Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Holly and the Oak

The winter winds find me distracted and turning ever inward. And as the holidays snuck up from behind, I realized I was in desperate need of connecting. Not as in Facebook or holiday cards, but as in honest-to-goodness, face-to-face, heart-to-heart connecting.

Luckily, our solstice and Christmas holidays were filled with the warmth and light of family and friends. We gave less of our pockets this year, but more of ourselves. And as the sun rose again after the longest night, my thoughts started turning to the rewards of living with less. How out of necessity, stumbling in the dark, we manage to stub our toes on treasures we never knew were there.

Treasures are not only often hard to see but, unfortunately, fleeting. Ardie Rodale, matriach of the Rodale family, Rodale, Inc. and the Rodale Institute passed away just days before the solstice. As the dark overcame the light, she made her journey into the great unknown. She touched so many people in her lifetime, her firey spirit continues to glow within the heart of each of those souls.

It is easy to saint in our memories those who have passed. I'm sure Ardie was at times falable, grumpy, petty, scared, and otherwise just as human as I. And, though I spent a scant amount of time with her, Ardath Rodale managed to speak to my heart with her unguarded thoughts on life. Her simple, uncensored and incredibly positive words always felt real--bare and so honest as though they came from someone both naive and wise. May we all be so lucky to hold naivety and wisdom in equal parts.

The papa bear is terribly talented at finding trees with old bird nests nestled within their branches. This year will make the third nest that has graced our Yule tree in the eight years we've been married. May this home within our home bring us good luck for the year to come. And may the ceaseless turning of the wheel bring inspiration to us all. My new year's resolution: Keep my soul open to the path that feels right--whatever that may be.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Gratitude Tree

After reading the lovely Erin's post on making a Gratitude Tree with her little one, we just had to join in and create our very own version.

Rowan's short of patience when it comes to coloring, so he called out things or people for which he was thankful and mama wrote them on the leaves.

Here's the list as created by my little man (in rough chronological order):

Thanksgiving lunch (he's a total foodie)
Elvis (our dog)
Jasper (our cat)
My baby
My Meme blanket
Woolie (a lambskin he's had since birth)
Bumblebee helmut (Transformers)
Woody hat (cowboy hat)
Good friends
Guns (um, yes, he said guns!)
Leaf jumping

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Share some gratitude with the ones you love (and even the ones you don't).

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Light and shadow

For some reason I thought all children were scared of the dark on some level. So you an imagine it has caught me off guard that Rowan is so comfortable in the darkness. Every evening around 7:30pm or so, he asked to go outside. We howl at the moon (if she's out), play "movie theater", row our boogie board "boat" through the ocean of leaves with our baseball bat "oars", crazy walk, sprint around the garden, look for clues to a mystery, and any number of other ridiculous and fantastical activities. Rowan always leads the play session.

In honor of the lengthening nights and my little bear's energetic enthusiasm for outdoor twilight play, I read The Night is Like an Animal by Candace Whitman and Darkness Slipped In by Ella Burfoot to the preschoolers for storytime at the library. The stories are always followed by a craft and I wracked by brain to think of something three- to five-year-olds could make that would be more than just a one-off coloring project.

And then I remembered going to the theater when I was a young girl and seeing a shadow puppet rendition of traditional fairytales. They thrilled me like no other theater had. Something about the shadows and the movements and the necessity of our own imaginations to translate the dialog into expressions entranced me. The fairytales were originals--unedited, uncensored and violent. I loved them. Thinking back, I almost wonder if that's not where my love for fairytales really began. Not by reading them (gasp!), but by experiencing them in that strange shadow world.

So, we made shadow puppets. There were simple cuts outs for the children, and a more complicated version I made the night before of Three Billy Goats Gruff complete with a cereal box set on which the kids could try their own puppets.

They were entranced. Especially my darkling child. He can light up the whole house with his smile, but beware a storm brewing behind those blue eyes. I wouldn't have him any other way.

"Where there is much light, the shadow is deep."
~ Goethe

Click here for the Three Billy Goats Gruff template we used.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Autumn energy

Fall is my favorite time of year. I can't help but take in as much of the crisp air, golden light and that unique scent of the declining year. You can almost feel the outdoors winding down.

We pulled the last bits of the harvest from the garden...

...and reveled in the final snatches of warmth--storing them on our bones to keep us warm through the winter.

We celebrated a birthday...

...and looked closely as some of the things in our little world that have begun to feel familiar only to find lots of unfamiliar things.

And after days of weather that nearly chilled us all to the bone, we had a warm and wet reprieve...

Note: He did start out with galoshes and an umbrella. By the end of this escapade, he was sitting in the puddles.

Of course, we've also had temper tantrums galore, 20 adults and 10 children in our too small home (including an experiement in doing a pinata inside amongst all said folk), five articles for Mother Earth News, and job interviews at least once a week for the hubby. Now the household is recovering from a case of the sniffles.

I would have posted some pumpkin pics, but the little bear has decided he is NOT interested in going to the pumpkin patch this year. Sigh. Maybe we should take to carving turnips. T'would be more historically accurate and wouldn't require dragging a very large three-year-old through a field kicking and screaming.

In the meantime, the countdown to All Hallow's Eve is underway and we've been waffling on whether or not to take our precocious (but temperamental as of late) little man to see Where the Wild Things Are movie. I've heard amazing things about it, but my parents managed to see it first (I suspect because they didn't trust our instincts on this one) and were "appalled" at how emotionally violent it was. Would love to get any blogmama opinions on this one.

Until next time....

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Growing pains

My little man is heading toward three years old next month and is having serious growing pains. Despite being completely potty trained since February, he has decided he wants to wear diapers again. When we talk about his birthday party, he tells us he doesn't want to grow up. When someone mentions what a big boy he is, he says he wants to stay little forever. When did my son turn into Peter Pan? I thought this was't supposed to happen until his was a bit older.

I have to admit I'm stumped as to exactly how to respond. Consider it a phase and let him play baby? I'm hestitant. He was almost completely weaned at two years old when I was laid off from my full-time job. Let's just say he is still nursing late at night and at naptime almost a year later.

My mild-mannered, polite, and pleasant little boy has also gotten terribly grumpy, contradictory, inconsolable, mercurial and stressed out. Are these the "terrible twos" and how long are they supposed to last? I don't know if I'll still be standing when it's all said and done. Hell, I don't know if the house will still be standing when it's all said and done.

In sweeter news, there is at least one thing that has brought a big smile to my honeybear's face. A serendipitous dessert that disappeared in two days--a record for us, I believe.

What we're calling Black Forest Pear Tart is the perfect way to use up those almost-too-far-gone pears. It has the silkiest milk-less "custard" that slurps up the succulent fruit juices as the tart bakes, infusing the whole mess with the scent of sweet pear. For a cobbled-together recipe, it caught us completely off guard with it's wicked deliciousness.

Black Forest Pear Tart

1 all-butter crust (see Getting Crafty post from January)
5 bosc pears
1 cup blackberries
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Roll out your crust and lay into tart or pie plate, trimming any overhang and crimping the edge. Slice the pears and arrange in the bottom of the crust. Scatter the blackberries atop the pears. Mix the sugar, lemon juice, eggs and almond extract in a small bowl with a wisk to combine. Pour evenly over the fruit and pop in the oven for 50-60 minutes until the "custard" is set, the fruit is tender and the crust is golden brown. Let cool on a rack (if you can resist). Cut and serve when the tart still has a breath of the oven on it--a touch warm.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Three apples up on top...

Sort of...

Making music...

Looking goblinish in his "Davie Bowie" mask....


Skivvy swimming...


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Pot luck

End of summer potluck at Eckerton Hill Farm....

I wish I had taken more pictures of the gorgeous and wickedly delicious food. Alas, I got carried away visiting.

So good to catch up with old friends and make a few news ones.

And so good to see Rowan running wild through the fields with a herd of other children.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Corn moon

After weeks of saying I was going to get some putting up taken care of, the day finally cooperated. In fact, the whole family had a great day at home, productively puttering. It must have been the corn moon working it's celebratory, harvest magic.

The papa got the reel mower out and quietly did lawn laps, Rowan entertained himself (for the most part), and the mama managed to actually get some large enough chunks of calm time to process and can.

This year we planted Chiogga beets instead of the standard blood red beauties. I do so love the labyrinthine pattern and they are so darn sweet when roasted. The jury is still out on how they stand up to pickling. They were much less messy, but there is something to say about the red-bordering-on-purple color of the standard pickled beet. I have to admit, I kind of miss it. These are attractive in their own right, but a little dull.

What turned out to be anything but dull was the wickedly delicious blueberry rhubarb jam. Let me start by telling you, I adore blueberries. Blueberry pie, blueberry crepes, blueberry muffins, blueberry pancakes. My mother knows better than to ask me to help pick either at her patch or any of the other "secret" woodland spots she frequents. I can spend all day picking and end up with a scant bucket of take-home harvest. One for me, one for the bucket...two for me, one for the bucket...three for me, one for the bucket. You get the picture.

What I don't like, have never liked, and swore would never like is blueberry jam. It's too sweet, too flat, too ugh. It always tastes like it's missing something. Like some ephemeral blueberry essence somehow escapes in the canning process never to return again.

But add a little rhubarb and whoa! That tart fiend inexorable linked with the strawberry gives the blueberry its groove back.

The best part about blueberries is, like under ripe apples, they act as the gelling agent. No pectin required. The naturally-thickened jam is tender, but certainly won't go running off your toast. This new-found collaboration may actually surpass raspberry-currant on my favorite jams list. (Yes, I have a favorite jams list. And am prone to buying ridiculous amounts of weird and wonderful preserves despite making my own each year.) I'm officially in love.

Blueberry Rhubarb Jam

8 cups blueberries
4 cups rhubarb, chopped into blueberry-sized pieces
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup water
4 cups sugar

In a large saucepan, combine blueberries, rhubarb, lemon zest, lemon juice, and water. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently, reduce heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Stir in sugar. Increase heat to high and boil vigorously about 10-15 minutes until jam begins to set (thickens and gets shiny), stirring frequently. Remove from heat, skim off foam and stir for 3 - 5 minutes to suspend fruit evenly throughout jam. Fill sterilized jars and seal.

Makes about 4 pint jars or 8 half pint jars.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Busy little bees

Who knew one could be so busy without a full-time job? Not I. We have been here, there, and everywhere the last month or so and I've let my devoted reading of all the lovely blogs out there languish. I've also been doing some writing for Mother Earth News magazine and have been so excited to have a few deadlines, I've let quite a few things slip. (Eh...blog, housecleaning, bill-paying...nothing of real importance.)

While I've been off galavanting, I received a "One Lovely Blog Award" from Docwitch over at Dark Side of the Broom. I then, of course, felt oh-so-guilty for slacking off, I had to get back on the horse as such and write something....hell, anything. So in the spirit of catching up, here is a quick photo montage of late June adventures. (July photos to follow when I retrieve my camera from my parents' camper later this week.)

Sunday, June 14, 2009


The amazingly talented midwife who delivered my son was recently banned from the largest hospital in our area. In short, she supported the wishes of a mother of of 9 in making her own informed and educated choice during the birth of her 10th child. The ban has eliminated a wise and valuable resource for birthing mothers in the region.

In her honor, I'm posting the story of my first birth experience...

Rowan was due to arrive on our five-year wedding anniversary—October 6, 2006. I had experienced a blissful pregnancy (after the initial morning sickness, which was more all-day sickness, things could not have been better) and felt like the fertility goddess that I was! A few weeks before my due date my midwive, Laurice, suggested I start visualizing how I’d like the birth to progress. Every night I imagined calmly leaving the house, laboring on the birth ball, walking the halls, soaking in the whirlpool for pain management, and eventually welcoming a lovely child into this world. Of course, I knew birth is unpredicatable, but it couldn’t hurt to labor with intention.

Appointments with Laurice in those weeks preceding the birth experience were comforting, energizing, and exciting. Growing closer and closer to the moment when this little life would be carried in my arms rather than in my womb was bittersweet. And knowing I would have a woman with such beautiful energy, capable and loving hands, and firey spirit laboring with me was a touchstone.

On Wednesday the 4th, I was 3-1/2 centimeters dilated and Laurice said she thought I would probably go before the weekend was out. I was sure I would go into labor on my due date. Not only did the date have personal meaning, but the full moon was on the rise that night, too. I took the day off of work and spent my time centering and enjoying the autumn weather. Mike and I walked down by the river in the Lehigh Gorge and took is slow, just waiting for something to happen.

Nothing happened.

I thought, maybe, I was feeling little flutters of contractions. But, then again, it might have been gas. And so we waited. The 6th came and went, as did the 7th and the 8th. I walked, I rode the swing in the park, I had sex, I ate lobster francaise (perported to send women directly into labor), I nearly bathed myself in clary sage oil. I still suspected I was feeling small and very irregular contractions, but I couldn’t be sure. My mother told me I’d be sure when I felt a real contraction. Of course, she was right.

The following Wednesday October 12th, Laurice said the baby was very low and we should see some regular contractions soon. She was right, too. At 3:30pm that day we were able to start timing the light contractions. By 7:00pm, I knew I was having contractions! We continued to time the waves, but they never lasted very long. At 8:30pm, I went to the bathroom to relieve myself and yelled to my husband Mike that we should probably go to the hospital since I felt like pushing while sitting on the toilet.

We finally made it to Sacred Heart Hospital around 9:50pm. It was a busy night. Although we had hoped to have the whirlpool suite, it was already occupied. The nurses told us there were already five women in labor. As it turned out, the suite would have been wasted on us anyway. By 10:50, I was eight centimeters dilated and Laurice ruptured my waters. By 11:30pm I was in active labor.

There is very little I remember clearly about the birth. I remember riding the waves of contractions up and down. I remember being so focused in I couldn’t tell you what the room or the nurses looked like. I remember feeling most comfortable on my hands and knees. I remember my husband’s strong hands anchoring me to the earth while the rest of me floated somewhere in the ocean of birth. I remember the overwhelming feeling my clothes and the sheets had against my skin and insisting both go away and stay away. I remember believing in my heart of hearts that I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t birth this baby . I remember locking eyes with Laurice and not letting them go and I remember her saying, “Yes you can. Now push!”

He slid warmly from my body at 12:08am October 13, 2006. Laurice untangled his arm and his cord from around his neck and told me to reach down and get my baby. I pulled him onto my belly and had my first clear thought in hours, “He is so much bigger than I imagined he would be.” And that he was. Rowan Michael Evans was nine pounds, one ounce and 21-1/2 inches long. I had been at the hospital for just over two hours and had given birth to a beautiful baby boy without pain medicine, without an episiotomy, and without tearing at all. Mike cut the cord and stayed skin-to-skin with Rowan while they weighed and measured him just out of my reach. A half hour after he was born, Rowan was suckling contentedly at my breast, I was surrounded by my mother, my father, my mother-in-law, my father-in-law, my sister and my brother-in-law, and I couldn’t imagine what life was like before that moment.

The birth may not have looked like what I had envisioned all those nights leading up to the event, but the key elements were there. The things that mattered happened just as I had hoped. It was a rite of passage for mama, papa, and baby, and we had a wise and wonderful guide.

You can read more about the specific incident that caused the ban and the continuing saga at Knitted in the Womb.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Marvelous mint ice cream

I am not an ice cream fan. As far a desserts go, it's okay, but I can take it or leave it. And, usually, when I take it, I can't eat much. A little goes a long way to not just filling my belly, but making me feel like I'm going to burst. Anything larger than a kiddie cone and I know why I don't eat ice cream that often. My lovely husband, on the other hand, could happily plow through and entire 1/2 gallon on his own if it weren't for his herculean self-restraint. Rowan is following in his father's footprints on this one.

When the papa says he's making ice cream, I usually stay out of it. This time, I stuck my nose in and am I glad I did. Mint chocolate chip was on the schedule and the papa wanted to run to the store to buy mint extract (yuck!) and green food coloring (what?!). Luckily, I planted a nice big patch of spearmint this year (despite all the warnings that it will take over the entire yard within seconds of hitting the soil). I convinced him it was much easier to toss in a few sprigs of the fresh stuff than run to the grocer. As for the chocolate chips...why put them in the ice cream when you can sprinkle as many as you want on top (then I don't have to dig around the tastless little nuggets in my little dish--does anyone else think chocolate chips lose all their flavor when they're in ice cream or is that just me?).

I figured I'd have my requisite little scoop when it was done cooling and churning and freezing, and the boys could finish off the batch. But, when that first spoonful hit my tongue, it was nothing short of love at first bite. Not only did I eat more than half of the first batch, I requested another batch and made a chocolate cake just to act as the perfect pillow on which to transport the light and minty ice-cream-of-the-gods to my trembling tastebuds!

The best part is the recipe couldn't be simpler. Although the local ice cream parlor is only 2 blocks away and the ice cream truck drives by every Thursday at 5:30pm, I suspect we will be eating this homemade minty concoction most weeks this summer instead.

Spearmint Ice Cream
(adapted from a recipe by Alton Brown)

2 cups half-and-half
1 cup cream
just under 1 cup sugar
3-4 sprigs of fresh spearmint washed

Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. (Just toss the spearmint in whole as you will fish it out before churning.) Stirring occasionally, bring the mixture up to 170 degrees F. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Fish out the spearmint sprigs and toss them in the compost or the trash. Pour the mixture into a lidded container and refridgerate over night or at least for a few hours. Churn per the instructions on your ice cream maker and harden in the freezer for 1 hour before serving.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

ABCs of Happiness

I was tagged by Cave Mama to do a twenty-two tiny pieces of me post, but I couldn't resist the ABCs of Happiness list I've seen elsewhere in blog-land. And, since I don't want to overwhelm you lovely readers with too many of these thingies, I'm fulfilling my tag requirement creatively. Enjoy!

Bread (both baking and eating)
Evening light
Holding Hands
Moon watching
Pickles (of the full-sour sort)
Rhubarb strawberry pie
Spearmint icecream (homemade)
Tire swings
Ukulele (watching Rowan play We Will Rock You on it, more specifically)
Yogurt with honey

Happy Mama's Day

And many thanks to sunnymama for featuring this lovely video on her blog!

Monday, May 4, 2009


"He smells like strawberries. Do you think that's bad?" ~Papa

He's bathed and brushed and yet the scent of strawberries rises from his skin. Sure, he ate a whole bowl full for breakfast, but it's bedtime. How could he still smell like strawberries?

I'd worry, but I'm too delighted by this metaphor materializing in real life.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Salamander Hunting

We honored May Day a little late this year with a hunt for the elusive fire lizard. Rowan had yet to see the bright orange salamanders common to our area, and we awoke to a crisp spring morning, the air wet with new rain and a mist hanging close to the ground. I thought, for sure, it was too chilly for the little amphibians, but Papa insisted we should be able to find a few. He was right...

Papa's eagle eye discovered a total of four little lizards sunning themselves along the path through the wood. Rowan was tickled to discover a new creature so dazzlingly bright and charmingly adorable and surprisingly dry (he thought they would feel slimy). Born of fire, according to legend, but usually found in the damp wetness of spring and summer, the salamander is a bit of a contradiction and a perfect familiar for a Beltane celebration.

We thought we might catch the elves riding their trusty salamanders, but Rowan tells me they must have been napping. We knocked on a stump or two, but no one answered.

Rowan did manage to squeeze in some fishing (that would be dipping a stick in and out of the water) and sailing (using a fallen tree as a pirate ship) before we headed home for lunch.

After lunch we harvested the first juicy tart rhubarb stems of the season and make them into a pie. Check back and I'll be sure to post some photos and a recipe.