Saturday, 30 November 2013

What We Already Are

When I became a mother for the first time, no one said to me, "Hey, that's nice, but you are not a mother yet, maybe someday." No, I was a mother because I was doing it.

Today I was reflecting on something that I noticed with the amazing group of women that surround and support me and how they treat my daughter, who is often with me when I see them. They take her seriously as an artist. She won't someday be an artist maybe. She IS. She is because she is doing it. She is because she loves it. She is because it makes her happy and she cannot imagine a life without making art. She is 9 and she doesn't have to wait to grow up  to be something. She is.

Holly is a dancer. She works hard to learn more and practise her skills, but she goes to the studio, trains, and at the end of the year will perform on stage. She doesn't have to wait to think she will someday be something. She IS. She is 5.

Isaac? He loves trains and toys and running and painting. Right now he is loving just being with us and doing what we do. Soon enough he will share with us what he loves and we will nurture it. 

Nurturing a child is the critical point here. If we tell them, That's nice, but it doesn't mean anything significant. Move along. How will they ever really believe that they could ever be anything? I suffer that now, not sure if I can call myself a writer or a poet even though I do both and have even been published! Maybe it is because I don't really feel all grown up and so much importance was placed on being grown up before one could really be anything at all.

Holly wants to be a pilot too and a construction worker. She already builds things. She LOVES aircraft of all kind. You will never catch me doubting what any of my children are capable of. Not ever. Watch them fly!

The kids are also farmers, right by our side doing work that they love, hard work. They earn the credit for this work that most just dismiss the value of because of their age alone. That is so problematic. Children can and want to do meaningful work and my children do.

I will continue to be their biggest fan, encourage them to dream and see possibilities with every turn. I will carefully tend their imagination and help turn their dreams into reality. That is how we homeschool and how we parent. It goes beyond that though, it doesn't stop at my children. More and more, I have found myself cheering on and encouraging others, children and adults, to believe in their own possibilities. Who says that it is too late? Seriously? Who? If you want to do it, give it a try. Progress measured in inches is still progress.

What do you want to be when you grow up? Can you take the step and call yourself that now?

Dirty Wild Rice Dressing

Recipe for Dirty Rice Dressing

2 cups of wild rice
6 cups of broth (I like lamb or chicken, either works)
1 cup of water
1/2 cup of butter (1 stick)
1 lb of ground sausage (I used Traditional Bratworst, but I also like Green Onion in this recipe)
1 celery stick diced
1 onion diced
1 red bell pepper diced 

This is what was in the seasoning packet that our customers purchased at Prairieland Herbs:
3 T of seasoning salt (Swamp Fire is what I used, slap yo' mama works too)
1 T of Alebepo pepper
1 T of dried shallot
1 bay leaf

Bring the broth and water to a boil. Add the seasoning packet/mix and stir. Add the wild rice and stir in. Let simmer on low until the water/broth level is at the top of the rice (this takes 40 minutes to an hour). Turn off the heat and cover. Let rest while browning the sausage in the butter. I know that seems like a lot of butter, but the recipe provides 12 cups of rice, trust me on the butter! 

When the sausage is browned and ready, add it to the rice. Then add the diced vegetables. You will be adding them raw. I like the crunch and texture they add to the mixture and they will cook in the heat of the rice. Some folks I know caramelize the onion with the meat, but it isn't needed. The veggies are also where you can play a little. Like carrots? Dice some up and add them. Shallots? Go for it. Mushrooms. Yum.

Since I usually make this for a large gathering or samples, I then move the mix to a crockpot and keep on low/warm while serving. The rice just gets better and better.

One more tip- more than one person commented at our sample event about the amount of broth in ratio to the rice. Wild rice is not the same as minute white rice. The extra broth really is needed. The mix we use is a combination of 6-7 different wild rices, but the flavour is AMAZING.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Thanksgiving Birthdays x3

Since Great Grandma lives so far away and shares a birthday month with Lily and Isaac, we waited to have the family party on Thanksgiving. So Holly wouldn't feel left out, she also got a new doll. Lily, in true fashion of Lilyness, stayed up late and got up early to complete 2 of the three kits she got as gifts. She'd have done the third today too, but Holly wants to do it with her and she went on an overnight trip to take Great Grandma home.

We had a calm and lovely holiday. As usual, I wasn't as social as I could have been, but I tried. There were no butter wars. No fighting. It was nice.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Do Not Feed The Bears

Do not. Do not feed the bears.

This is my final post before Thanksgiving hits. My thoughts on survival today are simple. DO NOT ENGAGE.

So tomorrow, as I venture out into the cold with my made from scratch pie that I know everyone will eat and if they don't I will have an awesome breakfast tomorrow.....I say to you, every family has its issues. You are not alone.

I grew up in a family that insulted and pranked each other like we had a laugh track and audience. Every situation called for snide remarks and clever comebacks, each more biting and hurtful and more hilarious than the one before. When you were not the target of humiliation, then you were a participant. I came up from that wanting kindness and peaceful grace to be the decor of my home, oh but Lastworditis is a lifelong affliction.  It takes everything I have not to speak out the cleverness that is just at the tip of my tongue when things get going. You see, I can be part of the problem. So it is with this in mind that I tell you, all of my experience behind this wisdom, DO NOT. As the old homeschoolers at a picnic adage goes, "Simply ask for the awesome bean dip recipe. When they insist on discussion, pretend you didn't hear them and rave over the quality of the beans and the sour cream and the flavour of the cheese. Eventually they will get the hint."

When your favourite Aunt starts criticising your parenting (even though she has no children of her own or has even ever lived with a child in her entire life), change the subject. Ask her about her last vacation or her apple pancake recipe.  Do not enter the honey trap of discussing attachment parenting or cloth diapers or..... just don't. Those topics may be near and dear to you and you may have 1000 things to say about the topics but just don't. For the love of your auntie, don't.

When your mother starts making offhand comments about your hair or your clothes, even suggesting a trip to salon as a Christmas gift and her comments make you feel ugly and gross? Breathe deep. Do not engage. Change the subject. Ask her about the holiday sales, maybe even ask to see pictures of her children in past years to get holiday photo ideas. CHANGE THE SUBJECT of something is hurting you. For the love of pumpkin pie do not tell her how you feel. Not at that moment.

When your husband's cousin starts talking about gun-man-ship and he's the last person you want with a concealed carry? Lady, nothing you can say will make things turn out well. Just leave the room at let whatever is happening in there be.  Seriously. Where's my pie spoon?

When your exact opposite of you sister starts in on sleep training or food stamps or make up and it all makes you want to vomit and wonder if you are a changeling or an abandoned alien because how on earth could you be related to such a freaking clueless diva? Yeah. Your emotions are getting the better of your good sense and your sister is a person too with feelings even, maybe.  Do not tell her anything that is on your mind. The holidays bring out the worst in people. Every single person.  You are not exempt.

When another relative tells you xyz is a sign that God is punishing you for abc? Sigh deeply and ask them about their local church and what kinds of outreach they do. Change the topic to something less personal.

When your relatives stare at the home cooked from food you grew in your own worm composted garden and then processed and or fermented by hand in your own kitchen and then refuse to even come within a 5 ft radius of the dish, let alone even cut into it and your feelings are hurt because you put three months of effort into making that JUST FOR THIS DAY? Seriously. Save it. Do not take it personally. DO NOT TAKE IT PERSONALLY. Food is such a personal and intimate subject and ingesting something into your body is a big deal. Not everyone is on the same nutritional journey or likes the same things. Forget being polite. Because if any of them are polite and then later get sick from cousin Randy's beer and tatertot casserole thing? They will blame your dish. They will. So, don't sweat it and save it for later when you can share it with folks who will care. Like me. Unless it has pickles. Lily will have my share then.

Or just stop at Dairy Queen and get an ice cream cake. Even the crunchiest hippie mamas eat those, though sometimes in secret. Shhhhh.

When one of your cousins sets the house on fire? (This has happened.) Don't freak out. Put the fire out and then laugh about it. Mock them about it for the next decade. That's probably fair game. Maybe. Right?

One of the things about my mother in law that I really admire is how she can take the tension out of a conversation at a holiday meal and change the subject. Sometimes with a self mocking joke, sometimes with a passing of the dish, or a question for someone else. She is the queen of clean transitions.  She's freaking brilliant at this. In the end no one really wants a holiday gathering to end with someone storming out mad with everyone else wondering if they will ever see them again. Sometimes you won't. Not ever.

So if you are having an anxiety attack about potential drama at your holiday gathering? Don't. Instead, be the person who transitions the conversation. When someone trolls for a fight, tell them That's interesting, I'll have to think about that. Even if you won't, it leaves them feeling validated and heard and in the end that's all any person at all wants.

Is there ever a time to step up and have your say? Sure. If there is a knife fight, someone is disorderly drunk, or if someone is violent with anyone's children or pets (including their own), or if your wheelchair bound grandmother lunges and crawls through the gravy bowl just to assault you and call you names. Then by all means, get in there, sleeves rolled up and have at it. Don't expect pie to still be served though. Though unless children and/or animals are involved, I would still just quietly get my keys and leave, maybe grabbing a pie for the road before anyone can dramatically storm after me.

And if it is all too much for you? Stay home. Seriously. This is just a Thursday. It doesn't have to be something that you are up all night the night before worrying about. Hello 2am! It takes two to drama. If one decides to eat pie instead, then drama goes elsewhere or just plain looks nuts. That's ok too.  Seriously, grown women do not have "enemies" no matter how important they think they are, they just don't. Unless, maybe, yeah, no. If you walk away from a cat fight and only one person is left there meowing and screeching while you eat pie? Meowser wins right? I don't care. Pie.

My southern friends say, "Bless your heart," when things get catty and heated on our support group board. Even though I know that this actually means, "Gah! What a stupid b!#@*!" it seems to soothe people and calm things down. Why? Because words actually are powerful, the words spoken are sweet and they can mean anything you like. Saying, "Bless her heart," is so comforting that it simmers down tempers. It also signals that someone is refusing to engage in the argument, that they are done, and done in a graceful way. That is so powerful.

Do not feed the bears. Do not engage in arguments that have no ending. Do not comment on strange political and possibly drunk ramblings of extended family. Do not get drawn in. Do gather recipes, laugh at genuinely funny things, dote on your favourite people, and be the one who brings peach, I mean peace, to the table. Be neutral, be happy, be sweet. Then eat all the pie and leave.

So that said, what is your favourite could have been a Griswold moment family memory? (See how I set the comments to anonymous? Have at it!

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Name Five Things That Make You Awesome and Why I Couldn't

So on a local Facebook support group for natural health mothers that are also nice to each other the question was posed: Name five things about you that make you AWESOME.

I couldn't. It irritated me all day long. I thought maybe tomorrow I will be able to, maybe today I am just being a grumpus. 

Nope. The next day was not any better and not being able to do this was bringing me down. The narrative in my head went something like this:

You are a writer, you could say that! No. Writers don't just self publish on a vanity blog.

You are a farmer, how about that? Are you kidding? Bah. I run the market booth and the emails and Chad does all the heavy lifting. No. You chased the run away calf on foot for two miles and caught her AND when all the pigs got out you tracked them and helped round them up! Whatever.

You are a mother of a special needs child. Isaac's needs barely count. He's a sweet and easy and healthy child. How could I even think to use that as something that makes ME awesome?

What about your cooking? Fluke. The ingredients are what make that good and just knowing when to let it be.
The conversation went on like this in my head for days. Usually when I come across something online that annoys me or I don't like, I move on and don't give it anymore thought. But this? How can I be a feminist AND have this inner dialogue? Was it just a phase that would pass with the full moon?

Then a friend confided that she couldn't do this list either. My friend who is an amazing mother, a gentle heart, and offers words of comfort and insight when others are in pain. How could she be in this same place? That got me thinking about this.

Owl skeleton after being crushed by a deer dancing in the woods.
I asked my kids, What about Mama is amazing? 

Holly: You make the bestest pancakes! And I love you! And you have long hair and are queen of the elves and can talk to unicorns!

Lily: You are a good artist and you make awesome food. You hug me when I'm scared. You have secret super powers. You are strong and smart and you are the only person in the whole world that Dada is afraid of! (Not true, I think....)

Isaac: (signs) MILK!

So to my kids I am awesome. I am clever. I am caring. I am a milk machine. You know? I'll take that.

But the narrative in my head always counters that, You yelled and made them feel little. You set a bad example of friend making because you don't have a BFF. You would rather be writing your stupid book than reading bedtime stories. You've been leaving the laundry to pile up.
Good grief. So I thought, what if I was talking to two people fighting? How would I mediate between them?

Thus, a third narrative was born.

Both stories are valid. See how this works?

You are a writer, you could say that! No. Writers don't just self publish on a vanity blog.  All writers start somewhere. Progress measured by inches is still progress. Nearly 10,000 pages were read on that vanity blog, if people didn't want to read it, they wouldn't. Lot's of writers have "vanity" blogs- even Neil Gaiman. Writing everyday is good for you even if no one reads it.

You are a farmer, how about that? Are you kidding? Bah. I run the market booth and the emails and Chad does all the heavy lifting. No. You chased the run away calf on foot for two miles and caught her AND when all the pigs got out you tracked them and helped round them up! Whatever. 80% of farming is driving and you do most of that for the farm. You can do animal first aid and have seen more than a lot of "farmers" in just four years. The market booth keeps the farm alive.

You are a mother of a special needs child. Isaac's needs barely count. He's a sweet and easy and healthy child. How could I even think to use that as something that makes ME awesome?  Isaac does have needs and keeping him healthy is complicated and you have to have a lot of mindfulness and juggle a lot of information all at once to make informed decisions and prepare for the things that are still ahead. Enjoy this downtime, but do not dismiss it.

What about your cooking? Fluke. The ingredients are what make that good and just knowing when to let it be. Actually, this is a fair statement. Ha! As Sylvina Rowe said though, home cooked food is precious, magical, and soothing. This is the magic you are learning.

Each narrative has value. Each side has a point. Recognising this was so very hard, but it quieted me for a bit. Forget the list. I am just wonderful in the moment. Tonight I am missing bedtime stories and writing instead, I need this and it makes me a better person to give in to this art and create. I am WRITING bedtime stories. I only miss 3 or 4 in a two week span usually. The fact that I get as many as a do with my beautiful children is a blessing to them and to me. A magical childhood, sparkling with love and laughter- that is my gift to them.

So, I am not going to ask you to list out five things that make you awesome. You ARE awesome. We are all on different journeys and different mile markers and when we encounter fellow travellers, the kind thing to do is be that third voice lifting them up, as my own children and friends did for me.

Take a moment to be kind to yourself. Breathe in the air for a moment. At night, look at the stars or the clouds or the moon or just the darkness of a house without any lights on. Find a moment and just be kind to yourself. In the daylight, find a bit of light or beauty in the small space around you. It takes practise, just like any art, but if you do it enough and often you will polish this skill. You will, friend.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Holiday Spoon Club, The Story Behind the Name

Holidays growing up were always vibrant. My family has a strange sense of humour and a lot of emotional baggage bumping about. Like many families, once people were rosy and cheerful from food and spirits, emotions could get going. Old hurts bubble up or are remembered or haven't healed from the year before. Later in my life my family would invite people without family near to our home to share our meal- sounds generous, but the main benefit was that it made family drama near impossible because one does not dysfunction in front of strangers. Well, not usually.

So I never really knew what to expect. That is one of my main anxieties about the holidays, really, is that when people get emotional and then in close quarters things can get complicated quickly.

My senior year we had family in town and someone decided to make the stuffing a bit "greener" than usual, or that's how the story has evolved. It is possible that alcohol reacted to my 90 something year old Nebraskan grandmother's medication, but that makes a less dramatic story I suppose. Whatever it was, I would neither eat something cooked in a Turkey's butt cavity (still won't, I know that my real food friends are laughing at me right now....) nor did I drink. At some point in our lovely meal my grandmother launched out of her seat and crawled over the table, grabbed me by my collar and called me a lesbian liberal slut.

Of course there were no words I could offer. Lack of oxygen was the main reason. Once she let go and I realized everyone was laughing hysterically, I slipped out the door, got in my car, and headed for coffee.

Yay Thanksgiving.

Some years after that I attended Thanksgiving again at my families home, but this time I was newly wed, still childless. My mother and I were not on good terms, probably because of her dislike of my husband. My siblings were still in high school and the house was full of strangers. That meant the drama was more of the mock each other cruelly variety.

At some point I could not take it. I couldn't leave either. I couldn't eat either, not trusting what could be in the main meal food ingredients. I grabbed a pie from the buffet, a pecan cream cheese pie with lard and butter crust. I took the whole pie to the front parlour of their Victorian home and seated myself as hidden as I could from the main walkways and I started eating it with my fingers and crying.

The chaos continued to run through the house, folks laughing and children running and playing and laughing and the holiday tension building. Pie. Pie was making it better. Pie was making me forget infertility and the pull between in-laws and my family, the jealousies, the financial struggles of being a college student and buying a house and being newly wed and having my family not like my husband and at the same time pressuring us to have kids and mocking us for not being able to and everything else.

My mom's friend Mel came in the room and stood there silent for a moment and then left.

Busted. Oh no. I tried to compose myself, wipe tears off my face, the smears of cream cheese too.

But no. She brought spoons. Not one, but two. Together we sat there and ate the pie, quietly. When it was done she made the plate disappear and she gave me a hug. There was no mention again of the pie, when it was noticed missing, she helped cover up my crime. Unlike family, she did not mock me or hold it against me later.

And that year for Christmas? She gifted me a single spoon. So like a space traveller, who should never be without a towel, do not go into the holidays without your spoon.

Raise your spoons higher my friends and eat that pie. If you see someone in need of a spoon? Get the spoon for them. This is how someone brought peace to my holiday.

So the affirmation for today? We've all been there. You are not alone. I am not alone. Our stories are all different, they all have value. Dysfunctional families are everywhere, but so is pie. 

Simple but powerful words.

Holly's Art (aka ADORABLE!)

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Spoon Club Affirmations

Whoa baby. The holidays are here. Even those who don't believe in religion or celebrate the traditions can't seem to escape the stress and the pressure and the chaos of the next six weeks. The upcoming events affect all of us in a negative way- traffic patterns are disrupted, shopping for everyday items are complicated, the weather here in the Midwest can also get treacherous, and people seem to be more bah humbug than joy to the world.

If you do partake in the holiday events and traditions? Oh my. That's just asking for it.

Asking for what?

Well, that depends on you. No. Really.

I'm not saying this because I am one of those chipper elves that dons the jingle bells and wears ugly sweaters all year long. I am. That's beside the point. The holidays have always been a horrible time for me. I love giving gifts. I love decorating. I love and I mean LOVE the food traditions. I love Santa and elves and snow and everything Christmas.

Except I don't. 

I hate how people get so stressed out. I hate how the food makes people sad instead of full. I hate how giving gifts means the next year is spent trying to catch up on the credit card bill. I hate how choosing whose house to go to is like the Mason Dixon Line of family feuds. I hate the mall. I hate the traffic. I hate the holiday station that I want to love but they play the same 8 Christmas songs over and over again and two of them are the same song just different versions/eras and I have at least 200 good ones on my iPod I left at home to choose from. I hate the look of disappointment when I give a handmade gift. I hate the look even more when it is something my child has made special. I hate that everyone is super ramped up and they all take it out on strangers, especially on the Internet.

So, friends, I am going to get on here everyday and write out a special message. Any of you who are right here with me on this holiday edge can play along. Anyone who isn't? Find someone who is and give them a pie or a hug or a pie hug, ok? Let's do our best to bring peace into each others lives, shine a light to those who are battling the darkness and the dragons, and make folks who have no family or no family who wants them feel loved, and then let's keep this generosity going long after the holidays. It isn't just a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving gesture- this needs to be for real and for always. Let;s just start with today though. Who's with me? I am going to call it the Holiday Chaos Spoon Club (and I'll share with you why tomorrow....)

Today I will remember that no matter how I live my life, friends and family and strangers will think I am weird. I will live my life for me instead. I will dye my hair purple and live in an RV if that brings me happiness. I will shave my head and hula hoop on the beach if that brings me happiness. I will blog like no one is reading. I will do what I love. 

I will remember this as I attend family and social events where the things I love are criticised. I will love myself and my life anyway.

It isn't a perfect start, but it what was in my head after I spoke with my friend Ashley this afternoon. I remember thinking these same things as I was making the decision to go to college to study poetry, then when I decided to get married, when I decided to have children, buy an old run down house, and then move to a farm. Every decision I made was ridiculed, critiqued, and I was made to feel incapable. Clearly, I am capable. What if I had listened.

Oh. I have listened actually. I stopped blogging after months of a friend making snide remarks about it. I gave that piece of myself away and I can't get it back. I allowed it to be stolen from my children, a record of their lives. How stupid is that? Why did I care so much what other people thought? So what if my pictures are messy, if my content is varied and unfocused, and you know who cares about my thoughts? Me! So again, I blog like no one is reading and that means it is messy and varied and pictures of food and crayons and piles of laundry and pigs and piles of crayons and more pigs and sometimes sheep too. I make mistakes. I love pie.

I wanted to perform street poetry in San Francisco. I didn't go. I was scared and let the critics feed those fears. I wanted to travel but listened to my friends tell me that it would be hard to do with Lily when she was two, even though our first two trips were wonderful, I had this nagging sense that they were right. I just worry about you. Those were the subtle underminings that were all it took. I let it. I let it crash my self esteem. Why?

I. Me. I let it. I can't even say never again. Why? Because I am human.

So, hold you head high and your spoons higher. Let's have some pie!

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Dancing Barefoot in the Snow, Recovered

 Sometimes life can get overwhelming. I read this week about a friend who used to sword fight barefoot in the snow and she said it wasn't so bad if you keep moving. (Hopes she reads this and then reminds me who she is so I can give proper credit! I think it was.....someone in Iowa City?)


That is what I feel like. If I keep moving, it doesn't hurt so much. If I am always learning, doing, dancing, playing.....then the things in my life that hurt will just fade into the background and I can keep fighting the dragons (and the windmills) that threaten to swallow me whole.

Special needs parenting is hard. If I stop and think, what will life be like in 10 years, I get burned alive with worry. Worry that ruins my today. Jealousy? For so many of my special needs parenting friends it can be devastating and paralysing to see the lives that others are leading, lives that they wanted for their family but will never have. I'm not there yet. I still can't imagine that Isaac's life won't be completely beautiful and that anyone could exclude or harm him. I mean, I know it is possible, but it isn't real yet because it has never really happened. When he was one, the fact that he was just barely crawling made some lady at a birthday party embarrassed that she asked how old he was, but that barely counts. You know? Yeah. I know in my head that worse is yet to come for all three of my children, but it has not happened yet so I can still believe in faeries and unicorns.

Farming is hard. I can't even think more than one season ahead right now, because weather and predation, and customer base determine what will happen year to year. We have to plan ahead, prepare for both the best and the worst and keep moving. It helps that we have amazing customers who support our efforts and cheer us on like family. We are so grateful for that. So grateful. Y'all have no idea how much that means to us.

Marriage is hard. Everyday we work on encouraging the gifts, talents, and interests that we both have. We work on better parenting our children together. We plan. We prepare. Like the farm though, things can change in a blink of an eye (farm accidents are on my mind right now as my neighbour is currently in the hospital after a life threatening accident) and if we dwell too much on the what ifs, we can't grow in the present. Just keep those feet moving and swords and plough shares sharp.

So my practise has been to stay in the moment, find the simple joys in the day we are in. Photograph it if I can. I have talked a couple times about this blog being love letters to my children. I mean that. I hope that if they ever have only these writings to know me by, that they will know they are loved and cherished. Knowing that is so important as you set off into the world. You know?

So that said, here are a few beauties from today.

I love this green on the fresh split maple. Maple is my favourite wood to burn, makes the house smell like caramel.

Holly loves My Little Ponies. She also loves dumping things out.

Isaac was figuring out if a golf ball fit in the trap door. It did. Over and over again.

Lily worked on Christmas gifts. She told me the best part of Christmas is making and giving gifts. She will probably do this for the next 3 months. Seriously. She loves it so much.

We sorted crayons, clay, scissors, and paper today.

Isaac's favourite cars.

Holly suited up and played outside for almost 3 hours. She knocked icesicles off of things, broke ice sheets, and made snow goblins.

Then she came inside and got to work building me a stationary bike. Love that girl.
Every day is a chance to start over, breathe deep in gratitude. Things may look impossible tomorrow and they may even be impossible, but I try not to let it ruin today. I am grateful for my friends, for my "secret gang of girls in my phone" (thanks Naptime is For Drinking for giving it a name), for pie, for snow, for firewood, for little boy laughs and smiles, for "Itsy Bitsy Spider", and for my family.

I am thankful for both my daughters. They make me laugh and cry and dance with joy.

I am thankful for an abundance of food.

I am thankful for our farm. I love this house, I love the warmth and the design and the location. Since I am home bound through most of the winter, I am also thankful that I enjoy living here.

I am thankful I can read. To build on that, I am thankful for an abundance of books. I will be reading a lot this winter.

I an thankful for good friends, both near and far.  Friends that I can count on and friends that I can just be me with. Sometimes that includes the frustrated, angry me. True friends, including my lovely husband, take us for who we are and not just on the sunshiny days. I think that most people might only have the kind of friend that walks on eggshells and is always nice. That's nice too, but when things get rough it is really good to have the kind of friends that will just let you be angry or sad or weepy or cranky and still be your friend. You know?

I am thankful for my husband.

Every day we say what we are thankful for at our meals together. It was really got me thinking about how gratitude brings peace to the table.

What are you grateful for?

Friday, 22 November 2013

Burek, My Version

Years ago, at a local place, I had burek. It was so unremarkable. Bland. The meat was clearly low quality or cooked until mushy- you know like bad taco filling. I remember thinking that I could do better, that the item had so much potential that was somehow wasted and ruined by using low quality ingredients- not what you would expect from a place that brags the opposite. You know?I love meat pies and have a goal to try the meat pies of as many cultures as I can. Except maybe the ones from Mrs. Lovett's shop on Fleet Street. I'll pass on those. (That's a nerdy literature reference, ha!)

So years later I am scanning the Interwebs for a friend looking for venison recipes that use no tomatoes. There it was- burek. Though none of the recipes used venison, which was odd, considering the search terms, but I decided it would work.

So I bought phyllo dough, thawed my ground venison and decided to have a go at it. Could I do better? So far, the only meal I have had out that I could not make better at home was pretty much anything at the Northside Cafe in Winterset. I combined from a couple different sources, used what I had on hand, and it turned out great.

For the filling:
1.5 lbs of ground venison (though beef, lamb, or goat have been used traditionally, depending on region)
2 heaping T of Alepbo pepper (Penzies, but a good medium hot dried ancho will work)
8 baby bella mushrooms, sliced thin
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 large red onion, diced
1/2 cup beef broth with fat on top (Basically, I skimmed for just the fat and the broth that came with it. Venison is very lean and added fat is needed. Other meats may not.)
Salt and pepper to taste

Brown the meat in the broth and fat. Add the dried pepper about half way through. Once it is cooked, add the veggies. Let this simmer down until the broth is mostly gone and the onions start to caramelise. I start the meat on high and move to medium simmer when I add the veggies, low when the broth is mostly gone.

Take off heat and let sit while the dough is rolled out.

Phyllo is fine and thin in layers. I used three layered sheets for each one, brushing melted butter between two layers. About 1/2 cup of meat mixture per roll. I rolled like burritos.If I was rolling lengthwise I would use 2 more sheets and double the meat. Rolling short made easier serving portions and I didn't roll into coils this time anyway.

400 degrees in the oven until browned. Serve with fresh tomato garnish, sour cream if wanted. Chevre (a soft goat cheese) is my favourite.

The kids begged to have it reheated for breakfast and then they actually ate it. Then they fought over the last bites, resolving an negotiating with extra clementines and Lily telling Holly about the mushrooms contained in the filling (that was the deal breaker).

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Eggnog Oatmeal

Oh there are so many things on my wish list to cook with eggnog. I LOVE eggnog. So much. Funny, though, I had never even considered this one.

Today we were out of milk and cream AND ice cream. This never happens at our house. So I looked, also out of cream cheese, but we had sour cream, yogurt, and.....eggnog.

So. Eggnog it was. In oatmeal. It was brilliant, easy, and the kids each had two bowls.

Eggnog Oatmeal

4 cups of old fashioned oats
1 Table spoon of allspice
1/4 cup of maple syrup
1/4 cup of eggnog
...appropriate amount of water to cook four cups of the oatmeal....I always just eye it.

Cook the oatmeal- this takes about 5-6 minutes. I boil the water first, then add the oats. About 2 minutes from being done, add the sugar, spice, and eggnog and then continue cooking and stirring until the oats are cooked. Then turn off (or take off) heat, cover and let rest for 2-3 minutes (enough time to get kids to wash hands and set the table (and who's kidding, argue over who gets the pink spoon. I hate that pink spoon).


*I used allspice because previous experience told me that it was easier than trying to get the cinnamon, nutmeg, etc combination right for such a small serving portion. It worked really well. The eggnog lost most of the spice flavour once it hit the oats, but added the perfect creaminess. I like to use maple syrup instead of sugar because of the trace minerals and because it is a product from our own farm. Raw sugar also works. 

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Tiny Time Lords and Chaos

With so much chaos going on all over the world, so much war and destruction and suffering, we are blessed to live in a land of plenty. We are grateful to have food, shelter, and health. I don't mean America or even Iowa, I mean that we are blessed in this little bubble of our farm. Some of our own neighbours do not have food security, one is currently in the ICU in recovery from a farm accident, and daily news headlines read about school lock downs, tornado destruction, and suffering.

We are blessed and we are careful not to take this for granted.

We do our best to meet our children's needs: physical, intellectual, and emotional. When humans feel safe, loved, and are well nourished they evolved to create art and pursue higher thinking beyond survival. When these needs fall short, we revert to survival mode. Knowing this about our natural make up, I set out to make sure that their needs are fully met.

For the last two days I could not get these children out of the dress up closet and into regular clothes. They played and played in their own little world, made their own meals, laughed at the food I set out, and got to know each other better.

People in a family forget sometimes that we are always evolving as people, and because of this, we must constantly get to know each other. This is doubly true for children as they learn and get to know themselves! Nay, 100 times true. They often turn from their parents and to their peers and that is why teenagers could feel distant from the family unit. I remember thinking as a teen that my family didn't get me, they didn't know me, and came to the conclusion that they didn't love me. I still don't know if those conjectures were born in truth or simply teen angst because those relationships never recovered from those years.

I intend that my children never feel that way. I know that I am not a Time Lord and have not the power of playing with fate like playdough, but as a mother, I must try. If I fail, I hope that I have given them enough space to form strong and healthy relationships with others, including their siblings. That is the purpose of the crazy days we have had, while they look unstructured and feel frustrating at times to the order of my house (gah, the mess!), they are so, so valuable. So important. So critical to their emotional health.

That is my mantra while the three of them tore through time and space and leave destruction in their wake, leaving me to wonder how much Time Lord they might have in them.....this is so important, this is critical to their personhood, this is part of their growing and thriving.

So if I seem like a crazy lady, muttering this as I follow the mess from room to room, picking up gobs of yellow feathers, legos, toy aeroplanes, and washing so so many bowls used for tea party and salsa snacks......please just hand me a coffee and chocolate and tell me I am right. Please and thank you.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Unsolicited Advice Via the Grocery Store

Courtesy of Jennifer at Herbalist Eats.  Thanks for the great think this morning!

My children go grocery shopping with me. They have done this since Lily was about 10 months old. Before that I was terrified of shopping alone with a baby. I constantly thought I would break her. It wasn't until I mastered the ring sling and was shamed into it that I dared even attempt it. I had to grocery shop for the museum I worked at and would go on my lunch break so I could also get my own shopping done at the same time ALONE.

I was shamed into it because the day care provider I used had an emergency and when I managed to get off work and go get Lily, my car was full of groceries and she thought I had stopped and grocery shopped while she waited for me to get there to get my kid so she could take hers to the emergency room. Why couldn't I have taken Lily?

Because I couldn't. I just couldn't. Terrified.

Part of it was that I was terrified of taking my baby alone out anywhere. Getting her to daycare on my own was a feat of miracles. She was so heavy. She was also so breakable.

So when I did finally venture out, first with Chad along, and then on my own, strangers' criticizing was devastating. Mind blowing crushing emotional disaster zone. If I put shoes on Lily, "Oh baby's feet should be bare!"....if I left them bare, "Oh she'll be too cold and get a chill and get sick!" AND DIE. In July when temperatures outside slid into the 100's. For real.

Babywearing helped and harmed. "She'll never learn to walk!" She'll be dependent on me forever and never talk, walk, or wipe her own butt. Those are real fears for a new mom. Lily however had other plans. She often would respond right back, sassy and all, "NO, NEVER!" I could hold her close and recover my own heartbeat and confidence, snuggled to my heart in her sling.

Fast forward to now, three kids, one who doctors actually thought might never walk and folks were fine with blaming the baby carriers we used and not his genetic condition. Thank God I was a lot more confident by then!

At the local coffee house I got scolded for not offering him food too when he was 4 months old and exclusively breastfed and then again scolded when I offered him yogurt at age 15 months. In between was a constant volley back and forth of me being polite while sucking down the coffee my kids so aptly named, "The child saver brew." Thanks kids. (Mocha caramel latte with whipped cream and three cherries on top. )

At the grocery store things were different. People commented freely on our vegetable choices. On the contents of my cart. The cashiers actually thought we were vegetarians because I NEVER buy grocery store meat. Nope. Not ever. Except for the meat on frozen pizza and the occasional alligator fillets. More comments about bare baby feet. For real people. Comments assuming we used foodstamps, even though we didn't.

It got me thinking....maybe the problem isn't overly intrusive strangers and creepers. Maybe it is just the way we make small talk? In general? We comment on things. We try to share our secret stash of food and parenting knowledge. The cashier might have been on foodstamps herself and looking for that connection too. We try and say, here, let me help because what we really mean is here, I am lonely, please look me in the eye and make me feel less invisible? 

Because I get that. I get that so deeply in my core. Even now, as motherhood joyously skips into the next phase and era and I am no longer breastfeeding and rarely babywear in public, I am losing that badge of identity that says to other moms, "Hey, I'm in your club. I'm on your side. I know." I am flickering out of that public view and needing to still make connections with others, grasping at that. I almost drove around the block and rolled down my window just to yell, "Hey, AWESOME BABY CARRIER!" to a local mom in our small town, but then froze, because creeper. I drove home. I still have no idea who she is, just that someone else in my small town gets the benefits of babywearing. Sigh.

So now when folks approach me and my gaggle of kids, often in full dress up and theatrical mode, at the grocery, offering inedible strange advice, I introduce myself and my children and tell them about whatever ingredients I am buying. I make eye contact and smile. We become less invisible.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Fixer Holly

We had to build a deck and steps to the porch for the freezer inspection coming up. Chad asked, "Anyone want to help?" and Holly was out the door, coat in hand, hopped in her boots. She was so excited! She is five, but from experience, we know that she is actually a helper and is very careful around power tools. Our friend Jessica comes to the farm regularly and has given Holly a lot of one on one instruction about them (though Holly is still not allowed to touch them, ever). Holly can hold a board steady, hold the end of a measuring tape, and mark lines with a pencil. She can also run for help if anyone slices their arm off. See? Very useful.  Chad also teaches her the proper names for tools and what they are each for. Holly is adorable, smart, and capable of building big things.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Eggless Pancakes With Sorghum

Eggless and natural sugar pancakes 

2 cups of flour
2 cups of milk
2 T of Sorghum
1 teaspoon of salt
1 T of baking powder
1 T of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
Coconut oil for frying

Mix all the ingredients together.

Pour into hot pan with coconut oil and flip when one side gets bubbly.
Easy enough for my 9 year old to make. We are not allergic to eggs, we are just in a war with our chickens and they are holding out on us. Ha!