Friday, November 23, 2007

Simply Pleasures

An entire feast was prepared. I kneaded dough, and made whole wheat bread with a hint of honey. We had a scrumptious turkey roasting in the oven, next to baking yams. I smashed potatoes, and made cranberry relish. The stuffing was full of stuffed goodness, so was the pumpkin pie and the salad. Homemade. From scratch. Classic and hearty... so what's up with the canned cheese?

I dunno. When I was much, much younger someone fed me a celery hunk artistically spread with a cheery golden cheese. Sometimes when we are young we confuse the mysterious and commercial with sophisticated and elegant. In my mind, the ribbons of cheese that rippled forth from the handy can, were pure magic and elegance, and the flavor combination of crisp, cool celery (a vegetable no less!) and the zesty creaminess of plastic cheese was incomparable. Consequently, a can of Easy Cheese finds it way into our home every year or two.

Maria popped in and out of the kitchen asking to help. Hot pots, sharp knives and a single-minded determination to make everyone's favorites, made me too nervous to support her ambition to be my sous-chef... ahhh, but with Easy Cheese, even the youngest helper can lend a hand!

Far from the ten gallon pot of boiling cranberry relish, which looks something like sweepings from a forest floor...

Maria sat happily spreading cheese on celery logs. She was proud of her skills and artistry. She had fun. Alex tried to help her a bit, but she was very determined to make this job her very own.

We said grace. We shared our thoughts on gratitude. We ate lots of delicious food. And staying home together, playing, cleaning, cooking, sharing, resting, reading, drawing and napping was simply a pleasure.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Make Way for Thanksgiving Day

We have new plans for Thanksgiving Day. Alex is still coughing... the ugly cough that makes people fidget and the cougher suffer... it's best we stay home and not share our bio-hazards. So, we miss out on family time with aunts and cousins, grandma, uncles. Sigh.

Forward! Let us not reflect on disappointment, or my still sensitive thumb from last year's cranberry calamity. Once I realized we were playing by a new game plan, I hustled over to our local market and picked up fixin's. Turkey. Dressing mix. Cranberries. Apples. Heavy cream. Whole wheat flour. 2 lemons. Evaporated milk. Celery. And more... all the staples, all of the classics and traditional flavors, all of the wholesome ingredients and some of the bizarre yet necessary things, like cranberry sauce in a can and a can of Easy Cheeze. Yes, Easy Cheeze. For the celery. Yes, crappy, cheap cheese from a can squirted out unto celery sticks.

Thanksgiving is a personal holiday. It is a holiday with a long, and often misunderstood history. I was about to launch into one of my favorite history lessons, told with my Native sensibilities, but I really don't have time. Suffice it to say: Thanksgiving is a personal holiday. Everyone likes it the way they like it and no one should have to give up their favorite version of cranberry sauce or whatever. Which is why I hope someone gets her egg rolls, and Calamity Kim doesn't go crazy trying to serve 5 different "favorite" main courses!

What was I saying? Oh yes, I don't have time. I should be preparing pies and making that ridiculous cranberry sauce that I love so much. And, of course, there's a lot of cleaning that could be done. Even as I prepare to embark on this cooking-cleaning-baking triathlon, I am full of gratitude... we've got the essentials, like shelter and food, warmth, good shoes, a safe car, supportive bras, and plenty of toilet paper and hand soap, and we have the intangibles... laughter, respect, kindness, love, curiosity, patience, resilience, hope. I pray for peace and healing for all, for light and reflection in every home, in every heart.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Don't Be Jealous
... because I have new photo software... no, not Photoshop. No, not Adobe Illustrator. Never mind. I have a few more tools on the iMac, and I've been monkeying around for fun.

Check out the dreamy, soft focus edges!
oooh ahhh

This was a color image and I took it to B&W with the touch of a button!
(Hey, he's wearing my shirt!)
oooh ahhh

Alex's dragon has been colored enhanced!
oooh ahhh

I didn't do a thing to this picture!
oooh ahhh

Max added puppets to his Christmas list, and I added a fancy, dark edge!
oooh ahhh

I didn't do a thing to this one either, but I sure do love it!

I am also posting from my new iMac... tee hee. Don't be jealous. This was a very necessary investment. I literally wore-out the first iMac... it was sputtering and choking whenever I sat down to download more photographs. Now iMac One will be a dedicated homework machine for resident scholars, and Big Mac will be my new friend and companion management tool.

BTW I am 9 posts away from 1,000 and I am aching to give something away. Any contest or prize suggestions? I will take all under consideration, which is not the same as a commitment.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Public Service

Thought, care and strategy...

I think the Shopping Code goes something like this...
1. Rethink.
2. Reuse.
3. Recycle.
4. Homemade.
5. Buy local.
6. Buy organic.
7. Avoid products that are imported from a country with a disregard for child safety and a terrible environmental record.

Not easy. I know. A lot of people have no problem with this, but some of us are weak consumers, on a budget, eager for cheap thrills, short of time and creative juice... Truthfully: Selective shopping, making things by hand, buying local and organic, spurning cute and affordable toys and decor, in favor of nothing or something from a boutique, well... it's a luxury. Still, I think it behooves each of us to at least think about what we consume, why we consume and how we consume. Hey, this ain't no sermon... I am trying to pump myself up here.

So, the other day, when I was watching Anna Maria on Martha, I was happy to see a *how it's made* kind of segment at the Nordic Ware factory. Alex and I remember driving by the headquarters last summer on our Twin Cities Tour. I love those segments on the Martha Stewart Show when she features industry, craftsmanship, skilled people, workers... and I loved realizing that there is a wonderful American product, still made in the USA! Yay for Bundt pans... tee hee!

What else is made at home? And if not in the USA, at least in countries that haven't had a year of recalls and scary track records... So, I am on a mission to be on the look-out for options, choices, & possibilities. I am not a person that relishes shopping... I like to get out of the house, sure... and I like finding something I have in mind, but usually I count on a few stores I find reliable and then I am in and out. But, as long as I am in a store, I am going to make an extra effort to find things that are made somewhere other than China, and then I am going to pass along the tip here at Chickenblog.

My boys might insist I start with their all time favorite product, company and lifestyle... have you guessed? LEGO and it's bricks and blocks are, for the most part, not made in China. We breathed a huge sigh of relief about this, because LEGO has never failed to make the top 10 of all three boys' wish lists. The everlasting, creative, engineer training toy is a fantastic product. We can't say enough good things about LEGO bricks.

As for me, a sentimental favorite is PLAYMOBIL... I cannot resist those charming details and themes, especially the little chickens, bunnies, farmers, kitchens, hats and tractors. Like LEGO, they are pricey, but again, like LEGO, they are a toy that lasts, and one set can provide plenty of play fun for many years.

It was a happy discovery when I learned that Mad Libs is made in the USA! Is it just us? We love these silly books. And, really they aren't just silly, they are a sneaky learning device that any home-schooling family would appreciate. We bring Mad Libs out often, and always enjoy the fun.

Who remembers "Yes and Know Invisible Ink Books?" I always found these so intriguing, and the couple of times I got to play with them, they filled some slow time with a little amusement. You may have a super-sleuth in the house or someone that loves to puzzle and learn, and "Invisible Ink" books are made in the USA.

Holly. Holly, dare we give you another puzzle? There are a lot of really beautiful puzzles and I was happy to see there are many made in the USA and Germany. A click on the Ravensburger website even brings up an article about their safety testing standards.

Wow, I found quite a bit and I haven't finished going through my list. I am going to take a break for now... all this shopping has worn me out.