Tuesday, December 28, 2010

For the "Grands" in no particular order, A bit of Christmas

Discussing the baton that he wants for Christmas with Santa.
Santa asked if Mowg wanted it to lead his orchestra.
He was told "No."

On Christmas Eve after presents were wrapped the "grumps" at our house
played with the camera and Christmas tree lights.  This is one of my favorites.

Christmas morning coming down stairs
"I stay you Mom."
Tiny was awakened far too early to suit her,
but once we got downstairs all was well.
Sorry my family, waiting can only last so long.

 Back to our visit with Santa--this is as close as Tiny would get.  End of story.

Christmas Eve we were blessed with a lot of wildlife in our backyard.
From our upstairs window we saw a herd of antelope (at least 100 head) skirt the top of our hill.
Prior to that (perhaps it was the day before) this doe (her ears appear here) and her fawn hung out in the back yard.  This is on the fourth tier up from the backyard.  Earlier in the week they'd bedded down on the 2nd tier.  It was so fun to watch them.  To top things off a little cottontail peeked out at the antelope herd as if to say, "What in the world is going on up there?!"

Santa brought some very fun gifts
A guitar for Mowg.

Here's the Mermaid Mowg and I made for Tiny.
We're quite pleased with her.  We got the pattern from
Wee Wonderfuls by Hillary Lang. 
 I can't recommend the book enough. 
If you have basic sewing skills (and not even good ones at that)
you can make very cute toys from her directions.

Here we are discussing the note Santa left and looking at the left over peppermint bark we left him.

This is the only other thing I made this Christmas, but I am so pleased with it.
It was given to Mowg.  He rides it some and carries it about.

 Speaking of Mowg, here he is being a shepherd.  Someone read Luke while the children re-enacted the Christmas Story.  We came home and Mowg repeated it nearly verbatim to me--with a few adjustments in his own words.  It didn't last the day, but his memory of what he hears is phenomenal to me.

A few more Light pictures.
I think this one looks like there are little chomping creatures about.

O Tannenbaum!

Tiny gets a "das my ukulele"
 Playing Jeff Healy style.

The requirements for the baton were "it needs a button and a light on the end."
Santa took another step and added sound.  Lots of conducting fun.

One more shot of this little scottie dog, as I say goodbye.  It just makes me smile.  And up there behind him is the teapot that has fed us for hours on end since its arrival.  So much fun!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Merry Christmas from our family to yours.

Friday, December 17, 2010

"We are time for go" ~Tiny

Can't you hear a NASA ground crew member saying that? 
I can every time I hear her and I want to say, "Go Flight"
That's the state we're in for the next several days:  company coming and going, things to participate in etc.
So we'll see you next week.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

So all my best laid plans fell flat yesterday.  I learned once again that I really don't pay attention very well.  As I prepared to make Baklava I discovered that I had purchased puff pastry and not Philo dough--which is what I needed.  There is no Philo dough in our town.  So we made a dinner quiche instead, which filled up my skeptical husband (along with salad and french bread). 

Then we made a three layer peppermint bark that is making a believer out of me.  I don't like white chocolate.  This recipe is amazing.  It's from Orangette (a food blog).  The recipe is here toward the bottom of the post.  

My kids helped me coarsed chop the peppermint by smashing the candies with cans (it was fun and they didn't quit until I made them).  Then I spread each layer.  Mowg unwrapped 17, 1 ounce squares of chocolate--we're going to use the wrappers for snowflakes.  The kids helped sprinkle the peppermint on the 2 layers it went on.  They would have been a little more involved, but they were busy playing hide-n-seek with Dad.  The tiny girl gives a big thumbs up.  Mowg doesn't mind the peppermint candy.  Dad thinks it's quite good as well.  If I can find more white chocolate we'll make another batch.  I bought out the only store that had any white chocolate with cocoa butter in it.  I only bought 3 packages.  So I'm not hopeful.

Now for recommendations.   As I was gathering our Christmas Books to put in a basket (I've never done that before, but it's working pretty well).  I noticed a strong trend in secular books there and a pretty miserable offering with regard to religious ones.  This is in my own library mind you.  That's not to say there were none, just that there weren't many.  Part of this is that I have my favorite telling of the birth of the Savior in picture book form already. My dearest gave me Santa's Favorite Story by Hisako Aoki last year.  I love the ethereal nature of the water colors in it.  I have a few others that I like, but I want a few more that focus on things of a little more strongly religious nature.  I wondered what kind of story to look for.   Then it dawned on my that 2 of my favorite Christmas carols would make wonderful books.  So I started looking and it was slow going.  I did find 2 that I can say I really like.  The Friendly Beasts with illustrations by Tomie dePaola.  Normally I am not a big Tomie dePaola fan.  I just don't like his illustration style that much.  I love this book.  This illustrations are simple.  The text was hand lettered by the artist.  The beasts (do you know the carol?  "I said that Donkey, shaggy and brown...") have expressive faces.  I love the layout of the book.  Each animal has it's own two page spread where it's verse is written.  Almost as if it really is telling you what it did for the the baby Jesus.  Then you turn the page and the next 2 page spread the animal is doing what it just told you...or providing what it said it did.  No words.  Just the pictures.  I also love that that babe's presence is implied by Mary and Joseph and the manger rather than his face until the last 2 pages of the book.  It's wonderful!

The other one is Good King Wenceslas.    There are several versions out there and I just took a wild stab at this one: Good King Wenceslas.  Since Amazon has no pictures of this one here are a few from my book: 
A 2 page spread:


 I love the bleakness of the landscape and the contrast between the building interior and exteriors.
 You can't really see the "forest fence" in my picture of this, but it looks really cool in the book.
 Closer in...same as above.

Do you have any suggestions of favorite Christmas books?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Sometimes I think the word "Mommy" sounds more like a cuss word on the lips of my beautiful children, than a title or even a name.  I don't know how to explain it other than the end of the day that overused word is just used up.  It is used to summon me from all kinds of tasks to all kinds of tasks.  Some days it just knocks me down.  Then things happen like my dearest friend comes and puts his arms around me as I sit on the couch staring out the window. 
Sometimes it's a book I read to my kids, like An Alcott Family  Christmas by Alexandra Wallner.  It reminded me of the importance of giving to others, even when you don't have a lot like the Alcott Family did giving their whole Christmas dinner away and having a regular every day meal instead.  It also brought up a question (and this from one of those little cussers I was just telling you about) "Can you read the poem the Dad wrote?"  Mr. Alcott had written a poem and he read it to the girls as part of their Christmas celebration.  It wasn't in the book, but it made me curious.  So I went looking for poems by Mr. Bronson Alcott.  I found some, but none that I was ready to share with this little boy of mine.  I did however find this little quote and I love it:

To keep the heart unwrinkled, to be hopeful, kindly, cheerful, reverent that is to triumph over old age ~Bronson Alcott.  That's something to strive for.

Then I'm introduced to this blog:  Chookooloonks.  It's written by Karen Walrond and she's just released a book:  The Beauty of Different.  I'm very intrigued by the book and loved what I read and saw on her blog.  When asked by Brene' Brown what she would like put on a t-shirt she said, "Wildly convinced you're uncommonly beautiful."  How does that make you feel?  Uncommonly beautiful?  Wouldn't it be cool if everyone could read that and think it?  Even better believe it?!

The other thing she shared on her blog that I love came from a talk by Brene' Brown. 

"Courage doesn't always roar.  Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, 'I will try again tomorrow.'" ~  Mary Anne Radmacher

Sometimes (lots of times) I need that kind of courage.

Finally as I was working on something I got a "Mommy" request for crayons.  I never turn that down.  So they went to work coloring and a few minutes later Mowg says, "Mom, we have a present for you."  I turned to look and he had something behind his back.  I tried to encourage him to save it until Christmas.  "No, we need to give it to you right now."  So they did.  They each handed me a piece of paper and said, "Look a rainbow!"  Here are my lovely rainbows:

Maybe "Mom's" not a cuss word after all.  Certainly not all of the time.

In holiday news I finally got some Pickled Mexican Carrots (recipe available here) going yesterday.  Three more days until we taste them.  It's going to be part of the gift we're giving folks.   Next up is Baklava.  We chopped nuts tonight, so tommorrow we might get truffle centers made as well.  We'll see.  There's also that pesky house cleaning that needs doing and more "settling in."  I'll let you know tommorrow, along with a few book recommendations for Christmas.

Monday, December 13, 2010

I have a friend I met just before my second college experience.  I still consider her one of my dearest friends, although it's been a long time since I've seen her and we don't talk or write often.  She had a huge influence on my life at that time.  Her name is Gwen To'omalatai.  She's an artist and I still have fond memories of running up to her upstairs studio and seeing what she was working on and afternoons of visiting and discussing philosophies.  I love her way of seeing and searching for purpose and understanding.  Below is one of my favorite pieces of her work.  I hope one day to have it hanging on my walls.    The focus of her work is color and light.  She looks to the natural world around her for inspiration and has a deep spiritual connection to it.   She paints our journey in this world as an attempt to reach another realm.  The spiritual is what draws me to her paintings.  I believe they embue them with--I'm not sure how to describe it--a peaceful uplifting feeling.

I have two posters hanging in my home at the moment that I love.  This is telling as I haven't hung much on my walls at this point in my new home.  One is this one:  Eternal Rest

My computer makes this image look a quite a bit more red than the actual print (the reds don't take over in real life).  However, every time I see it no matter what my mental state it helps me take a step back and I'm suddenly calmer.  That's good artwork for me to have on my walls.  I'm also grateful that she has affordable posters so that they can grace my walls.  The painting technique she uses is that of the Old Masters:  layering glazes.  She adds glazes and sands them away to acheive beauty. This process she says, "represents life, a refining process to reach the beauty that exsists in each of us." The paintings are most effective (as are we in life) when light enters into them and reflects or refracts back out of them.

I wish I could somehow share Gwen's soul with you.  She is a strong woman, determined and ever seeking.  She has met with sadness in her life.  Her sweet Husband, Ben, died in a car accident when she was expecting their 2nd son.  I have seen this experience intensify her quest for light and an eventual return to Heavenly Father and a reunion with Ben.  It is reflected in her paintings.  This deep sorrow has added the shadow under the light that allows it to shine all the more brilliantly.  Gwen is now raising her two sons, helping her Mom care for her Dad and continuing to paint.  She has also created some interesting wall hangings here's one that is hanging on my kitchen wall:

She uses the same technique she does in painting of layering glazes.  This gives the color behind the words a "moodiness" as it changes depending on the light.  Again the digital image shows very little of the true color.  The browns and greens are much prettier and more light filled in real life.  Gwen has two etsy shops.  One for her art, Gwen's Art, and another for boards, blocks and clocks like the one above  at Beaver Tail Boards.   Go and take a look she has some great things!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sometimes it's the everyday that is worth keeping.

Here is a Tiny girl that loves a tea party.  She regularly sets it up herself.  Pulls the silverware out of the drawer, and if she can find a plate (or procure one from one of the taller folks around) She's all set.

"I a tea party"

She pauses to say a prayer.

Our new kitchen is pretty small, but she's found a spot that is hers.

Another daily occurence is playing games with Dad on the computer
Pool, hunting and some kind of color thing that has the Tiny Girl walking around saying,
"I yellow" As yellow is always her first choice. 
Mowg can't wait for the game playing time.  Is it time to play a game yet?

It's pretty serious stuff.

I love those little things that happen all the time.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

We had "Fun Friday" yesterday and I was the teacher (as Mowg calls it). 

We made Sea Glass Candy--really just hard candy that you shatter and then paint with powdered sugar.  We also made shrinky-dinks.  The fun part for the grown-ups was we also learned some of the science behind those things. 

Did you know that table sugar crystals are made up fructose and glucose (those are molecules)?  When you apply heat they interfere with their bond and the crystal disappears.  Now fructose and glucose still want to get back together pretty bad so as soon as heat steps out of the picture, they're back together.  Unless....you can find something else to interfere.  (In steps corn syrup). 

I had each of the kids hold a paper on a stick that was one of those four things:  fructose, glucose, heat, and corn syrup.  We acted out the process.   To kids held their glucose and fructose together and then heat pushed them apart and kept them apart.  When we back heat off we had corn syrup step in to keep those other two from forming their crystal.

Then we put 1 Cup Sugar, 1/3 Cup Corn Syrup and 6 tablespoons of water in a pot and mixed them together.  We added our friend heat to see what would happened to those sugar crystals.  They melted! 
We had to let it boil until it reached 300 degrees on the Candy Thermometer...or the hard crack stage.  At 250 we added the food coloring.  We let each kid put in a couple of drops.  At this point there's no stirring or that agitation will encourage fructose and glucose to get back together (reforming crystals).    The boiling process distributes the color and it's pretty cool to watch.  You also have to watch out for "seed crystals" clinging to the side as they add to the encouragement of the our crystallizing molecules (Fructose and Glucose in case you forgot.  I would have by now.).  So you brush them down with a wet pastry brush.   Once the candy reaches the hard crack stage (which is cool to check by putting a small amount into some cold water where it will go immediately from a liquid into a hard candy that cracks loudly.  This also allowed for some sampling.)  We took it off the heat and added 1 teaspoon of blackberry extract.  If you have flavoring oils they work much better.  We're going to try again with 1 tablespoon of extract as I couldn't tell that we'd added any flavoring and oils are pretty hard to come by in our neck of the woods.  Then we poured it onto a lightly sprayed cookie sheet.  It made a huge circle.  We left it to cool.

While it was cooling we learned a little bit about polystyrene or Recycle 6 plastic and what happens to it when you apply heat.  Apparently when they make it they heat it up, roll it into thin sheets and then cool it quickly.  The polystyrene molecules naturally are a bunchy up, randomly clumped crew (or polymer chain if you prefer) and this process straightens them out some.  They want nothing more than to get back to their original state so when heat is re-applied as with shrinky-dinks they attempt it.  This is what causes them to curl.  One of my nieces said as she went into the other room to hang her shrinky-dink ornament on the tree, "Molecules are fun."  I agree.

One last thing Amorphous Solids.  What do glass and hard sugar candy have in common?  Their molecules are randomly linked together, not in an orderly consistent structure.   (which sounds like me) This makes them easy to break.  (Hmm I'm seeing some parallels here) I asked the kids the above question and my 5 year old niece said, "They both break easy."  I was impressed.  This also means they fall into the group called Amorphous Solids.   Everyone then got a chance to shatter the candy and paint and sample it.  Some Amophous Solids taste good!

Happy Fun Friday!  I didn't get any pictures, but it was very fun.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

I wasn't sure what to write today, so I almost didn't. 
Then we got a visit from this lovely lady:

This is right out our kitchen window

 The pictures aren't very good, but I had to try.  She and I made several minute long eye contact.
It was cool and these pictures don't do her justice.  (Isn't  that just like a camera. :))
It has reminded us how hard it is for the animals this time of year.

When we opened the door to try and sneak a carrot out. She went up the tiers of the back yard

  To give you an idea here's a picture of the tiers from the other day.  She didn't scramble.  It was more of a ramble.   Just moving on to other places.

Then a certain little excited boy called out, "Deer come back for a snack!  Here's a carrot."  For some reason she just moved on at a slightly more hurried pace.  But not before our Dad (who was the one who alerted us to her presence) got this picture.

Have you ever read the Night Tree by Eve Bunting?
It's a great story of a family tradition of going out to the edge of town and decorating a tree with food for the animals.  I think we might have our own Night Sagebrush here sometime soon.  There is a small herd of deer that hang out around here and they're certainly hungry if they're willing to come up to our back porch.  Especially considering our back porch consists of one small step.  I'll let you know if we follow through on that though.  What a magical way to start the day!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

It's was Christmas Tree Hunt Day on Monday.

We went for a little hike--or ride depending on how tall you were.

That's an "Are you coming?" look if I've ever seen one.
Aren't the Birch Trees pretty?  We briefly considered going with a birch this year.

There was a little crash on the way down a hill

This is a classic family shot:  Mowg is pontificating/supervising/explaining what's going on, Dad is doing all the work, Tiny is headed off on some adventure of her own and I am behind the camera.

The tree is down!

"My Tree?"

The boys were both working so hard they had to take off their coats:  like father like son.

It looks like she's building a Snowman doesn't it?  She's not, she's taking its head off.  She'll put it back, but she's going to take it off again as soon as she can. 

Mowg is explaining to Tiny that she can't take the head off again at the moment because he needs to hold our felt carrot nose on it for right now.

"I hit you noman"  Which is being interpreted:  "I hit you with a snowman."  Which is (being futher interpreted) "I hit you with a snowball."  She's only a little pleased with herself.  She did it while I was pointing the camera the other way.

"Mom, Go Wee!"  or in other words slide.  That looks a little more slanted than it was.  Since it was nearly level. 

 My little babe in the woods hurrying to go home as a storm is coming
--he's looking up at the snow coming down.

And here is my very first needle felted vegetable, a lovely carrot.  This is actually for my nephew to go with a sock stick horse I made him.  You have to have something to feed your horse after all!

The sainted man gathering up branches so I can have them to make a wreath.  He's really only beginning his Sainthood.  In a minute I'll show where he truly earned it.

An attempt to haul both tree and kids on the same sled.

It wasn't long before we capsized so Dad took the tree and carried it out to the car.
Neither one of us was sure how we let ourselves walk so far down the trail.  The snowstorm increased as we were heading back (we started out in sunshine) and you see the strangest things in the middle of storms.  Things like tree's with legs.

Now that's sainthood.

Or maybe it was when he came back and finished pulling the kids.  He saved us truly.  I'm not in any form of "good" shape.  I had to stop several times to catch my breath.  I mean I was breathing so hard I was afraid my lungs were about to turn themselves inside out.  It was fun to have Mowg in particular call out to me to stop and come look every so often.  I always thought he was going to tell me that some branches or kids had fallen out of the sled, but it was always some interesting thing that he saw:  a stump, a trail groomer, a sign, some trees.  I never would have seen those things if he hadn't stopped me.  Tiny was "hold on tight" to the bag containing the camera.  They both toughed it through the sideways blowing snow just as we reached the car.  They were cold.  Dad and I were not.  At all.  There were quite a few more hills on the way back.  Whew!  We did make it though.

Here's a picture of Tiny courtesy Mowg:

And Mowg with a statue of an elk in the background.

It was grand to be out walking through the woods all together.  There just is nothing quite like it.  We need to do that kind of thing more often.