Thursday, December 31, 2009

All Things New

A new cousin!

A new calf!

A Happy New Year to fill with.....

New adventures, hopes, dreams....

Prayer and wonder!

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Dolls and Boys

In any Waldorf Kindergarten there are generally plenty of soft bodied dolls to go around.  Even into first grade there is usaully a small corner in the classroom set aside for play including dolls.  My husband recalls how he always longed for a doll when he was a child - but a baby doll for a boy?  Not happening in his house but he did have a soft bodied Spiderman doll that he loved dearly.

I am glad that we have no problem allowing our boys access to doll play.  The boys don't often take an interest in the dolls - they are much too busy building, sword fighting, and generally rolling around and getting into trouble.  But every once in a while some little bit of inspiration strikes them and I find dolls in some curious places.  Like stuffed in the shark shaped back- pack.

"Uh Christian - did this shark eat the doll?"

"No Mama - the doll lives inside the shark and eats the meat."

Hmmm - we'll just put that in the *sorry I asked category*.

But other times you come across such scenes of sincere gentleness that I wonder if someone had snatched my son and left some other child in his place.  As was the case recently with youngest seven year old Aidan a couple of weeks ago.  It must have started with an offhand remark I made while "helping" the boys to clean up their room.  I happened to say "Oh we'll have to get all the dollies dressed for Christmas".  A couple of days later Aidan asked for the dolls clothes box and soon everyone was dressed and in their own beds.  We don't have a bed for every doll  but Aidan remembered that Katie had made hammocks for the dolls one day with a couple of our silks.

And then later that night all the dollies needed to be changed into jammies and tucked in for the night. 

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmastide Outdoor Hour

Our snow is almost all gone now.

With our recent rain the Little Flatbrook (or is this the Big Flatbrook?) is rushing along.

No fish - but still fun trying.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Do you have a favorite tasty something that would make food editors the world over shudder with horror?

This is my favorite extra special holiday treat -

You take a bagel - a wonderful fresh bagel from your favorite bagel spot - lightly toasted - spread each side with a thin layer of cream cheese - adorn with wild caught smoked salmon - and add a baked potato patty - sheer culinary bliss!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Day Outdoor Hour

In the bleak midwinter

Frosty wind made moan,

Earth stood hard as iron,

Water like a stone;

Snow had fallen, snow on snow,

Snow on snow,

In the bleak midwinter,

Long ago. 
-Christina Rossetti


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Tree for the birds

One of our favorite traditions this time of year is putting up a tree on our deck for the birds.  We make simple birdseed ornaments to adorn the tree and the birds that come for the feast make the tree so much more beautiful - nature's own lovely winged ornaments.

We have a big alumimun pan filled with birdseed.  We have several heart and star shaped ornaments cut out of cardbooard and then threaded with yarn for a hanger.  Make sure you have your hangers on before adding the paste and birdseed  - I made that mistake once - only once.

To  make the paste mix equal parts of confectioner's sugar and flour in a bowl and then add enough water to make a not too thick - not too thin consistency.    Use a brush to paint the paste onto the cardboard ornaments and then bury the ornamants in the seed.  You can let them set a for a couple of minutes - but they are pretty much ready for the tree once they are covered in birdseed.

All ready for the birds!

The tree is enjoyed by all members of the family!

We usually get our tree for birds ready on the winter solstice but we're running a bit late this year!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Oh Christmas Tree!

This is probably the latest we have ever decorated our "inside" tree.  I  made a bit of a blunder - I had forgotten that last year I had purged nearly all of our Christmas lights.  The strands that were left would not light - I tried - I switched countless bulbs and little fuses to no avail.  Ed was out last night to take Hannah to bagpipe practice - yes - three days before Christmas and they still had practice - and offered to get me new lights (among all the other things he had on his list).

And he tried - he could tell which of the wide open empty shelves once displayed Christmas lights.  There was evidence of a stray little bulb here and there but aside from neon green and blue rope lights there was nothing. 

I am glad that we do have our candles for the tree and without the electric lights I might just summon up a bit more will to light the candles.  Usually we unplug the tree and try to light the candles on the Christmas tree each night of the 12 days of Christmas.  Some years this actually happens more times than others - this year I hope it will happen more often than not.

Maybe, just maybe, the children won't even miss the electric lights and I will never again lose an entire day plugging and unplugging wee little bulbs and rethreading burnt out ones.  One can only hope.

Even without lights the tree  still looks pretty.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Hannah's Advent Outdoor Hour

Hannah often goes for walks on her own in the woods.  Living in a small house with two very boisterous brothers makes a few moments of solitude precious.   These are some pics taken of fox prints she followed back to its den - how great is that!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Advent Outdoor Hour

Cleaning up the driveway before the next snow.  We did it!  We cleared the rest of the firewood and actually fit both cars in the driveway.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A New Tradition?

I wanted to do something a little special for my very tired husband, so this morning I resolved to get to the recycling center - a major chore.  And the boys wanted to pick out some things for their sisters for Christmas.  We packed up the car with bagged garbage, cardboard, cans, bottles, paper recycling, a bag of old clothes.  Of course, all this took way longer than planned and I knew I would have two hungry boys on my hands soon after the trip to the recycling center with many more errands to go.  But I also didn't want to delay getting out to pack lunch.

I really, really, really try to avoid fast food places at all costs...even on our many road trips we pack food to go...hard boiled eggs, cold sausages, sandwhiches, chunks of cheese, hummus and chips, little yogurts...etc..

But like I said I didn't really have any of those things around to pack quick so we decided on our favorite pizza place in town.  It was not "fast" but well worth taking a little time.  First it was *warm* - both in easing the chill in little toes and the heart of a mother mentally tallying all the tasks yet to be accomplished before Christmas.  There was a Christmas tree, poinsettias, and even a *Nativity* set up in the main dining area.  What a pleasure to go out somewhere where it really felt like Christmas.  And what a pleasure to know that my boys are getting old enough at 7 and 10 to able to take them out to a restaurant with relative ease.

They took turns going over to look at the Nativity scene and reporting back their impressions.  Christian was impressed by the extra stall provided for the animals.  Aidan came back to report that - it was not "proper" because baby Jesus was already there and the three wise men too!!  He was a bit taken  aback at these obvious errors but I convinced him that no, we would not be troubling the owner over it - we do our creche at home our way - they can do theirs, their way.

The pizza came and soon we were stuffed full of yummy pizza and ready to face the rest of the day.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Advent Outdoor Hour

The children have been getting out much more than I have.   I have discovered that I am a complete wimp when it comes cold yucky weather.  I'm working on it.  But when the weather does give me a bit of incentive,  I have been enjoying getting outside. 

Hannah discovered some old rock walls way up on a piece of property that is not far from us.   The land was purchased by the state and now adjoins a larger state park.  It is a hike up a very large hill - mental note to self to get further definition of "well it's a little ways up there" from dear daugther before venturing on a hike with her.  But we found the walls - remains of some castle for sure according to the boys. 

I do love where we live.

And I do love my beautiful young naturalist daughter (even if she does nearly kill me on a "short" hike).

Things you never knew until you became a parent of boys.

I was escavating cleaning the boys room when I found three little gnomes with acorns taped to them.  Hmmm...maybe the gnomes are collecting food for the winter.  I found the boys and asked -

Me - "Um... boys,  what's with the acorns taped to these gnomes?"

Aidan -  "Jet packs."

Me - "Jet packs?"

Aidan - "Yeah, doesn't every gnome have a jet pack?"

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Making Room for Sorrow

I was all set for Gaudete Sunday this year - a new pink shirt - I was ready for Joy!  But  I was not at all feeling pink this year.  This year we've had to make room for an unexpected guest this Advent - sorrow.  Ed lost a much loved aunt.  The St. Nicholas bag accompanied us to viewings and other services for those down times that can be particularly hard on rambunctious boys.

And then we had news that Ed lost a student.  A hunting accident - so unexpected.   He was also a member of the fishing club Ed mentors.  He was 17.  

This year our Mary path has taken on a new focus - instead of the path leading us to Christmas day we've been asking Mary to help our loved ones find their way to the Child in heaven.  

Saturday, December 12, 2009

St. Nicholas Feast on the go.

St. Nicholas Eve was a late night - the girls had a late Holiday Concert with their choir (which was wonderful - more about that in another post).    It was well past the boys' bedtime when we arrived home that night.  The boys were up - it was a scramble to find the Santa letters that were worked on during the week.  But we found them and quick found Papa's dress shoes and then off to bed.  Usually St. Nicholas morning means a leisurely breakfast and extra time snuggled in bed reading stories of St. Nicholas.  Not this year - the girls and I had to rush out to get to the 8:00am Mass, then home for a quick breakfast.  Hannah and her dad were out the door the annual Senior Citizen Prom and Katie and I were making sure everything was set for her violin concert. 

Since we missed our usual snuggle time - I packed up everything we needed for the boys - two clipboards with coloring pages and plenty of tales of St. Nicholas.

Here is one with St. Nicholas on his horse.  St Nicholas on a horse  is mentioned in the story found in this little volume it can also be found here.  This is the story we tell every year - we may include other stories as well but this one is a must!  I also found a coloring page of a ship.

Here is a nice one that shows St. Nicholas carrying a bag of gold which went very nicely with "The Story of Bella, Sophia, and the Little Bonita" from The Seven-Year-Old Wonder Book .  *I do edit this story slightly but it is lovely and also went so well with our sweets tht St. Nichoals left in the childrens' shoes this year along with the usual nuts and grapefruit.  Don't they look like gold coins?  Close enough and they are so good!!  I think more will find their way into Christmas stockings this year!

For coloring on the go I like to sharpen a bunch of colored pencils and we like these crayons.

Since Katie had to be at the concert 45 minutes early, the boys and I had plenty of time for stories, coloring, multiple trips to the drinking fountain (mental note to self - do not leave house without WATER) and the bathroom before the concert began.  The boys made it through the Suzuki strings, Rocking Strings and the Prepatory Orchestra - all of which Katie played and which was about all the sitting the boys could take.

Katie - 2nd child in the middle row - she did geat!

The music was beautiful, I hope St. Nicholas was listening.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Advent Outdoor Hour

After watching this movie the boys were very much in need of a little outdoor time.   Shortly after the movie this was just one of  Aidan's battle scenes being played out on the dining room floor (note the possession of illicit stick snatched from the kindling for the woodstove - sigh).

So I quickly moved the battle outside:

All ready for the Christmas Bazaar!

We used ideas from two little Klutz books, here and here , to make Christmas Angel Ornaments - we plan to make another bunch for home.  Tip: when picking out flowers look for ones that have not used a lot of glue on the petals - I had picked out some pretty red and green roses in the craft section only to find that almost all the petals were unusable because a lot of hot glue was used to keep the rose shape.  If you carefully look through the layers you should be able to tell which flowers will be easier to separate.  The flowers that worked best were those that used little plastic pieces to make more layers.

Here's one of Katie's:

We hope they will find good homes in this year's Christmas trees.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Advent Outdoor Hour

If you have boys - you know about sticks - you probably know more ways to use and misuse a stick than you ever thought possible - until you had boys.

A scene from the season

Time for poinsettas!  My daughters  participate in their Choir's Poinsetta and Weath sale every winter - I generally don't enjoy fundraising activities but this one is my favorite - when I walk into that room filled with flowers I can't help but smile.  And I am thankful for the opportunites to help offset the cost of larger trips that the Choir takes - the next big one is set for Paris in the summer of 2011.  

My boys were very patient and helpful while we loaded and delivered the first batch.  We also heard a bit of the dress rehearsal for the concert this Saturday - such beautiful voices.   As always - I am sure the concert will be a great treat.

 And we enjoyed a  new find from the library  The Miracle of the First Poinsettia .

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Advent Outdoor  Hour

Today, I found these intact circles of bark - most likely they are from a Black Birch tree - wouldn't a couple of pillar candles look great in these?

Still pretty warm here these days - although I think his feet must have been getting cold.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Our Outdoor Hour

I know one thing that makes me feel better in general and helps me cope with stress is regular time out of doors.   So to help dust away those layers of stress I going to *try*...really...really try to commit to one hour outside every day of Advent.  Can I do it? I hope so - I think we all be the better for more fresh air - even if a bit nippy-  to put a little color in our cheeks.   I had so much fun doing the April Shower of Photos that I hope to post a picture a day of our Advent adventures outdoors! 

Soup so hot!

A song that we've been singing since a Thanksgiving Tea with friends is "When I First Came to this Land" - it's one of those fun songs that lends itself to creating your own verses.  Aidan and I made up several new verses inluding

When I first came to this land
I was not a weathy man, so I got myself a pot
I did what I could
And I called my pot, soup so hot
But the land was sweet and good...

Believe me - there is nothing quite so comforting on a chilly day like a warm bowl of homemade soup.  The above is my oldest daughter's speciality.  She made it for us today while the rest of us were running errands this morning.  Post office, dry cleaners, department store.  Have you been shopping for bras lately?  Very scary.  Shopping for bras with two rascally boys in tow - even scarier.   Then off to violin lesson.  By the time we got back for lunch we were all in need of a little comfort.

Our favorite soup

Take a quantity of homemade stock (turkey stock this time - gotta love Thanksgiving - it's the holiday that keeps giving us great meals!)
Peel and thinly slice 3-4 carrots
Peel and dice a couple of potatoes (optional - there is a great debate in our house now whether this is a worthy addition to the soup )
Noodles - sometimes we use ABC's or little stars or broken up angel hair - something pretty quick cooking.
Cooked , cubed  turkey ( or chicken)
About 1/2 lb of a leafy greens such as spinach, swiss chard, kale etc... rinsed and cut into thin strips.  We do not recomend boc choy though - it gave the soup a very strong almost lemony flavor - but not quite - blech.

Begin to heat stock while you take care of carrots - add carrots first and then potatoe and simmer until just about tender, add noodles when noodles are just about done add tthe turkey and lastly the greens which need just a couple of minutes(until wilted).   Ladle in bowls - serve with crackers.  Yum.  This is our go to soup for comfort or a cure when feeling under the weather.