Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Happy Halloween, Everyone!
Wow! Here it is Wednesday already. I feel a bit like I am hurtling through my days. I am hoping that... next week??... will slow down a bit for me.
The Lunaversary celebration wasn't a bust... it just wasn't as fantastic as we might have hoped. Pouring rain on Saturday didn't help matters for sightseeing and our dinner reservations fell through because after driving around downtown for an hour looking for a parking spot, we had to throw in the towel and eat at a small cafe that we found on the outskirts of town. The food was terrific and so that really helped, but Paul's mood was dampened (almost running into that car on the skinny, oldest-city streets didn't help) and made the fun, romantic evening a little less so. It didn't help that our dinner reservations would have had us eating front and center with a live Latin band playing. We both love Latin music and food, so I'm imagining that the veggie burger he had for dinner instead - as tasty as it may have been - just didn't cut it.
So, live and learn.
Learn that even with the steep prices, it would have been worth it to get the hotel room in town, rather than out, because then we could have waited out the rain and also could have just walked to dinner.
Learn that since we don't really enjoy shopping and buying mass-produced trinkets for souvenirs, many places to shop doesn't mean a lot to us when looking for a place to visit.
Learn that the average height of European man in the 16th century was 4 feet, 8 inches, hence the low doors and windows in the old, old homes.
Learn that while I appreciate the quality of antiques and long for much of the lost decorum of yesteryear, after seeing the "medicines" in the Oldest Drug Store (meds made mostly of alcohol, opium, and cocaine) and the implements used in dentistry and surgery at the infirmary at the fort - the Castillo de San Marco - I am thankful to be living in this day and age.
It was such a whirlwind weekend that I kept thinking to myself after we got back Sunday afternoon, "We now return you to your regularly scheduled program." Upon arriving home, I was too soon - immediately - back in the midst of things, starting with grocery shopping Sunday evening.
And now Halloween is here. So fast. Too fast! The girls came running in when Paul got home and squealed, "Daddy's going to carve our pumpkins!" And I thought, "Tonight? They'll rot..."until, of course, I realized that tomorrow was, indeed, the big day.
So, leftovers tonight for dinner and too much candy for dessert. Tomorrow is November first. The holidays are landing upon us! Maybe, even though I want "peaceful," I should just not even think that "peaceful" is an option. Maybe instead, I should prepare and just be ready to hang on for the ride.
Friday, October 26, 2007
Can you see what was in my bird feeder yesterday?
I had seen this little guy setting up shop in our compost bin last week. I couldn't figure out what he would want in it, unless it was eating the bugs that are in the bin. We have never put dairy or, being that we are vegetarian, meat in the bin.
I kept thinking that I shouldn't be bothered. It was outside after all. But when I went to take food out to the feeder yesterday morning, I thank God that I saw the long, long tail on the opposite side of the feeder before I picked it up as I usually do to fill it. I can tell you now that I simply would have FREAKED OUT!
So, that was the last straw. I know it was outside and the girls were trying to convince me (from the safe vantage point of the kitchen window) that it was just as cute as a squirrel. In my mind, I know they are both rodents. But squirrels run and this rat was quite comfy in our compost bin and on the feeder, not moving nor fretting when there were people around. So my concern was approaching it and disturbing it somehow as we a) try to put food in the feeder or b) dump scraps into the compost and it taking a chomp out of someone's hand or foot or whatever.
We have a live trap that we have used to relocate critters before. Paul set it by the compost bin with a bit of peanut butter and the little guy had to say adieu to the easy life. He took it to the edge of a large wooded area and let it go there. Whew!
Well, I've got errands to run before we go. The girls have a date to go with Grandma to meet some of their friends tonight to get some early Halloween treats down at the shops on Main St. of the planned community nearby. The whole planned community thing is so weird to me, but I've ranted enough about that before. Here are the girls practicing their flight plan over to Grandma's later! :) Have a good weekend, everyone!
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
I was looking around Golightly Place last night and enjoying the quiet evening: Paul was in the bedroom doing some research on the computer, the girls were playing cards, and I was tucked into a corner seat reading this delicious book:
Now, I am not an entertainer. I like to practice hospitality, but usually on a smaller scale. But I started looking around at all the decorating I do for every season and thought of the baking, the treats and the good smells floating about and thought that I really wanted to share it with others. To share it with more than my family.
I've been trying to figure out a way to get to know some of the women with whom I get together for homeschooling events, but do not have much time to just be friends with, because we are always talking or dealing with or about the children. Yesterday, in fact, 4 of us moms were sitting outside hammering together silk screen frames for the printmaking class while another mom was inside dressed as, and teaching the children about the Pilgrims. I mentioned, while hammering away, that perhaps I would teach knitting to the kids in co-op next year. The ladies I was with all sounded enthusiastic (and one even a bit wistful) and talked about how much they would like to learn or had tried to knit in the past. And thus, a small seed was planted in my brain. :)
So, last night I decided that I am going to have a "Hand-Made Party." I had one a number of years ago and though only a few came, we got a lot done and had a good time. With the holidays quickly approaching, I thought ladies could come over for a Friday evening of crafting. They can bring any projects they are working on and just spend the evening with food and friends and crafting. For anyone who wants to learn to knit, I will happily teach them. I'm not even going to make out individual invitations. I'm just going to make up a flier and hand it out to pretty much everyone I know. So many folks are so busy these days that I've never had huge turnouts at the few parties I've hosted. Here in FL, I don't have many close friends, so it could be the first time to my home for many of them. So, I'll invite probably more than I have room for and just hope for the best! :)
I'm hoping to have scrapbookers and knitters and embroiderers and quilters, crocheters, ornament makers, and more. It sounds like fun to ME, so I hope it will be well received. I'm going to plan it for the 2nd Friday in November, so now I'm perusing my books for yummy treat ideas and I'm pretty excited.
In other news, a couple of my own projects are finished:
The Basketweave Scarf for my brother from an Interweave Press 2004 design by Ann Budd. The pattern is free at KnittingDaily.com.
And the Gryffindor scarf is being blocked. Only the tassels are left and then it's on to Hufflepuff! This is one seriously long scarf!
Monday, October 22, 2007
I took this picture as a joke. I actually loathe seeing this overdone style of photoin catalogs and magazines all over the place!
From soil, to seeds, to fruit, this type of photo is everywhere - especially in earthy, organic-type pulications -
and is the only negative thing I have to say aboutMaryJane Butters' book that I posted about yesterday.
Yep, she's got one too. Her hands are holding a green apple!
Let me tell you that this is not a particularly fabulous nature trail. I only mention this, because I want to encourage folks to get out and walk no matter where you are - even if you don't have a nature park nearby. The park is one that is in a nearby subdivision, so while it is more than what we have in our own neighborhood, it is not of county or state park caliber by any means. Part of the "trail" is even paved. That said, it is a mere 3 minute drive from our house or a 20-minute bike ride. Given that the nearest county park is more like a 30 minute drive, this one nearby is gratefully welcome! It makes for a lovely short walk - under an hour - that gets all of our blood moving again and lets us observe the changes going on in the world around us.
While it is wonderful having the park so close by, if we did not have it, we would make do, as we have done for a number of years, with our regular evening walk around our neighborhood. We truly have Lucy, our West Highland terrier, to thank for this. It was of necessity that we began walking every evening with her and we always go as a family. We had taken walks before, of course, but not with the regularity we do now. I doubt we will give it up even after Lucy is no longer with us.
Unfortunately, I do not have a zoom lens for my camera!
This amazing bird sat and looked and screeched at us as we took its picture until
a hawk came and dove at it and made it fly away!
Grrr! Bad hawk!
Some days the girls are on their scooters ahead of us and some days they are on their rollerblades. Some evenings we make a shorter walk with the dog and then all get on our bikes for a cool, evening ride. But mostly we walk.
We spy birds, including those returning from migrations, as well as the rare and beloved owl and the more regular red-shouldered hawks. We also regularly see bats overhead if we are walking closer to sunset. My children have no fear of them and we love to see them come out for their evening meal of the bugs that just may be the ones that are trying to snack on us!
Here, a (blurry) bee gathers nectar at the flowers of this Brazilian Pepper Berry bush.
These non-native species are considered invasive here in FL and it is evident, because they
really are all over the place! Immigrants brought them here for their beautiful Christmas display.
Birds scatter the seeds widely and the insidious bushes overtake native species.
This Brazilian Pepper has already set its berries.
These berries will be a brilliant, bright red by the end of November.
I think I'll come back to collect some to make a wreath.
One day, over a year ago now, we were in a home-improvement store and a teenage boy was in the aisle with us. After a moment he walked up to us with a big smile on his face and said, "I know you!" For our part, we had never seen the boy. "You guys are great parents!" he said. I see you walking together every night! That's so cool!" And with that, he was off.
What a small and easy thing you can do with your family to build memories and further cement that bond that you have with one another. I don't believe in what society tells me about children as they grow older. I don't believe that teens will want nothing to do with their parents when they reach a certain age. I don't claim that for my truth and I am hopeful that long into the future we will all continue our walks and our bike rides together.
The girls, with neighbor, K (in the blue shirt) play their version of "Pooh Sticks"
(every time we come here) with pinecones, dropping them on the left side
and checking to see who comes out the winner on the right.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
How is it that I have never seen this book before?! It was a chance find at the library yesterday and let me tell you, it is just dreamy! The title, in case you can't see it well enough in the picture is MaryJane's Ideabook, Cookbook, Lifebook: For the Farmgirl in All of Us. It is quite inspirational with all the things I love to do... or just think about doing: gardening, stitching, cooking, decorating, and more. I've only just begun flipping through the pages. There is so much to this book; just looking at it is a lovely experience and MaryJane Butters is a fine writer with wonderful stories woven throughout the pages. You can visit her website and browse her numerous products, chat in the Farmgirl Chatroom, and subscribe to her magazine at www.maryjanesfarm.com. MaryJane says, "A farmgirl is a condition of the heart," and that's a good thing since my garden is proving to have what currently looks to be merely mediocre success.
It's a cloudy Saturday here. The girls are busy watching a movie with the neighbor girl and I've finished my chores - including finishing knitting the Gryffindor scarf for my nephew's Christmas present!!!! Yahoo!! Hufflepuff is next on the needles. I can't say I'll ever want to do another straight stockinette scarf for a very, very, very long time!! So, since I've got a bit of time, I think I'll be poking around on the Farmgirl forums myself.
Have a great weekend everyone!
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Aaahh... Good (?) morning.
The air is cool and lovely as it has been for the past two weeks in the morning hours here. I love how October settles down onto Florida like a cool compress on a sweaty brow. But I could take a hot compress today as it seems I have developed the first head cold I've had since I've moved here four years ago. At first I thought it was all the dust from the antique store we visited on Monday after school that set my nose a-running. But one raw nose, headache and sore throat later, I know that's not the case.
Oh, well. It's a good excuse to skip the P.E. today, finish school early, finish watching the two movie sequels to the Anne of Green Gables series and knit (only two stripes left on the Gryffindor house scarf!!).
We finished the boulevard garden on Sunday and it turned out beautifully. Other than me putting in the plants, Paul did all the work. He always does such beautiful, thorough work. I look forward to seeing how all the plants will fill in over time.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
teaching my children at home
teaching an art-journaling class once-a-week
co-leading the stretch routine with our P.E group once-a-week
hosting a Bible study (and therefore doing homework for my Bible study) every other week in my home
attending my knitting group every other week
learning to play the recorder along with my girls
knitting various gifts for the holidays
continuing in our on-going study of Spanish
learning how to play golf
learning how to ballroom dance
maintaining the vegetable garden outside in the back
maintaining the flower beds in the front and back
helping to put in a new boulevard garden in the front of the house
keeping up with pen pals
oh yeah... and this blog! :)
All things I love. Not a one I'd like to give up, but you know, that is my list of regular things. Other things I'd like to/need to do are:
put together Halloween costumes
sand and paint picnic table
sand and re-varnish dining room table
re-cover dining room chairs
rearrange and get new shelving for Eve's bedroom
re-stain and weatherproof Adiorandak chairs and swing in the back yard
refinish the wrought iron cafe table and chairs I found this spring
I wonder? Who has time for t.v.? The only time I end up turning it on - other than my regular, Thursday night appointment with "The Office" is when I absolutely have no energy left to do anything else. Even then, I usually have my knitting needles in my hands. But sometimes... sometimes I just can't even muster that and I know that it's got to be okay! :)
Maia's friend, S (holding the turtle), stayed overnight and K, who lives next door
were over playing and everyone had a turn gently holding the baby turtle.
It took me about a year to really, fully recover and even now, when I feel stressed, the top of my head tingles. It's the weirdest thing; my brother calls it my "Spidey sense." :)
Months later, I took an inventory of my activities at that time and was just shocked. Similar to depression sufferers, I had thought that I should not be feeling these physical things. In fact, part of my anxiety was that I though I was really sick because of the strange symptoms I was having from the stress. I thought I should just be able to handle everything. Did you know that stress can cause mucus build-up in your body - including your sinuses? I was put on Flonase by an allergist because that was supposedly the source of my woozy head. After seeing my doctor of Oriental medicine and being treated with herbs, homeopathy, diet changes, and accupuncture, I was off the steroids after one month and never went back on them. I visited my D.O.M. only 5 months and was well again. But, oh, yeah, I had to cut waaaaay back on my activities and commitments.
So, this new activity list above? You think I'd learn, wouldn't you? Well, one thing that is different is that in the list above, other than my daily life with my children, I am only accountable to 3 other activities. The rest can be dropped at will without affecting anyone but me. And that seems to be the key. I pay attention now when I feel overload beginning to kick in. I begin dropping things as needed.
Monday, October 8, 2007
Image Courtesy of allposters.com
Hello everyone and welcome to the week!
We had a really full and enjoyable weekend. I had my first golf lesson! Sports are really not my thing, but Paul had been going and playing with his mom regularly and with my mom sometimes too and I thought, well, if they can do it, I should at least try and get some more time in with my honey! So, on Saturday morning I was out at the driving range learning how to stand and swing (and actually make contact with the ball) and everything else that goes along with just learning how to drive (a golf ball, that is). My mental conversation went something like this: "Inside of foot, lined up with the ball... thumb and forefinger crease pointing toward my opposite shoulder... lean on the balls of your feet... club about a hands length from your stomach... weight is in your left leg (I am a lefty)... keep your eye on the ball... start your swing, keepyourarmstraigtanddon'tliftupyourfootandflickyourwristrightattheend!!!"
Okay. Did I hit it? More times than not, I think and so I will continue with my driving lessons and then decide if we will actually invest in a whole set of clubs. But it was fun. :) And my legs and butt and back were seriously sore the next day!
An added surprise bonus out of all of this is that Paul offered to take dancing lessons with me, since I like to dance and I was willing to try "his" sport. :) We'll check out some videos or DVD's at the library first, so he won't be completely green when we actually take a lesson.
After the lesson, a shower, and lunch, we went and bought our plants for the boulevard. Oh, they are SOOOOO pretty! I can't wait until we actually will be able to get them in!
I did some grocery shopping, but forgot my coupons. But I did want to share them here with you, because I think they are a great deal for organic dairy products. You should know that all organic dairy is not created equal. Organic Valley is a terrific company that is a co-op of many small farms around the nation. Horizon, on the other hand, despite its happy cow picture on the front of its products, participates in factory farming, which basically means viewing the cow as a product instead of an animal, and equals a very unhappy life for the cow. Store-brand "organic" milks, including those sold at Target, have been under fire as well.
NewsTarget.com did an in-depth story on this that I've taken excerpts of here and which I think you will find very interesting.
"Horizon conveniently took advantage of the fact that Federal Organic Standards say the cows must have access to pasture, and they said, "Oh well, I guess theoretical access to pasture is good enough. We are going to chain up our cows and milk them three times a day, and they will never get out pasturing unless there is a news organization coming to the farm that day. We will still call it organic." They have been doing this for four years, and there have been complaints from the Organic Consumers Association and organic farmers all over the country.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has completely ignored these complaints for four years. However, now this controversy has reached such a state with the mass media covering it and retail stores across the country starting to drop Horizon and Aurora Organic, that the USDA is finally making noises that they will clear up this situation and promulgate federal regulations that actually require the animals to be pastured. "
"Mike: Now, these are pretty serious accusations of Horizon Milk or Dean Foods' behavior. How are you able to support this? Do you have an insider taking pictures, or how did you become aware of this behavior on their part?
Ronnie: It was called to our attention by a watchdog organization called The Cornucopia Institute, which actually visited some of these factory-style dairy farms that Horizon and Aurora call organic. They witnessed firsthand things like a farm where there are 4,000 animals, but only a few hundred acres of pasture. You cannot possibly pasture animals on that little pasture, especially when they are in semi-arid parts of Idaho, Colorado and West Texas.
Then beyond that, workers on these farms started coming forth as whistleblowers. There was a story in the Chicago Tribune about one of these whistleblowers who pointed out that these cows are not put out to pasture. The only time they are put out to pasture is when there is a media organization or an important person coming out.
Yes, it is firsthand information. It is a look at the terrain that these factory-style dairy feedlots are set on. Look at the size of their pasture, and then the fact that there was a national survey of organic dairy farms that came out March 22 -- which the unethical dairies did not respond to or they got really low ranks --whereas, the ethical producers were happy to be transparent about their practices."
"Ronnie: Yes, half of Horizon Organic's milk today comes from these factory dairy feedlots. One hundred percent of Aurora Organic's milk comes from these factory dairy feedlots. It is cheaper to not buy organic calves that have been raised from birth on an organic farm, but to buy conventional calves that have been raised as cheaply as possible on a conventional farm. The routine practice today on a conventional farm is feeding the animals blood plasma as a milk replacer. You feed them genetically engineered grains, slaughterhouse waste, and chicken manure. That is industry standard. Why? You can make more money doing it that way.
Mike: Okay, so for those reading this, take a closer look at that bowl of cereal next time. If you are pouring cow's milk in there, you might want to buy genuine organic and not the cheap stuff.
Ronnie: Yes, and Mike here is another point that you might think about: for those people who do not drink dairy milk, but who buy organic soy milk, the leading organic soy milk brand in the United States is Silk. Many consumers have no idea that Silk -- just like Horizon Organic Milk -- was bought out by this giant conglomerate, Dean Foods.
Silk used to buy their organic soybeans from U.S. and Canadian organic soybean farmers, and they paid them a decent price -- $16 to $21 a bushel -- for these organic soybeans. Well, now that Dean Foods has bought out Silk, they are starting to import cheap, so-called organic soybeans from China, where the workers are treated like slaves and organic standards are dubious. Or, they are importing soybeans from Brazil where there is a huge uproar over the fact that people are whacking down the Amazon -- the lungs of the planet -- in order to plant export crops, specifically soybeans, to export.
Even if we think this does not affect us, because we do not eat meat or we do not eat dairy, we have to see the effect of these big corporations like Dean Foods coming into organic. Wal-Mart wants to sell you stuff that is cheaper than their competitors, and the only way they can do that is to outsource it from overseas -- places like China and Brazil -- where worker rights and environmental standards are routinely violated, or else lower standards in the United States and allow industrial-style production to call itself organic.
Mike: Now, this is obviously a very important story for consumers to follow. How can they continue to get updates from you on this story?
Ronnie: Every day on our news site, www.OrganicConsumers.org you will find updates. We have a whole section of our website called "Safeguard Organic Standards," where you can take action. Right at the top of our home page is an opportunity for you to send a message to what we are calling the "Shameless Seven." These are the large corporations trying to defraud consumers and put ethical organic farmers out of business by labeling factory farm production -- and slave labor production, in the case of China -- as organic."(* The link in the above paragraph does not appear to be current. The latest one I searched out on their website appears to be here, dated August 2007.)
Holy smoke! The Silk connection is news to me. I buy both Organic Valley Soy and Silk, but I won't be buying Silk anymore.
Finally, one more reason to consider purchasing organic dairy for your family is the amount of hormones in them. I don't have all the links for this information - I'll leave that research to you if you are interested - it's all over the internet. But I can tell you two anecdotal stories:
One concerns a friend of mine whose youngest son at the time, at just over a year of age, was found to have a cancerous tumor on his kidney. He survived the operation and the treatment and as of today, is doing well. The medical staff at Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, FL told her, however, to immediately refrain from giving her son conventional dairy, because it contains the bgH (bovine growth hormone) which has shown to increase the speed in which tumors grow and to give her son only organic dairy.
The other story affected my family directly. I have always sought out organic foods for my family, but sometimes price just plain won out when times were tight. When my older daughter started developing at eight and a half years old, that all changed. I was shocked to learn, when I checked out some books for us to read together on "her changing body" that in today's American children, the average age of puberty is between 8 and 12 years old and it is only considered early puberty if a child begins developing at six!!! I was already shocked and heartbroken - and not ready at all - to be discussing these changes with my little girl, but the information in that book sealed the deal for me and money or no money, we only buy organic dairy now or we just don't buy it.
For the record, there hasn't been much progress - thankfully - in the development area in two years now. My younger daughter just turned eight and I'm waiting to see what will happen with her. I do feel compelled to share this information with other parents, because organics are so much more than taste, economics, animal welfare and being gentle on the environment. Sometimes folks won't make changes unless there is a serious enough reason to change. My children's health is that for me. I hope you'll consider it too.
Friday, October 5, 2007
Hmmm... While I like snapdragons a lot, they say at this site that while I am a true friend, I am a mischief maker and prankster. Not some of the first words I would use to describe myself... not even the hundredth. But who knows, maybe I am not as staid as I assumed I was going to appear upon taking this test!
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
Here we are smack-dab in the middle of another busy homeschooling week. I just realized, too, that I haven't officially welcomed you all to October - or as I like to say here on the Gulf Coast: "Aaaaah"ctober! It's a bit muggy today, but a great deal of thanks go to our northern friends for sending some of that cooler air our way. Monday was truly delightful with a steady breeze all day. Our windows and lanai doors are all open (though some of our neighbors' aren't yet... and some won't be all year!!) and we welcome the fresh air and sounds of life around us once more.
Beets, kale, basil and tomatoes are in the garden. Onions and spinach have been planted too, but have yet to poke up their heads. It's my second try at planting them in a month, so I wonder if I've gotten bad seeds. There's room for carrots too, if I can get to the store to get the seeds.
This weekend we will be planning for a major planting project. With the drought this summer, our grass was badly attacked by chinch bugs. Instead of replacing the grass with the same (as so many people continue to do around here - year after year ?!!?), we will be changing our landscape to include more native plants in areas as well as planting a more chinch-resistant grass, so that we do maintain some turf for the children.
So, the boulevard is going to be the first thing to go! Hee, hee. I'm so excited! Of course, no one else in the neighborhood has planted their boulevards, but there is nothing in our association rules that say we cannot. A boulevard, for those who are not familiar with the term, is about a 3 to 6-foot strip of grass that goes to the curb and the road when you have a sidewalk that passes over your yard. Most people just leave it, but living in Minneapolis all the years that we did, showed me that these otherwise blank canvases can be turned into beautiful miniature gardens. They even have websites about it here and here.
Florida Native Plant Society to do some shopping this weekend. I certainly don't need another project on my hands, so native plants make the most sense, requiring very little attention and producing big results! I'll be sure to post pictures as the project gets underway. I can think of one neighbor that might make a fuss (but then, he fusses about everything), but I would hope to inspire others to consider less maintenance-prone turf and more beautiful, cost-effective, native plants.
For all you nature lovers out there my Harmony Art friend, Barb, has a new blog where she is tracking their school year of nature study using the wonderful Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock. Look around on both her blogs; you're sure to be inspired! As for me, I've a pile of dishes with my name on 'em, so I'd better get to it!