30 November 2008

Chez Team Waffles

by jack

Don't overcook your waffles because overcooking your waffles is too stupid because then you can't eat it and it's too bad not to be able to eat your waffles.

How to make waffles: You need to gather up sugar, milk, baking soda, olive oil, and I forgot the rest but you can find out in the Joy of Cooking book.

You put the ingredient into one bowl and pour the ingredients into another bowl. That's all.


29 November 2008

What to do when you're sick and bored.

A submarine experiment!

Rod is so patient

OK, Jack's croup has turned into the flu for three.

I feel awful and so does the rest of the family. Unlike my guys, though, I am a whiner.

In the interest of keeping me amused, Rod let me play with hair while he and Jack watched a video on my computer. It kept me amused enough to stop whining, after all.

I love his hair...such a pretty colour. Kind of like dark honey.

28 November 2008

Forty three and counting...

I didn't get started until late today, nonetheless I have gotten to 43 cards completed.

Y'know, this might just work.
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27 November 2008

Why we eat the way we do

"You still won't live forever, you know!"

Yeah, we know. What we eat won't allow us to live forever. There isn't even any real assurance that we'll live a moment longer, regardless of how we eat.

So, why are we so careful about what we eat? What makes it worth our while to seek out high-quality, local grass fed meats, milk and eggs, and organic, locally grown biodynamic vegetables? Why do we grind our own organic flour, bake our own bread, drink raw milk, and try to stay away from what our family refers to as "plastic foods"? (Refined and processed foods, hydrogenated fats, corn syrups, sulfates, MSG, sprayed on vitamins, genetically modified food products, and the like.)

As we have said, we don't necessarily think it will help us to "live forever" and it certainly isn't to save money. Biodynamic vegetables and grass fed meats are more expensive. Fresh foods are often more expensive than canned and processed foods.

So then,...why?

First and foremost has to be overall health.

Rod can't eat commercially produced meats and milk. Those seem to be largely responsible for the downturn in his health since he arrived in America, or perhaps more correctly, for his inability to recover from setbacks to his health that come with aging. Within a year of arriving, he found that his blood pressure had sky-rocketed, injuries that he sustained weren't healing, and his energy levels and ability to focus had fallen through the floor.

I had been more interested in vegetarian cuisine (though I wasn't entirely vegetarian) before Rod's arrival, but he is a dedicated omnivore and so we ate more meats together than I had before. The switch to larger amounts of meat had some effect on my health, too.

When we realized what meat was doing to us, we tried more vegetarian foods and while some of Rod's health issues changed, they didn't resolve entirely. The obvious next plan was to try foods more like what his body was accustomed to. Grass fed, antibiotic free meat was still the standard in Australia, so that's what we tried. Rod's ability to bounce back has improved dramatically.

While we don't expect to live any longer, we do hope to be as healthy as we can be, to be strong and hale enough for as long as we live to live productively and to continue to make a contribution to the world. (I sometimes joke that my goal is to leave the healthiest corpse the coroner has ever seen. )

Second, of course is taste. I have thought of myself as a "foodie" for decades. I love good food, I love to cook and I love to eat. Biodynamic vegetables just taste wonderful! Grass fed milk and meat and pastured eggs have a depth of flavour that is just amazing. They taste like the foods I ate as a child!

Bio dynamic vegetables and fruits are raised based on the idea that flavor and nutrition are imparted to the food by the living processes within the organism. Those foods that taste best to to the unjaded human pallette are most appealing because they are the freshest and offer the most dense nutrition. Modern food production tries to replace this living flavour (reduced by chemical fertilizers and mostly removed by hyper-processing) with magical chemicals that imitate natural flavor, but since we have adjusted our palette to natural foods, the chemical imitators taste just nasty.

Third, the way we eat reflects our belief that eating is a political act.

By choosing locally grown bio-dynamically produced vegetables and grass-fed, pastured animal products, we can opt out of the industrial agribusiness model that has been closing down small independent farms for decades. We can support a more humane way of raising food animals, in which the animals live a happy life, true to its species, before becoming our prey, rather than spending short lives of malnourished misery in conditions that transform our farming facilities to prisons and death camps.

In choosing locally grown foods, we support our neighbors and we develop a relationship with the people who grow our food. We can know exactly where our food comes from and exactly how it's grown, because if we have a question, we can ask the farmer. If we have a doubt, we can visit the farm to discuss our concerns.

In eating locally and avoiding grain-fed animals, we reduce the amount of petroleum involved in our food supply and reduce the amount of chemical pollution in our waterways and air.

We also reduce the impact of our omnivorous ways on the world. When cows eat grass, when chickens eat bugs and seeds and grass, when sheep eat what they find in the fields, when pigs can forage, when our prey eats what they're supposed to eat, the grains our farmers grow can go directly into the human food supply in their traditional forms. When animals range over the land, their waste is returned to the land to act as a natural fertilizer for the grasses and herbs growing there rather than being washed into, and poisoning, our waterways and as a bonus no chemical fertilizers are required to grow their food.

There are lots of good reasons to eat the way we do, but it is more expensive. Since we are also living on one moderate income, we have made some accommodations to our meals to reduce the amount we have to spend for our healthier diet. We work to wring every last drop of value out of our food by making broths from the part of the vegetables we don't serve and from the bones left after a meal. Those broths become the basis of flavour in our cooking, as the basis of all of our soups and sauces and to add a new richness to our grains. They are truly amazing tasting and they add to the sense of "fullness" that comes with eating nourishuing food. Even better, because our food is highly nourished as it grows, the broths are a rich source of additional nutrients themselves.

One unexpected side-effect of preparing highly nutritious meals is that we find that we are eating a lot less food than we once did. Rod's need for the nutrients in meat is largely satisfied by bone broth in an otherwise vegetarian meal and a casserole that would once have served us for a meal now serve us for two or three.

There are a lot of reasons for our food choices, but I think it can be summed up by the philosophical statement that eating the way we do supports the principle of wholeness and wellness that we try to make central to everything we do. And it tastes good.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

26 November 2008

And now, the santa suit is almost done

Miss Karen is still working on the belt and beard and plans to mail them to us this weekend. (She lives near flint - a good hour from here, making it even more amazing that she makes the trip as often as she does!)

I think you can see from the unretouched photo at the top that Jack wasn't feeling well last night, but he sure is excited with his costume. The retouching on the other two only mutes the roughened red mouth but doesn't entirely hide it and I didn't try to remove the circles under his eyes. (I love Picassa's new features!)

But then the poor kid woke up barking this morning and very confused. He came into the bath while I was showering with tears streaming down his face and barely able to talk. I eventually sorted out that he had awakened 'alone in the bed' and gone in search of his Dad, who was not in any of the usually places. Fortunately I was almost done with my shower, so I was able to wrap up in towels and pick his up and carry him off in search of Dad.

We started in the bedroom, and sure enough, there he was, fast asleep. I'm not sure why Jack 'couldn't find him' and neither was Jack. Rod was astonished that Jack didn't hear the CPAP, though since I am rarely aware of it, either, I was less surprised.

I was able to tuck a now much calmer in beside his Dad and go finish getting dressed for work, but it became clear that Jack's loss of ability to speak wasn't from panic. Every time he tried to talk, he started to cough with a deep, barking cough. Once I was dressed, we headed down to the kitchen, where I made my boy-budgie a nice cup of medicine tea!

Jack has taken lots of naps today and was asleep when I got home from work, which is why I can blog in the evening.

Now that Jack has the croup, our holiday long weekend suddenly looks very quiet.

I think I will manage to get the cards done after all -- and maybe even get a good start on the 12 dozen cookies I hope to get made in the next three weeks!

We may hold off on the feast a few days, too, since croup is reputed to reduce a child's appetite and that seems true of Jack, too, if today is any indication. After all, there is no reason we have to stick to the traditional day.

As much as I love our friends and look forward to seeing them all, I have to say that I am delighted to have several quiet days in a row to just hang out with my boys.

Maybe we can even get over to Cafe Luwak for breakfast when they open again, if Jack is feeling better.

(I don't know yet whether Jack has a three day croup or a seven day croup. I am betting on the briefer one, because he usually isn't sick as long as a lot of other kids other kids.)

Time to go wrestle a 17 pound bird into a salt bath...

25 November 2008

What we've been up to...

Rod and I, as I have mentioned, have been sort of assisting with trying to get Red Barn Lunches off the ground. Our latest contribution was helping to start the web page off.

After hours and hours of work, it still looks pretty much like a prototype -- and not a really great one at that. We aren't web developers, nor do we play one on TV. We warned the principles of that, and they have a professional lined up to take our mock up and make it look like something. It does, however, give more of an idea of what the project is about.

Jack and I have finished reading the Three Musketeers at bedtime. It was in some pretty archaic and challenging English, so was surprised that it held his attention for most of the book, but it did (except wen he asked me to skip ahead and leave Milady behind and find D'Artagnan again. Her machinations just weren't all that exciting - -though he was appalled when he later discovered that she had killed the Duke and he missed it. He was much relieved that he hadn't missed a sword battle. )

And now we're reading The Book of Three. Mamma is relieved by the less tongue-tangling language, though it's not as pretty.

I guess my sweet baby has become a swashbuckling boy when I wasn't looking...
Work continues on any number of crafts -- Miss Karen will be over today to finish up the Santa suit, and then we'll work on Yule/Christmas cards. (She taught me to make a pop-up card -- is that cool, or what?!?!?)

I am closing in on the halfway point on the card designs, some more elaborate than others, but I am very pleased not to have one design that "obviously" has to be for the Grandmas -- so many of them are things I like enough to make them "the one:"! A nice twist. I guess enough practice makes it easier. I'll post some photos as soon as I manage to get them off the camera.

(I think these pictures are so funny! My friend, Calesta, took them at her son Alex's pirate birthday party. I cropped Alex out of courtesy, since I didn't have permission to mpost pictures of him and wasn't goig to call at 6am to ask.)

24 November 2008

Wow...just, wow

I don't know how reputable 20/20 is anymore, but there were pretty good when I watched them regularly decades ago.

This is a 40 minutes analysis of the public schools. It clearly has a pro-voucher agenda, but the argument are pretty persuasive that *something* has to be done. The immense popularity of charter schools, private schools, and home schooling suggest that at least some schools *are* this bad, and honestly, my experience with schools in two generations suggest that 20/20 isn't exaggerating as much as we might wish.

What do you think?

(Thanks, Michelle)

21 November 2008

The making of Santa...

As I think I mentioned at some point, Jack's beloved Miss Karen offered to make him a Santa suit, since he's outgrown last year's elf suit (and declared himself "too big" to be an elf now).

I had no idea I would learn so much!

First, Karen started with a measuring tape, a roll of paper, and a wriggling boy and showed me how to create a pattern.
Next, we used the paper pattern to make a muslin mock up to make sure it was going to fit. We just pinned it and make sure it would fit, but I will sew it together this weekend to try my hand at sewing and then Jack and I will decorate the coat into some other costume for his collection.
Meanwhile, none of this (other than being measured) was very interesting to a young man who wasn't allwoed to use the sewing machine or the circle cutter or the pins. Jack is pretty much used to being able to work alongside me whatever I'm doing. (One advantage of a low tech lifestyle) and he was very frustrated to keep hearing "no".

So, thanks to Stephanie, I had a GREAT idea! Jack and I made mittens for the grandmothers from the Santa suit scraps! (Now we can hope our Grandma and Mormor don't stop by here before these arrive in the mail!)

(Thanks, Stephanie -- this isn't the only great idea I'm borrowing for gifts this year -- you are amazing!)

Jack is sure that his need to hang from the fingertips. I will grant him that it looks pretty -- but I have to figure out how to get the ribbon in now... I am happy to put the ribbon at the wrist after I stuff it.

Of course, all this is taking a lot of crafting time and so my cards are falling way behind -- one more week: yikes! But we're having a blast! I will try to get some action photos next week when we get together to (I hope) finish the costume. (Karen is, believe it or not, making SANTA BOOTS! for the costume!! Wow!)

19 November 2008

Glorious weekends

Lately we have been having those weekends I daydream about when life gets just way too stressful and hectic...
Most Saturday mornings, Rod does life-drawing.

Usually, Jack and I hang around in our pajamas and waste half a day doing "not very much" until Rod gets home around 1 p.m. and then our day begins -- usually rushing off somewhere.

A couple of minutes, er months ago now, you know, when it was late summer, the friends of the library was having a special sale, and I wanted to pick up something at Michael's for my latest scrapbook page, so Jack and I decided that we get ready and we'd go with Rod, drop him off, and then run errands.

Rod made a lovely soaked porridge (he's been doing a LOT of that lately) and we ate breakfast together, and then we took turns showering and dressing. Jack asked "are you going to work?" because that's our week morning routine. He was delighted that I wasn't. Ahh, sweet children.

We all hopped in the car with all Jack's library books and off we went. We dropped Rod off at University, where the artists gather on Saturday morning.

Next, Jack and I went to Micheal's and bought some silk flowers (even at full price they are far cheaper than Prima flowers -- that week, they were 50% off. A real bargain! I got enough on two stems to last for a year or more!) Oddly, it wasn't hard to find what we wanted and move on. (I usually end up wandering endlessly at Micheal's, overwhelmed by all the choices.)

Next stop, the library, where we dropped off Jack's older library books and then we fought our way through the throngs to find a bag full of books, only to discover that the special price I read about was on *Sunday*. The prices were exactly the same as they are every day at the Friends of the Library book shop but the crowds were horrendous. Oh well -- that's still an amazing price, and as it turned out we coincidentally ended up getting roughly the same price as I expected. The crowds are far smaller at the everyday book shop, so I think we'll stick with that -- but we did find a few very nice books. Then, Jack wanted to get some more books to check out.

Once we had our books, we were hungry and thirsty, so we stopped by the food co-op to pick up snacks and drinks and we walked to a nearby park to munch and chat while waiting for time to pick Dad up. We ended up having a blast, watching people and critters, reading and talking and exploring.

Once we picked up Rod, we headed out to visit Mark for a while and then we ended up back at the park where we relaxed as a family, enjoying the sunshine and fresh air. Rod did some more sketching, Jack and I went noticing, and we all did a whole lot of nothing. It was bliss.

Sunday was just as good. We woke up late and prepared for ritual that afternoon. Sunday afternoon rituals don't seem to involve pot lucks in the way that Friday evening ones inevitably do, and that makes it a lot easier to get ready. We took our time and wandered off to the ritual, just on time.

Another weekend, we had to drop the car off to get repaired. Now that we're down to one car, that posed a puzzler. However, our mechanic is only a few miles down the road, so I suggested that we could go for a walk -- and we did. First thing Saturday morning, we all hopped in the car and drove over to the mechanic. Then we spent the remainder of the morning walking home by a meandering path.

It's amazing what you learn about an urban environment you think you know when you take the time to walk it. We found all kinds of treasures along the road, discovered a "hidey hole" that looked like a secret clubhouse (and probably was, and it's probably just as well it was uninhabited when we passed by, but nonetheless it was very intresting and appealing in daylight!) We noticed businesses and former businesses that we had never noticed before, and got a chnace to examine architecture and speculate about the history of the area. When we got home, we were all happily tired, so we sat down at our computers for a bit, and then we had a meal and headed off to get the car. We decided that two such walks in one day weren't necessary, so Rod checked the online schedule and then we walked out to the main road where the city bus makes it eastern most Region 2 stop, and got off the bus in a neighborhood a few blocks from the mechanic.

Last weekend was, perhaps, the most blissful of all. I never left the house at all -- unless you count a trip to the compost heap and a swing past the mail box. On Saturday, Jack threw an "I love my friends" party.

As regular readers know, for many reasons, we celebrate our birthdays together with a family adventure. Jack enjoys that, but after years of going to other people's birthday parties he had begun to get the idea that it being the host of a party would be a lot of fun.

So, we planned an "I love my friends" party for his "half-birthday"! We made personalized invitations to invited 12 of Jack's closest friends. I asked all the mommies to bring a (new or used, but cheap) kids book wrapped up as a present. We brought in a big dinosaur cake from the bakery and some of the largest helium ballons I have ever seen -- one for each kid! We carried in the cake and sang the friends song (Make new friends and keep the old, one is silver and the other's gold) and everyone, from the youngest up, chose a present to open. We had music and popcorn and cookies hot from the oven. We covered a long table with butcher paper and everyone coloured and drew on it, we had a Little People diorama on another long table across the room for lots more play. But mostly it was a play date with cake and balloons. The kids did what kids do -- and periodically all of them would barrel out into the yard to chase each other around, hollering for ten minutes and then come barrelling back in. It was a hoot! Perhaps because all the familiar party elements were there, but there was no stress, all of the the children were beautifull behaved the whole time. Then again, more likely, we were just lucky to have a great groups of kids.

OK, I have been trying to finish this post for a week. It's still not done, but I am way behind time to hop in the shower, so I am going to post it anyway. (Did I ever get around to maiking a point?)

I'll try to write again soo -- there is, needless to say, so much to tell...!

17 November 2008


Hey, folks...

I am sorry there hasn't been a real post in so long. It's that season when if i am going to make Yule cards then I have to work on them pretty constantly. (Our list is 70 this year and that takes some doing...)

And then, out of the blue, Jack's beloved Miss Karen offered to make him a Santa suit ... and so I have been learning how to craft a pattern from scratch and helping to make the suit. Of course, my help means that things have to be done over from time to time, but Karen has been very patient.

Anyway, I heard about this movie and it looks fascinating. I haven't had time to go and watch the previews, so I cant actually vouch for it, but in the interest of not boring you to death with silence, I figured I'd post it and let you see for yourself. From the web page:
Have you seen the news stories about the obesity epidemic? Did you see Super Size Me? Then guess what? ... You've been fed a load of bologna. Comedian (and former health writer) Tom Naughton replies to the blame-McDonald's crowd by losing weight on a fat-laden fast-food diet while demonstrating that nearly everything we've been told about obesity and healthy eating is wrong. Along with some delicious parody of Super Size Me Naughton serves up plenty of no-bologna facts that will stun most viewers, such as: The obesity "epidemic" has been wildly exaggerated by the CDC. People the government classifies as "overweight" have longer lifespans than people classified as "normal weight." Having low cholesterol is unhealthy. Lowfat diets can lead to depression and type II diabetes. Saturated fat doesn't cause heart disease -- but sugars, starches and processed vegetable oils do."
I actually do have five real posts started and several more in my head. I hope to get to those in the next day or two ...I hope you're enjoying the change of seasons as much as I am!

14 November 2008

An open letter to the Obama Administration

14 November 2008
Ypsilanti, Michigan

Dear President-Elect Obama,

Congratulations on your heart-warming, history-making victory on November 4! Along with the majority of our fellow-citizens, your election has brought new hope to our family for our country's future.

I am heartened to hear that you have made the education of America's children one of your highest priorities; I understand that the greatest gains are to be made within the public school systems. I heartily support your agenda and am happy to see our tax dollars used for the genuine benefit of the children within the public school systems.

My concern is this: I have not seen any policy statement anywhere about the your view of homeschooling, and its future as a viable alternative for those families whose children cannot or will not fit within the public education system.

It requires no special inquiry to observe that no system of mass education can be expected to meet the needs of every student in the nation. Atypical children, whether they learn more slowly, more quickly, or just differently than the majority, wind up on the periphery of a system that, by its very nature, cannot be made broad enough to cope with their needs without also jeopardizing the overall quality of education for the majority.

Homeschooling parents, in increasing numbers, are choosing to step up and fill the atypical educational needs of their children at home, rather than impose a further burden on an already challenged system. Your own biography notes the enormous debt you owe to your mother for her 4am homeschooling sessions. Homeschooled children enjoy that extraordinary teacher/student ratio all day every day, and several national studies have shown that they benefit from that advantage.

Our great nation was built on the principle of individual freedom, and as a people we have fought, from the very first, to maintain the independence of our citizens from government interference. The education of our children is primarily the responsibility of their parents and families and secondarily the responsibility of our expert consultants within the various school systems, public, private, and parochial. It makes a great deal of sense to increase funding for the public system and set realistic achievement standards for public education institutions to increase our nation's competitive edge. It makes equal sense to allow those of us who choose to educate our children ourselves, to do so unimpeded.

If we couple the higher public education achievement objectives of your administration with the already high achievement levels of home educators, together we can twice strengthen the most important asset this nation has: its children, and therefore its future.

Please allow home educators to continue the work we have started, a work that meets our shared objectives for a better educated, freer, America

Best regards,
Misti Anslin Delaney Smith and Rodney B. Smith
Parent Educators

P.S. Our 5 year-old son, Jack, who followed both your primary and presidential campaigns with fervent interest was sadly disappointed when he did not get to meet you a the polling booth on election day!!

P.P.S. Kim has posted her letter about homeschooling to the Obama Administration over at Relaxed Homeskool, so you might want to head over and see what she has to say.

13 November 2008

Would that I could speak so powerfully

I could not have expressed my feelings as clearly, but he did...

Except that I do have friends and loved ones who are deeply effected by this.

11 November 2008

First snow!

SE Michigan had our first dusting of snow for the season yesterday.

Not much -- but it was pretty as it fell, and it promises that winter is truly nearly here.
And, probably no coincidentally, we also had to turn on the central heating for the first time last night. Blankets make it toast when the wind blows -- up to a point., But even I think that 23°F is beyond "adventure" and into "bloody cold!"

10 November 2008

what is this thing?

Any idea what this is?
Jack found it at "Value World" for ten cents and fell in love with it.

I am thinking a baseball helmet of some kind, but with no idea why I think so...

07 November 2008

It’s In Your Hands, America

The election is over; the die is cast.

Whether you were jubilant or frustrated and disappointed by the events of November 4, this is your America.

It's time to move from the rhetoric that characterizes a political campaign to the rebuilding of America as it should be.

To do that, we need every voice, progressive and conservative. To do that we need to work toward a consensus that blends the concerns and priorities of every U.S. citizen, and even the voices of our fellow citizens of planet earth.

In the interest of transparent transition and a government in which literally every voice has the chance to be heard, the Obama administration, as one of its first official acts, founded a web site at http://change.gov/

From the web site:
Change.gov provides resources to better understand the transition process and the decisions being made as part of it. It also offers an opportunity to be heard about the challenges our country faces and your ideas for tackling them.

The story of the campaign and this historic moment has been your story. Share your story and your ideas, and be part of bringing positive lasting change to this country.
I have heard it referred to as "Open source Government" (thanks, Lydia!) and that sounds to me like Government by the people and for the people has come of age. Welcome to the 21st century!

Whatever your feelings about the turn of events this week, I encourage you to take your best ideas and your deepest concerns over to change.gov. Make a difference, take back this country, by the people for the people. *All* the people.

04 November 2008


I've been thinking about my Dad lately.

Harold James Delaney 1932-1998

Thinking about the kind of person he was and how very much of who I am, I owe to him. I am very much like him, I guess. Mom always said that was why we couldn't get along when I was a young woman!

We both have a really goofy sense of humour. We both believe what we believe passionately. He taught me not to "let George do it", but to take responsibility for filling needs as they come to my attention, and that contribution is what it's all about.

I had five younger brothers before my sixth birthday, so Mom and Dad had their hands pretty full as I was growing up. Things were rarely easy for them, so it wasn't until I grew up and left home that I started to really get to know what was important to Dad.

As I was struggling to raise my first family on my own, Dad and I would talk on the phone from time to time. His tales were full of his projects to improve the world around him -- working in soup kitchens, organizing a neighborhood watch in his community to combat a growing drug culture and crime problem, cleaning up an abandoned lot on the street where he and Mom lived to create a park for the local kids to play in.

I was so proud of him. I admired his enthuiasm and his civic spirit. Instead of complaining that life in his neighbrohood wasn't perfect, as so many people do, he set out to find ways that *he* could make it better.

I don't know whether I ever thought to tell him how proud I am, though.

One of the most emotional moments of my life was at his funeral ten years ago. A woman came up to me and said "You must be Harold's daughter. I worked with your Dad at Home Depot." I was startled, because I had never lived in San Antonio with my parents and didn't get a chance to visit very often. Then she went on to tell me that my Dad was always so very fuill of stories about me and my adventures - - that he had been so proud of me and all that I had accomplished against what he saw as some very tough odds.

Imagie that! My Dad; proud of me! Telling my story to complete strangers just because... I burst into tears and wished vehemently that I had known how he felt while I could still hug him and thank him.

I still get teary just thinking about that moment.

I have decided not to let my own children have that experience. I try to make it a point to let them know when I am proud of them and what I like about them. Regularly. Because I am proud of them -- they, too, have managed to become good men against some pretty big odds.
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01 November 2008

Time to make thos Yule cards...

Wy do I always wait so late?
We haven't even decided on a Yule-card list for this year...and I haven't started making th cards. This could take a while, and here I sit on the computer wishing I had time to blog.