Wednesday, November 30, 2016

First snow








We woke to a light dusting of snow yesterday, the first snow of the season. I went out to the backyard very early, before making breakfast and helping the children get ready for school, to look around and take a few pictures. The hens were awake and they watched me walking around the yard. They were cold, nearly silent and mostly still, standing on one leg at a time while waiting for their breakfast.

I was cold too. We've been having much colder than average temperatures this week, which looks to continue into next week too. It's hard to believe that we started November with warm, almost balmy weather, and now it's ending in a wintry way. You can see our warm autumn, though, in the way some of the leaves are still green. There are even still a few geranium flowers, in spite of our new sub-freezing nights. It's their last hurrah, for sure, so I've been savoring the sight of them on the patio. Yesterday, their leaves were little star-shaped cups of snow.

Flurries fell throughout yesterday morning. The sun hid; an icy wind blew. This morning, it's frigidly cold but the sun is bright. Things have changed out there. The backyard looks different, already a bit less green. The trees across the arroyo, which glowed golden last week, now wear just a few brittle, brown leaves. The mountain peaks are delicately frosted today, white lace against a crystalline sky.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Thankful weekend











We've had a lovely long holiday weekend here, with good food and lots of relaxation. We started with my birthday on Wednesday, which was a nice day. I had my favorite cake, the delicious Berry Chantilly cake from Whole Foods Market, and received some really great presents, including a frame loom, which I'd been wanting for a few months; I have a lot to learn, but the Bear helpfully included a book and I have some videos bookmarked. There were also new mugs, boxes of tea, a flower press that goes in the microwave (can't wait to try that), a new kitchen apron and two beautiful handmade presents from my children - a stitched card and a necklace with painted wooden block-beads, wrapped up in paper box with a strawberry drawn on the top. It was a very happy day and I felt so loved by my sweet little family.

Thanksgiving was a nice day too. I roasted the turkey whole, which I don't usually do, and there were a few moments of panic but it came out really well. It was a sixteen-pound turkey, which seems huge but it was the smallest Butterball turkey in the store! There was a lot of meat and it was all good, even the breast, which I have often allowed to overcook in the past when roasting a whole turkey. We had lots of other food but not too terribly much of anything. We ate leftovers for three days and now we've just got a little turkey left in the fridge, plus three lunches' worth in the freezer, for the Bear to take to work. I'm definitely ready to stop eating turkey, but only because I'm bored with it, not because it was terrible turkey. Tonight's dinner will be steak; the Bear asked for "meat from a four-legged animal."

We've spent most of this afternoon slowly preparing the house for Christmas. The lights are up outside, courtesy mostly of the LB, who is really into wiring things up. He had a whole vision for the yard this year and we mostly let him run with it. We've been staying in the house today otherwise because it's really cold and windy out. There may be a little snow tonight. I'm excited but it's just so weird: four weeks ago, we were carving pumpkins in the backyard in abnormally warm weather for late October. Now, it's just three packed, crazy weeks until the long holiday break.

Thanks for your birthday wishes and kind words on my posts lately. I have to tell you that I really needed a nice, homey birthday and holiday weekend. I had some really awful news about a member of the community recently, the kind of news that I think most parents would find startling and worrisome. Between that and our current national climate, I was feeling pretty lousy. I've always had the same type of response to bad news or troubled times: I go inside, shut the door, turn off the TV and the computer, unplug the phones if I have to. I'm glad I took the time because I feel better now. There's a lot to be done and I'm ready to do it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Rainiest day














We woke to rain yesterday morning. It doesn't happen often but I like when it does. The forecast was for rain on and off through the day, with snow on the mountain, where it's colder. We never get a steady, all-day rain here, though I like that too. But we were in and out of showers all day long, with a few breaks of weak sun. It was our full homeschool day, so the three of us stayed home most of the day, only going out for the GB's ballet class in late afternoon. There is almost nothing I enjoy more than a day at home in bad weather. After very hectic shopping on Sunday, to collect everything I need for Thanksgiving, I was happy to spend Monday at home, supervising schoolwork, crocheting, making soup in the slow-cooker (I made this tomato soup again, the third time in about a month, because I just love it), catching up with my magazines and doing a little housework.

The children like staying home on a stormy day too, which is one reason I love the monsoon in summertime; the unpredictable weather breaks up the days, making it easier, and more interesting, to spend lots of time at home together. They finished their work and moved on to other things - science experiments, reading and crafts. Miss GB worked on her long-stitch project. We watched a few How Stuff Works videos on Amazon Prime. We talked about baking but I decided that my impending birthday cake and our Thanksgiving dessert will be more than enough.

We headed out to ballet during a lull in the rain. While she danced, a big thunderstorm moved in. The LB and I listened to the rain falling hard on the dance studio's roof. We drove home in heavy rain, as heavy as any monsoon day, arriving home just as the Bear returned from work. We tucked into our soup and then we sat in the dark and watched the lightning.  After the kids went to bed, the Bear and I caught up on The Durrells and Soundbreaking. I finished writing out my Thanksgiving Day cooking timetable (two days' worth) and gathered dry ingredients on the buffet to make them easier to grab while I cook. The smoker is not quite fixed yet, so I'm roasting the turkey whole. I've got the Butterball website bookmarked. I'm not afraid to call the hotline if it comes to it.

Today, we woke to clouds and mist but we couldn't stay home; there was just one day of school before the break. But the Bear took the day off as part of his holiday time, and we spent the morning running errands together - Hobby Lobby, Target, liquor store, thrift store. We are home now, ready for our holiday. He's making wax-and-sawdust fire starters in the shop, I'm drinking tea and watching the storm clouds lift and fall over the foothills, leaving a little more snow every time they rise. The children float between us, back and forth with their own pursuits. We'll be ready for an excursion tomorrow afternoon for the LB's guitar lesson, but for now, I'm very content. I'll make more tea, think about tonight's dinner, check the backpacks and wash the water bottles, fold a bit of laundry. There will always be ups and downs, and the days are not always cozy and peaceful, but I am deeply thankful for my homely, lovely life.

Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours! Thank you for being sweet, kind friends.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Feeling fall












This week, I focused on calm, quiet things - home things and family things; small, intentional things. I spent most of my mornings at home, while the small Bears were at school, aside from one morning of errands, which included dropping off my finished cross-stitch sampler at the framing shop. I really enjoyed working with the framer to decide what to do with it. I debated making it girly, as well as giving it a little glitz like I've done with my dark-background stitched pieces lately. In the end, I went with something very simple and classic - natural wood and clean lines. It should be ready before Thanksgiving, and then I'll have to find a good hiding spot. I can't wait to share it here.

I crocheted for the first time since September. I started making a pile of butterflies using cotton yarn. This is such a simple little pattern and I think they're coming out really cute. I'll tell you more about my project soon; it's another Christmas gift for my gal.

Autumn has finally arrived in my neck of the woods and it's wonderful. We're having truly cold nights now - our first hard freeze was Thursday night - and I'm enjoying the crisp, sunny days very much. I enjoy my monsoon season and my tender early-spring evenings, but I love this kind of weather best of all. Yesterday, I sat in the park with some friends, watching our kids on the playground. I wore a sweater but was still just the tiniest bit cold when the breeze picked up. I wrapped my sweater around me a bit tighter and felt a little thrill.

Reading-wise, I've been sticking with cooking and crime, I guess you could say. I've just finished Tana French's new novel, The Trespasser. It was okay, but I didn't like it nearly as much as I've enjoyed most of her other books. I saw the mystery ending at least a hundred pages early. I didn't like the characters at all. I miss Cassie. I got annoyed with the banter. I'm still glad I put myself on the library holds list for it lo these many months ago; it kept me reading in the in-between times, the waiting time, and at bedtime all week. I've just started reading The French Chef in America by Alex Prud'Homme, about Julia Child's career after she left France. It's sort of like a sequel to her own memoir, My Life in France. I really like it so far. I find her so interesting. I've also been flipping through Anthony Bourdain's new book, Appetites, which has been entertaining. It's sort of a compendium of essential recipes to pass along to his young daughter - a family cookbook, if you will. As is to be expected from Bourdain, this book is packed full of potentially unpopular opinions, culinary irreverence and cursing. He's not everyone's cup of tea, but I like him.

I haven't been cooking anything all that interesting myself lately, but there is that big turkey-related holiday coming next week. My menu is planned and I will be shopping tomorrow. I'm kind of dreading the leftovers so I'm going a little bit spare. I'm going to make a pecan pie this year, which has been hit-or-miss for me in the past, but I'm willing to try again. I've already decided to serve asparagus, since I can't get enough of it these past few months. Otherwise, a smallish turkey and a reasonable number of side dishes and life is good.

Last year's amaryllis may actually be coming back, to my sheer amazement. I followed instructions I read in a gardening book from the library (wish I could remember what it was...) for making an amaryllis bulb go dormant for the summer months and come back in the fall. I left the bulb on the buffet in my dining room until early August, then I bundled it into a bag and stashed it under the kitchen sink until last week, when I removed it to find that it was sending up a shoot! There's a lot of green on the bulb too. I've got it in a sunny window now, hoping hard that it will keep growing and give me another beautiful red-and-white bloom at Christmastime.

I'm at two weeks of daily hand- and face-moisturizing. Way to go, me. I can see and feel differences already, even in my old, weather-beaten face, which I was beginning to think might be a lost cause. Because I love to get ahead of myself, I also started taking a multivitamin with added calcium, in light of my family history of osteoporosis. Look out, world - she's maintaining her skin AND her bones!

This weekend finds us mostly at home. The Bear is having a problem with his smoker, which he needs to get figured out before the holiday so he can smoke his half of the turkey (every year, he gives me the breast for oven-roasting and he takes the rest for the smoker). I'm going to work some more on my butterflies while has the GB at her guitar lesson. Mr. LB is with me, doing homework. Tomorrow, after my shopping and laundry are finished, we will have dinner out to celebrate my birthday, which comes mid-week and is the last in this household's birthday season: August-September-September-November, and then comes the holiday season, not to mention the academic milestones, the work victories, the successful medical tests. Celebrate everything; celebrate with all your might.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Pause


On this day every year, I think of an editorial piece shared in my first college English class, an introductory composition course (English 101, Critical Reading and Writing), which turned out to be one of the most important courses I would take in my college career. Professor Price was young and enthusiastic. She was passionate about Coleridge and Shelley, Lawrence and Eliot. She helped me learn to enjoy poetry for the first time, even though I'd always been a great lover of prose. We spent a lot of time on the World War I poets, which I really loved. She was a very good teacher and I was sorry to see her move on to a different college at the end of that year. I'd hoped to take more classes with her when I declared my English major the following fall.

I had many other good teachers in my courses, major subject and otherwise, later on, but I will always remember the way that she made the most poignant of poetry come alive, and the way she helped her students see connections between literature of bygone eras and the world they inhabited in the late 20th century. We were young adults who had grown up in a place and time of prolonged peace and prosperity. We didn't know much about fear. In class on November 11, Professor Price handed out a xeroxed copy of an editorial in that day's New York Times which gave me pause then and has always stuck with me. I think I've shared it here before. I read it every year; I have it bookmarked on my laptop, after finding it archived several years ago. The world is quite different now than it was even when the editorial was written, but the sentiments stand. It's here, if you'd like to read it.

I'm thinking about taking a few days away from the internet; it's getting a bit overwhelming for me. I hope you have a good weekend and that you find time for things that bring you comfort and calm.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Tuesday things










How are you holding up today, my fellow Americans? I'm feeling pretty calm. I voted early, almost two weeks ago. We'll see what happens...we're all in this together and we'll be okay.

We had a stormy weekend, ideal for staying inside and doing something crafty. I should finish my sampler in plenty of time to have it framed. I'm going to miss working on it. I really get into a "zone" when I cross-stitch. I can spend hours and hours. My eyes are protesting, though. I tried stitching with my new glasses on but it doesn't really help. I'll focus more on crochet when I'm finished with the sampler; I need to look at bigger stitches for a while.

The LB's latest round of medical tests went well. His good kidney is still trucking along. His blood work was satisfactory. Stability is the name of the game.

Over the weekend, we attended a birthday party for a good friend. She turned 40 and her husband threw her a really nice party. He rented a large event room with a dance floor. There was a catered Mexican dinner and a DJ, and also a photo booth to take silly pictures with props. So much fun! We danced and drank wine and stayed out until 9 pm! Exhilarating!

We've finished the apples, finally. I made my second apple pie of the season last week. I also made Easy Caramel Apple Bars, the October recipe in my Betty Crocker calendar. My pie was delicious; I always reduce the sugar and increase the cinnamon and nutmeg, for a tarter, spicier flavor. The bars were just okay - kind of mushy, too sweet, and you could hardly taste the apple, but hey, we used up all those apples! I never thought I'd see the day.

The Bear made butternut squash soup in the pressure cooker over the weekend. I'm not a fan of the pressure cooker. Actually, I'm terrified of the pressure cooker and I stay out of the kitchen when he uses it. He assures me that there is nothing to worry about but I don't believe him. He uses a recipe from the book that came with the cooker (similar to this one on the Fagor website). We do different things with it, this time choosing to garnish our portions with a little bit of chopped bacon and a spoonful of sour cream. It's also delicious with nuts or seeds, not to mention creme fraiche; you really can't go wrong.

I've been trying to make myself use lotion on my hands and face now that the weather has cooled down. Every winter, I go through the same thing: I start out with the best moisturizing intentions, I do okay for a month or two, and by Christmas, I look like a lizard. I'm trying again this year. I had a really good coupon for Walgreens and I bought myself new supplies. I put my face lotion right next to my deodorant in the medicine cabinet. If I can remember to apply deodorant daily, I can remember my face lotion too, right? That's what I'm telling myself.

It's properly autumnal now; October's freakish heat has given way to average temperatures. The nights haven't been as cold as I'd like, but it's early yet. I'm enjoying my candles and tea in the evenings. I've been watching The Crown and marveling at several things, including Philip's bad attitude, everyone's cattiness, and all the smoking. I'm reading the new Tana French book, The Trespasser, and wondering if it will get a little more exciting soon. I'm going to buy some new washcloths this week, to replace some wedding-gifted ones which are now falling apart. I'm also going to buy my one and only Pumpkin Spice Latte of the season. I am not going to buy apples.

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Have you joined in with November's Winter Project Link Party yet? Click on the button in my sidebar! Thanks to all who have already linked up; I'll be around to check out your project posts soon.
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