Archive for September, 2012

He Does Exist

As an Oregonian, and as the wife of a man who believes in faeries….. i firmly accept the likelihood that a certain humanoid does, certainly exist and i often seek him out. This past weekend, we found proof!

I mean, if there’s a crossing sign, he must be real, right? We did not find any sign during our hike through the wilderness, despite our straining eyes, however. Next time. I’m sure of it! You can read more about our quest for Sasquatch and other figments at Pocket Pause.

How about you, do you believe in creatures of the wood?


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I did a crazy thing.

I made friends with people I met on line.

In fact, I did an even crazier thing. I made friends with people I met on line  and then went and met them in person.

And that led me to one of the most inspirational people I ever met– LaManda Joy, master gardener, amateur historian, and force of nature.

In Spring of 2010, LaManda learned that a vacant lot in her Chicago working-class neighborhood had been an original World War 2 Victory Garden. As a lifelong gardener and amateur historian she set about to recreate the garden as a modern organic Victory Garden. With the help of the local alderman, she was able to get the property owners to secure use of the land, and to bring the community on board through social media, networking and simple old-fashioned leafleting around the neighborhood.

Thinking it would be fun to garden with 10 or 20 people, she set up in a corner of a nearby bar for an initial community meeting; by the time I found out about it via Twitter about 2 weeks later there were about 75 people interested. By the time the garden opened, there were 157 families gardening with The Peterson Garden Project on that former weed-filled lot. This year, LaManda’s energy, conviction, and vision have led to 7 gardens with more than 2,650 people actively gardening. I’ve been spearheading the Grow2Give program, which sets aside 5% of the plots for food pantry donations. This year we’ll donate about 500 pounds of food. If you want to read about the story, check out Peterson’s blog WeCanGrowIt.org.

And why am I telling you this? The Peterson Garden Project, which changed my life, and is working to change a whole lot of others, has been nominated for  Chase Community Giving, an on-line crowd-sourced funding competition with $2.5 million at stake. I’m hoping this community here will be as inspired by the Peterson Garden Project as I was, or that you’ve been inspired enough by my contributions here to take a moment now to vote for the project. You’ll have to allow a Facebook app (sorry), but from what I’ve read it’s a fairly benign one, and they do a lot of good work through the program.

We’re hoping to win $10,000 as one of the top 100 vote-getters (for a start). That money will help us build more community gardens in 2013, and to continue and expand the Grow2Give program. Please take a look at our competition entry, and vote for us today!

And thank you to a community that has inspired me.

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As I was getting the beds ready for our guests a few weeks ago, I was looking, specifically, for a few more of my Gram’s embroidered pillowcases. I love using them in general, but really wanted to have them out for my mom and my niece.

“A crust that’s shared is finer food that a banquet served in solitude”

I enjoy the things that I have from my parents and my grandparents. I enjoy things that I have picked up at estate sales and yard sales. Things from the “past.”  Some of these things have stories to tell, others have memories attached.

When I was 10 years old, we moved from Wisconsin to Minnesota and my Gram moved with us and lived with us for several years. After Gram moved out and I got older I spent more time with her and learned to crochet and tat and knit.

I remember my Gram always had some sort of handwork she was doing. Whether it was knitting, crocheting, tatting. sewing, quilting or embroidery, there was always something to work on in the evening after the dinner was served. After the dishes were washed.  After we were in bed.

As I went into the drawers in search of more pillowcases I found other beautifully made items from Gram and my other grandmother. I also came across things they had collected over the years. I already have a number of linens out and on top of dressers and tables, but I decided to change a few of them so I could enjoy more of the beautifully handwork.

I am always amazed at the quality and beauty of each piece as I look at them. They make me think of my Gram, Grandma and the other people that made them. I wish I could turn back the clock to questions about each item, but I can’t. There are so many varying styles, I just don’t know who made what.

I know that the card table cloth in this last photo was made by Gram. As I look at each of the fabric circles I wonder where they came from. An old dress, an old shirt, my dad’s pajamas? I am sure if she was sitting right her, I could hear the stories.

Going through these linens from time to time always gives me a glimpse into the past and makes me smile. I had hoped when my mom and niece were her that we would have had time to sit down and look at them all together and talk about some of them so that my niece would have a glimpse into the past also, but there just didn’t ever seem to be enough time. We will get to it one day.

Do you have linens that cherish from the past? Do you use them?

Sincerely, Emily

You can see what else I am up to over at Sincerely, Emily. The topics are varied, as I jump around from gardening to sewing to making bread or lotion and many things in between.

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We welcomed a special guest a few weeks ago for a long weekend of fun and tasty food. I took advantage of the company to make some french toast topped with freshly canned plum jam.

I don’t follow a recipe for my french toast, so i won’t bore you with my notes. Needless to say that local milk, eggs and bread all come together for some fabulous eating!

Do you have brunch plans for this weekend?

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I am a gardener. I am a horse trainer, a dog walker, a muck shoveler, an animal feeder, a runner, a sheep farmer, a builder of things, a poultry raiser, a riding instructor, a birdwatcher, a hiker… I spend most of my waking life outside, and the summer is the most intense and demanding time of year for me. I love my life and I love the things that I do.

That being said, summer is my least favorite season. Sure, I love to watch things grow and change, but honestly by the time summer sets in I hardly have any time even to do that. This was the first year that I witnessed several teenage students have “Aha! moments” when they suddenly turned to me and said “Gee, I bet you can’t wait until we’re all back in school and you get your quiet mornings again…”

I certainly didn’t deny it. In fact, I often found myself feverishly nodding, and then whisked off in a daydream of quiet mornings and summer’s retreat.

So here I am, in the first week that the local kids are back in school. The garden is winding down, the horses are all breathing sighs of relief as their workload lessens, the sheep are chewing cud quietly in their fields and things are dark and quiet. Sure, I still have farm chores to do and various outdoor tasks. (I should probably beat back the forest of weeds that has taken over my yard and made it look miserably abandoned. – Thank goodness my landlady hasn’t complained yet!)

The shortening of the days as we approach fall is something that many people dislike. It signals the return to the school year and it obviously means less sunlight by which to do outdoor activities. I understand my students’ frustration. I remember getting home from school and having a mere three hours before dark. How irritating. But now that I am grown (or rather, slightly more grown) I see these shortening days as a signal that it is time to rest. I am sitting in my living room (I’ve always wanted to call this room the parlor, as a sort of history-geek’s homage to the early 19th century house we live in) and I hear my roosters crowing “Cock-a-doodle-dooooo!” or even “Time-to-eat-me-toooo!” in the barn and I’m not even phased.

I have decided this is my first really quiet morning. I slept until I couldn’t sleep any more (7AM – ugh) and now I am sitting on the couch thinking of what my next sewing project is going to be and letting the morning happen around me. Time is free to wash over me because I have fewer obligations to rush off to. It’s as if I can feel the ripples and tiny waves of summer lapping at me like aftershocks… or like the healing of some sort of throbbing traumatic wound. Hah! If only I could articulate like this when I’m talking to students. I’m sure they’d love to hear the wild summer schedules that they inflict on me described as such. 🙂

I’m sure that come wintertime I will be lamenting the sun. I will be cursing myself for not spending every moment of summer lapping it up and enjoying it.

Until then, however, I intend to take a few deep breaths and relax.

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Morning walk

Most mornings I walk along Lake Michigan, which is a mile straight east from my house. This summer, it’s been like bathwater, so I walk through the surf.

To swim on the Illinois side of Lake Michigan, you have to be serious about it. Most summers, the water temp stays in the 50s into June, and never gets much above the high 60s. This year, it’s been measured as warm as 81. The shallows barely register as cold, even after a storm (of course, we’ve only had two storms all summer). The first time I ever waded on the Michigan side, I couldn’t believe how warm it was. To me, lake = cold.

Walking is one of those gifts in a crowded urban life, where sensory input creates this constant psychic noise. On my walks, I let my mind just wander, or empty. Yesterday, I scribbled down the random thoughts that wandered in. It’s walking as poetry.

Walking to Lake Michigan

Don’t forget to look at the fish pond. Are those babies?
The water is still so warm but too rough to skip rocks this morning
I wonder how close I can get to a gull?

If Isaac gets here, should I walk in the rain?
Where’s that dog who likes me?
Hey– I could blog this!

I really should start jogging
And I need to make more granola and that ground cherry jam
90,000 people live within a mile of this beach but I count only 6 people
Where are they?
They can’t all be at work

The early morning people are all skinny

You can see the sand in the churning waves

I love finding vintage hippie playgrounds
Made of found materials from before they standardized and commoditized them

Washing the sand from my feet

The fountain water is much colder than the lake

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My 9 year old niece is visiting us in Texas for the first time and we are doing a lot of new and fun things while she is here.

Visiting my friends next door is definitely a high point where feeding the “wild” deer has ranked #1. The first day she went out with my neighbor, then he decided she could go out on her own the next morning.  The deer were a little shy that first day on her own, but the second day she had one eating out of her bucket and she could reach out and pet it too. What an experience!

After she fed the deer, she would join Poppy (the bunny) who was out hopping and running around the yard for a little exercise. It was hard to tell who was having more fun: Poppy or my niece. Poppy would run and hide, my niece would run after him and then he would pop out and run to her. She would then pet him and he would turn and hop off in another direction. When Poppy was ready for a break, he would head for his resting spot under and bench, dig a little, then sprawl out and cool off for a while. When he was ready to go, the games continued.

Blackie (the cat) had to get in on the fun too. A good belly scratch was in order and my niece loved it as much as Blackie I think.

This list doesn’t end there. There were Koi and other fish to feed out in the water gardens. She talked to the cockatoo and the macaw.  Fed the turtles and peeked in on the doves. Our daily visit was full of adventures. Full of new experiences and learning opportunities and there was a lot of time to explore.  Then we would head home and eat our lunch before heading upstairs to make cards.

I have made cards to give to my niece before and also made cards for her to put together, but this was the first time we have made cards together, so I went through choosing designer papers, and colored papers. Talked about layouts and other creative options. She had a great time adding ribbon and using the stamps and ink and then she put the cards together. Before we knew it, she had three cards made up and was ready to send them off in the mail, so we dropped them off at the post office on our way downtown to meet my husband for dinner.

We stopped and met my husband at work to look at some of the airplanes that he flies and maintains, then we headed downtown to Riverwalk. It was a week night and not very crowded down there. We had dinner at a Mexican restaurant followed by a boat tour on the river. We had a lot of fun down there.

I also showed her how to knead bread. I completely forgot to get the aprons out, so there was a bit of flour covering her when we were done. Not a disaster by any means, it was actually funny and we both had a good laugh.

As you read this, we are out on yet another adventure. Today is my quarterly manure pick up day, so we will head out early this morning to shovel horse poo into our truck. She will get to meet my friend and cowboy (who is also a singer/songwriter). She will get to meet his four horses; 3 paints and 1 kiger mustang. And she has even asked if she can help load the manure (really, she asked!)

I have wonderful memories of spending time with my Great Aunt. She introduced me to so many creative and wonderful things.  I remember how special I felt to when I was invited to spend time with an adult (My Great Aunt.) It gave me a feeling of independence and confidence, yet I realize now that I still was under the care and watchful eye of a family member that loved me.  I only hope that I have helped to create some wonderful memories and experiences for my niece and that I have more opportunities as the years go by.

Do you have someone that made you feel special when you were younger? Someone who taught you things and opened up your world to creativity and fun?

Sincerely, Emily

You can see what else I am up to over at Sincerely, Emily. The topics are varied, as I jump around from gardening to sewing to making bread or lotion and many things in between.

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