Saturday, February 28, 2009

Boiling today

Today is the first boil of the season. I guess in some social circles that fact would be frowned upon. But here it is a day full of excitement and nervousness. Excitement because it's the first. The burner is lit, the fan is on, and sap is boiling. I breath in deep to catch the sweet scent of maple.

And nervous because this is sugaring season. It's a busy time; day and night, rain or shine, the buckets and the burner need to be tended. Of course not everyday, we are not a big operation. But when the boil is on, I truly have a hard time thinking about much else. That said, I will admit to having a ball of yarn and a crochet hook in my pocket, for in the shack quiet I am working on a baby hat. I do a few rows and then check the pan level and add more sap.


Friday, February 27, 2009

One for the record

Setting: It's 7:50 AM. Mom is sitting at the kitchen table, knitting a baby sock while talking to Grandpa on the phone. Two daughters are sitting about, eating breakfast, with designs on getting ready for school.

Youngest daughter looks to mom, with the eyes that say, "I have a question."

Mom says to Grandpa, "Wait Dad, Squid has something to say." The telephone conversation pauses.

Youngest daughter says, "Mom can I have a cookie?"

Mom replies, "No, it's not even 8 o'clock. This is not Disney."

"Okay, I'll have an apple."

New household definition: Disney: a totally fun place where cookies are for breakfast, ice cream is the 9 AM snack, and frozen lemonades wash down a pretzel lunch.

Landmark Decisions

Last year I made the decision to quit attending writing group. I had seen it coming in Friday homeworks not being passed in, (the meetings are on Thursday night), school and other projects not worked on, dirty dishes and dinner food left out, and the house an even more of a mess than usual. At first I tried to ignore it; claiming my nights out as my own. But finally, I knew where I should be; here, doing the reading, the math, the winter dioramas, ensuring some level of order.

I assured myself, I would write at home. Finish my book and just get the thing published. As of today it has sat for endless monthes with only a weeks worth of edits to finish. So close, but as they say in space -- but yet so far.

Last night as we walked to the school for an event, we passed by the meeting place. No cars, oh yeah, I thought, it's not the right night. I smiled and put out a huge sigh of relief, I wouldn't have missed a meeting this Thursday. A Thursday, where life and writing would not have collided violently. But I was wrong.

After the event I learned the group was out and about celebrating their 4 year anniversary, just not at the usual watering hole. And I would have missed it.

Was my decision to leave the correct one? Sadly, yes. Not all decisions once made shake the dust off their boots and move on. Life is not so clear cut, though I wish I could forget all those fun writing times, for they do pull on my heart strings. But then why deny myself those memories.

Lately my only writing is on this blog, and for now that will have to do. BUT my lovelies know, don't disturb mommy, for this is my twenty minutes a day, and then the rest is their's. And, yes most Thursdays, I am truly fine with that.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Kiss

This image reminds me of sugaring season; winter kissing spring. A brief interlude where both seasons exist and play an important role; warm days, cold night. Like parenting from two different perspectives -- resulting the the sweetest of children.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I tapped. I'm early.

This is our 6th year Maple sugaring. And today is the latest we have ever tapped the trees. I know that according to all the books the trees get tapped in March. But for us, here, just south of God's Country, anywhere during early to mid February has been our norm. And then there was the year that I seriously thought about tapping in January.

Today, according to our trees, and the trees are never wrong, I'm early. One tap out of 12 is dripping. Of course I tasted the first sap of the season and the taste bud verdict came back: Not as sweet as last season. Last year the sap was sweet straight out of the trunk. We had a record production of five gallons. We will see what year holds in store for us.

I've been glued to for weeks; waiting for the temperatures to shift into the 40s during the day and cool to the 20s at night. I would even take some high 30s with a lot of sun. After all trees don't watch the weather channel, nor do they surf the net. Tomorrow it will be warm. The next day warmer and after that, not so warm but sunny.

The taps are in. The buckets are hung. The collection bins cleaned and stacked. The burner and pan stand at the ready. Let the season begin.

Hands to self

While folding laundry last night I noticed someone had scratched an X into the back of my leather couch.

That someone is more than likely someone under the age of 11. Someone who lives in this house. Someone who hears on a weekly if not daily basis,"If it's not yours then don't touch it." Someone who will not catch the wrath, because I am so mad I am speechless.

I have banned all of the younger set from our living room. And it is a living room, not a parlor. We live in it. We play games in it. We practice our music in it. We dump all our luggage in it after long car trips. Fold laundry, visit, unwrap presents at Christmas and hunt for eggs at Easter. We read, listen to music, admire our leg lamp while sitting in it. We use it for homework, spreading papers and books out on the floor. Occasionally we dust and vacuum it.

Sheepishly, no one admitted to the deed. And my final words: It's as if I took a Sharpie and put a big X on your lovely Barbie pink backpack.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Relax, and regroup for it's Tuesday

Always with the first day back from vacation there is tension. It's a Monday, which is the worst possible day here, with religious ed., track, clarinet and dinner and dance, all after school. Pick up and drop offs have to be made with precision, or we have a domino effect.

Yesterday after religious ed., the track star was not waiting for the pick up. I waited 15 minutes. Called the shut off cell phone 3 times, then left to go home and make dinner. Or it should be, finish cooking dinner, as most of it was cooked before religious ed. Almost home my mobile rings. "I'm ready to be picked up." My reply, "I was there. Now I need to get dinner made so the dance run can be made, and then I'll be back."

Silence. The star knew it would be 30 minutes or more before my headlights would shine upon her building again. Monday is tight. What can I tell you.

I bolted into the house. Commanded the kitchen table be cleared of school debris and readied for dinner. Set the potatoes to cook. Set a timer. Reheated the squash. Tossed the meat onto the table, announced, "When the timer goes off, dinner will be ready," and then left with clarinet in hand to take the star to her lessons. Half way back to school I realized she'd be hungry, and thought I should have brought a granola bar or a piece of fruit. Next time; hopefully there won't be a next time.

Star wasn't happy to see her instrument on the car seat. "I'm going right to my lesson?"


She assured me, her tardiness was not her fault. I replied, "I know," but with four other people in the family, the schedule marches on.

After dropping her off, I walked into a kitchen with half eaten meals still on plates and a note: We left the dishes so we can finish eating when we got back.

Mondays are not pretty. We really have to do something about them.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Ready or Not...

Here It Comes.

The it being school, car appointments, doctor appointments, food shopping, housework, life. Vacations are wonderful. Vacations where you actually go somewhere, or do something highly anticipated and loved are even better. The entire life routine is changed, relaxed. Eye exercises and that ten minutes of reading everyday are forgotten. Schedule and bedtime tossed. Diets bent around 9:30 AM ice creams, and pop corn and frozen lemonades for lunch.

Yesterday, while finishing up the pair of socks I wanted to hand over to the little one before vacation was over, I asked all the girls, "Are you ready for school? Are your bags packed?" I got the sideways yes from all of them. The sideways yes meaning, "I think I know where everything is..." Of course I was asking myself a similar question, "Do you have enough food in the house for making lunches Monday?" I gave myself the sideways yes on that too, for we are woefully low on fruit. But honestly, I didn't want to go food shopping yesterday. My only errands were to ship Girl Scout cookies to those who placed orders from far away, and to go to the bank. Then it was back to laundry, knitting, planning the next three weekend worth of events at the church, and the continued effort of picking up after our landfall.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Oh back in the saddle again...

After driving/riding in a car for 21 hours it takes a day or two to get back into the household swing of things. While doing laundry and putting away toiletries, my thoughts drift back to riding Space Mountain and Everest four times in a row each. They are both lovely rides, and I can't wait to try out the new Space Mountain next time we are down at Disney. Still I find myself smiling the most over conquering Thunder Mountain. Despite being a tiny coaster it was the least of my favorite mountains due to the jarring ride. This trip we rode it only twice and it really wasn't so bad after all. But the Rocking Roller Coaster, after waiting in line close to two hours... we sadly road only once. I remembered it takes its riders over an inversion, but when we went over not twice but three times, in the dark, I knew I needed to get some more background info to feel more comfortable with this ride. The two little ones, a first ride for them both, flat out refused to ride ever again... We will see. They are both proud of their Disney trading pins that commemorate their first rides.

My key for riding a coaster is to always keep a point of reference a few people ahead. When I took modern dance lessons I could never spin about without getting motion sick. The teacher would always lecture on picking a spot on the wall and flipping my head around to remain focused upon it. I was never successful at this and got sick after every class. Needless to say, I didn't stay in dance classes very long. But with riding coasters, spotting was my winning ticket. Except after the surprise to me third inversion on the Rocking Roller Coaster, not once did I feel the least bit woozy.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Balance in Bali

Ms Gilbert, in her book, Eat Pray Love, is seeking balance in Bali. (Yes, I've moved on from the ashram.) And I have to credit reading her book to adding a certain sense of "It'll all work out in the end," to the tornado of doctor visits we've been experiencing. Presently, this family is an insurance companies nightmare. I'm surprised our dear medical big brother hasn't called and asked, (like the credit card companies do), "Is this for real?"

My calm answer, knitting needles working away -- waiting room to waiting room, as I play taxi driver to my stars, "Yes, do you have a problem with that?" Truly, I should be the one with the problem; me and my own that is, but I don't. For I know that it'll all work out in the end.

Our dear WYD Youth Leader is always quoting Pope John Paul II saying, "There are no coincidences." I wonder if reading this book and facing surgeries can be thought of in that same light. I would like to think so.

No worries, for it will all work out in the end. In the meantime, would you pass the Motrin. :-)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

But I'm not ready to leave the ashram

As I've blog about before, I'm reading Eat, Pray and Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Before I started reading I was offered the review, "I loved Italy and the rest was okay." And as expected, I loved Italy: the language, the food, and friendships. But when the book transitions to India for Pray, my reading pace came to a screeching crawl. I found myself reading, re-reading, chewing and digesting each word as if Ms. Gilbert had written this section for me, and only me. And now that the book is moving on to Love and Bali, I realize that I'm not ready to leave the ashram. I need more time with the wisdom she has imparted and I'm seriously toying with the idea of re-reading Pray, with a notebook and pen nearby.

It's strange but I don't care if I finish the book at all. Could it be that I've found love and contentment in my own life? And I don't really care about reading another's love story. I confess I did skip ahead a bit, and found the story interesting, and at times comical. But the ashram, and the seach for divinity so touch me that I keep looking back. I must go back to the ashram.

Valentines for my Valentines

I try to make these pins every year for the girls. They are beaded designs on felt. The girls wear them to school and then they pin them to their bedroom curtains. It's fun to take a Valentine Day pin stroll.

Usually the design is all about hearts and love. This year they are a clue to an upcoming outing.
Can you guess?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Girl Scout cookies are here

We have 'em.
Come and get 'em.
If you missed ordering,
There are boxes to spare.

You would think with more than enough cookies to fill the back of our Suburban that baking would be the farthest thing from my mind. It's not. I am dying for a lemon square, and got a great recipe from the Bosky Dell Farm.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Black and White

Over the past few days the differences between my husband and I have come to the surface. Nothing bad; just different. Based upon yesterday's entry, he's scrambled with a dab of the good mustard added to the mix, and dark chocolate any way he can get it.

When I'm home alone the house is dead quiet: no radio, no tv, no nothing, except banjo. When he is home there is always background sound: The radio chattering at breakfast. Movies carry on throughout the day and night. Even when we are playing games there is an assortment of tunes lined up on the playlist. And I ponder, you know, you could turn the tunes on during the day. But I never do.

When he is sick, it is off to bed. Twenty four, forty-eight, seventy-two hours later he emerges, showers and starts a new day. And when I'm sick it's move all that much faster. Last night -- as I felt the pestilence coming on I made a double batch of granola. But instead of maple syrup (we are running woefully low) I used molasses, and for dried fruit, dates and raisins. If you make granola try this. It is fantastic.

Then this morning, I'm up making soup for dinner. I have a busy day counting Girl Scout cookies for the town distribution, and then an evening of sorting out my own troops -- so I knew I would have to make dinner during breakfast anyway. Soup is the winter fast meal of choice. But why aren't I in bed?

First of all it was this sore throat and headache that woke me up in the first place. So perhaps I associate the pillow with pain. "I'm not going back there. It hurts." But then again, maybe it was the soup. I cook soup with a chicken stock base whenever family falls ill.

This morning's concoction started with onion, celery, carrot, and red pepper. Tossed on top was a huge can of whole tomatoes, some chicken stock, and kidney beans. Followed by some meatballs, broccoli and Italian blend seasoning. Personally I can't wait for dinner. I hope I feel better by then. But there are a lot of cookies to be counted in between.

Monday, February 09, 2009

I'm Eggs Benedict and Hot Chocolate

In the movie the Runaway Bride, Maggie Carpenter, the lady who runs, defines who she is by the man to whom she is currently betrothed. The reporter, Ike Graham, uncovers this phenomenon when he overhears her ordering breakfast with the coach, hiker, 4th husband to be. It went something like:
"I'll have a garden omelet; whites only."
"I'll have the same."

In the movie Chocolat a disk is spun and the customer's favorite form of chocolate treat is magically discerned. And the disk is never wrong. Interesting...

Which chocolate? Which eggs? These are not life or death questions, or are they? They are two basic questions. And as individuals we should know ourselves well enough to understand even these simplest of choices. And these choices should be rooted to who we are, period.

What kind of eggs to you like? What is your favorite form of chocolate?

Friday, February 06, 2009

We are sew sew today

The scouts will be sewing hats and mufflers made of fleece and easy to embellish. The little one couldn't help but embroider a smile across her muffler.

Both, the hat and muffler, are basically folded pieces of fleece with one or two seams. The hat is easier as it is just a tube of fleece that gets folded. The rough top edge is then cut and then tied.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Okay, so maybe I panicked

And maybe isn't the total end all and be all... Or that novena is kicking it. And maybe I just might not miss the start of the sugaring season.

Yesterday, instead of going cross country skiing with the ladies I stayed home and started my little one's First Communion quilt. I'm not an expert quilter. All I do is cut out squares, piece them together, layer in quilting and put a backing on it. To finish it off, I use the tying method. I've made this type of quilt twice now with the girls. They each have little quilts they made over a school break. This quilt is going to be a smidgen different. For instead of going on her bed, it will hang on the wall.

Some of the material originated out of two old shirts; one her Dad's and one was mine. I arranged these squares to represent a chalice. Incorporated reds to represent the Holy Spirit, blues and greens are layered inside the cup for the waters of Baptism and the deeper blues across the bottom to give her a good solid base. The backing is a red Swiss dot that a dear friend remembered she had in her craft stash. Amazingly, it fits in quite well. Perhaps to remind us all of the importance of friends. My plan is to incorporate all the religious medals that my little one has collected over the years. She has 100's of them...

The bigger plan is to keep this a secret until her big day. Of course having the sewing machine set up in dining room and the ironing board in the living room are dead give aways that I'm working on something. I lead such an exciting life.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Sleepless Night 1

Remind me not to brag about nights well slept due to the crisp cold weather that was supposed to be pushing off the sugaring season until February 21st. (The first day I can tap due to conflicting schedules.)

Up until yesterday and a chat with my dear old dad, who will be married to my lovely mom 50 years this Saturday, I was sleeping long and loving it. But Dad had to say, (and I quote), "They predict great weather for Saturday. Actually all next week looks good; a thaw."

The words weren't completely off his lips before the alarms were ringing, "Sugaring season --- YIKES! It's early!" Usually sugaring is a no brainer for me. Each year, fall to winter, like a dog waits its master, I wait for it. And upon its arrival dance the dance of those awaiting the second coming. But with all this cold weather and a nice deep blanket of snow to keep those roots on ice, I was relaxing in the knowledge that global warming was a myth and sugaring begins in March, not early February or January for that matter. The January scare was two years ago. That year I didn't sleep all month...

No, according to those in the know at, unless this quick novena I've been professing has any impact, sugaring begins Saturday. And for the first time in five years I'm going to miss the start of the season. Oh my heart is low.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

It's just Pork and Beans

I made a new cassoulet this past weekend. The recipe came via email from Williams-Sonoma, a not so veiled attempt to push a new slow cooker. The dish sounded tasty. We were having friends over. I had to try it.

First of all, as this recipe calls for 12 cups of cooked beans, this slow cooker, besides being expensive, must double as a foot bath for an entire football team. Who, but those lucky enough to have a pan for finishing their maple syrup inside, has a vessel big enough to hold 12 cups of cooked beans in addition to other ingredients? I cooked one bags worth -- just about 8 cups and called it done.

Since we aren't lucky enough to belong to a collective in which we share chickens, pigs, root vegetables and honey, I had to get my pork (on sale) at the market. I think it was the sale that truly pushed me into trying this dish. It was a nice enough shoulder for $1.79 a pound and I did use the full 4 pounds; despite cutting it tight on the beans. And for the chorizo, I hate to say it, but I forgot to pick some up... so I tossed in a few Italian sausage... Does this make me a bad person?

Moving on, I skipped the bacon grease step, using olive oil instead -- with a pat or two of butter. And when I reached for the wine I had to settle for a Merlot, as we were out of white.

Then of course, I adapted the cooking instructions for using a conventional stove rather than an olympic pool-sized slow cooker. Really, where would you store something that big? This might be something a kin to that old adage: If you can afford the Jaguar then you don't have to worry about paying for its repairs. Likewise: If you can afford this slow cooker then you have the house with the space to store this constant temperature bath that doubles for a slow cooker.

When it was all done, minus the sea salt garnish, I realized this is just a fancy Pork and Beans. Could this be a recipe takeoff from the traditional dusty cowboy concoction? I wondered. It was good; very good. And it was better the next day. Last night, despite being on a diet I found myself returning for seconds...

With eight cups of beans, we will be enjoying this dish for a few nights.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Warming for a walk

I'm dropping the girls off at school and going for a walk. It's not big news. Unless you think of it as taking a bit of time for myself, alone and listening to my three favorite tunes from World Youth Day 2008. It's been 7 months and I'm still judging time by WYD/SYD. Must've been a time.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

It's busy, but it's okay

On Friday I heard that there would probably be no transportation for the towns high school track stars into the big city for the big meets -- both Saturday and Sunday. I was in the grocery store... I was speechless... I had no idea how I was going to fit four 1.5 hour treks into my incredibly busy weekend: Skating lessons, First Penance, Brownies, final Christmas get together with friends, Mass, Girl Scouts making pizza entirely from scratch, Super Bowl visit. Panicked -- I knew one way or another this would be one of those weekends were it all falls together and I can't for the life of me remember why I was so worried.

And it has. A bus miraculously appeared for Saturday. The girls ran incredibly well. Everyone PR'ed. Everyone is going to States. And today, my lovely fast footed teen is carpooling with two other girls and a mom. Thank God. I sent her off with my love. Told her to relax, (it's okay if you don't qualify for Nationals), and to think "Quick feet. Quick feet."

I so proud, and I'm finding it difficult to wait for that phone call saying the run is over and she is delighted. Win or lose, she is always delighted. And I am so happy for her.