Monday, January 23, 2012


Like Mr.Toad, one of my all-time favorite literary characters, I tend to get ideas that quickly turn into a new mania.  I can't sleep or sit still until I've made happen whatever it is that I want to come to fruition.

I promised my boys new bedrooms "after Christmas".  This meant as soon as things settled down and I start spring cleaning and don't stop until...maybe...July.  I had intended to be finished repainting and decorating by now, but there was so much clutter to deal with first that after I spent days going through every thing they own and let them decide what they wanted to keep and what they felt they could part with, I was too exhausted to even think about painting. 

As a military family, even though through most of my husband's enlistment we were childless, I grew used to going through all of our possessions and keeping them fairly minimized as a result of frequent moving.  I loved moving time (decluttering time) for this reason.  Now that we have been settled in our own home and have been at the same residence for over five years, I get a little antsy.  I have to do "pretend moves" every once in a while just to keep up with what we have and donate what we don't need.  Sometimes I look around and wonder when the next move will be, almost wishing for it.  For someone who used to freak out about the smallest life change, this need to turn everything on its head still amazes me.

Well, the boys' rooms were so cluttered that I told them that I would only buy paint for their rooms when they have stayed uncluttered for a month.  They have really been staying on top of it.  Nothing like a little motivation and a big reward to keep kids on track.  But, honestly, I wasn't trying to motivate them at all.  I just refuse to do all of that work and then have my heart broken to walk back in and see it cluttered up again.

So while I wait for weather warm enough to garden outdoors and the four weeks of cleanliness to pass, my head is spinning with ideas.  That always happens this time of year, but with a newly structured meadow area, thanks to the new septic system which was massive, that is all that I have left of our old grape arbor and terraced garden bed that was original to the farm, I've spent the fall and winter waiting to work on that part of the land.  My ideas have run rampant and have now spread to inside the house.

A little idea my husband had a few months ago has lodged itself into my brain like a tick on a hound dog and I just can't seem to shake it.  So I'm taking my spring cleaning a little further and converting our lesson room, which adjoins the kitchen, into a breakfast nook.  Have I mentioned what a genius my husband is?

When the boys and I started looking around the lesson room, we realized we use one file cabinet drawer, the computer/printers, the closet that's in the corner of the room, two hanging file boxes, and two small cork boards with attached calendars to do our lessons.   Do we really need a whole room for that?  Nope, not now that they are older.  They do all their work at the kitchen table, anyway.  We might as well put the table they use in the room they use.

I'm very excited!!  It's the sunniest room in the house.  My food pics. will look so much better taken in all that natural light and I can grow herbs in the windowsill without worrying about spilling water on the electronics which are below the sill now.  I can just see it painted Coke bottle green to match the kitchen or all on its own in sunny yellow with our red and white chrome legged 1950s kitchen table with red vinyl chairs; my father's old utility shelf that he gave me when he moved out of the Victorian home he'd always intended to open as an inn.

We will sit eating our breakfast watching Mr. and Mrs. Bickerson quacking away on the other side of the glass; hear from the lunch table our chickens laying fresh eggs.

The kitchen will get a slight makeover, as well.   A doorway that goes from it to what will be the breakfast nook will be removed and where the range is now, the wall will be cut out to make a pass through.

A gas range will eventually be located in another part of the room.

The room that will be the breakfast nook has plain plywood ceilings painted white right now, but years ago, by looking at the edges where a careless homeowner had left it unfinished, I noticed that there is bead board underneath...the real thing.  I can't wait to take my hammer claw to a section of plywood to see what condition the original bead board is in.  I figure if it's in bad shape I'll just nail the plywood back up and pretend the old wood is not there.

So, enough jabbering.  I have lots of work to do!  I'll betcha dinner will be served in that room tonight.  Once I get going there's no stopping me.  I have to sleep, after all.  Wish me luck.  I have broken two fingers with a hammer on two different occasions, so really...wish me luck.  :)

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Re-useful Idea-- Keeping a handle on things.

Last summer my family and I went strawberry picking.  Instead of taking our strawberries home in little green baskets, as I'd imagined we would be given, the farm gave us these fabulous plastic baskets with handles on them.

I have been using them ever since to hold produce in my refrigerator.  My crispers, though large, never seem to have enough room in them for the produce I get from the garden and buy on a weekly basis so the baskets work so well for the excess.

They also make retrieving produce from the refrigerator for cooking much easier because I can just grab the baskets and take them across the kitchen to my work area and take out what I need while I prep.  It sure beats keeping glass bowls, a shatter hazard, full of tomatoes in the fridge like I used to do.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Recovery Shake # 7-- Strawberry Mango Smoothie

 It's Florida strawberry season so there they were, fresh strawberries in the produce department in the dead of winter.  Mangoes from South America were available, as usual, but on sale.  I grabbed four.  Of course the next morning we knew exactly what to make our smoothie with.  Now, after posting this, I want another one.  I'll have to see if there are still strawberries available on my next grocery shopping trip.  The last batch went very quickly.

Strawberry Mango Smoothie
1 whole mango, peeled and pitted
4 large strawberries, hulled
1 c. plain, fat free yogurt
2 T golden flax seed meal
1/2 c. skim milk
2 T raw honey

Makes 3-4 shakes

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Recovery Shake # 6-- Raw Green Smoothie...Apple, Spinach, and Green Tea

It sounds worse than it is.  Really.  My little guy who hates spinach, after declaring that it was good but tasted like dirt, sucked this one right down.

Raw Green Smoothie
2 whole golden delicious apples, cut into large chunks
1 c. fresh baby spinach leaves
1 1/2 c. green tea
2 tsp. raw honey.

Whir away and chill.  Ours were warm because we hadn't waited for the tea to cool after brewing.  They were much better chilled.
Makes 3 servings.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Steampunk Recycling

My son has gone steampunk and has informed me that my style is steampunk as well.  Nice to have a teenager around to tell you these things.  He even took me on a tour of our home and master bathroom pointing out very steampunk objets d'art that I have collected and placed here and there.

I won't be walking down Main Street in a corset anytime soon, but it did explain a lot about my style.  I just always say that I was born a century too late and knew that I loved anything from the Victorian era from clothing to furniture.

I didn't know that my collection of various pieces that I call "the prettiest shirt in the whole wide world", tops that I throw on with jeans and boots in the winter or pair with jeans or denim or floral skirts and sandals in the summer, were part of a certain movement.  Anything Victorian, lace, crochet, style...preferably layered.  It's just me.  It always has been.  I never go with the flow and I am not a shopper, but I have a knack for seeing a piece of clothing in the midst of racks and racks of boring pieces that twenty women around me are wearing trying to copycat each other, and bee-lining for it then walking away with a smile.  This means that my wardrobe grows very very slowly, one piece at a time, but my closet is full of "me".  Also, I am always altering clothes to fit my style, even if the pieces are brand new.  And sometimes I'll buy an article of clothing with the intention of altering it in some way to fit my style. 

So when I added a few pieces of lacy looking black floral jewelry to my beady, hippy collection the other night, my son showed me online that they looked awfully steampunk.

I loved everything I saw and was reminded of a clock we saw while Christmas shopping.  It was made of different clock parts.  We decided at the time that we would make something like it for my son's room by using the mechanisms and gears from old clocks and industrial scraps.  He explained to me that steampunk accessories are the same and said that the movie Wild Wild West with the giant mechanical spider was all steampunk.  So cool!

We looked up different pieces of steampunk accessories for him through various websites and started deconstructing some old watches his father and I had collected over the years.  Half a tube of E6000 and a splitting headache later, I presented him with the finished products.

There was some debate over using an old Clue game revolver, but when we thought of how Old West clothing also falls under the label of steampunk we decided that it had to be included.

Another neat piece was the end of a bolo tie I inherited from my grandfather.  The stone was my birthstone, so after he passed away almost twenty years ago and my grandmother gave it to me along with his black Stetson I wanted to find a way to use it.  I took the stone off and made it into a broach that I could wear, not realizing just how steampunk that was even way back then.

This left the two silver ends of the bolo tie unused and hidden in my jewelry box for all of these years.  One of them was the perfect finishing touch to one of the necklaces we made for my son.  

A raid of his father's closet produced a purple and gray button down linen shirt and when he spotted a fedora for sale in the hat section of our local department store he had to have it, even though a top hat is on his wish list and fedoras were popular a decade or so later than the era the steampunk style encompasses. And, believe it or not, my son and I wear the same size shoe at the moment so an extra pair of my subzero fur-lined black leather boots that I found in the mens department a few years ago ("your mother wears combat boots"?) have been moved to his closet.  He found a cross ring that is a combination ring for two fingers at Hot Topic to add to his collection even though it is a little on the Gothic side.   

This is so my boy.  He loves all things Jules Verne so this makes total sense to me, but he seems to have aged five years in his new look and, in fact, was stopped as we were exiting a concert venue last week for trying to take an alcoholic beverage out of the building.  I was floored.  My "little boy" was standing there holding a plastic cup full of soda with big permanent marker Xs on his hands, the mark of the underage at this particular concert hall, and the person manning the doors wouldn't let him leave until she smelled his drink to see if it contained alcohol.  My jaw was hanging as I sputtered, "He's thirteen!"  My brother who was with us corrected me, "He's fourteen!"  I almost made him take the fedora off at that point and insisted that he shave every day of his life till he turns eighteen.  My goodness!  I was NOT ready for that.

I don't know where this is going, but I think a steampunk convention of some sort is in our future.  In the meantime, we will be searching flea markets and thrift stores for more cool pieces that can be repurposed into art that he can wear.  I'm just really hoping that he passes on the goofy, GOOFY looking goggles that are so popular with the steampunkers.  As for me, I will continue to scan for the "prettiest shirt in the whole wide world" when I'm passing a rack of clothes, knowing that I'm not the only flake in the whole wide world who likes my style.

Friday, January 6, 2012

A new pair of shoes.

I was horrified to see that the sole of my son's shoe was flapping near the toe so we stopped on our way into town last week to pick up some new ones for him.  He wanted Tron shoes.  Well, he loves anything that has to do with the latest Tron movie and he said he wanted black tennis shoes with neon green stripes.  I put two and two together and assumed he was going for a Tron look. 

There were no shoes in the shoe store that even looked remotely like the ones he was after so we headed to another.  No luck.  My older son and I convinced him to buy a pair of black shoes with silvery gray lines all over them.  I told him I could buy a tube of neon green fabric paint and use a tiny brush to go over all the lines on the shoe.  He liked the idea and the shoes were on sale for half the original price so everyone was happy.  It took me until today to find the time to paint the shoes for him even though he's worn them several times.  45 minutes after beginning, he had the shoes he wanted.  They turned out so great that his brother said he might like to borrow them some time.

While they were drying, I stopped to pm a friend.  She had been spending the same time counting out quarters to see if she had enough money to buy her son a new pair of shoes so that he can start basketball in the morning.  If she did have enough, she wasn't sure if she had the gas to get to the store and back.  I'm crushed.  It makes not only my son's new and newly painted shoes look fabulous but the ones in his closet that he doesn't wear for this or for that reason look pretty darn spiffy, too. 

This has been a reminder to me that when I am sitting doing something, and probably complaining about something else at the same time, that another person's day is most likely going much worse than my worst day.   Life isn't perfect, but I have no REAL problems at the moment.  

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Dare I buy seeds to start indoors this early in the year?  I always promise myself that I will begin in January to give my baby crops time to reach a certain level of maturity before I release them to the farmyard. 

Last year I was barely able to harvest enough to sustain us through the growing season without supplementing produce from the grocery store.  There is always a lull in waiting for the next batch of fresh lettuces, so that was a given, but I was very disappointed in myself that we ate more green tomatoes through the summer than red.  My tomatoes began to redden so much later in the season that I was only able to freeze a few containers of sauce, much of which came from the over-sized cherry orbs that reseed and volunteer each summer. 

Eggplant did wonderfully well, my first successful attempt, but they took up so much room in the garden for so little yield that I hesitate to bother with them again.  We did get a fine Moussaka out the entire crop.  Corn was a bust with little chickens running around and finding their favorite treat growing right at their level.  The stalks never grew over a yard tall.  My herbs grew like weeds, of course.  They love the warm season and need little care, but I was so sidetracked with the septic tank search and installation of the new system that I neglected to dry and store enough for winter.

Maybe this growing season can be devoted to actually growing things, not just seeing what I end up with and what little weeding and staking I can squeeze in.  I  think that today is a good day to make a detailed growing season schedule so that I can hit the garden centers this weekend in search of seeds.  Two other important things I can do while it's still cold is get my rain barrel attached to the gutter pipe, finally, and work on keeping those chickens in their run.

The one thing I was very diligent about doing was collecting, drying, and labeling seeds from the harvest, so maybe I can even begin planting today.   I've decided to use egg shell halves to start my seeds in, a great recycle, re-purpose, reuse project, so buying those silly little peat pellets that dry out so quickly will be unnecessary.  But now I'm thinking of the shredded lower palm leaves of the enormous specimen in my front window area.  I wonder if my baby plants will survive a teenaged cat in the house.  I guess only time will tell and that is an added bonus for starting so early...plenty of time to start over before spring if the seedlings don't survive.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Circles and Cycles Revisited

I was standing kneading dough the week before Christmas when the thought occurred to me.  I want a sister.  A friend's very close sister had passed unexpectedly and she was left with the desperate urging that those of us who had a sister who was still living not take it for granted. 

I've had an especially strained relationship with my mom and siblings for the past two years and was just wishing to make it through the holidays before deciding what doors needed to be open and how far.  My mother has survived breast cancer and had recently had another scare.  I was selfish enough to decide that I would wait until after Christmas to see what the outcome had been of her appointment with an oncologist.  I've never done anything so rotten.  I knew this at the time and forced myself to live with my decision to wait even though my heart ached at the possibility of losing her, permanently, and wasting another day trying to decide how to go about beginning a new relationship with her without sacrificing anything of myself.  I've felt that it was time, but I still wasn't ready.  Now even with the possibility of illness coming between us, I balked.

I think often of my post Circles and Cycles and how I long to be in the circle of the women in my family.  I felt it with my aunts and their mother, my grandmother, and even my grandmother's loving assisted living caregivers who gathered around her bed in the months before she passed.  I felt it with my mother, sister, and other grandmother when she was still living.  It has been difficult ever since.  I am difficult.  They are difficult.  It has always been easier to choose a circle of friends than to exist in that perforated, oblong, thorny wreath of a circle that we create together.  My dreams lately were also showing me how much I longed to stand in this circle. 

When my mother called to invite me to spend the day with her and my siblings who would be gathering at her house, the timing was unreal.  I immediately convinced myself that she was in fact ill and this was an important opportunity that couldn't be missed.  I was terrified, but in light of the possibility that she may be sick again, I was willing to deal with any unpleasantness that could come from the visit and though I was hoping for a peaceful reunion, I was still nervous that things would go awry.  I wanted to see what it would be like to stand in that circle once again.

When we reached Mom's house after the 2 1/2 hour drive and I got out of the car, there they all were spilling out of the house with the exception of my sister.  My baby brother who has just been released from military service I barely recognized as he is now sporting long hair and a full beard, both of which shone leprechaun red in the sunlight.  He hurried up to hug me, something I wasn't sure would happen after our falling out and I couldn't help but pinch his cheeks like I did when he was a toddler before we were in each others arms.  I knew all was forgiven and forgotten between us at that moment.  Done.  All over.  Let's get on with it and be as close as we always were.  Done deal.

I hugged my mother.  She was tiny.  She has lost two inches in height and is thinner than I've ever seen her.  I was shocked to see that "inside" what had always been my mother was almost the identical form of her mother at the same age.  Who knew they ever looked so similar?  Even her hair, jet black for most of my life, has gone completely white like her mother's. 

Once I was in the house, my sister called a greeting to me from the dining room, using the nickname she and my mother, my cousins, and close friends always used.  It was nice to hear.  I was a little choked up by this point so gritted my teeth and started unloading the gifts and food we had hauled out of the van, to give myself a minute before making my way to my sister and giving her a hug.  There was a time when such an open display of affection would gain a person a punch on the arm, so I knew I was risking life and limb at this point, but she hugged me back. 

I realize, suddenly, that the kids are everywhere.  The nephews, five between us, are hanging out like teenagers do, with my brother, more like an older cousin to them, leading the uproarious conversations like old times.  I'm sure that my sons are old enough to hold their own at this age, but still worry that at any moment things could go bad like before.  There's very little small talk.  I have subjects that I am determined are off limits, my dad for one, as my mother has a tendency in an attempt to feel justified for leaving him, to go over her past concerning him each time we meet.  I will politely steer the subject to another the moment she brings him up.  I will no longer listen.  Homeschooling, obviously, is off limits, as this was the source of our falling out two years ago.

As time progresses, I begin to relax.  I think maybe it will be okay.  Just standing with our backs to each other in an odd half circle of sorts while we prepare different food trays in Mom's horseshoe shaped kitchen is enough for me.  Every time I hear my baby brother laugh in the next room, the same old laugh, I smile.  I've missed him so much and didn't know who he was for a while.  Mother's living room furniture is gone, replaced by a pool table, of all things.  Who is this woman and what has she done with my mom?  And she hasn't once brought up the subject of my father.

I start feeling sad, still imagining that she is sick and putting on a brave face in front of us.  She will tell us after Christmas that the results of her tests were not good.  This is exactly what she would do.  I'm surprised when she blurts out, casually, to my husband that she had a health scare, but that it all turned out fine.  Can everyone tell that my hands are shaking at the news?  It takes a few minutes for the information to set in, for me to realize that we are all here together for no reason other than that it was time.  She confirms it during dinner when she tells us that all she wanted for Christmas was her family around her.  I'm biting my tongue now to keep the tears from welling up, but with so many opinionated people in one room, the subject quickly changes to another.  I'm still the quiet person in the room observing.  I always am.  This time, however, it's like watching a home movie of my family without me present.  I like it.  It's surreal, but the best way to view the situation for the time being.  To see where I fit in at this point.

We eat and Mom, the self-absorbed woman I knew growing up who only went out of doors to walk to a vehicle, is suddenly an avid nature lover.  She wants us all to go for a hike up her mountain.  We all look at her like she's nuts.  My siblings and nephews because it doesn't occur to them that people do things of this sort, and me because this is exactly what I would choose to do.  During a phone conversation while the weather was still warm, she told me she had been gardening all summer and had finally grown her mother's green thumb, but I figured that she had merely transplanted a few pots of store bought herbs into the ground with success, maybe a tomato plant or two.  This woman, one I have never been able to relate to, I could get to like. 

She takes us slip-sliding, me in heels, up a steep, muddy slope past her husband's property to a hunter's platform.  My brother and his girlfriend have given up and headed back.  My oldest nephew soon follows.  I have only made it by clinging to my husband's arm tighter than I did during the birth of our children.  My son wants to climb to the top of the twenty foot platform.  I grit my teeth and watch him do it.  No fear.  I wish he had gotten it from me, but we all know that's impossible.  He is recording everything, Blair Witch style, on his camcorder, narrating along the way.  Fortunately, he hands the camera down to his little brother so he can use both hands to climb.

My younger son swings the camera to where my sister, mother, and I am standing, my mom in the middle.  He says, "You are standing in a horseshoe shape."  My mother turns to me and says, "We're standing in our circle."  I could have fallen off the mountain I was so shocked by her words. 

I joke to lighten the moment, the only thing I do well in social situations of any sort, and ask my sister if she's got her crystals on her.  We both know that if we believed in crystal power, each of us would be wearing one, the idea is so intriguing to us both.  I joke and say mine is tucked in my bra, she says hers are at the bottom of her fish tank.  We all giggle as she tells us how she uses semi-precious gemstones rather than fish tank gravel.  The moment is gone, but I am still stunned. 

I make my way down the mountain in stockinged feet, mud squishing between my toes like the Cherokee my ancestors are rumored to be, to keep from falling on my butt, while simultaneously thanking my lucky stars that it's winter and the parasites should all be dead at this point.

Back at the house, my mother shows me her gardens and loans me a pair of socks.  We've come full circle.