Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Pioneer Days

"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." ~Leonardo DaVinci

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Harvest Time

"Listen! the wind is rising, and the air is wild with leaves,
We have had our summer evenings, now for October eves!"
- Humbert Wolfe

The beginning of Autumn is always marked by our favorite festival at the historic Chelberg Farm. It is one of our most looked forward to weekends to spend as a family enjoying the sights & smells that linger in the air.

Fall to me is...

A gentle reminder to live a simple life..

Milkweed pods..silky treasures..many of my own childhood memories involve playing with these...

The joys simple, old fashion games can bring to my children..

Listening to bluegrass music while sitting on hay bales..

Teaching my children a new craft for winter..

Making Corn husk dolls with my girly..

All of my plants & herbs going to seed for the season..

Time spent with my favorite Brown Cow..

Exploring the inside of the old Chelberg Farmhouse...

Hayrides & local honey sticks...

Learning how to live off the "grid"


And the crunch of autumn leaves.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Creamy Potato Soup

It's officially Autumn.

As the weather is shifting into cool gray days, I find myself looking forward to time spent indoors working on projects, cooking, baking & just snuggling with my kids on the couch.

I am a Summer girl through and through, but something about the energy this time of year allows me to slow down and savor the coziness of spending my days in tune with the season. Warm sweaters, collecting acorns & leaves, fuzzy socks, hats & scarves...ohh my heart could burst with excitement when I think of all the knitting to be done!
Around here, lots of soup gets made in the cooler months. Were big fans..throw it in the crock pot in the morning or on slower days, everyone lends a hand chopping and stirring in the evening. Cooking with my kids is not only good for them to learn math, measurement and about where there food came from, but it also fills me with great joy. There is nothing like a healthy, homegrown meal to pull the family together at the end of the day. It really tends to bring us to center after a long day apart.

The Blessing my children have been singing before meals has been with our family since River was one. I wanted a way to teach my children to acknowledge and appreciate all that goes into creating & preparing our meals, something so many seem to take for granted. We came up with this..

"Thank you for this food,
from the Earth,
& the Animals
& Minerals
that made it possible."

As they sing it, they always add in a few extra thank yous.. to the farmers or the Mama that made it, to the workers who made the stove we cooked it on...ect.. and because I always end my own prayers & blessings by putting my hands together and bowing in Namaste, my children as babies turned this into putting your hands together and stretching them over your head to "relax and make room for food in your belly." hehehe. Even at 9 & 7, they still end the blessing in this way. They clap there hands behind their heads and dig in. :) It's funny to type it out because it is a small moment that gets lost in the everyday motions since it has been done for almost 9 years now, but I feel deep gratitude for the sweetness of it.

The last few nights I have in a "soupy" mood. It's so gray, we need lamps on in the house during the day and a cool damp breeze floats through the windows. Geese have been flying over joyously honking all morning...Soup is in order.

I'm sharing my favorite Potato Soup Recipe with you today. I was inspired when I pulled my wonderful, well loved cookbook off the shelf in three pieces this morning, missing a cover & splattered with cooking stains & flour. Everyone needs this simple recipe in their collection.

Cream of Potato Soup
from The New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook

Scrub & cut 10 cups of white potatoes. Boil until soft in 6 cups of water and 2 tsp sea salt.

Meanwhile, saute 1 med onion (about 1 cup) in 1/4 cup of oil. Add 1/4 cup flour to onions to make a smooth paste. Stir constantly.

Drain Potatoes, saving water. Mash 2 cups potatoes and add to the potatoes in the pot, along with:
4 cups potato water
2 cups soy milk or organic milk
onion-flour paste
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp dill weed
1 tbsp butter or vegan expeller pressed margarine

Cook over low hear 10-15 minutes.

A Blessed Autumn to you & yours :)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Autumn Blessings

September 22-23 (Northern Hemisphere)

The Autumnal Equinox is one of two days in the calendar year when day and night hours are almost equal to one another; it is also the first day of Autumn, or Fall (September 23-24), in the Gregorian calendar.

The Origin of Equinox Celebrations

The annual seasons happen because of two things: 1) a 23.5° tilt of the earth's axis, which makes the earth rotate like a gyroscope, so it points continuously in a fixed direction-toward the area of space near the North Star; and 2) the earth continuously revolves around the sun in an elliptical orbit-once every 365.25 of our solar days. As a result, for half of the year the Southern Hemisphere is more exposed to the sun than the Northern Hemisphere, and for the other half of the year the reverse is true. At noontime in the Northern Hemisphere the sun appears highest in the sky during summer and lowest in the sky during winter. The Autumnal Equinox is almost exactly halfway between the winter and summer solstices, and in the sky the sun appears about midway between its highest and lowest points. It is one of the two times during the year when day and night are almost exactly 12 hours long, and very close to being equal to each other. The other day is the Spring, or Vernal, Equinox, which usually falls on or near the first day of Spring in the Gregorian calendar.

Whereas the first day of Spring is treated as a time of birth and rebirth, the first day of Autumn is the time when things begin to shed, and the growth which was young in the springtime has now reached maturity. Animals begin preparing for winter, tree leaves turn colors, and the air takes on a chill. Most cultures consider this a time for harvesting crops and taking stock of life's fragility. It is also a time when people begin noticing the waning hours of daylight in anticipation for the Winter Solstice. Since this time of year is one of the most temperate, it is also considered a good time for reflection on the meaning of life.

In every culture the Autumnal Equinox signals the return of weather that favors slowing down, introspection, and conservation.

The old Switcharoo took me a bit of time today BUT I managed to get most of my old posts and advertising set up on my new blog site. I'm pretty happy with it so far except that the posts I moved over are out of order and it is driving me crazy! But not crazy enough to go back a redo it all! So bear with me folks..more good things to come...

Little Drops of Sunshine

The Marsh Marigolds are in bloom everywhere I look. All along the trails at the the wetlands near my house...along the road on the way to the beach...and yet until this year I never knew what they were called or even noticed them for that matter. This year, their radiant yellow glow has caught my eyes and filled me with hope. After a long winter, the sunshine returns...after a failed will grow once more.

Leaves rounded, heart, or kidney-shaped, dark green
...heart shaped leaves..glorious!

Stems hollow, 8"-24" tall, mostly arising from the base
...hollow like I strive to be..empty so that Gods energy may fill me from my crown chakra down to where my feet meet the sweet up and let the light shine through..

Roots deep, tangled
...deeply grounded..oh the lessons learned from this amazing green spirit!

Marsh marigold
he more research I did the more I found this flowering plant truly is a healer...

Early physicians used Caltha palustris to treat dropsy, anemia, coughs and convulsions. Warts were treated with a drop a day of the plant's juice until the wart disappeared. Native Americans used various preparations of the roots to treat colds and open sores, as an aid in childbirth and to induce vomiting, and as a protection against love charms; infusions of leaves were taken for constipation. Leaves gathered from the plant before it bloomed in the spring were cooked thoroughly to destroy a toxic alkaloid they contain and used as greens by many tribes of the northern US. Early settlers often pickled the flower buds; in fact that particular dish was quite a delicacy in restaurants on the east coast. The blossoms of Marsh Marigolds have also been used to make wine and were the source of a brilliant yellow dye.

These amazing little drops of sunshine were blossoming everywhere I looked and appeared to be a sign..a message..someone somewhere was telling me that everything was going to be alright. If these bright yellow flowers could make there way up through the mud and into the light of Spring, surely I could too.

Bright Blessings!



This a picture I took while hiking April 22, 2008 at the Dunes State Park.

29 Trips Around the Sun

Today marks the 29th anniversary of my birth.
Today is MY day.
That one day a year that symbolizes a new beginning for me.
My first breath was taken moments
after my birth on this very day.
April 23rd.
Brisk air. Sunshine.
Daffodils. New green grass.

This has always been a day of hope for me.
New goals created…dreams met…
the beginning of the rest of my life.
On this April 23rd I was joyfully pulled
from slumber by the laughter of my two
amazing babies singing a birthday song.
As I rose to my feet,
I said a silent, but mighty prayer:
Thank you God for another year.
And so it goes…another trip around the sun.

The lake is in motion today.
Waves crashing against the shore…
never idle since it's beginnings…
always changing yet staying constant…
evolving with every ripple.
The tide goes in and out so carelessly…
so harmoniously.
Mother lake is a great teacher.
To her I give thanks and praise.
All the times she has been here to catch my tears and feel my joy.
This April 23rd is mixed with both.
But I still thank the Gods for this day.
This opportunity to start fresh..
to look out to the future..
let go of the past and remain here cradled in the sand
and rocked by the waves
as my children's laughter
mingles with the sounds of the shore.

That is my birthday present to me.

Sweet Moments

We went down to the lake tonight to get a glimpse of the cold, cold beach and I just couldn't resist the beautiful Lilacs any longer growing on top of the hill. Every year, I can hardly wait until the beautiful purple blossoms open up and the sweet perfume fills the air...sometimes you can catch it in a breeze. In my opinion, the season for Lilacs is much too short..although that may be what adds to their magic.

I have been known to climb through deep ditches, sticker bushes and mud to get to these flowers. Year after year, it has been a joke in my family. I fill my house with vase, glass and jar until the air is thick and heady. We stopped to gather a few branches tonight and
Maya says, "The Earth sure is sweet for making us these flowers!"
River adds, "And she sure is graceful!" with a big smile beaming from cheek to cheek.
Maya responds, "What does graceful mean?"
To which her big brother confidently replies, "I'm not sure exactly, but I know the Earth deserves to be called that. Look at these!!!"

When I look over at them, they are both holding their Lilac treasures up to their faces and breathing deep....

The heady fragrance of my favorite flower and the purity of the moment brought us all back to center. These are the times I never want to forget....and maybe, just as Lilacs have always reminded me of my Mama who shares the day my kids, all grown and living their own lives will smell them and think of me as they share the magic with those they love.

Bright Blessings!!!

In the Morning Light

River and Maya are so excited for school everyday now! They bound from bed, get dressed and do their morning chores with ease. We laugh and joke as they gobble down breakfast...sometimes having enough time to squeeze in a silly dance to one of their c.d.'s we have been listening to. We talk about our hopes for the day and sometimes, as I am quietly sipping my coffee in the kitchen and packing lunches, I am blessed to overhear their conversations with each other. So grown up now but still full of giggles... talking about the dreams they had or friends...oh my babies are babies no more.
We pile in the car after admiring a spider on a web glistening in the morning light or whatever other magic has occurred outside as we were sleeping..a new flower on the hibiscus or a chipmunk on the patio.... Heading to school we sing songs, teach each other things we have learned, have really important conversations or practice spelling words or math questions. The sun shines so brightly at this time of morning reaching through the forest and kissing the earth with great force. They often ask me to drive slowly on State Park Rd. so they can take it all in.
As we pull up to school, we say our goodbyes and tell each other to "have the best day ever!" The kids gather up their backpacks and lunchboxes and give me a quick kiss and hug over the seat (sometimes asking me to get out of the car right in the carpool lane!) and they run into the school, an image forever burned in my mind. Half running/half skipping..Adjusting backpacks as they go. And they are off to the big kid world not needing me for another six hours.. It’s bittersweet, this time of day. The joy of morning is daily followed by the sting of a tear in my eye and an ache in my heart as I pull away from the doors. I wave to other parents who are undoubtedly feeling the same emotions at times. I want to holler out, "Wait! There goes my heart! Be careful with them, for they are my insides, my joy! Love them as I would..please! Be gentle with them as you teach them new things...they are still my babies! Praise them and remind them of how brilliant & loved they are!" But growing up is inevitable and I must learn to walk now with my insides turned out...with no baby on my faces to hands to hold.. I feel lost.
After those six long hours, I enter the school to retrieve the children whose universe I once was. They run and leap into my arms greeting me with hugs and kisses and a great big "MAMA!!!" and I know my world is complete. I hold their hands, my heart full again and try to fill in all the cracks we have missed throughout the day.
Who knew school would be harder for me then it is for them?

I am the Lucky One

Down by the Ocean in your two year old rock kitchen,
you made me breakfast, scrambled tofu, toast, orange slices.
We both cup hot tea in our hands,
taking imaginary sips.
I am the lucky one.

Hide and seek with the spiders,
bread for the seagulls,
we watch the lapping water,
unnoticed, from between our crevassed hiding places,
while others are on their way to "real" jobs.
I am the lucky one.

Autumn, the time of your birth reminds me,
"This day shall not be your burden, but your delight."
I don’t know where I’m going or where I’ll be when you’re grown,
but right now,
I am the lucky one.

We go into the Co-op for a treat,
smoothies and a cinnamon raisin bagel.
Mine go down quickly, thoughtlessly,
while I delight in your company,
Sticky fingers and full mouth,
you’re in no hurry.
Shoppers smile at your good-natured ways.
I am the lucky one.

A day of errands, I need a book.
No one notices, amused, as I do,how you sit in the window ledge,
warmed by the sun,
among much older readers in the bookseller’s shop.
Your face holds the same serious expression as theirs,
while you read a ghostly tale,
upside down.
I am the lucky one.

Errands finished, we’re back outside,

Singing a song, we walk towards home,

Watching the birds as you ride on my back,

you learn about nature and birds’ preferences for crumbs rather than bagel chunks.
Harried passersby pause, your joy in the ordinary, contagious,
as you point and say "Wassat?", swinging your yellow rain boots.
I am the lucky one.

The day is done.
I tiptoe to our family bed.
Tucking you in, I kiss your soft forehead and whisper thanks for the day.
Feeling gratitude to God and wondering why
I am the lucky one.

The Skirt

So many people have asked me for the pattern for the super simple skirts I've been making for Miss Maya. I found the original pattern on the wonderful blog by Amanda Blake Soule & have tweaked a few things to our own liking.
The 'quick little elastic waist skirt', by the way, is actually the fabulous Oliver + S Lazy Days Skirt Pattern, available as a free download. I've never really used a pattern to make a simple girls skirt before, but this pattern cleverly uses a ribbon encasing the hemline, making it not only adorable, but even one step easier. Maya just LOVES her skirts and also our trips to the fabric store these days!

Happy Sewing!

Monday, September 21, 2009

# 27

#27: Plant a garden & donate a row to the food pantry.

"To do more for the world than the world does for you - that is success." ~Henry Ford

     Last Spring, while flipping through some seed catalogs that came in the mail, my mind began to wonder....what if everyone planted a garden and donated just one row to the food bank? 
     We keep hearing how times are rough, our economy is in turmoil, people are loosing their homes..and the food banks are running out of food.  Since River has been a Cub Scout and we have volunteered at the Westchester Food Pantry in the past, I have seen the need and heard the stories first hand.  And  let's face it...who wants to eat someones old canned creamed corn for supper?  We can do better then that!
     We have the means to sustain ourselves and a garden is a small, simple step in that direction.  I have planted many over the years..from a small potted patio garden in my first apartment to 10 raised beds, berry brambles, fruit trees and greenhouses when I lived in California.  Even if you don't have a yard, plant a few pots of lettuce or cherry tomatoes...put it in a sunny window, use the rooftop of your apartment building, ask a friend or neighbor who has land if you can use some space...just do it and you will be rewarded!  (A great book on this is Food Not Lawns by Heather Flores)  It fills me with so much pleasure when I can make a meal from food that I grew.  And the flavor..oh the flavor...mmm... There is nothing like food fresh picked and warm from the sun!  And the smell of dirt..ooohhh.  I find great joy knowing where my food came from, that it is organically grown & nourishing my kids growing bodies with all our garden has to offer.  And what an amazing learning experience it has been for the kids....hunting for slugs, digging in the dirt, eating green beans off the bush, building scarecrows...they LOVE spending time out there and then helping in the kitchen later.  It always amazes me how a child who claims he doesn't like tomatoes will gobble them up if you tell him they came from his garden.  ;)

I was lucky enough to have my best friends father offer up a plot for me back on his property.  I am so grateful to Bill for his generosity and help tending to my rows.  Truth be told, I not only got my garden in very late in the season but also have had very little time to tend to it myself.  With moving this summer and all the kids activities, it has been a stretch, but we have had enough rain to keep everything in full bloom.  And the weeds? Well.. they just keep growing until I have a moment to get over there and pull them..adds character, right?  lol  Next year I have BIG plans for that little plot of mine..

     "Inch by inch..row by row...gonna make this garden grow..all it takes is a rake and a hoe and a piece of fertile ground.." 

   So the kids and I set to work in June picking and choosing just what we wanted to grow.  We raked and hoed (Bill tilled..)  planted and watered and waited for nature to do her work...
And the end of August we have red tomatoes!  And green beans... and squash... and zucchini ...and peppers ...and acorn squash ...and a watermelon....!  Slowly but surely it is all coming in and dinners are tastier!

     Number 27 on my "30 Things to do While I'm 30" list was officially checked off. (and no, I have not done them in any particular order..still so much to do!)  On Monday I was able to take my first trip to the food pantry with a whopping 35lbs of fresh produce!!! 
Life is good.          
     When I dropped it off, I had the nicest chat with the elderly lady that runs it about compost and rain barrels....I can't wait to meet with her again and offer another bushel of food. 
     When we slow down and share a slice of kindness with others, we really are greatly rewarded by the simple things, such as, that wonderful conversation had with a new friend.
     For anyone interested in donating to the Westchester Food Pantry, you can contact them at 926-4278.  They are located in the Hawthorne Park community building in Porter and are open every other Tuesday from 9am-noon.