Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Garden Planning in Full Swing

Hi All,

I thought I'd post a couple of pictures of the garden during the last ice storm. Crazy stuff, I loved how the chicken wire from the pea trellises looked while crusted in ice. Now, that's high entertainment! The grass also had so much ice caked on it that it did not make it's characteristic rustle in the breeze, it snapped and cracked instead. That was a fun and interesting time for me to snap a few pictures. I actually dug out the Canon and snapped some film photos as well. Haven't developed those, but will soon.

I have received the slew of garden catalogs in the last couple of weeks. For those of you that plant gardens, this is a seriously fun time of year. Even though your soil is buried under layers of the white stuff, you get a little giddy excitement. You sit, make the cup of hot tea while the wind is whipping outside and the snow is falling sideways, and you dig out the colorful little tomes of possibility. I love to draw several diagrams of the beds, then imagine what could go into them. One of my beds is half perennial herbs, and the other is all strawberries, so that leaves me 2 1/2 beds to dream about. I also planted some no-dig potatoes last year outside the fenced in area, and for whatever reason, the groundhog did not bother those. I'm absolutely going to do potatoes again, you remember from my earlier post on this how much daggone fun those were.

Last year I tried out kohlrabi, which did not do so well in my beds, but flourished in my mother's garden. I sent her a dozen seeds or so and her wonderful green thumb had no problem making those prosper. It's a goal for me this year, to have better soil and get that kohlrabi up and thriving. The batch from my mother's garden was so delicious that we ate the 9 huge ones she sent us home with in about 2 weeks. If you grow this, try making a slaw with it. Outstanding! Each year I try something a little new for me, last year I did three new things. The unsuccessful kohlrabi, some beets and the potatoes. The beets weren't great either, but I think the nasturtiums I planted next to them were too close. Nasturtiums sort of take over the world once they get a hold, don't they? I have not decided what this year's newbie will be, but I know it will be fun to figure that out, along with where it will go in the garden.

I have yet to get the kids to weigh in on what their two little beds will contain this year. Maestro tends to want to grow everything that's growing in the main garden and that's a little tough when he can only fit one or two of each plant in his little bed. Last year, he had great luck with his broccoli and pansies. Little Red only wanted marigolds last year, but told me when he saw his brother's growing that he wanted to do some cucumbers this summer. We have big battles with powdery mildew here, so cukes usually only make it about half a season, but I'm willing to let him try. It's all a process of trial and error, isn't it? They totally enjoy growing the food that comes to the table. They have a connection to the food that you just can't get any other way, even though we do buy a lot that's locally grown, it's just not the same as getting it fresh from your own ground. That you've planted and tended with your own little paws. Truly satisfying experience for anyone who does this.

So, even if you don't have room for more then a couple of tomato pots on the deck, just plant something. I guarantee you that you'll get a sense of accomplishment you've not felt before and having that sun warmed tomato that you've nurtured and grown will make it the best tomato you've ever tasted. Seriously, I'm not kidding, it will. High Mowing Seeds and Seeds Of Change are two great companies that sell organic seeds, and if you're gonna plant them, you might as well make them organic. It matters, they are better, you'll just have to have faith in me until you see for yourselves.

Happy garden planning to you! ~Peacemom

Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas, Sleighs and Broken Toys, Oh My!

Hello Everyone!
Christmas has come and gone. It's been quite a fun time here at Casa de Peaceable Kingdom. The boys had a fun time with the whole Santa sheebang, and Music Man and I had a fun time watching them do same. It was a low key and peaceful day for all of us. My roast did not turn out the way I wanted for supper, and we had to bring back two of the main gifts for the boys to Santa's workshop because they did not work right (that was a serious bummer all around!), but other then that it was a nice long holiday weekend.

Our festivities really began when I volunteered to make graham cracker houses with 17 six year olds in Maestro's kindergarten class. That was a messy and fun time, the kids had a blast with it and I had fun interacting with them and also getting to know some of the little cherubs that are bound to influence my son's future. They are a bunch of great kids at this age and it was fun for me to have the chance to spend time with them. It was loud, crazy and frosting was everywhere, but we all had fun with it.

The next day was Christmas Eve and we usually get together at my inlaws house and do our Christmas celebration with them. Grammy takes all the kids on the "Light Ride", which is when she drives around and shows the kids that lights on houses in the area. They all look forward to that and they even discovered a new place this year that had their own radio station. You could tune in on the radio and the lights apparently blinked and whatnot in time to the music. Now if that's not cool, I don't know what is! In any case the boys came back to the house full of stories of the lights, and it gives the rest of the grown ups time to chat without the kiddos running amok. They have 4 kids of their own and we have our two and some friends came along and it was a little loud and crazy for a while there, but everyone has a great time. Since my sister-in-law is really Martha Stewart in disguise, there's always good food to be had as well. My South Beach Diet experience took a beating over the last 4 days, but I've managed not to regain anything, and that's all I was asking for this week, just not to regain. So far, I'm succeeding there.
So Christmas morning was fun with the boys getting from Santa what they wanted. They both asked for bongos (which Santa found on a really good sale, so they got some professional ones, quite snazzy), and Little Red wanted a car garage. That's fantastic, it's this three story wooden thing with a car wash and everything, quite nice. Maestro also got an Easy Bake Oven since he LOVES to cook. Okay, the real challenge there is that the oven itself is fairly gender neutral, but the box was all pink and purple, and the tools are pink and purple and all the little food kits are all girly and whatnot. Luckily, he didn't seem to notice too much about that, but what's up with that?? Are there not more boys who might like to cook as well? A little gender biasing there, I think. There were a couple of things that were absurd there, like for one, there's about $.35 worth of ingredients in the food packets, and they cost about $5.00 each. Mrs. Claus got two free ones with the purchase of the oven (gotta love those coupons!) or he would have only had the one that came with the oven. No way am I paying those prices. So, I went online yesterday and found a bunch of recipes that other people have come up with, put a little cookbook together for him in Printmaster and voila! boy specific cooking stuff. When you're watching every dime, you get resourceful.

Then on Friday night, my mother-in-law treated us to our family Christmas gift. We went out to dinner, where we had very good food and enjoyed each other's company. The boys are pretty well behaved in restaurants, so we're lucky there. Then we went to a place that offers sleigh rides with real draft horses. Now, this was a special treat for me on many levels...spending quality time with loved ones, the boys get to have this memory with their grandmother, I get to be around horses for a short time, and it was a fun time with special people. Some of those memories being made, and I know for myself, I will cherish those memories with my mother-in-law as well as the rest of our little family. The air was crisp, it was dark, the horses well cared for and happy and the boys excitement was palpable. Wonderful time. I was having a hard time with the Christmas spirit this year. When we lost power for 6 days, I was already a little into a funk and then I couldn't do the normal baking and things that helps make the season special for me. Not to mention that I couldn't eat any of what I did manage to bake in the end, and that was a bummer as those special tastes are part of the season for me as well. But this sleigh ride brought home for me (and Music Man as well) a sense of an old fashioned Christmas. I am dearly lacking that in my life as I'm a country girl planted in a not-so-country-anymore town and I feel the absence of that simpler way of life tremendously. Someday we really do want to have that little house on a farm, where we come in from chores tired but satisfied and warm up next to the woodstove with a cup of cocoa and hunker down with a good book. And feel the tired muscles of a hard but good days work, and cold toes from working in the barn too long, all those things that I felt as a child with my horse experience. Anyways, I got to connect to that dream for a moment in time and it did my soul good. I'm sure my mother-in-law has no idea how much she gave me with that gift, but I know I will remember it for a lifetime.
So, hoping that all of you shared a peaceful holiday season. I'm looking forward to another weekend of celebrating since my parents are coming down from Maine on New Year's Day and we'll be doing Christmas for my side of the family then. Can't wait to see them and have the boys spend some quality time with their Grma and Papa. I'm going to be careful what I eat since I'm still trying not to regain anything but hope to have one or two special bites of yummy stuff, enjoy too much noise and the warmth of family I've had my whole life. After this weekend, we're into January and a new year. I hope that we'll be able to have a better year on some fronts and stay healthy and happy for 2009.

Wishing you your own country Christmas memories, ~Peacemom

Sunday, December 21, 2008

It's beginning to look a lot like Winter Solstice...

Just hear those sleigh bells jinglin', ring ting tingle a tune....

How about that snow, folks? I'm sitting here lamenting about how I didn't have any Christmas spirit and then we got a beautiful snow fall Friday night into most of yesterday and now, hear we're gonna get hit with another "5-8"". It's powder. Perfect for skiing and snowshoeing, we're gonna break them out today. The kids aren't as happy about it as we are since it doesn't make great snowman/fort building, but they are enjoying the fun of wooshing down the hill on their saucers.

Music Man and I were discussing the kids and their snow adventures yesterday. I told him, so far, my favorite part about winter has been watching them sliding down the hill on their saucers, giggling like mad men the whole way down. And my most favorite part is that I'm not out there, pulling them back up the hill a thousand times because they can't figure that part out for themselves. Now that Maestro's got the hang of it, and Little Red's legs are long enough to navigate the snow, I get to watch from the warmth of the window as they slide for hours on end. As a child, I used to love to slide. Of those of us fortunate enough to have the luxury of a fresh snowfall to explore, it was a highlight. I'm utterly amazed as well at the number of snow days they call for the kids here. Where I'm from, they go to school. Your bus isn't running because the road's not plowed, oh well, your father can bring you. Streets are icy? Oh well, just be more careful. I had literally 2 snowdays called in the 8 years I went to school in northern New Hampshire. Here, they call it off if there's over 4 inches of snow. Now, Maestro has not had school in over a week because of the ice storm, and that's a little different, I guess, but they're gonna be in school until July at this rate.

Watching my little men sliding, and learning to do things that older children can do makes me tear up. It's no surprise to you that I'm a big softy, I've eluded to that before, so cut me some slack with that. Seeing them grown out of last year's snow pants, carving their path down the newly fallen glitter, hats caked in snow as they twirl around time and again flying down the hill and giggling like it's the happiest moment of their lives. It's a wonderful site to see. And you can be sure, I'm ready with the cocoa and warm popcorn when they come in. We sit at the table and enjoy those treats together (okay, I'm South Beaching it now, so I drink tea, but you get the picture), warming up and talking about this fast run, or that terrific crash and I know that these memories will stay with them.

These are the times as a child I remembered with my barn friends. We'd hook the resident pony, Snooper, up to plastic toboggans (oh, such a dangerous and foolish idea, but hey, we were kids and no one was telling us not to. Seemed like a good idea at the time). We would ride on the toboggan like a surf board, with him merrily pulling us along, often times completely freaking out from the sound of the toboggan behind him, and trotting along way too quickly. But, we'd fly along, feeling the bitter breeze on our cheeks and feeling somehow that sense of perfectness. Moments not to be repeated and unfortunately I can't provide for my children not having that homestead we aspire to. However, I treasure the memories I know they are making for themselves, and we'll have more, now that they are older and can appreciate the fun of snowshoeing and cross country skiing and spending that time together outdoors. We hope that when they are older, we will have the house the friends want to hang out in, and the snowshoeing adventures that include their friends and let them make those memories for themselves in whatever way will come.

Newly fallen snow is a time to rejoice in being a child, isn't it? You don't have to worry about clearing the walkways and driveways and the horrid commute that's coming your way as soon as tire hits pavement. None of those things are your concern. You merely need to worry about who's saucer goes faster and keeping the snow out of your boots and that pesky helmet your mother makes you wear from pushing your hat too low over your eyes. But the moments I hope they also remember are the ones that I take concerns to provide, like warm popcorn and hot cocoa with the BIG marshmallows and sitting around the table talking about the fun runs down the hills in the fading light of day. These are the great memories that form a childhood and a life, don't they?

Have a cup of cocoa and some popcorn for me, ~Peacemom

Friday, December 19, 2008

Winter, ahhh, bring it on!

Howdy All,
Well, we survived what I'm sure will come to be known as the "Great Ice Storm of '08". Thursday night, our power went out at about 10:30, which came as no great surprise to any of us, I'm sure. I knew we were in for the long haul with that mess, just no way around that. It wasn't until the next morning that we could see just how bad it was. We could hear trees cracking and breaking all around us, we have woods 20 feet from our house, and it was intense. We prayed that the majestic old oak, that's about 15 feet from our house and quite old, would be able to withstand the pressure and weight of all the ice. It did lose some of it's older branches and all the young birches surrounding our house went ass over tea kettle and were bent over in the road making it impassable for a time. Beautiful, though. Everything glimmering and shining in the sun that made a welcome and brief appearance on Friday for awhile helping to free some of the trees from their icy straight jackets.

After we did not get power back by Friday afternoon, we went digging through our camping stuff and found what we needed. Luckily, because we are on town water supply, we did not lose running water since we don't have a well pump. I was also able to cook thanks to a propane stove, and we used that to heat the kitchen from time to time as well. About 7 years ago, when Ames was going out of business, I found in their clearance section a little propane heater. This was really designed to heat small spaces and can even be used in a tent. No open flame, no carbon monoxide problems. And the little workhorse runs like a champ for 8 hours on one of those little Coleman canister tanks. So, we had propane lanterns from our camping gear, the little heater that saved us, running water and ability to cook. We did okay. The heater was not making it balmy in here by any means, but it did get it up to the low 50's most of the time. We just moved it floor to floor, wherever we were spending our time. The other item that saved us was the little emergency LED lights I bought at Sam's Club earlier this year. I saw them and thought they were a great idea. They come on automatically if the power goes out, have a little rechargeable battery in them and they were just wonderful. Because they are LED, they don't use much power and the kids were able to have their nightlight for 3 nights before they ran out of juice. And for those of you who have young children, you KNOW how important that nightlight is to their sanity. Especially when there's no other light anywhere around them. Those little lights kept the monsters at bay most of the time.

It was bizarre in that it felt like the world was standing still for some reason, like time had stopped and we were reluctant to leave our house. One reason was that we really felt like we needed to stay to keep the house warm. The second night we didn't have power, it was down to about 10 degrees outside, so the little heater was having a challenging time keeping up with that. And we couldn't leave it running unattended, we just didn't feel that safe about it all. After 5 days of no power, well, let's just say I was feeling the frustrations of a frontier wife. Getting a little tired of boiling water to wash dishes, and wearing so many layers of clothes and blankets to try to stay warm enough and the aggravation of having to throw away hundreds of dollars worth of food in the fridge and freezer was getting to me. I have mentioned to you in the past that I'm a coupon crazed shopper, so to see all my hard work tossed in a garbage bag raised the blood pressure up a few notches.

Not having power for 6 days truly helps you see some things. One is, we're completely and totally spoiled with modern conveniences. Our lives are so easy compared to less developed parts of the world, and certainly easier then the generations who've come before us. Lucky and lazy is what we are. The next thing it helped me discover is that my kids are not as addicted to tv as I feared they would be. They could have cared less about the fact that it was not on, didn't even ask about it. I think they were enjoying the differentness of it all and having Mommy and Daddy's attention so much since we couldn't do much else. We played plenty of board games and hung out together and it was nice to have that family time together. Another thing I discovered is that the woodstove that's been sitting in our living room for 2 years unconnected is getting connected in 2009. This time would have been so much less stressful for us if we just would have had adequate heat. We've got the stove, we've go the wood, the piping is our main problem. It will cost us $2,100 to get the piping for it and we've just not got that laying around. But, perhaps I can save enough with coupons this year to make that happen. I've got to, we live in New England for crying out loud. Some form of alternate heat is just good sense.
Something else that I learned is that there are angels all around us. Our neighbor, who is on another grid then we are got power back before we did. He came over on the last night we didn't have power to ask if we wanted to use his generator. At that point, the $800 worth of food in the freezer in the basement was on the verge of trouble and so I jumped at his offer. Music Man had to rewire the furnace so that it would have a plug (which I'm ever so thankful he can do, he's just amazing with the stuff he knows or can figure out, it blows my mind sometimes), and we got heat and cold in their appropriate places and the food in the freezer was saved and we were warm. Our neighbor delivered the generator (no small task, they weigh a ton) brought cords, let us know how to get the plug supplies if we needed them as the hardware stores had been out. Even offered us 15 gallons of gas to run it. All this at no charge, just because he's a nice man. Wonderful to live in a neighborhood where we will take care of each other when push comes to shove. He and his family were our angels that night because we were tired of being cold and stressed out from it all and in that moment, it would have been hard to find a better kindness then that.
I am also so very thankful to the men and women of the power companies. We had crews come from all over the northeast, NY, Conn, Penn, RI, and even Canada come to get us up and running. This was no light feat, let me tell you. We were a mess here, folks. Roads blocked off, trees on lines all over and I told you it was 10 degrees and windy and they were all out there getting it under control, fixing it up and never getting thanked at all. Truly nameless heros to all the people in our area. We did not get power back as soon as some, my sister only lost hers for about 10 hours, but we got it sooner then others. It was so comforting to know that we would get it back eventually if we were patient. We would get it back. That's really something if you consider places in the world where the power goes out and they have no hope of restoration, like Iraq. We knew we would eventually and that's due to the people working the frontlines in the cold, snow and rain, leaving their families behind, making the sacrifices to help others out. Those are angels and heros in my book.

Other angels in those days included our families that offered us a warm place to stay once their power came up, hot showers and a place to go to divert the kids attention from it for a while. Their prayers, even from a great distance for the ones that could offer only prayers, were a comfort for us. We're thankful for the kindnesses we received from so many places in our lives, it was amazing.

The other thing it helped me realize is that solar is the way to go. We'd have lost it for a short time if the panels were too covered with snow, but we could have cleaned them off and been on our merry lives. Solar, wind, it's gotta be done. In our "forever house" we know we'll have solar. Wouldn't it be great if everyone had solar and not only is it totally emission free, but it's here for us just about every day. Amazing and something to think about, huh?

Wishing you warm homes and angels of your own, ~Peacemom

Thursday, December 11, 2008

South Beach what?

Hello All!
I'm in the midst of the phase one of the South Beach Diet. Having heart concerns and blood pressure issues as I've turned 40 has prompted me to get on the band wagon once again. How many times have I lost weight in my adult life? About 120? I could literally be a nutritionist for all I know about food, but I researched a plan I thought would fit into my lifestyle the best while still affording me nutritious REAL food (that's a must, no bars, shakes or whatevers, I only eat the real deal, and no fake sugar either). When I checked with my primary care doctor he gave me the big thumbs up to do this one, said he had a lot of patients that have had success with this one. So...about a week and a half ago, I started the transition.

The first phase of this is designed to help you get past and eliminate cravings for sugar and things that are quickly converted to sugar in your blood. Believe it or not, even corn and potatoes are in this group, they go to sugar in your bloodstream pretty quickly. So, in this phase, no sugar, no grain carbs, no fruit. Now, that's a tough one for me on so many levels, but we'll start with the time of year. I love sugar and sweets. I think it's safe to say I'm a sugar addict. Now, I don't let myself have that much of it because of that, but I do love the sweet treats of Christmas season and will usually let myself get to chomping on them. Two weeks ago, I was told by my doc to get off my bp med for three weeks because I was having all kind of problems with my heart and he wanted to see if the med was the problem. Now, for those who've taken atenolol and tried to lose weight on it, you know, it's virtually impossible. So, I was thrilled to be given a 3 week reprieve from that little pill and decided I would capitalize on that time off to just start the weight loss and getting healthier. My main goal in this process is not just to lose weight, but moreso to get healthy and hopefully off the bp med for good.

Now, when I made this resolve, which I've done countless times before in my life having battled this weight war since puberty, I didn't really consider how much of this would be right in the heart of my prime sugar time. Through this time, I've had to bake 4 dozen cookies for a bake sale, go to breakfast with Santa at Maestro's next year school, with some delicious looking fluffy pancakes. Then there were donuts and cocoa after we cut down our Christmas tree, and onto a Christmas party with wonderfully catered food that included a chocolate fountain with cream puffs and marshmallows to dip in among all the other delicious food offered. I stuck to 3 scallops wrapped in bacon and the vegie tray. There was a brie wrapped in philo with a raspberry sauce that just looked to die for. Then smelling McDonalds in the car on the way home from the party as we stopped to let the kids have the rare treat. I was starving and so grumpy by the time I got home, it was not funny. The next day was a birthday party with cake and pizza. Those of you who know me well, know that cake is my favorite food in the world. I said a polite "no, thank you" and continued on with conversation with someone I'd just met. This is also very stressful for me because I am not the most socially gracious person, and meeting new people is hard for me because the number of times I put my foot in my mouth is incredible. So, I've taken to being more of a wallflower then I ever did when I was younger. I think some time with some of my extended family has taught me that no one really wants to hear what is on my mind most of the time, so unless I can just graciously nod and smile, I try to keep quiet. This does not always work, sometimes that personality gene just bursts out, but I do try. Anyways, so as you could see from the retelling of temptations along with stresses of meeting new people at two separate occasions, I was so set up to fail. But, I'm proud to say, that I kept my resolve and have not touched the sweets, carbs or fruit in almost a week and a half.

Now, come Monday, I will be able to add a little back in with a whole grain choice and one serving of fruit a day for the first week, then increasing it from there as I can do it. So far, I'm doing well, better then I've done in a long time. I think looking at the faces of my loving hubby and kiddos every day is helping me keep my promise to myself that it's time to get healthier. I want to be here to see those boys graduate, go to college, get married, and whatever their lives will bring. And I want to be here to retire with my hubby and do some of the living that we're putting on hold to raise our boys now. Life is so uncertain, for sure, but when I have control over this part of it, it's time to really make it happen. So, I will keep you posted as time goes on with how I'm doing with this, but so far, so really, really good. Keep me in your prayers for continued success.

Sugar plum dreams to you, ~Peacemom

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Good Morning to you!

It's December 2nd and today is my father's birthday. Dad, if you're reading this today-Happy Birthday to you! Just wanted to get that in there. And also tell you that Maestro's best friend, Ashley, shares your birthday, only...she's just six.

On to other thoughts. I woke up at 4:32 this morning thinking about my hand mixer. I have no idea why or how it came into my thoughts, but I was thinking about how they don't make equipment like they used to. Even just 14 short years ago. I bought that hand mixer when I was living alone for the first time in my own little apartment. It was a cute one bedroom in a big place that was a single family home at one time, but then converted to apartments. So, something with character, you see. My bathroom was bigger then my living area in that place. I paid $350 per month to live there and it was quite an adventure to be by myself for the first time, truly alone. There was an older man that lived under me and he used to fish-A LOT. One time, he went fishing somewhere in Maine and caught a bunch of landlocked salmon. He nicely shared some of it with me, some of the best tasting salmon I've ever had, so fresh and yummy. He was a nice man, I wonder what ever happened to him? Do you do that? Meet people along the journey of your life and wonder where they are now? Of course, he seemed older to me at the time because I was in my early 20's, he was probably in his 50's. Now that I'm 40 myself, it's hard to remember that people in their 20's see me as "older", especially when I have kids the same age as they do!

Ah, but back to the mixer. I was thinking that it's really seen my life with me. I love to cook (big surprise there, right?), and so have used it quite a lot. It's seen the first cake I baked a friend for his birthday, the first cookies I made for an ex-boyfriend (who I spent way too much time on), the new adventures in cooking when I learned I truly love to cook, and countless batches of Christmas cookies using my grandmother's sugar cookie recipe. It even has the coveted honor of being the mixer to make over 100 home made corn and date muffins that we served at our wedding reception. With the help of my parents, we managed to get 65 people fed while still doing the whole wedding shabang. A word to the wise, don't think you can do this part of the wedding yourselves. You're not meant to be host and bride (and flower arranger, and decorator, and sew flower girl dresses the list goes on) at the same time, it's too much, just trust me on this one.

It's the mixer our children have used to learn to cook, and if you scroll back, you can see a picture of Maestro whipping up some bread batter with it, and previously I posted a picture of Little Red using it. I feel like this mixer is a true friend to me. It's been there for all the big milestones in my life. Now, my breadmaker that started to flake paint and had to be tossed was a fly-by-night friend, didn't have the fortitude to last through my bumblings at bread making...I got pretty good at it before it had to hit the garbage. Traitor.

I realize that you may be wondering where the heck my mind really dwells. The reason that I've had these revelations is that I have been pondering replacing it with a more modern mixer, maybe even a stand mixer. I know it would get plenty of use here, especially this time of the year when I'm always making cookies, bars or cakes for others. Of course, I've been pondering it for quite some time. I like the idea of a stand mixer...but then there's my trusted friend tucked away in the cabinet behind the grater. It doesn't take up as much space as a stand mixer would. You know, really, they are a bit ostentatious, aren't they? I have a very small house crammed with 4 people and all their stuff, and can I really make that kind of a space commitment? My little mixer works just fine. It does have something loose in it that rattles around as you mix, but it still works just fine. I think I'm gonna hang on to that ol' girl. She's tried and true and never lets me down. Maybe someday I'll look into that stand mixer, but for today, the little white mixer that could will due the duty. I think I need to get a batch of Christmas cookies in the oven today...time to dig her out.

Wishing you trusted friends in your kitchen, ~Peacemom

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Look Out, Martha Stewart!

Well, I'm going to be cooking Thanksgiving dinner for my family as well as my sister and her girls. It's been a LONG time since I cooked the whole meal since we usually go to my other sister's house and celebrate with her family and in laws. This year, I wanted to stay home and she (or should I say my brother-in-law, since he does most of the cooking) didn't want to cook a big meal, so it worked out well for all of us. I called my other sister to let her know what the Thanksgiving dress code would be. Music Man, the boys and I worked out that we thought that it should be semi-formal, which around here means flannel pants instead of sweat pants. Maestro added that he wanted fleece tops on all and Music Man wanted slippers. So, you see how we will be dressed at our fancy Thanksgiving table, right? Flannel pants, fleece tops and slippers on our cold tile floors. When I called my sis, she said "now, that's my kind of Thanksgiving!". Yep, we're going for comfort this year, ya'll!

It's been a while since I cooked a turkey, like a whole turkey. So, I started to do a little research online for turkey thawing times. The ones I ran across said that 4 days should be plenty to thaw it in the bottom of the refridgerator. Ummm, yeah, right. I went in there this morning and when I knocked on the large lump in the bag, I just about broke a knuckle. Three days into the thawing and the thing is still frozen solid. So, I pulled it out and put it on the counter (just like all the good cookbooks say NOT to do), and it's gonna sit there today until I get some softness to that lump. Can't wait to see what's gonna happen tomorrow when I've gotta get the thing in the oven at 4:00 am, sure hope it's gonna be thawed by then! Since we keep our heat at about 62 degrees anyways, I think there's not that much difference between that and the fridge, right? It's going to be an adventure for me, anyways.

I thought I might share my mashed potato recipe with you. I actually got this published in a cookbook last year, one of the Gooseberry Patch compilation dealies. I submit, they test and print, then I get a free copy of the cookbook. I'm honored to have had two of my recipes make the cut, so that's nice. I got two free cookbooks, both autumn inspired, so that makes me pretty happy. I was a little miffed to have them change the title of my recipe from "Warm and Cozy Mashed Potatoes" to "The Creamiest Mashed Potatoes". I never would have called them that, it sounds too boastful for my taste, and doesn't Warm and Cozy sound comforting? Well, what can you do, right? So, here it is, hope you enjoy them, and Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

Warm and Cozy Mashed Potatoes

5-6 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes

3 oz pkg creamed cheese, thinly sliced and then softened

3-4 T. butter, room temp.

4-5 T. half-and-half or milk

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

salt and pepper to taste

2 T fresh chives, sniped or 2 T dried chives

Garnish: additional butter

Cover potatoes with water in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Boil potatoes until tender when pierced with a fork, about 15 minutes once they begin to boil. Drain; mash with either a hand masher or electric mixer on medium speed. Add cream cheese, butter and half-and-half or milk, garlic, salt and pepper. Mix well until butter and cream cheese are melted. Fold in chives; top with a dollop or two of butter. Serves 6.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thankfulness and Grace

As I sit here tonight, listening to Music Man read some fun stories to the little anklebiters, I'm struck by how thankful I am for my little family unit. Thanksgiving's proximity surely has something to do with that, but lately, I've been feeling very thankful.

Music Man has a job. It's not the job he'd prefer, or even one he likes very much, but as I am, he is thankful to be employed. In this time of uncertainty, for all that are gainfully employed, it's a good time to focus on the fact that bringing home the bacon is a reward unto itself. Since he's been laid off so many times, it's truly a blessing for us that he's working in a company that seems to be plenty busy. He's on mandatory overtime, which is also helping us with the upcoming Christmas giving. I'm making the majority of my gifts this year, but there are the few things that Santa will need help obtaining, and that will be ever so helpful.

I'm so very thankful for the blessing of Music Man's love in my life. It took me a long time to find him, but boy, was he worth the wait. I can't really begin to express how I've grown as a human since meeting him. Not only that I've learned to compromise, listen more, love more deeply, appreciate the small things that come with a long term relationship, and the security of sleeping next to him every night. It's also that I've learned to let go of things that held my heart in the past, to forgive myself for mistakes I've made and to forgive other people for their mistakes as well. We're all just people trying to get through our lives with some semblance of meaning to our days. But, back to Music Man...he's generous, loving, compassionate, and on top of all that he's a great father and husband as well. This is always a work in progress for him since his role model for these things was less then terrific. But, he was lucky in his life to have uncles and a grandfather that taught him a lot about this, and for that I know, he is thankful.

I am also thankful for the blessings of my two boys. Words can't really describe how wonderful they are and how much I have grown as a person since becoming their mother. There are the things about motherhood that I don't especially cherish when I'm in the moments, like taking 10 months to potty train Little Red, or the amount of patience it takes not to have a knee jerk reaction to one of them back talking me, things like that. But, they have also allowed my heart to grow bigger by just being here to love them. I remember when my niece was born (she's now 11). I stood in her nursery watching her sleep, and wondered with a deep internal ache, when would it be my turn? When would I find the man I was supposed to build my family with? Would it even happen, or was that a dream that would be unfulfilled? So, you see why I'm thankful every day for the blessings I have been given of this partner in my life. And these wonderful children to love and care for. Healthy, smart, intelligent, sometimes completely exasperating children. I had so much love to give and was afraid I would never be able to. Now, here they are, and it is all so worth the wait to have them surrounding me. I went through some rough times to get here, but I'm even thankful for those since they brought me to the appreciation of what I have that I may not have realized otherwise. I know how lucky I am and how good I have it and I don't forget it, ever.

I'm thankful for a warm home and food on the table (and overflowing pantry!) and cars that get us where we need to go safely. I know these are all things that most people have, but I don't take them for granted. Even when the situation here isn't ideal, such as when our neighbors are being idiots, I'm still thankful for this warm home. So many are without even that basic necessity, and my heart goes out to them. I feel that even moreso now that the days are turning colder.

So, in this holiday season of counting our blessings, there are so many to be thankful for. I'm physically basically healthy (with a few hiccups along the way), I have passions in my life that keep me going on even tough days, I have a stick-to-iteveness that lets me get most of what I set out to accomplish in life, and that stubborn streak in me gets things done as well. I'm even thankful for my husband's packratness that drives me to distraction, for without that in my life, there would be no wonderful warm partner to brave this world with (though, Honey, I could do without the procrastination thing!). In any case, my life is full of riches, not monetary, but we're getting by. Riches of the most important kind, good and loving friends, a wonderful family (here in my home and extended as well) and love to cover us all. Happy Thanks-giving, please take a moment and count your blessings as well. It's a great way to pass some time, and guaranteed to make you feel warm and cozy inside.

Blessing and Thankfulness to you, ~Peacemom

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

It's Like My Part Time Job!

Hello All,

I promised I would post about one of my other little skills...couponing. Last January, we were planning to send Little Red to preschool in the upcoming fall season. We knew we did not have an extra $200 each month to pay his tuition, so were trying to figure out a way to squeek that out of the already screamingly tight budget. Since I handle the money in our house, it was up to me to figure out how to make this happen.

Well, after considerable fretting and trying to find a job that would fit my stay at home mother hours (read: nights- sleep, who needs sleep?) I started to pray for some guidance. It was weighing very heavily on my heart and I didn't know how we would make this happen for him with the financial situation what it is. So, I talked to my higher power (you may call it what you like, it's different for each of us), and asked for the knowledge and to be shown the way to make it work. Now, you may or may not believe in that, and that's okay, but it's always worked for me. I felt that I could somehow do this, I just wasn't sure how.

About a week and a half later, I was reading MSN.com (which I rarely read) and "accidentally" (I don't believe in coincidences) came upon an article about couponing and how people would save all this money with using coupons. I thought, like most people, that it really isn't worth the time to do this, a few dollars here and there, what difference would this make? But, I was intrigued when one woman said she was able to save 70% off her grocery bills. Now, I was paying attention. So, I read further and found a link to the message board that was a Godsend to our family. On this board there are many people that list how they save, how to stretch meals and shop coupons with sales. The first time I followed the advice on this board, I save $30.00 on a $120.00 grocery bill. I was ecstatic-and hooked. I looked at it this way. That's $30.00 I just kept in our pockets. $30.00 is a lot of money in our house, let me tell you. I don't spend $30.00 on myself ever, so that was amazing. The next time I shopped, I was able to save 50% at CVS on toiletries, shampoo, tp, toothpaste, stuff like that. And I earned money back to use on my next visit. Basically, I brought home $40 worth of necessities for free because I earned $39.00 to use on my next visit. Okay, now I was completely hooked. After almost a year of doing this, saving is second nature. If I can't save at least 50% on each receipt, I'm bummed out, it's kinda funny.

I also have been able to stock some shelves in the basement with food. This was something Michael and I discussed wanting to do in case of emergency. We do live in New England where ice storms can incapacitate places for long periods of time and we thought it was a good idea to try to get some stuff stocked up for this situation. Before now, I could not make ends meet with what we needed every week, never mind trying to buy more for emergencies. Now, I have 4 shelves, and they are deep shelves, so overflowing with food, a freezer full of meats, veggies and frozen fruit, I'm out of room to put anything else. And I did this all while saving money every month. Believe me, I say prayers of thanks for giving me the knowledge to make this happen for my family.

I was even able to start shopping for donations to our local food pantry. In June, I brought them over $400 worth of food that I paid only $28.58 for. This is because I clip the coupon for a product, wait for the rock bottom lowest price, then snatch them up, often for free. I will buy more then one paper each week so that I get multiple copies of coupons, then shop with those. The papers pay for themselves easily with all the additional coupons. Anyway, right now, I have over $300.00 worth of food going to the food pantry in town next week, and I think I've paid about $12.00 for it all together. Now why am I not keeping that for my family you might be asking? Well, because we only eat food that's minimally processed (except for cereal, Music Man is a cereal addict). Lots of people will eat things that are instant or canned that we will not, so I just watch the flyers, clip the coupon and wait to see how low it goes before I buy it to donate.

How could we have known that last January our economy would fall apart and that gas would go up so much along with the price of everything else? We couldn't have, but if I had not been doing this, we would not have been making it right now. We would not have been able to get through and still stay in our house that we had to pay way too much for 4 years ago. New England is very expensive and the salaries don't keep up with the prices. But, because I said those prayers and was shown the way, not only are we getting by, but I have also been shown a way to help others with the skills I've been taught. This makes me incredibly happy since I do so value helping others. All of this from a prayer to show me how to figure out how to send Little Red to preschool...and he wasn't even ready to go this fall after all.

I sat down to figure out how much I've saved this year alone. This number doesn't include the amount of money I've saved by not even having to shop for almost 2 months, except for fresh produce and milk, while I had to get rid of some of the stockpile, I outgrew the space for it (or my "store" as I like to refer to it). Are you sitting down? Because I had to add it three times to figure out that it really was right...$6,980.13. Yes, that's what I said-almost $7,000. Now, you may not think you spend that much in food all year, but if you add up what you spend each month, it's amazing. I'm feeding my self, Music Man, Maestro and Little Red and over $1,000 in donations to the food pantry and another family I help out (you know who you are, and you're very welcome), that cost me pennies on the dollar. And to think, I didn't think it was worth the time. You learn something new every day.

Wishing for your little prayers to be answered, ~Peacemom

Thursday, November 13, 2008

okay, I'll confess...

Hello All,
It's been 10 days since my last post and I feel like I'm slacking on the job, but honestly, we've just been out straight here. We've all had some sort of flu/cold thing going on and poor Music Man has not had a voice for 5 days now. He and Little Red are coughing all night long and it's been challenging for all of us to get a good night's sleep. I even fell asleep during my absolute favorite show last night...and we're only talking 9:30 here, folks. Kinda pathetic. But, I woke up after 5 minutes or so and was able to catch the end of it. It's that darned electric blanket!

Since the weather has (finally!) turned colder here, I'm preheating the bed by turning on the electric blanket a 1/2 hour before I'm going to crawl in. Then, I put on my shorts and tee shirt (I sleep in them in the winter because invariably I wake up sweating in flannel sheets and a pre-warmed bed!), teeth chattering and crawl in to that little cocoon. It's guaranteed to lull my old bones to sleep in minutes. I never sleep with it on because once the human oven crawls in next to me, I don't need anything else. Music Man operates at about 500,000 btu's, I swear. How someone can put out the body heat he does and still be cold, I'll never know. But, the cozy feeling I get from having cold air around me, but the warm bed is just great.

My sister asked me what we'd like for Christmas last year. Since she doesn't fancy herself crafty, at the top of our list was an electric blanket. The kids room tends to stay pretty warm in the winter since they have 3 walls that are interior to the house, but our room is definitely colder with two larger walls exposed to the north winds. I pretty much never ask for a frivolous gift when someone asks me what I want. I think it's the minimalist in me, I've got Yankee thriftiness built into me somehow. I just don't want lots of stuff cluttering up my life and so if there's something that I would use for sure, like the blanket, then I ask for that. I also asked for a dutch oven and got two of those also. One from my parents and one from my other sister. I LOVE the dutch oven! Very practical and I use it all the time. Anyways, back to the blanket. My sister splurged on us and got us a really great blanket, way fancier then anything I would have bought for myself. It has two heat zones, so Music Man can set his what he likes, and I can set mine what I like and we're both happy as clams. It also has two separate boxes to digitally control the heat settings. I had an electric blanket many years ago that was a hand me down from my grandmother and it had a little pointy thing on the control that let you click it to "high-med-lo". So, when I unpacked this blanket, I was amazed at the amount of cords, boxes and controls that went with it. I didn't know even electric blankets were so high tech these days! See what I mean about me living in another time, things like that just surprise me. I just never thought there was a need for all that technology surrounding even electric blankets. You learn something new every day. Anyways, this is by far a great gift to give to someone. We keep the heat set very low in our house, as most people are these days. I've lived on my own with the heat set ridiculously low most of the time. I can't stand paying heat bills, it drives me crazy. And that's really pretty silly coming from someone who lives in New England and needs to turn the heat on at least 4 months out of the year. But, my motto is, if you're cold, then put another sweater on, wool socks, whatever it takes. My kids never complain about being cold, mostly because they don't sit still long enough to get cold, but I have the reply to "I'm cold" all ready. It's akin to the one my parents had for "I'm so bored" when we were kids...Well, then, I have a chore for you to do that will warm you right up. Go split some wood." Hehehe, I can't wait to use that one on my too-soon-to-be teenagers....or rake some leaves...or shovel some snow...hehehe, it's gonna be great.

Christmas season is fast approaching and I'm a complete Christmas NUT. I usually get the shopping done for the people that I'm going to buy for all throughout the year. I hit sales right after Christmas for the following Christmas, and just store stuff in the attic. This year, with all the coupon shopping I've been doing (I'm going to post about that in my next post), I've not been concentrating much on the sales for other items. Just trying to get through on what we have without worrying about Christmas.

Christmas has become WAY too commercial for me anyways. I really enjoy making gifts by hand, I think that maybe it runs in my family. Or maybe it's just a latent thing we all possess and some haven't tapped into. I find a lot more satisfaction by shopping for fabric for a particular gift for a particular person, then making just the thing I think they would enjoy. One year, both my sister's families had pop up campers so I did some woodburning and came up with signs for their campsites (still haven't made one for our camper yet!), I've made quilts, doll clothes, knit scarves and blankets, stuff like that. And I love receiving a hand made gift. Knowing that someone put the time and love into an item to make it just for me makes me very comforted inside. There's something about that process that is nourishing.

I see people around me that stress out about Christmas. It's like a long list of gifts they have to buy, parties they have to attend, places they need to be. In the grips of all that, it's completely forgotten on occasion what the whole purpose of Christmas really is about. Not only celebrating the birth of Christ, which most people know but many don't tap into. But it's also about giving to others, it's not supposed to be a chore. If it's done in the right spirit, it's wholly fulfilling for both people. And I for one, don't want a gift from anyone that it stressed them out to have to buy. I would so much prefer that they make me something, or if that's not possible, just donate money in my name to a cause I am passionate about. I am so fortunate in my life, I have so much and I would much rather that someone in a poor country was able to get a chicken in my name...with that chicken, sell eggs and make money to send their children to school. So many lives improved from that one gift. That means so much more to me and my heart then a gift someone fretted over and once found just checked off their to-do list.

Stress is not a natural part of the season, it's the pressure we put on ourselves to get just the right gift or go to just the right parties. I hope that this Christmas, with so many struggling in our country financially, that it could be rediscovered that small things are actually big things. I have this very romantic notion in my mind of the way Christmas used to be, when things were not too commercial, and everything wasn't "made in China", but made by hand or bought from someone local that could make something you could not. Like when children got a hand made toy, or someone knit a scarf for a friend, or people circulated the neighborhood caroling and stopping at their neighbors houses for cocoa and cookies aftewards. What happened to these moments of togetherness in our lives? Where did the value of something made by hand and with love go? When did children start to get almost a mortgage payment worth of gifts every Christmas? I just don't know, but I for one long for the simpler times that were filled with more love, caring, peace, and remembering the birth of one child so long ago is the reason we celebrate it at all.

As I said, I never know what direction these posts will take when I sit down to pontificate. Christmas is on my mind as I am making some gifts for my nieces to give to them on Christmas. I know you're probably thinking, it's a little early for Christmas talk, isn't it? Well, that's where my crazy mind starts to dwell long before the day arrives...I find the joy and comfort in the days preceeding it as well. I've also been looking for a cut-your-own tree place that we've not been to, but that's a whole other story for a later post.

Wishing you simplicity and peace for your holiday season, ~Peacemom

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Let's Make Some History, People!

Hello All You Fellow Citizens Of These United States of America,

Okay, so those of you who know me, know I am not the quintessential "Patriot". I love our country, I love the people and places in it, but I am less then thrilled with most of our government's policies, lies, and corruptions. I'm also a complete pacifist and so when we waged war on Iraq, that was a sad day in my heart. When we became the agressor and not the defender, it made me very sad indeed. Having a nephew over there in harm's way ate me up inside, and we are so thankful that he came home with his body intact.

I've seen my family's financial position become most tenuous over the last 4 years and having had a husband that's been laid off just about every two years for the last 10 doesn't help. It's been starting over every two years.

But, we are not a family that lives as victims, and so today, Music Man and I are going to cast our vote for what we can only see as an improvement over where we, in our country, are today. I have my doubts about whether the election results will not be tampered with (can anyone say ACORN??) and having them done on computer makes the results so much easier to skew. But, as Johnny Clegg sings, ONE MAN, ONE VOTE! And so I will stand in the lines with the kids in tow and show them what that means to me. To see all the people at the polls, signs, and energy will be a good experience for them to see what people who feel empowered can accomplish.

So, I urge you, even if you were just not going to vote, use your right and privilege and get out there and cast your vote. Each one of us, one vote at a time, will make the magic happen. It does not matter to me who you are voting for (okay, it does a little, but it's your business) history is going to be made today. Whether it's a black man for president or a woman for vice president, it's never been done in our country. Either way, equal rights for equal citizens, so let's make some history today, folks!!!

Wishing you your sense of empowerment, ~PEACEmom

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Doctors, Shots and Whatnots

Today is a dentist appointment for me, Monday was a flu shot and tomorrow is the cardiologist. It's a week of Mommy taking care of Mommy, I guess! The boys are up for their flu shots next week and Music Man's is tomorrow. Since I have asthma, I decided a couple years ago to start getting the flu shot. It never really seemed all that pertinent until two years ago I got a flu that caused me to have almost nightly asthma attacks, for two solid months. It was no fun and I decided last year to take the plunge and get it done. No, it's not fun, but yes, I feel it's necessary. Just the thing I tell the boys when they balk at the idea.

When I sat down in the clinic to get the shot, I had the boys come over and sit with me so they could see that it was no big deal. Maestro is NO fan of needles and he was cowering and freaking out just a little bit. As the needle slid into my arm muscle, I wanted to flinch a bit, but I sat like a rock. Maestro said, "Doesn't that hurt, Mommy? Because it looks like it hurts!". I won't lie to my boys (okay except about Santa and the Tooth Fairy, and that is not without deep reservations), so I told him, "Yes, it hurts about as much as a mosquito bite". Well, the look on his face told me there's no way he was buying that. So, I told him, it makes my arm muscle hurt a little for a couple days, but that's what we need to do to stay healthy. I do believe it helped me somewhat last year as I got the flu in the spring, but it only last about 4 days and did not make it down into my lungs. Hallelujah for that little miracle.

So, next week is the boys shot. I learned a trick from Parents magazine that actually seems to help them. If you rub with some pressure on the spot where the needle will go in for about 15 seconds before they put the needle in, it doesn't hurt. I don't know if it's because the area becomes less sensitive to pain from the rubbing, or maybe it's all psychological, but it really does work. When the boys were having their shots as babies, I would do this after I learned about it and it did the trick. No more crying! Now, after the muscle starts to hurt the next day, that's another story altogether, but at the moment of injection, no sweat. When Maestro was a baby, Music Man had to come with me to the doctor's office to do the battery of shots he had to receive. I was unable to hold him while they stuck him with needle after needle, crying and in pain. It did not help that I was irrational with post partum depression, either, but I just couldn't do it. And the day he had to go to the eye doctor to remove a tiny piece of metal from his eye when he was just 3 months old was impossible. Music Man had to hold him while I wept in the corner, putting my little tiny baby through that misery. Anyways, by the time Little Red came along, I was old hat at the shot game and had learned the rubbing trick and it was ever so much better and I was able to take them by myself. It's funny as a new mother, the things that will torment you and by the time the second (or more!) come along, you're so over it. I still don't like to see my children in pain, but it doesn't cause me to lose control of my emotions the way it used to. Thank God for those small miracles as well.

Not much else to talk about today, you just never know where my mind will lead me when I sit down to write. I never think up a topic ahead of time, things just come as they do to my fevered little mind and I subject you to my stream of consciousness writing. Thanks for taking the time to read them, even if they are a bit strange at times!

Wishing you peace on this blustery NH day, ~Peacemom

Monday, October 27, 2008

Apples and Pears EVERYWHERE!

This was the last weekend for apple picking at our local orchard. I have also discovered that they sell pears as well. A 1/2 peck bag is $5.50, I don't know how many pounds that is, but it would not matter. I would buy them anyway. AMAZING fruit delicacies. I would have to challenge anyone that said they don't like fruit or vegetables to still feel that way after eating these wonders. I'm very happy that since I've started to pursue the "locavore" lifestyle, I've found some of the most delicious goodies right in my own backyard. I would love it if somehow, some way I was able to inspire more people to eat locally. Not only is this wonderful as your food is so much fresher, so many less nutrients are lost during the storage time, but it's also so much better for our planet and country. Not having to use the fossil fuel to transport food from great distances, which in turn pollutes the environment. Not having the factory farms mass produce your food, using poisons and chemicals to kill pests (did you ever wonder how it can kill other living creatures and not be expected to affect us?? We're all just flesh and blood after all). I think most people don't give a lot of thought to where their food comes from, I know in the past I did not. But with the degradation of our environment so quickly on the rise, how can we not care about this? Thousands of babies poisoned in China, so much toxic ways of life, we've got to change it or we won't have a planet to take care of.

Since I took the ultimate leap of faith and had children after 9/11/01 happened, it's become more and more clear to me that preserving what we have left is the only choice we have. There is no other option, is there? Anyone with children wants a better world, one where their children can thrive. As it stands right now, I guess part of me hopes my children won't have children themselves because what will they be left with? What kind of world will they be inheriting, one that's poisoned and has such weather extremes that they can't survive anyway? Polar caps melting causing the temperatures to rise, less fresh water available and still the imperative to change NOW is not realized. It makes my heart very heavy and saddened to know that my boys, whom I love more then life, will have to deal with all this mess if we don't start to care.

So, besides recycling like a fiend, changing my buying to being basically most of what is only necessary and freecycling all our stuff we don't need, I decided to start to buy local. And, like I said earlier, besides having that wonderful benefit of much more delicious food, I also feel like I'm supporting the farmers in my town, the money stays in my community instead of going to Walmart or Shaw's or whomever else would get the profits. They don't live in my community, they don't care about my children, they won't say hello to the migrant workers that come here in the fall to harvest apples, none of this matters to "them" since they are only caring about the bottom line on their spreadsheet. No love, no caring and no grace are felt in my community from these conglomerates. I shop now where I get to meet the people growing my food. Where I can see the soil it's grown in, look into the eyes of the cows that will be my hamburger and see that they are humanely treated, watch the chickens whose eggs nourish my family happily picking bugs up around the farm where they roam freely. All these things make for a more sustainable life for all of us, not just the shareholders of some company thousands of miles away.

I hope I've caused you to think a moment about your local choices for food. Find that farmer's market or neighborhood farm stand. Make the commitment to buy at least one local meal's worth per week. Make the choice to support your own community, children and planet. It all starts with one choice and your dollar speeks volumes.

Thanks for reading my diatribe about local eating, it's a deep passion for me and I appreciate your taking the time to read it. Feel free to leave me a comment and let me know what you treasure that's local to you.

Wishing you fresh local pears that are bits of heaven, ~Peacemom

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Garden Surprise

Hello All,
I'm currently down and out with a cold of mega proportions. I've been coughing so hard today that my head is splitting in half with a headache. Maestro had the same cold last week, but he's on the mend. Still wakes up coughing, but he's not so sniffly and gross now, so that's good anyways. I'm just waiting for the same grace to happen to me.

Today in our lovely town the weather was outstanding. Cool in the shade, but once you were in the sun it was warm and heavenly. It's a great feeling to have the sun on your face without it being the burning hot of summer. It was a glorious day for outdoor activities even with a cold.

So, the boys and I were emptying out the compost spinner that's next to the garden. I've not had a whole lot of luck making compost. It's not for lack of trying and this is not supposed to be all that complicated, but for whatever reason, I don't have a "black" compost thumb. I usually end up with either stuff that's way too wet or too dry. We've even gone so far as to ask our neighbor to drive his mower over with his bag full and dump it in our large compost pile. The compost spinner is reputed to make compost in 30 days. Yah, right. I've had the same batch of compost in there since the spring, diligently turning it every few days, and it's just starting to resemble something that is broken down into a soil like substance. Though, there are lots of larger bits of things left in there as well, so it's not a complete success. This spinner sits in the sun during the summer hours for about 14 hours a day as well, so it gets plenty hot and I would douse it with the hose from time to time if it looked like it needed some moisture. There is a catcher under it, a tank really, that will catch the compost "tea" which is supposed to be concentrated nutrients for the plants. You put this rich, fragrant juice in a watering can, dilute it a bit with water, and water the plants with it. Pretty cool idea, really. So, I did not empty it all summer and today we decided to empty it and wet down the beds to get them a little extra nutrients for their winter nap.

After Music Man picked up the tank, and it's a bit heavy so I let him take care of that, he called me over to see something. I looked underneath where the tank had been sitting and there, under the tank, were 5 little furry gray bodies squirming around in the long blades of grass. They were deer mice. Now, I know you're thinking "ewwwww gross!", but if you've ever seen a deer mouse, they are sooooo cute with their big ears and eyes and they tend to sit on their hind legs a lot, so they have some of the cuteness factor in their favor. We had a challenge with them getting into the bird food in the shed last year until I caught one in the bin one day and relocated him up the street near a swampy area. Anyways, the little ones were obviously babies, probably the mamas 5th batch this summer, they do breed like crazy. We called the boys over to see them, and Little Red especially loved them. That child has a big soft spot for furry little animals, so he was excited and wanted to keep looking at them. But, we assured him they didn't feel safe out in the open like that, so Music Man replaced the tank over their little home. I know, perhaps we should have "taken care of them", but honestly, it gave me a sense of pride to know that my little garden is home to another family as well. That another family finds solace in that little plot of land and calls it home. I know I've gotten immeasureable peace from those 4 beds and am glad that they can be refuge for other mammals as well. As long as they don't eat me out of garden and home, that is!

Hoping for you a little refuge of your own, Peacemom

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Frost Is On The Pumpkin....

Good Morning Good Souls,

Yesterday was a day of work around here. I "put the garden to winter", which means I ripped up a good portion of the plants I spent all summer growing and put them in the BIG bucket for the compost pile. I take off what's left of the produce growing, yank, pull and shake the plants until the beds are just the old dirt showing with not many signs of life. This is a bittersweet task for a lot of reasons.

One is because the marigolds are still going strong. I spotted a bee on one of them. He was lazily making his way around the flowers and I felt a responsibility to leave the flowers for him. If he could still be at his task this late into the season, by gory, I should leave him some pollen to use for himself. The way he was moving was telling me his time was winding down and I felt I should leave him something to nourish his last days. Especially in light of the reduced bee problem going on right now, I felt I wanted to give him every last chance. So, I have left 5 of the marigold plants for him to use.

BUT we've also not had our first frost until last night. This is the reason that I didn't do this weeks ago, I was still hoping those last 5 green peppers were going to turn red on the vine. Unfortunately, that wasn't to be, so they are sitting in a bowl on my lovely granite countertops along with the jalapenos that were left. I actually got enough of those to get one more batch of canned peppers. SShhhhh, don't tell my brother-in-law, but I'm canning this batch especially for him. He is of Mexican descent and LOVES his peppers hot. Well, contrary to most belief, when jalapenos go red, they get HOTTER. So, I've left them on the plant until they are red and I'm going to make him a special Christmas mixture of red and green jalapenos to enjoy. We did not have them go red last year, so when I canned them, they were green. This year, they matured early and some of them went red. Well, I grow these for Music Man, because I don't really eat anything this hot. Somehow his Irish-German palate can stomach that. My Irish-German palate wants nothing whatsoever to do with them. It's a childhood nightmare from a cousin that tricked me into eating a VERY hot pepper as a 5 year old. Since then, no thanks!! But I digress, I was talking about the red jalapeno. Well, my limited pepper experience tells me that when the pepper goes red, it gets sweeter, like bell peppers do. So, when the jalapeno went red, I thought, oh, it will be sweeter. I grew them for making hot pepper jelly. Music Man asked how it would taste, I said I thought sweeter then a green one and so he took a big bite, seeds, ribs and all (that's the hottest part, in case you didn't know that) and he was in some serious pain. Ate a big bowl of yogurt to try to counteract the capsacin in the pepper that makes it so hot. I felt really badly that I was wrong about that heat factor. In any case, I hope my brother-in-law likes these goodies, it will be a nice surprise for him, I'm sure.

So, back to dismanteling my hard work. The boys thoroughly enjoyed being able to pull up plants, stomp through the beds and run around the garden like crazy men. The taking apart for them was a lot of fun, especially helping to pull the beans and vines off the chicken wire trellis. They were very excited when they could pull a big bean off and the browner and squishier, the better. They are boys, after all. For me the experience makes me a bit sad because this is the end of growing our food myself for the season, of fresh veggies for a meal that I can walk out and harvest myself. Of knowing that I grew that healthy, nutritious, organic food to nourish my family, and that's one less factory farmed piece of produce they sell in the conglomerate grocery stores. Plus, heck, it's just a whole lot of fun to grow your own food. To take a plant from a seed and grow it to something that's cut up in your salad bowl is a truly powerful feeling. I still have some lettuce and spinach out there and a few herbs that I'll need to get dried, but all in all, it's the end of the season for us. From here, for local food, I'll need to stock up on butternut squash. This will join the potatoes (of which there aren't many left, they were very good and we chowed down on them!!) I grew myself in the bulkhead. Little Red loves squash, this is his very favorite vegetable and he'll eat it like nothing else, it's his healthy candy, I guess.

I also stocked up on some wonderful cheese I bought from a local cheese producer. This is by far the best cheese I've ever tasted, so creamy and good. Boggymeadowfarm.com. Seriously, if you love cheese, you'll want to get some of this. It's so nice with a few crackers and a cup of tea (or wine or beer if you're so inclined) on a chilly day. Perfection on a cracker, I'm telling ya. You won't be disappointed if you try some of this. And they ship for those of you not near Walpole, NH. I don't normally advocate for shipping food, but if you eat everything else in your life local, make this the one thing you get from away. The farm stand where I purchase this cheese calls me "the cheese lady". Made me laugh when the clerk told me this, because they don't know my name, but since I buy cheese every time I go there (3 last time since they are closing for the season soon, wanted to stock up for winter), they gave me the knickname. And I rave about the cheese to whomever is in line with me, the clerks, everyone. The clerk even told me that the man who makes the cheese came there to check out where his product is stocked and all that good stuff. They told him about me and he was psyched to hear about me, so I sent him an email telling him who I was and that I really think that being able to get such wonderful cheese local is a great treat and blessing. I thanked him for his hard work and making such a high quality food to nourish so many others, and told him how much I appreciate his offering this for my family. It's his herd of cows that give the milk, so he does the whole sheebang. Plus, as a side benefit, it's lower in fat and sodium then most other cheeses, has no preservatives and is aged over 60 days before it is even sold. Just a little miracle, that creamy goodness!

So, after seeing the frost on the grass this morning, or as Little Red calls it-frosting, I am ready to hunker down and set my sites on flannel pants and sweaters and wool socks. I've got a couple good books in mind at the library for long, cold winter days and I'm planning on a few Christmas presents to make. This year is going to be a mostly homemade holiday here since money is tight. We'll buy for the kids, but everyone else is getting what my little hands can create. I prefer this for Christmas anyways, more on that in a later post. It's feeling like the time to reflect and create, just what autumn and winter are all about for me. That and leaf jumping and snowmen on the lawn anyways.

Fresh butternut and local cheese wishes to you, ~Peacemom

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Gaa Gaa Gaa, it's Peaceable Wild Kingdom!

Good Morning, Friends and Family,
We have turkeys. They are wild and really cool. The neighborhood mascots have become quite fun to watch as they've grown. We first discovered them in the spring when we heard the tell tale "gaagaagaa" in the woods. These turkeys don't actually gobble, they more make a "gaa" sound in rapid succession when they are talking to each other. It's pretty funny to hear. They have become the main attraction when they are outside doing what turkeys do and that is eat. They spend most of their day pecking in the neighbor's lawns. The neighbor across the street is like us, he does not use any chemical fertilizers on his lawn and has an abundance of weeds. Now, on the surface this may not seem like what you'd want for a lawn, but it's really a very healthy environment for lots of critters, including whatever bug or grub it is that these turkeys find delectable. They have scratched some patches in his lawn bare to dirt.

Originally when we spotted them, there were two adults and 6 babies. The babies were so cute and we would always stop what we were doing to watch them. Now, as the summer and autumn have progressed, it's tough to tell the babies from the adults as they are just about the same size. And all six of the babies made it. I cheer for the mama whenever I see them because I know how hard that feat was to accomplish. We actually do have some wild dogs living in the woods adjoinging our properties, so that is even more amazing in light of that fact. Good mama and daddy!!

They are smart little birds with bb sized brains. They know where the good grub is and where the best places to avoid are. Unfortunately, they seem to avoid our yard as one big party they don't want to be invited to. This is understandable with two boys running around outside most of the day, making noise (and oh, do they make noise), laughing, fighting, playing with toys (which are strewn everywhere no matter how many times we clean it all up during the day). Like I said, these are not dumb birds. They also won't let me get close enough to them on foot to get a reasonably good picture of them, so above is what I was able to manage. I was trying for the cool Thanksgiving card shot with my neighbor's lovely door decoration and the turkey in the foreground. Unfortunately, I could not get close enough, even with my big lens, to capture the shot I really wanted. But this one is cool, anyways.

I really wish these little harbingers of fall would come over to our yard and scratch away. We could definitely use a decrease in the grub population in our yard and goodness knows the soil is packed hard from kiddos running around on it all the time, so they could come over and do a little tilling for us while they forage for grublets. I've not been able to convince them just yet, but don't be surprised if you spot some cracked corn on the lawn...I won't know how it got there, but I just hope the little fairy that spreads it actually attracts them.

Wishing you the blessings of turkeys in your lawn, ~Peacemom

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Humble Morning Musings

Bon Jour!

Hmmm, not really sure what's a fitting topic for today, we'll see how it goes. Mostly, I feel like writing and the cherubs are otherwise occupied, so I'm going to take this chance to pen (or key!) a few thoughts.

1. I'm completely and totally sick of political ads. I only hear adult tv very rarely, and I listen to the 5:00 news on the radio in the kitchen as I prepare dinner every night. It is in this 30 minutes that I am so inundated with negative, smearing ads that I've taken to not listening to the news. It's local news, so we get a lot of local ads and some of them are so obnoxious, it's honestly caused me to turn off the idiots. I've made my decision for my candidates, as I'm sure you all have, and we just don't care about these silly, lying ads anymore. Enough is enough. That's my political soapbox, and I'll step down now.

2. The colors have been just GLORIOUS this autumn season. I got a chance to take a few more photos while we were out apple picking this past weekend. Just stunning colors, sometimes you even catch your breath if you are driving and come around a corner to sunshine just right in one of those golden or orange beauties. It's hard not to believe New England is the best place in the world when you see that. Amazing grace in physical form if I've ever seen it.

3. Apples fresh from the tree (especially Honeycrisp!) are one of the other reasons to believe in that whole "New England is king" thing. There is not a better tasting bit of food on the planet then those little red orbs. You bite, get an initial tart taste, juice running down your chin, as you chew it becomes so sweet in your mouth and you thank the lord for this perfection. How can you describe this accurately for someone who's never had this experience, I'm not sure. But once you taste an apple freshly picked by your own hands, you just never go back to those mealy, soft, grocery store quality apples ever again. I will wait until the fall to have an apple. We are very lucky in that our local orchard sells apples through January, and last year into March, so that we only have about 5 months without the chance to have apples. They cold store them, and though they are not the same in March as they are in October, you can rest assured they are still a far site better then anything that's traveled 3,000 miles to get here (how far is New Zealand from New Hampshire, anyways?). Just positively the best fruit on earth right here in our own backyard, truly great.

4. Woke up to a little chill in the air this morning and a lovely harvest moon on the western horizon. It made me want to get out the sweater and head to the woods for a hike. Unfortunately, I sprained my ankle (again, that's at least 35 times in my life so far), and I'm laid up, so I'm going to have to enjoy the scenes from the seat of the car or the Adirondack chair in the yard. This is not all bad, however since it gives me a reason to just sit and be. Music Man disdains that since he's stuck in a building all day, with people who refuse to open the shades, he misses the outdoors. I feel for him, I really do. Especially on a day when I can take a moment to sit in the chairs on the lawn, listen to the boys playing happily in the leaves and drink my Pumpkin Spice Tea while I watch the leaves flutter then fall in the chilly autumn breeze. These are the moments that I will remember forever, those little bits of perfect that make my heart happy to be alive and happy to be a stay at home mother. And wishing that we could figure out a way to have a rural life and still make a living and be more connected to the outside world. I get to live it more then Music Man does, and I feel for him because his true heart is always up the side of a mountain somewhere or paddling through the ocean blue. It's not stuck behind a desk in a cubicle working so hard for people that don't appreciate the wonderful man that he is. I understand his sadness at going there every day, it's just not his heart.

Well, that's my pontificating for today. Little Red is waking, I hear the "MMMOOOMMMYYY!!!" being bellowed at me from the little den that is their room. Maestro went downstairs to work on his masterpiece for an upcoming art show that he's participating in. Something with snow and houses and trees and the moon...more on that later.

Wishing you pumpkin spice tea and the time to sit and watch the world go by, ~Peacemom

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

campfires, crisp nights and chickens, oh my!

Hello All,
We had a wonderful weekend adventure to tell you about last weekend. We bought a pop up camper last year, thinking we would do so much camping, and what a wonderful time to spend as a family and the boys will get to experience nature, etc...this summer, with gas prices being what they are, and the price of everything else going up in general, we just didn't have the money to do as much camping as we'd like to do for sure. Music Man and I are campers from way back, so it's definitely a strong desire to get the boys out there in the woods.

But, this past weekend, we broke open the camper and took a well deserved retreat up to Freeport, Maine for a long weekend. Music Man found this wonderful campground online called Recompence. It is smack dab in the middle of a working farm, they raise Wolfe's Neck Farm beef. It is free range and organic and wonderful. I completely fell in love with the farm and the campground in general. You will not find freer ranged meat then this, the cows had endless acres to roam around on, happy, happy cows. We got to walk dirt roads while the kids rode their bikes to their heart's content, saw the most beautiful scenery, visited the animals at the farm, enjoyed endless Casco Bay views, and slept in the chill of Maine autumn nights. The boys got to eat as many s'mores as they wanted and we just had a lovely, restful time. Music Man has been working long hours to accomplish some new duties he's been given at work and it's been stressful, and we just thoroughly enjoyed so much time together as a family with no tv, no phone, no stress. We shopped at L.L. Bean's "flagship" store, though this was not in fact the boys favorite time the whole weekend and we didn't buy anything. They DO NOT like to shop if they can help it. And, since everyone but me was recovering from a cold, there was a little more whining then we'd have liked, but it was all in all a great trip.

There were so many highlights of the trip, but for me the two best involved fowl. When we took a walk to the farm the first day, we were greeted by 4 guinnea hens. They were amusing and followed us around the whole time. But, then, they continued to follow us as we went down to the washed out bridge to throw some rocks in the bay (a very favorite pasttime for my guys) and these silly birds followed us very intently, we ended up dubbing them "psycho guinnea hens" because they followed us until they were too scared to make the trip over the foot bridge at the bay. Then, they perched on the top railing of the side and watched us the whole time until we came back and then followed us back to the farm. They then left us to our own devices. You have to realize that the whole time they were making a crazy noise at us, very urgently. This was kind of funny to start with but then became annoying somewhat. Enough so that I asked Music Man, "do you think they are trying to tell us something? Like Lassie did? Maybe Timmy fell down the well or something?". It was amusing and caused me more then once to laugh fairly heartily.

The other favorite thing was some chickens that visited our campsite. Remembering this is a working farm, and these animals are free range, the chickens came to our site to check out the bug situation and peck and scratch about a bit. Well, Maestro just thought this was great fun to watch and followed these chickens around for a LONG time as they checked out our site and the ones adjoining ours (which were empty, we were the only ones in our area most of the trip) and the woods across the street. He really loved those chickens and I loved that he was getting a good education about them and such enjoyment and entertainment out of another living creature. We don't have any pets, and it makes me sad that they've not had that growing up. We've just not lived in the right situation for a dog yet, but when we do, we'll get one for them. At one point in my childhood, I helped a woman with her farm animals and in return got to keep my horse on their property for free. This was a wonderful education for me and I really wish the boys could have something similar.

We loved Freeport before we stayed there from our numerous trips into LL Bean before this. But, we became completely smitten when we realized that they have bike lanes, and sidewalks everywhere and quaintness that's lacking in Southern NH these days. There were lots of people walking, jogging (we saw Joan Benoit running on the side of the road!), and there are endless opportunities for kayaking and fishing just minutes from where ever you are in Freeport. We are totally smitten and want to find a way to move our lives there. Music Man and I have made it a newfound goal to get our lives there, we've been wanting Maine for a long time, but just couldn't figure out how to make it work and hadn't found the right community. We've done that now, so the adventure is on!

Now, we just have to wait for the housing market to agree with our decision so we don't lose too much on this joint!

Quaint villages and chickens at your campsite to you, ~Peacemom

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Interior Brain Noise

Good Day, Friends and Family,

Ahhh, the first day of October, what a treat! I've noticed in the last 4-5 days that the leaves have been putting on a glorious show. I hijacked Little Red yesterday for an hour and made him drive around our town and the next one to do some photography. SOOOO beautiful out there. Since he has a cold, he was not too disagreeable about this, but I knew I could not get away with him sitting in the car while I took pictures otherwise.

He's a very active, on his feet and running kinda kid. Even with a completely stuffy head, he still wants to be out riding his bike and making "Rooster Tails" in the puddles. Come on now, you know what rooster tails are, don't you? My boys made this expression up one day when they were repeatedly riding their bikes through the puddles. They don't make the bikes with the cover over the rear tires anymore, at least not for kids. So, the water will spray up in back of them like a "rooster tail". Is this not totally clever or what? I am not sure which one of them thought that metaphor up, but it cracks me up. And they use it like it's every day language. Here's an example:

Me to Little Red yesterday: "If you're going to ride your bike, I don't want you to get all dirty because we have to go somewhere in a couple of minutes."
Little Red: "But Mommy, I'm just going to make a few rooster tails", or

Me: "Maestro, why is your back soaking wet and filthy?"
Maestro: "It was just rooster tails"

You get the picture. I'm telling you, some of the things that these two come out with just make my day. And hearing them in a conversation with each other about something that is completely grown up also is something for me to listen to. Maestro just could not WAIT for Little Red to get to talking when he was learning so he could have someone small to talk to. Little Red was in speech therapy for a year because he was not much of a talker at first. He only had about 10 words by the time he was 20 months, so at the recommendation of his pediatrician, we started him in speech therapy. His therapist would come here once a week and work with him on talking. Now, my personal theory is that he didn't talk because A) he wasn't ready and B) he couldn't get a word in edgewise with Maestro on the scene. That child just does not stop talking and NOW Little Red follows suit. Once that flood gate opened at about 2 1/2, he hasn't looked back. When he is alone with me after Maestro is off to pursue higher learning, he does not stop chattering. I've gotten so that I just tune it out unless it's something urgent, crying or he's in pain. These conversations go something like this:

Little Red, as we're driving down the road...very excitedly..."Mommy, see that Toyota (Chevy, Ford, Infinity, etc whatever he's spotted) over there!"
Me: "Yes, the blue one?" meanwhile, to be honest, I'm tuned into the noise inside my head, making a list of stuff to get at the grocery store, figuring out the best way to fit in one more volunteer thing, organizing bills to be paid, etc. I'm rarely tuned into these conversations...
Little Red: "Mommy, that's a Ford, followed by a Toyota, followed by a Chevrolet, followed by another Ford..." this goes on almost the whole time you're driving Little Red anywhere, he's completely obsessed with cars, and is convinced that everyone else must be as well.
Me: "I see the Ford, yep, oh a Toyota?..." You get the visual, and I know if you're a parent, you've totally done this before. I know you have, admit it, and if you're little one isn't old enough yet, and you're still doting on every word, believe me you WILL get to this stage of the game. You can't stay sane otherwise. The overwhelming constant chatter takes over any space in your brain where you used to form cognitive sentences.

Well, I hear that it's time for me to get the breakfast bell on for the little men. Hope it's gonna be a peaceful one, but I'm not holding my breath. We tell them all the time, "good thing you're cute".

Wishing you chatter to fill your days, ~Peacemom