A 10!

What a wonderful day. A 10! For starters, there was no sibling bickering, and very little whining. That alone makes it a 9. It gets pushed up to a 10 when I feel completely fulfilled and happy and only a few things can really do that for me. One of those things is a trip to see some art. And wow, did we find it today!

I decided to take the girls to The Clark today. It's a fine art museum in Williamstown, MA, a short drive from here. I really don't know how long it takes to get there because I didn't look at the clock all day. We got ready at a leisurely pace, drove along country roads, up and down a mountain at a leisurely pace, ate a picnic lunch on the museum grounds at our own pace, and toured the museum without regard to the time.

I've been taking the girls to the Hyde Collection and I finally feel comfortable branching out to other museums with them. They understand the behavioral rules at the museum: no loud voices, no running, no jumping, don't get too close to the artwork, and only dance in small circles if you don't risk bumping into other people. They're starting to understand the real rules, and when they fully understand those, they won't need to remember the behavioral rules, because acting in a disrespectful manner won't be an issue at all. The real rules are: ask questions about the art, wonder what is happening in a painting, and wonder what happened in it before and after it was captured by the artist, pay attention to how it makes you feel, pay attention to what is in it and what isn't in it, and most of all, remember that each piece of art will mean something different each time you look at it throughout your life.

'H' is young, too young to remember the behavioral rules all the time, but she is really good at asking questions about the art. 'A' is an attentive student. I had several people come up to me and tell me that the girls were so good about asking questions about the works and appreciating what was there. I have to admit, I expected them to say that they were so well behaved, but the people who approached me were past that - they weren't paying attention to the girls' behavior. They were paying attention to how they interacted with the art. These people loved art too. They understood the real rules, and were happy to see two little girls learning them too.

I went a little crazy at the gift shop - crazy for me, because I usually don't purchase anything. 'A' and 'H' each picked out a postcard of their favorite painting to bring home, and I bought three books that make me feel super excited:

Spot the Differences: Art Masterpiece Mysteries, published by Dover Publications. My goodness, this book makes me want to cry tears of happiness! Each set of full color, beautiful pages shows 2 copies of a famous work of art and one copy has between 6-14 changes to find. For example this is one page and this is the next. I love it because it gets children to really look at a work of art. And it's Book 1, which means there is a Book 2. Oh my, double heaven!

The second book I bought is a type of un-coloring book, which is great for someone like me (I have a severe coloring book aversion). Artastic! is full of "art smart activities" that engage children. It met 'A's approval, so I decided to get it.

The Usborne Book of Art Ideas is a great guide for me. It has all kinds of ideas about introducing children to different ways of creating with paints and crayons and pastels.

It was wonderful day - the weather was great, the art was wonderful, the girls were a delight, and the drive was more than pleasant. We came home and right away broke out the watercolor paints and paper and went to work experimenting.

Tomorrow, Jeff and I are going to take the girls for a kayak trip. I'm looking forward to it and so is Jeff. I hope the girls are looking forward to it too. We'll see.

Have a fantastic weekend.


We certainly never had tomatoes like this last year. Remember Late Blight? It's coming around again I've heard but so far so good here. I'm happy with our tomato crop this year.

You know the life lesson, "be careful what you wish for?" I've been thinking about it today. I got what I wished for this summer. I have a wonderfully productive garden and I'm preserving all kinds of things from it. I've learned more about canning and drying and freezing. I've learned more about medicinal herbs and how to use the ones that are growing outside my back door. Mmmm, sounds nice, right? Yes, it does to me too. But what I didn't quite realize when I wished for all of this was that most of the preserving happens inside, in the kitchen. That means that on super-nice days, I have to spend some time inside, in addition to the time I already have to spend inside doing all of my other household stuff like cooking dinner, cleaning up, etc. Sometimes I don't want to spend an hour inside making and canning jam, but I know that if I don't do it, the berries will rot and all that time spent picking them and the money spent to bring them home will be lost. So I stay inside and I can jam.

It's a drop in the bucket on the wheel of time, I realize. These weeks now are the most productive for the garden and it's the only time of the season when I'll be a slave to the stove, so I am trying to grin and bear it.

Today I made blueberry jam. I started out with the basic recipe from the Ball Blue Book and modified it along the way. I started with this:

9 cups of crushed blueberries
6 cups of sugar

I brought it to a boil in a large pot on the stove. While that was going, I brought the big canner pot full of water to a boil too, along with another large pot of water in which I put the glass jars and lids to sterilize and heat them.

As the jam was reaching the gelling point, I thought, "I have basil in the garden. Wouldn't it be neat to make the blueberry-basil jam I heard about?" So out I went to get some basil. The jam recipe was supposed to make 3 pints, so I filled 3 half-pint containers with the basic blueberry jam and got those ready for the hot water bath, and to the remainder of the jam I added about 1/3 cup of finely minced basil and 1 1/2 tablespoons of lemon juice. I loosely followed this recipe. Keeping in mind that this blueberry-basil jam would be good with goat cheese and crackers or cooked in a pastry with a wheel of brie, I thought it would be a good idea to can it in smaller jars, with the intention of using the whole jar in one appetizer dish. It's not the kind of jam you keep hanging around in the fridge and spread on your warm buttered toast in the morning. I ended up with more of the 4 oz. jars than I anticipated - 10 to be exact. I was very pleased with the result and I'm excited to try it out one night!

Okay, you're seeing that I take something straightforward, like making jam, and turn it into something a little more complicated, like making herbed jam in tiny little jars. Maybe I do bring all this "work" upon myself. Maybe.

Later in the afternoon, before I hit the gym, I decided to turn one of the four ripe and sweet cantaloupes I got from the farm yesterday into popsicles. Four is a large quantity when it comes to cantaloupes and I had to do something different with them. I loosely followed this recipe but instead of adding the mint and the lemon juice separately, I used what was left of a mint/lime/honey/OJ dressing I had made last night for the cantaloupe we had for dessert. I used this recipe for the dressing, leaving out the orange peel and substituting honey for sugar.

Just when I thought I was done cooking for the day, dinnertime rolled around. Potato chips, wine and turnips- a nice foundation for a healthy dinner, right? I made a turnip dish from one of Jack Bishop's cookbooks and I was mostly happy with it. Next time I'll braise the turnips longer so they aren't as hard and crunchy. And I have to say, since I know I'll be eating turnips all winter, I just don't feel like eating any of them now, not when I have so many other things to choose from.

As a side note, my stepfather volunteers at Nauset Light, the lighthouse depicted on the bag of potato chips, and every time my girls see the bag, they exclaim, "Grandpa Dick's lighthouse!" It's cute to watch. It's not his lighthouse. It's all of ours. Yours and mine. Ours to protect and appreciate.

I'll leave you with this link, a website geared toward teaching teenagers about the environmental and social consequences of their consumer choices. I'll keep it on my radar.


Today we visited three libraries, had lunch, and picked up veggies at the farm. At library #1 the girls had their homeschool art class (the topic was Australian Aboriginal art); at library #2 the girls had storytime; and at library #3 a few books on medicinal herbs were waiting on hold for me. We bought plums at the farm and ate them for dessert, along with sweet, delicious, local cantaloupe melon. I canned some corn relish and have plans to make blueberry jam and plum preserves tomorrow. I've also got a number of zucchini that are begging for my attention. Not to mention my houseplants. They are parched.

I'm trying to build up my B-12 reserves super-fast so tonight I bought some eggs and made a quiche with swiss chard, sweet onions and zucchini, all from the farm. Mmmm! I don't eat quiche anymore but I do love it.

Here are some shots from our day.

A loose tooth!

So, here is something exciting. Well, exciting to me, anyway. With all of 'A's "big girl" actions and her recent emotional and developmental growth spurt, I decided to poke around in her mouth a bit tonight and check to see if any of her baby teeth are starting to wiggle. What do you know? One on the bottom is moving! This is uncharted territory for me. How long will it take to fall out?

Immediately after I calmed down from the excitement I thought about how small her baby teeth are (she grinds them because of the way they are placed in her mouth, and they're small, super small, like little infant teeth). The tooth fairy will NEVER be able to find those little teeth under her pillow! I'm looking forward to sewing her a special pouch to put them in and she can slip the pouch under her pillow whenever she loses a tooth. Oooh, this is exciting!

I think about Rudolf Steiner's philosophy about losing baby teeth and reading readiness (that children aren't ready to learn to read until they start to lose their teeth) and I'm not sure where I stand on the issue. 'A' loves books and loves to be read to, but on the surface, has no interest in learning to read on her own. She acts like she can't do it, and won't do it. But when I show her pictures of objects and ask her what letter the word begins with, she rushes through the exercise at top speed, getting all of the answers correct, with an attitude that says, "oh Mommy, this is so easy and so boring. Why do you make me do this for you? Why can't you figure out the answers yourself?" I think she must be absorbing something I teach her but she'll never let on. Knowing her, she's going to play the "I don't want to learn to read game" right up until the day she cracks open a book and starts reading by herself.

I love to read, and in some ways for me, the world is divided into two groups: Readers and Non-readers. I'm a reader. Jeff is a non-reader. My father is a reader. My mother and my older sister are non-readers. I don't know if reading alone is any indication of anything. Jeff hates to read but is one of the smartest people I know. His brain is wired in such a way that makes him just So Smart! When he does read (which is not often), the book doesn't touch his heart or take him to visit far-off lands and meet new people, as it does for me.

Maybe Steiner is right. Maybe now that 'A' is starting to lose her teeth, she'll start to want to learn to read. If she turns out to be a Reader and finds that her soul is fed by books, great. If she winds up being a Non-reader and struggles to comprehend written words but is still So Smart in other ways, wonderful. Either way, she'll be in good company in our family.

The sunset tonight hit our walls in new and bright ways.

snapshots from our day

Take a look at that! She got up this morning and made her bed, without being asked. That's the great thing about parenting 'A'. She just knows what to do and does it. In time, I'll show her how to make a bed so neat that you can bounce a coin on it, the same way my mother showed me. I don't always make a bed that tight these days, but it's a good thing to know how to do. For now, this is a great start. Look at how she spread her taggie blanket out, all ready for bed tonight. That taggie has been in action for 5 years now and I don't think it'll ever be retired from service!

I took the girls to pick blueberries today and was saddened to find that the season is nearing the end. There wasn't enough rain this year to keep the blueberry crop going strong. I got a few quarts and that was after a long time of hunting for a few berries on each bush. I want to make some more jam - blueberry jam is the BEST!

I picked up some corn on the cob on the way home, with the intention of having some for dinner and some to make into corn salsa for canning. The corn this year is not well fertilized. Some of the kernels are barely developed. I wonder if it relates to the problem I had in my garden earlier in the season. The bees just weren't there.

If I ever speak of "reading by the pool," this is what it means. I sit and read while the girls hop in and out of their little plastic pool. Classy, huh?

I took this one of 'H'...

... and she took this one of me.


I figured out a few things today, which is good, because I don't care for mysteries all that much.

The first relates to 'A'. Every once in a while she goes through a phase of sorts where she is just so old all of a sudden, unaware of her new physical strength, or frustrated that she's still be treated by me and Jeff as just a 5 year old when really she's a 5 and a half year old. She gets antsy. I've figured out that when she acts like that, it's because she's "moved up" in life and I haven't readjusted my routine to reflect it appropriately. She's been asking me for a few days if she can help me around the house (she already does, but it's a spontaneous thing, nothing I expect on a regular basis) and today it came to me that she's ready to receive an allowance in return for the completion of some regular work. I never knew when I would be ready to give her an allowance or what the ground rules would look like, but I guess I now know. Jeff and I have to iron out the details, but I'm thinking about giving her 25 cents a week and she will be expected to make her bed and help me with the dishes and the laundry. I like the idea of 25 cents because I can give it to her in so many different forms (pennies, nickles, dimes, quarters... oh my!) and we can use it as a teaching aid. I think she's ready to have the reward and the responsibility together.

I also got some answers about why I am just so darn tired all the time. It's been getting increasingly worse and I'm now at the point where I wake up feeling tired and can close my eyes at any point during the day and fall right to sleep. That's not okay with me! My doctor suspects it's because my vitamin B-12 levels are low. I went off all my vitamins a few months ago to see if my diet alone could keep me healthy and it is, with the exception of B-12. I'm back to popping the pills, and anxious for my body to feel rested and energized again. I'm looking forward to staying awake to live my life.

Hey, one last thing: check out these people who just completed a year without producing garbage. Their site has loads of info about how to reduce, reduce, reduce our garbage output. We're still on one 13-gallon bag a week at our home but that is still too much! I can't wait to spend some time looking at their suggestions and thinking about how to implement it at our home.

Hot day in Rosendale!

Yesterday's outing to the Rosendale Street Festival was... well, HOT! 96 degrees, to be exact. And there we were, hiding under the light shade of a tree, but unable to escape the heat.

Anyway, we went to see Tracy and her husband Kurt and their adorable baby Bruce, and we're very happy we had a chance to meet him. And we got to see some other wonderful friends too!

There was lots of music and lots of neat vendors and I would have loved to have stepped out from under the tree to see them, but anytime I did, I just melted. Nearby there were a few caves filled with water and frogs, and we had a good time exploring those.

Today I'm loving:

...this site, chock full of ideas about canning and labeling all of those jars! I'm looking forward to preserving some corn relish and pepper jelly. I made some cucumber and zucchini pickles today and canned some diced tomatoes. The best thing about canning my own diced tomatoes is that I know for sure that the cores have been taken out. There's nothing worse than opening a can of store bought tomatoes and finding it full of hard, inedible parts.

...didgeridoo, an instrument originally used by the indigenous Australians, played by Phil Jones today at our UU service. It's a wooden instrument, shaped like a pipe, and you play it by blowing into it. Jeff attended the workshop after the service and says it's not as easy to play as it looks (does it look easy to play? I'm not so sure). There are numerous health benefits for the person playing it, including lowered blood pressure, reduced snoring and sleep apnea, and improved lymphatic function.

...a story I heard about this newspaper in India, which is run by women (lower caste women, to be exact) and it serves to bring to light stories that affect women and families - and in turn the local economy and environment. Anything that gives oppressed women a voice is a good thing.

...the work being done by Majora Carter in the South Bronx first through Sustainable South Bronx, a non-profit she started, and now through her green-collar economic consulting firm, The Majora Carter Group LLC. She's working toward the goal of seeing the South Bronx become a place where people want to live and work and play, where children can get outside and find a green space close to home, and where the waste from the rest of the world - garbage, sewage, chemicals, major highways - doesn't come to rest. Bravo, Majora.

Rainy day

That was some rainstorm today. When was the last time I was out and about in a soaking rain like that? I can't remember.

I'm tired (nothing new) and should go right to sleep, but instead I'm going to crack open Anita Shreve's A Change in Altitude. It's about a young married couple that goes to Kenya for a year and faces tragedy while climbing Mount Kenya. It's no surprise there is a horrific accident, it's one of Anita Shreve's books. I'm drawn to this one because of the African themes (I'm always surprised to find myself fascinated with Africa) and because the heroine is a photojournalist and I'm looking forward to seeing how she's portrayed. Finally, some fiction is entering my life. I need it.

The Rosendale Street Festival is tomorrow! See you all back here on Sunday.

We spent part of the day at county fair to check out the girls' artwork on display, the lions and tigers, the pig races, and the cows. It was hot in the sun! We lasted four hours and then had to come home and rest, before heading out to an evening concert to see our favorite Adirondack folk singer, Dan Berggren.

About Me

My name is Jillian. I started this blog as a way to experiment with my camera and it's a become a nice little spot where I enjoy spending time. I'm a mother to 6 and 4 year old daughters, wife to a cool computer guy, and mama to a cuddly cat. We enjoy eating local, organic food; managing several food allergies; homeschooling with love; spending time in nature; and we love to take time each day to be creative. You can also find me over at From Scratch Club from time to time. Welcome!