Monday, June 29, 2009

Pa rulz

I started reading Little House in the Big Woods to Diego last week. He is mesmorized while I am reading it, eagerly waiting (of course) for the pages with illustrations on them. [I try to hold those pages open while I'm reading non-picture passages.]

The "Little House" books were one of my favorite series as a child, as I am sure they are special for many. I re-re-re-read through them the summer before I went to college, knowing it might be awhile before I could re-re-re-re-read them again. And I re-re-re-re-re-read them after I was married, too. My perspective changes with each re-reading. I am noticing that this time around, too (fancy that).

Diego is enjoying Little House in the Big Woods, just as I hoped he would. We are already re-reading favorite passages, like the story of Laura's Grandpa being chased by the black panther through the Big Woods.

The first evening while snuggling in bed, I asked him, "What do you remember about LHitBW?" and I think he's got a bit of Pa Obsession going on.

Here's what he remembered:
  1. When Pa butchered the pig; Laura and Mary played with the blown-up pig's bladder like a balloon.
  2. When Pa shot the bear holding the pig.
  3. When Pa hung the two deers he shot high in the tree, so the wolves wouldn't get them.
  4. Pa, building the hickory-smoker in the hollowed out tree. It had a roof!
  5. Pa, playing "Mad Dog" with Laura and Mary and scaring them half-to-death.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Can you? Hear it?

Totally tubular. Seriously.

Both the boys and I have been loving this book: Can You Hear It? by Dr. William Lach

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Food Renegade

This girl tells it straight and strong: I love it. She and I are on the same path, and so much of what she says speaks to me. Preach!

I think I might be obsessed.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

It's hard to undo three decades of damage

Fat is where it's at: For decades, fat has been blamed for everything from heart disease to obesity to cancer. But new research shows that fat can be good for you.

As the obesity epidemic was later to arrive in Europe, the pro-fat backlash isn’t yet in full swing there, but signs are emerging. A recent study in the NEJM fingering total calories, not fats or carbs, as responsible for weight loss, made headlines on both sides of the Atlantic. And anecdotes abound. British celebrity chef Anthony Worrall Thompson has been blatant about using lard in his restaurants. In Norway, sausage consumption is up.

Even mainstream nutritional experts have recanted. The blanket message that "fat is bad for you" has few remaining adherents. The AHA, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and the American Council on Science and Health have all modified the message, from their original admission that unsaturated fats are good for you to the grudging acknowledgement that even trans fats may not be as bad as they’ve been portrayed to be. "We should apologize for making people think about ‘percentage of calories,’" says the AHA’s Eckel, adding that the focus should be on total calories. "You want to eat steak? That’s fine. Just make it six ounces rather than 16."

To undo decades of fat-phobia, it’s going to take a more rousing endorsement. And for that, it’s necessary to leave the realm of science and enter the kitchen, where it’s easier to consider the possibilities. Take guacamole, or the pat of butter that finishes a risotto or a chocolate pudding. McLagan includes fat in everything from salad to dessert, with recipes for grilled steak and red wine sauce topped with bone marrow. For a sweet, try salty bacon brittle with pork cracklings. These are beyond rich—the animal fats give the dishes depth and an almost medieval earthiness—and they’re delicious, enough to make even confirmed skeptics salivate.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The boys' Nature Shelf

We are following the idea of the Montessori Nature Shelf at our house. Diego (and Truen, too, though to a lesser extent at this point in time) finds all kinds of interesting things, from skulls and chesnuts to dried up toads and hummingbird nests - and everything goes straight to their "Special Shelf", as we've been calling it.

It is a window sill in our sunroom, right by the back door, and both the boys enjoy spending time going through its contents. Pinecones, walnut shells, snail shells, feathers. Pretty rocks and seeds. Bird eggs are the one exception - they go on the window sill above the sink. (Baby Truen would crush them!) Did you know swallow eggs are white with brown speckles?

I've always been one to pick up whatever-looks-interesting off the ground (I had rock collections galore), so nurturing this part of their curiosity comes very naturally. I think I might enjoy it more than they do. Lovely.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Sizzlin' success

Story Hour at our little library is going great. We have had 8 kids the last two weeks, 5 kids the first week. There is a lot of interchange amongst the attendees, so we have probably had 10-12 different kids in during the first three weeks. It might be more than that, but I'm too lazy to attempt a headcount from memory and I haven't been taking attendance. Maybe I should...

I am so pleased. I knew that "if we built it, they would come". Even in a tiny community of 703 people. The years before required a sign up sheet and suffered from massive disorganization, so when an interested individual actually manhandled it into submission - and townspeople could count on it happening - we would smell the sweet rose of success. Yesssss.

The 9-12 year olds' group is going well, too. A SAHD(ad), who is also a former elementary teacher, is organizing it. They are adapting a folk tale into a puppet show (SO cool) and will be performing it for the younger kids at the end of the summer. There are 10 kids in regular attendance.

It is just so thrilling. And encouraging. And fun to participate in.

It makes me proud.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

♥ the innocence mission ♥

The Lakes of Canada

One of my all-time favorite songs, ever. (With a couple of minutes of cheesy water sound effects at the end: beware.)

Sufjan does Lakes of Canada, too

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Quite a find

On our way to friends' house for dinner last weekend, we were driving by Wildlife Management Land and happened upon this beauty: a wild Cypripedium. It is the brown and yellow "Lady Slipper" orchid, closely related to Minnesota's state flower, Cypripedium reginae. It was our first sighting of a Cypripedium occurring in its natural habitat, which was quite a thrill.

I was watching the landscape very closely as we drove (and we were going very slowly because of the gravel road), as I am interested in, and becoming more familiar with, prairie flowers. We were running late and had already just stopped to look at some tent caterpillars; but when I saw those beautiful, round, yellow flowers, I squealed "Cypripedium!"; Squeeze slammed on the brakes and we all piled out to admire it.

Cypripedium (species unknown)

So very lovely...
(Diego examining it in the background)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Kitchen flop

I attempted to make homemade mozzarella this evening, and what a ker-flop that turned out to be! I'm not sure exactly what went wrong, but my goodness: did it ever. It never turned to "stretchy taffy". No-no-no.

Oh well.
I tried.

Friday, June 05, 2009

En absentia

All of my free time of late has been taken up by my Friends of the Library activities.

Let me count the ways:
  • I planned and organized Story Hour (ages 4-8) for the Summer Reading Programs at our library. It was terribly disorganized before - completely fly by the seat of their pants, and worse, required a sign-up sheet. If only one child signed up, it was cancelled for the week. And the book selection! Gak. I couldn't hack that for another summer, so I took charge. The theme is "Get Creative @ Your Library"; the instruction manual gave plenty of book recommendations, but I took this opportunity to order some quality selections to add to the collection. We had our first Story Hour this past Wednesday, with 5 kids. Not too shabby. I am also facilitating the introduction, wiggle/song-time, and the crafts after the reading volunteer has finished.
  • I have written the Library News column for the local paper for the past two weeks (due on Thursdays). I normally only have the first week of the month, but someone moved.
  • I write the agenda for our monthly meetings, the second Monday of each month.
  • I'm researching incorporating as a 501c3 (non-profit).
  • We average one fundraiser per month. Last month, it was a Book and Rummage Sale during the city-wide rummage sales. We made $284. Next month, it is a food stand and water wagon during the town's annual parade.

The library has seen HUGE improvements since the formation of the Friends last November. It is so encouraging. The librarian was barely keeping her nose above water before the Friends - she only worked 20 hours a week with no help, and runs a part-time business on the side. No wonder why there were so many piles behind her desk.

Since the Friends formed, we have:

  • Added 3 regular volunteers to the library "staff".
  • Raised $1,400
  • Bought 2 large double-sided wooden bookshelves and one smaller wooden bookshelf for the children's section.
  • Added comfortable seating to the library landscape.
  • Write a weekly column for the local newspaper called, "Library News", to keep the community informed of our activities, promote the library and its features, and instill a greater recognition/appreciation for the role of the library in the community [in my opinion, libraries are one of the most important cultural institutions].
  • Started a petition/resolution for community members to sign, showing their support for the activities and goals of the Friends (library improvement, and ultimately...a new building) - to show the City Council that we have community backing.
  • Averaged one fundraiser per month - from sit-down meals to food stands to rummage and book sales.
  • Upped community book donations (to add to the collection, or save for future book sales).
  • Near-distant future goal: expand library hours with a militia of volunteers (we are currently open M, W, F and 1/2 Sat...can you imagine?? And that is comparatively GOOD).

It has been thrilling, to say the least. There has been a big lift to the general look of the library, the collection itself (though meager), and the librarian is feeling optimistic again. She is starting implement the change that she never had the time or the means to do so, and I think having the support of a group has been instrumental. I'm so proud!

* * * * *

Other than the extensive Friends activity, I/we:

  • Spend almost every night outside, working in our various gardens (vegetable, herb, flower) until 9:00-ish - come inside, eat, relax a little, and go to bed.
  • Went to the local prairie preserve last weekend with a Friend we had in town. Lovely. I feel much more connected to this area and the general landscape when I see it intact and as it was/is meant to be. Rolling hills, waving grasses, and beautiful prairie flowers to seek out like a treasure hunt. No weeds, no miles of tilled land, no clumps of odd-looking tree stands.
  • Am reading French Women Don't Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano, of all the things. I've seen it referenced before and when I ran into it at the Friends' book sale I couldn't resist picking it up. I'm enjoying reading about open markets, seasonal eating, and a plain-and-simply approach to a trim, womanly figure: whole foods, made at home. Yep!
  • Have had a great few weeks with the boys, particularly Diego. I want to highlight that, because I'm usually posting "Wahhhhh!" and "Why???", so it feels really good to be able to say that we are in a groove - there is an understanding amongst us - the scales are balanced. That feels so good, especially after days or weeks where it seems like we do nothing more than spin our wheels. I know this is overly general, but I would think parents of little ones probably get the gist. It is so refreshing to feel positive, instead of spiraling in the "same old crap".