Thursday, March 24, 2011

Things I love...

Sometimes it's important (especially during the month of March in MN) to reflect on the things that make a person happy and content. Not necessarily material things, although those will be included in my list, but I also mean *things* in the broader sense of people, places, events, instances and situations.

  • My boys. Even Ludwig who is currently doing his best to fumigate the house with his flatulence.
  • Chocolate. Because really, what's not to love?
  • Spring. It will come, I just need to be patient.
  • The smell of fresh baked bread.
  • Being married to a man who bakes the aforementioned bread.
  • A warm summer night where the temperature and the breeze are just right so you are neither cold nor hot but *just right*. Those are my most favorite summer nights.
  • Books. I really do love to read and am fascinated by people who don't read. They don't know what they are missing and I feel sad for them. Kind of like how I felt sad for the accounting majors I knew in college. Their subject matter was so boring and I felt sad for them because they spent all their time learning about numbers.
  • Comfortable shoes. For me they are my Dansko Mary Janes, Asics running shoes and Merrill sandals. At this point in my life all other shoes are not worth wearing and I usually don't.
  • When Owen tells me he loves me "so much" and that I am the snuggler because I am the softest.
  • Photography. It's my favorite art form. It's the only way for me to take what I see in my mind of something and put it on paper. I couldn't accomplish that with drawing and painting.
  • Potatoes. Cooked any way. Even raw, although that is my least favorite. Like chocolate, what's not to love?
  • Growing veggies in our yard. I love that some of our food has traveled mere yards to our table rather than miles. And knowing that what has gone into the growth of that food is water, sun and some tender loving care. I also love that Owen enjoys working in the garden with Morgan (I like to pick but I'm not much of a gardener).
  • All-wheel drive. It's seriously awesome.
  • Being able to stay home (mostly) with Owen since he was born.
  • Baking. While not the healthiest of hobbies I do enjoy it. And I love to eat what I bake!
  • My fuzzy blue blanket. My grandma made it long ago and then it was given to me and became so worn that I had to take it apart and make a new patchwork top for it and then sew it all back together. Someday it will be passed to Owen, he loves it too, and he (or maybe his wife) will need to fix it again!
  • Friends and family who love me despite my quirks.
  • A clean kitchen.
  • A supportive and mostly not irritating bra. So hard to find.
  • When I find clothes that fit me. I don't mind being short. Really, I don't. I mind that the fashion industry tailors clothes for women who are 5'10" and weigh 100 pounds and have limbs 3 feet long. That is like .5% of the population and I honestly don't care if they can't find clothes to fit them, it's time for the little women to come into fashion power!
  • Recreational fires in the backyard.
  • When all the laundry is done and put away. I love that feeling of accomplishment.
  • Good fitness instructors. The classes I attend at the Y are taught by great instructors and that can make all the difference. (Not unlike having good teachers in school!)
  • This little blog. It contains record of many small but important things that have happened over the last 4 1/2 years and I like that I can go back and read about them.
  • Music.
  • Living in an urban area but not in the city. We are close enough but not so close that there are drunks stumbling down the street at 2am. I don't miss that.
  • Sunshine. Especially when it's barely in the 30's.
  • Good neighbors. We paid very little attention to the school district or neighborhood when we bought our house and got so lucky.
  • So many more things that I cannot list!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The many kinds of flour...

I'm not sure if I've ever mentioned this before but I don't cook. Wait, I don't like to cook. I WILL cook, if I'm asked or if I have to. But it does not fall anywhere on the list of things I like to do. And I will now publicly admit that I CAN in fact cook, I just find it tediously boring. It requires attention that I cannot devote. It's rather like juggling, which I would like to learn to do, but not with knives. I do however like to bake. It doesn't require as much attention and it involves sugar , and often chocolate, which I'm sure I've mentioned that I LOVE!

Today while rummaging around in the freezer for enough ice to put in my Diet Coke I found a bag of flour, or what I presumed was flour. Now most of our 40 kinds of flour are contained in our pantry cabinet or the freezer downstairs. So I was a bit surprised to come across this lone sack of flour lying in the freezer. It got in the way of the ice cube tray while I was returning it to the freezer and my initial thought was "WTF is this!?" (I've started cussing more in my head because I can't do it out loud. It's rather unlady like and Owen picks up everything now. And while we did briefly consider teaching him to cuss about everything rather than cry so much, we finally decided against it). So I turned it over to find it was Sir Lancelot Flour. Oh, yes, of course. The Sir Lancelot Flour! That we use for...I know, right!? I don't know either! Which brings me to my point (but slow and rambling like. Don't worry, keep reading, I'll get there. I usually do).

When I was growing up we had all purpose white flour. It was used for baking when flour was needed. I think when I was in my early twenties and learned to bake something besides chocolate chip cookies or banana bread I tried out some cake flour. Beyond that I knew nothing about flour. I'm sure I knew about whole wheat flour because I ate whole wheat bread but I didn't bake it. My baking is in line with my philosophy of cooking. I try to avoid it unless it involves sugar and/or chocolate. Recipes for me rarely call for more than all purpose flour or cake flour.

At this point you may be wondering how on earth does this girl eat!? (If you know me personally you aren't, because you know the answer and have probably stopped reading!) I married a man who can cook. Yes, I hit the "girl who hates to cook" jackpot. My man CAN COOK! And sometimes he even makes things I like to eat. And if that weren't a great jackpot in and of itself, he also likes to bake. Mainly bread. He came into this passion around about the time I was doing the Atkins diet. Yes, he's so supportive. I can't recall the exact reason for this desire to bake bread... oh, wait, it's that he likes to sabotage every dietary change I try to make. Okay, not really, but it seems like it! And because a true Holle boy can't go at a hobby half hog he invested in the good stuff as far as supplies go. Which means we have Sir Lancelot Flour. When I asked WTF is Sir Lancelot Flour and why do we have it, he replied that it is a higher gluten flour that helps crusts like pizza crust be crispy. And in my mind I see my celiac afflicted friends wretching at the though of this flour. (I have an over active, highly visual, imagination.) We also have all purpose flour (Dakota Maid), bread flour, whole wheat flour, rye flour, white whole wheat flour, masica and a whole lot of other flour that I don't keep track of because as I mentioned it doesn't apply to my repertoire of recipes. And you may wonder where one would get Sir Lancelot Flour. That would be from Morgan's dealer, I mean the baking supply website of King Arthur Flour. It is a wonderful website devoted to the art of baking. They have gadgets and all kinds of hard to find things like active yeast (that we buy in a pound block) and double dutch process cocoa (which we can't find anywhere in a store).

We are a household devoted to flour. It can be found all over the place. the cupboards, the freezers, and in almost every nook and cranny of our kitchen (because Morgan cooks and bakes like the Muppets Swedish Chef). And on a floor, it's almost as slippery as ski wax (which is another post altogether!).

Friday, March 11, 2011

Sometimes things are bigger than you think...

One of my pet peeves is solicitors. And to deter the solicitors I have a sign on the door that says "no soliciting". It would say much more than that but Morgan would probably roll his eyes and take the sign down. The sign does a pretty good job. So long as the person knows what soliciting is. Lots of children don't so we get the kids in the neighborhood selling whatever the school fundraiser is. (Which is another post altogether.) The kind of solicitor we get in the neighborhood the most are the tree maintenance companies. They don't ring our doorbell because of the sign. But if I am outside they will get me. Such was the case yesterday. Our neighborhood is filled with huge old trees so I'm sure it's a great place for prospecting. Our yard is probably a bonus as we have two huge trees in our yard that are in desperate need of some trimming. Because of this I always let them look at the trees and tell me what they think and give me an estimate. One of the trees is an Ash and has a lot of dead wood and we knew that at some point it would need to be taken down so I always ask what it would cost to remove it, and I've gotten some really outrageous estimates.

Two days ago there was a guy in the neighborhood drumming up business. He hit up the neighbors across the street which is when I noticed him. At that point I had drawn the shades so I could pretend I wasn't home if the sign didn't deter him. Yesterday the same company was back in the neighborhood to work on the neighbors' trees and while we were leaving to go to Owen's ECFE class they got me. One of the guys approached me as I was backing out of the drive, very polite, gave me their card and said I could call if I'd like an estimate. Of course the moment I got home they were back! So being that I like to hear the trees guys ridiculous quotes I told them to come back in a bit after I got some lunch ready for O.

Back they came to look at the trees and give me an estimate. Surprisingly it was reasonable (in comparison to the other quotes I'd had) and I told the guy I'd talk to Morgan and I'd let him know. We decided to have them take down the Ash tree and trim up the Maple. A few minutes later they got to work. I was thrilled that this was finally going to be taken care of.

Owen was very excited that there was going to be some excitement in the yard and he was thrilled at the prospect of new sticks for his collection. It was a nice enough day that we took our lunch out on the step and watched the climber go to work. I'm sure he appreciated the audience!

After he had trimmed off a lot of the dead wood and was way up high in the tree I realized just how big the tree was. And just how much wood was going to be left behind for us to deal with. (We opted to keep the wood as it was cheaper than having them haul it away and since we have 2 fireplaces and fire pit we thought we could use it). Owen and I went back inside to watch from the safety of the living room. Where O determined he could not see the guy, which was unacceptable, and went back out to the breezeway. He spent the better part of the afternoon watching out the windows and make "compost" in the breezeway. (Also another post!)

While I was getting dinner ready (they had been at the tree of 3 hours now) there was a loud boom and O yelled "MAMA! Come see this!!!" I joined him at the picture window where I saw the tree down in the yard. I hadn't realized they were at that point in the process and I had missed it. Which kind of made me sad.

I think the sadness had actually been brewing while the whole thing unfolded in the yard. First, I had a bit of buyers remorse set in. I don't easily part with large sums of money and paired with having made the decision so quickly, I started to feel sick. Morgan and I hadn't spent a month discussing the decision, which we often do with large expenditures, and then if it's not an emergency or a necessity we usually put it off. Which we would most likely have done with this if we'd given it more time and consideration. Morgan has a price limit on most things, $20 to be exact, and if something exceeds his limit it's not worth it.

(The tree shortly after it came down)

(Owen did find some new sticks!)

After this point I started to feel uneasy and sick. And I wasn't quite sure why. Was it the parting with money? Or just the tree? I felt like what we were spending was reasonable. And the tree was going to need to come down at some point. It had a lot of dead wood and we'd already had some branches come down during storms and it was forever dropping sticks and such. Not to mention it was a squirrel hotel. (Take that rat bastards!) But throughout the evening and night and even when I woke up the morning I felt sick about this. And I think far more than spending the money, it's the tree. I'm sad about the tree being gone. It was a huge tree. It was at least 70 years old. It had been here before our house was. It makes me sad that we cut it down. And I suppose it's rather silly that I'm sad about this tree, but I am. It makes me sad to see it lying all cut up in the yard destined for the fireplace or fire pit. Now it's just a stump. (My personification of this tree is probably sad too!)

I know the money will be replaced and the tree will be cleaned up and we can plant a new one if we'd like. Owen thinks that's a great idea. But for today, and maybe tomorrow, I'm going to be sad for the ash tree. (But not sad that the squirrels have to move!)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Around the house...

March is my least favorite month of the year. It's long and dreary and gray and I am so ready for spring. When I was pregnant with Owen I swore up and down that I would not have a baby in March. Although having a baby in March would probably brighten it up! It was also the longest slowest month in the academic year and now that I don't teach it doesn't bother me as much as it did while I was teaching.

March is a month that doesn't provide me with much in the way of creative inspiration. I realized I hadn't picked my camera up in quite sometime so the other day I made a purposeful attempt to capture some of the things going on around the house. While they aren't artistic they are still a representation of our daily life.

Owen playing a game on the PBS website.
I believe this was day 3 of a Scrabble game Morgan and I are playing. It's still in progress. I think it's my turn.
Ludwig is also quite ready for spring. He loves to lie in the sun and has had to make due with the sun coming in the front window.
A paper globe waiting to be hung in the dining room with the other two.
Art projects and school papers on the dining room table waiting to be sorted and filed.
Chocolate waiting to be chopped up and used in a recipe for cookies. They have since been made and mostly eaten!
Dishes waiting to be put away. Our dish washer is out of order so this is an almost daily chore.
Owen's room in need of some tidying.
The trimmer waiting to be put away after Morgan's haircut.
I believe this is a Gedesa. I found it at the grocery store. It's a bit like a plum but lighter. I loved the sort of heart shape to it.
I also have some pictures I took during the outdoor adventure Owen and I had at the arboretum after school last week but I will post those another day.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

A stack of books...

I have a little problem. I've had it for a long time. I love books. I like to read and I read a lot. I've always read a lot. Except for perhaps in graduate school where I mostly read what was assigned and not much else. After graduate school I was so happy to read books of my own choosing.

I am not however, a person who loves to collect books. Morgan is also a reader and between the two of us we own a large number of books ranging from religion (Catholic and Lutheran) to juvenile fiction. If we are to include Owen's books that probably doubles our collection. In short, we have no shortage of books. But one rarely rereads books from ones own collection. They are good for loaning to friends but for the most part they take up space and collect dust. Excluding cook books, dictionaries, and gardening books we could probably do without most of our books. That being said I am a faithful devotee of the library. If I can get a book at the library I will. Sometimes I wait for a very long time but it's the price I pay for not wanting to own the book.

For Valentine's Day Morgan gave me a Nook Color. I have several friends with ereaders and even though I like to have a book in my hands I thought an ereader might be a handy sort of thing. I'm also a technology junkie so that contributed to my curiosity. The purchase was painful for Morgan but his desire to do something nice for me overruled his inherently cheap nature. Morgan's philosophy about purchases includes a $20 limit and a trip to the thrift store. Neither of these rules applied to the Nook.

I have enjoyed finding cheap books for my nook and also downloading books from the library. We are fortunate to be in an area with a large library system and it has a nice collection of ebooks. Although I've found they don't have a large number of copies to loan out. As with hard copies they need to purchase the e-version and lend it the way a hard copy is loaned. I thought owning the ereader would remedy some of my wait time for books from the library but I was mistaken.

The ereader has also contributed to a situation I seem to frequently find myself in. The large stack of books waiting to be read on my nightstand. These books are often at various other places in our home but eventually I try to corral them to my nightstand. Once there I am able to see how many books I've amassed and then determine the amount of time I have to read them. Because inevitably there are several that are on request by other people and I generally have a few of these that I've checked out at one time. What happens is I keep a list of books I want to read and then one day I'll sit down at the computer and look them up at the library. Then I make my requests and all of the sudden I will have 4 books waiting for me. So I pick them up. But since I always have a book or two ( or maybe 4) in process I don't get to them right away. And I may have made a trip to the library with Owen where I will have browsed the shelves and found more books to haul home to add to my pile to read. And on top of that will be my Nook with even more books in it for me to read! And if the library and the Nook don't contribute enough to my stack I am also in 2 books clubs and have friends who are readers of good books that lend me the good books to read! And since no one else really reads their books over the ones from friends don't generally have a due by date. Although I try to return them in a timely manner.

Right now here is the stack on my nightstand:

Currently Reading:
Stiff: the curious lives of human cadavers
The art of non-conformity (due in 15 days)
Truth & Beauty (on the nook from the library)

Waiting to be read:
Final Verdict:What really happened in the Rosenberg case (due in 15 days HAVE NOT started!)
Fragile (due in 15 days HAVE NOT started!)
House of Sand and Fog (started but found it slow, no due date as it's from a friend)
The Hunger Games (from a friend as well)
The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner (started, lost interest. I think I'm done with the Twilight Saga)
Bringing Jon Home (from the church library!)
The Unfinished Angel

Book Club books to be read:
The Paris Wife (hoping to get in electronic format from the library but there is of course a wait!)
Cutting for Stone
Water for Elephants

On my own wish list (on the Nook):
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
Big Girls Don't Cry
Frank & Eleanor
And 5 other books I've requested from the library!

As you can see I tend to create a bit of stress and drama surrounding the reading of books. And I suppose some of this would be alleviated by owning the books because then I have all the time in the world to read them. I can get to them when I am able to. However, since I don't like to have the clutter of books and I like not spending money on books I choose to keep the stress & drama.

Sometimes it's easier not to read! Which happens too. I fall into a slump and don't read much for months.

Monday, March 07, 2011

It's March!

Wow! I've written 2 posts this year. Two. And it's March. I'd love to tell you that the year has been filled with amazing and exciting things. We've traveled, we've had amazing adventures and lived life to the fullest. But I can't. The truth is that each day brings the daily stuff that an ordinary life is made of. Meals, chores, laundry, dishes, laundry, dishes (oh, wait, I repeated myself) work, school bedtime wars. But we've also had some great gatherings with friends and family. We've read some good books and I've discussed some of those books. I may have created something but I don't actually recall what it may have been, oh, a paper globe at Mom Scouts, but it's just like the two other ones I have in the dining room. Oh, wait, I have a picture I can share with you!
We had a week of warmer weather and Owen spent several days playing in the puddles in the yard in his green frog galoshes.

One day he fell asleep in his burrow. Which is a corner behind a small couch where he piles couch cushions, blankets and throw pillows. He calls it a burrow.
We've also been trying to decide where O will go to school in the fall. Which would be easy if it weren't for school lotteries. Lovely sort of concept. School choice is really more about having the choice to fill out an application, send it in on time, and keep your fingers crossed that your not yet five year old child's name is picked out of a hat. Incidentally we are #21 and #10 on the waiting lists of two spanish immersion schools. #10 is for the school in our district. O would actually be able to ride a bus to that one. The other one is 18 miles away. ONE WAY! But a really very nice school. He is also #34 on the waiting list for an elementary school in the district south of us. He could of course go to the neighborhood school which is less than a mile away. He would have to walk there. Even in Kindergarten. And that thought brings to mind the statement OVER MY DEAD BODY! Maybe when he's 10 he could walk to school. But only after he's successfully walked to the neighbors house by himself a hundred times. WHO IN THEIR RIGHT MIND THINKS A 5 YEAR OLD COULD WALK TO SCHOOL ALONE!? No, there are not, to my knowledge, crossing guards. I can safely say this because in the 9 years we have lived here I have never once seen one. EVER! So the school that would include transportation (other than my car) has a wait list. Nice. Public education at it's finest. You can go to school, and in MN, provided you fill out the application, wherever you long as you provide your own transportation. This however, is not the thing about this process that has bothered me the most. What has bothered me the most is the lottery. I've not seen Waiting for Superman but I've heard that the lottery process is talked about in the movie. Education is a hot issue for me because I'm an educator, but it's intensified now that the parent role has been added to my life. Up until this year I have felt fortunate to have access to the educational opportunities available to us in the school district we live in. The ECFE (Early Childhood Family Education) program is wonderful. It is a nationally recognized program. I am not feeling that way about the actual school system Owen will be going through. Perhaps it's their marketing. It's shabby in comparison to other near by districts. And while I feel like the neighborhood school would be fine, I don't want fine for Owen. I want to know the education he gets is going to be good. Great even. Excellent would be best. And I know that a large factor in his success in his education will be our support and advocacy but I want to feel like the school district will be stepping up to the plate too. And I don't feel that. I don't get that impression overall. The principal at the neighborhood school seems great. Enthusiastic, energized, and motivated. He knows the challenges of the population he serves and he's doing things to promote growth and achievement. As a teacher I found it to be motivating. But what does that mean to me as a parent? Maybe I can yet determine that because I'm still at the beginning of the journey. Oh, and it's March. But despite it only being March I've been spending a significant amount of time investigating, touring researching and worrying about where O will go to school 6 months from now! I've spent the last 4 years not planning ahead and now I have to start planning ahead again!

I'm hoping for spring to come soon. Very soon. I'm done with snow and gray and blah winter. I need something to take pictures of!