Friday, December 30, 2011

Crown Roast

Merry Christmas!

We just returned from a trip north to my mom's where we celebrated Christmas in style with a huge hunk of pig, also known as a "crown roast". Photos of food always look a bit disgusting unless they were taken by a professional (which I am not), but this gives you an idea of the magnificent roast beast we dined on. Unfortunately I was too busy sipping my vodka-muddled to remember to take a photo before the roast went into the oven. The roast was fabulous, and Mom made a cranberry and pear chutney that added loads of flavor. The pork reminded me somewhat of prime rib: it was tender, juicy, silky and not at all stringy. Yum! I think we all decided that it will be our new tradition. (PS: overlook the poor quality of the photos -- remember the vodka-muddleds!)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Cranberry Relish Recipe

Today's sermon tied together the preparation of Advent with the preparation of a complicated recipe for a cranberry treat that our priest thought he might like. This got me thinking about theee best cranberry recipe ever - the cranberry relish recipe I started making for Thanksgiving a few years back. It is fresh, simple, and fabulous.

Cranberry Relish
1 lime
1 (12-oz) bag fresh cranberries (3 cups)
1 medium red onion, chopped
1/2 cup sugar
1 to 2 teaspoons minced fresh serrano chile, including seeds

Finely grate 1 teaspoon zest from lime, then squeeze enough juice to measure 2 tablespoons.

Pulse cranberries with zest, juice, onion, sugar, and chile to taste in a food processor until finely chopped. Chill relish, covered, stirring occasionally, at least 2 hours (to allow flavors to develop) and up to 1 week. 

My notes: I substitute 2 jalapenos (minus the seeds) in place of the serrano pepper. Also, I find the flavor to be perfect on day 2, but then the onion becomes too strong for my liking by day 4. This is AWESOME on your turkey sandwich, too. Enjoy!

This photo is from a NY Times article from 2008 about the cranberry industry.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Animals Singing Jingle Bells

Why do I love these singing animals so much?? I can't help myself. Enjoy!

from this channel:

Kodiak Dog Coat

Bumble has been wearing his new dog coat, and he seems to like it. I ordered it from Doctors Foster and Smith, and it appears to be really high quality. The description of the coat from their site:

This quilt-lined coat has full belly coverage! Wind, rain, and cold are no match for this waterproof dog coat. Quality-made coat boasts three-layer warmth and features a special nylon outer fabric that's waterproof, windproof, and breathable. Gives pets superior protection from the elements. Hip tape on all seams ensures moisture won't seep through the seams, either.

Two-tone dog coat features a stand-up collar and poly/cottonlining for warmth. Features include a leash opening, wraparound belt, and decorative, reflective ribbon on belt and collar boost safety. Self-fastening closure on belt and back leg straps hold coat in place. Owner identification label on inside. Machine wash and tumble dry low.

Bum looks a little silly when he's wearing it, but this coat will keep him warm and dry this winter as he plays outside in the snow.

~ Bum is next to me on the couch as I write this, happily snuggled in his couch-bed ~

~  this is the color of his snazzy new coat ~

~ and I just like the composition of this pic :) ~

Monday, November 14, 2011

Hanging Deer

It's that time of year again. Deer hunting season means that the deer have to be "dressed" and hung from trees or rafters to age the meat. This image - a deer dangling from a rope - has always made me uncomfortable, despite having grown up the loyal daughter of an avid hunter. I very much believe that proper conservation of wildlife includes carefully regulated hunting even though I personally could never shoot a deer or rabbit or even bird. If I am uncomfortable with the sight of hanging deer, I can only imagine how much it must enrage those who are against hunting, further fueling their hatred for those who harvest animals for human use.

Why do the deer get hung from trees after being dressed, anyway? Apparently it is to age the meat and let chemistry do it's thing. I found an excellent article from Field & Stream which succinctly explained why. Here is an excerpt:

Proper aging begins as soon as rigor mortis ends-and this process is definitely not controlled rot. Rot is zillions of bacteria eating the muscle cells, their waste products creating the familiar stench of decaying flesh. Bacteria attack only after meat is exposed to the air, and bacterial rot is accelerated by higher temperatures. It doesn't happen at all if the meat is frozen. To properly age your deer, you must keep it at temperatures above freezing and below about 40 degrees. This holds bacteria (and rot) at bay, allowing natural enzymes to do their work.

So hanging a deer before butchering is necessary, but do all of us have to see it? You may be proud of your success, but please show some respect for the animal that has given it's life for you and hang it in privacy -- at least your BACK yard, not right out by the road. It amazes me that people also photograph these hanging deer -- it looks violent and ugly and reminds me of a lynching. I understand photographing your deer, but hold it's head up to show the beauty and dignity of the animal that will be feeding your family this winter. 

In my opinion, human beings are a part of nature and the circle of life, but we must use our power and our position at the top of the food chain thoughtfully and with respect for the rest of nature. 

random internet photo of hanging deer

random internet photo of a deer that looks a bit more dignified

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

November Morning Goats

A warm early November morning, and the goats are happily munching on their hay in the sunshine. They are so content ...

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Apollo's Rough Morning

'Beautiful day. What to do, what to do?

I just had an entire can of wet food, so now I'm craving veggies ...

... mmmm, grass!

Mom? What's this? Wait - does this make my nose look big??

Let's be clear: I do not have fleas. I simply have an itch.

It's been fun, but I have hunting to do. Catch ya later.

Fall Pond

Fall means time for the fish to go to "bed" for the winter. People are always amazed to learn that the koi and comets remain in the pond all winter long without food until spring when the ice melts and the water warms up. As long as your pond is deep enough to not freeze all the way to the bottom, your fish will sleep away the winter months, requiring little care during that time. Keeping them healthy requires a only few key components.

1. Netting ~ Covering the pond with a fine net keeps out most of the leaves and debris which if allowed to settle in the water will change the balance of your pond, so the net goes on as soon as any leaves start to fall. Through experience I have learned that crisscrossing a few 2x4s will keep the net elevated above the water surface even if some leaves, ice and snow settle on it.

2. Food ~ Once the water temperature begins to drop, it is time to switch the fish food to a fall/spring blend which is formulated for cold water feeding. They get fed less and less often, and eventually the feedings stop entirely. I put a thermometer in the pond to keep track of the temperature, but I have found that the level of fish activity is an excellent indicator. As it gets colder, they become less active and they swim more slowly. Instead of leaving wakes as they race to beg for food, they approach more slowly, looking like they really. want. to. eat. but. are. having. diffficulltyyy reachiiiiing meeeeeeeee. Once it get's really cold, they stop coming over and just sort of hang out at the bottom, moving very slowly, if at all.

3. Running Water ~ It is imperative that a hole in the ice is maintained throughout the winter, and this can be the most challenging part of keeping a healthy pond during the blustery winter months. I remove my powerful pump and I drain the external filter, putting both away in the garage. Then I hook up a smaller pump and my Pondmaster low-profile filter, minus the fuzzy stuff that goes inside. Since the algae has ceased growing there's no need for the fine mesh, but the large debris is still blocked. I attach a piece of rubber hose that is then hooked up and over one of the 2x4s so that the water is running continually. This works like a miracle. There are times the pond is completely encased in snow drifts, and the temperature goes down to 0F, and I can still hear the water running underneath it all. The small splashes of water create an ice cone going down to and connecting with the surface ice on the pond, keeping the snow out. The first winter I tried using a little donut-shaped heater that is designed to keep a hole melted and open, but snow would blow in the middle and it would freeze up. My girlfriend who has a pond suggests using a pot of boiling water and setting it on the surface to gently melt a hole, if necessary, but I have never tried it. REALLY IMPORTANT: never ever chip away at the ice because the sound waves can hurt your fish friends that are trying to sleep.

I am not an expert by any means, but I have also never lost a fish to the changing seasons. I suggest you research many of the educational sites available on line, and then through trial and error find out what works best for you and your pond.

Here are a few views of the winterized pond ... 
... the water is running through the hose that is up and over a board ....

... the these boards keep the net elevated regardless of leaves and snow which land on top.

The fall pond garden is as pretty as the summer version, in my opinion.

The Japanese Maple turns a brilliant orangey color, and drops its leaves fairy late in the season.

How can you not love Sedum this time of year? The way the sun was hitting this it looks illuminated from within.

Friday, October 28, 2011


Hot topic alert: I am going to spew my opinion about "bullying", and as both a mother of a teenager AND a public school teacher I believe I am fairly well qualified to say what I am about to say.

First, some history. It all started when we crawled out of the slime ... 'competition and survival of the fittest. Fast forward a couple of bazillion years and here we are, still scrapping away to survive. In modern societies, "survival" now exists more on a social platform because civilized people have made physical fighting illegal and immoral. There are also rules that outlaw non-physical fighting like harassment, libel and stalking. Human beings will always struggle against one another because we are biologically wired to do so, and the degree of which is due in large part to how we are raised.

Technology has improved our lives in many ways including how we communicate with each other. We can now access the ears and eyes of the entire planet in an instant. We can spread knowledge and truth to the oppressed, and we can spread gossip and hate to anyone, anywhere and at anytime. We have evolved from sticks and stones to words and images for breaking people.

Teenagers are almost another species of (sub)human, and I find it remarkable that many adults forget what it was like to be a teenager. The insecurities, the desire to be noticed and yet fit in, the feeling of angst and powerful emotions as the hormones wreak havoc on your soul and on your complexion. How any of us make it through is a wonder, yet somehow most of us do survive that tumultuous time.

Now let's merge together the teenager with instant mass communication. The days of passing notes on lined paper are over, and instead there's facebook and tweeting and blogging and texting. In a swirl of emotions a young person can hit the send button and disseminate words and images that are permanent and public - and easily passed along exponentially. It can be a recipe for tears, anger, sadness, depression, and yes even suicide in extreme cases. It is a recipe for the trendy term known as "bullying".

The term "bullying" is not new, and has been tossed around as long as I can remember. Apparently the history of the word itself dates back to the 1530's, and has evolved over time to it's current definition according to Wikipedia as

a form of aggressive behavior, which may manifest as abusive treatment, the use of force or coercion to affect others, particularly when habitual and involving an imbalance of power. ...

So what can be done about this age-old problem which now dominates the media?

Currently there is more time spent during the school day on bullying than ever before. Ironically. Assemblies, classroom lessons, after school meetings with parents ... and there are many great resources available online for parents, kids and educators. Unfortunately I believe that the current dialogue misses the key to this issue which is to shift the focus on how one should respond to bullying.

VICTIM. What a sad word to slap on anybody, especially a young person. "Darling, you are a victim and I am so sorry you poor thing however can you get through the rest of your life??" Excuse me, but I will never tell my son he is a victim. Instead I wish to empower him, and give him the skills he needs to get through tough situations. We all have heard that you can't change people but only how you respond to them, and that is the lesson we need to teach our kids. There will always be idiots, no matter how much we try and legislate away idiot behavior. Laws are created when common sense fails. Of course we need to address the people of all ages that act inappropriately. Parents need to build a sense of empathy in their children so they grow up with a conscience. However, we all know how many parents fall short and continue to fall short in this area, and leave this up to chance. The breakdown of morals and character is a topic that is for another time, but the result is more and more people with an undeveloped moral compass, and when that is coupled with improved methods of mass communication you have more efficient bullies.

Professional tips include not letting your children use social media and cell phones until they are 35, but that is a little unrealistic. It's like restricting your child from eating any sugar until they are adults, or restricting your child from reading literature that contains viewpoints that differ from yours. At some point they will have access to these things so we need to spend time teaching and reinforcing how to use them responsibly. And, if somebody is harassing them, tell your baby to knock 'em off their list. Excise jerks from their life - who needs them?? Help your child to understand the concept that life is too short to waste on jerks. And if the harassment continues, teach them to talk to an adult who can help them - you, a teacher, a coach, a youth group leader, an aunt - speak up. If they witness jerky behavior, step in and voice their displeasure. If it continues, tell an adult. Drill drill drill this into their heads. And by all means LOVE YOUR CHILDREN while providing structure and discipline (hmmm ... sounds like an excellent topic for a book ... hmmm ....)

So some of you may be thinking that I am being unrealistic and simplifying a complex situation. I am not. This is a multifaceted problem that requires a multifaceted approach. I just believe that the word "victim" should be removed from this discussion, and the focus moved to EMPOWERING our children so that the idiot bullies (I hate that word, too) lose the power we have given them.

I am shaking my head as I write this. It saddens me that there are heartless people in the world, and that they seek to build themselves up by tearing others down. My heart breaks for the families that have lost their babies to suicide because of depression caused in part by the cruel behavior of their peers. Technology has given idiots a great new set of tools. We need to teach our young people how to stand up and not accept it. Let's take the power AWAY from the bullies, and give it back to whom it belongs.

Roy Lichtenstein Sweet Dreams Baby! 1965

Roy Lichtenstein Crying Girl 1963

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Hello? ?? ?

What I have been doing while neglecting my blog and ignoring facebook:

family ... making dinner, running my son to and from work, grocery shopping, attending meetings, baptisms, birthday dinners and parties, phone calls to mom, attending fundraisers, designing our new house, dentist appointments, filling out forms, paying for China Trip (!), handing out lunch money, making coffee,

work ... traveling between classrooms, writing new curriculum, making up cool new ceramics lessons, creating a new website, running the scholarship fund pool, staying after with students, attending meetings, staying late here and there to work on book, various graphics projects for district,

home ... keeping up (sort of) with the laundry, winterizing the gardens and pond, having the living room painted, organizing my closets, putting up harvest-y decorations, shampooing carpets, painting trim,

church ... working on the new photo directory layout, taking photos, writing for the stewardship campaign, serving on Sundays, the cookbook committee, making the Bazaar poster, updating the website,  formatting our faith stories, book club,

animals ... winterizing the shed, bathing and clipping Soph, feedings morning and night, filling the waterbowl, hosing the goat concrete, changing Mari's puppy pads every morning, washing towels and blankets, mowing goat pen, clipping nails and trimming feet, picking up poop, letting dogs in and out and in and out, ordering a new winter coat for Bum, cleaning bird cages,

~ pinch pots in the kiln ~

Saturday, September 3, 2011


Bumble is a mix of supposedly labrador retriever and rat terrier, and the "terrier" part is a definite. Growing up we had Airedale Terriers, and I just thought that was how all dogs behaved until I had my first lab, Mari (who, by the way, is doing great despite celebrating her 14th birthday in June!). Don't get me wrong: I know that other breeds can by hyper and jumpy and barkey (Mari is of the hyper jumpy barkey lab variety) but terriers have their own special brand of behavior. Bumble is reminding me of this.

Terriers are described by the American Kennel Club as
People familiar with this Group invariably comment on the distinctive terrier personality. These are feisty, energetic dogs whose sizes range from fairly small, as in the Norfolk, Cairn or West Highland White Terrier, to the grand Airedale Terrier. Terriers typically have little tolerance for other animals, including other dogs. Their ancestors were bred to hunt and kill vermin. Many continue to project the attitude that they're always eager for a spirited argument. Most terriers have wiry coats that require special grooming known as stripping in order to maintain a characteristic appearance. In general, they make engaging pets, but require owners with the determination to match their dogs' lively characters.

Specifics about Rat Terriers from the AKC site ...
The Rat Terrier is a multipurpose companion dog that is capable of hunting rodents and vermin above and below ground as well as coursing small game. He is a sturdy, compact, small-to-medium sized parti-colored dog giving the appearance of elegance and athleticism. His short, smooth coat may come in any variation of pied patterning. Pied is described as comparatively large patches of one or more colors in combination with white. Acceptable colors, with or without "tan points", include the predominate black, or chocolate, red, apricot, blue, fawn, tan, or lemon.

A Look Back
An American breed, the Rat Terrier was created by immigrants using a mixture of crosses of old time Fox Terriers and other European Terriers common in the 19th century; the Old English White Terrier, Manchester Terrier, Bull Terrier, etc.; and later more Smooth Fox Terrier, Beagle, Toy Fox Terriers, Whippets and Italian Greyhounds. From 1910 through the "dust bowl" era of the 1930s, the Rat Terrier was one of the most common farm dogs, used for ratting, hunting varmints and other work.

Right Breed for You?
This loyal, active and playful breed is at its best as a member of its human family, but may be reserved with strangers. Intelligent and trainable, many Rat Terriers excel in Agility and Obedience, events which also serve as excellent exercise outlets. The breed sheds seasonally and requires brushing with a soft brush or rubber curry mitt.

Bumble is sweet but headstrong, athletic but also at times clumsy (think bull in a china shop), full of attitude, and he will obey me when I reprimand him but not without "talking back". He makes me laugh as he tells me off while following my directions! He's my little rebel punk and I have fallen hopelessly in love with him.

This summer has been one of healing for both of us, and we have been very instrumental in each other's healing. I had a very difficult school year along with losing my Bear, and my spirit was depleted and my heart broken by the time June rolled around. Bumble has clearly been through some very difficult times as he journeyed from Kentucky to New York through the rescue system, and who knows what he went through before that - given some of his behaviors it couldn't have been good. Together we have helped each other get over past heart breaks, and to find peace and joy in the simple pleasures in life.

Rescuing an adult dog was not the easiest thing to do. There were moments really early on when I felt a bit of panic as I had a strange and therefor unpredictable dog living in my house. And Bumble does flash a dark side every once in a while which can be a little intimidating if you aren't ready for it. However, he has grown enormously as he has become more confident. His insecure behaviors have greatly diminished, and his secure behaviors are shining through. The Invisible Fence has been a miracle for him, and I would spend double if had to. It was worth every penny. Bum patrols the yard, keeping us safe from all things foreign, but he happily comes racing into my arms when I call him. If I could read his mind I know what he would be thinking: "I can't believe how freakin lucky I am!!!" and in my mind I am thinking the same thing.

~ in his yard ~
~ helping me sort paperwork ~

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Flying Dreams

I remember my dreams more so than most people, I think. "Lucid dreaming". Nearly every night I live in an alternate universe, and when I wake up it usually takes me a bit to sort out my dreams. Often those dreams are built on my anxieties, and it's a relief to enter the real world where I can more easily control my destiny. Sometimes, though, those dreams involve fantastical events and experiences, and upon waking I have a little bit of sadness because I had to leave that universe behind.

August is a season of fresh corn, cooling nights, less humidity, school shopping, savoring my last few days of freedom ... and school anxiety dreams. These dreams usually involve one or more of the following scenarios:

I am late for work and can't seem to get out of the house, 

I cannot find my locker or remember my locker combination, 

I am sitting in a class and realize that I have been skipping said class for so long that I do not have a clue about what is going on, 

I am teaching a class that is wildly out of control despite my screaming at the students, 

My principal is observing me and I am have no lesson plans prepared, 

I am sitting at my desk in my underwear although nobody seems to notice it.

I have grown used to the torture my mind inflicts upon itself, and I have developed coping mechanisms so that I do not lose my mind entirely. I hate those school anxiety dreams.

This August has been different thus far. No anxiety dreams whatsoever. What's up with that!? And last night I had a coveted flying dream, and for the first time I was flying in SCHOOL. CrAzY! In my dream, I had this cool iPad-like tablet that displayed all the imagery in my mind, and I tell you what: it was freakin beautiful. Flowing images and patterns and colors ... I wish I could duplicate that stream in real life. Then, I was floating and flying around the hallways, and the students thought it was really amazing. I proceeded to do a dorky air-dance kind of thing and I was laughing and having so much fun. What a nerd, I know, but I have been thinking about this dream all day, and even though I am feeling prepared and confident for this new school year (more so than most, ironically, given my new courses) this dream has confirmed my feelings of confidence and preparedness. How cool is that.

Additionally, last night I dreamt of my father. We were about to board this huge cruise-type ship, and it was going to take us across a large river or lake (think ferry on Lake Champlain). Somehow he was way ahead of me, and I was afraid I would be late and miss the departure, so I was trying to yell as loud as I could "Hold the ship! Hold the ship!". I was feeling like I wanted to catch up because I wanted to be with Dad, not necessarily to get to wherever the ship was headed. 'Probably a lot of symbolism there, so I have been revisiting this dream and trying to figure out the nuances.

Sometimes I feel weary from my dreams, especially when they tend toward the negative. I feel like I have no rest or escape, and I am almost more tired on those mornings than before I went to bed. But sometimes I get lucky and I fly. Or visit past loved ones. Or ride my childhood horse. Or write a poem. I feel fortunate to be in the camp of lucid dreamers.

Some interesting links to explore ...

Dream Moods
Dream Forth
Dream Doctor
Dream Interpretation at Freud and Jung

from an exhibit in Chicago last summer by Pierre Huyghe: Les Grandes Ensembles ...  it reminded me of a dream

Friday, August 26, 2011

Jury Freakin Duty

WATCH THE SEINFELD VIDEO with Elaine Benes ... just change the setting to a courtroom, the woman to me, the animals to the attorneys ...

Beautiful sunshine and no humidity outside the courthouse.

Civil suit.

5 attorneys.

Can a wife sue her husband when she willingly climbed aboard his motorcycle???

Attorneys disagree several times and have to step outside the courtroom. Hurry the f up!

Where do I look, because I feel like I am staring at people?

What do you mean we are taking an hour break for lunch?? Let's get this thing movin!!

No, I would not want me to be on the jury to decide what "percentage" of blame should be assigned!!!

People need to take responsibility for their own actions. Maybe the wife should sue herself for riding with her incompetent husband.

That man's shoulders are covered with dandruff. Ewww.

We live in a country where we can sue for anything we want, like the coffee being too hot.

Oh pleeeeeease let me go!!!!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Cricket Song

This time of year the crickets are chirping away. While in bed last night, I was enjoying their song, and thinking back on cricket memories.

I have many many good memories of crickets. As a child, it seemed like they were everywhere, especially around the large boulders that lined our long gravel driveway. We would catch them along with grasshoppers, and put them in glass mayonnaise jars to observe for a while before letting them go. Of course we did this with lightning bugs and snakes and caterpillars and butterflies, too. Crickets were tricky to catch, though, because you would seek them out based on their chirps, but when you approached they would clam up and hide. Later on, as teenagers cruising around with the windows open on the country roads late at night, we could hear them as we sped by and especially at the corners when we had to (sort of) stop.

Then there is a tough memory that rears its ugly head here and there, and that is when I was first separated from my husband, and I would be in my bed at night listening, wondering what they heck I was going to do, and how I was going to raise my son alone and keep my house. Meanwhile the crickets merrily chirped away as if the world hadn't come to an end. My stomach flops whenever I think of that dark period in my life.

But here I am, ten years after that life-changing August, and in the most content and happy place that I have ever experienced. I listen to the crickets and think about how despite what happens in our little lives, crickets and the rest of nature keep rolling along, summer by summer, season by season.

Some cricket info from Wikipedia:

The sound emitted by crickets is commonly referred to as chirping; the scientific name is stridulation. Only the male crickets chirp. The sound is emitted by the stridulatory organ, a large vein running along the bottom of each wing, covered with "teeth" (serration) much like a comb. The chirping sound is created by running the top of one wing along the teeth at the bottom of the other wing. As he does this, the cricket also holds the wings up and open, so that the wing membranes can act as acoustical sails. It is a popular myth that the cricket chirps by rubbing its legs together.

There are four types of cricket song: The calling song attracts females and repels other males, and is fairly loud. The courting song is used when a female cricket is near, and is a very quiet song. An aggressive song is triggered by chemoreceptors on the antennae that detect the near presence of another male cricket and a copulatory song is produced for a brief period after a successful mating.

Crickets chirp at different rates depending on their species and the temperature of their environment. Most species chirp at higher rates the higher the temperature is (approximately 62 chirps a minute at 13°C in one common species; each species has its own rate). The relationship between temperature and the rate of chirping is known as Dolbear's Law. Using this law it is possible to calculate the temperature in Fahrenheit by adding 40 to the number of chirps produced in 14 seconds by the snowy tree cricket common in the United States.

Ewww - I could never touch one now!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Zen ~ Ah!

"God is the experience of looking at a tree and saying 'Ah!'"
       Joseph Campbell

~ my favorite tree: our sycamore ~