Monday, August 25, 2014

watching the celery grow

We are coming down from a week of busy- busy- busy. It feels so good to just stay home and *watch the celery grow. 

By coincidence (more like divine synchronicity) two of our friends, Rin and Holly  happened to be visiting us here in NY from Cambodia during the same week.  They both work with an organization called Water of Life. That's how we met them. Water of Life is a church and an orphanage in Pnom Phen. A couple of years ago my church began visiting and helping to support Water of Life. Through our close contact visiting and working together on various projects these folks have been knit into our family.

 Rin had never been to NY before so of course we wanted to show him a good time. Central Park, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the B'way production of Les Miserables were some of the things crammed into our week together. On top of that we had to show them the natural beauty of NY State. So we climbed a mountain...and had to climb back down. Whew!

Add to these activities VBS (Vacation Bible School) every day. My daughter signed up weeks ago to work at VBS, so we couldn't very well back out now. Our crazy week finished up with my big girl's 15th birthday. By then neither of us wanted or needed to plan a celebration. The whole week was a party! A friend suggested that a bunch of us gals could meet at our favorite tea room for a no stress/ no work birthday tea, so that's what we did. 

It was a wonderful and memorable week, but I'm really happy that I have no plans or obligations this week. The only deadline I have is to make a dress for my young one to wear to the Ren Faire this weekend. Ahhh. 

* The celery thing is fun to do with kids and you get some bonus food. It's a kind of recycling. My young one likes to measure and document the growth. Just take those cut base ends of celery stalks and put them in water. They will not only grow roots, but they will grow more celery. They won't get as big and as thick as they once were but they will grow. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Berries are Back!

The berries are back. I've posted before about my compulsion to pick. It seems like every time we go for a nature walk these days we end up stuck (literally!) picking berries. Blackberries and wild raspberries are ready to go right now. We get all scratched up and sticky. We battle thorns, poison ivy and spider webs. We need tick checks when we get home (we have lots of nasty ticks here). But we still go into the thickets because it's fun and the reward of wild berries is worth it.
We were lucky to find a running stream to wash off our very sticky hands.
I have been making a lot of berry crumbles, the days have been fairly cool for this time of year and I'm in the mood to bake. I use oats, coconut sugar, butter and whatever flour I happen to grind up. I keep coconut, wheat berries, and other grains in the freezer to make into quick flours in the Vitamix.
Yummy berry scones for tea.
 I am out of berries, so we will be off and picking again later this week. I am always on the lookout for more yummy berry recipe ideas, so if you have any please do share!

Friday, July 18, 2014

My trip to America (I mean Utah)

People from NYC have certain misconceptions about the rest of the country. They tend to look down on the rest as being well...less sophisticated. I am not one of them. In fact I have always had a kind of mythology that everything out there must be sweeter, nicer and cleaner. Everything must surely be less expensive than it is here. 

I have been up and down the East coast. I have been to the West coast. LA and Santa Monica were not what I had in mind when I thought of going "out west". I have been to and around Chicago. No place that I ever visited fit the picture of the America that I have in my head. Until now. Last year our friends moved from NY to Utah. My husband and I decided that visiting them in Utah would be a great way to spend our summer vacation.

As soon as we stepped off that plane things were different. The people were just as friendly as I had imagined. I admit, at first I wasn't comfortable with such effervescence. It seemed a little too "Stepford Wives". But I got used to it pretty quickly, who wouldn't enjoy common curtesy and cheerfulness? I found myself easily slipping into that slower paced, stop and chat with strangers way of life. And those establishments I'd only heard of in the media- Hobby Lobby, Chick-Fil-A, In-N-Out Burger, they were all there to enjoy. 

That was all fun, but the highlight of my trip was experiencing the desert. We visited Arches Park and Goblin Valley and they were both AMAZING. Yep, I found my America. These are the kinds of places I'd seen only in cowboy movies. 

Goblin Valley was like an alien landscape.

It was 110 degrees of blazing sun at Arches Park. We were there for seven hours because  there was so much to see. I used this unusual experience to try a little experiment with the sun. Instead of using sunscreen I covered up with fabric. I dressed in loose cotton clothes. I was covered from my hat to my socks. It provided full coverage protection. Not only did I not burn, but I actually got no color at all! I was also pretty comfortable, as comfortable as one can be in an oven. My daughters were also dressed like this at Arches and the only sunblock I needed to put on them was on the tips of their noses. 

Another beautiful place we visited was Little Cottonwood Canyon in the Wasatch Range of the Rocky Mountains We took a 20 minute chairlift ride up 11,000 feet to the top.  It was 98 degrees at the bottom, when we got off at the top of the mountain there was...

We hiked around up there, the view was breathtaking and we saw many Alpine type plants and flowers. It was spectacular.

We went to The Utah Natural History Museum to see all the dinosaurs and to Fantasy Con. When my daughter found out Fantasy Con was going to be in Salt Lake City during our stay we had to go. Not only is she crazy for cosplay, but the Bored Shorts Kid's Snippets guys were scheduled to be there and we are all fans of theirs. All around this was the best family vacation we have ever had and Utah lived up to all my mythological dreams of America.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

my summer book pile

I' m very deliberate with my book selections for each season. It's the same with my craft projects. I enjoy certain things more at specific times of the year.

 When the weather is cool I look forward to holing up with a long, long "people" story. Novels in which a hard life builds character or historical fiction are exactly what I want to read when I'm snowed in with a big pot of tea. Similarly, I want winter craft projects that are long and challenging. 

When summer hits I want short and topical. I'll also go for a quick biography. Just the facts please, not something that will be emotionally draining or need pondering over. My attention span is shorter in the summer. I get easily distracted by everything that is so good about this time of year. Summer is spontaneous while winter is well thought out. I must move a plant to a new location because it just doesn't look right, I have to quickly get a bucket for a jelly fish or a jar for some fire flies. Food prep is quicker, getting everyone dressed and out is quicker. These summer days are flying by and I'm not going to miss a thing.

My problem this year is that I seem to have gone a bit overboard with my summer book pile. It's hard to pick which one to read next because I want to start them all right now!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Fox stole and Barbie shirt

Well, I finally finished my daughter's Fox Stole. I haven't been in the mood to knit if you can believe that. 

With the garden and other outdoor activities to keep me busy it was a struggle to finish it up. We really do like how it came out, so there will be more foxes in the future. We're already playing with the colors and sizes.

I made this shirt a couple of days ago. I asked my daughter what she thought about it. "It looks like a Barbie shirt", she answered. 

I have a collection of Barbie and Dawn Dolls and their clothes. I especially go for the mod era.  Maybe she connects it with the first Barbie's black and white striped bathing suit. Her comment made me wonder if this shirt really did come from all the doll clothes embedded deep in my psyche.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

baby guinea pig: welcome!

After the loss of two pigs this month our two remaining pigs have been uncharacteristically quiet. They barely pick at their food. This happened before when another pig in our pig pack passed away. The only thing that revived them was adding new life. What else can you do when faced with death? More life! A feisty ball of energy is needed to shake things up. 

Yesterday we brought her home. She is tiny, just three weeks old. My daughter named her Jenny, but that won't last. Upon their arrival they are always given girlie names like Penny, May, Molly, and Nellie. As their personalities emerge they end up being called things like Planet, Tuck, Baby Bug, Miss Nose, Pumperdinkle, and The Groke. Our new baby is a distant cousin (same breeder) to May, who we've had for two years.

 May took to baby Jenny immediately. She has became an instant mom. The baby dove underneath May's body, like she did with her own mom. If we take her away from May for too long she shrieks and her ears wiggle. May nipped at my daughter twice when she tried to pick up the baby. She was sad and shocked, because May is never snippy like that. I explained to her that May is not being mean, but when you become a mother you instantly change. Everything from then on is about protecting and caring for that baby. 

I reminded her of something that happened when she was around four years old. A mean looking wasp got into our house and landed on her arm while she was sitting at the table eating breakfast. She screamed. Without thinking I grabbed the wasp, (with my bare hand---eek!) threw it to the floor and stepped on it. There was no forethought, the protective instinct just kicked in. 

Our pigs always lay around the house in baskets or on towels. This habit started with our first, Penny. She trained the new ones as we got them to do the same. May is already training little Jenny. If Jenny tries to walk off the towel she nips her and herds her back. They've all been trained this way, by whichever pig is the oldest.

A couple of years ago my daughter made this felted hamster for a friend's birthday.

I can't help seeing the similarities between our new pig and the felted critter. The obvious is their size. The guinea pig has white under the mouth and neck too, along with the black ears and eyes.

The Aztecs believed that guinea pigs had healing powers. I don't know about that, but I do know that they have the power to make us happy on the gloomiest of days.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Sweet guinea pigs and a sad farewell

This is the guinea pig that started it all, our love of piggies. It was seven years ago, I had just read Pinky Pye to my girls and was inspired to get them a little black kitten for Easter. I found what I thought was the perfect cat online from a local shelter. When I went to meet the kitten, she was feral, she hissed, she bit. She was terrified of people. If it was just me alone I probably would have taken her anyway. But, my youngest was three and I knew this would be too hard. I saw countless cats and felt only sadness as they were so cramped up in cages. Cage on top of cage, it made me want to get out of there. On my way out I saw her. She looked so friendly, her orange coat was shining in the sun. I asked, "What is the orange thing in with the rabbits?".  A guinea pig.  "Can I hold it?". 

The next thing I know I am smitten with this critter. "Why is she here?", I asked. Her family got a puppy so they didn't want her any more. A perceived upgrade. So I went home to get my older daughter who was then seven. I told her of my kitten plans and about the orange guinea pig. I said the choice would be hers. We went back to the shelter to look at every cat, bunny and two pigs. She also fell in love with the sweet orange one who we named Penny.

 Each time we took Penny out of the cage a baby black and white Abyssinian would cry and scream as a big bossy rabbit kicked her mercilessly. Apparently Penny was protecting her, her surrogate mother. How could I not? We took them both. 

We called her The Woogie.  Penny passed away a couple of years ago and The Woogie also passed on just earlier this month. They both lived out their piggie life spans, each one lived a full seven years. When they died it was expected, it was not tragic because we knew they had happy full lives (as far as guinea pigs go).

This is Baby Bug. She was a gorgeous Silkie who we got a little over a year ago as a wee month old thing. My older daughter bonded with her and loved her tremendously. Baby Bug would crawl up onto her shoulder and hang out there licking her and nibbling on her hair. She had a bad habit of nibbling books, hair, anything she was curious about. When she grew out of babyhood we noticed that she was showing some signs/symptoms of having too much female hormone. After researching we found this was not something that they grow out of. It most likely could lead to ovarian cysts that grow and grow until they burst. In an effort to prevent this from happening we decided to get her spayed. We found a vet who was experienced with small animals and he confirmed that this was the best option. He said it was a routine operation for him but there is always a risk with such small animals because the anesthesia could be dangerous.

 He called us after the operation. The surgery went perfectly, Buggie was awake and eating and pooping. That meant we could take her home soon. He called back an hour later to say that she had passed away. It was such a shock. My girls were devastated, especially my older. I felt responsible somehow for making the decision and picking that vet. Even though my girl was dealing with this sudden blow she was a comfort to me. She told me that God knew it was going to happen and no matter what doctor I picked she would have died because it was her time. Her goodness and maturity in the face of pain both surprised me and made me even sadder for her.

We still have Big Bug, Baby Bug's older sister and May, a red and white smooth coat. Big Bug and May were solemn and quiet for two days after Baby Bug died. They didn't even squeak for food, which is unheard of in guinea pigs. I guess they felt Little Bug's absence and were dealing with it in their own way. We will all miss her terribly.