To Amuse and Delight

Monday, June 29, 2015

What is Holy?

I am reading Hallowed Be This  House by Thomas Howard. I am enjoying it so much, I want to share it with you... 

“And as is true of any holy place, this one has for its activity the marking and celebrating of what is true and the keeping alive of the vision of what is true; namely, that is holy. This is done by offering things up in acts of consecration and praise.

This is what lifts those things up from the heap of mere ordinariness and makes them extraordinary (holy). 

They are ordinary things, of course, like eating and drinking and working and playing and bread and wine; but it is the ordinary stuff lifted up which is the holy. Holy things for the Christian and the Jew in any case, aren’t some remote category of things- mumbo jumbos, arcane regalia, or basalt meteorites from the sky. Holy things are ordinary things perceived in their true light, that is, as bearers of the divine mysteries and glory to us.

Looked at this way, eating becomes eucharistic, and working becomes the opus dei, and loving becomes an image of the City of God. It is our task in this shrine to take these ordinary things and, by lifting them up in oblation to God where we are set free to live in the splendor where eating and drinking and working and playing are known for what they really are forms of perpetual worship and therefore bliss.”

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Taxidermy: her new thing

For a few months now my daughter has been very interested in taxidermy. I'm not really sure how it all started. She read a lot of books, watched youtube tutorials and jumped right in. The first thing people ask is "Where do you get the animals?". 

So, I will get that out of the way first. Pet stores sell frozen rodents  for snake food. My daughter has gotten rabbits, rats, mice and guinea pigs that way. Also from time to time we come across a creature who has met with a tragic demise. 
Some she poses in lifelike positions.

And some in not so lifelike positions! 
This one reminds me of Beatrix Potter's Tailor of Gloucester. My daughter chased a farm cat for this young water rat, she cornered him, and the cat dropped it in front of her and ran off! I do not advise cornering cats, but in this case it worked out with no harm done.

This was the first rabbit she ever taxidermied. It takes a lot of trial and error to get them to look alive. The raccoon was done after a little more experience. That raccoon causes quite a stir when we take him out. 

There is a fervent community of taxidermy enthusiasts online. They share tips, failures, and success stories. My girl now buys, sells, and trades with people all over the world. You'd be surprised at what people are willing to pay for. Even our pet snake's skin sheds are now bartered off or sold. 
I really hope she doesn't sell this mounted mouse head. It's like something from The Borrower's. I want it for our doll house. 

WARNING: If you are squeamish and this is all too much for not proceed!

There she is on the patio working on that Beatrix Potter rat. It amazes me how fearless and driven she is.  This backs up my firm belief that given the freedom and resources to follow their passions kids will do just that. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

slip covered hair clip : a tutorial

If you have girls or are a girl, you know about those painful-rip out your hair metal hair clips. I don't know how many brands I have tried. The packaging always promises that they won't hurt. But they do. 
Having acquired quite a collection of these hair rippers, I had enough. I refuse to buy anymore. Instead I came up with this idea...little slipcovers. Covering anything in cute fabric is great and the fabric also alleviates the hair ripping. 

It works for all sizes and shapes. 

This is how you do it...
Grab those old biting clips.

Trace clip onto the wrong side of your fabric. Make sure that the fabric is folded so you have a front and back to sew together. I happen to be recycling a carrot print boxer short.

Sew it up first, then cut it out close to your stitches. Leave the wide part open at the top (where I have the little mushroom acorn). Make sure you secure the beginning and end of those stitches so they don't open up.

 The trickiest part is probably pulling this thing inside out. Especially if it is real tiny. But, you can do it! I use an assortment of tools (and my teeth), whatever it takes to get the job done. Cut yourself a little slit on the backside. Right where my scissors tip is pointing. If you don't make that slit, it won't work.

Slipcover pulled onto your clip, you can glue it into place or tack it down with a few hand stitches. I ended up gluing this one because I didn't leave enough on the end to sew. Let that be a lesson to you! Leave more fabric on the end, sewing it makes a nicer finished clip. 

And there it is, carrot clip. No longer a menace to our tender heads.
Let me know if you give this a try.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

steam once, eat much

I've been doing this a lot lately. Early on in the day, usually after breakfast I will steam my veggies. Carrots, zucchini  snow peas, broccoli, asparagus, whatever I have all layered up. The more delicate ones on the top. I steam them just as they turn bright green. I uncover them to stop the cooking and they are ready to use in many dishes throughout the day. 
They can be tossed into a salad. (Don't you love these paper animals? My girls print and build them from this site for free!
Or made into a quick soup. A bit of my kimchi to finish it off.
Steamed broccoli teamed up with rice and other veggies becomes filling for an omelet.  I've mentioned this before, having ingredients ready makes cooking easier and brings vegetables to "fast food" convenience. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Baby Owls and a Green Jacket

A couple of weeks ago my 11yo daughter began making plans. Those plans included a friend sleeping over, bike riding and a picnic. A REAL picnic. "Like in books. Not just taking food out of a bag", she told me. Her "real" picnic involved a wicker basket filled with specific foods and most plastic containers.

Last week the sleepover-picnic day arrived and it SNOWED. Just a bit, but enough to put a damper on the idea of outdoor dining. "I defy you snow! We will picnic!", I roared. The kids laughed and we proceeded with our plans.

I made and packed the required foods: tea sandwiches with tomato butter, freshly baked buns, hot dog octopuses, strawberry lemonade, hot tea, popcorn, and chocolate candy. While the octopi were frying I went to put the bike rack on the car.

It started raining. 
My hands were wet and cold, the bike rack kept slipping. I stomped back into the house..."I defy you rain! We will have our picnic" Now the kids were more skeptical. With hard rain coming down and full wicker basket in tow, we were on our way.

 I had heard there was a mama Great Horned Owl with three babies in a park near us. We headed down there.  My 15yo daughter optimistically said that we could eat under the pavilion if it was still raining. She was wearing a jacket of mine. Green wool, military style, a little too big for her. She went on to say that she wants a jacket styled like mine, but for summer.

"I want a green light weight jacket with pockets for summer, but my size."

When we pulled into the park it was obvious where those owls were. People were congregating around two trees with very large cameras. They pointed out the owls to us, speaking in excited yet hushed tones. The mama had her eyes on us, you could feel it. She was majestic, the babies were fluffy and adorable. Everyone seemed to feel this was a very special thing indeed.

We had our picnic while the sky alternated between cold drizzle and sunshine. All was well until the violent wind and hail began. By the time I packed everything up the hail had stopped and the kids were walking down the beach looking for treasure. 

I followed a few paces behind them until I came upon this cross. As I stood there looking at it, listening to the sound of the waves it started to rain again.  
I thought, "It rains on the just and the unjust". 
 Life giving rain. We are all dead without it.  

And then I laughed at myself for "defying" the rain! I knew in that moment that Jesus completely understood the silliness of me, and I knew that he would continue to shower me with his life forever. World without end. 

I looked at the people standing in the rain under the owl tree. Gathered to get a glimpse of...what? Is it a couple of birds in a tree that gives us that instant communion with each other? The childlike eyes filled with wonder? The hushed reverent tone of our speech? On the surface maybe.  We are all grasping after new life. Life we know we don't deserve. 
Communion with our Creator
Creation from Nothing.

Eventually the children decided it was time to go home. As we made our way back to the car they spied a playground and started pleading for more time. My teen continued on to the car, she was eager to categorize her beach findings and write in her journal. I agreed to some playground time for the other two. I told them I would sit on a bench and knit until the rain became too much.

As I approached the bench I could see something green and crumpled laying on it. 

"A green light weight jacket with pockets for summer, but her size!"
YES, there it was! I held it, pockets, shoulder tabs. I read and reread the tag... J Crew, too small for me, just her size!

 I sat there in the rain knitting with the green jacket beside me. I couldn't wait to show my lilly of the field her new jacket.

Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  "But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

getting out

Now that  the weather is lovely we have been spending a lot of time outdoors. Lots of hiking and nature walks. And afterwards always a peaceful sit down.
Yesterday we stopped on a bridge to enjoy the view. Swans, turtles, fish and herons entertained us. I happened to be carrying treats and tea which made our rest even nicer.
She always has her art supplies with her. She drew while our little tag-along guinea pig got cozy under the shade of her book.
This one doesn't tire easily. While we enjoyed our repose she ran back and forth at top speed. Everyone at her own pace, that's the way we "school" and the way we live. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

My Polish Easter

I enjoy keeping food traditions for holidays. My heritage is a mix of Polish, Hungarian and Puerto Rican. Easter always means Polish for me. Having lived with my Polish grandma for a good part of my life I can't imagine the Easter meal any other way. There is something about the experience of food that brings back memories very deeply. I love thinking that the traditions I create now will live through my children and their future children. 

My New Years Eve meal is always Latino. It can't get more festive for ringing in the new year than that! I make some of my own concoctions as well as my husband's favorites that he grew up with. He is 100% NY Puerto Rican, his family is steeped in food tradition. His mom has taught me how to make the family favorites. Our Thanksgiving is all American, we like to eat what we suspect the Pilgrims might have. For Christmas it's Victorian England for us, we have no familial ties there. Both my husband and I are literature fiends, we wish to experience a Dicken's fantasy Christmas. Let's get back to Easter!...
I used buttery babka dough this year to make buns for Good Friday.
Of course, the lamb cake made its appearance. You can see one of my "dressed" lambs here.
Days before Easter my daughter was busy planning out her egg dying designs as I was busy planning my meal. I will probably save this paper forever.