Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

click on picture to enlarge

Here are your New Year Mosaic Questions

1. Looking back on 2008, what might the theme have been?


2. If 2008 was a movie, who would play you?

Emily Watson

3. What was your greatest gift of 2008?

Art community

4. What is your New Year Resolution, or, what are you committing to this year?

New career

5. If January could be represented by one song, what would it be?

One foot in front of the other

6. What do you wish for your body in 2009?


7. Name one new thing you would love to try in the New Year.

Make a record

8. What do you long for 2009 to bring?

New love

9. If that happened, how would you feel?


10. Where would you love to vacation in 2009 if money were no object?


11. What would you like the theme of 2009 to be?


12. If 2009 was a book, and the title was 5 words or less, what might the title be?

I am here

I did try to use this picture for the last answer, but it wouldn't work in the mosaic. I might try again tomorrow...

I am here

It took me quite awhile of copying and pasting to finish this, so instead of putting here all the information you need to make one of these yourself, I'm just gonna send you to Danette's blog, which is where I got it (by way of Shannon, by way of Suzie)!

Happy New Year.

My New Name For A Blog...

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Bad Hair Day

Okay, I can put it off no longer.
I have to comb through this!

I told her this is it.

The New Year's Hair Resolution is that she combs it herself or we get her a lovely short 'do!


Monday, December 29, 2008

Winter Scene

by the 6yo

Star of Wonder

The morning selection of photos at Huffpo were bloody Palestinian babes-in-arms vs. face-painted heavily-armed Israelis. Until this one.

Update I (from Gummo at Eschaton this morning):

There's a good guest column in the Times today laying out Israel's side in the current situation (i.e., their rationalizations for this massacre).

The hell of it is, they have some very real concerns; yet everything they do makes their situation worse.

As an American Jewish son of Holocaust survivors, Israel is very important to me -- yet it's being run by crazy people.
Gummo | 12.30.08 - 10:08 am |

The politics of peace in the Middle East may be beyond human beings in these times. I cannot defend Israel's choices, but I will forever defend the rights of Jews to be a flawed and human as everybody else. I am ignorant and uninformed, but I am afraid of all the hatred.

Masters of War

Update II: What Digby said.


Sunday, December 28, 2008

Tonight's Al Gore Sunset

From my bedroom window (through the screen).

It was too warm for winter today, but that meant that when I called the girls outside to see a spectacular sunset, they could run out in just their dresses and socks; no boots, coats, or mittens. One week ago, it snowed from noon on Friday through sunset Sunday.

Thursday, December 25, 2008


photo by the 8yo

My mother makes hats. The one she sent me this year is a beauty. She also gave me these sock-a-tolas that have pom-poms and non-slip bottoms. The girls wanted me to pose with "Newshy," the 6yo's fish, so I did. They thought it was very amusing.

It was a lovely Christmas day at our house. I'll update with more photos tomorrow. Right now, I gotta get back to the shortbread with ginger that *Santa* brought me.

Update, as promised, photos from yesterday:

I put the stockings up on this trunk overnight,
in hopes that they'd be safe from mice.

Before the girls came down in the morning,
I put the stockings under the tree.

One family tradition is that we take a moment
before diving into presents to look through
the Robert Sabuda Christmas alphabet book
that Grampa gave us a few years ago.

It's always nice when someone stops mid-unwrapping to enjoy a gift. The 6yo is taking a closer look at the graphic novel, Bone Sharps, Cowboys, and Thunder Lizards, that GWPDA and David Derbes sent her. Thank you.

The 8yo joins her with a closer look at the graphic novel, Black Beauty, also from GWPDA. They are also both wearing the hats their grandma made them. Thank you.

Some new friends.

My new leaf maker.

A lovely Christmas day. We are lucky.

Peace on Earth.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Ornament Sentiment

(click on photo to enlarge)

Here are some of the memories I celebrate
when I decorate the tree.

The red bicycle was one of the first ornaments I bought myself years ago when I decided that I was putting down roots in this town, so I needed to start building traditions.

The two beautiful and delicate green ones my mother sent to me in two separate years to help me build my collection. Another year, she made the pine needle star.

The glass and gold spiderweb is from my sister, who loves Halloween as much as, and scary things even more than, I do.

My father bought the ice cream cone to represent himself on my tree, when he made his first visit with his first grandchild on Thanksgiving eight years ago (he loves "coney coneys"). It was an especially good visit for us because we often disagree about TV viewing (I don't watch. He does). His visit took place during Gore v. Bush, and we were both glued to the TV in his hotel room. I truly appreciated his greater knowledge of historical context, especially regarding all the players who participated in the drama.

The hand-painted wooden star was made and given to me by my close friend Sharon in 2000, to celebrate my daughter's first Christmas. Sharon made ornaments each year for her holiday gifts. They would become even more precious gifts to me in the coming years. Sharon had brain cancer and died 2 January 2003. My older daughter knew Sharon for two years, but was too young to hold any memories. My younger daughter was only one month old when she met her on New Year's Day 2003. Sharon was already in a coma and she died the next day. Now, each year when we decorate the tree, as we find the ornaments that Sharon gave us, the girls ask me to share stories about her.

The skelly hand was made and given to me this year by someone I've never met, someone who I count as a member of my online community. It looked beautiful when I wore it around my neck at Halloween and it looks perfect on the tree.

The other day I read that this new friend is having a hard time this season. I wanted to send her something to let her know that she is in my thoughts and to thank her again for the creative inspiration she gives me.

For Suzie.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Winter Solstice

Even though it turned out to be a beautiful starlit snowy evening, the bonfire at the wildlife sanctuary was canceled tonight. So we made our own fire and our own fun.

fa la la la la


la la la

Looking For Winter from December 2006

Watching the sparks

A photograph from the local paper.

peace on earth

Affordable Housing

a welcoming front entrance

lollipop foliage and presents at the windowsill

a garden view

a picture window big enough to display your tree

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Holiday Story

I have been buying my tree from the same family every year for many years. I actually discovered them by accident when I was trying to find a special tree farm that had been written up in the local paper. I followed the directions that the paper had given, and ended up someplace different. I don't know the name of the family or even the name of the street that the house is on, but I know how to get there. And every year I do. And nearly every year, it's quite late in the season when I finally make it there.

I have been feeling as harried as usual this year, feeling like I have too much to do and like the holidays just add more, and as of this past Friday morning, the 19th, we still didn't have our tree. A huge storm was forecast for the early afternoon and the girls' school had been canceled in anticipation. I had several errands I needed to get done before we were housebound, and on the list was to get a tree. I knew if we didn't get one, it wouldn't happen all weekend 'cause we'd be buried in snow. If we did get one, we could spend a lovely afternoon decorating it as the snow fell outside. Trying to consolidate our errands, I asked the girls if they wanted to go to the farm where we often buy apples and bacon, to see if they had trees -- if they did, we could get our tree and groceries in one stop. The girls insisted that we go to the place we always go for our tree.

I drove the familiar route and arrived to see a big 'closed' sign. We also saw a man and his young daughter dragging a tree through the snow from the barn to their truck. The 8yo asked why we couldn't just do the same. As I tried to explain, the man's young daughter very sweetly said we could, that there were plenty of trees. The man was less reassuring. He said he was a distant relative and had gotten permission from the family. I decided we would go take a look at the trees in the barn. Perhaps the family would return by the time we chose one, or I could do what I do at farmstands all summer and leave the family money for the tree.

The girls and I crunched through the snow to the barn. There was a giant tree in the front of the pile, which I pulled aside. Next, was a tall, scrawny one that was good enough. The girls immediately adopted it. I pulled out one more, but they were sure that the first one I showed them was meant for us. So I dragged it back toward the car. There were a few trees right there by the house, so I took a moment to lean two of them up against the fence and put ours next to it. The two others tipped over as if to say, "You've got the one you need." It was decided.

Now I realized the really tricky part about the owners not being there: the man had always tied the tree on top of my car for me. I would have to figure out how to do it myself -- that is if I had some rope in the car. As we walked to the car with the tree, I actually thought, "I know I at least have some duct tape!" Luckily, a search through the junk on the floor of the front passenger side revealed a long rope. I hoisted the tree up, tied, and wrapped, and prayed, and eventually tucked the loose end of rope in the front passenger door. Then I wrote a note, wrapped it around ten dollars, wrapped the whole thing in a drawing of a cardinal the 6yo had made last year in preschool (did I mention my car is messy?), sealed it all with duct tape and put it in their mailbox. I hoped for the best and went to get in the car for the slow drive home.

As I was getting in, I heard a car honking behind me. Not knowing anyone on the street, I didn't figure it was for me, so I got in my car. The car pulled up alongside me and the woman driver rolled down her window. I got out of my car to see if it was someone needing directions and as I looked closer, I realized it was the woman half of the couple who owned the tree farm. She sternly (yet, generously, I think) asked me where I had gotten the tree (she didn't just outright accuse me of stealing it). I told her that I had left ten dollars in her mailbox. She started to get upset and said they had been selling them for fifteen. I told her I would get another five out of my purse, that I hadn't meant to upset her. I told her that I get my tree from them every year and that the girls really wanted to keep up the tradition. Since the storm was coming, I had figured it was now or never.

At that point, she recognized me and started to soften. She also began to tell me of all the bad things that had been happening to her and how this had felt like the last straw. I told her to go park her car and I would come talk to her. She drove up the driveway (it's a steep little hill) and parked. I went and grabbed another $5 from my wallet and the make-shift envelope with the $10 and her mail from the mailbox. As I walked up the driveway, she said she was glad it was me and she didn't want another penny. I told her that I had another $5. And she just started crying and telling me about the mean things that people had been doing to her and saying about her. She told me people had been stealing her trees. She said, "How could someone steal a tree? How could they sit and look at their tree knowing it was stolen?"

I felt my heart open for this woman. I must've hugged her ten times standing there. I told her to go make herself some tea, light some candles and let it go, that those people don't matter. I had been feeling like I had too much to do, like I needed help and didn't know who to ask, and in comforting this woman I was transformed. It was almost a physical sensation, how aware I became of my many blessings. It was a gift to both of us and I am grateful.

The girls, the tree, and I made it home safely. We still had to make the trip to the grocery store, so I untied the tree, put it on the porch, and off we went. It just started to snow as we went into the store. By the time we came out, it seemed like a couple inches had already fallen. We were thrilled. The drive home was a little slippery, but we made it.

It took awhile to find the treestand, clear space for the tree, and saw off its bottom to add to the pile. Then I discovered that a section of the lights was out, and I looked online how to fix it, but decided to hide them instead. Finally, we were ready to decorate. We put on our traditional tree-decorating cd "Homegrown Holidays" (I tried to google a link, but was unable to find one) and spent the rest of the lovely snowy afternoon and evening decorating, singing, and enjoying ourselves.


Wise Men

here is this year's gathering

this last fella wouldn't fit up there, so he's down here guarding all the stumps from all the christmas trees in this house so far

the long view

Friday, December 19, 2008

Words and Pictures

The girls love when I sit and draw with them.

Last night, we sat down to draw just before bedtime. I drew some panels on a page and then looked to see what the shapes suggested. Since we hadn't gotten our tree yet, it was easy to see a car with a tree on top driving through the long rectangle panel. I figured out what the other panels needed to be, made some quick sketches, and showed the girls. They were thrilled -- they're always impressed with whatever little art I do.

Then, I packed them off to bed.

This morning when they woke up, they started drawing in their room. Without having seen my drawing since the night before, they each came up with their own version. Now it's my turn to be impressed!

My drawing

The 8yo's drawing

The 6yo's drawing

We did actually get a tree today before the storm hit. I even tied it on top the car myself (and we made it home)!

That's its own story...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Freedom of the Press

The man who bravely stood up for humanity is imprisoned and tortured, while those responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands and suffering of millions more are free.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Nutcracker

'Tis the season of family traditions. I'm not sure if this is one we'll keep.

This is the third year we've added it to our holiday traditions. It's very expensive and can feel more like a chore than holiday magic. I didn't know I had a passive-aggressive side, but I put off getting tickets for the show this year -- memories of a nutcracker-inspired tantrum or two still sting.

It's a local production with two performances a day, for three days. This year it was Friday, Saturday, and today. Tickets, if there were any left, would be available an hour before curtain at the theatre. The show was to start at 1:00, so at 11:45, I asked the girls if they wanted to give it a try. They got dressed quickly and we hurried into town, while the 6yo made up a song about how it was fun to run into town on a very wintry day. The 8yo offered "a merry wintry day." We got to the theatre and got in line. I asked for the best three seats together that they had left (the price range was $30, $35, and $40). The ticket person handed me my three and said, "That will be $90, please." And $90 bought us three seats in the center of the very last row of the very top balcony.

A surprise treat for me: the party people are performed by non-ballet folks from the community.
The fella playing the Father this year (the guy on the right), is a friend of mine.

The 8yo seemed captivated by the show.

A pas de deux

By contrast, with a few rare exceptions when her attention was grabbed by the action on stage, the 6yo whined about one thing or another through the entire show, eventually nearly growling.

The big scene-stealer: kid reindeer

We walked home after the show, not floating on air from the magic of a shared family holiday tradition, but griping about cold feet (the 8yo); lack of sweets (the 6yo); and the desire to cross this tradition off the list (me).

Mother Ginger and her enormous skirts

We got home and I administered emergency molasses cookies to the girls. Then they made up a ballet or two while I made supper. After supper, we sat down for the pre-bath hair-comb, which requires a movie. The girls surprised me by choosing the dvd of the Baryshnikov Nutcracker instead of Kung Fu Panda.

As we watched, we began to talk about some of the things we had enjoyed from today's live performance. And we were re-writing the day's story to give it a happy ending.

I still don't know if we'll go next year. I gotta learn my lesson some day, don't I?

Molasses Cookies

The girls and I made these yesterday.
There are still a few left...

Monday, December 1, 2008

Roller Coaster Ride

When I lived in New York, one of my favorite things to do was ride my bike from my apartment on 107th street, through the city, over the Brooklyn Bridge, and out to Coney Island. Once there, I would ride on the Cyclone roller coaster.

google image

I often said it was like instant therapy: approximately 60 seconds of non-stop laughter and thrills.


Saturday, November 29, 2008

Haunted Houses, Part II

The girls worked for hours on their houses today, mixing colors, cutting shapes, gluing and painting. I didn't do much to mine, except color a couple panels yellow, then notice a curly footprint someone had made on one of them when she accidentally stepped on it, then take the shoe and make curly markings on both panels...

The 8yo's doorway.

The 6yo's corner, with vines.

My swirls.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Instead of shopping today, we're in the shop!

We watched The Nightmare Before Christmas, even though the 6yo, worried about it being too scary, had said, "Ina. It's called 'Nightmare,' so that means nightmare for me!"

As we were watching it, the 6yo kept saying, "So far, so good." It turns out it wasn't scary, it was inspiring!

So we're making our own haunted houses...

We're gonna need a bigger paint brush...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Modest Feast

Our modest feast, at our humble table: Turkey that I had basted with a butter/lemon/garlic/basil mixture; Cranberry sauce (just water, sugar, and cranberries); Garlic mashed potatoes (with some grated potato skins included); Sweet potato steak fries; Romaine with basil sprigs.

I had an inspiration as we were preparing the pie after supper. I had originally planned to make a pear/blueberry pie, and had even bought a little over-priced out-of-season container of berries. Then, as I was looking at the big bowl of pear slices, I decided to skip the blueberries, and instead, I added two scoops of the cranberry sauce leftover from dinner. I also added some lemon zest and some candied ginger bits. This was possibly the best pie ever! And what a flaky crust!

The 6yo really wanted to make a pumpkin pie from a real pumpkin and have it look exactly like Snoopy's does in the Charlie Brown movie. When I couldn't find a sugar pumpkin this week, she still wanted to make a pumpkin pie using canned pumpkin. This is the standard pumpkin pie, except that my quarter cup measure was out on the table with flour in it left over from when I was rolling crusts, so when I reached in the drawer to grab the smallest measuring cup to measure three scoops of sugar, I actually grabbed the one third cup. Instead of three quarter cups of sugar, this pie has one cup of sugar. Yeah, it's a little too sweet. We thought we might try it with a scoop of greek yogurt tomorrow instead of whipped cream.

I am grateful for this delicious food, for my family, and for the strange cyber-family I have found here.

Peace to you and yours.