Wednesday, February 22, 2012

seasonal confusion

Yesterday, while the baby and I were walking in the neighborhood together, we heard and saw this
This winter has been so strange for us. We have far less snow (average snowfall per winter is 500 inches, this year we've had 213 inches), far more sunny days than last year, much warmer temperatures, and the snow we have had took until January to get around to falling. It appears we humans are not the only ones confused. I usually don't hear that kind of birdsong racket until April.

Is is spring already?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

in the kitchen

~ there is tea... everyday
~ oatmeal makes a frequent appearance at breakfast time
~ the 8 year old does a lot of the cooking: he bakes us treats, he makes dinner for the family all on his own from scratch, he inspires family togetherness in the kitchen
~ sometimes this mama finds her creative stride and brillantly makes soft pretzel dough for the smaller people to shape (then she eats them with coarse salt. yum!)
~ resourcefulness is the most important ingredient in our kitchen; there is no running out for a missing ingredient from our house
~ we tried this recipe for root beer cupcakes — with a vanilla cream cheese frosting instead of the called for toppings (see resourcefulness comment above) — and they were not so much root beer as just chocolate, which was OK, but not what we were hoping for
~ we sometimes cook with exotic ingredients like plantains; these days we more often cook with ordinary ingredients like celery, eggs, and tomatoes
~ we usually make enough for leftovers
~ we always like it best when we can share with people we love

Bonus recipe share:

Pretzel Shapes, adapted from recipe by Katrina Kenison as shared in her inspired work Mitten Strings for God

2 Tbsp instant yeast
1 cup warm water
2 tsp honey
2 tsp salt
2-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 Tbsp wheat gluten
1 egg
Coarse salt or cinnamon sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast into warm water. Stir and add honey and salt. Stir in 2 cups of flour and wheat gluten. Gradually stir in or knead the remaining flour and knead the dough. When the dough is smooth and all the flour incorporated, divide the results amongst the children and let them have at it, creating whatever shapes they want to make.

Transfer their shapes to a baking sheet, brush each pretzel shape with egg wash, and sprinkle coarse salt or cinnamon sugar on top.

Bake at 425 F for 10 minutes or so, until golden brown.

Rich Beef Short Ribs in the Crock Pot, adapted from this recipe by Ina Garten
I've made this twice recently (and we're not a "repeat a recipe often" kind of a family). It was delicious, nutritious, satisfying, good balance of flavors. It also was the perfect way to use up the remaining leftover mulled wine from our Winter Solstice party back in December.

1 2-ish pound package beef short ribs, with a nice amount of fat if you can find a good one, preferably grass-fed meat, but you can certainly make it with any roast
3 cups leftover mulled red wine, or just 3 cups mulled wine and add the optional spices to the roast
2 cups beef stock
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
*2-3 cinnamon sticks
*4-6 whole cloves
*2-3 allspice berries
*2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
4 large cloves garlic, sliced and coarsely minced
2 medium carrots, cut into 1 inch chunks
4 medium stalks celery, cut into 1 inch chunks
2 leeks, white parts, washed and sliced 1/8 inch slice
1 fennel bulb, core removed, cut into 1/4-ish slices
1-1/2 tsp rosemary leaves
1 tsp thyme leaves
2-3 bay leaves

*Optional ingredients, if you don't have mulled wine

1. Pour the olive oil in a 6-quart crock pot and coat the inside of the pot.
2. Put the wine, beef stock, tomatoes, and optional ingredients in a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and let the pot simmer while you cut the vegetables. Reduce the liquid by half and turn off the heat.
3. Dump all the vegetables and herbs into the crock pot.
4. Rinse the meat, dry with paper toweling. Salt and pepper the meat and add it to the vegetables.
5. Pour the reduced liquid over the vegetables and meat.
6. Cook the stew on low for 6-8 hours.
7. Serve over baked potatoes with sour cream on top (optional)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

celebrating love

The Valentine's Day bug has nipped us here. The Boy Builder and I were talking today about all the many forms of love:

~ parental love
~ romantic love
~ sibling love
~ child love
~ love for humanity
~ love for animals
~ love for community or nation
~ love of material things
~ love of beauty
~ things we love to do
~ and on, and on, and on ...

Yesterday, a new niece was born in North Carolina. Modern technology allowed us to keep abreast of the details and see gorgeous pictures of little Lyla Mae nearly instantly as she began her sojourn on Earth.
This Valentine's Day my heart reaches across this wide Earth in celebration of Family Love, as it knits family members together, near and far.

Welcome, little Lyla Mae. We are so glad you are here.

behavioral analysis

Homeschooling takes a lot of shapes at our house. Sometimes it looks a lot like nothing at all educational is happening. Everyone is stumbling around in their pajamas late in the day, a non-inspiring movie might be on, or parent and child are squabbling. Sometimes, we sit in one place and plow through a pile of math problems after making beds, eating breakfast, getting dressed, and even cleaning teeth. Sometimes, we dance through the day from one magical moment to the next of spontaneous inspiration and creativity.

Although the Boy Builder is 8 years old and in the second grade, we're still figuring out our rhythm with homeschooling, still working out what works for all of us and feels right.

Today mostly felt like a homeschooling mess. With Papa still gone, I put off day's beginning this morning and invited Eden into bed for some morning snuggling and story-reading while I avoided getting out of the warm bed to confront the cold fireplace. Then, we proceeded to mess around. I did a little bit of work, got unreasonably distracted by the news of my new niece's birth (a new baby!), nursed and pottied the baby, and didn't get around to feeding us a proper meal until dinner time. I was vaguely aware of the Boy's exploits, but, honestly, pretty distracted. I tried working through a stack of library books with him, but wound up falling asleep in the middle with baby in my arms.

At the end of a day like today, I was tickled to find on the living room floor evidence of the magical, spontaneous kind of learning that reflects the bright mind of my Boy.
He was tallying something. After a little inquiry, I learned he was tallying left-handed and right-handed baby hand gestures while the baby played under his little baby gym.
He had heard Papa speculating about whether baby was left- or right-handed. So, to gather data on the question, he devised his own science experiment. And his experimental design was fairly sophisticated!

He divided a sheet of paper in half and marked one half L for left and one half R for right. He watched his brother play and made a marks each time the baby reached for the right or left ring in the appropriate column. He then aggregated his results.

The tally sheet shows 40 times baby grabbed the left ring and 16 times baby grabbed the right ring.

So proud of my Boy and his curiosity that shines so bright.

Monday, February 13, 2012


There was snow this weekend. And stories. And a little housecleaning. And skiing. And a little napping. And dinner with friends. And dinner with loved ones. And crafting!

Papa should be home tomorrow. Yippee!

How was your weekend?

Friday, February 10, 2012

just me and the boys

Part of what makes our home-building project crazy and challenging is that we are simultaneously running our own business and running the home-building. Our lives are full to overflowing.

This weekend, Papa Builder is headed down to the desert to do some work at a client's house 5 hours, 240 miles, and a world away. The place he's headed is gorgeous, awe-inspiring, humbling — as intensely as the desert can be — and is the definition of The Middle of Nowhere with 360° views of nary another human trace, no cell phone reception, and internet only at the hotel. He'll be gone 2 1/2 or 3 days.
Loading up Papa's tools to take out of the neighborhood
And while I'm so grateful that he works so hard for our family, even on the weekends, and gets involved in such interesting projects, I'm mostly struck right now by the fact that I'm the ONLY ADULT in the house. With TWO young, needy people. The Only Adult. Yikes.
Loading up the van
I spend many hours of every week being the Only Adult. But not usually so many in a row. And not while Papa is so many miles away in The Middle of Nowhere.
See you again soon, Papa!
Needless to say, I don't expect much homebuilding to happen this weekend. We'll be hanging out, trying to keep warm. Maybe take the Boy Builder skiing. Maybe I'll get wild and clean up the kitchen. If I'm really industrious, perhaps I'll vacuum. I'm sure we'll read lots of stories. I'll be doing a lot of nursing and baby pottying and hopefully some napping.

And at night, when the boys are sleeping, during those few moments before I slip into dreamland myself, I'll be counting the hours and days until Papa comes home.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


In this mama's opinion, the very best part of the new baby is watching the fraternal relationship unfold. My two boys love each other fiercely, and Boy Builder can get the baby to laugh longer and louder than anyone else.
Birth Day brothers!
Not only that, but Boy Builder loves to help his brother with all the care-giver tasks — carrying, rocking, singing, diaper-changing, pottying, playing, clothes-changing.
And Baby Builder can't get enough of watching his big brother's every move and telling him his every secret.

The baby has been growing so fast, many of his clothes aren't fitting anymore. We've relied on a sleep sack given as a gift by good friends to keep baby warm at night in our uninsulated rental cabin and the sleep sack has gotten too small. So, the Boy Builder stepped in with his own holiday money and found a bigger size to purchase online, got secret help from Papa to purchase it, and presented it to T-bear a couple of weeks ago. Could there be a prouder and more tender moment for a parent to witness?
I'm so curious to watch this brother-love develop over time. It's so beautiful in these first 3 months, I can only imagine where these two are headed.

Bonus picture of the boys (and some baby chub!).

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

confessions of absenteeism

I have been absent from this space for nearly a year now. It started as an all-in, foot-stamping, 4-year-old tantrum of a boycott of the never-ending "spring" we endured last year. I was so tired of the long, grey winter, the outrageous winter storms lasting until after Memorial Day (!), the record-setting seasonal snowfall — so unlike the ordinary winter weather we have here on our mountain.

As snows receded and I relaxed my commitment to the boycott, technical difficulties and more of our hallmark transience made returning very challenging, if not impossible.

Suddenly, the summer was fully upon us once the snow finally melted at the end of June and we were full steam ahead with little time for extra-curricular activities like blogging. It was nose to the grindstone for me and the other builders.

And through it all there was this other consuming, intense Creative Project that heightened all the frustration, anticipation, urgency, and homebuilding madness out of all proportion, making it nearly impossible for me to concentrate on nearly anything else.
Evidence of the Creative Project Underway
The Creative Project culminated in a beautiful new member of the family, Torbjørn Strom Harvey, born on our mountain November 6, 2011 — aka Baby Builder.
A brand-new Baby Builder resting up for the job ahead
We're pretty smitten with this new family member, almost no one more so than his big brother, Boy Builder.

Here's to a new year of more building, more creativity, more family love, and more blogging!