Monday, December 29, 2008

Friday, December 26, 2008

the little naturalist in training

Happy Thought

The world is so full of a number of things,
I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings.

Robert Louis Stevenson

These pics are a little doo doo for lack of light, but I love watching Miss A learn about the critters of the Connecticut woods and seashore with her grandma. Here's hoping that the natural world is revealing its wonders to you this holiday season.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas everybody!

As we were driving to the beach here in Westport this Christmas afternoon, Miss A looked down at the new fluffy stuffed puppy in her arms (Santa's gift!) and said, "I think I'm falling in love with him." What more could a mama hope for on Christmas? Our day has included little crabbies at the beach, tons of crumpled wrapping paper, puzzles, Candy Land, a blazing fire, Cream Puffs, snow melt, smocked holiday dresses with striped stockings, and decadent coffee cake. I hope your holiday blessings have been many, too.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

happy winter solstice, all! and a holiday list from nana

The days shall become blessedly longer after today, and perhaps I can eventually stop supplementing my chickens with a light that comes on at 3am (and occasionally causes our rooster to sing a little song at that hour!). The photo is of some berries Miss A collected yesterday to occupy herself during construction! (you can see my flip-flop toes from the crazy-warm day yesterday, and again tonite it will freeze!)

Nana (my mom, and a children's librarian to boot!--so as expert as can be on this topic!) made me a list her nine favorite holiday books for kids. Sadly, I have not read a single one of them (or happily, as it gives me so much to look forward to!). Check them out below, and happy holiday reading to all (you can fit a lot of reading in on the longest night of the year, after all!). I will warn you now that my posting may be erratic as the holiday frenzy heats up and we head to the great North Country! Feliz Navidad!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

cottage construction day!

I know I am veering from the norm and should be posting a recipe today, but the overriding focus of our day was the presence of Nana and Baba visiting for an early Christmas, and the tremendous construction of a playhouse for the two little ones. Take a look!

This got hubby and I to reminiscing about our own grandparents, and what we did with them when we were kids. I remember snuggling with my Grandpa R in his big ol' chair, and playing restaurant with the tv tables at their house, and going to garage sales with my grandma (my mama's mom). My man remembers the little wooden tub-toys with propellers that his grandpa (mama's dad) made for him, and the toffee his grandma (dad's mom) brought up to Westchester from NYC. How cool to be a grandparent. I think I aspire to it.

Friday, December 19, 2008

sorry to dwell upon these roses

These roses were here in the little yard behind our house when we arrived. Don't know the variety. (If one of you garden bloggers out there does know, please share!) But I love them. We have had freezing temps, snow, and then 80 degrees on the immediate heels of that, and then repeat. And yet here they are, luscious. These shots were taken this morning.

Would that I could blossom with such grace,

under such adversity.

And here is a poem to celebrate them.

Old Roses

White roses, tiny and old, flare among thorns
by the barn door.
For a hundred years
under the June elm, under the gaze
of seven generations,
they lived briefly
like this, in the month of roses,
by the fields
stout with corn, or with clover and timothy
making thick hay,
grown over, now,
with milkweed, sumac, paintbrush.
roses survive
winter drifts, the melt in April, August
and men and women
who sniffed roses in spring and called them pretty
as we call them now,
walking beside the barn
on a day that perishes.

By Donald Hall

ps--Does anybody know how to keep blogger from reformatting and justifying my line breaks??? It is impossible to post a poem without having blogger modify it in such a way that the form is broken. Thanks for your help!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

a love letter, and a little Christmas book

I have gotten some great suggestions from seasoned mamas and grandmas regarding this post. Thanks, ladies! I am working on applying that advice, which ranges from reminding myself that "This too shall pass" to getting Miss A a special mama's helper apron that she can wear when I need to focus my attention on her sister (and to then remove that apron and give her my attention at the next opportunity). All these were sent to my e-mail (I guess so I wouldn't be airing all that dirty laundry in public!)--but remember that you guys can always just click on the COMMENTS tab at the bottom of any post to leave a message, if you wish (your private e-mail will not be displayed!). Anyway, thanks to all who replied, and please know that I do value and read your comments!

But lest you think I am experiencing nothing but frustration on my parenting journey, I will reprint here a little love letter I sent my girls on our private blog "Twinlake Farmhouse." (Which, incidentally, if you are interested in gaining access to, you can do so by e-mailing me privately at ) So here you go:


Miss A, I love your laugh. And the way you adore the darkness of black ink. And how your face lights up over stuffed animals, however homely they may be. Your gangly feet. How you always ask about a new word when you hear it. I adore your affection for our critters, the way you hold the chickens close to you and pat them on their backs. The way you tuck Zeppo gently beneath a blanket. I love how you wear pink and sparkles as if they were a religion. Your obsession with cat-mice. The faint dusting of freckles on your cheeks. How your hair kinks up after we wash it. The concentration in your eyes as you do your "work." The radical creativity of YOU is astounding. I love you as you come into your own in this moment, swinging high, with your long, restless legs stretched out before you.

And my Little Bean, you are beyond darling now. Every bit of the earth that you step on becomes new under your feet, which are unsteady, like those of a little sailor on this earth-ship, the decks bucking beneath you. You say "hi" to us each morning, scooting around the bed, the seats worn right out of your pants. You are a cautious daredevil, not wanting to walk until you were sure, but wanting to climb like a monkey now and always. You are beautiful, your sweet pert face both absolutely present in every moment and completely timeless. Your occasional word is always a surprise, like "strawberry" or "definitely." You can make a friend with anyone. Your gift in this regard astounds me and humbles me. That fearless smile. I love that you are here, that you are healthy, that you are ours--or, more accurately, that we are so helplessly yours--for this fleeting moment.

And our holiday book of the week!

toot and puddle

Toot and Puddle are the best of buds (the details of their relationship are kept ambiguous), and long to be together for Christmas. This is the tale of how they are reunited . . . involving a certain mysterious someone who appears out of the snowstorm in a sleigh. I can't wait for Christmas each year so that we can read this one!


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

shots from drippin', letter to Santa, Nim's Island . . .

The sewing machine is a tiny old-style version that was given to Miss A for Christmas. Cute, eh? It really sews, too!

I watched Nim's Island with Miss A last night and was so impressed. There was little to no buzz around that movie, but it is just like Romancing the Stone for kids! If you have a 3-6 yr old child, you must rent/Netflix this film! It is just a great rumination on courage and adventure and imagination. The scenes of our hero Nim reading and the action occuring all around her are fantastic!

And as for that letter to Santa. Check it out below. Ain't it great? My eldest dictated the words to me and decorated the letter. Those last few words, if you can't make them out, are "p.s.--What color frogs do you like?"


And, if you are a breastfeeding mama, check out this link, where a fellow mama gives a radio broadcaster a piece of her mind for talking about how "rude" it is to breastfeed in public. Can you believe the nerve of that peckerhead?

Monday, December 15, 2008

looks might be misleading

As I post these peaceful shots, I will let you in on what has actually gone on in our house for the last twelve hours. Miss A woke at 2am and vomited all over the bathroom rug. She did, however, go back to sleep after some Pepto. The little one woke at seven or so, and as I was carrying her down to her room to change her, she vomited down my shirt. Right between the boobs. Bam. And then about an hour ago, as I headed back up to make the bed, I felt a squish. Vomit? I wondered. But no, upon further inspection, it was a pile of sh_t. Apparently the little bean's diaper had leaked before I could get to it. Awesome.

And then about an hour ago I got an alert from our bank. Some charming person charged an $1800 watch on our debit card. In Upstate New York. They said they would dispute the charges once they were posted. They are pending now. Why would you wait until the theft was complete to dispute it?? Huh???

On the other hand, look at the pretty frost on the windowpane. It's in the 30's out there today and yet, again, we were in shirtsleeves yesterday.

OHHH. And today is native/adapted plant day, isn't it? I do love oregano. It loves the neglect I dole out on it. There were two hardy plants in place when we first moved in here, but they were totally strangled with dead growth.
I cut them back and they sprang into action! I have had to cut them back again twice since then because of their vigor! Enjoy a few shots of our garden companions . . .

Sunday, December 14, 2008

sea monkeys!

Rad! We got some sea monkeys at a White Elephant party last nite, and let me tell you, they will not be white elephants at our house! Those little critters are going to take center stage! I remember how super-excited I was to get sea monkeys for the first time as a kid, and how slightly let-down I was that they didn't actually hatch out wearing those little crowns. We'll keep you posted on their briny progress!

Do you have favorite little-critter memories from your childhood?

ps--sorry about yesterday's formatting problems . . . I think blogger didn't like me switching back and forth between fonts and bullets and such. hmm.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

cooking with rosemary

As with my post about the cedars, I am learning to appreciate those plants that thrive here in this challenging clime. And rosemary is tops for us. It creates a large bushy shrub, has that fantastic scent, and provides endless material for cooking. I have a number of recipes using rosemary that are on regular rotation at our house, and I wanted to share them with you!

This first recipe is so easy, and these veg are just gorgeous when spread out on a plate to serve. (If you want, you can add sliced chicken breast and it will cook right alongside the vegetables, on the same baking sheet!)

Roasted Vegetables with Rosemary

  • olive oil
  • 1 sweet potato, sliced
  • 2 russet potatoes, sliced
  • 3 carrots, sliced and quartered lengthwise
  • 2 red peppers, sliced lengthwise
  • 2 yellow onions, sliced into rings
  • leaves removed from two 6-inch sprigs of rosemary
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup parmesan, shredded
  • 20 kalamata olives, halved
  • Sea salt

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cover the bottoms of two cookie sheets generously with olive oil. Arrange veggies and onions over olive oil, spreading vegetables evenly over two sheets. Sprinkle each evenly with salt, rosemary, and garlic. Toss to cover veggies. Roast at 450 degrees for 40 minutes or until the skins of the peppers start to blister. Remove from oven, arrange veg on a platter, and sprinkle with parmesan and halved kalamatas. Enjoy! (Serves 6)

White Bean Soup with Rosemary (this is my lazy-mama, vegetarian version of Ina Garten's fabulous recipe)


  • 3 cans white cannelini beans
  • 4 cups yellow onions
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 large branch fresh rosemary (6 to 7 inches)
  • 2 quarts vegetable stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Saute the onions in olive oil over medium heat until translucent. Add garlic and saute 3 min more. Add beans, veg stock, bay leaf, and rosemary. Allow to simmer for 30 minutes, until reduced slightly. Mash beans with a large fork. Remove bay leaf and rosemary and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot. Serves 4-6.

This last is from Sean Conway's fabulous website, Cultivating Life. The website (go ahead and click!) will surely inspire you to get out into the garden, and this recipe is unique and incredibly inventive. It is served on a chilled rock!

Strawberries and Cream on the Rocks (with rosemary!)

  • 1 large flat rock, washed and dried
  • 12 large stem-on strawberries
  • 1 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, minced, plus more for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons Demerrera or light brown sugar, for sprinkling

1. Put rock in freezer for 8 hours or overnight.

2. When ready to serve, stir mascarpone and rosemary together until well combined.

3. Remove rock from freezer. Dollop mascarpone mixture onto cold rock. Garnish with sprinkle of rosemary and Demererra sugar.

4. Arrange strawberries on rock. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Friday, December 12, 2008

something from rumi

The Waterwheel
Stay together, friends.
Don't scatter and sleep.

Our friendship is made
of being awake.

The waterwheel accepts water
and turns and gives it away,

That way it stays in the garden,
whereas another roundness rolls
through a dry riverbed looking
for what it thinks it wants.

Stay here, quivering with each moment
like a drop of mercury.

Rumi from The Essential Rumi
Translations by Coleman Barks

(And please once again enjoy a photo from Pender. My mind is there right now, for some reason.)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

a poem from iguanas in the snow!

Here's a poem from Francisco Alarcon's book, as promised! (And the photos below are from our summer trip to Pender Island--nominated by me to the list of most gorgeous places on earth!)

pender trees


Ancestors of Tomorrow

children are
the blooming
branches of trees

one day their seeds
will become
the roots

of other trees
bearing their own
blooming branches

from Iguanas in the Snow: And Other Winter Poems / Iguanas en la Nieve: Y Otros Poemas de Invierno (The Magical Cycle of the Seasons Series)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Iguanas in the Snow and other Winter Poems

Found this delightful book at the library with the two gals last week. Poems by Francisco X. Alarcon and lively illustrations by Maya Christina Gonzalez. I'll quote you one of the poems tomorrow!

I've been enjoying books of children's poems, and Miss A likes the rhythms--they help her remember the words and "read" along with me. For those of you out in San Fran--this is a local author for you! This book is bilingual too, for added enjoyment!

snow! can you believe it?

The high yesterday was 80 and we were in t-shirts. And check out what we woke up to this morning!