A Week Without Lights

DSC03397It’s that time of year again, our week without lights. Now I understand that most of the world goes without electricity (and not just lights) a lot, but we are fortunate to live in the sunny desert and in the US, where power is quite available. We love this week because it allows us to reconnect with the darkness of winter time. I have to adjust my rhythms to accommodate the darkness.


In our world of electronics I find it really nice to welcome the dark and quiet at night. I’ve decided to go a little further this year and say no computer time at all for myself. So after this post you won’t see me around this space until next week. Don’t give up on me, I will be back! I have some thoughts about computers and electronics addiction and I personally am trying to reduce my use. So I’m using this week as a jumping point.

I’ll be back next Monday with a yummy recipe for mostaccioli, an Italian spice cookie with orange and chocolate and maybe share some of my thoughts about the addiction of electronic devices and see what you all think?!

Join me on Sunday by having dinner by candle light will you? Have a wonderful week dear friends.

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Activities for the Winter Solstice

DSC03489The winter Solstice is just a little over a week away, we’ve got a lot going on at our house as I talked about last time. But I thought that I would make a more comprehensive list for those of you who are just stumbling upon this post and looking for a way to incorporate Solstice into your holiday traditions.

DSC03693If you want to get your children excited about nature there is no better way to start than with the winter solstice. The winter solstice is celebration of the longest night and the shortest day. The turning point from fall to winter and the return to longer days.

Celebrating is easy and often doesn’t require any money at all. You can see the evolution of our celebrations here.

DSC_0320Here are some of our favorite books to get you excited:

As for activities I have a whole pinterest page of suggestions but here are some of our favorites:

  • make paper snow flakes
  • make sun catchers
  • take a frosty walk in the cold weather
  • make a pine cone bird feeder
  • make orange pomanders 
  • mark your shadow everyday at noon for a week until solstice
  • make candles
  • make sun cookies
  • paint sun rocks
  • find a log to decorate and burn it as a real Yule log
  • decorate your solstice tree with a sun topper
  • eat dinner by candle light

I hope this gives you some inspiration for your own celebrations or at least something lovely to do on Sunday the 21st.

Posted in Life Learning, Life Notes | 10 Comments

I believe in Nature

IMG_0222 IMG_0218“Mama you know what I believe in? I believe in nature.” -S

My job is done. My children feel so strongly about being out the in the woods that their personal belief system is focused around nature. On this particular day we went up the mountain and just wandered with no particular hike in mind. We ended up in these two incredible places. The two pictures are not more than 20 minutes drive apart but they are separated by 2,000 foot elevation change.

In the first picture we found ourselves on wind swept cliffs of granite dotted with ancient twisted pinon and juniper trees. The rocks were smoothed over by wind and water.  Then we drove not twenty minutes higher up and we found this dewy meadow of maple, blue spruce, ponderosa and oak trees. It reminded us very much of our time in France. The air was very wet up there as had just rained for 9 hours the day before. I could feel the moisture in the air with every cold breathe in.  Every breath out left a cloud of condensation in front of me.

The silence was astounding. It was the kind of silence that calms your whole body if you let it in. There was no wind, very few bird songs, no traffic sounds, or electric sounds of any kind.  We sat for a long time to listen to the woods. When eventually we were too cold to stay, the girls asked if we could live there forever. That question really tugged at my heart because I too wanted to live there. I told them one day our road might lead us there, you never know where the next curve might bring you.

Posted in Life Notes | 11 Comments

Celebrating Winter

DSC05933The winter solstice is fast approaching and I haven’t really said anything about it lately.  If you have followed me in this space for a while you’ll know that I carefully came to a decision about celebrating the change of the seasons and winter solstice as our families’ holiday tradition. We intentionally don’t celebrate Christmas. If you asked us over for Christmas dinner we would come and celebrate with you, and indeed we will go to my mom’s house for Christmas because she celebrates Christmas. For us it will be a happy occasion to be with family, but it won’t have the same importance that solstice does.

I feel the need to say that there is no right way to celebrate at this time of year. What works for your family is the way you should celebrate. Whether you celebrate Yule, Christmas, Bodhi Day,  Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or nothing at all, doesn’t matter.  What matters is what feels right for you, guilt free.

Guilt aside here is a bit of how we celebrate. We do a countdown calendar starting December 1st. I plan nature based activities and winter books to read and occasional treat making along with craft activities to help us get ready for our week without lights.  We also have a candle path spiral. We begin lighting on the first of the month and light the corresponding number of candles each night (we use electric tea candles since normal ones don’t last long enough, and the small kids have fun participating turning them on and off).

DSC05935We decorate the house using real found pine branches. I like this a lot because when the season is over I can just put the decorations into the bonfire and there is nothing to be stored. Plus the house smells great. This year I finally solved the “tree issue”: I love having twinkle lights and a place to put gifts this time of year but I don’t love plastic nor do I love the idea of get a cut tree from Oregon which will die in all of two days out here in the dry desert. This year we saw a large rosemary plant that had been cut into the shape of a tree at our local nursery. Seeing as I use rosemary all the time in my cooking and I don’t have in my garden yet, I figured why not?! It’s about 3 ft high and we keep it in a big pot, which rosemary tolerates well anyway, and then when the season is up we will put it outside. Next year it will be bigger and we’ll bring it in again. Problem solved. I like edible solutions!

Last of all, and the most important tradition for us (this one always surprises people) is our week without lights: a week before the winter solstice we turn out the lights and only use candles or oil lamps (cell phone screens are OK in a pinch). I would love for this to be an electricity free week, but we have an electric stove and a fridge and a chest freezer…. so we just say no electric lights or TV/computers. For now going without electric lights is plenty for the girls. S has already been anxious to turn out the lights. There is an immense tranquility that comes from using only candle light.

At the beginning of the longest night, on Solstice Eve after dinner, we burn our yule log (we don’t have fireplace so I dug out an improvised fire pit outside) and then turn all the lights back on as symbol of welcoming the new season (we miss the darkness for a few days, but the the convenience of artificial light is inescapable). Each family member also gives one gift to each other family member (so we currently get 3 gifts each).

DSC05941We’ve been celebrating this way for four years now and it has been so much fun. I like how we’ve changed our ideas of what this season means to be something that is very meaningful to us. Not just what everyone else is doing because that’s what people do. We don’t have to follow the mainstream ideas, and although that was hard at first, it’s getting much easier now. This time of year is only as special as you or I choose to make it. So make it your own, there is no single right way to celebrate.

Next year we plan to have a countdown calendar, gifts, and other appropriate celebrations for summer solstice as well: poor thing gets no love! Let me know if you have any traditions for either solstice, we are always looking for ideas!

Posted in Life Notes | 15 Comments

In My Garden

DSC05908DSC05914DSC05913DSC05912DSC05911 DSC05907 DSC05903I haven’t posted about my garden in a while because it’s taken a very long time for anything to happen. We haven’t had rain for over a month. There is a small storm forecast for this morning but we’ll see. Living in the desert you learn to be a skeptic about forecasts. No rain and hot and cold extremes, like one day it was 65 the next it was 80. It really doesn’t feel like winter will becoming to us this year.

We’ve been eating greens and radishes along with peas here and there. I have been battling green cabbage worms and just plain old green caterpillars like a war for garden survival. So far I am winning and the pea plants are coming back.  The rattlesnake beans are coming in and I am dreaming of garlic beans and green bean casserole, stir fry beans and so much goodness. Do you have a good recipe for green beans?

The parsley is finally big enough to use for garnish. Still waiting on the kale to get a wee bit bigger. If only the colder days would come!

The girls helped plant the carrots and radishes and because of their help there are a lot of random seeds coming up outside of the garden beds. Surprisingly, these seeds are doing really really well. Makes me think they like hard clay/limey soil….

Lastly, the most beautiful seed catalogs have been arriving in the mail as well and I have already begun to plan for spring.  Looks like this year with the mild winter I’ll be able to plant tomatoes in early March!

Tell me how your winter gardens are doing if they aren’t buried under snow?!

Posted in Garden | 8 Comments

Buttons, Buttons, Buttons

DSC05900There are a lot of really lovely handcrafted items out there in the blogging community. I see so often giveaways for lovely yarns or handmade toys. Rarely do I enter these giveaways because so many people enter them that I really don’t have any hope that the random number generator will generate my number.

However I did see a giveaway for Wooly Moss Roots buttons and I couldn’t help myself. I’ve wanted a set of their handmade buttons for a really long time, so I entered it and forgot about it. Then two weeks ago i got an email from Ginny telling me I had won the giveaway! Yay. Then I got an email for Taryn telling me I could choose not one set of buttons but two! So I decided I would choose buttons just for me. It seemed like a little gift to myself.

I don’t feel like any picture on the internet really does these buttons any justice. They are beautiful to look at and beautiful to touch. I’ll be choosing a sweater pattern just to showcase these buttons.

Posted in Giveaway, Handmade/homemade, Life Notes | 11 Comments

The After Picnic

DSC05896I snapped only a handful of pictures on Thanksgiving because I figured the world has seen enough cooked turkeys and ruby red cranberry sauce. I decided to be mindful of the day and focus on the wonderful friends who came to celebrate with us.

The next day is actually my favorite part of the holiday. I love the hustle and bustle of making good food, but I really love  our tradition of going on a picnic with leftovers. So far this year the winter has been quite warm. It was 80 degrees at our house and 69 degrees when we went up the mountain on Friday. The girls took their handmade bows, we packed up a bag of sandwiches, the dog, and a machete and headed up the mountain. You are probably wondering about the machete? Well in the name of greening and simplifying I’ve decided that any decorations we bring into the house will be something I can compost later or use for our solstice bonfire. We were fortunate to find a tree that forest service had recently cut down and so we collected up lots of branches with green fresh needles still on them. I’ve used these for making into wreaths and garlands.

From all the post recently of us outside in the mountains you would think we lived in the pine trees!

Have a wonderful week everyone welcome to December! Already… oh my how fast the year passed by.

Posted in Life Notes | 8 Comments

Thankful Tuesday

I forgot to post last week on Tuesday because I was out being grateful for having been married for 10 years. So I’ll include a bit of this week and last week.

I am grateful for:

  • two hours of uninterrupted reading time in the woods
  • remembering how funny my husband can be
  • for the ingenuity camping brings to my cooking skills
  • the cold nights
  • nettle tea to heal all ailments
  • the vigilance I have had in avoiding cow milk so as to heal my intolerance
  • Taproot magazine
  • being able to knit whenever I get a spare moment
  • for how well my garden is doing
  • slow food Sundays
  • hot tea
  • wool socks
  • day dreams
Posted in Life Notes | 6 Comments

Slow Food Sunday

IMG_0164 IMG_0174IMG_0143The busier the season gets, the more I want to slow down. That includes the way I eat. Without really intending to do so I’ve been making a lot of slow foods on the weekends. You know the kind of recipes that take all afternoon to make. For example I put in 4 hours to make a steak and Guinness pie yesterday. It was amazing. We ate it in 15 minutes. I’m sure that had we had friends around and lots of chatting it would have taken longer but this was the kind of meal you just hear silence through because it’s so yummy.

Or take the English muffins in the picture above. They are not just any English muffins, they are spelt sourdough English muffins. I ground the flour and used my own sourdough starter to make these English muffins. I then slathered them with the peach lavender butter that I made earlier this summer.

The tortellini, well I made the pasta and the filling myself. I rolled out the dough and hand folded each of the tortellini. It took me over an hour. I then served them in chicken broth that I made and froze from a previous slow food dinner.

I’m not sure if I can adequately describe to you  the satisfaction I get from the process of making this food. It’s a beautiful thing to slow down and know your food, to connect with it in a way that let’s you watch raw ingredients transform into something amazing.

It makes me sad to meet people who say they don’t have time to make good slow food. It’s not that you don’t have time, it’s that you don’t make time. Do you have time to watch a 3 hour movie or two or three TV shows? Sure you do. You make time for it. Same thing goes for cooking. I find it disheartening to think that my generation has to teach itself how to cook by googling it because in just a short span of 60 or so years westerners decided not to teach their children to cook anymore. Everything I know about cooking I learned by either reading cookbooks or watching cooking shows.

When I got married the only thing I knew how make was overcooked pasta and quesadillas. In that ten years I have transformed my relationship with food. Before cooking I didn’t care at all where my food came from or what was in it or who made it. Now, if I met 20 year old me I would cringe at what she ate. I would probably try everything my power to make her amazing food and teacher to make it herself.

By making slow food every week I hope to show my girls the importance of making meals from scratch and that food is for enjoyment, not just filling your stomach.

So this week being Thanksgiving week I will be doing a lot slow cooking and I am so happy about it. I urge you all, though I am certainly preaching to the choir, to start cooking slowly just once day a week. Connect with your food, you’ll enjoy it so much more.

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Tent(h) Anniversary

DSC05795 DSC05802 DSC05825 DSC05826 DSC05837 DSC05840 DSC05843 DSC05848 DSC05857 DSC05873 DSC05893Yesterday marked our tenth anniversary. I thought that we would do something fancy like going to a desert spa all alone and just hang out in silence. D however had a better idea, knowing me better than myself sometimes: he suggested we have a “tent anniversary” (all his decisions are made based on whether it would make a cringe-worthy pun) and go camping instead. Camping in November, you say, is she mad? Well no, just ready for adventure.

We went to the Chiricahua National Monument, just two hours east of Tucson. I’ve been wanting to go here for many years and finally this seemed like the time. Late fall is a wonderful time to go camping here, no one is around and you get the trails all to yourself.

This place proved to be so much more amazing than the pictures led me to believe. I’ll have a more hike-specific post soon.

We drank wine, I made some really taste food over the fire, and we wore winter clothing, ski jackets included.  Oh was it cold. It was 28 degrees at the coldest point in the night. I was very glad to have a down sleeping bag rated for 21 degrees and D has this silly sleeping bag (which he wants me to tell you is a “Sleepwear System”) that he can snuggle up to me with, because without him I would have been very cold I think. But I’m not complaining about the cold. It was lovely to feel the cold and to figure out how to work around it.

Ten years has passed by so quickly. We’ve done and seen so many things together. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about what a lucky gal I am. It’s hard to find someone you are really compatible with and make it work in the long term. A happy marriage takes work, but it’s good work, work that leads you to wonderful place. I look forward to the next ten years!

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