30 November 2010

Thoughts and ramblings on radical homemaking and such

I recently posted on facebook that I'm fantasizing about rural/communal living. I was only a little bit joking.

I am reading Radical Homemakers. (It feels ironic to link to big corporate Amazon for this book.) I'm thinking about society, what I value and how I want to live. Thinking about our consumer culture, and how I want to fight it, subvert it. Avoid corporate anything as much as possible. Make my own, or buy directly from the people who do grow/make things. Local meats, eggs, dairy, veggies, grains. Make our own pasta, graham crackers, soups, snacks ... what about cheese? yogurt? I haven't tried making these but I know it's do-able and well within reason. Sure it takes time, but I'm home. Plus I feel it's valuable to teach the kids how much we really can do or make ourselves. Teach them skills, not consumerism.

I'm also thinking about what I can do, what things I can make or services I can provide that might be tradeable; what I can contribute to my community. I'm not sure. I need to look into local native bee stuff, maybe start doing some outreach. I plan to talk to the Master Gardener group coordinator to see if I can maybe give a talk about native bees and how to manage for them.

I miss living next door to The Best Neighbors Ever, swapping kid care, feeding their chickens and stealing eggs, borrowing their dog for the occasional hike, and sharing the yards we collectively (mostly jokingly) referred to as The Compound. I miss seeing and interacting with our neighbors. This isolated living, houses close together but closed up tight is not my thing. People are hardly ever out in their yards. I've barely talked to one of our neighbors, and hardly ever see the others. It feels cold. It doesn't feel like home.

I'm thinking about the possibility of moving to a smaller house, one with a gardenable patch of yard (and just maybe a place to have 2-4 chickens). Less house square footage but more livable real estate as a whole. Maybe it's just a fantasy. I'm not sure yet. I don't know if it's worth the stress and hassle of finding another house and moving again.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this, or where these ramblings and ideas will lead. We may or may not move. Someday we'll probably have chickens, though that may not happen while we're in PA. I don't know.

26 November 2010

Thankful in N.C.

We're enjoying North Carolina. The kids did well on the drive Wednesday, and we only got lost near the very end of the drive (curse you, Google Maps!). Yesterday we hung out, relaxed, chatted, and baked. J made the pecan pie while I got Roo down for a nap - his first pecan pie attempt and it turned out great! A former undergrad lab tech of J's, who is now in J's Uncle's lab here, came to dinner and it was fun to catch up with him and his wife. Dinner was delicious and the company was great.

Today Doodle and J are off with Cousin R to try and catch Doodle's first fish. R is an avid fisherman so he's playing guide today and humoring Doodle's interest in fishing. I'm curious to see how it goes.

After they return we'll make an outing to J's Uncle's Lab (at UNC Chapel Hill), then we're off to the children's science museum for additional geekiness that's right up our alley.

Tomorrow: meeting up with a friend from Duke for some indoor rock climbing and a social gathering of pteridologists (fern folk). Then Sunday we hit the road back to PA.

I'm very glad we've made this trip. NC is pretty, and it's fun to see new areas. More importantly, though, it's nice to spend time with family and get to know people better. So in this season of feeling thankful I'm thankful for every member of my family, be they blood relative or not, and whether I've seen them in the past week, month, year or decade. You're all in my heart and I'm glad to have you there.

23 November 2010

N.C. bound

Tomorrow we hit the road to North Carolina, where we will be spending Thanksgiving with J's uncle and his family. I've met this uncle once, and not yet met his wife or kids (college-age). I'm both excited and a tiny bit nervous, but I think it'll be really good.

Happy early Thanksgiving everyone!

21 November 2010


Stuffed birds made to humor Doodle in her desire to decorate our Xmas tree "with birds! All over! And even a red one on the very top!" this year.

Morbid staging by me.

20 November 2010

Host/ess gift ideas?

We're heading to J's Uncle's house in N.C. for Thanksgiving. J hasn't spent much time with this Uncle, Aunt and cousins, and I've only met him once (in October at the wedding).

I'd like to bring them something as a thank you for hosting us, ideally something we can make. I've thought about homemade cloth napkins, a loaf of bread... I really don't know.

Any ideas? What's your favorite "thank you for hosting me/us" gift? Help!

Parachute Fort

It's amazing how an old cargo parachute can transform a boring living room into "The Coolest Fort Ever!!!" Kids can hide under it, hit it, slide small stuffed animals down it over and over (and over and over...) It's great.

Doodle and Roo say "Thanks Granddad!"

19 November 2010

Beware the dangers of tuning out

This dialogue with Doodle occurred this morning, while I was stumbling about and still not fully conscious.

Doodle: Mama, did you know that... [insert big long explanation about something]?
Me: Mmhmm.
Doodle: And did you know that... [more explanation]?
Me: Mmhmm.
Doodle: And Mama, blah blah blah blah blah blah [something I totally missed]?
Me: Mmhmm.
Doodle: Okay! I'll go get some!
Me, regaining consciousness: Wait, what?
Doodle: You said I could have two cookies before breakfast!
Me: What? When?
Doodle: Now.
Me: Umm, let's talk about this.

Apparently I need to pay closer attention to the spunky kid ramblings early in the morning, or else I run the risk of agreeing to convert the lower level of our house into a swimming pool or something. Yikes!

18 November 2010


...should be my middle name. But you already knew that, didn't you?

So I did manage to bake one cookie sheet worth of coffee crisp cookies, plus made the graham cracker dough and nearly completed the PB Crispies yesterday (did all but the top layer). It was a day of near-finishes.

Today I topped the PB crispies and baked most of the graham crackers (which are divine, I might add). I still have 1/3 of the graham dough in the fridge plus 3/4? 4/5? a bunch of the coffee crisp dough to be baked sometime later.

Good enough.

Now for the mile-long list and foot-high pile of sewing projects lying around... *sigh*

Overambitious indeed.

17 November 2010

Heh. Right.

Alternate title: Wishful thinking, Take 2.

All that baking talk yesterday amounted to a whole lotta nothin'. Technically I did attempt to make the spaghetti squash recipe, but our squash sucked and it was the least noteworthy part of dinner.

But today will be different! The kids are still snotty and crabby, but right now Roo is napping and Doodle is being digitally entertained (thank you Pixar!). So I'm off to the kitchen to attempt a PB Crispy/Coffee Crisp/Graham Cracker bakefest. Updates to follow.

16 November 2010

Baking weather

Today it's cold and rainy outside, and gunky and crabby inside. I feel like baking. I'm thinking homemade graham crackers or these awesome-looking peanut butter crispy bars.

Or maybe all of it.

addendum: Or homemade pasta. Ooh, or this spaghetti squash. Oh goodness. Or these cookies. Too many yummy things to make. Time to quit browsing recipes!

15 November 2010

J bouldering

J went out bouldering with some friends on Saturday. Our friend Eric Heiden took some video footage and edited it into this video. Check it out:

PA GRIT from Eric Heiden on Vimeo.

13 November 2010

Unseasonably Warm

The daily weather forecast on the radio has been for "unseasonably warm weather" every day this week. We've made a point to soak up as much of it as possible, knowing that winter is just around the corner.

The insects seem to have the same idea. Ladybugs searching for a good winter hiding spot

while dragonflies squeeze as much living as possible into these last warm days. (Doodle caught this one with my hat, and later it landed on her leg to finish a meal.)

Ahhh, Vitamin D. Good stuff.

Photos from our outing to Penn-Roosevelt State Park.

12 November 2010

Woolly Bear

She talks to it, concerned about its destination. Where are you going, Woolly Bear? Can I help you? Winter's coming soon and you need a home for the winter.

Mom, can we find him a home?
My entomologist heart goes pitter-patter. Of course we can!

We walk along, me enjoying the sun and fresh air, her talking to the caterpillar about finding a safe warm place to hide, and about its future.

When you come out you'll be a beautiful Woolly Bear Monarch Butterfly!
or moth, I interject.)
No, Mom. A butterfly.

We find a hole in a tree. This is perfect! she declares. You'll stay nice and safe and warm, and in the spring you'll be a beautiful butterfly and we can come see you and play! Okay? Okay.

Bye Woolly Bear! Have a good hibernating!

11 November 2010

Photos by Doodle

A view through the Doodle lens.

What I learned from this photo: I look geeky when trying to give photographic direction. Guess I should just let the artist work her magic.

10 November 2010

Mmm, Fall

Sunny Fall days like we've had this week make me wish Winter would take its sweet time in getting here. We can't seem to be outside enough this week. It's great.

08 November 2010


New to us: a play kitchen, handed down from a friend trying to declutter.

I knew Doodle would love having a place to play with all of her pretend food, but I hadn't expected Roo to love it too. He plays alongside his sister, putting cups and cars in the sink, half of his (real) cracker in the oven and running around with a plastic baguette hanging out of his mouth.
I have a feeling this kitchen will get a lot of love from these two this winter.

By the way, anyone know a good source for little kid play pots and pans? Doodle's tiring (already) of cooking her creations in tea cups.

07 November 2010

Leaf Sled

"WooHoo!!!" I hear her yell from the yard.
This is no ordinary leaf pile jumping yell.
Something is up.

Papa made a sled run of leaves, then pulled out our never-been-used, $4 yard sale sled.

Leaf play has hit a whole new level.

Even backwards, laying down.

06 November 2010


She tells me she's a tiger, but don't worry because it's just a pretend tiger.

05 November 2010

Awesome dance face

Doodle took the camera and told me to pose.

No, Mom. Wiggle.

No, wiggle more!

Dance, Mom!


Apparently that's my "I'm dancing awesome for my daughter" face. So. very. cool.

I'll show this to her in ten years, and will never be asked to chaperone anything.

Especially not a dance.

04 November 2010

Rally signs

Last weekend we went to the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear in Washington, D.C. We weren't able to get close enough to see the screens or hear what was going on onstage, but was a great people-watching experience. Unfortunately, J and I got split up in the crowd, and spent TWO HOURS trying to find each other before meeting back up at the car. As such, I didn't have the presence of mind to take photos of a lot of the interesting signs and sights at the Rally.

Thanks to the internet I can still share with you my favorite Rally signs, as photographed by other people and posted on Flickr:

Crazy Muslins

Repeal the Third Amendment

Dr. Horrible

Hippies Pee on the Grass

Signs that I wish I'd seen in person:

Hyperbole is the Worst thing i EVERY & You don't equal Hitler

Hyperbole Eats Babies



Day 124/365- JUMP!

Sanity Rally D.C.

03 November 2010

Insect song

We went to Shaver's Creek Nature Center today for a kid's activity. Doodle learned all about insects, and was excited about learning this song.

I fear a family band is not in our future. Oh well. At least we like bugs together!

02 November 2010

3,058 pages

In August I finally got a library card, and while getting settled I wanted something to read in my stolen moments of down-time. I wanted to read something fictional. Something fluffy but not too fluffy, something different. J recommended the Earth's Children series by Jean Auel, the first four of which he had read in college. I figured I'd give it a shot.

I enjoyed the books, so I read all that are currently out (one more will be published March 2011). These tomes are a bit beefy, so I tallied up the number of pages I've read since early August.

The Clan of the Cave Bear - 373 pages
Valley of the Horses - 512 pages
The Mammoth Hunters - 656 pages
Plains of Passage - 768 pages
The Shelters of Stone - 749 pages

That's 3,058 pages. Oof.

Next up: Hope is the Thing with Feathers by my friend Christopher Cokinos (359 pages), which I am halfway through. Then... Wicked, maybe? J keeps trying to sell me on the Anne Rice Vampire novels. Should I take his word again (at the risk of reading another 3,000 pages in 3+ months)?