Wednesday, December 28, 2011

winter visions

Christmas still echoes through our house with the clicking of Mr. Ninja and Mr. Cook's Nerf guns as I walk to my room from my morning bath.  I have soaked in the hot water to warm my bones and fill my head with the images of Tinker Creek and sycamores- anything Annie Dillard cares to write about in her nonfiction work, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.  Thank you, Denise, for the introduction.

I love Dillard's writing.  I want to keep a notepad and pen beside me as I read her words so I can look up all the ones I don't know.  Tinker with them.  Roll them off my tongue.  I want to play outside and find the casings of the caddisfly larvae too, by the creek off of the Greenbelt, or is the caddisfly larvae prejudiced only to Virginian creek beds?  I wonder.

The Wildwood Park and Nature Center has a staff that might know- retired expertise with willing smiles and eyes that contain the same enthusiasm of a child on Christmas morning.  Maybe they won't be able to tell me about the larvae, after all, but instead share the secrets about the painted turtles that reside there, that are covered in mud this very minute, trying to keep warm.

Or not.  Turtle instincts don't require that they try at all.  They just do.

The birds have their secrets to tell, as well.  At the nature center, there are several windows that offer a view of the park and the various species of birds who come to enjoy their free meal at the bird feeders, placed about twenty feet or so from the building.  March is a particularly fun time to visit because of the many nonmigratory birds that begin selecting their territory- prime real estate for mating.  What is most helpful at the center for those of us who need assistance in figuring out which bird is which, is the wall on the other side of the windows which has a poster that identifies all of the birds seen below, feeding at the feeders.  The tufted titmouse is there as are the Carolina chickadees, and the red winged blackbirds.
Scientists at the center like to track the paths of the migratory birds, as well.  And every year, they seek out the help of other bird enthusiasts who want to participate in the adventure for a few months.   Maybe we could become bird enthusiasts, too.  Learn to recognize the cooper's hawk and the white-breasted nuthatch as easily as the cardinal and robin. Learn their songs.  Yep, I'm all set to hit the road, but convincing the boys is another matter altogether.  So many times I feel like I've got my kids by their shirttails and I'm sloshing through the mud in my flip flops- trying to pull them to the next event that will entice them; make a lasting memory.  But it's hard work and the muscles in my arms and legs get tired and sore.

Notwithstanding my teenagers' grumblings, I'll rest a little and then make plans anyway.  Because I want to catch that moment, the one that has us on our walk on the Greenbelt, as the sudden cry of the peregrine falcon overhead falls onto the knowing ears of my boys, who then turn to me in wonder and whisper, "Look, Mom!", while their smiles assure me that all of the effort has been worth it.

Monday, December 26, 2011

breckenridge cowl giveaway

Have you ever been happily knitting along on a project, enjoying the prospect of the finished result that will shortly be coming around the corner, when something or someone whispers into your head that this work you are painstakingly creating is not meant to be yours?  Do you ever start to reason and negotiate with yourself that you deserve this little lovely.  That you truly adore it, that your husband would want you to keep it (he paid for it, after all), only to quietly resign yourself to the idea of giving it away? 

Well, it has been my experience that this is the very best kind of gift to give.  One that has a lot of heart wrapped all over it.

The pattern was written by Melynda Bernardi of French Press Knits, LLC.  You can find it here from  It is a very quick cowl to whip up and the pattern is easy to follow.  The yarn is Blue Sky bulky color 1214- Pluto.  I was able to purchase the yarn from the friendly people at (just in case you are having a tough time finding a source).

Knit up on size 15 straights ( I used two of my dpns) and a cable needle, you really can have this done in about the time you finish a couple of good movies.  There are no button holes- simply slide the buttons through the cowl to fasten.

Or... just leave a comment and let me know of one wish you would like to see happen in 2012.

All names will be thrown into a pot and the blind-folded Mr. Cook will select the winner on January 1st.

Good luck and Happy New Year!

ps.  You've got until noon (EST) on the 1st to enter...procrastinators forewarned- this giveaway will wrap up quick.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

merry christmas

brown paper packages tied up with string...
the customer service clerk at the local Giant looked at me like I was crazy when I offered to purchase 24 brown paper bags

Sunday, December 18, 2011

the santa quandary

One week before Christmas, every year, our family is given an unexpected surprise that always catches us unaware and scrambling for our coats.  This year was no exception as we were all lazying around the house on a chilly Saturday morning with nowhere to go.

Unexpectedly, Mr. Hero and I heard the fire truck sirens blast through the eighty-one year old brick exterior walls as if the emergency was impatiently biding it's time at the front door.  We looked at each other trying to register if what we were hearing was what we thought we were hearing, when the situation dawned on us.

"Grab your coats!  Santa is coming!" we bellowed out to the kids.
They knew the drill and within minutes we were all out the door ready to greet Santa right there on our street-riding on a flatbed trailer just behind the blazing red fire truck that was blaring Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus is Coming to Town from the loud speakers.

One by one, all of the neighbor kids came out of their houses with smiles on their faces in anticipation of seeing old St. Nick to receive the candy he always gives them.  The recession must have hit our fire department this year as well, because Mr. Cook was quick to educate me on the obvious fact that last year the kids had received a whole bag of goodies instead of just the one lonely candy cane they received this year ( I guess kids would remember something like that).  Mr. Cook was also eager to point out that the Santa Claus that came this year was just an imposter- that he was absolutely sure that the Santa he spoke to last year was actually the "short, chubby fireman with the glasses"( who is pictured below).  He then had to point out that his little eight-year-old friend, miss L., who lives next door, had been arguing obstinately with him that the Santa the two of them had spoke to on this day was the real Santa. And that to prove it, she would ask her mother who would settle the whole matter with the truth.  

we sure do love our volunteer firefighters
Well, how was he to argue with that?

If he couldn't argue with miss L., he knew that he could certainly voice his opinions to me and so sporadically, over the next few hours, he emphatically presented his reasons as to why he was right and why miss L. was wrong (the whole mental backbend of Santa getting stuck in our chimney was the real clincher for him).

He did manage to get his picture taken with Santa before the good firemen whisked him off to the next street of unsuspecting children.  Now that I think about it, maybe that's the motive for the quick get away.  Look at their faces- do you think these big hearted men could handle a bunch a crying kids on their hands who suddenly put two and two together?

Me neither.

Friday, December 9, 2011

when god was a woman

This was the second time I had attended a Queen Spirit meeting.  The group of gregarious women were gathered at the Unitarian Church of Harrisburg for a celebration of the fall equinox.  A potluck was held for the first hour- which gave the ladies an opportunity to mingle, after having had a month long absence from each other, then follow up with a program which was held in another room.  There was a small table in the center of a circle of chairs that had an assortment of fall decor placed on top- pumpkins, candles, leaves, a tinker toy seesaw which represented balance, a yin/ yang medallion and other sentimental items.  Everyone gathered around the table and participated in the program which was meant to give a new perspective on the approaching fall months.

Surprisingly, not everyone held the same cherished sentiments towards the autumn that I did.  Many were brave enough to express that this time of year is particularly difficult for them.  That the ever increasing darkness and cold kind of throws their equilibrium.  Others spoke of loss and how the fall months only remind them of it- pain etched onto their faces.  I was touched by their honesty and willingness to share.

As the program progressed the topic of the Goddess presented itself.  I'd first heard about the female divine from Sue Monk Kidd's, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, a couple of years ago.
I'd loved her book and was curious to learn more.

Imagine my surprise when following the meeting, I learned from a sweet woman that I could learn more about the Goddess from Merlin Stone's book,  When God was a Woman.  She told me that Stone had done extensive research in order to compile her book and that it would be worth looking into.
I told her I would and I did.  Funny how one book can lead you on a journey- then onto another and another, isn't it? The following questions are the ones that placed Merlin Stone on her own journey:

How did it actually happen?  How did men initially gain the control that now allows them to regulate the world in matters as vastly diverse as deciding which wars will be fought when to what time dinner should be served? What else might we expect in a society that for centuries has taught young children, both female and male, that a MALE deity created the universe and all that is in it, produced MAN in his own divine image- and then, as an afterthought, created woman, to obediently help man in his endeavors?  The image of Eve, created for her husband, from her husband, the woman who was supposed to have brought about the downfall of humankind, has in many ways become the image of all women. 

How did this idea ever come into being?

And in Stone's need to discover the answers to her questions, she uncovered the abundance of archeological evidence which pieced together a surprising puzzle suggesting that the Goddess was worshipped for thousands of years before the God of Abraham became supreme.

And that the myth of Adam and Eve was conceived with the very motive to denounce the religion of the Goddess and subjugate the female thereafter.

The result?  Well, it's obvious isn't it?

The year was 1976 when Stone wrote her book- right smack in the middle of the Women's Rights Movement- when women were fighting for economic equality among men.  When they were fighting for individual autonomy and fighting for the right to be respected as human beings.  It amazes me that two hundred years after the Founding Fathers penned the Declaration of Independence which proclaimed that "all men are created equal, that all are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, and that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness" that women would be compelled to show that these words only applied to white men.

It further amazes me that nearly forty years have passed since Merlin Stone's book was first published, which supplies ample evidence demonstrating how religion unapologetically subjugated half of the human race (and in many cases still does), and that this country is still relying on the same antiquated ideas to prevent same-sex couples from claiming their right to marry in most states.

Did I expect to link the Women's Rights Movement and The Gay Rights Movement together when I opened Stone's book for the first time?  Admittedly, no, I did not- I was only curious about the Goddess and thought Stone might be able to shed some light on a few of my questions. However, after finishing this book, I can't help but see the correlation.

I'm not asking anyone to go and chuck their Bibles. But I do suggest picking up Merlin Stone's, When God Was A Woman, and evaluate the evidence for yourself.  Whatever you do with her evidence, is entirely up to you.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

one new thing


We've never been really good at it.  I don't know if it's just the wander lust that runs so rampantly through our veins or our proneness towards boredom that keeps us from sticking to the same routine year after year. 

Food is no exception.

I guess if the kids decide to complain about it, they can blame it on their parents.  The very first Thanksgiving Mr. Hero and I had together, we ventured onto something new.  Since it was just the two of us living in our little one bedroom apartment in Tucson, we couldn't see the sense in cooking up a ten pound turkey for our dinner.  

So we tried duck- and boy was that a mistake.  Considering that the two of us had very little cooking experience in the duck arena (I think one needs to go to school for that), we ended up with a very greasy bird that wasn't worth eating- but eat it we did.
recipe hunting
Luckily our little duck debacle didn't cure us of our need to explore.  As a result, we've come across some yummy keepers over the years and this Thanksgiving we stumbled onto another gem that I'd like to share with you. 

bacon wrapped dates
This little appetizer is quick and easy and is such a divine combination of salty and sweet, that you might want to make up these babies any time of the year. My sweet friend, Craft Queen, recently reminded me while on our knitting night out, that the two of us along with our husbands had initially discovered this appetizer over at Suba's, the Spanish restaurant located upstairs from Mangia Qui's, in downtown Harrisburg.  So, if you are in the area and don't want to do your own cooking, you could always get your fix over there.

Bacon Wrapped Dates
What you'll need:
bacon (uncooked)
dates (pitted)

We wrapped each date in Nature's Promise uncured bacon and secured it with a toothpick. Then placed them on a cookie sheet and baked in the oven for thirty minutes at 350 degrees, turning once after fifteen minutes.  Because the Nature's Promise bacon is rather thick, you might want to adjust the cooking time if you choose a different brand.

Once they come out of the oven, remove toothpick, pop in the mouth and savor!  Oh, they're so good.

What is a favorite holiday dish you enjoy each year?  What new dishes did you try this past Thanksgiving?