Friday, December 03, 2021

holiday flowers

At this time of the year, I see the proliferation of so called Christmas flowers: the Christmas cactus, paper whites, amaryllis -- often thought of as a lily, a Christmas lily, even though it has no relation to a true lilium. I like them, but they each present a challenge: the Christmas cactus often chooses to bloom in November or March, so you have to be vigilant and manipulative to get it to flower in December. The paper whites can grow tall and keel over. The Amaryllis has both problems: hard to time a bloom and it can plop down if it's tall and unsupported. 

This year, I replaced my ancient Christmas cactus and sure enough, the new one is entering a period of full bloom early. By Christmas it may well be done for the season.

Still, it's an easy care burst of color at a time when it's hard to find much color in growing things. So, thanks, little plant on the kitchen table!

And speaking of plants, I am back to adjusting the Christmas tree. It's a never ending project! I bet you didn't notice that I doubled the lights today. (How could you -- there is no photo...) That's okay, I noticed. Much better. I'm still waiting for the twig star for its top. Maybe this weekend.

And one more comment on the subject of color: I finally took on the holiday project of baking cookies with the kids. (We have a baking date set for tomorrow.) I resisted it in the past for the very simple reason that others were happy to bake with them. This was just fine with me: I don't like baking things that I dont find yummy and cookies with lots of sugar and glaze and color always seemed to me a bit over the top. Shhh! Dont tell the kids I said that.) But I was intrigued by a recipe for sugar cookies that promised a good taste (by Alison Roman in the NYT). Fine, let's do it! I supplied myself with "natural dyes" and sprinkles and sugars that didn't list ingredients you'd be terrified to ingest. I'm not a fanatic about this stuff -- I eat plenty of junk with suspect ingredients when I'm out and about or traveling. What you don't see wont hurt you! But if I'm going to be the baker here, I prefer to use stuff that hasn't been grown mostly in a laboratory.

My errands this afternoon included finding a bake shop where I could find naturally dyed red sprinkles. (Please stop laughing at me... we all have our ridiculous moments!)

While on the subject of sweet stuff -- I also made my second and final visit to Clasen's bakery, and no, I don't care what they put into their chocolate covered gingerbread -- it's all good! (Why final trip? Well, the chocolate covered gingerbread can really break your budget. But, it's a December luxury that I love.)


I then picked up Snowdrop and we went shopping for her mom's Christmas present. She'd been bugging me about it for many days. So we went and no, you can't see or hear what she got. We are full of secrets!


Then farmhouse, and their house, and farmhouse once again. That's the routine. I wish I could show you how pretty the lights look on the tree tonight. Even as Ed is grumbling with his most grinch-like expression. No matter. I'll never change. I'll always love the lights on a Christmas tree. 

Thursday, December 02, 2021

not all turtles are bears

You know, perhaps, that nearly all bears den up for the winter (the exception being bears who live in climates where the winter doesn't stand in their way for getting food -- Mexican black bears, for example). In Wisconsin, there's no easy winter. And bears are not the only ones digging in to go without food or water in the dead of the cold season. Turtles found in this climate also slow down and burrow in wetland locations. They cant breathe underwater, but they have a complicated way of getting air to keep them alive (through their butts). They don't necessarily sleep, but they stay in this inactive state until spring. They have the capacity to stay that way for up to eight months.

This is why Ed and I were surprised to see a turtle sunning herself on a tree limb jutting out of the pond at our favorite county park up the road.

Shouldn't she be burrowed and asleep? Perhaps we should not expect all turtles to be like bears.

Or all partners in life to follow some basic partner protocol of behavior.

Perhaps there will always be the outlier, sunning her (or him)self in December even as the rest are long dug into the muddy wetlands. 

I think of Ed oftentimes as that solitary turtle who refuses to acknowledge that December (and all that it implies) is here. 



He has his own radar. His own internal compass. It underwent one cosmic (for him) adjustment when I came into his life, but that was it. I can expect that how he is today or tomorrow will not change. Oh, a tweak here or there. But at the core, he is his own turtle and this particular turtle is not going to be a bear, even if all the turtles on the planet are long in their deep sleep mode, much as can be said of the bears.

In the afternoon, I pick up Snowdrop at school and we do what we did three weeks ago: I take her home...




(Hi, Sandpiper!)




... and her dad drives her to Pope Elementary, where kids are getting their second shot of the Covid vaccine. I follow and wait for her to come out.

Afterwards, happy and excited, she comes back with me to the farmhouse (where she immediately points out all the new ornaments on the tree).

In the evening, I take her back home

(As always, I see her brothers in and around pick up/drop off times at their house.)

And back at the farmhouse, I cook up a sweet potato, corn and jalapeno bisque. Perhaps you saw the recipe in the Washington Post. We had about four pounds of sweet potatoes left over from our CSA veggie box and it was a good use of them. And as Ed said -- it was very filling. And spicy. And I probably wont go out of my way to make it again because there are too many fantastic soups out there to cook up on a cold winter night, so why waste time on one that's fine but not great?

Now, back to a little wrapping and a lot of admiring of the Christmas tree!



Wednesday, December 01, 2021

the grumpy and the smiling

Happy December!

What, you think that this is completely inappropriate, given that the world is falling apart around us and everything is crashing into an abyss of horror? Well, all true. Nonetheless, let me put it out there: let's aim for a happy December.

Here, at the farmette, we are working on just that. With some success some of the time. For example when we are not reading the news or when I am not playing Christmas music without earbuds.

No sooner had I written here, on Ocean, that Ed was an utter angel with respect to the holidays, than I noticed the slow crawl toward the grumps on his part. It may have been the result of me launching the Great Christmas Wrapping Project. Stuff covering the floor, chaos everywhere. And of course, I need music to wrap. (Though I did use headphones so no complaints allowed!) Or maybe it was that I asked his advice on scheduling the next surgical dental procedure. We don't tend to ask for, or offer advice, so he got a little discombobulated over that one. Or maybe it was that I did not want to go for a long hike. I have too much to do here. I can't take the time to go to Brooklyn Wildlife. (Instead, we did walk locally, in a city park. It was too close to the highway. So -- loud.) 

Or maybe it was that I got grumpy first. Momentarily. But he caught me at it and said -- take a deep breath. I know this time of the year can be stressful. Then he went back to idly browsing his computer.

The fact is, that December is not stressful, it is beautiful. I then made the mistake of trying to convince him of it. There is Ed, with his very idiosyncratic belief systems and then, additionally, there is a type -- a species of human that refuses to feel joyful in the weeks leading up to the holidays. This type will come back to work after Christmas and say things like -- I'm sure glad that's behind us! All that work!  Even as they are rarely that household member who does most (any?) of the holiday work. 

So we had to put in a little effort to combat grumpiness. Starting right at breakfast time.  


Dance, please! Do not disturb the puzzle! I'm just getting the border finished!

In the afternoon, any dumb irritants faded. I got my box of glass ornaments from 32 North and they were beautiful! Here, I'll show you some tree improvements! Scandinavia meets central Europe.

Now of course, the tree, to me, feels very underlit. I'll redo the lights on Friday! (Insert either smile or eye roll emoji here, depending...)

Still, it is very very beautiful. 




And here, in case you too are fighting a wave of no-good-reason grumpiness, throw a glance at this article in the New Yorker. I did not get all the subtexts in it, but most of them did make me smile. It has come to this: the pandemic has been with us for so long, that we are already able to laugh at ourselves within it. Not at everything, but at least around the edges. And I think that is probably a good thing.

Now, back to my wrapping. With a smile and with love.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

last day of November

Beautiful blue skies, a sack full of new Covid worries, and a splendid Christmas tree that is so playful and full of sparkling joy, that it continues to color my day. This is what the end of November looks like.

Up not too early. I let the cheepers out. They need some play time too, despite their overriding anxiety right now. The disappearance of Pepper (Ed suspects it was a hawk) has unnerved them. Their bossy leader is gone and they hover together like never before, wondering who should set the tone for the day. But, they do like the sunshine and a good dirt bath in the hydrangea patch so out they go, even though I know we will have a tough time getting them back into the coop before dusk sets in.

Breakfast -- each day more cozy and hyggelig than the one before.

I have a list of in person errands to run. Like in the old days before the internet let my fingers do the walking. USPS, UPS, CVS, REI -- all on my list. None are picture worthy.

Finally I pull up to Snowdrop's school and I wait for the girl to come out.

Yep, winter is just about here.

(At the farmhouse)

And now the sun fades and Ed hints that he may need help getting the cheepers into the coop. Chasing them in is hard. I suggest we use sticks. That's what Polish farm girls used to herd geese into the pen. Ed finds sticks. Very long sticks.

Too long to work with, but fun to play with.

It takes a while, but eventually the cheepers are all in. Safe tonight.

I take the little girl home. Where her brothers wait.

And the 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle needs finishing touches.

We're ready for December!


With love...

Monday, November 29, 2021

Ed and the tree

He's such a good guy in so many ways. Just a couple of recent examples: letting kids climb and settle in on his own napping self (he's big enough to accommodate two). Trying to adjust his sleep cycle so that he can wake up when it is still morning and we can eat breakfast together.

(eyeing a new jigsaw puzzle...)

Always looking for a good rom com for us to watch together. I could go on. Things that are so out of step with his own inclinations and yet he does them. Without complaint or even a grimace.

Perhaps the biggest bend, indeed, plunge into an alien land for him is Christmas with me. His Jewish family did have a Christmas tree when he was a kid (that's New York City for you), but since then, he has pretty much ignored the holiday. Indeed, a good chunk of it -- the commercial aspects of buying stuff, wrapping everything in paper that is then tossed, church music, chopping down holiday trees -- it's all antithetical to all that he lived by. 

Then I came along.

Sixteen years ago, when we first started living together, the kids weren't married and their Christmas was my Christmas. Big tree, family ornaments, lots of food, gifts, music. He never complained and had only one request: that no one ever buy him a present. 

Over the years, I toned it down. The family Christmas moved to the homes of the young families and I stayed with a little tree that I bought for the corner of our living room at the farmhouse. Stuck up on top of an old crate that we found in the barn.

But this year, I let my own holidaying grow. Starting with the tree. Not like your big beautiful to-the-ceiling tree, but big enough to warrant a stand.

I have never loved Amazon more than this afternoon, when I found the carton in my mailbox with the pieces of a stand in it. Easy assembly. All Ed had to do was saw off the end of the trunk and then together, we did the usual "no, lean it to the stairs a little more" and "no, that's too much" until it was centered, screwed in and within minutes, decorated.

All but the handful of glass ornaments from central Europe, coming from this store later this week. But really, the tree is ever so pretty already... with many happy children dancing in twinkling lights...

This is my idea of a hygge moment:

No need to post photos from a cold November day outside. I have our tree. I am happy.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Thanksgiving: only the memories remain

The Sunday after Thanksgiving used to be for me a dreadful day, full of worries and hurried goodbyes. After magnificent Thanksgiving noise, lots of happy hours with grown daughters there was this obvious ending to it all. Drop offs at airports with the stress of poor weather and the inevitable holiday crowds. And then an empty house.

That's all in the past. No one is traveling today, even as the weather is chilly but in a crispy pleasant way. The house isn't exactly empty because the kids are itching to come over for a Gogs play date and of course, there's the evening dinner now back on schedule. For a while anyway. My Chicago girl is darn close to delivering her baby. We expect some schedule shuffling around then. But not yet.

Ed sleeps in once more and normally I'd let him be, but the house needs to be cleaned and besides, we are wasting the best sunlit hours of the day. Ed!

He comes down for breakfast.

After house cleaning, we squeeze in a walk in hour local park and then, back home, I balance kid play with preparing one of the reliable meals of seafood pasta. To get our minds off of turkey and apple gravy and leftover hasselback potatoes.

When I am out on the roads, I see cars with trees on roofs and I think -- everyone is pushing the season earlier this year. And I get it. The pandemic keeps kicking us off the path to normal times and we want to grab as much of those splendid festive moments as we can. We are deprived of frivolity, giddy silliness, of color, of laughter.

My tree, however, is still in the mudroom waiting for a stand. That's okay. I ordered a few more vintage glass ornaments from my friends out in California (they travel all over Europe stocking up for this holiday) and I will trim the tree as things arrive. After I get that darn stand. (Ed pushed hard to keep the tree in a bucket with stones to weigh it down. I know that this would be a clever game plan, but I'm not buying it. I dont want clunky. I want delicate.)

The kids are here in the afternoon. 




Ed is napping. They think he makes a good pillow.

The parents and Sandpiper come just in time for some (new) puzzle work before dinner.

(Watching kid dynamics in a threesome is fascinating to me because most of what I know is households of one or two kids. Snowdrop is completely in a new relationship with Sandpiper, with few of the rivalry issues that routinely come up between her and Sparrow.) 

And so ends our Thanksgiving family wonderfulness.

Late evening. Ed and I have watched two holiday-ish rom coms already this week. I have a lineup of them all ready for us. But, it's late and we toss aside the movie in favor of a Modern Design episode. It's like picking a snugly tattered blankie over a cashmere shawl for the night. True, we have exhausted all of the seasons (22!) of the UK show. No matter. We're now working our way through New Zealand episodes. With popcorn and a candle burning steadily, giving us just a tiny whiff of the holidays, even though it's not even December yet.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Saturday after Thanksgiving

I come downstairs this morning to a finished jigsaw puzzle. No wonder I didn't see Ed upstairs until close to 4a.m. Well good for him! It's been a long time since I've seen him so continuously away from his computer screen.

But of course, now he is still sleeping.

I go out to throw corn into a locked up coop. We're keeping the chickens inside. I can't say there's much logic to it, but at least we know we're buying safe time for them as we discuss the pros and cons of setting them free this winter.

Breakfast? Alone again, naturally!

I could have munched on croissants with the young family. After all, I volunteered to bring some over to their house. It's sort of a half holiday in that one child has an activity, but the second one is cancelled, and the second child has none. So I drive to Madison Sourdough to get them all croissants.

But I save mine to eat with Ed tomorrow. 

So clever of me: leave the croissant crumbs at their house!  




(too young for croissants)

I bring the two older tykes to the farmhouse. Both wanted to come and we have a lovely time doing our usual stuff at the farmette. Please ignore the fact that they are not wearing jackets. It happens.

Then comes the scramble: kids are picked up, but I'd left my phone at the young family's house so now I have to chase them around town to retrieve it. To make this a more pleasant experience (I'm not a fan of much driving), I allow myself a brief visit to this Scandinavian store:

I used to love to come here many many years ago! These days I don't bother. In an effort not to buy stuff, I avoid looking at tempting things that end up only cluttering the house. Still, I'd sprung for a somewhat larger tree this year (like, maybe even 4 ft tall!) and it's going to be one naked tree unless I add a couple of more dainty things to it. I'm not looking for many decorations. Minimalism still feels good to me at this stage of the game. But a couple of delicate items added to it would be nice.

Not that I can decorate the tree yet. I don't have a good stand for it. I'd given away the old ugly thing that never worked anyway and I've been bringing home tiny trees that come already inside one-use stands. So now I bought a bigger tree and I need a real stand. I ordered one and I have to wait a couple of days for it to arrive. A light punishment for my extravagance! 

In the evening, Ed and I are still reheating leftovers. There are dozens of wonderful recipes that I could have used for leftover turkey meat, but I find that what I want most after Thanksgiving is to not read another recipe for at least two weeks. Heat it up, pour on gravy, eat. That is what I call the perfect post Thanksgiving meal.