tis the season

I was awake in the middle of the night last night feeling lots of stress about quite a number of things, among them the fact that I've done almost nothing at all to get ready for Christmas. And that's despite knowing about it way in advance! It turns out there are quite a few things happening in December that keep me from devoting all my time to holiday prep. Today was another busy day, but we grabbed a couple hours between engagements to buy and decorate our Christmas tree.

Zion and Lijah hanging ornaments

twinkling lights

I had told the kids earlier in the week that we might be able to get it Friday or Saturday, which to Zion and Lijah at least meant definitely Friday as soon as our book club friends left in the afternoon. Zion especially was practically vibrating with excitement. Only when I said maybe Friday I had been thinking that Leah would be home in the afternoon, and also that our kitchen would not have been destroyed by 13 people having lunch in it and then five kids eight and under doing chemistry with baking soda, vinegar, and canola oil (oh why did I give them the oil?!). But Leah graciously told us to go ahead, and the boys promised to work super hard on cleaning up while I strung the lights, and also there's torrential rain in the forecast for tomorrow... so we made it happen.

And I'm glad. The boys did do a great job cleaning up, and they put up most of the ornaments (I managed to get a few of my favorites up) without breaking a single one (the lightbulb that they broke was an unrelated coincidence). And now there's a major item ticked off my invisible to-do list, and the Christmas spirit in the house has risen by at least 45%. That'll help me get some presents made, right?

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how to schedule things with me

Every year we have to renew the "keeping of animals" permit that says we're allowed to have chickens. As I understand it, the Board of Health wants to make sure that the livestock in town is being treated well and isn't making too much of a mess. Well, it may be that I don't fully believe in their mandate or could be that I'm just lazy and disorganized—maybe both!—but there has never been a year when I managed to respond when they reached out to me to schedule an inspection. Every year they start with a letter in October, then they follow up with a couple phone calls, one every three weeks or so. If I manage to answer the phone in that time I'm delighted to set up an appointment, bit if I don't—and I'm really not good about picking up the phone for numbers I don't recognize—I have a lot of trouble taking time to get in touch with them. And unfortunately the pressure to get the inspection done seems to fall mostly on their end. So this year the very kind inspector just showed up at our house on a Tuesday afternoon to make it happen.

Which was perfect! Even better than having to talk to someone on the phone! And the surprise inspection removed any stress I might have had about sprucing things up, but not in a way that left evidence of last minute work that might suggest I had something to hide. I think about those things. Nope, we run a tight ship here, and even without any warning (well, besides the two months of letters and calls...) our coop was clean and presentable and full of happy hens who have free access to food and water.

Still, I do feel a little guilty about not having things together. So I just made a reminder in my calendar: in 11 months it'll be time to make that appointment. Do you think it'll work?

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if you want people to join your group, offer chocolate

I thought we were impressive with our 22 people for wreath-making last week, but today our second co-op event just blew that out of the water with 35 people at our friends' house for a hot cocoa bar and board games. It was a little chaotic at times, but our hosts showed a perfect combination of elegant preparation and obliging equanimity as their house was being overrun, and everyone had a great time. How could we not, with this spread to greet us when we arrived?!

fancy accompaniments for hot cocoa

we're part of a classy group

Zion and Lijah very briefly played some of a board game, played with their friends' toys, and romped in the snow outside. Harvey was convinced to join a Monopoly game and did that for three hours, questioning his life choices towards the end. At least he was winning when they had to stop! (naturally, they weren't able to finish the game). And we all drank lots of hot chocolate—even better, hot chocolate covered in whipped cream and other chocolate—and ate cookies. There was even something called "liquid truffle", which is basically hot chocolate but more so. Since the chocolate was basically the purpose of the gathering we jumped right into that at 10:30, so needless to say the kids weren't super enthusiastic about their lunches. Hopefully I restored them to health with soup for supper.

It was awesome to have so many people come out for the event. I now have 11 families on the co-op email list, and there was one other family there today who's not on the list yet. So I've got to feel that our efforts to build a learning community are going pretty well! Now all we need to do is find out how we can afford to rent a space that'll fit all of us...

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afternoon in the kitchen

Every Tuesday we share a meal with the friends who make up what we still call "Bible Study" despite not having opened a Bible together since Zion was born. Call it eight years. But we still get together, and once there are no kids under five in the group we might be able to get back to the studying (that'll be three years from now, unless someone pops out another kid). Unlike our regular Friday evening gathering, which is always at our house and a pot luck, the Tuesday dinner rotates among four families (well, 4.25 counting 5th Tuesdays) who make up the group. So we get three free dinners out per month—but when it's at our house we have to do some work. Well, let me tell you, today I did extra.

Yesterday evening Leah asked me what I was planning to cook, since she was going to Whole Foods and cook pick up what was necessary. When I said I had no idea she read me the sale items for inspiration, and we settled on a pork loin. What is a pork loin? I wasn't entirely sure, but it sounded like something that could feed a crowd. (It may surprise you to know that I have never cooked pork; lots of bacon and ham, but no pork.) After some confusion over recipes—it turns out pork loin and pork tenderloin are not at all the same thing!—I figured out basically what I should be doing; and despite my not having a meat thermometer, which was strongly recommended by most sources, it seemed easy enough.

Of course, making a roast seemed fancy enough that I needed some top quality sides to go with it! Mashed potatoes, sure (and I had to do them with the food mill since Lijah didn't care for the lumps last time). Roasted broccoli so we'd have something green. Then in my searching for pork recipes I came across one for butternut squash with maple syrup and sriracha; I'd been wanting a new way to do squash! So I thought I'd try that as well. And then, since I forgot to feed the sourdough starter yesterday, I had to make yeast rolls too.

I have to say, while I'm not sure about pork—my ethical considerations are particularly strong when it comes to pigs—the meal came out so good I might have to shell out real money more often to repeat the experience. Certainly, it was worth all the afternoon's work and stress. Too often I get into a rut, just cooking the things I know how to and buying the same ingredients again and again. Rice and beans mostly. Which would have been fine with one of the young visitors: that's what he asked for when he saw what we had on the table. You can't please everyone all the time. But the evening's meal sure pleased me!

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winter wonderland

We don't usually get good snow in December, so we were extra excited when, on the first of the month, wintery weather arrived ahead of schedule. The forecast for Sunday into Monday was uncertain, with the rain-snow line wavering back and forth somewhere over Lexington; as it happened it was well to the east of Lexington Center, and our precipitation was all snow. Then on Tuesday we had a second storm; it was predicted to be over by noon but kept going strong until late afternoon. There was a lot of snow. And we enjoyed it! On Monday the boys sledded with Grandma (in the sleety Lexington snow). On Tuesday they romped and wrestled and snowball fought with schooled friends who were enjoying a second straight snow day. And on Wednesday I got to join in with the sledding, as we traveled to enjoy some beautiful powder on a Chelmsford golf course.

Harvey standing on the hill with a sled

this is the life!

The winter weather was so beautiful that over the week I took almost a hundred and fifty pictures—more than I took in the whole month of November! (always a low month for photography, I find). Admittedly, 50 or 60 of them were burst mode pictures of the kids going off jumps on their sleds, but I also did my best to capture the winter's own artistry.

natural ice sculptures on the wisteria

ice art

Sadly, today was warm and rainy and the considerable snowpack is melting away almost faster than it accumulated just a week ago. Oh, I hope more falls soon. As lovely as our yard and our town are all the time, they're even better under a blanket of white!

the deck cleared of snow, with snow still piled high on the picnic table

I like it like this

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