To Amuse and Delight

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Good morning! Merry Christmas.

I was awakened this morning by my daughter standing at my bedside whispering “mom...Mom!”. I did not want to get up. Jumping to the conclusion that she was eager to go downstairs and see what gifts awaited her, I said “It’s too early. It’s still dark outside.” “But Mom, the sun is coming up RIGHT NOW!  It’s so beautiful, it’s red!” So, I dragged myself into their room to find both girls pressed against the window oohing and ahhing and squealing. The little one said, “I’ve never seen a sunrise before!" The big one replied, “It’s God’s Christmas decoration!”  I was now fully awake and eager to lavish gifts on both of them.
I wish you all a Joy filled Christmas.

Oh, Come, Oh, Come Emmanuel 
(The first and last verse)

Oh, come, oh, come, Emmanuel, 
And ransom captive Israel, 
That mourns in lonely exile here 
Until the Son of God appear. 
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel 
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Oh, come, Desire of nations, bind 
In one the hearts of all mankind; 
Oh, bid our sad divisions cease, 
And be yourself our King of Peace. 
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel 
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Translated: John Neal, 1818-66

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Learning how to eat...

Six months ago my husband found out he has diabetes. His sugar was really high and we had to make immediate changes in the way he eats. I have always been known as a healthy eater, preferring a combination of whole foods, raw foods and what I call “happy” meats (animals treated fairly). But, after our six hour class on how to eat as a diabetic I have revamped my own eating as well as my husband’s. Seeing what sugar does to the body was an eye opening experience. It effects all of our systems. Sure, we need sugar, it gives  us energy. But, too much of it is disastrous to our health. In a very small nutshell, these are the main changes in our eating habits.

-Cut out sugar, especially refined. Since I am not diabetic I can have some, but it’s very limited. I never realized how much sugar was going into my cooking. A spoon of honey or agave here and there was the norm. Now it’s stevia only for savory cooking. 
-Carbs=Sugar. This was a revelation to me. instead of reading how much sugar is in a serving size, read the carbs. To your body, they are sugar.
-Beans, peas, corn...they are carbs. We no longer treat them as vegetables in this house.
-Last, but not least is portion control! This is so important. We are eating the delicious foods we love, but limiting the amount.

Six months ago my husband’s doctor wanted him to loose 30 pounds. He has done it, just by eating a little differently. I do find that I am cooking more meat than before, there must be a certain amount of protein at each meal. But again, the necessary serving size is much smaller than the typical American diet. 
Here are some practical changes that I made to a few common meals.
Falafel, a favorite since our college days. Now I skip the pita bread since the chick pea balls are carbs. There is also rice in the stuffed grape leaves, so I am mindful of the serving size. 

Chili used to be served in this house with rice or corn bread. But as I stated above, beans are carb. I replaced those sides with a low carb whole wheat tortilla with sauteed onions and eggplant. Cheese and basil on top. This meal gets a side salad too.
A meat and potatoes meal here. Sweet potatoes are better for your blood sugar levels than white potatoes. They are rich in complex carbs and fiber, so they help your body maintain stable stores of energy. This Curried Sweet Potato Salad is from Prevention's Sugar Solution Cookbook, the only diabetic cookbook I own because from what I've seen it's the best suited to my taste buds. I served this potato salad with grilled flank steak, snow peas and jicama.
This is what I do for tacos. More filling than shells. You can't really get enough filling into those little shells, so I break a couple and heap on salad and then everything else. This was so low on sugar and carbs I could even have a sweet something for dessert.
This is green pea risotto and basil shrimp. Okay, so this one's not exactly a common meal. But it was really good and I would never have found it if I wasn't obsessing over a stack of diabetic cookbooks from the library. Sorry, I don't remember what book this came from. I never have risotto rice on hand, so I use sushi rice and it's just as creamy and delicious. This one needs a vegetable and a side salad to be a complete meal.

Now that The Holiday Season is here I must tweak my Christmas baking. I will bake and I will make my traditonal family favorites. But, I am also experimenting with stevia, using fruits for sweetening and grain sweetened chocolate chips. Whole grains make a difference to your blood sugar, so I will be mixing up my flours and maybe replacing with ground nuts too. I'll still use some sugar, when it's really needed. I'll let you know when I come up with something good.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Peace

Last Thanksgiving I entertained a house full of family and it was great. This year we will be celebrating with friends at their home. And boy do they celebrate! There will be an abundance of good things. Every traditional Thanksgiving food will be spread out before us. There will be two turkeys, one roasted and one deep fried. Friends, music, games, a couple of dogs and probably  some silly hats will complete the jovial scene. Above all that, together we will thank our God for blessing us so richly. On the eve of this good day I was left with not much to do. No cooking, no house to get ready. So I took the girls out for a very chilly nature walk. I brought coffee and donuts and went searching for the perfect spot for our “coffee party”. When the girls ran off to climb rocks and play in the leaves I just say there enjoying the silence. I watched as a tree lost it’s very last leaf. It gently fluttered down very dramatically, in slow motion. That’s when it hit me- Peace. I am so thankful for the peace in my life, the peace in my home, the peace in my spirit. With a culture always on high-speed peace may seem hard to come by. But peace is free and peace is calling.

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.  And be thankful.”
Colossians 3:15

Thursday, November 18, 2010

more precious than jewels

My grandmother passed away about a year ago. My father has been steadily cleaning out her house since then. He recently called me to say that he found “more of those knitting needle things, some really strange looking ones.” So, of course I had to go over and claim them before they went into the garbage can. I guess some of them are kind of strange looking to a non-knitter. My Grandma Jean was a serious knitter. Lots of circulars, straight needles, double pointed needles and crochet hooks. Some are so old that I’ve never seen any like them before. The color has been  worn off the tips and the thinner needles are actually bent from so much use. There are stitch holders and stitch counters so old and brittle they crack when I try to use them. It turned out to be the perfect time for me to acquire these new treasures. Here I am knitting a sweater, coming to that point where I need to switch over to a circular needle to finish the neck. I wasn’t liking the idea that I had to go out and buy new needles for 2 inches of neck. I kept putting it off. Would you believe there in grandma’s stash was the right size circular I needed? Brand new and in it’s original packaging! They are great too, super pointy (which I like) and very smooth. When I use my grandmother’s needles I feel closer to her than say, when wearing her jewelry. The bent, worn out needles are a testimony to my grandmother’s character. Which makes them more precious than jewels.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Seaweed Scarf

While at the beach this past summer my daughter found a huge piece of seaweed. It was about as tall as she was. It was wide and flat in the middle but the edges were all frilled like ruffles. She began draping in and wrapping it around different parts of her body, making clothes out of it. It was so pretty I decided that when fall came I would make a scarf that looked just like it. I now have my seaweed scarf. My daughter didn’t know anything about my plan.  So, when I finished it I asked her what she thought it looked like. Her reply, “It’s seaweed! But, it’s the wrong color.”.

Yeah, she’s right, the real seaweed was browner, mine is more of a dull, mossy green because that’s what I want. I knitted the scarf and then crocheted around the edges to get the ruffled effect. Keeping true to the real seaweed it has one wide end and one thin end. When wound around my neck a couple of times it makes a nice warm ruff. 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

more and more books

Library book sales are a favorite excursion of mine and thankfully for the rest of my family too.  To us a good time is stopping at a cafe, then hitting a book sale. This month seems to be when all of of our local libraries unload their treasures, and we oblige them by buying them. I feel like a squirrel storing up for the long winter. Here are some of last weeks goodies. 

Yesterday's outing also yielded an excellent assortment.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Harvest Vegetable Quilt

Our family has two favorite places where we take our regular nature walks, one of them is Stone Barns. As the seasons change there is always something new to discover. After a walk through the woods we were poking around the farm and came upon these fall veggies all sorted and laid out. We all said at the same time “It looks like a quilt!”. Of course I had to take lots of pictures. I am toying with the idea of making a real quilt based on them. 

Afterwards we went into the greenhouse, and even the future salads growing there seem to be in a quilt-like pattern. Tasty and beautiful.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Crafty Kids & Cheese Wax

For a snack I set out a bowl of cherries and some of those little cheeses that come wrapped in red wax. About 1/2 hour later when I passed through the kitchen I was surprised to see that my daughter had made a slew of these tiny wax figures. I was shocked that they were not only adorable, but they are TINY. Creativity just pours out of children as easily as their tears. I remember being like that too, as a child. What happened? Four years of art school happened followed by a couple of artistic careers. I learned the “rules” of art, but lost the passion and spontaneous fun of it. Since leaving my career and spending so much time with children I find those rules are loosening up. I have been slowly regaining a love of making things, but I still have a long way to go. As for my children, I try very hard not inflict my mold on them. Which is difficult for someone who has such strong opinions of what is good.
I put a kernel of corn there to show you how small these guys are. She used the stems from the cherries to make these little plants and the snow people's arms. I love them.
The snow baby is half the size of the corn kernel! It's crazy, I would have just thrown the wax away. She made the base out of a game chip and a bottle top. We adults would call this recycled or repurposed because we need reasons for doing this, right? But children just do it.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Just Peachy

We went peach picking and I thought I would have plenty of peaches left over from our initial feasting to make some ginger/peach jam, but we ate them all. There were a lot of peaches too, but they are all gone.
What did I do with all those peaches? Most we just ate as they were. I did manage a few peachy dishes though. Here are a couple of really good ones.
Chilled Fruit Soup
I had this at a restaurant in Mystic, Conn. a few weeks ago and loved it. I have craved it ever since. I think this is why I wanted to go peach picking in the first place, to get really fresh peaches for this soup.
Chicken with Peaches
This one was my own invention. I cooked it with Vidalia Onions and wrapped it up in warm tortillas with sharp white cheddar. A really tasty concoction.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Educating Souls

As summer winds down my thoughts turn to the coming homeschool season. This is the time I finalize my ideas and collect whatever books and resources that will most benefit my family. What I am realizing more and more is that my task is not to educate minds only, but souls. Whether you school or homeschool, you will agree that academics take a back seat to the more important thing- the relationships we have with our children. You can always catch up with your studies, but mending a bruised parent/child relationship is not easy or simple. This year as we learn all we can about this amazing world, I will be ever mindful to allow them to grow in the way that they should grow, not in the way that suits me. I will come alongside them in their struggles and not crush their spirits.

Having just read Hilda Van Stockum’s ‘Canadian Summer’ to the girls I am drawn to this quote. I am making it my own:
When asked if she has any special wish for her children the mother replied “Yes I do. I want you to become men and women who are easily  moved by God’s inspiration. I think there is nothing more beautiful in the world than a soul who is sensitive to the language of God, whether He speaks in nature or in art, or through people, or whispers directly into our hearts. I think we are happy and alive just so much as our ears are open to His voice and our eyes to His handiwork. That is what I wish for you and that alone. Then I know you will choose the right way of life for yourselves.”

As I endeavor to teach my children I will revisit this post again and again, to refocus on what is truly important.

To see last year’s Back to School post click here.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Too Old Lady?

While out sifting through some clearance fabrics I spotted this floral. The unusual color combination is the dull blue of blueberries and a very warm yellow. I said “Is this too ‘old lady’?”. Too Old Lady!?”, my friends said incredulously. The looks on their faces told me that there in no such thing in their eyes. It’s a good thing for me that I happened to be with two people who agree that grandma’s florals are to be coveted, or I wouldn’t have my favorite summer tablecloth now. Thank you ladies.

Friday, August 6, 2010

hot days...cold food

While on the phone with my dear friend who lives on the other coast she said, “Hey! What’s going on with your blog? I want to know what you’re cooking.”  Cooking...ugh.The weather has been consistently hot and humid here in NY. Who wants to stand over a hot stove? You can forget about using the oven until September. One of my favorite summer things to make are these cold wraps. Raw vegetables, lettuce, cold chicken, herbs and thin mung bean noodles. The beauty of this noodle is that you don’t have to cook them. Just soak in warm water for 20 minutes.

This time the toppings were salted cashews, mango and peanut sauce.

All wrapped up in a rice spring roll wrapper. Again, you don’t cook these wrappers, just soak in warm water a couple of minutes to soften. I buy my noodles and rice wrappers at an Asian grocery store but some health food stores carry them. Of course you can get everything online. 

Monday, August 2, 2010

Curtain to Cover-up

I used a thrifted curtain to make this cover-up for the beach. I really like the combination of orange and pink. I also like red and pink together. The curtain was made up of panels of very sheer Indian cotton with lines of pink square sequins. This is a glamourous change from my usual bathing suit old towel. I lined the top for stability and a better fit. 

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Mad Alice & White Rabbit Alice

Yes, more Alice in Wonderland dolls! I can’t resist a chance to get involved where Alice is concerned. Here are two new Alice dolls I made for the
I call this doll ‘Mad Alice’ because while I was sewing up the dress my six year old said “That doesn’t look like Alice, it looks more like The Mad Hatter”.  So I said, “all right, I’ll make Mad Alice”. I painted her eyes up to look mad (as in angry). My original inspiration was Alice Liddell, the “real” Alice, the girl that Lewis Carroll wrote his Wonderland stories for. She wore ruffled Victorian dresses and always had a somber face in the photographs that Carroll took of her. Blue hair just seemed to fit the mood.
There she goes showing off her stripy bloomers, very inappropriate!

This one I call “Alice the White Rabbit”.
 If Alice can shrink and grow, playing cards and cats can turn into queens, isn’t it also possible that Alice can become the white rabbit? Remember, it’s a dream after all. 
Here she is just starting to change, still mostly girl but her hair and face are on their way to becoming bunny.

I also made a White Rabbit toy for Alice.

Fabric covered with white rabbits was the obvious choice for her dress. She has lace trimmed bloomers and painted on black mary janes.

Last year I made a "Growing Alice" doll and a Queen of Hearts doll for the Go Ask Alice Doll and Plush Show. If you would like to see them they are HERE on my Flickr.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Four-Leaf Clovers

My daughter has a knack for finding four-leaf clovers. A year ago she started this little book to document her findings. All of the clovers on this page were found at one time. That’s how is usually goes with her, she finds a few at a time. She also keeps some three-leaf ones. “Real” four-leaf clovers come from the White Clover plant, this is considered to be the original shamrock. There are other plants that are passed off as four-leaf clovers like Oxalis or Pepperwort because they produce four leaves, but they are not genuine shamrocks. One way of identifying a real four-leaf clover is that the fourth leaf is usually smaller than the other three leaves.

In Irish tradition the Shamrock or Three-leaf Clover represents the Holy Trinity: one leaf for the Father, one for the Son, one for the Holy Spirit. When a shamrock is found with a fourth leaf, it represents God’s Grace.

My daughter recently found this little oddity, a Five-Leaf Clover! These are much rarer than the four-leaf variety.  She took these photos herself, then pressed the plant to get it ready for her  book.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Fairy Teapot

I like to change my teapots according to the seasons. Now is the time for fairies. In my garden the flowers are really blooming, the air is full of their sweet scents. We are being visited daily by butterflies and hummingbirds. So, it’s time for the fairy pot to grace our table. She will be with us all summer long.
Seeing all the beautiful organic strawberries at the market tempted me into making berried shortcakes from the current issue of The Storybook Home Journal, Deephaven.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Sweet 16

Today we celebrated my 16th wedding anniversary. We have actually been together for a whopping 25 years, but married 16. This day is also my Grandma Jean's birthday. Grandma Jean loved roses and my husband and I both love gardens, so we spent the day at The NY Botanical Garden. The rose garden  was especially beautiful.

A doll named Rose came with us. I made her a couple of years ago to peek out of my daughter’s Christmas stocking. She is like a rose that is a bit past her day of perfection. She is a little weathered from all of her adventures and being well loved. 

The happy couple, me and Daddy-O.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Barbie and Me

My very good friend LL Barkat mentioned to me that she and other bloggers were posting about Barbie to promote a book give away for the book “Barbies at Communion”. I was intrigued. These folks are not “Barbie people”, or even doll people. So I wondered what they would say about the doll I have an intimate love/hate relationship with. My childhood was lived during the pre- “pink box” Barbie era. Through Barbie my eyes were opened to the world of fashion. Back then the Barbie clothes were like real clothes, just tiny.  They were made of good quality fabrics with teeny buttons and zippers. A far cry from the plastic fabrics and velcro of today. Barbie became the perfect model for experimentation. I could poke, paint and glue her. I could put straight pins right though her hollow head (to keep the hats in place). You could pop off her head for someone else’s, if the hair didn’t quite go with the outfit. Clad only in a crazy arrangement of tin foil, she still smiled as if she were proud to be wearing it. She had dangerous adventures too. G.I. Joe couldn’t have all the outdoor fun. A favorite of mine was to tie string around her waist and throw her off a bridge at the top of a waterfall. I would watch her go down the falls, loose sight of her in the crash at the bottom, then pull her up after she resurfaced. This was reapeated over and over again. 

One thing led to another and I ended up in a career designing clothes for real people. I don’t know how much credit Barbie gets for that, but I’m sure she had some influence. Where does the ‘hate’ come into our love/hate relationship? Well, I don’t care very much for the new Barbies. I don’t like the clothes, the hair, the stuff.

Here I am back around 1987, obviously I had much too much time on my hands. My sister and I would go to Barbie conventions. Yes, as you see sometimes we even dressed as Barbie dolls. I sewed replicas of real Barbie outfits for us to wear. You see me wearing the hippy get up worn by 1971 ‘Live Action Barbie’. I am also wearing a wig by the way. My daughters think this is very weird. They wonder why anyone would want to dress up like Barbie. Sure, they ask me to make costumes for them too. But, they prefer to run around as Laura Ingalls and Frodo. I guess I should count my blessings!

Here is my lovely sister sporting the 1965 Francie outfit ‘Dance Party’. Francie was Barbie’s mod English cousin. I wonder whatever happened to Francie. Has she traded in her false eyelashes and snakeskin coat in an effort to “go green”? I hope not. Either way she’s probably got a blog or two out there.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Happy Birthday Blog!

Wow- I have been a blogger for one year now. It went by so quickly. The experience has been fun, but the biggest reward has been connecting with like minded folks both near and far. I am looking forward to what comes next.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Painting Nature

We were all outside enjoying the beautiful spring weather when my small one asked me “Can I paint nature?”. “Sure”, I said. Of course I assumed she would paint a picture of something. But, no. She actually painted nature. She made cool stripey patterns all over the roots of a big pine tree, she painted some rocks and some sticks and some pine cones. Once the big one caught wind of what her little sister was up to she ran for some paint and proceeded to paint a maple tree.

Some red bugs crawling on a root.