Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Snow Globes

Thank God for Martha Stewart, is all I have to say. Poor tired mothers like me whose creative prowess flew south for the winter some time after baby #2, maybe never to return, can turn to her for cheap and easy craft projects your kiddos will love. Rummage through your recycle bin for glass jars with good, tight-fitting lids, wash them thoroughly and fill with water. Sand the lid a bit to rough up the metal, then use an epoxy glue to affix a small figurine to the lid (I grabbed a bag of old wood ornaments from an antique store for $2 a few years back). Add a pinch of coarse grain glitter, a drop or two of glycerine (available at most drug stores) and voila! your kids think you are a creative genius.

Caution: What these pics don't depict is the sad scene that awaited us next morn...Santa ornament had literally disintegrated overnight, succumbing to a watery grave, limbs floating every which way. It was a tad disturbing and there were tears. Next time we'll use plastic or metal.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Bliss is... going for a late night walk in the first snow fall of the year ("Isn't it magical, Mama?"),
waking up to find the world (or at least our neck of it) covered in this,

the glee in your 3rd born's eyes when thinking about Christmas treats,
seeing a Papa with his boy,

and baby snuggle time.
What's your bliss?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Dawn Treader

After bravely sailing the seas around Narnia for what seems like an eternity, the Dawn Treader is in dry-dock, awaiting decommissioning ceremonies later this week. No ship sailed more true, sustaining fearsome storms and enemy attack. The brave children on-board reported that her stained glass windows cheered them on many a tempestuous night, when lightening threatened to break her in two and send her inhabitants to the shadowlands. Her flag waved gaily on gentle winds and helped sail them towards exciting destinations. We salute her noble stern, replete with dragon ship mast- pointing ever toward the bright horizon and a hopeful tomorrow, and thank her for countless hours of adventure on distant shores.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

When Worlds Collide

I haven't really stopped thinking about Anno since his Papa introduced him to me 3 years ago in the Prologue to his 2003 Yale edition of J.M. Barrie and the Lost Boys. I've often been affected by other people's stories, but this one in particular had me firmly in its grasp from the first reading. Perhaps because my own family has been on the receiving end of that phone call that forever changes your life, the one that tells you a soul you loved deeply has been unexpectedly, and without warning snuffed out - those phone calls do something to you; they become a part of your make-up, shaping who you are and what you think about. forever reminding you of the impermanence of our lives and the deep sadness that learns to co-habit with getting on with one's life. perhaps this is why i have been so taken with the story of Anno, his father, and the inextricable link to j.m.barrie and the real lost boys, the five sons of Arthur and Sylvia LlewellynDavies who Barrie wrote to in the dedication of his work Peter Pan, "I suppose I always knew that I made Peter by rubbing the five of you violently together, as savages with two sticks produce a flame. That is all Peter is – the spark I got from you." I won't try and condense Andrew Birkin's introduction (you can read it here) because I won't be able to do the story justice but suffice it to say that he felt in part felled by Barrie's curse "may God blast anyone who writes a biography about me" when his son Anno tragically died a month before his 21st birthday, just as the real Michael had 80 years earlier (also before his 21st birthday), both becoming "the boys who never grew old".

All these worlds collided again for me the other night, when after finishing Jim Dale's wonderful audio version of Peter Pan with my own boys, I hopped online to do some research. I really should have guessed from the last name, but Anno happens to be the nephew of Jane Birkin, (it girl of the 60's and 70's. heard of the famed Birkin bag?) and the cousin of Charlotte Gainsbourg (from Jane's relationship with Serge Gainsbourg) and Lou Doillon (Jane's daughter from a later relationship). Those three names are synonomous with everything that's cool in the fashion world. And not just your run of the mill hipster cool, but genuinely artistic and interesting cool in that slightly kooky, upper middle class eccentric British sort of way. The interesting thing about the Birkins," says Andrew's schoolfriend, the actor Simon Williams, "is that all their brilliance and eccentricity seems to stem from an incredibly tight family unit, and however they arrived at being who they are, it all comes from the fact that they absolutely adore each other." The female side of the family has fascinated me for some time, since Jane, Charlotte, and Lou frequently pop up on the fashion/music/cinema radar, and in the course of my night going down the rabbit hole that is the internet, I found this wonderful reading of Anno's poem to his mother by his beautiful-and-beguiling-as-ever aunt Jane. I hope you watch it because it's tremendous.

I'm writing about Anno today, of all days, because today would have been his 29th birthday. And it is also the birthday of his Papa Andrew. I can't help but think about the entire Birkin family and their deep sadness, but also their courage and generosity in sharing their boys' talent with the rest of us who never got to know him.
The following is a poem Anno wrote two years before his death, which can be found in the anthology Who Said the Race is Over? by Anno Birkin

My whole life hangs tonight – like water –
swelling to the final drip.
My grip on nature fumbles – as I
stumble backwards – over rhetoric & rhyme.

The rumble in my heart could uproot heaven,
and all their ghostly judgement is like air –
is naught at all.

The dust that is my body shall be
one dust once – again –
with all things, not soon... not soon enough –
Ring the bells of murder –
Jesus sleeps –– in every one of you.

Wake! Wake sweet prince & sing!

Fill the avenues – with laughter.
Scream your words of
goodness in my ear –
let me hear – what I have done.

I seek just closeness with my fellow man.

R.I.P. Anno Birkin

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Kill Your TV

One day, I took an old farm road off the main county highway to see where it would take me. It led me to this. An old wood-frame tv, decomposing beside a beautiful tree in a lovely field. It is starting to become a part of the landscape. Somehow, it seemed very symbolic to me, and I was thinking about it for weeks before making it back to photograph it. I am asking the lovely and talented Cydney from Material Lives to write a comment about it- her brilliant mind will able to say what my feeble brain cannot.

Peppermint Bark

Being a parent around the holidays is so much fun. Carrying on traditions Ryan and I had as kids as well as beginning our own with the boys. My mother and brothers and I spent hours making tons of different Christmas cookies that the boys and I have resurrected from the annals of Mom's old Betty Crocker: Berliner Kranz (German Christmas Wreaths), Russian Tea Cakes (that I try to make every year for my brother-in-law Colin, if no one else), Thumbprint Cookies filled with jam, and Gingerbread People. But the boys and I have added an entirely different treat that we look forward to making every year- Peppermint Bark. It's fun and easy and involves the art of whacking, which every good kid will enjoy.
You begin with a package of your standard candy canes- we stick to good ol' Spangler. The kids unwrap them, break them into pieces and put them on a clean towel or flour sack.
Roll the towel up, tucking in the ends so no renegade pieces escape, and watch as your 3 year old dramatically holds up the rolling pin as if it's Excalibur and he's King Arthur, and without further ado, gives the sack a good thump.
"I whacked it HARD, Mama!" Felix shouts with evident satisfaction.

Meanwhile, I'm melting chocolate in a double boiler. The boys saw an ad for fancy-shmancy Peppermint Bark in the Williams-Sonoma catalog (yeah, for only $38 per 9 oz. box. Sheesh.) that had an underlayer of dark chocolate so upon their insistance, we went for the contrasting layer.
At this point, there's no telling how much chocolate has been consumed by these 3. Note the suspicious looking brown mustaches on my not-even-close-to-puberty children.

With the white chocolate melted, peppermint oil added, and the pieces of candy cane stirred in, you spread it across the layer of dark chocolate. I knew I should have waited until the white chocolate mixture had cooled a bit, but nap time was coming on hard and fast...Anyway, 1/2 hour in the fridge and we have a wonderful treat to bag up and gift our friends and neighbors with. It's also the perfect accompaniment to an afternoon of sledding, when the sharp sting of the mint meets with the cold air you're inhaling and you have the literal peppermint-fresh feeling all those toothpaste commercials try to sell you.

Isn't Winter wonderful?

Sunday, December 6, 2009


I desperately need some fun this month, so I'm playing along with Blythe's Dressember challenge. Ryan took this of me this morning before church. It really is a dress, but I can't quite get it zipped up yet, so I threw on a merino wool tank with a cardi over that...

Friday, December 4, 2009

Catching Up

I just found these pictures from Jeremiah and Emily's trip here the first week of September and want to post them for posterity. We took a day trip down to Chicago to see the pirate ship exhibit at the Field Museum and Sam wanted to find Art. Above, the boys are hiding from a huge dinosaur that escaped from the Field...good thing he turned out to be a vegetarian.
Catching the last free night of the summer at the Art Institute.My darling Sam. Where has the time gone?

Jasper and I taken by one of my favorite Van Gogh paintings.
Jasper meets Jasper.

And an evening meal on one of the last gorgeous Summer nights that wasn't as blurry as the photos would have you believe.
I want to start writing again soon...something actually worth reading. But there is a lot going on right now, like Jasper beginning to crawl, which means there just isn't much time between sunup and sundown to put thought to paper, or fingers to keyboard or much of anything save the odd dip of spoon into the jar of homemade caramel sauce on the top shelf of the fridge when I desperately need a pick-me-up.