27 November 2013

On November

It's turned cold in these parts. The days are short now. They are clear and crisp, too. It feels like fall has been here awhile, sneaking into winter.  All these beautiful cold days have us spending time outdoors collecting colorful leaves on nature walks, stopping in at the driving range on Tuesdays, spending  a frosty morning at the zoo with a friend, and doing creative preparations for Thanksgiving.  

We collected so many pretty leaves I tried my hand at dipping them in paraffin to preserve the color.  They came out lovely, so I'm thinking they will get sprinkled around our Thanksgiving tables this year.  And speaking of tables, Wyatt showed up at the table this morning with his scissors, blue paper, and markers.  We manufactured a turkey in no time with the help of a paper plate and leaves.  I was impressed (as only a mother can be) with the beak and markings that Wyatt added, "all by myself." 


Today I noticed a lone hellebore almost in bloom in my new tiny winter garden.  It's the time of year where steel-cut oats are showing up again on the breakfast menu.  I am well into cooking with winter herbs and I think we are on our sixth bag of mandarins (although  local pears are still being consumed by the dozen as well), and hot drinks and soup are the foods of choice.  I do enjoy this. 

I'd say this week -- the week before Thanksgiving -- is in many ways one of my favorite times of year.  It's often still warm enough and sunny enough to be outside a lot. I get to plan and anticipate a lovely meal and do a lot of cooking.  There's the anticipation of more festivities to come, a tree to put up, parties to attend or host.  A few holiday cards have already arrived, which makes me begin looking forward to the stream of letters and photo cards we will receive in the weeks ahead.  And, best of all, this week is far enough away from Christmas and a little someone's January birthday that the gift-giving and holiday hype can be ignored.  To me, it's the week where all things still seem doable  (i.e. like getting my own holiday cards out in December.). Next week starts the reality check.

For now I'm grateful.

16 November 2013

Just living it

Blogging has always been a great way for me to keep track of life.  Capture a moment.  Save it for looking back on it later.  It's also been a useful lens that often helps me focus on what's happening in our lives right now. 

In recent weeks the pace of change, of doing things, of getting things done and quickly moving on to the next thing has picked up.  Slowing it down is a full time job.  Not so much writing about it is getting done-- as you can tell.

We've made owls from toilet paper rolls and suet treats for our real birds.  Care packages for friends who need a little care.  We finished (well nearly anyway) the kitchen, which was torn up most of the summer and fall.  Hooray!  We welcomed another kitty, Shiva, into our home.  She's loving and quirky and a bit of a messy eater.

After a record potato crop and ripe tomatoes in August (shocking but true), the veggie garden has been put to bed, and I planted a red clover cover crop.  I planted another section of the front yard in winter-blooming perennials.  And I've been dividing plants so I can share some with a friend who wants to put in a four-season perennial border.   Gardening where I can.

The Olympics have snow on them now.  And I never tire of that view.  We set up our telescope for a night sky viewing of the moon and stars with Wyatt a few weeks ago.  He couldn't get enough.

My parents came to visit.  They've been named "Grandma and Grandpa Woo" by Wyatt.

And speaking of him, Wyatt has suddenly grown a size in clothes and shoes.  He's now wearing a 9 1/2 toddler shoe.  Good grief.  He's obsessed with golf and we take him the the mini golf course weekly it seems. He puts jigsaw puzzles together and recites the words from his books and songs.  He calls his other grandpa, "Herman."  He tells strangers he's a bigger boy now.

Despite working long weeks, Byron has started blogging again, which is great.  He is so gifted with words. Together we've managed to shed 10+ pounds apiece this summer and fall.  Feeling better all around.

As for me, I've decided there is no real way to capture in words what it feels like to be living my life right now, certainly not in a way that would allow me to feel it or remember it like it is in this moment.  This is a good realization for me.  Perhaps it's why I've been in this space less lately, too.

I'm making a valiant attempt to do some truly useful work for the organizations for which I volunteer.  This takes time to think and write and make phone calls -- something that is in scarce supply for me, a full-time mom to a busy two year old.

And I'm starting a new venture.  A creative one.  I'm writing.  And beginning to look for an illustrator.  It's not something I'm ready to talk about, really.  But I'm putting down stories that I've been telling and making up for a while now.   I hope this will be something.

Life is humming along.  Colds and too much laundry notwithstanding, life is good -- every day.  I can't say I'm keeping up with writing it all down here, but I'm living it and enjoying it and that's enough right now.

01 November 2013

Dia de los Muertos sugar skull cookies

Over the last two weeks we've been experimenting with making sugar skull cookies.  I'm a novice when it comes to royal icing and elaborately decorated cookies.  But after spotting some nifty cookie cutters with embossed sugar skull designs, we had to give it a try.

I ran across a new recipe for sugar cookies, which I made.  Super easy since it does not require that you chill the dough before rolling out and cutting the cookies.  The link takes you to the recipe, and my preference is to use one teaspoon vanilla extract and one teaspoon almond extract.  Here in Seattle I needed all the flour and maybe even a bit more.  But I found that I could add in more as needed as I rolled them out.

I baked the cookies last night and flooded most of them with white royal icing when they were cool so they would be ready to decorate today.  Mixing lots of colors of icing and filling bags and locating tips was a lot of work last week.  So my idea this week was to skip the piped colored icing altogether and to give food decorating pens a try.  I picked up a set of 10 colored pens at Home Cake in North Seattle. (The woman who runs the shop is an outstanding resource for materials, equipment and tips for pretty much any cake or cookie related project.)  I also came home with some fun edible embellishments for the cookies.

Somehow I neglected to take any photos last week when our friends Will and Carrie joined us to make and decorate the first round of cookies (and wrestle).  But today I remembered!  This week we invited a couple co-op friends to come help us with the decorating.  Again, we had a lot of wrestling.  Not so much between the moms, but the two-year-olds definitely got into it.  The cookies were pretty fun too, and the pens made serious decorating much more accessible to the boys.

I think the moms had just as much (if not more) fun with the cookies.  Decorating the cookies; choosing colors and materials and making up a design.  I enjoyed the drawing and coloring and generally using the creative side of my brain more than I expected. And this was made even better because I got to do it while talking about life with two interesting women.  I'm thinking this may become a new tradition.