Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Calm Before the Storm

The weather here has been very unstable. Hot and humid. There is a eerie feeling in the air. I hold my breath and wait for the storm. Lots of lightening. I hear the sound of distant thunder. The birds become still and silent. They are waiting just like I am. Waiting for the rains and the winds.

This is exactly how I am feeling now. On the weekend we are having our Annual BBQ for Paul's side of the family. My side comes in August. We do it every year. I am thinking it is about our 7th or 8th year. We like to gift our families with a nice relaxing time and lots and lots of nourishing food. It is something I look forward to and yet somehow, something I dread. Just like a summer storm.
I feel nervous and uneasy. I am busy from morning until night planning, preparing, baking, cooking. Cleaning, preparing rooms, thinking. Thinking about what has to be done. Thinking about how it will go. Hoping for good weather not only for the golfers (mostly the men) but also for the women who stay back at the house to talk, drink wine and catch up.

It works out well. We all have loads of fun. The food usually turns out great, if I do say so myself. This BBQ will be bittersweet. Paul's sister, one of my dearest people, is moving across the country in just a few short weeks. One of his brother's health is in question. His other brother won't be there as there is some minor feud with yet another brother going on. His mother, who suffers from Dementia, will not be here either. So this may be the last time we all get together. They are all staying the night. I will be dead tired but it is so worth all the effort. It always is.

Its just this "meantime". The calm before the storm. I wait with bated breath.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Just because this little ragamuffin it too cute for words.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Summer Studio: One

Heather at beauty that moves is hosting a Summer Studio series on fridays. I have decided to join in.
The premise it to show each week what you are working on.

This week I am still working on Athena's spring sweater. Spring sweater, you read it right. Not spring 2011 but spring 2010.

I cast on this Elizabeth Zimmerman Tomten Jacket way back in February. I am a slow knitter, but not that slow. It is just that I am not one to sit still for long periods of time. If I only watched TV then it would have been done long long ago but as I write this it is still on the needles.

I will finish it this weekend. I will, I will, I will. I bought the zipper and matching thread. I have only half of the last sleeve to knit up. All I have to do then is stitch it together, put on the zipper and weave in the ends. Not a lot of work really, just couple of hours at best.

It is my first attempt at a sweater and it is going well. An easy modular jacket. I haven't decided what to do with the neck yet as I didn't make it with a hood. The end result should be up here really soon. Fingers crossed. I guess it will be Athena's Fall sweater. I just hope it is Fall 2010.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Keeper of the Home

I remember when I was homeschooling my older girls we used a book called Training our Daughters to Be Keepers of the Home, or something like that. It was a Bible based curriculum and although I cannot remember a lot of what it was about, likely Proverbs 31, I do remember some of the skills we learned. Valuable stuff.

Frozen Grapes on Skewers

Ever since I can remember I have always wanted to be a wife and mother. When girls my age were thinking about being teachers or nurses or ballet dancers I was the only one who wanted to be a stay at home mom. I am a Cancer of course. What else would I be?

So I have been at this gig for a little over 27 years and not to be boastful or anything, but I am kind of good at it. And I still love my job! How many women can say that after almost 3 decades? There are areas that I have need of improvement to be sure and there are things that I still loathe to do. I love grocery shopping. I don't so much like meal planning. I love changing the beds and sleeping in them on that first night. I change my bed twice a week, that's how much I love a clean bed! I like ironing and cleaning the house. I like to cook, most days. I am not too much into baking, likely because I would rather eat potato chips than cookies. I have, however, started making my own bread. I find it more and more difficult to pay $3 for a single loaf when I can make two loaves for about 25 cents. I enjoy sewing too, which is why today I whipped up a couple of bread bags for my fresh out of the oven bread. Easy peasy. 5 minutes tops.

Speaking of sewing, I also made these summer pants for Athena out of a stained dress shirt of Paul's. They turned out quite good. I could have made the waist a tad bit smaller.

And now the real reason I started this post:
I made rhubarb pie last week and as is my custom, I send a little bit of whatever I make, (soup, cookies, pie,) across the street to share with our elderly neighbors. She called me the next day to tell me that in all her 71 years she had never tasted a pie so good and she did not want to have the baker go unnoticed. Very nice of her to say. She added I wouldn't mind having the recipe if you will give out your recipes. I chuckled to myself. Those days are long gone.

People used to entertain very often. Most women stayed at home and cared for their children and their homes. Women were known for their excellent sewing skills, knitting, gardening and their signature dishes. No longer. At least it is very uncommon around these parts.

Of course I would give her my "secret recipe" which I just pulled off of the Internet that very day. I did, however, use my Grandmother's pie crust recipe. And this made me think of her, Grandma Whilhelmine. The last thing she ever said to me before she died, the very last thing as I was leaving her hospital room was "Michelle, make sure you don't give anyone my Lima Bean recipe." To make this story even funnier, or more quaint I should say, is years later when cleaning out my recipe box, I found the "famous Lima bean recipe" and wouldn't you know it, it was neatly clipped out of a woman's magazine and glued squarely in the centre of a recipe card. :)And now, in her memory, with no disrespect to her intended, I share:

Lima Bean Casserole

2 pkgs frozen Lima beans (10 oz each)
2 cans of sliced canned mushrooms
I medium onion, minced
5 stalks celery cut into thin slices

Saute onion and celery in a half pound of butter (gasp!) until golden. Then add mushrooms. Sprinkle in 2 T flour and 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp nutmeg and 1/8 tsp pepper. Toss until well blended. Reduce heat and stir in 1/2 cup heavy cream and stir until thickened. (You may need more cream, or milk) Stir in Lima beans and heat. Sprinkle with Paprika (as all casserole dishes back in the day were garnished).

PS I don't use all that butter, but maybe half of it. Works out the same.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Unexpected Guest

Just popping in quickly to let you know about a weekend guest we had. We hadn't planned on company. In fact I was just raking up under the pine trees when I heard him. I looked up and right there above me was this little fellow. Kind of cute, don't you think? He stayed for the better part of the day and around dusk, made his way down the tree, past the Inukshuk Paul made for me and toddled across the street to the golf course.

Sometimes the most interesting guests are those who are univited.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Out Of The Ordinary

Yesterday I did something out of the ordinary. Out of the ordinary for me, that is. I went to spend the day with a friend of mine. Actually friends of OURS. Thom and Marie. They are actually good, good friends although one would never guess due to our age difference. On a side note, some of the best friends Paul and I have ever had have been much older than we. By a decade or two at least.

Moving on. Athena and I spent the better part of yesterday lounging in the yard with Marie and her daughters. Lauren and Olivia are such sweet girls. Athena doesn't see them often but she loves them like crazy. She ran through their sprinkler, played in their pool and played on their play centre. Tons of fun.

And this is the best part of all. I sat and visited with Marie for hours on end. She made me a delicious lunch which we all ate on the deck. I had forgotten how much I like Taco Salad until yesterday. My daughter Jill made if for me last summer and that is the last time I ate it. So yummy. We talked and laughed and drank some beer (sorry Thom, I owe you one). Absolutely a fantastic day. I loved it!!

On a bad note, even though I was in the shade most of the day (except for pushing Lauren on the swing) I got a sunburn on my arms. Darn it anyway!

What I learned from this expedition was that I don't always have to work all day.

I don't always have to plan everything.

I don't always have to have something concrete to do.

I can just relax. I can just live. I can just laugh. I can just be.

Thanks Marie. I really appreciated your hospitality. M

Sunday, June 13, 2010

From The Kitchen

It was a nice weekend all around. We has some fantastic weather at last. Paul and I were up and outside around 7:30am Saturday. Windows were washed, the last annuals were planted. We moved some bricks, filled the feeders, took some dead tree branches to the compost, all before Athena was even awake.

Jen's Potato Skins

We ate almost every meal, including breakfast, outside on the deck. It was good. So good. And today we "edited" the play centre, ran to the city quickly and has some wonderful barbecue for dinner. Athena played outside all weekend. She had a quick dip in the pool but it was way too cold. I wish I would have had the camera on hand to capture the look on her face when she plunged into the cool water. Oh well. We watched Parker eat the seeds we set out for him. He is getting used to us and we can get within a few feet of him and he remains where he is. Athena hopes he'll sit on her lap before summer is done. Perhaps he will.

Our dear Parker. He has lived with us since October.
I also spent a considerable amount of time in the kitchen. Baking, cooking, boiling and toiling. Food, good food makes every day so much sweeter don't you think? We worked, we cooked, we played and we relaxed. A good ending to the school year. A good start to summer. I'll be back in a day or two to post my Summer Manifesto. After all, the Solstice is nearing. I have much to learn about enjoying the moment and relaxing and just being. Much to learn.
My Grandmother's Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe
Soulemama's Ruby June with freshly harvested rhubarb. I made
the pie crust for Rhubarb pie and I'll make the pies tomorrow. Yum!
Quiche. Athena's Fave. She mixes it herself.

And my personal favorite. Soup. Roasted Tomato Soup with homemade bread. The perfect lunch on the deck.

And just tonight, we had some grilled Beef Tenderloin steaks with risotto and grilled veg. Made by Paul. Accompanied by a nice Shiraz. What a way to end the weekend!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Homeschool Wrap-up

We have officially completed the home schooling for the year. We began back in March, which we were not anticipating. I scrambled to get some supplies and away we went. Things went pretty well if I do say so myself.

I began teaching her phonics and simple sounding out words. We moved on to the Bob Books. She really liked that she could figure out the words in a book. We finished all 12 books in the first series. A really good start! She knows all her letters, both to recognize and to print out. She knows the sounds of all the letters as well. Good stuff.

She also started a book in which she would draw a picture and then dictate a story to me, which I copied down for her. This was a good exercise. Every one of her stories began with the common "Once upon a time...". We frequently go back and read her stories. She feels a sense of pride to have had them recorded in a book.

We did some nature study as well. We did not/have not done as much as I would have liked but we have the next 12 weeks to do that. We planted a huge garden and started some seeds in the root viewer. They are very lanky and weak but we will see what happens with them over the coming month. We did some field trips and Auntie Jen took her to the Museum in Regina.

We worked almost all the way through the Handwriting Without Tears workbook. I have decided that I definitely do NOT like that book. The letters look odd to me. I am going to be using the D'Nealian script in the fall for sure. It lends itself to a smooth transition to handwriting and it just plain looks better.

We learned some math skills as well. She worked on her counting by ones and by tens. She learned to add and subtract small numbers. We did some measurement with a ruler and with recipes too.
She learned patterns and ordering and has a start on telling time. With a real clock!

We listened to a lot of classical music. She has a knack for picking out the violin in each piece. We did a lot of art as well.

We did some chapter book reading as well. We most recently finished Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. She absolutely loved that book.

For the coming weeks we will still be learning. I plan to do 20 minutes of reading every day using the instructional book Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading. I would like to build her reading skills and confidence over the summer months. We'll be tending our garden and Daddy wants to do some fishing with her too. Daddy and Athena and Uncle Jordan and Abby are planning a weekend camping trip in July , which should be loads of fun. But most of all we'll just be lounging about the yard learning from nature and just letting her be a kid.

I have submitted my formal Education Plan to the Board of Education for the fall. I am just waiting to hear back. I suspect there will not be a problem. I have a lot of work to do this summer with the planning of First Grade. I have all the materials I need, save for the library resources, and now I just want to organize my thoughts and the lessons plans so we can have a smooth running academic year.
I'll be sitting in the shade on my deck drinking copious amounts of wine, I mean lemonade, and enjoying the summer, if it ever decides to show its face around these parts.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

On Television

I am so glad that we finally decided to get rid of our satellite television. When we turn on the TV, we don't have any channels. Not a one. Not that we were big television watchers in the first place. In fact since Corner Gas finished its run, the only thing I watched was The Tudors. It only played 8 episodes a year and I found that I could watch it online, at my own convenience. Woohoo!

Paul, on the other hand, could watch a movie that was over half way done already. He has watched Cliffhanger and the Die Hard series replayed on TV at least 5 times each. (rolls eyes). Athena loves to watch TV. Not TV really, but her videos that we get from the library. Given the chance she could watch for hours I am sure. Once she told me that she "was born to watch TV". (rolls eyes again)

It has been several days now since she has viewed any media at all. None. No TV, no computer, no leapster games. It started out as a punishment for some less than stellar behaviour and now, mostly due to her getting out of the habit of even asking for it, she has not even wanted to. Also due in part to her not wanting her brain to turn soft as cheese. Explanation to follow.

We have been reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory aloud these past 10 days or so and we came upon this prophetic quote, by Roald Dahl in 1964 no less. The year before I was born and shortly after TV became mainstream and available to all. I shall quote in its entirety. Please read it, then read it again and see if you don't agree.

"The most important thing we've learned,

So far as children are concerned,

Is never, Never, NEVER let

Them near your television set-

Or better still, just don't install

The idiotic thing at all.

In almost every house we've been,

We've watched them gaping at the screen.

They loll and slop and lounge about,

And stare until their eyes pop out.

(Last week in someone's place we saw

A dozen eyeballs on the floor.)

They sit and stare and stare and sit

Until they're hypnotised by it,

Until they're absolutely drunk

With all that shocking ghastly junk.

Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,

They don't climb out the window sill,

They never fight or kick or punch,

They leave you free to cook the lunch

And wash the dishes in the sink-

But did you ever stop to think,

To wonder just exactly what

This does to your beloved tot?










'Alright!' you'll cry. 'All right!' you'll say,

'But if we take the set away,

What shall we do to entertain

Our darling children? Please explain!'

We'll answer this by asking you,

'What USED the darling ones to do?

'How USED they keep themselves contented

Before this monster was invented?'

Have you forgotten? Don't you know?

We'll say it very loud and slow:

THEY ...USED ...TO ...READ! They'd READ and READ,

And READ and READ, and then proceed

To READ some more, Great Scott! Gadzooks!

One half their lives was reading books!

The nursery shelves held books galore!

Books cluttered up the nursery floor!

And in the bedroom, by the bed,

More books were waiting to be read!

Such wondrous, fine fantastic tales

Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales

And treasure isles, and distant shores

Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,

And pirates wearing purple pants,

And sailing ships and elephants,

And cannibals crouching 'round the pot,

Stirring away at something hot.

(It smells so good, what can it be!

Good gracious, it's Penelope.)

The younger ones had Beatrix Potter

With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter,

And Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland,

And Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and-

Just How the Camel Got His Hump,

And How The Monkey Lost His Rump,

And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul,

There's Mr. Rat and Mr. Mole-

Oh, books, what books they used to know,

Those children living long ago!

So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,

Go throw your TV set away,

And in its place you can install

A lovely bookshelf on the wall.

Then fill the shelves with lots of books,

Ignoring all the dirty look,

The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,

And children hitting you with sticks-

Fear not, because we promise you

That, in a bout a week or two

Of having nothing else to do,

They'll now begin to feel the need

Of having something good to read.

And once they start- oh boy, oh boy!

You watch the slowly growing joy

That fills their hearts. They'll grow so keen

They'll wonder what they'd ever seen

In that ridiculous machine,

That nauseating, foul, unclean,

Repulsive television screen!

And later, each and every kid

Will love you more for what you did.

P.S. Regarding Mike Teavee,

We very much regret that we

Shall simply have to wait and see

If we can get him back his height,

Bit if we can't- it severs him right.

Now, congratulations if you read that all and you got this far. I simply couldn't leave one sentence out. And as a side note, when Paul (dear man) got to this part in the book while reading to Athena,
he skipped over it because he thought it too long. Evidence enough. (No offence Paul, but you do have a short attention span.)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Birds and Bees (or Wasps)

The elusive Brown Thrasher

Sea Gull


Not sure what this is. Saw him at Diefenbaker Lake yesterday.

I think it may be a Cormorant.

White Pelicans

Boat Tailed Grackle

Ring Necked Dove

Mourning Dove

Gold finches

A wasp nest the neighbors found under thier deck and gave to Athena.

This is just a small sample of the birds that have been hanging around the feeders

and wading near the shore. We have an abundance of songbirds here in

the Summer time. I hope to get more and better shots in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

All In A Day

(After we came back from fishing, I found her here sitting in the sun Meditating. I kid you not.)

Monday, June 7, 2010

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Things are coming along nicely. We have had plenty of rain, which is a good thing as my vegetable garden is across the road in the neighbors back yard and I would loathe to carry water all that way. Everything has sprouted except cucumbers and beans. Oh, and the parsnips. No sign of them yet either. The flowers we planted from seed are appearing at last. The annuals are beginning to show signs of growth after having survived near freezing temperatures and gale force winds. We need some heat now to get things on their way. We'll have to wait for next week though, as rain is forecast for the remainder of the week. The weekend promises sunshine and warm temperatures. We'll see about that. Now all we have to do is wait... and weed.