptian sandals, papyrus paper, and will make a sculpty step pyramid with individual blocks.
  • The Cat of Bubastes by G.A. Henty is part of our Egyptian study. We are only a few chapters into the book so will reserve judgment until later. This book may be a bit mature for my children. I am not sure what the recommended ages are.
  • The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss is our bedtime story. The children love the book. I, though I like the story, am curious about the messages I am sending by reading this book. The shoot everything in sight regardless of whether it will make a good food or not mentality is not comforting. I am inspired by the family's resourcefulness and positive attitude. We have been attempting to identify the point of shipwreck globally and find it positively frustrating. The animals are too diverse to make it believable - kangaroos, buffalo, jackal, onager, penguins, flamingos, and, eagles . . . The flora is just as elusive. Being unable to pin down the location will make it difficult for us to ship wreck there, which is what my children long to do.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


I've been shopping in stores. I, even, went to the mall. This is not typical behavior for me. I, frequently, persuade one of my sisters to visit stores for me, but this year they both seem too busy for me to burden them with the weight of my most hated pursuit. I will have to go to the city one more time before I can be truly finished, but most of the Christmas shopping is done.

I enjoy thinking about what each of the people on my list might want or need. I am always in search of that perfect present. Honestly, I rarely find it. The problem is this. Most of the people on my lists have too much stuff. If they want something badly, they usually buy it unless it is something that I wouldn't be able to afford to give in the first place. Even so, I went to the stores in the hopes of ferreting out the elusive perfect gifts.

Gift items are a plenty in the stores - impersonal gifts that could be given to anyone or everyone. Unfortunately, I wasn't looking for the one size fits all Christmas present. So, I wandered from store to store, shopping area to shopping area trying not be lured by the displays promising the perfect gift for everyone. How can a gift be perfect for every single person on your list?

The answer is that it is perfect in that if you buy a gift like a car emergency kit, foot warmer blanket, or holiday coffee mug, you will have spent the exact same amount on every person so there is no chance of offending someone, your shopping will be done quickly and painlessly, and since the gift is impersonal it may be re-gifted easily. Though, I would love to buy into this plan of shopping, I cannot.

So, this elf is off to the market! Again!

BTW, I wrote an entry about trash when I first started blogging. Funny, the quote by Dorthy Sayers I thought a true fit for that entry is what I have been thinking about while shopping.
A society in which consumption has to be artificially stimulated in order to keep production going is a society founded on trash and waste, and such a society is a house built upon sand.

Do we really need all this stuff?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Insert

Last week, in the middle of the cold snap (cold for us), we finally installed the cast iron and soapstone fireplace insert that has been sitting in our dog trot since last March.

You ask, why would it take nine months to install something that only needed to be moved 25 feet and would improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions? Good question. We ordered the miracle insert that should heat one side of our house last November, before it got seriously cold. It did not arrive until the end of February when everyone was thinking Spring, so when it arrived it sat while the garden was started, fences were repaired, and Spring sprung. It sat in the hall when we were harvesting vegetables. It sat there when the temperatures rose over 100 F and no one wanted to think about something designed to warm. The heater sat in the hall when we sold the calves. It sat there while pumpkins were carved, turkey smoked, and the Christmas tree was chosen and decorated. No one forgot that the heater was sitting in the exact place the delivery men placed it. I was more than a little annoyed by the 1500 pound contraption occupying space in what I visualize as a totally open hallway. We did a mapping project for school and Pink Panther drew the heater as a permanent fixture in our home - sitting in a crate in the hall. I kept mentioning it to my husband. OK, I did more than mention it. He assured me that the heater would be installed before our temperatures dropped below freezing.

A few days in November the temperatures fell to almost freezing, lacking one or two degrees. I reminded, offered to help, and threatened to do it myself. The week of the Bull Sale, when no one could even think about installing anything, the temperatures dropped below freezing. The wind was blowing and our house, though we insulated well, is not exactly a show house of heat efficiency. We were COLD. We felt like the Ingalls in The Long Winter though we obviously didn't get that cold. We didn't build a fire in that fireplace because we didn't want to clean the coals and ashes again when we installed the insert (like it was going to happen in the next 24 hours). We moved all activity to the kitchen which has a portable electric heater and living room which has another fireplace.

Finally, the day came, a cold day with a brisk wind. The expectations of a warm house were high. An appliance dolly was borrowed from the local hardware store, a friend was invited to help move the 1500 pound contraption, and instructions were read. The project we had been dreading for nine months only took a few hours of actual work. We didn't have to do much since we had a working masonry fireplace with a good draft.

Unfortunately, there are a few problems. A piece is missing and I will have to make that embarrassing call nine months after the purchase to let them know. The insert does not heat as well as we would have liked or as was advertised. I know few houses have 17 foot ceilings, but the insert designed to heat an entire house should heat one room of a drafty old farm house when the temperatures are just below freezing. Many say that once we get the thing going and keep it going that it will heat better. We do have much to learn, but keeping the fire going in our variable temperature winter is not realistic. Today, the temperatures are supposed to be around 72 F. You don't exactly require or want a heater for those days.

I wonder if we would have been as disappointed if we had not built expectations of a toasty house through all the cool and cold days the heater was sitting in the hall.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Do you ever wonder what they will remember?

I saw this article yesterday in the Washington Post. Though I don't feel that test scores are a real measure of knowledge or future success, I can see how cues - visual, auditory, or emotional - can effect performance. Of course, I couldn't stop there. I wonder what messages I am sending to my children. What will they remember and what things will effect them as they make their own way in life? Am I imprinting stereotypical roles on them without my knowledge?

Will they remember the bad days or good? Will they remember the mistakes or successes? Am I totally ruining them?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Back from blogger hibernation

My life was out of control so I had to put something aside! Blogging was that thing. I am the free labor for my husband's bull sale, The Heart of Mississippi. I produced all the ads, mailers, and the 46 page catalog, wrote the computer software to run the sale, ran the office during the sale , and reconciled the sale and produced seller's checks. In addition to all this I still worked my other jobs, taught the children, and prepared meals. I'm exhausted! Life should go back to normal soon.

I know ya'll didn't want to hear all that!

I have been tagged by Griffin at Wheel Revolution, so I decided to come out of hiding. The task at hand is to confide six weird things about myself, then find six other people who will confide six weird things about themselves. I thought at first that the task was impossible. I am sooooo normal and sooo regular. I have no strange deformaties of the body and no cool, but somewhat strange skills like twitching ears and independently moving eyebrows. I, even, asked my husband and mother. They both said, immediately, that there is nothing normal about me. I guess that makes me really weird since I don't even realize I am strange. Here are a few of their suggestions:
  • I have the concentration of a snapping turtle. Once I tackle an interesting or difficult task, I will not stop until it is finished - no matter what. I have to be careful with this one now that I have children because while I can go without food, bath, sleep, and . . . they cannot.
  • I have read every (known to me) published word written by William Faulkner including letters, stories, and novels. I didn't do this for a grade at school. I was just curious and liked his work, except some of his whiney letters about finances.
  • I can discern minute ingredients and flavors in food.
  • I can visually rotate things in my mind so that I can see how they fit together. I have a few hang-ups about arrangements in homes so will mentally rearrange the cabinets, appliances, and furniture so they will fit my image of "correct." I will not move anything physically (how rude would that be). To take this further, I can see how mechanical things are made and I can pack the trunk so that all space is utilized and can do it on the first try.
  • I have a high pain threshhold and a low tolerance of pain medication. I have had two root canals, reconstructive thumb surgery(had a beta block-local with a band to keep the local from entering my body) , two babies, and hundreds of stitches(I ran through a patio door) without the use of anesthesia. The doctors and dentists were very strange about it, but I persisted and they let me go without.
  • I have saved by brother's life 3 times. I could hear him calling me even though he never yelled or had the chance to yell. By the way we are not twins.
    • I heard him after he was accidently locked in the freezer by one of his playmates. The mother of the playmate arrived and the playmate got distracted. I heard him calling even though I shouldn't have been able to hear him.
    • Then, when he was a little older he fell between a Six Flags' log ride log and the wall and I pulled him out before he was dragged down and away.
    • Finally, Dad let us jump out of the boat at a sandbar while he loaded the boat on a trailer. My brother's friend said he could swim and flailed himself out of the boat. Brother realized said friend couldn't swim and tried to save him. Friend pushed him under and I came from the shore to drag the friend and brother to safety just in the knick of time.

Do I win the weird prize?? Or can these unsuspecting victims do better? BTW, this was difficult because I have seen this meme done at many of the blogs I frequent and there are some who just don't want to be tagged. Becky at Farm School, Angela at Mother Crone's School, Mull-berry at One Jelly Donut (please), Frankie at Kitchen Table Learners and Doc at Doc's Sunrise Rants. If someone else wants to play, please feel free. Susan at Chicken Spaghetti, I didn't want you to have to sully your super polished children's book blog or I would have chosen you!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


It is impossible to make a quick stop at a craft or hobby store the week after Thanksgiving. What was I thinking? Yesterday was ballet day so we do our errands in the city. One of the errands was to pick up some raffia and plaster of paris for an Egypt project. We were trapped in Hobby Lobby for an hour!!! Check out lines were completely swamped. Every aisle was crowded and every item I touched had someone waiting if I didn't choose it. Did I mention that I hate crowds? And feeling that tension of a buying frenzy? I thought about walking out and leaving our items in the store, but imagined the children would think I was weird. I persevered. I made the purchase.

As soon as I left the store, and I do mean immediately, I remembered that we needed some balsa wood. I didn't go back even though I was only a few yards from the front door.

I will have to go next week, but will have a whole week to bolster my resolve. Or, maybe all the Christmas decoration stuff will be gone and the crowds will be gone.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Tab Can Angels

Here they are!! Can Angels were the brain child of my nephew's nameless teacher a few years ago. I saw one on my sister's tree and thought - recycling of Tab cans, art project, yearly ornament. They are cute and if you drink enough Tab you will look like this angel. AGGHHHH!

To make them, you need:
  • cans
  • silver paint
  • wobble eyes
  • feathers
  • peach or other skin tone paint
  • pink paint
  • silver pipe cleaners
  • glue gun
First, drink the contents of the can. Rinse, then carefully squoosh one side. Spray paint can silver. When dry, paint end with opening peach or other natural skin tone. When dry, paint two pink dots for rosy cheeks. Next form the pipe cleaner into a halo leaving an attachment with a hump (to attach the ornament hanger). Attach with a glue gun. Don't try regular glue unless you have an enormous amount of time for drying. Once secure, attach feathers to create the wings. We used white feathers along with one or two other colors.

Have fun!!!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Search for the Perfect Christmas Tree

Even though I would have preferred to wait a week or so before Christmas tree shopping, schedules and the short supply required that we make a mad dash to the local (10 miles away) Christmas tree farm. Those searching for a tall tree know to arrive at the Rosebud Farm Thanksgiving day. We waited a couple of days, so there were only 20 large trees remaining. We chose a 9' Leland Cypress that was somewhat narrow at the bottom. Our tree is not as natural looking as we would like because the drought caused the trimmed branches not to regrow as quickly, but we like supporting the local farm.

In previous years I have been jealous of my older sister's Christmas tree. In fact, just yesterday my younger sister and I were trying to decide what it was that made the other sister's tree so beautiful. We talked about ornament type and placement, type of tree, and other somewhat intangible elements. We also talked about our jealousy. My older sister does not even have a tree, yet I know I will ultimately have tree envy.

Yesterday, I was excited to see and place some of the children's handmade ornaments. We have made something for the tree almost every year - bell wreaths, Tab can angels, construction paper Rudolphs, and glitter stars. They were also excited to see their special purchased ornaments my mother gives each grandchild. Then we unpacked older ornaments - an apple given to me by a student along time ago, a cat my sister sent when she lived in NYC, snowflakes and an egg my aunt made, silver balls from my first married Christmas, and a few ornaments from my childhood and my husband's Santa ball ornament made with one of those nylon thread covered balls. Once we finished decorating, the children and I sat down and looked. Of course, I was judging. We need bigger lights, more lights, and larger ornaments. I need to rearrange the ornaments. The tree is a little crooked. I can't help myself. Then, the children started oohing and ahing and pointing out their ornaments and their joy was contagious.

Our tree is beautiful, I just wasn't seeing it properly!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Giving is Receiving

Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I made a point to visit an older friend of mine. Life had slipped by and I realized that though I used to see her everyday, it had been months since I had visited. Then, she got sick and I felt terrible. I knew she had come home from the hospital and I was determined to make things right before any more time elapsed.

I took her a small jar of my honey. After she admired the jar and the honey, she went for her pantry and brought out a jar of muscadine jelly. We visited for a while, talking about my garden and chickens. I realized I should have brought her some eggs. The older people in the community really like yard bird eggs, especially Dominecker eggs. I told her I would bring her a dozen after I finished my chores.

When I got home our older neighbor was in the driveway. He said there was a calf in his yard. He thought it might be ours (Thankfully it wasn't). We talked about the holidays and what his wife was cooking. He said she was getting ready to make the cakes. I asked if he wanted some good eggs to make the cakes more yellow. He wanted to pay for them, but with neighbors it is best to give. Next time the calf might be mine and I never know when the yellow dog will create mischief in someone's yard.

Anyway I gave him a dozen eggs and then took my friend her eggs. When I got to her house she had egg cartons, homemade candy for the children, and some seeds from her garden that she saved especially for me. When I got home my neighbor was back with a full sack of turnip greens. He invited my husband over to harvest collard greens this weekend.

I have decided that with these older people in town, it is impossible to give anything without receiving more than you gave. I have laughed about this often. I like to bring a small something, jar of jelly or honey, cookies, or a mess of vegetables. Yet, I never feel as if I have given anything. I don't understand all the old ways. I'm not sure if they don't want to be indebted to someone or whether it is traditional to trade so that everyone has a diverse larder. Whatever is happening, I like being a part of it - a part of a community.

Friday, November 24, 2006


Sometimes you can't fully appreciate Thanksgiving until the leftovers are served. Our images of the Thanksgiving table creaking under bowls heaped with the bountiful harvest and the "Hallmark inspired" loving interaction between family drive the expectations for this holiday to an almost unattainable level. We make too much food and we try to force family interaction. Unfortunately, the large gathering and the full table make it difficult to fully enjoy the individual.

We started Wednesday night with chili and Scrabble at my house. The Scrabble game was one of the more amusing I have played. My brother and nephew came after most people ate and after the Scrabble game began. My nephew acted as roving helper. Coining words and selling them is his forte. Unfortunately for him, I am a hard sell. My sister and I know too many words, but we laughed until tears were dripping. Next, we drove to Mother's house and had birthday cake for my niece. My sister's son came home with us. I was scared that he and Pink Panther would stay up all night, but I checked on them at 11:30 and they were sound asleep.

The actual Thanksgiving Day festivities seemed quiet because my brother was at his in-laws, but the house was still full. Counting my little sister's new baby, there were fifteen (of 20) of us. There was an enormous quantity of food: a green salad with pears, walnuts and blue cheese, turkey, cornbread dressing, green beans, spinach, homemade rolls, sweet potatoes, pound cake, fruit cake, pecan pie, brandied fruit, and cranberry sauce. I may have forgotten something. Most ate more than needed, but there were still leftovers.

I love Thanksgiving leftovers more than the real meal. True, the ambiance is not of the Thanksgiving quality, but at the big meals there is simply too much food to enjoy anything. Today, for lunch I had Southern Cornbread Dressing with Cranberry Sauce. For supper, I had a piece of Pecan Pie. By the way, the pie was better with honey. Everyone, including my dad, thought it was the best. Eaten individually I could savor the flavors. I could taste the honey in the pie and the onion in the dressing. Yesterday, everything blended.

I think family gatherings are the same. I love the big festivities when everyone is together and other obligations (like work, school, and activities) are not distracting or limiting, but I can't fully enjoy the individuals in my family when we are sharing such a limited time and space. I've noticed that when our whole family is together, the individuals gravitate toward their childhood roles in an adult way. I, too, find myself easing into my traditional place of comfort, even though I am aware I am doing it. Amusing on the surface, not allowing for growth and change can prove offensive. As far as I know we didn't have any seriously hurt feelings or explosions, but I don't feel that I connected anyone. I wish there were leftover days for brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, and parents.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Let the Thanksgiving Games Begin!

I'm so excited! My sisters will be coming into town today to begin the Thanksgiving festivities. I love the action, food, and general good feeling. I will have chili at my house tonight to give mother room in her kitchen for the main food. Maybe there will be an opportunity for Scrabble!!

My to do list is enormous today:
  1. Repair a few chairs for mother
  2. Finish two work projects
  3. Make cranberry sauce
  4. Make the crusts for the pecan pies
  5. Bake the sweet potatoes for the puree
  6. Make chili
  7. Straighten and shine my house
  8. Wash clothes
I love the energy and expectation before holidays. True, they don't always live up to the sky-high Norman Rockwell inspired expectations, but on the day before there is always possibility.

Monday, November 20, 2006

I have a new curtain for my office

But it is driving me crazy, already. The curtain was put in place because I was adamant about keeping all the old windows that were usable. The usable windows are not particularly airtight so last winter I experienced a bit of a draft while working. I thought I would solve that problem before it got too cold. I made the lined shade this weekend. The shade does eliminate heat loss, but it will probably have a short life.

First of all, I cannot see outside. Admittedly, I frequently get distracted by what is happening out there so having a curtain should make me more productive, but not seeing anything could be considered torture. Secondly, I didn't consider the negative impact of eliminating the sunlight in this small room with dark natural wood walls. I will have to purchase better lighting if I keep the curtain. I work a lot at night and the lack of light has never bothered me, but to need extra light during the day seems silly. Lastly, the fabric I chose is so bright I can barely focus on the computer and my projects. It is happy and matches my bright orange, blue, and green chairs but goodness gracious it is loud!!!!

What do you think?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Do you realize how difficult it is

To find a payphone these days. Friday, I had to make an extra trip into the city. Bad enough in itself, but once I got almost half way there I realized I didn't have my cell phone. I didn't let anyone know where I was going, either. I am not a cell phone person. In fact, I probably didn't have my cell phone because of a subconscious desire to disconnect permanently. If I have my phone or if I am home people call me almost non-stop to ask stupid computer questions. Yes, for the most part it is my job, but there are those who are too needy. Anything for which the answer is check the power, reboot, or is the peripheral attached to the computer does not need a computer consult.

Anyway, things took longer than planned. I, also, neglected to let my husband know I was leaving. When I thought my husband had gotten home from work, I started looking for a pay phone. There were none. Alright, I eventually found one but I was only 16 minutes from home when I did, which was two hours after I had started looking. I suppose everyone has a cell phone now. Or maybe payphones began to attract an unseemly crowd. Or maybe they are no longer profitable. We have two in our tiny town and I suppose I didn't realize pay phones had disappeared.

When did this happen?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

This always amazes me!

Rye grass mixed with clover that I planted a month or so ago has sprung like it is Spring. Other than the tan frost burned bermuda grass and that one golden tree in the background you would never know it was mid-November.

Most people around here plant some winter forage grass for cattle, so our pastures are not unusual. But, I am still amazed when I see the bright lime green when you expect to see winter. We only planted two whole pastures and part of another so I can compare.

If I thought all the chiggers were frozen, I would go wallow in the grass and pretend it is Spring.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Bucking Tradition

I am not hosting Thanksgiving this year. I must say, I am completely disappointed. I love Thanksgiving. I love planning the food. I love cooking. I love having a house full of family. But, our house is not exactly Thanksgiving worthy if the weather turns cold, if it rains, or if it gets hot. Houses like this take time. We don't have a dining room, yet.

Last year we took a risk. We invited the entire family for Thanksgiving and placed tables down the center of the dog trot. We had about 20 people and served buffet style from the kitchen. The day was a perfect 70 F. I thought everything worked well, but didn't want to risk it again.

So, this year we are having Thanksgiving at mother's house. I will still make a few dishes - the cranberry sauce, the sweet potatoes, and a couple of desserts. We have pecan trees with pecans, so I mentioned that I would probably bring a pecan pie made with ingredients from our farm - pecans, eggs, and honey. I told mother that I would use our honey, instead of corn syrup since Karo Corn Syrup, which is the staple of most Southern pecan pies, has succumbed to the high fructose corn syrup craze. Last year as I was getting ready for Thanksgiving, I happened to notice the ingredient list on the bottle clearly labeled corn syrup and there it was - another "pure" product adulterated with high fructose corn syrup.

Mother said that Thanksgiving is not the time to experiment with traditional recipes. I agree (sort of). I know that many foods are only served on Thanksgiving (pecan pie is not one of them here) and people salivate thinking of that meal and those dishes. I, also, know that I don't want to serve chemicals to my family. I would guess that the original pecan pie in this area was made with honey or cane syrup since corn syrup is a relatively modern sweetener (1902). Because so few people keep bees and grow cane here, Karo has become the mainstay of Southern pecan baking. So, even though I am bucking tradition with a non Karo pecan pie, I feel as if I am returning to the original rather than abandoning it. True, I may offend the guests by serving something other than what they are expecting, but I think most of my family will appreciate that they can eat something almost entirely produced on my farm.

BTW little sister, I am not changing the cranberries and I promise to make enough for you to have extra.


We had a noticeable hard frost last night. When I went to feed the cats and open the chicken coop, I got to see the glistening white of the ice tipped pastures as the sun was easing over the hill. I got to feel the crunch of icy grass beneath my rubber boot shoes. I had to hop to safety when my foot slipped on the frosty cattle gap. I breathed the crisp air and felt invigorated.

Already, the frost is gone and the ice is melted. Shortly, we will reach our forecast 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

You have to get up early to find Fall in Mississippi.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Changing Perceptions

A few weeks back, I divulged that we had just finished reading Henry and Ribsy by Beverly Cleary. Even though this was Pink Panther's book, I couldn't resist. While perusing his book, I saw a name I remembered, a favorite name from my childhood reading - Ellen Tebbits. I remembered choosing this book from one of those Scholastic Book Order Forms when I was in school. I was lured by her secret. I, too, wanted to be privy to that information.

I loved Ellen Tebbits then and thought Princess would like it, too. I had a difficult time finding the book locally. In fact, I had to order it so when I ordered I got the "companion" book Otis Spofford for Pink Panther, even though he needs no encouragement for latent mischievousness. As soon as we picked up the books, I started reading Ellen Tebbits to Princess (and Panther, because, even though he said it looked like a girl book he kept appearing during the reading). She loved it so much that she is now reading it to me, which is huge. Meanwhile, we decided to have Otis Spofford as a read aloud since everyone wanted to hear. Pink Pan and I are taking turns.

WELL, while reading both these books, I realized how much our perceptions of healthy weight have changed. Ellen thought she was too thin and her mother had her take special precautions because of it. The rat chapter in Otis Spofford illustrates it perfectly. The class was doing a science experiment in which one rat was fed white bread and soda pop and the other fed the nutritional meal from the cafeteria (I suspect you would be hard pressed to find a nutritional meal in a cafeteria now). The teacher wanted to illustrate that white bread and cola was not nutritionally substantive and that the rat that ate such rubble would be too thin and unhealthy. The lunchroom fed rat was plump and healthy. Wow!

Ellen and Otis were written in the early 1950's when food was cooked at home, commercial food processing had not taken over America or the school cafeteria, and people weren't scared of food (see Zilla's orthorexia entry). If we go by the perceptions shown in the books, being too thin was a negative. The ideal was a fleshed out body with a healthy glow. Today, our society is incredibly weight conscious with anorexic models causing stirs during fashion week in Milan, girls as young as six or seven obsessing about body image, and television and movie personalities getting thinner and thinner to make up for the camera weight. Yet, an astounding percentage of Americans are morbidly overweight.

I don't know where I am going with this and I suppose I should have figured that out before I started writing, but I do believe perceptions, self image, and eating are related. Without the influence of a medical problem, people who are happy and have a positive self image eat less and do more. They also have a healthy glow. I also believe that Mrs. Gitler's hypothesis (from Otis Spofford) was flawed. True, white bread and cola have no nutritional value, but by training ourselves to fill up on food with no substance, we eat more and more while trying to satiate our bodies' cravings for nutrition.

Meanwhile, we are bombarded by television, movie, and magazine images of super thin models that have been digitally enhanced to heighten youthful appearance and sharp angles. We don't have a chance to feel good about ourselves unless we are naturally willowy, with perfect skin. Added to that marketing disaster is the frenzied pace of life that requires eating in the car, or at the desk, or at least grabbing a bunch of processed foods to sling on the table when you get home late. Pile on the marketing ploys of the food industry that confuse us with the misuse of terms like "healthy," "natural, "wholesome," and "pure," and the blatant misleading with phrases on packaged chicken that tout, "no added hormones or antibodies." I'm sure the only reason the processors can stamp that on the plastic covering is that they didn't inject that chicken at the processing plant.

What we have in the end is a super thin model who swanks around in clothes that will only look good on a model creating the standard for women. We have an untrustworthy food industry that has hyped us with artificially sweetened, artificially flavored, and chemically made food that will make us thin and beautiful without breaking a sweat in the kitchen or the gym. And we have the reality of low self esteem in young girls, young adults, older women, and even men. We have the reality of high fat, high salt fast foods and prepackaged meals that are eaten so we can work more hours, have our children participate in more activities. We have the reality of chemicals in food our bodies don't know how to process. We have the reality of our bodies craving real nutrition and real food.

We have a mess with no easy answers.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Could you resist this face?

Mississippi got cooler, again. We may have even gotten to 32 degrees last night. I know you Northern readers aren't sympathetic. I know you have been shivering for a while. As it was getting cooler, The Yellow Dog came to the screen door. He whined a bit. Wagged that tail and tried to look cute. He is a disaster in the house - chewing things he shouldn't chew and banging that tail into everything. But how can you resist such a cute face and pleasing manner?

I let him in the dog trot which is no warmer than outside, in fact, it may be cooler because of the wind and lack of sun. He seemed happy, then Princess brought him some warm water and a blanket. He loved the attention. An hour or so later we went into the kitchen and left Yellow Dog in the hall.

He was satisfied no longer. He put his big paws on the kitchen door and looked in the window. I don't have a picture of that one because the children immediately said, "Look at him. He is so cute and he is cold." They opened the door. I laid down the law. "He does not leave this room and you will watch him constantly. If you leave the kitchen, he goes outside." My children don't stay inside long so the dog stayed in all of twenty minutes, but I wondered what would happen when it gets really cold and wet. The dog has a labradorish thick coat and it was only 45 degrees. He is supposed to be an outside dog. Why can't he just stay outside?

He has that cute face and those pleasing mannerisms when he asks. Pleasing manners win every time.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Veterans Day

I know Veterans' Day was yesterday, but today there was a short, informal Veterans' Day service. Veterans of all wars were called forward by war. Pictures of the men in uniform in their younger days had been gathered. After the little talk, the audience was invited forward to say individual thank yous and look at the pictures. My husband said he felt a little emotional so he didn't want to stay. Pink Panther really wanted to meet the mostly older men (World War II and Korea) and find out where they fought and what they did in the war. So, we went back inside and shook each and everyone of the teary eyed men's hands. Pink Panther found Navy men who fought in the South Pacific, a pilot who was based in England, a Marine who never left the safety of the USA, a foot soldier who fought in Germany, and a soldier who fought in Italy. There were also soldiers from the more recent Desert Storm and a soldier who had just returned from the conflict a couple of months ago.

Many of the men seemed so flattered that someone so young was so interested in them and their stories. Many wanted to tell their whole story, but there was not time - the line kept pressing us forward and away from the stories.

I wonder how many times I have walked away from something important, just because I felt a little uncomfortable.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Nighttime Pacing

Last night Pink Panther went on a Boy Scout bowling outing. They left at 6 p.m. The bowling alley is about an hour away so add in a couple of hours travel. They went out to eat at a Mexican restaurant before bowling so add in another hour or two. Bowling should take a couple of hours.

At 1 a.m. I started pacing the floor. At 2 a.m. I gave up any attempt at being a cool mother (I didn't care whether Pink Panther was embarrassed) and had my husband call the Scout leader to ask him what was going on. At 3 a.m. my 10 year old son came slouching home. Obviously, there was a miscommunication about the outing or things just took longer than expected. I don't know.

What I do know is that I need a non-thinking hobby for time spent waiting, worrying, and trying not to embarrass my son. I tried to read, but I read the same page three times and still hadn't a clue what was said. I piddled on the computer, but news feeds are not calming. I need something productive and quite (so I don't keep everyone else awake). My mother suggested sewing. Perhaps she is right. I could have sewn the curtains for my bedroom and office that have been on the back burner for the two years we have lived in this house. Of course, I would have to plan so I would have fabric, thread, and other necessities on hand.

Any suggestions?

Friday, November 10, 2006


Yesterday afternoon was a wonderful high blue sky day with temperatures in the lower 80s. I was tied to my computer, but the children decided to go fishing in the neighbor's pond. I wasn't monitoring them closely because they wouldn't have to leave our property until they crossed the fence to get to the pond. I'm not great estimating distances, but I suppose they were only 1/2 a mile away.

After they had been gone a couple of hours Princess comes huffing into the office telling me to get the car. She says that she is "stressed out" and that Pink Panther is too and I need to go get him in the van. When I walked outside I saw that she had been pulling the wagon loaded with every imaginable fishing tool, including a hammer (what was that for). I made some comment about how children should be able to walk a couple of miles even if it is up and down hills and then asked what had stressed Pink Panther so badly that I had to retrieve him.

I got into the van as I was directed and when I got over the hill, I understood fully. The wagon load of stuff Princess brought home was only a fraction of the fishing stuff they carried with them. There were two folding chairs (not the kind in the neat little satchels), another tackle box (huge), three rods, one super long brim master pole, a container of bait, and some other stuff. Pink Panther opened the door of the van and said the obvious, "I think we carried too much stuff. I'm sorry you had to interupt work."

I asked the not so obvious, "How did you get all this stuff here?"
"We had it lashed to the wagon," he said.
"Why didn't you lash it back to the wagon?"
"It wouldn't fit. Princess was too tired. She rode down the hills in the wagon so she could make it home."
"Oh! Make sure you put your daddy's fishing stuff away before he comes home."

Lest you think I was planning to keep the use of his fishing stuff secret, I told my hubby the story when he got home. He said to Pink Panther, "You probably didn't need the hammer." Then he looked at me, smiled, and said, "I guess he takes after me." Hubby and I are complete opposites in packing. I am a minimalist while he wants to be prepared. We have been playing a packing tug of war for twenty years. He has now recruited someone to his end of the rope.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

You know you are procrastinating when . . .

1. You decide it is mandatory to have all the clothes washed . . . and folded and it is not laundry day and you've never had all your clothes washed and folded - ever.
2. You start cleaning the children's rooms.
3. You start experimenting with new recipes in the kitchen.
4. You keep flipping through your blog feeds hoping someone will post something new to distract you for a few minutes.
5. You start reading blog archives.

Should I go on? I have a deadline tomorrow for a bull sale catalog and I can not get excited about finishing all the meticulous genetic information even though some of the bull names are amusing in a perverted cattle humor sort of way. Should I sully my blog by sharing?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Three Junes

Two weeks ago I finished reading Three Junes by Julia Glass and I still have not been able to extract the kernel of epiphany. The book is so rich with relationships, personal journey, and life to mill the book into one of my one to two sentence commentaries.

Three Junes, starts slowly. In fact, I first picked up this book six or seven months ago. I put it down after having read only the first part of the first chapter. Big mistake. By the end of the second chapter I was hooked. The book is divided into three sections. The first is a June trip to Greece where Paul is struggling with his wife's life and death seeking to find meaning and happiness for his remaining life. The second June is spent with the children of Paul and Maureen dealing with the life and death of their father and their roles in the family as grown-ups. I especially liked this section. The third June pulls in the characters who appear in other sections of the book - a girl Paul met on his trip to Greece and a lover of Fenno's. In this section, Fenno continues his journey of self study and possibly learns to live.

So, Three Junes is a book that brings people together in death, so they may learn to live. Obviously, the nuances of the book make it much more complex than that.

Monday, November 06, 2006


This is one group of my chickens that rummage through the paddock seeking tasty morsels every day. When Mr. Wisteria was on his sales trip I fed a big round bale of hay here to lure the mama cow that had a piece of stick in her eye. We haven't fed here again, and the cows have been moved across the road, but chickens are still working that bale making sure that there is not one piece of hay left on top of another and that there is not one seed remaining.

Chickens are great that way unless they are doing it in my garden or flower beds!

Time line

I worked on my timeline solution this weekend. Of course, it did not turn out exactly as I imagined, but I did get to use the Timeliner software and I have timeline pages for the children to use for narrations, illustration, self-expression. I divided the ancient timeline into really ancient (5,500,000 BCE to 4,500 BCE) and ancient. I entered all the timeline dates from The World in Ancient Times Series, color coded by area (Mesopotamia, South Asia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, America, Chinese) . There are some pages that have almost too much information on them and then there are pages with no documented history. The children will have fun finding something to go there. I, like Jove, prefer to let the children explore and bring information to table. They are old enough to start seeking within the structure of the base timeline. What is another word for timeline? I know I have used it 20 times already.

I have printed the timeline pages on card stock and will trim (because I am obsessive compulsive) and tape the edges so the pages can be spread and studied. I am so excited!!!!

Take a look at the Ancient and the Really Ancient and Earliest Clues. I have repaired the links (I really did this time), but dial-ups should still be warned. The first file is over over 1 MB, but the others are relatively small.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Cure . . . and the Preventive

Mississippi has had its second taste of cool. We will fluctuate warm, cool, cold until most everyone is sick. I don't get sick often, nor do my children or husband. I have a theory about keeping a stable core temperature that has little to do with basal body temperature. The core temperature is much more wishy-washy than science. It has to do with naturally adjusting to the temperature changes and finding ways to warm the inside - either physically or emotionally. You caught me, I am truly weird. Sometimes, it is simply finding a warm sunspot and lounging with a book and a blanket. Other times it is a hot bath in the completely full deep claw foot tub. All else failing, turn to the medicinal properties of food. My mother makes a wonderful chicken-vegetable soup that the children affectionately call "Birthday Soup." This soup heals. But, I have an even better cure-all. My grandfather made potato onion soup, served it in a huge bowl, then completely covered the surface of the soup with pepper. My younger self stood in amazement of the spectacle of the pepper, now I stand in awe of the wisdom. A version of that soup is my ultimate warmer-upper/ core renewal/ heal-all.

We are having it for supper tonight with grilled cheese sandwiches. Here is the recipe I use which is Julia Child's recipe. A version of this recipe appears in almost every one of her cookbooks - a true miracle food and French basic. Since I want to give proper credit, I will source The Way To Cook.
Basic Leek and Potato Soup
2 TBLS butter
3 cups sliced leeks, white and pale green
1 1/2 cups sliced onions (about 2 medium)
2 TBLS flour
6 cups water
4 cups peeled, diced potatoes
1 1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground white pepper

Melt butter in the saucepan over moderate heat. Stir in the leek and onion pieces to coat with butter, cover the pan, and reduce the heat. Cook slowly, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes, until the vegetables are very soft, but not colored. Uncover, sprinkle on the flour, stir to distribute and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Stirring continually, gradually pour in 1 1/2 cups of water and bring to simmer. When the liquid is smooth and starts to thicken, stir in the rest of the water. Add the potatoes and season. Quickly heat the soup to a gentle boil, cover, and lower the heat. Simmer about 20 minutes until potatoes are tender. Correct seasoning. To serve, mash, blend, or puree the soup to the desired consistency and adjust the seasoning. Garnish.

Don't panic! If you don't grow leeks or you can't buy them, just use onions. If you don't eat wheat flour, just use some other thickener. If you don't have white pepper, use black, but know that black specks floating in white soup isn't beautiful (My grandfather coated his in black pepper, but Julia Child has a hang-up about it). I prefer this soup (when no one is looking) chunky, so I take an old fashioned potato masher and just smash around a little, but you can dress this soup so it becomes fancy fare.

Make no excuses, there is nothing other than healing goodness in this soup. And, if you puree you can claim that you have produced vichyssoise. Heal yourself.

When Words Get Away from You

I have never talked to my children with "children's words." As a result of my inability to verbally meet my children at their level, they possess many words. Possessing words does not necessarily mean you are the master of the words. Frequently, I will hear one or the other child using a word in a bizarre manner and I will ask her/him what the word means. Sometimes she will answer appropriately, but many times she will say she doesn't know. I have warned them not to publicly use words for which they are not sure of the meaning. Speak freely at home, but leave your budding vocabulary at home lest you offend someone.

Today, Princess came running into my office for the exact definition of pathetic. Pink Panther had questioned her use of the phrase, "Pathetic excuse of a life," as it related to a pile of sand. At first, I didn't understand her usage but while I was trying not to laugh at her creative use of words I realized she was right on target. The sand pile is in the yard because we are having some brick/tile work done and the bricklayers are using the sand to make mortar. The children played in the sand so much that once the bricklayers arrived we had to buy more sand. The children have been playing in the sand this afternoon and the life of that sand pile is doomed to pathetic shortness. We will have to buy more sand Monday, but I am laughing!

Pathetic -- arousing pity; informal miserably inadequate

Friday, November 03, 2006

Timeline malfunction

A few months ago, I made the decision to use Timeliner, a fancy computer time line tool, with our history study. Committed to the computerized time line, I made the entries for the first two books of The World in Ancient Times series. The children showed only limited interest in finding clip art, websites, and other information to use in the timeline. The reality and fun of making their own pages for a hands-on book far outweighs the cool timeline slideshows and interactivity of the Timeliner timeline. On another note, I am disappointed that I am not able to stop the timeline where I want it. I only want to work with ancient history this year and once I enter a few ancient dates the timeline defaults to a geologic timeline that represents 5,500,000 years ago to the present which would be fine if I had unlimited expansion so that when lots of documented action begins the entries aren't so crowded. I don't mind the umpteen blank pages so I feel the program should allow me to spread it out as far as I want. It doesn't.

I'm frustrated because the program, though great, is not working for us and if I scrap it, we will be forced to stop history and go back to redocument our progress. If I don't stop using it, I will be responsible making timeline entries with only marginal interest from the children. I could just start from where we are, but I want them to have a complete record of the four year history cycle.

I will be making time line pages for the children this weekend, unless someone has already done this and would be willing to share. ?????

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Competition for paying chores

My children have been competing for some of the paying chores lately. A few weeks ago, I jokingly suggested that Princess would get fired from egg collection duty if she kept forgetting to collect and kept missing eggs that were in the hutch but not in the boxes. From that point on, every task with money(we are talking very small money) involved has been up for grabs. The competition seems to make them a bit more excited about doing a good job, but that was never my intention.

I always imagine a completely cooperative environment where everyone is helping, not because of money, but for the good of the family. The children have been saving money for their father's birthday and Christmas, so lately the competition is high. Today it ended in waste.

Pink Panther went to shovel out and put new shavings in the chicken coop. When he started working two hens who have been sitting for almost a week left their nests. Pink Panther grabbed all the eggs and came running into the house screaming fire Princess, fire Princess. He had so many eggs I realized what had happened and I screeched, "Go put those eggs back." So far, only one hen has returned to her nest. We can't eat that dozen eggs because they have been incubated, and since it is cool today the embryos will be wasted if broody doesn't show up in a few minutes.

Never a dull moment here!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The truly bizarre nature of trick-or-treating in my neck of the woods

Last night I drove twenty-eight miles in one and a half hours so Princess and Pink Panther could trick-or-treat at 13 houses and get loads of artificially colored and flavored junk that I don't want them to eat. Meanwhile, my husband stayed home so he could give candy to the one family who told me earlier in the day they would be coming. The reality of living in the country is that Halloween doesn't turn out to be the Halloween of books, movies, and television where a group of children or parents and children traipse around a neighborhood screeching trick-or-treat and laughing. Instead, the children are in and out of the car a dozen times at houses whose owners know to expect us. We went to one of Princess' friend's house and when the father, one of my childhood friends, answered the door he was truly excited. He said he had never had a trick-or-treater before.

When I was a child things were about the same so Halloween rituals are not exactly a shock. The children accept this method of madness and think it is grand. More candy comes from those you know and see daily. But, I've always wanted the Halloween of my mind's eye. It may not exist, in reality, but a little less driving and a little less in and out would be fantastic. Homemade treats and a carnival would be a nice touch! I want a steady stream of trick-or-treaters. We always have really great treats!!!

I did get the ultimate Halloween treat - a new neice!! My younger sister had a baby yesterday. I will see her today. But, now I have to go dip into those treats!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Pumpkin Carving

We have a friend who is quite adept at making those beautiful pumpkins with all the intricate detailing. She has brought a jack-o-lantern to the children for the past two years and we have become inspired to raise our bar. We usually carve out the typical triangle shapes in our pumpkin creations, but this year we bought one of those kits and had a great time making something pretty.

I was a little worried that I would end up having to finish the children's pumpkins, but we chose simple patterns and the children determinedly finished their creations. I cut one, too! My husband's pumpkin was so interesting in its own right that he decided not to cut it.

Here are our Jack-o-lanterns!! My picture is not as great as Zilla's, but the moment was preserved. I am reminded of a song/dance Princess learned in her creative movement class:
Oh! A pumpkin is a pumpkin
A pumpkin is a pumpkin
A pumpkin is a pumpkin
Pumpkins are round.

Ew Ah ! A pumpkin is a pumpkin
A pumpkin is a pumpkin
A pumpkin is a pumpkin
Pumpkins are orange!

You cut the eyes,
You cut out the nose,
You cut out the smile,
And now . .
It is a Jack-o-lantern!

EW ew ew (witchy sounding)

Life is Full

I'm sorry for the lack of consistency in my blog. Two people called yesterday to tell me they were waiting and to ask why I haven't been writing. Well, life is full. I have been in a frenzy trying to balance work, children, school, farm, and husband's business. Being capable is sometimes a burden and I wish I didn't know how to sew, cook, use Photoshop (or any other program), write or use databases, repair computers, etc., etc., etc.

Just yesterday I made bread, spent 3 hours teaching, 6 hours on the computer creating brochures and mailers for my husband, 2 hours on the computer answering email and working on the website for my paying job, 30 minutes on the phone with a customer whose computer would not work properly (Thank goodness I didn't have to go down there since I didn't have time to shower or dress), 2-1/2 hours sewing a pink panther costume, and an hour carving pumpkins. Add into that meals, hugs, feeding of animals, washing of clothes and helping my son sell Scout popcorn and you get a picture of my life lately. Right now, I can't think of anything I can cast aside, so expect patchy blogging.

Life is full, but isn't it grand! After school today, we will make gingerbread ghosts and finish the costumes. Then, we will Trick-or-Treat! I hope a lot of people will come to our house!

Thursday, October 26, 2006


As late as October 15 I was lamenting the lack of sufficient rain. Since that time we have gotten 8.20" of rain. Our average for October is 3.30". We were so drought stricken that even with all this rain, I have not heard one complaint and I certainly haven't uttered one.

Today, we have more rain. In fact, it should be raining until Saturday. During the dry of the Summer I forgot about how slick the red clay in front of the chicken roost gets, how muddy the dirt roads get, how the roof will leak if I don't clean the valleys, and how much mud the children can track into the house.

I also forgot how amazing the rain sounds on the tin roof. If I didn't have so much to do I would go take a nap.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

I promise we are schooling!

I know I have not written a thing about our homeschool in soooo long, but we are progressing nicely. In fact, I have amazed myself with my consistency this year. In past years, if the children complained, whined, or told me they were bored, I immediately withdrew. This year I am immune to whining, will listen to complaints only if they are based on legitimate concerns, and process laments of boredom within a week. I have found that if the children know they are going to do the basics every single day they will not waste their time whining, complaining, or telling me I am boring.

Consistency can be boring, but it can also be rewarding. Spelling is improving dramatically and math concepts are being mastered. The children are learning that a little discomfort and boredom today will be exchanged for a vast store of knowledge and skill that will work for them later. Yes, I attempt to actively engage my children with exciting projects, experiments, and hands on learning, but I have stopped trying to make all learning a game. Some things just have to be memorized.

I realize there is a balance to be obtained, so I am actively pursuing a balance of fun and games and serious "get it done" study.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Rushing Things Just a Bit?

Today, is/was ballet day. We drive into the city for ballet and do a little shopping, see my sisters, and other necessities. While doing the shopping, I was amazed to see the first of the Christmas decorations and Christmas items for sale sitting right next to the Halloween stuff.

Let me enjoy the seasons!! Please!! I have not finished sewing Pink Panther's Pink Panther costume. I have not carved a pumpkin. I have not made gingerbread ghosts. I have not filched chocolate from the children's trick or treat bags. I have not seen The Great PUMPKIN!!!

I want my full measure of Halloween before I start thinking of Thanksgiving, much less Christmas cards, presents, trees, lights, wreaths, and Christmas cookie baking. I don't want to be bombarded by commercial Christmas before I have even looked Winter in the face and before I have watched, at least, a part of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. So, go away, you who are so anxious to rush the seasons. Let me enjoy Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday, without listening to Jingle Bells while looking at cheesy Christmas decorations.

Does this make me a Scrooge?

Sunday, October 22, 2006

A Subtle Change

When I woke this morning, I noticed that, seemingly overnight, the seasons have changed. Though the temperature is not cold (cool by our standards but not cold), there is something about the light and air that says get ready for winter. Again, winter here is not the same as a Northern winter, but some preparation is needed.

Just yesterday, we harvested honey which screams of Summer. My brother, in fact, questioned my sanity because of yesterday's harvest. He didn't understand I still had the honey supers on the hive. He thought I was taking Winter food from the brood chambers which I would never do even in Summer. Even though it was late in the year, yesterday was a perfect harvest day, warm, but not too hot, and sunny. Harvesting honey is great fun. The children both think it is better than computer games and running around outside. I think what they really mean is that they like the perks of honey harvest - the shards of comb dripping with honey. We run a small bee operation so we don't have a dedicated honey place. My kitchen is sticky but we are waiting for the cappings to drain to produce the last quarts of honey before we do the major cleaning. Obviously we did spot cleaning and cleaned the thruways, but a major scrub is in order later today.

This afternoon we gathered pecans stripped from the trees by the wind and rain last night. Gathering nuts screams Fall, especially if you are a squirrel.

Instead of actual cues in nature such as temperature, light, color, and air, maybe I have just decided it is time so I am more attune to the signs that have been around for a while. But I think the animals have just noticed, too.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Water for Elephants

I just finished Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. I was mesmerized by the depression era circus story - the characters, the class stratification, the animals, the camaraderie, the danger, the fear, and uncertainty- and the story of a 90ish year old man who is dissatisfied with his assisted living arrangement. No, this is not high literature, but it is a good read for adults. I know ya'll will think I am a total prude (especially after some of my other posts), but can nothing be left to the imagination? I can imagine that the cooch house was real in some of the seedier circuses and that in order to make the book believable some of that reference needs to be included. But, I don't need a play by play of Jacob's humiliation.

Overlooking being banged in the head with sexual details, I think this book, like The Devil Wears Prada, is just asking for a movie. The texture, color, and movement of the Big Top lends itself to The Big Screen. I would love to see the right actors and lighting in this obvious screen play.

When I was young, I wanted to be in the circus. I used to practice tightrope walking (though the rope was not as taut as it could be and I was never successful) and acrobatics and my imagination took me on many journeys. The circus of my imagination is certainly denuded of any romance by the reality of the violence and lack of consistency shown in Water for Elephants. Though Gruen is careful to say many times that Ringling Brothers is not as sleazy as her fictionalized circus story, you have to realize that a show is just that - a show. The reality of the life behind the show can never be as glamorous as the production.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Wonderful resources that can't wait until

I can think of something wonderful to say. This is unbelievable - a searchable online Charles Darwin complete with pictures. Sometimes, I am completely blown away by the wonderful resources on the internet. Usually, I am astounded by the junk, but today, I bow to the people who worked so hard to make an almost complete works of Darwin available online for free!!

Tractor Therapy

I've spent the last couple of hours riding a tractor and my mind is completely cleansed of all worry - not because there is less to ponder but because the vibration, shaking, noise, and routines of tractor use completely squash other meaningful thought. Much has been made of lawn mower therapy which is the same concept, but tractor therapy is far superior because of the grander scale.

My husband is home!!!, but he came home wounded. He has an old football knee injury/knee surgery thing that did not enjoy his standing, walking, and living on concrete floors for the past three weeks. He couldn't even push the clutch on the tractor, so all the tractor tasks I had been putting off until he arrived home had to be done today by me. It serves me right for procrastinating and evading.

Bread Recipe

Here is the promised bread recipe with a few caveats. The first caveat is that I never make this bread exactly the same any day so this is only a base recipe. The second is that the pan I use is larger than a regular bread pan so adjust accordingly. My pan measures 12.5" x 4.5". Third caveat - Not all flour is created equal. Don't use a southern biscuit flour for the white flour. I buy King Arthur unbleached white and red whole wheat since Mississippi wheat tends not to be the type for crusty breads.

Everyday Bread
3 tsp yeast
2 cups warm water
3 TBLS honey (I don't measure, just pour some, but this morning it was about 3 TBLS)
4 1/2 cups - 5 cups flour (I use a mixture of whole wheat and white changing amounts according to what will go on the sandwiches. Tomato sandwiches call for a whiter bread.)
3 TBLS melted butter
1 tsp kosher or sea salt

I mix all this up in my mixer(use a dough hook) and add flour and knead until it isn't sticky and pulls away from the sides into a ball. I let it rise under a flour sack towel with chickens painted on it that my friend brought me as a happy. Once it is doubled I dump it on a board and knead it and shape it into a roll. I punch the narrow ends into the bread and plop it into my greased (with butter) pan. I let it rise again and put it in a preheated to 365 degree oven. Cook until the outside is browned and crunchy and the bread sounds hollow, about 30 minutes. Remove from pan immediately and cool on a rack to maintain perfect crunch, chewy goodness.

If you get bored with plain bread add pecans, sunflower seeds, or anything else that suits your fancy.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Baking Bread

I bake almost all the bread we use. I started when we moved here and visited the local grocery to buy bread. The only bread available was the mass produced squooshy white bread and some similar whole wheat colored bread. I went home and started baking, immediately. This was ten years ago, so the routines are set, the baking is not stressful, and it seems natural to start bread as soon as I finish the outside morning chores. I'm not weird about it. If I get in a bind or crave Broadstreet sourdough baguettes, I buy them and don't feel guilty. Nonetheless, baking bread feels good and I do it often.

The bread I bake is made with only the best ingredients. There is no high fructose corn syrup and no preservative that will keep it fresh for weeks. My favorite bread has only wheat flour, water, honey, butter, yeast, and salt. The crusty exterior, light brown interior and full bodied taste are worth every kneading minute.

"Okay," you ask yourself, "Why is she writing about making bread?"

It may sound a bit weird, but I would like my whole life to be like bread baking. I want everything to feel this good. By not supporting the mass produced, preservative laden, artificially enhanced bags of squooshy wheat product, we move towards sustainability, we eat a quality food that is nutritious(without artificial additives) and delicious, and we save money.

How do we save money when the commercial bread is frequently on sale for two loaves for a dollar? We save because raw bulk goods are cheaper than you would expect and with homemade bread we don't eat multiple sandwiches to satisfy our cravings. My homemade sandwich whole wheat bread costs about 85 cents a loaf plus my time which I am donating because it feels so good. Now 85 cents each does not compete with two for a dollar, but whole wheat is almost never two for a dollar. But, the "mama bread" is honest so our bodies feel satisfied because our bodies know how to process the ingredients and the bread is more substantial so smaller portions are needed.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

What We Have Been Reading

Though our life has been super busy in the past few weeks, we have one constant - reading. When nothing else is going as planned or desired in life, school, work, or farm we tend to retreat to books for encouragement, direction, motivation, relaxation, information, and entertainment. Even when life is grand, books pepper our lives. Maybe this explains why I have so many books. Anyway, this is what the children and I have been reading. I'll let you guess into which category each book falls.

Books for Me
Our Lady of the Forest by David Guterson -- I listened to Our Lady of the Forest on my car adventure and have read it again since I have been home. I really like this book, though I am sure it controversial. Any book that deals with Marian visions is forced to deal with the possible miracle, the church's ruling and reaction, and the hordes of fanatics. Guterson, who doesn't flinch from the dangerous ground, does a fantastic job meticulously characterizing the types and the individuals. The language in Our Lady is rich, questioning, and honest in its search for truth. Even if the truth seems elusive, the power of possibility certainly is not.

The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weinberger is not the same sort of book as Our Lady of the Forest, but is a fun read - a diversion into a life not my own. Though the book focuses on the fashion industry, of which I know nothing, the new job, envied by all yet not as good as it seems, is certainly within the realm of my experience. After having read most of the book, I called my sister who is a F.I.T. graduate and fashion aficionado to find out if the book is believable. Do people really take fashion that seriously? Her response was, "Yes, the book is very believable - probably truth with name changes." Wow. I was interested in the way Andie was dragged into the importance of the job. In her struggle to satisfy Miranda and not get fired, she sacrificed her personal life and relationships. Finding a balance while nurturing career and nurturing self and relationships is a universal plight.

The Field Guide to Weeds, a useful book with both color images and line drawings, is exactly what the name implies. The images are so nice that you forget why you wanted to dig that weed in the first place, yet the short narratives give you important information like which plants can become pests and which are harmful to livestock.

Keeping Livestock Healthy by Bruce Haynes, DVM is a fantastic livestock medical guide for the worrying sort. I find that I never finish the book, but continue to use it as a reference reading only the pertinent sections for the emergency at hand.

Gardening Southern Style by Felder Rushing is a gardening book just for the Southern states. Many times I am stymied by advice and planting schedules from well known gardening publications. What is harvested in Maine in May has little to do with what is happening in my Mississippi garden. Felder Rushing is a Mississippi native and is familiar with the routines of the Southern garden including his love of Round-up and Sevin dust. The herbicides and pesticides aside, the Almanac at the end of the book helps to keep me on track with gardening chores and possibilities.

For the Children
Dancing Shoes by Noel Streatfeild is a feel good book. You just have to love when Hilary and Rachel grow into themselves in spite of all their adversity. Rachel, who is castigated for not fitting into the dancing school home of her aunt, stays true to herself and is rewarded.

The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit is another older book with enduring appeal. Children, in this case Bobbie, Phyllis, and Peter, are faced with the adversity of having their father away and becoming poor. They maintain their standards and their mother writes her way through the struggle. I love those strong female characters in children's books.

Henry and Ribsy by Beverly Cleary -- What is a house with a seven and ten year old without a bit of Beverly Cleary humor. We love the books with Ribsy because he is so like our Yellow Dog.

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren is a book I chose for Princess. I remembered it from my childhood. Once we purchased it I picked it up and realized that what I thought was funny when I was 8 or 9 is not as funny now. Princess is loving the book, but I just keep shaking my head thinking, "This is ridiculous." To my credit, I keep my mouth closed.

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl is Pink Panther's latest diversion. I must admit that I have had a difficult time keeping my hands off this one. What a wonderful lark and in one of my favorite fruits.

Gilgamesh -- After our shocking encounter with Stephen Mitchell's edition in the audio book format, I retreated to the David Ferry rendering. I believe the Ferry edition is a scholarly rendering and the verse seems more fitting for children than the narrative of Mitchell. As an adult, I appreciate Mitchell's stronger language and imagery.

Waiting for Rain

With only three more days as a single farmer, I am here and waiting for rain. Last week I got the rye grass planted (with the help of my Dad) and yesterday I over-seeded with white clover. Tonight and tomorrow we in drought plagued Central Mississippi have a forecasted 100% chance of rain. Right now, we have one of those wonderful high blue sky days that lures you outside with the perfect mid-seventies temperatures and light breeze. Maybe it will rain, tonight, but now it is just as dry as it has been all summer. I will be disappointed if the forecast is wrong. I have worked so hard getting the winter grass seeds sown before today.

I will go out and finish sowing seeds for the winter garden when I get through here. I am planting lettuce, spinach, sugar snap peas, potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, and radishes. I only plant in the raised beds for the winter because they are easier to protect from the few truly cold days.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

You know you are an adult when. . .

You see the toilet paper hanging from the trees and in the yards and think, "That's a week's worth of TP hanging in those trees. Why would they WASTE it?"

Halloween pranks start early around here because of all the school rules and town rules prohibiting rolling of yards, soaping of windows, and miscellaneous mischief. The powers who be are out in force on the days immediately preceding and following Halloween, but they are resting now and the yards, browned with drought, are now white though there is no forecast for snow - ever.

I was never a yard roller because my dad had us in the house by ten o'clock, but I always thought it would be a cool thing to do. Even after my yard rolling years, I craved the adventure of some major prank. I even wished someone would roll my yard so people would think I was cool. Now, I think about the waste - of trees used to make the paper, of money used to purchase the wasted toilet paper, of energy to produce the paper and to clean the mess. Does age, maturity, and responsibility equal rationing of Toilet Paper squares and boredom? Or does it equal sanity?