Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Last day of January, first day of dance

Looking at the long term forecast, I see that after today, many, many days will pass before we move above freezing again. Many! Not until the second half of February. If then.

And so even though this day is just barely acceptable (temps just above freezing), Ed and I must set out for a walk.

But breakfast comes first.

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And after, we review the new table postings on Craigslist.

Of course, there is nothing I like. It must be woodsy. It must be warm in tones, light in shade. It must have leaves to seat a crowd!

I ask Ed if he minds the constancy of the table search. It surely will take weeks and weeks before we're likely to find just the right one.
I like seeing the various design ideas. Who would have thought that there are this many ways of constructing a platform on which to eat!

Shortly after that, we walk.

I'm not ambitious. It's not really pleasant and I haven't a lot of time. When Ed suggests a stroll by Lake Waubesa, I readily agree.

The lake is just a couple of miles up the road and there is a quiet road along its shores where several dozen homes have sprung up. We like to do more leisurely walks there and offer our own critical comments on each of the homes.  They're not mansions, but they are all different. Surprisingly, we usually agree on which are lovely and which are horrors.

But as we start our stroll, we get distracted by a parking lot filled with ice fishing huts.

We peer inside each one. To me, what stands out is that not one of them is neat or even mildly appealing. If there are blankets or pillows -- they're about as ratty as they come.  I know they're just shacks. Barely more than four walls with maybe a warm heating unit or a bench. But if it were me, I would care about the visuals inside.... (Ha! this is why fisherpeople go out in the middle of the lake in the thick of winter -- to get away from the likes of me!)

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It's a work day and so few are out fishing now. But, you can always find a single hut on the lake, with someone waiting inside for a fish to bite...

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As Ed and I walk south along the road, the houses end and the wetlands begin.

What's this? A boardwalk? We do not know of any park here (and we surely have looked at many maps of the wetlands). Is it private?

It is. Leading to big gates denying entry. (Oops! We had come in from the lake... We hadn't known -- I practice my excuse in case dogs and armed men come charging.)

There is no one in sight. No home either. Just the huge, electric gates, a driveway and the boardwalk.

The mysteries of the shoreline!

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And now I hurry to pick up Snowdrop.

She is a happy, excited girl today.

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But just as she settles into playing school with us, taking out the guitar and singing more loudly than ever...

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... and just as she does her first yoga pose for me, the kid in the class (for she is of course the teacher)...

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... I look at my schedule and notice that the very important class that Snowdrop is registered for starts not in two hours (as I had thought), but in half and hour!

Hurry, Gags!

And this is a class that Snowdrop has been talking about enthusiastically for a good long time: her first ballet class. "Story book ballet" -- taking a story and building the lesson around it. It's for 3 and 4 year olds and she is signed up to begin today. (For those of you who think that this girl is doing a lot of girlie things, fear not! She is also registered for spring soccer and t-ball.)

Is she excited about dance class? Oh yes she is!

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At the school, the adults can watch from behind a one way mirror.

Snowdrop looks so small! This is the girl who is always the tallest in her age group. Clearly these girls are older than her.

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Still, she holds her own!

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And tries her darndest!

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And at the end, when they all dress up to enact a story and (just on this first day) parents and grandmas are invited in to watch, she lights up at the sight of mommy and daddy there!

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It is a memorable first lesson, that's for sure!

Ed plays volley ball tonight. It's quiet in the farmhouse. Outside, the air is bitter cold again. Inside, I'm full of warm smiles. 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Tuesday expedition to Jefferson

In the middle of the night, Ed, who is on his computer rather than sleeping as he should be, sends me a link: what about this one?

Somewhere on Craigslist, that repository of other people's junk, he has found a dining table that he thinks will appeal to me.

Me, I'm asleep of course. I have Snowdrop to bounce around with. I really need the rest.

But in the morning, I take a look at the table photos.

It could be okay.

It looks sort of dull.

I so want a bigger table.

It's relatively cheap.

I fire off an "interested" email.

And that is how we find ourselves driving late in the evening, after Snowdrop has gone home, to Jefferson -- a town halfway between Madison and Milwaukee.

But of course, first there is breakfast...

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... and a morning of errands, and more emails back and forth with the Jefferson table owner, followed by an afternoon with Snowdrop.

Oh, little girl, you bring so much normality to the day!

I pick her up. She is still sleepy after the nap. We snuggle. Her teacher smiles and recalls today's lunchtime conversation: I'm eating chicken and rice. Snowdrop looks over and asks -- "what is that?" I tell her -- chicken and rice. She responds -- "oh, but I just loooove peanut butter!" We laughed and laughed! I mean, it's not as if she was eating peanut butter! (The school is a nut free zone.)

We go home. I put stuff away, she gets Ed to read to her. It's a current favorite, one about Fancy Nancy. (Not that she herself aspires to be fancy. If I ask her whether she would like to be fancy or plain, she always says -- I like plain.)

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Relaxed, refreshed, refilled with fruits and bits of croissant. We play school. Does that make her happy?

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Yes it does.

Once again she and Ed are the teachers.

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She teaches us songs. "On the guitar," which looks awfully much like a double bass in her rendition..

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... and with the xylophone. Today, is a beautiful day! I wake up and today is a beautiful day! She improvises.

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Running. There is a lot of running in her time here. She is in need of a snuggle. She brings pillows, resting next to me.
Do you love me a little or a lot?
Oh, there's a question with an easy answer: both, sweet one. Both a little and a lot.

She goes home, we drive to Jefferson -- just under an hour from where we live.

We examine the table. I want a table. I want to love this table and be done with it. I'm so easily satisfied!

I turn to Ed: I don't like it. The color... there's something off about it. 

Well I might cringe: the woman had had the tabletop replaced with new wood and the stain came out, well, different than she had intended, and so she wants a new table. I can hardly blame her. I don't want this one either.

Really? She sounds disappointed.

I had suggested to Ed that so long as we were out in the hinterlands for the evening, maybe we should find a place to eat out there. He finds a spot on the Main Street of the town just to the south of Jefferson --  Fort Atkinson. It's an Italian eatery called Mangiami Italiano.

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You're not going to find many people eating out on a wintry Tuesday evening in these smaller towns. There is a couple, a pair of friends, and this group of young women:

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We are so glad to be here. It's a truly delightful little meal -- the kind of dinner you hope to get when you're driving about: very fresh and honest.

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We return to the topic of the dining table.
It had no character. Too muddy.... Ed comments.
Exactly, I smile.

So we didn't get the table, any table. But we had such a nice time trying. That surely counts for more!

Monday, January 29, 2018


It's hard to believe that someone can spend an entire morning looking at dining room tables on Craigslist, but this, in fact was what Ed and I did today.

Let me explain.

The weather isn't suitable for outdoor cavorting. Too cold. A high of 20F (-6C). And cloudy. At least the snow lump (aka snowman) wont melt.

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Why not use the moment to push ahead with something I have wanted for a long time: the acquisition of a table that extends to a size that can comfortably accommodate more than six? Nine or ten would be fabulous! Obviously I have my growing family on my mind.

Predictably, I find something perfect online: new, beautiful, solid. It's even called a "harvest" table -- ah, the imagery! Gathering to eat farmers market bounty around the harvest table!

Ed balks. New. Not too expensive, but still, not cheap either. But worst of all -- new.

I'll pay for it! (My usual retort when I sense lackluster support.)

Have you checked Craigslist? (His usual retort to get me to reconsider.)

I must add that he has lost considerable weight in the discussion ever since we spent all last week talking about the farmhouse and its interior spaces. The conclusion was that my word carries for the farmhouse. Well then, if I love the harvest table, shouldn't it grace the farmhouse kitchen?

How about this one? (Ed persists, finding something one third the price and one tenth the beauty on Craigslist.)
It's okay... (I just love the harvest table!)
This one is like what we have here now, only with additional leaves!

I smile at that. What we have here now is a table that Ed bought in Shopko (a discount bigbox) to lure me to the farmhouse. Just to hang out here occasionally. And I came, and I would work on my lectures at that table, even as the farmhouse was still in a very sorry state. I suppose I love it for what it was then -- Ed's great desire for me to feel comfortable at the farmette.

Of course, we're years and years beyond that time. I've moved here. We've rebuilt and furnished the place. We have a new-ish couch! And my family (and thus by extension, our family) is growing.

I want a bigger table that can fit everyone. This then is our morning.

Of course, there was a lovely breakfast...

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But the rest of the hours are devoted to studying wooden legs and tabletops.

If I am reluctantly pulled over to the Craigslist options, I'm determined to at least visit that, what is not to be. Rubin's, the furniture store sporting the harvest table is on my way to the bakery where I pick up Snowdrop's croissant! This surely means I should pop over for a look at this piece of farm-inspired wonder.

As I step into the store, I try to hold in check my love for the "harvest" masterpiece. There it is! Lovely, yes, but what's this? The color... It's not the warm orange brown... It's rather yellow and dull. It would look awful with our chairs, cabinets, all of it.

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Good riddance harvest beauty! I fire off a text message to a Craigslist vendor and ask about a boring but serviceable table. And get no response. Oh, the tribulations of furniture acquisition!

To be continued.

The afternoon, on the other hand, belongs to Snowdrop.

It's sunny now, but still so very cold!

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I pick the little girl up at school.
Am I imagining it, or do you have one pink sock? (It's her doing: she loves raiding her cubby for spare clothes.)

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At the farmhouse she is full of grand ideas on what to do.

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And of course, eventually, she is back with the shopping/cooking/eating stuff.

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Ahah, you have to come over and sit down with us!

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There's always a lot of laughter at her table. Always.

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Apart form the time we spend reading, she is on the move constantly. Here, she's taking one of her kids for a bike ride.

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And then out come the balls and she leads us in a spirited "kick the ball" game. Gags, kick it hard, like this!

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And then lift me up and make me fly!
Snowdrop, you are getting to be so heavy!

I lift her up and make her fly and I'm thinking -- surely this afternoon more than compensates physically for the walk untaken and spiritually for the table unpurchased!

But if you think I'm ready to start cooking up a storm after the little one goes home -- forget it. I make a salad and reheat leftovers. Ed beams: finally, you're learning to appreciate the matured panoply of leftover flavors!  

Sometimes, Ed can be very predictable.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Snowdrop sandwich

The day is colder, grayer, more reminiscent of winter, which, I suppose, is as it should be. We are, after all, still chugging along through the last days of January.

Ed hints that a walk would be nice anyway, but I'm not anxious to be outside. I've designated this day to be a "fill the bags for Goodwill" day -- a cleansing and purging that I'm certain will make me feel only lighter and brighter!

But all that can't be interesting to you. Old books, clothes, papers -- we all have them, we all should periodically work to eliminate a good number of them. This is everyone's story!

More colorful and therefore interesting are the beginning and end to this Sunday. They both are made bubbly and bouncy by the presence of Snowdrop.

She had spent the night here and I have to say, even though I see her daily, being with her in the morning when she wakes up is a special treat. Snowdrop awakens like we all should awaken to a new day -- with enthusiasm!

She starts with a tease, one that she loves: go up to a posted word card and tell me that it says "pink." I protest. I tell her it couldn't be. I tell her I am sure it says apple. Nope, she insists it's "pink." And then she doubles over with laughter.

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Her good cheer is with her over a bowl of cornflakes (her choice today for "breakfast-lite").

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And it lasts through her bath, and into the "big breakfast," this one with Ed. (I had asked her what she would like and she did not hesitate: scrambled eggs! With bacon? Yes! And fruit? Yes!)

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This is when we look outside and notice that it is snowing.

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We wont get more than an inch out of this one, but hey, the ground will look that much lighter and brighter. Besides, the flakes are fat and lovely to observe!

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After, she plunges into play...

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... and into feeding us pretend meals with cakes and who knows what else. She has a very detailed image of how we should consume her generous offerings. She doesn't hesitate to instruct!

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Happy girl equals happy farmhouse. It's as simple as that.

The target return home time is 9:30, but we never make it out of here before 11. There is so much to do, especially when there's snow!

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Ever the helpful Snowdrop!

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Our snow lump (excuse me, snowman) will look a little healthier in the days ahead.

There is one tiny disappointment for the little one: in many books she has seen that children love to catch snowflakes on their tongues. Snowdrop hasn't had many opportunities for this, given are exceedingly dry winter, but this morning she gives it a try. But, the snow is too wimpy and her tongue not large enough. Ah well! I tell her there will be other snowfalls. I've been saying this an awful lot this winter!

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On the drive home, she surprises me with her now repeat request to retell the story of the penguin and the purple cookie. I mentioned here, I think, that it was one of my poorest attempts at making up a new tale for her. And yet, for some reason it grabbed her. I've since embellished it, but still, I have to smile at how poor we are sometimes at predicting what a child might love.

And now there is the other half of the Snowdrop sandwich: the Sunday dinner at the farmhouse.

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It's a meal that has a lot of Snowdrop favorites and adult favorites (shrimp, pasta, porcini mushrooms, tomatoes, haricots verts...).

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It's late by the time we're done with it. Well, late for us. Not for Snowdrop.
I want to take my babies grocery shopping!

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Still, we linger. There's a lot of good feeling floating around. Why move on...

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Well, we all do have to move on. Tomorrow is Monday. It's good to end with a smile, but it's also important to get that good night's rest.

To a grand week ahead!

Saturday, January 27, 2018


One more quick breath of spring before we return to our winter normal (which this year appears to be a snowless cold).

(All melted, here at the farmette. Well, except for snowman lump.)

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There isn't a doubt in our minds that we should hike today. But where? I hand over the task of planning out the day to Ed. It's only right: he's the one who swears staying home offers as much excitement as more distant travel. Come up with a staycation adventure!

But first, breakfast.

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We are both stunned that he finds a state park within a half hour of the farmette -- one which neither of us has ever explored. That's almost unbelievable, as we think we've hiked every public access path within a far wider radius. But somehow this one had escaped our radar.

And so we drive the scant 28 minutes to New Glarus Woods State Park (which, oh what a surprise, is located just by the town of New Glarus).

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At this time of the year, it takes us about two hours to do the large loop that hugs the periphery of the park. The snow is gone, but icy patches on the trail require careful handling.

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The trail is mostly woodsy and it's a new forest -- one that grew in the last one or two hundred years, around the oak groves and out of the savannah that was once here. When settlers came, the prairie burnings subsided and the tree seedlings took hold, choking out the prairie grasses.

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Still, there is the occasional clearing here -- brown and gold now, but likely to be quite pretty come summertime.

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Overall, we give the park trail a very good if not excellent grade. Half of the trail is too close to the nearby road. You never want to hear cars when you're in the forest! But the other half is very lovely and we appreciate discovering this patch of (soon to be) green public space.



We exit with a bang. The ice intensifies in one segment and Ed flips backwards, landing on his back and head. There! He was right! Plenty of adventure, close by!

We end our excursion with a stop in New Glarus. We want to try some of the local eateries outside the city and the Fat Cat Coffee Shop serves lunches in addition to the usual bakery items.

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We share a piece of goat cheese and fig quiche.

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And we head home. Can't be too late on the return. Snowdrop is coming over for supper and a sleepover.

Pizza time! (I am the most unimaginative grandma when it comes to sleepover dinners!)

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Oh, that mozzarella cheese!

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Ahah, take off your jacket! (He obliges. Of course.)

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Then -- playtime!

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...And a bit of coaxing to get her upstairs.
But Gag (her newest nickname for me, making her sound almost like a teenager), I want to play with letters!
That board says "no Snowdrop!" meaning no, now is not the time to play with letters.

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We negotiate. We reach a deal. Which is then renegotiated. Three times.

And eventually she falls asleep, in love with the fact that for the first time here, she has a night light in her room.

A little light in life goes a long long way.