31 December 2008

Colour experiments

Our adventures continue.

Yesterday was "colour day". Jack and I spent several hours playing with paints up in the craft room. I tried my hand at tole painting and Jack worked on colour combination, first on white paper - - and then in water. He voiced a lot of frustration at one point because the water had become so colour saturated that nothing he added made any difference. (That was when I first became awarw that he had lost interest in the painting part of our project.)

We discussed what he was trying to accomplish and I explained that paint was meant to colour paper, not water and so his results were going to be less than optimal. I asked if he wanted to clean up and go downstairs to experiment with mixing colour in water.

He thought that was a great idea, so off we went...


We started with three colours, and Jack was amazed that he could use purple, pink, and green to make "beer"! He later made it "apple juice" and was amazed that adding *more* colour made it lighter!

30 December 2008

Pasta and other adventures

How odd ...

I was so sure that being at home so much would mean a lot more time to blog and I would finally get a chance to cover all those topics I have been meaning to cover for so long but never actually written.
Oddly enough, I am finding that I have *less* time to write or read.

We have developed a rhythm of the day that has us all in bed at the same time and then all up again at the same time -- meaning that no one is getting a lot of introspective time.
We are, though, having a lot of fun! We have experimented with making out own pasta -- documented here -- and our own crackers. The pasta was less like Italian Pasta and more like German dumplings, but it was nice enough to have me considering trying again next week -- maybe with durham flour instead of pastry flour, since durham was developed specifically for pasta.

I may also figure out how to roll the dough thinner, which would make it more pasta-like and less dumpling-ish.
The crackers were a lot closer than my last attempt, but we're not there just yet. These did have a texture more like a real cracker, though. The last batch were crumbly and never crisped. I think the difference was that this time I used Kimi Harris' adaptation of a nourishing traditions recipe. (The one I tried to use last time, as it happens.) I think I may also have substituted olive oil for the butter the recipe called for since i was out of butter. Bad move -- very yucky crackers.
I have also had a chance to help with homeschooling which has been a blast! All I had to do was sit down at the table with the school books in front of me to try and figure out where we were up to and Jack leaped into my lap, grabbed the top book, and looked at me expectantly.

We worked for a couple of hours before I, not Jack, got tired.

What a rush!

Note: if you try making pasta, don't cut it and put it into a bowl like you see here. Rod spent 20 minutes separating it as it tried very hard to turn back into one single mass. (oops)

26 December 2008

25 December 2008

Happy Christmas everyone!

I hope everyone is warm and well fed and has a most pleasant Christmas day!
We have had lots happening.
First, our annual engineering disaster was canceled due to impassable roads between here and Nerida's place. First it snowed for days -- and then it rained all day yesterday, creating an icy mess. It was slick but passable here in town, but Nerida and her family live on a farm 30 miles out of town and the roads out there were pretty bad. (It's back to snowing now, so we can hope that there is enough accumulation to make the ice rough.)
Next, Jack and I went to the early Christmas Eve service at the church where Rod has joined the choir.

It was Jack's first experience in a Christian style church service, and once he got the hang of the expectations he did great! (We were surrounded by babies, so it wasn't until I pointed it out to him that he realized that the only people talking during the service were the babies.) He absolutely loved the music and seemed completely enchanted by the whole experience. He made his way to the choir director after the service to ask to join the children's choir and he was welcomed most graciously, so it looks like we'll be going regularly for a while.

(Whenever a baby would crow, the minister would make reference to "choirs of angels! I loved it!)
Next, we got word that we have been passed over for the first round of the big payout for volunteers to leave the company. There may be some chance that either the numbers of payouts will be increased or that someone who volunteered will change his or her mind, in which case we're still on the list, so that doesn't count us out entirely, but it's disappointing.

More likely, we are now facing a 50-50 chance of keeping our place with the company or that we will be let go anyway, with a far smaller payout and some very, very difficult choices. Needless to say, we have a preference.

On the bright side, it's snowing again, and we're looking forward to spending the day with Grandpa John and we got many of the cookies delivered yesterday and I had a chance to spend some time with a friend I don't see enough of yesterday. There is much to be happy about in this season.

I'd best got tidy up before we leave to get John.

23 December 2008

cookies, cookies, cookies

Well, the 12 batches of cookies are baked.

They're mostly safely in their tins and ready for delivery. (I still have to pick up a few more tins - - we have more cookies than I thought we would and there are always more friends who deserve sweets, right?)

We had a blast, and I hope that our friends have as much fun eating them.

Today is the day of the annual Smif-Bridgford engineering disaster, known as the building of the Yule cottages. If the snow doesn't postpone it, we'll tell you all about it later.

21 December 2008

Things one doesn't expect to hear from a five year old

"No, thanks, Dad. I think I've had enough sweets for today."

(No idea of the context, but...not what I ever expect to hear from a child.)

Jack with his first gift of the day - -a tub of lego from Mamma

"What?" (in a shocked voice) "why do you keep talking about that? You do know that love has more honor than money, don't you?!?!?!"

(In the car on the way home from dropping Grandpa John back home after a really wonderful Solstice celebration. Again, I didn't catch the relevance to the conversation - -but it was a funny remark anyway.)
Posted by Picasa

Happy Solstice to all!

Happy solstice everyone!

As we watched the sun rise at 8 this morning, we celebrated that soon the sun will be rising earlier and setting later. The sun is reborn today and will grow in strength and (eventually -- at the moment it's -11c and winter has just started) warmth from here until summer solstice.
May the return of the light bring new hope and much joy to you and your loved ones, and may you weather the coming cold season well fed and warm.

best regards,
the Delaney - Smith family
Chez Smiffy

19 December 2008

Feeling really strange tonight

As I sit here this evening, dinner started and the first pass on tidying the kitchen complete, I feel very odd. For the first time in a very long while, there is no hurry.

Not only don't I have to get up early tomorrow (normal for a Friday night), but all of the plans for this weekend have been canceled by the "blizzard of '08". (It's looking a record for December, and there is certainly plenty of snow, but so far it doesn't seem *that* bad!)

On top of those two factors, the Winter Holiday is much longer this year than most -- almost two weeks. And this morning, my employer announced that in an effort to keep the company viable, we would be closed for business from the 5th of January to the 9th and the employees will be on furlough, making just about a three week "vacation". (One of them without pay.)

On top of the anxiety of the upcoming announcement of permanent redundancies, there is the concern about spreading three weeks' pay to cover four weeks. And the total disorientation, (pleasant though it is) of having three weeks at home. I know that in the end, the time will go very quickly. There is always a million things I want to accomplish, most of which take a back seat to reality. I probably still won't get them all done, but I haven't had 21 days in a row for my own priorities in...oh, a decade at least. Maybe two!

Oh well, Heidi and alm-Uncle beckon. Off we go for bedtime and I'm sure I'll feel much more oriented tomorrow.

Good night

17 December 2008

Lessons, lessons, lessons

It's been a week of ups and downs, optimism, pessimism, hopes and dreams and attempts at planning in a vacuum.

I have done everything with a sense of "what if this is the end of a fairy tale?" Except when I wonder "I wonder what this will be like 'after'."

Adjusting to the possibility of major change is always like that, though. I read somewhere that 'anxiety is the vertigo of sudden freedom' ... or something like that. Yeah -- that's how this feels.

My life has always been episodic, and so there is nothing really new to me about endings...and I can't help but link them firmly in my mind to beginnings. That makes them not nearly so scary as they might be.

Changes aren't always welcome, but the new normal is usually pretty nice, once I adjust to the loss of the old normal.

Interestingly, our literature seems to be preparing us, too. We had checked a copy of The Education of Little Tree (the movie) out of the library weeks ago. (Yes, I am aware of the controversy, and I did a lot of reading and a lot of thinking before I decided that we would see it.) We just got a note that it was almost due back, so we watched it last night and we learned with Little Tree about how to keep on learning through changes in our lives, how to seek Te Way and to know that "we will always be together. Our souls know."

A few weeks ago, Jack selected Heidi as our current reading material. Heidi goes through change after change, and even when she isn't thrilled, she knows how to make the best of it and to keep a good attitude. Not long before we'd read Storm Boy.

Change. Change happens to everyone. Sometimes it's good. Sometimes it's bad. Sometimes it looks bad, but turns out to be good, or at least not so bad.

Rod and I both experienced a lot of change as children and we're comfortable with the storms of emotion change brings with it. Not that we like feeling blue and lost...but we know that it's going to happen, and that in its turn it will be replaced by the euphoria of endless possibilities that change also brings.

Jack has not experienced much change in his life so far. He is aware of what's happening, and he sometimes get a very sad expression, but so far he doesn't want to talk about it.

Fortunately, for the moment he has Yule to distract himself with -- this weekend is the big event! But in our case, that would be multiple "events".

On Friday night, we'll go to the big public ritual we participate in. The ritual will be very, very child oriented and Jack adores that circle! The ritual contains a lot of music and dancing and has plenty of room for free form child-energy. People range in age from infant to elderly, but the emphasis is on the kids which is just perfect for us.

On Saturday, I hope we will wake up early to see the sun rise, and then we'll clean and bake. We've been invited to a ritual on Saturday evening and I]d like to go, but the invitation was pretty vague and I'm not sure what time or where, so we may not make it to that one. Especially because Rod has a cookie exchange that same evening.

And on Sunday afternoon, Grandpa John will come over and we'll play and feast and open packages and have a wonderful ritual, and then we'll feast some more!

Of course, we're expecting some pretty exciting weather, too, so we'll need to fit feeding the critters in there somewhere, too. Probably several times.

And then I get to stay home - - and we will have two more celebrations.

We don't celebrate Christmas, per se, but both grandmothers do, so out of respect for them, Jack opens their gifts "on the day". That also serves to make their gifts "more special", since they get the spotlight all to themselves and several extra days of staring and wondering. Usually Rod and I cook all day, just because that's fun.

And then, of course, the celebration of the new year. We don't have plans yet -- but we always have a lot of fun and I'm sure this year won't be any different.

And at some point, Jack will put on his Santa Suit and we will wander from friend's house to friend's house distributing our gifts to them.

...and you know...I think that may be the best part!!

16 December 2008

Old Fat Naked Women for Peace



Now how did I miss these women this long?!?!

It's snowing again...!

I had managed to miss the predicti0ns, and so I was surprised and charmed when Rod and Jack came to pick me up and I found this when I trekked out of the office this evening.

Oh, how I love snow!
And Jack and I were up way too late last night wrapping packages and putting them near the hearth for Yule and Christmas -- mostly I wrapped, and mostly Jack scurried up and down the stairs with an air of great importance with his arms full of packages.

He couldn't quite resist peeking a couple of times, so one or two thinks won't be a surprise, but all in all, he was an amazing little Yuletide helper.

Jack was fast asleep as he and Rod headed out to the chess club meeting through the blowing snow and I have a lot of cleaning up and some more cookie baking to do.

*This* is what I had hoped this holiday would be like. Cookies, crafting, mysterious packages, snow, and lots and lots of boy giggles!

15 December 2008

Hey! It's available at EBay


Great Composers has been out of print for years -- but I just discovered a copy on EBay.

Given that Jack wants to play daily, that it has piqued his interest in Classical composers, and that it's also fun -- I can recommend it. ;)

Yule cookie production underway

I wasn't entirely sure it would happen this year -- we got prepared and and intended to last year but the cookies never happened, so it was with some trepidation that I made up my lists this year.

But this weekend, cookie production got underway right on time and is going amazingly smoothly. On Saturday, we got the first four batches done. (Mum's amazing shortbread and an almond shortbread variant, brownies and peppermint brownies.) Those are pretty easy and gave us success to grow on.

Last night, we got four more batches done. (Gingerbread, lemon bars, old fashioned refrigerator cookies, sugar cookies, and Italian almond cookies.) Well, three are done and two needed to be chilled for hours, so they'll be baked tonight.

That leaves only five batches to go...and I think we might just get there! Of course, we did the simplest recipes first, so we may not see the amazing numbers we have so far...but this is all the fun I always thought it should be! Rod and I, baking side by side, him on his recipes and me on mine. I work more quickly and he works more carefully, so he does the fussier recipes while I crank out the mass quantities. We chat, we bump into one another as we both reach for the flour at the same time. And each of us gets a sample of each batch as it cools. (No good sendiong nasty cookies to our beloved friends!)

While I was panicking over how I was going to get the cookies done (because stale cookies are bad and the cards weren't done yet) I came across this page and this page about how to bake large numbers of cookies when you don't have a lot of time.

It seemed like it would work extremely well, and we used some of the 'six days' tips, but not the assembly line. It's too much fun to fuss over each batch and chat. Another year, though, we may well do it on an assembly line.

I think Jack's Yule is just about ready, but while Jack and I have each gotten Rod a main gift, I haven't thought of much for Rod's stocking yet. He's tough to buy for, is my sweet husband.
Oh well, I have one more week to come up with something.

13 December 2008

Here we go again!

In an effort to protect our children from the dangerous toys being important by large multinational corporations, the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), lacking the authority and staffing to prevent dangerous toys from being imported into the US, passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) in August, 2008.

Among other things, the CPSIA bans lead and phthalates in toys and mandates third-party testing and certification for all toys and requires toy makers to permanently label each toy with a date and batch number.

All of these changes will be fairly easy for large, multinational toy manufacturers to comply with. Large manufacturers who make thousands of units of each toy have very little incremental cost to pay for testing and can easily update their molds to include batch labels.

The costs of mandatory testing, up to $4,000 per toy, will likely drive small American, Canadian, and European toymakers out of business. The handful of larger toy makers who still employ workers in the United States face increased costs to comply with the CPSIA, too, even though American-made toys had nothing to do with the toy safety problems of 2007.

Unless the law is modified, handmade toys will effectively no longer be legal in the US.

The CPSIA simply forgot to exclude the class of toys that have earned and kept the public's trust and thriving small businesses are crucial to the financial health of our nation. Let's amend the CPSIA so that all businesses large and small are able to comply and survive!

Funny! (And oh so true)

Hee hee hee!

Thanks, Ann Marie

Scary

Yesterday was a very wild day at work.

We all knew that the auto industry was in trouble and that customers who aren't selling cars don't need to buy parts. That's a given. We also knew that layoffs were going to have to happen, since it could be a long time before the auto industry recovers enough to need a supplier that had grown with the boom times.

The layoffs (well, sort of layoffs. There is no chance of a call-back) have been happening in dribs and drabs for a couple of years now. But yesterday, the biggest layoffs ever were announced.

Scary. 400 people will be gone by the end of January.

Then again, a very generous buy-out was offered for the first 100 people to volunteer. It was generous enough that a whole lot of people jumped at it.

So... I won't know until after the holidays whether I still have a job. If not, needless to say, Chez Smiffy will have to go up for sale. (As if anyone is buying these days.)

And, just to make it all more fun ... Jack is sick. Again. Just as Rod and I finally got over the flu he passed along a couple of weeks ago, Jack developed flame red eyes and a cough and a runny nose. Rod picked up some Sambucol yesterday and we've started treating everyone, so maybe this one won't be so bad. But yuck.

I think I'll go up and make some garlands and try not to think too much.

12 December 2008

The game of matching pictures.

Just try to beat Jack at the game of matching pictures. He's probably better than you.

How the game works: you match the most pictures (which we've already heard about) and then you count the pictures to see who got the most pictures.

It's not too easy with me!

by Isaac "Jack" Smith

(To which Mamma quotes Judith Martin: "It's always more impressive of people discover your finest qualities without your help".)

11 December 2008

Solstice banner

It's finally finished!

I made a Solstice banner for the parlour. It's inspired by the Dia de los Muertos paper banners from Mexico, but instead of cutwork, I was lazy and used acrylic paint and stencils.

It's not perfect, but I quite like it. (Note to self...red on green looks decidedly brown!)

Interestingly, Jack wasn't interested in working on this one with me, but once he saw it, he decided that the kitchen needs one, too, so we'll work on that this weekend. (And also on a Yuletide garland or two or three...)

08 December 2008

Simple Cooking

or how to get the last bit of goodness out of the trash and into your meals

Since we posted our "Why we eat the way we do" article, several people have mentioned that they wish they knew how to make the change from processed foods to home cooking. It seems that people who are used to cooking with packaged food aren't sure how to go about cooking without them.

Fair enough. It was a long slow process for us, too!

Our first recommendation is that you take it slow and use an additive approach to changing the way your family eats. That way, you won't get overwhelmed and feel deprived, putting a premature end to your mission to improve the way your family eats.

What do we mean by an "additive approach"? Well, rather than say "we won't use packaged foods anymore", leaving you to figure out "ok, then what will we eat?", we suggest that you learn to make new things that don't start with packages or cans. Maybe rewrite one of your favorite recipes to use all fresh ingredients or learn to make something new. Add more and more things that were made from scratch to the things you usually serve and don't keep score. Just aim to add at least one new from scratch thing every... well, you know your family. You set the schedule.

You might start with roasting a chicken, that staple of Sunday dinner from years gone by. One reason a chicken was so often the first choice for Sunday dinner is that quite aside from being yummy, it also gives you the things you can use to make a couple more meals through the week.

So lets start there.

Roasting a chicken

Start by buying a nice fat broiling hen, ideally fresh, organic, and pastured, but any hen will do in a pinch. If the hen was frozen, thaw it in the refrigerator for a day or so.

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F
  2. Wash the hen inside and out with cool water and pat it dry.
  3. Mix 1 tablespoon of dried rosemary, 1 tablespoon of dried sage and 2 teaspoons of garlic powder (not garlic salt, the salt will dry out the meat).
  4. Rub the inside of the hen with the mixed spices.
  5. Rub the skin of the bird with a couple of tablespoons of fat (butter, lard, or olive oil) with the rest of the herbs in it, and then place it breast side down in a roasting pan, tucking the legs and wings under the bird as best you can.
  6. When the oven is hot, put the bird in and roast for 20 minutes or until the skin is nice and brown and crispy.
  7. Turn the oven heat down to 300 and continue roasting for another 25 minutes or so.
  8. Remove the bird from the oven and let it sit in its pan juices for at least 30 minutes.
Easy peasy! See, you made a roast chicken!
Making Chicken Gravy

Once the bird has sat in the pan drippings for 30 minutes to reabsorb moisture, you probably still have quite a feast of yummy drippings in the bottom of the pan. You can turn those into a delicious gravy to serve with potatoes or over the meat.
  1. Move the bird to a serving platter
  2. Deglaze the roasting pan: put 1/2 cup of cool clean water in the roasting pan; heat the pan, scraping the chicken bits and drippings off the bottom of the pan until everything is loose and easily poured off. Pour the dripping into a heatproof Pyrex measuring glass.
  3. Put a pat of butter or lard into a large frying or the roasting pan.
  4. Heat on medium heat until melted and hot.
  5. Add two tablespoons of whole grain flour and stir and mash until the flour smells wheaty and toasted, about 10 minutes on low. (Don't cut this part short -- that's how gravy gets lumpy.)
  6. Little by little, maybe a quarter cup at a time, add the drippings to the flour and stir until smooth. (A whisk is great for this!)
  7. When you have used up all the drippings, start using milk or water, a splash at a time, until you get the perfect texture.
Not as hard as you thought, was it? You're getting the hang of it!

Now then, you have had chicken and gravy for dinner. (Along with potatoes and vegetables, I hope) You have chicken left on the bones, and of course, the chicken bones. Now what?

I know, lets make a chicken soup!

Chicken broth
  1. Pull all of the meat off the chicken bones. Split the meat into two containers, cover it and put it in the fridge.
  2. Put the bones, skin, and everything else that's left into a sauce pan.
  3. Cover it all with cool, clear water.
  4. Add a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice and bring it to a boil.
  5. Once the water boils, lower the temperature to just under a boil.
  6. Cook for hours, adding water as necessary to keep the bones covered. (We boil the bones for three days or so to get all the goodness out of the bones, but after 4 or 5 hours, you'll have a good rich broth.)
  7. Turn off the heat and lets the broth cool.
  8. Pour the broth through a colander and put the broth in the refrigerator.
    (You can throw the bones away or bury them in your compost, whichever you prefer. )
As it cools, the broth will thicken. The longer you cooked it, the thicker it will be. That gelatin contains the nutrients from the bones and is extremely nourishing. Broth is what we used in place of vitamins for the several million years before we learned how to put vitamins in tablets -- and it's a lot more tasty than a tablet!

Chicken soup
  1. Saute 1 medium onion in a little fat (butter lard, or oil) in a large sauce pan
  2. Add one stalk of celery and two cloves of chopped garlic
  3. When everything is soft and starting to get brown, put 2 cups of chicken broth, 1/4 cup of brown rice, and three cups of drinking water into the pan.
  4. Cook until the rice is soft
  5. Add one sliced carrot to the soup
  6. Cook until the carrot is soft
  7. Add one cup of chopped chicken and 1/2 cup of frozen peas and heat through
Yum.

Now then, what about the other chicken meat?

How about a nice chicken salad?

Cut the leftover chicken into bite-sized chunks. Cut two apples into similar sized cubes and cut 1/2 cup of grapes in half. Toss them all together with a half cup of walnuts (or pecans) and add mayonnaise to taste. Serve it on lettuce leaves for lunch, maybe with a cup of 'almost instant' soup ... ooohhh, fancy. With very little work!

More uses for chicken broth


OK, so now you've had three meals from a single chicken - - and you still have a bunch of bone broth in the fridge. No need to eat chicken soup again, that broth can be used in any number of ways. If you think you might use it pretty quickly, you can leave it in the refrigerator. Otherwise, freeze it into 1 cup and ice cube sized servings to use over the next month or so.

So what else can you do with chicken broth?

  • Use a cup of it plus water anywhere you would have used a can of broth
  • Use a cup of it to make gravy (use where you used the drippings in the previous recipe)
  • Add an ice cube sizes serving as a part of the water when you make rice
  • Use an ice cube sized serving to saute vegetables in a stir fry
Oh, and when you don't have time to cook, you can use it to make an 'almost instant' soup

Put one cup of broth in a sauce pan. Add two cups of water, a quarter cup of small pasta or leftover rice, and a cup of frozen or leftover vegetables and whatever meat or beans you have on hand. When everything is heated through, add salt and pepper and serve. You can use anything in 'almost instant soup' so it's a great way to use up leftovers that don't feel like leftovers

Rod is also working on an article about how to make and use beef/pork/mutton broth, which is actually a staple of ours.

07 December 2008

Perfect sunday...

First choose a composer. We've been studying Beethoven, but this morning, it was Mozart. Put the CD on the stereo and start the music.
Next, set up a game of Great Composers and spend the morning running all over Europe (and all through time) learning tidbits about the lives of the best composers of Western culture.

Finally, stomp Mamma on *both* elements of winning the game by getting twice as many era cards and three extra composers.
Next, after stomping Mamma's butt, explain to her how easy the game is to win -- but don't explain how, just gloat.

Mamma thinks maybe it's time to take this game to the next level. The rule book is encyclopedic and we've been playing it with the most basic rules so far. Maybe it's time to move on up!

(On the other hand, it's nice to hear him identifying composers and talking so blithely about their lives and personalities.)

06 December 2008

Do your know your neighborhood's walking score?

I quite like this little web app I came across.

It helps you to evaluate somewhat objectively how walkable a neighborhood is.

This is a fun app to explore your current home and the homes of your friends -- and it may turn up some surprises. (It can turn up small establishments down a side street you had never explored. Who knew we had so many shops within a mile of our house?!?!)

But it really comes into its own of you want to relocate!

Of course, it can't be completely objective. It's a web app. It thinks a gas station food mart is a grocery store and a coffee roaster in an industrial neighborhood is a coffee shop. It also doesn't take into account sidewalk access, traffic speed, or the challenge of getting across bodies of water sand expressways, so you would still have to go and look. But it's one more tool. And overall, it does seem to do pretty well.

While you're over there, you might also want to check out their blog. It's full of news and you can come away with a whole new understanding of why all this matters.

Woo hoo!

You mostly can't see it falling in this picture -- but you can see the accumulation starting!


It's snowing!

04 December 2008

Maybe the tide is turning...

Maybe the "year of deaths" is coming to an end.

I have just realized that two of my friends are expecting miracle granddaughters. Both are due on my friend, Mark's, birthday.

I like this a lot better.

03 December 2008

Games

It's just amazing to me how fast children's minds develop.

Jack took an interest in chess in early October. He is now crazy for almost any game that involves thinking hard or pushing plastic pieces all over a board. He loves chess best of all but he likes Checkers, The Great Composers (in which one chases all over Europe following the world's greatest musical minds on tour and learning little details about their lives) and Sorry. He still plays Mancala eagerly, and is absolutely crazy for battleship.

The thing is, he was very vague on the idea of "rules" as recently as August. He played by rote and imitated moves he learned from Dad that he thought would help him win, and he seemed to enjoy it, but there wasn't a lot of thinking going on.

These days, he is working hard to understand his games on a whole new level, and Rod says that he actually has to work at chess to keep from getting stomped.

He still thinks like a five-year old, though. I played Sorry with him at the library a couple of weeks ago and he came *that* close to stomping me minutes into the game -- I opened my mouth to say something but he rolled the dice and quickly moved the piece past its starting point, effectively starting over with that piece. I decided to see how long it would take him to notice.

It did, after all, extend the game and I figured that was fun, too.

Well, he was only one move behind me when I slid my last piece into "home" and only then did it occur to him what had happened. He decided then and there that he's not very good at Sorry, and we have talked about it many times since. I keep explaining to him that we all make mistakes -- especially when we're doing something that we think of as "easy", but that actually requires that we pay attention. We've talked about the times outside of games when that happens, and I think he gets it. Maybe.

We don't have a game of Sorry here (and we won't if Rod has any voice in the matter) so I don't know whether I have gotten through to him. We'll see on our next trip to the library.

Another interesting point is that while I am NOT a gamer and I don't actually enjoy them much, thanks to Rod I am able to play the occasional game with Jack.

I can enjoy the soothing rhythms of a game as long as the competition doesn't get too fierce and Rod has been working with me to help Jack to understand that different people play games differently and that while he and Dad enjoy a cutthroat competition, I don't. Jack is now able to play without (too much) crowing about winning and aggressive competition when he plays with me and turn right around and go for blood when his Dad sits down. That's a good skill for a guy who loves games like Jack does. He'll find it easier to find people to game with if he can adapt his play to the other players in the game! (I'm sure I am not the only one in the world who won't play at all if the other player figures it's a waste of time if there is no blood on the floor at the end of the match.)

The signs of new maturity are showing up in his reasoning, too, in ways that have Rod and I shaking our heads in wonder. There was so much we missed the first time because we were so busy with the hurly burly of growing up ourselves. Wow...

02 December 2008

Jhärtkorgar

Well, I did it.

I got all 70 Yule cards made by the first of December. The overseas cards are on their way and we'll wait a few more days to get the US cards out.

We never did get a holiday photo made and with all of us so sick, it seems unlikely that we will be able to before it gets silly to try to hold the cards. So no one gets a holiday family photo this year. Oh well. I'm sure we'll get one if we get to go to Sweden this year.
So now the cards are done (I didn't get a chance to photograph them ... I was still crafting away while we started the preparation and mailing process. Again, oh well. I did some for Bella and Leo that I thought came out cute, so maybe I can get a photo of those once the glitter and glue dries.)

With the flu lurking, cookies don't seem like a great idea, so since Stephanie has my imagination racing with her tres cool adventures with her kids, Jack and I have moved on. Last night we made Jhärtkorgar, a traditional Swedish Solstice decoration. Traditionally, they are filled with small treats and hung on the tree though since we don't do a tree, ours will hang from strings somewhere.

I am thinking we may move on to paper garlands and banners...and once my head clears, perhaps to a three dimensional paper snowflake...

And now, while I am not entirely better, it is time for me to get into the shower and back to work. For at least a part of the day.

(Oh, and my young guest blogger was over the moon that people responded to his first post! Thank you, Miss Karen, thank you Mr. Mark!) Of course, he insisted on posting again...and as far as I am concerned any writing is good writing. He dictates, of course. He'd have to concentrate too hard of he was also typing and he'd be done after two words. But this helps him to starting exercising his ability to pull his thoughts together.)

Edited to add, my goodness. It was pretty obvious that I was feverisah when I wrote this. My apologies!

01 December 2008

Isaac and his submarine experiment

Don't use up too many empty bottles if you want to do a submarine experiment!

Unless you put a lemon peel submarine into a jar full of water and cut out a balloon circle.

How to set up the experiment:
1) You fill a tub up with water
2) You put the bottle in the tub
3) You breathe in and the water goes higher and higher (or maybe it doesn't at all)
4) You breathe out and it goes down, down, down, down, down... (or maybe it doesn't at all)

issac!