Thursday, November 29, 2012

Cider Making ... and Serious Philosophical Thinking

No, we did not do cider pressing over Thanksgiving. We actually did it in late October, but I am typically slow at doing a blog post about it! The press actually belongs to Scott and his aunt and cousins (technically, also to his brother, his sister, and his mother -- but they don't live close enough to be involved most years). We call it the Big Green Machine, and you'll never see another one just like it. That's because it was basically built from scratch by Scott's paternal grandfather and his friend. It has a hydraulic press, and although I have never used a manual cider press, I understand that it is approximately 67,000 times easier to use a hydraulic one.

Here is the gorgeous thing. The chute is where you dump in the apples; the two barrel-looking things collect the cut-up apples from the chute. The hydraulic press is the silver pole you can see in the mid-left of the picture.
The above-mentioned Big Green Machine, as staffed by Scott and our friend Jeff Adams, without whom we could not possibly do the small farming we do. He's a Real Farmer, you see--as in, he knows how to do EVERYTHING.

In order to make cider, we go buy about a million pounds of apples, and (because we are cowards) wash them. Then we stand around in a bitingly cold wind and cut them into quarters (so they are small enough that the cider press can chop them up for better juice extraction). Above you see my mother, Jeff, and Andrea Adams (his wife, you know) doing the cutting. Their hands will freeze into solid chunks of ice shortly. What I find extremely amusing about the picture is that, although we definitely did not buy our apples from Iran, the box seems to be from there. It had some writing on it about "Persian apples." And a boy in a cute little hat. Rather odd, as we knew the farmer we bought them from, and he is not: a) growing his apples in Iran, or b) Iranian. Or shipping them to Iran, although I can't say I know that for sure, now that I think about it!

Then, if the machine doesn't jam (which happens at least four times), you have this divine liquid pouring out of the press (it's being strained through cheesecloth into the bucket). You can't imagine how good it is. And, oddly, it's never better than when you shove a communal cup under the stream coming off the press and drink it right there, sharing swigs with all the other people you're working with. It's so good. 

We freeze ours in gallon milk containers. Scott's family used to can it, as they didn't have the freezer space. The word is that unpasteurized and uncanned apple cider is not even from the same planet as the other stuff.

I'm in the midst of reading Shannon Hayes' book Radical Homemakers. It's entirely different than anything I've ever read before -- a defense of/exhortation for both women and men to spend more time at home. A discussion of the benefits of producing as much of your own product as possible -- for the sake of your own creativity and satisfaction, for the increased quality, and for the ability it gives you to circumvent at least part of an economy that really only benefits the most wealthy and elite in our society. She urges readers to see even "small" changes and products made this way as really not small at all. Every thing one does that is not that of the "typical consumer" -- every sweater I knit instead of buy. Every time I knit it with yarn the local mechanic's wife spins, for that matter. Every time I make something for dinner instead of giving in to take-out. Every time I can or freeze local produce so we eat "our own" spaghetti sauce, applesauce, peaches, pears. Every new skill I learn, like making my own butter, or sauerkraut. Every time we raise our own meat chickens. Every time we eat the eggs from our own laying hens. Every time I make my own bread. They are important steps in restoring health, dignity, and satisfaction to our lives.

This cider making seems to me to be a perfect example of that sort of action. Instead of buying cider from, say, two states away at the store (which I wouldn't, because it's too expensive), we made it ourselves, surrounded by friends and family. When we divied up the cost, it worked out to $2.50/gallon. We laughed and visited while we worked. When we were done, we went inside and had a potluck lunch and then divided the spoils. The food miles for the cider were ... uh, let's see ... three. Every time we drink the cider during the fall and winter, I remember the fun we had and the way the sun shone. In the past, I always enjoyed cider making, but I would never have thought of it as a significant step in changing a lifestyle and moving toward a world I like even better than this one.

love, kristin

Sunday, November 18, 2012

I Know, I Know

Good thing I'm not a professional blogger ... I would starve to death from lack of payment for posts. That would be because I HAVE no posts! I am sorry. Life just gets in the way so often! But I had to give you something interesting to read--it's interesting AND highly alarming all at once. If you have time, do also click on the link within the post where he mentions a "previous essay," because that one is also excellent (although, as a caveat, I'm not big on "self-directed schooling." I am big on the idea that we've made receiving an "A" into something it was never intended to be). This gentleman is addressing some of the same concerns friends and I have discussed about how children are learning to view the world (or not learning, as the case may be. Good stuff! Here it is:

All I can say is, I'm certainly glad I can hear Emily in the kitchen making a "food experiment" (meaning she's trying to invent her own recipe for something-or-other), Steven putting together a new Lego set, and Mara teaching Sugar-the-cat how to count. Whew! We might be avoiding the Apocalypse here!


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Still Alive ... and With Bonus Drafts!

Oh my goodness. Part of the problem of having me write a blog is that I get distracted and two-months-plus goes by without me saying a word. I would like to make myself feel better, however, by pointing out that during that two months, I managed the following:

* Had an end-of-the-year week-long camping trip to the Oregon Coast (with side jaunt to Seattle).
* Had a REALLY end-of-the-year weekend-long trip to the St. Helens area for my usual Huckleberry Pick family reunion.
* Had a No-Really-Seriously-end-of-the-year weekend camping trip to the Tucannon River with our friends Sarah and Brian.
* Pulled off the following amounts of canning/preserving:
    13 1/2 pints of raspberry jam
    4 pints of blackberry jelly (jelly is the smallest-ever yield stuff -- I started with MOUNDS of berries)
    10 qts. dill pickles
    11 qts. diced tomatoes
    10 pts. tomato sauce
    1 1/2 gallons soup base (tomatoes, corn, onions, herbs cooked down to be added to in the winter)
    Approx. 20 qts. spaghetti sauce

Now I only have to can the 40 lbs of peaches and 40 lbs of pears that are sitting there looking at me! Oh, and we'll need about 50 qts. of applesauce and to do apple cider later in October. Well. I feel better now! I do find preserving your own stuff to be the most satisfying thing on earth, with a couple exceptions. One of them is making your own bread. Another is realizing your meal is almost entirely either grown or preserved by you. And the third is working with these guys:

Yours truly with Belgian geldings Tom and Jerry.

Scott with the same gentlemen. Boy, I didn't realize Scott was THAT MUCH taller than me!

My favorite horse to work with: Belgian/Percheron cross Nugget. I want you to know I got that harness up on his back all by myself. I think it weighs about 50 lbs altogether, and I can't even see the top of Nugget's back unless I'm on tiptoe. Hoo-rah!

Yes indeed, Scott took me to a two-day working class on using draft horses for farming. I've always dreamed of working a farm that way. We took the class from Walt Bernard at he and his wife Kris's farm in central southern Oregon. He is the BEST teacher -- extremely thorough, very safety conscious, and even willing to let amateurs work with his horses, who are unbelievably well-trained. My favorite work with the horses is hand-plowing:

Walt helping me plow a (semi--allow for operator error) straight furrow.

You can't imagine how incredibly satisfying it is to watch the dirt fold over on itself like soft butter. We've lost something seriously important by distancing ourselves from small-scale agriculture. It feeds your soul. The above pictures shows Walt driving Nugget. If I was a skilled teamster, I could wrap the lines around my shoulder and drive the horse that way while I plowed. I *ahem* need a bit more practice for that. Here's Scott driving and me walking the plow (Walt stands behind to make sure no one large and equine decides his novice operators are unbearably irritating and decides to run off. If you're hanging on to 1500 lbs of sold muscle and it takes off, you are going with it. Period.):

Halfway through my furrow, Walt slapped me on the shoulder with the end of the line and said, "Well, sh**! You're a better plower than your husband!" Was he lying? Very probably. But my personal self-esteem ended up seriously bettered! One of the other things that amazed me was that I could do it at all. I had this secret fear that I couldn't keep up with it -- that I wouldn't be strong enough, or that I just wasn't in good enough shape. But I hung in there every day, and never quit early. It IS a lot of work. You know why those farmers of yore were never overweight -- you're outside, all day, never off your feet but at lunch. And I'll also hereby mention that, if I were teamstering full time, I would quit being vegetarian. You can't get through that kind of work without meat protein. I know some of you will disagree, but there it is. I've done it and I can tell you. You gotta have some serious stamina!

Anyway, there is the run-down on the last little bit. Kudos to my ever-patient and kind husband, who dislikes horses and signed up for this class anyway because he knew I would like it. (He, of course, was almost immediately excellent at the job -- darn him anyway!) My goal is for us to be out on our farming property, with a pair of drafts (and using them!) within two years. I'll need more practice, and we will definitely take some more workshops (on plowing, etc.) from Walt. But I think we're ready to hit this small farming/better self-sufficiency pretty hard.

Off to can!

love, kristin

Friday, July 6, 2012

Like Ten Minutes ... Under Water

When Scott was in med school, one of the attending docs in the ER used to say, when asked how long he had been married, "It feels like it's only been ten minutes ... under water!" It was really rather funny, and he and his wife were actually very devoted.

So this June was 16 years that Scott and I have been married. It's somewhat shocking to think that in 6 more years, I will have been married longer than single. When I consider the fact that I was 21 when we got married, it also makes me feel slightly weak in the knees. I considered myself quite grown-up and sophisticated at that age, but when I look at 21-year-olds now, I think they are practically children, and certainly not qualified to do anything binding like getting married!

As you see, I've grown my hair out. Hah!

In typical fancy fashion, we spent our anniversary hiking and then driving to Tri-Cities so we could eat at an Olive Garden! My marriage advice is always (I only give it when I'm asked for it, of course -- ahem) that you have to marry someone you really LIKE, not just someone you love. The two things are not the same, and I think there are lots of people who love their spouse, but don't like them. The point is, 98% of the time you spend together is ordinary time, not sweepingly romantic. You're running errands, working in the yard, parenting, cleaning up, watching TV. If you don't just like BEING with each other, you'll be miserable. The nurse practitioner who works for Scott told him that she likes to be with us because we are so comfortable together. I'm still happy to just drive around with him and run errands, because he makes me laugh hysterically, and he's fun to talk to. I also think he's rather good looking, but that's gravy.

See? Good looking, no?
Rose Marie loaned me a book (I think I still have it, actually ...) called And Ladies of the Club. She told me I'd enjoy it, and it was a good thing to have handy to read while I was laying about recovering from my c-section with Mara. She was right -- I devoured it. One of the main characters is a doctor's wife, and one of the most memorable parts of the book for me was where the author mentioned that this woman never slept soundly when her husband was out on a call at night -- she was always half-listening for him to come home. It's the same thing for me, and I always look for his truck to turn into the driveway at night after work; I have never once (no matter what fight we might have had) been sorry to see it. It's a good sign.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Snorting With Laughter

Okay friends -- I am supposed to be taking a shower and getting ready to take my progeny to swimming lessons (at which they are, of course, shining stars), but I just have to share this link to one of my favorite blogs to read, Inner Pickle. The author and her husband live on a farm in Australia. The photography is wonderful, and the writing ... oh, Fiona is so amazingly hilarious and honest and down-to-earth, and if this post doesn't make you laugh so hard you snort, you haven't read it properly! Enjoy.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


This Binki-Sucking Babe is almost 12. Hoo, boy. And yes, that's me -- from an odd angle and with surprisingly long hair.
I think that I've now pondered and sort of sifted through the following topic now -- but it's taken a few days! And, as it fits (you'll see), I'm including some really, really old pictures of the children so we can all take a small Trip Down Memory Lane.

Recently, Scott and I (am I the only one who wants to scream when women refer to their husbands as "hubby"? Anyone less fitting for that sort of name than Scott, I cannot imagine -- unless it's Sven Wilson, for those of you who know who that is ... somehow, it's just a really cringe-inducing term. Does it really take too long to write "husband"? Don't get me started on things like "hubster"!) were at a friend's wedding. During the reception we sat at a table with a couple of Scott's nurses and office staff, and one medical assistant who no longer works at his office -- she began staying home with her two children (about 3, and 2 1/2 months) a few months ago. One of the other gals asked her how she was liking being home full time. "Well..." she said, "it's okay. But I'm really bored out of my skull! I mean, it just doesn't take any brains to be a stay-at-home mother! I've had a job since I was 16, and I used my brain every day, and now I just don't have to! It doesn't take any brain-work at all to stay home with two kids."

Those of you who know my usual inability to keep my mouth shut, and also my feelings about at-home motherhood will now be waiting with some anxiety to learn what smart-ass thing I said back, which made the whole table uncomfortable. Amazingly, I managed to stay quiet. The first thing that popped into my head was, "Boy, are your kids going to turn out badly." Scott later told me that he was looking for the blood running out the side of my lip from my lacerated, bitten tongue. HOWEVER, I contained myself, feeling that I should keep things light and friendly at a happy occasion. But it bothered me -- it's not the first time I've heard that sentiment. And I don't understand it AT ALL.

One of the only pictures I have of Steven at this age -- he was SO colicky and unhappy that I was almost always trying to comfort him, and hardly ever thought to take any pictures! Isn't that awful??

I can tell you at first-hand that sometimes being at home with my kids full time felt exhausting, lonely, frustrating, demanding, isolating, and like way more work than I could possibly do. But never did I EVER feel that I wasn't using my brain. If it doesn't use your brain to figure out how to keep three young children happy, learning and occupied (while not setting them in front of TV or computer for hours a day), and then work in meal preparation (making sure it's healthy), laundry, housekeeping, any outside activities, time for your own self on occasion, and still being at least somewhat responsive when your spouse arrives home, I don't know what it does take. Any meal-preparing, recipe-reading mother (or father, or aunt, or grandparent ...) who has ever answered yes to "can I help?" from a 4 and 7 year old, and then managed not to burn down the house and still serve a meal which does not involve accidentally-added eggshells in the casserole has had an extremely active session of brain-work.

And then there's the question of the best way to relate to and discipline each child. If you sent Emily to her room when she was little, it was the most fearful punishment ever imposed. Sending Steven to his room was something of a treat -- telling him he had to miss his afternoon computer time, however, was slightly worse than bamboo under the fingernails. I am trying to resist adding here ... okay, can't resist it after all ... that the above-mentioned mother, who by her own report never uses her brain, told her three-year-old (as we were setting up for the wedding) to go to the car with his father. His response? "No." "That's not the word I want to hear," was all she said. A few minutes later, she asked again. "No." Finally, his father just picked him up and took him. I can only think of one time (each) that each of my children has said "No" to me -- the resulting firestorm, I hope, was enough to clearly express my dislike of that response (and, I'm sorry, but no 3-year-old actually grasps the irony of "That's not the word I want to hear." He just thinks, "Oh, sorry about that. It's the word I'm using, so why do you care?").

If you hold the baby right (it's Mara), you can get their hands in the right position, and they hold their OWN binki in .... (yes, I know "baby" is singular, and "their" is plural. I'm making an informed use decision).

I'm not really trying to rant here, just trying to understand what seems to be so inherently stupid in so many people's minds about women who are home with their kids. Why do we feel like we have to respond, "Oh, I'm just home with the kids," when others ask what we do? (I *still* do that! I hate it when that comes out of my mouth!) I know that many of the maternal Victorian platitudes were a disguised way of expressing men's desire to keep women out of the public sphere, but there's a certain wisdom in that old one, "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world." Why is it more intellectually stimulating to run, say, an office than run a household? Having been a secretary for an academic office at Loma Linda, I submit that the facts show that handling people of any age is similar! Surely, to be in charge of training characters and raising healthy bodies from the home must be significant. I can tell you it beats the holy hell out of any other job I've ever done in terms of sheer difficulty and scope, and the amount of self-discipline involved.

Thank you to those of you who are still reading after this lengthy exposition. I feel better now, and hope you do, too. This afternoon, I'm making raspberry jam with the kids. I'll be trying to quadruple the recipe on the pectin box, and considering my math skills and the amount of chaos likely involved (despite the advanced age of some of the participants), I can tell you I sure as heck will be using my brain.

Neurologically yours,

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Look! I AM Ma Ingalls! ... Oops, No, Sorry, False Alarm

So yesterday I made 8 quarts of strawberry jam, with 10 more to do today (I forgot -- seriously forgot -- to make it last summer and the family reaction this last winter was memorably horrified). I just use the regular-old freezer jam recipe on the pectin box. It's so good ... I can still remember H.M.S. Richards, Jr., sitting at our dining room table when I was about 11, talking to my dad after Sabbath dinner was over, and eating my mom's strawberry jam out of the crystal bowl with his spoon! As a total aside, I consider it one of the luckiest things in my life that I got to sit at Sabbath dinner listening to people like Alden Thompson, Clifford Goldstein, Leonard Bailey, and the aforementioned Elder Richards debate theological and philosophical things with my dad. If there's a better education for a broadened religious mind, I'm not sure what it is (short of somehow getting C.S. Lewis et al in there, too).

ANYWAY, my point (and I do have one) is that I gotta tell you I felt quite smug about my homemaking talents, and I do really feel so satisfied when I make good stuff myself. Here is my lovely assistant, the talented and 6-year-old-with-a-wiggly-tooth Mara, looking absorbed and serious as she fills a freezer carton:

And, after that moment of smugness, let us now observe what the rest of my country home kitchen looks like -- surely, it must be sparkling clean and homey!
Sigh. Now, if I were Scott's grandmother (my personal standard for homemaking excellence -- that woman was a MARVEL, and lovely to boot), or even my own mother (pretty darn excellent herself!), I would not have left that kitchen until it was cleaned up and counters cleared. Wanna know what I did? I laid on the couch and watched: #1) Euro Soccer Cup -- Poland vs. Russia (Up Germany! -- sorry, getting carried away); and #2) NBA Finals Game #1 -- OKC vs. Heat (in any rational society, the Heat -- with the possible exception of Shane Battier, who I love -- would drop off into the deep blue sea). In between game moments, Scott and I made snarky comments about silly commercials.

I get SO close ... and then just fall off the bandwagon. On the other hand, I rather enjoyed my evening. Like I told Scott, if it had been up to me to settle the West and tame the wilderness, we'd all still be packed into the East Coast. I must go now {ahem} the Kitchen Fairy appears to have missed this house.

love, kristin

p.s., Benita, it's more fun to make the jam with you! I thought of you!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Dang It, I *Hate* Being Responsible!

Some character trait (read: "flaw") of mine means that I get really, deeply cross when anyone suggests that I "have"/"should"/"ought to" do something. Those words just make my back teeth tingle. I immediately do not WANT to do whatever it is I have/should/ought to do.

I feel especially this way about health things. Do NOT mention to me the things I have/should/ought to be doing regarding nutrition, weight, etc., etc. I don't want to cast any stones here, but I understand some people inherit this trait from their fathers. MY father, certainly, has none of this tendency. I'm just saying.

The upshot of this in my life is that I am *ahem* rather more on the plump side than I was, say, 20 years ago (I know, I KNOW -- none of you noticed, huh??). I also am not exactly an exercising maven (those of you who know me well know my running mantra: "There is no need to run unless you are being actively chased by a large, carnivorous mammal"). My doctor, bless her dear heart, never actually harasses me about things, although I think she might be muttering "BMI" as she leaves the room. However, she finally put her foot down and said that I had to start taking blood pressure medication. WHAT?!? Apparently, my blood pressure, while not sky-high or anything, is getting up there.

Gray clouds of gloom. I finally decided perhaps I might have to get more serious, and get over my character flaw. I refuse to take blood pressure medication; that's just silly. On the other hand, I also refuse to have a stroke, as that's even sillier. Logic (not that I'm proficient at that) seems to indicate that my other option is to improve my health -- particularly weight and cardiovascular strength. Ick. Just typing that is causing that tooth-tingling problem.

My brother-in-law, Sven-the-Personal-Trainer (I know, I know -- yes, that's his real name and profession), recommended this YouTube video to me for inspiration:

It actually IS rather inspiring, as well as interesting -- particularly on the side of "small changes make for big results." I also found a nice place to walk -- my doctor lives on a one-mile residential loop, so after dropping off my progeny at school, I go park my van at the end of her driveway, greet her gigantic German Shepherd (who makes me nervous, although Tika is always very well-mannered), and hike around a couple of times.

There. I'm being responsible. I hope you're happy.

And now, an honest moment in my day. Observe the following: Mara dancing to the Eurythmics (in a special dancing costume picked by herself; cowboy hat NOT optional), various animals cluttering up the rug, and folded laundry decorating the back of the couch. I'd like to say this is an anomalous picture, but that would just be a lie. It's pretty much like this here everyday!

Love, kristin

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Catching Up

As usual, I'm behind. On the blog and on everything else, if that makes anyone feel better!

Last week, Scott, myself, and our friend (and vet!) Andrea Adams drove down to Rogue River (in southern Oregon, near Medford) for a cheesemaking class. I will now quote an email I wrote to a friend about driving from here to there and back again (dear J.R.R.!):

"Can I just say that I am not the spring chicken I once was? Before I was, say, 25 Scott and I drove, at various times, from WW to San Francisco (straight thru) and then four days later San Francisco to Seattle (straight thru), eastern Montana to WW (straight thru), and Loma Linda to WW (straight thru). (That sentence had enough commas to qualify for the Charles Dickens Comma Award.) It seemed an absolute breeze. Sure, one got tired of sitting on one's bum, and sleepy. But now, driving (riding) 8-9 hours from Medford to WW makes me long for a traveling epidural just so I can't feel my lower back anymore! Danged aging process."

And boy was I right when I wrote that! Who knew that one actually would get older and one's body wouldn't just spring happily along like when it was 23?

Anyway, philosophical musings aside, we spent three days at Pholia Farms, which is a goat dairy and creamery, and produces award-winning raw-goat's-milk cheeses. I learned SO much. Gianaclis Caldwell, the owner/cheesemaker, is really serious about proving that small and raw-milk cheesemakers can produce high-quality and safe cheeses. So we learned all about testing the pH of milk and cheese (unusually high acid contents can indicate high bacterial content), doing bacteriological tests, etc., besides actually making cheese. In a perfect world, you see, we would have a nice little side-business as artisanal cheesemakers. What I did learn at this class, though, was that it's pretty impossible to have a "side" cheesemaking business without have a random couple of highly-trained and at-least-fulltime workers to run it. This will be a bit of a facer, as the British say. I'm trying to imagine where I'm going to put this in my current schedule. Perhaps between teaching and the laundry? Skip making any meals? Cancel piano lessons and basketball camp and require the children to stay home and clean out the barn? (On the other hand, I guess that's what Almazo Wilder did for his childhood, and he seems to have turned out well ...)

Anyway. At least I know how to make cheese now! I'm fairly sure no one will ever end up mistaking me for Almanzo Wilder's mother ... or, for that matter, Ma Ingalls. And now I will leave you with some very. cute. goats. (and yes, the baby goats do have little todder-sized slide/climb units to play on -- they work great!):

Monday, April 16, 2012

Of Uninteresting Things, That Turn Out to be Rather Essential

This attractive pile of scrap, dear friends, is the mortal remains of our furnace. And therein lies a tale (for which, thankfully, I have a captive audience, as I doubt otherwise anyone would want to hear it). For several weeks, I've been smelling an odd smell outside our house. And no, smarty-pants, it's NOT US. It was a metallic-y smell, and I assumed it was something to do with the cherry orchard on our property, which sometimes smells a bit odd after it's sprayed (and yes, I know that means I'm inhaling nasty chemicals. Why do you think we are trying to move?). It occurred to me two weeks ago that I'd been smelling it for a LONG time. I mentioned it to Scott; he thought our septic wasn't venting properly, perhaps? And then it struck me -- I was smelling propane. But outside, not inside the house. Our furnace is propane. Hmm. I considered the possibility of the house lifting off in Wizard-of-Oz fashion with me inside.

I called our very nice propane delivery man, who promised to come take a look. In a few hours, he was there, and came across the yard to say our propane tank was not leaking, but by the way, we had used an entire tank of propane in less than a month (that's $614 worth of propane, for those of you scoring at home). It's been a cold spring, but not that cold, friends.

Propane Man called his friend, who knows lots about furnaces (THIS is what I love about living in a small town -- fifteen minutes and your house is full of knowledgeable people who are checking things for free, bless their hearts!). Furnace Man began to poke around outside the house where our propane furnace vents. Then he called me outside. "See that stuff dripping out that vent?" he asked. "Stick your finger under it and then smell it ... no, never mind, your finger will stink forever. I'll just tell you. It's dripping propane."


The vent is supposed to drip condensation only. My razor-sharp mind senses a problem.

Excitement ensued. Furnace turned off. Furnace ripped out. Furnace turned out to be a rebuild of the lowest quality. Furnace had gotten so hot it had melted its own pipes. We're glad we were never melted in the process ourselves.

You wouldn't believe how chilly things get when you're depending on space heaters in a 99-year-old house for three days in 45-degree-high weather. We shut up the upstairs and the kids slept in the living room, but it was still 60 degrees max during the day. I tried to imagine I merely lived in a Scottish castle with stone walls, but it didn't help at all.

At the end of the whole process we had this very handsome piece of home heating equipment:

If we ever get this house sold and move out to our property and get THAT house built, we're putting in a woodstove and a *supplementary* furnace. Without sounding like a survivalist, being entirely dependent on modern heating options is an excellent way to have to pretend you live in a Scottish castle. My chilblains are healing nicely.

So, obviously, we are very thankful we didn't explode, and we are also thankful for our lovely furnace. On a cheery note, here is a picture of the Flower Princess (self-named), who was flitting about our property Sabbath afternoon -- I took the kids out there to run around.

It was warm, sunny, and lovely, and the old daffodils that someone planted many years ago were blooming. The kids puttered about, the dog puttered about, and everyone got happily dirty. That's the sign of a good day.
Love, kristin

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Missing Pictures

Hah! I got it to work. I won't get into the details of whether it was Blogger or the Blogger user (me) who was making the error ... I will only get all upset again thinking about it!

Here, in all our splendor, you see the entire family at the zoo. Sometimes I look at my pictures and wonder if I look that silly ALL THE TIME, or somehow it just happens in photographs. I'm not sure which of those options is worse, really -- that I will be known to posterity as silly, or that I am known to the entire world right now as silly. The extra obnoxious point is that EVERYONE ELSE at my house takes beautiful pictures. Scott's never looked silly in a picture in his whole life, even when he's actively trying to! How does he DO that? He doesn't even like having his picture taken, and he still looks spiffy.

Benita and I at lunch after the zoo. We ate at Tutta Bella (which I think is a very silly name, but it's the most outrageously good Neopolitan-style pizza. I haven't had real, live, Italian-style pizza since I was in ... Italy. It's very different from American-style pizza: very thin, chewy crust, and a much thinner toppings layer. You can eat an entire 8" pizza all by yourself without being a total pig, since there's so much less there in total. It's not that I don't like Pizza Hut, or anything ... I don't believe there is a variety of pizza which I don't like! Except maybe the English-style pizza I had in England (imagine), with corn and a poached egg on top. Some things just aren't right). The coffee you see in front of us is only there as a prop, and its presence does not indicate that coffee was consumed by either of the picture's subjects. Why do you always assume that I'm drinking coffee constantly?? This picture is further decorated by someone's thumb (I think it was Steve's) and by Emily's little face in the background.

And, Rose Marie, per your comment on the previous post, Benita and Steve do live in Seattle again. I'll let her give you the info about how/why/when that happened and what they are doing with themselves now!

love, kristin

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Big City

So we decided to spend the last weekend of Spring Break at The Big City -- otherwise known as Seattle. Portland is the Slightly Smaller Big City. Anyway.

The fact that our friends Steve and Benita live there means that it's much easier (not to mention cheaper) to go stay at The Big City than if we were trying to find a hotel, etc. Leaving after Scott got done seeing patients on Friday meant that Friday night was pretty well shot, but Saturday we went to the Woodland Park Zoo. With about 5 million of our best friends. Seriously, we waited in line for about half an hour JUST TO BUY TICKETS. Apparently, it was the first sunny weekend day of spring for all the little Seattlites. Luckily, the zoo is a large enough property that we all spread out pretty decently once we were inside the gates and weren't too awfully crowded.

I don't believe in taking pictures of the animals at the zoo, because later one looks back and wonders why one did that (ask me how I know)! What you WISH you had taken pictures of is the people who went to the zoo with you! But I did have to take this one animal photo -- because he was just so danged cute, and I wasn't sure but what he might be made of plastic. I think it's a Chinese wax frog? I was too busy going, "Oh, look, isn't he cute??" to notice anything important about him:

And here, for your viewing pleasure, are some pictures of the afore-mentioned People I Went to the Zoo With! Yes, I know -- how they've grown (heavy sigh):

I have a couple more pictures, but Blogger does not want me to add them. One of them includes me; perhaps he is trying to save the larger public from any shock engendered but actually seeing what I look like! Of course, I know you all in normal life, basically, so I think the gesture is just too darn late.

I'll try to post the extra pictures in a later/second post. I hope your week is starting smoothly ...

love, kristin

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Well. Is anyone still with me? Considering that I last wrote a blog post approximately TWO YEARS AGO, I'd be surprised. Scott mentioned the other day that he thought I should restart the blog, because it was a good outlet for my writing. That's a quote. I'm wondering if that means, secretly, that I'm making him bananas with snarky comments he wishes I would put somewhere else ... so other people besides him can be afflicted by my odd sense of humor.

As a reeeaaallly fast recap of the last two years for all those who don't share our daily lives, we have been buying property picking house plans considering making artisanal cheese as a side business teaching doing medical administration and having a preschooler third grader and sixth grader. There. That's exactly the speed at which it went by for me, too.

So watch this space. I promise to be more consistent about posting news, pictures, etc. Or: "I will post news and pictures," as opposed to "I shall post news and pictures." When I was in second grade, in a one-room school in Falls City, OR, our regular teacher had a serious car accident and was out of school for a couple months. We had a long-term sub who was a retired teacher in normal life. Looking back, I imagine she was in her early 70s. This was in about 1982, so I imagine she had begun teaching in the 1930s. She was the quintessential old-style teacher. I loved her! My point is, she taught us that "will" implies a promise and "shall" only indicates that you will attempt whatever it is. Why do I remember this detail? I have no idea. I can't specifically remember anything else she taught me. Perhaps it is a sign of my early attempts to think of ways to weasel out of things.

And now, though I am done teaching for the year, I leave you with a gem from this last quarter's final exam. The students read an essay comparing the way the Taliban handles women's rights (or doesn't, as the case may be) and the way the western world does the same thing oppositely -- by demanding rigorous beauty standards, oversexualizing women, etc. The question they had to answer was simple: "What argument are these authors making about women?" One student's approach showed she had a hazy grasp of recent politics and geography:

"If you went to Taliban, you would find there were different customs there."

love, kristin