Wednesday, January 30, 2008


We just received our heat bill. $491. Ugh. For those of you who know me ... even the slightest bit, you know that I HATE to be cold. I get chilled to the bone easily. When I'm in a chilly house my fingers are like icicles and literally my nose is cold. Both my Mother and my Grandmom Wohler (mom's side) were this way. Hopefully what "they" say is true ... WARM HEARTS! Anyway, after chatting about house temperatures with ?? I think it was at our book club gathering ?? and in light of my heat bill, I have been trying to LIVE at 66 degrees. Two years ago I made the switch from 70 degrees to 68 degrees. For me, this was a big sacrifice. Even at 68 degrees I ALWAYS have my UGGs on, a big wool sweater, and sometimes even a wool hat! It hasn't been especially cold out here ... so it hasn't been a true test. But, for the last two days, the inside of my house has been 66 degrees! In the afternoon I treat myself to a fire in the fireplace. (I usually try to snag even 15 minutes with a book in the afternoon.) I'll keep you posted!

Monday, January 28, 2008

The LOVE of Cousins

I love this picture of Benjamin and his cousin Dylan taken just over a week ago. Two boys with a lot of love for one another. May that love grow stronger and last long. Family.

Friday, January 25, 2008


Why is it that we as human beings love to watch birds? Maybe I love the sign of life outside when all of the plants and trees are dormant in the cold winter months. I get a lot of joy somehow looking out my kitchen window to see my four feeders being visited by all kinds of New England birds tough enough to stick it our during our winter months. I know a lot of you are going to laugh out loud at this one, but I actually made my own suet last week. It is easily made with ingredients you have around the house. Any animal fat that you collect from cooking, set aside in a container in the fridge. When you think you have enough to make a small suet block, heat the fat over low heat, melting it. If you feel you need it (I didn't) strain through cheese cloth or fine strainer. Then add any of the following ingredients ...
peanut butter, raisins, nuts, craisins, oatmeal, cornmeal, bread crumbs, bird seed.

Put melted suet into a medium sized container and put into the fridge. Once it's hardened, you can transfer into your suet container outside.

I used things like nuts that I just had a small amount of, raisins that were a little hard for my three year old, cooked oatmeal (without sugar or milk) that hadn't been eaten ... So, it's pretty cool. You can use things that otherwise might end up in the trash. Suet gives birds strength for the winter, and attracts birds like woodpeckers.

I waited until I was sure I had happy suet eating birds before I shared this with you. And, after a week, my little suet block is well liked and one third the way gone! Success!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Ripley ... Skating 101

Last week we started skating lessons for Ripley. (Ripley is the kiddo on the upper left hand side of the picture) Come to find out, this school doesn't believe in giving the kids a rack or milk-crate to lean against to get the hang of pushing themselves along the ice. So, imagine a class of eight kids under the age of 4 dropping like flies all over the ice. Quite comical. Ripley has to take everything in before jumping in ... so in his time he got on the ice. But, after the zillionth fall, he was "all done" with giving it a whole hearted try. The only reason he keeps going is the hope of being able to play ice hockey one day. I told him we'd have to take the new hockey helmet back to the store if he didn't want to go back to skating class. 'Nough said. This week he was back on the ice. I brought my skates and ended having to put them on to get him on the ice, but aside from that it was a success. He was willing to stand up, "stomp bugs" with his feet and tried to move around a little bit. He was giving a whole hearted try to get up like the instructor had taught him. We're planning on going back next week. I told him that when he goes through the lesson without Mommy and tries to stand up and move he'll be rewarded with a hockey jersey like a few of the other boys have. These are big motivators for my little sportsman.
Another funny Ripley moment today ... I've told him to watch out and hold onto Mommy's hand in parking lots because we don't want cars to come along and "flatten us like pancakes". Today when we were crossing the parking lot after skating class Ripley says "Mommy we gotta look out so cars no come and give us pancakes!" Hilarious.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Incredible Cookies

Valentine's Day is coming and here is the perfect cookie. Spitzbubens (Little Rascals), are made traditionally throughout Germany, Austria and Switzerland. I've been eating this cookie for as long as I can remember. Mom can't quite remember just where she got the recipe. It's fabulous. Traditionally we make these around Christmas time. Maybe just because they look festive. You often see these types of cookies at an Italian bakery, and even at "good" Italian bakeries, they look great but taste like cardboard compared to these. They are sandwich cookies that are rolled out and cut with cookie cutters. Usually the lower one is round (for Valentine's Day, use a heart shape) and the top cookie is the same shape as the lower, but with a window. Through the window you can see jam or fruit preserves (traditionally we use apricot preserves, but for Valentine's Day, raspberry or strawberry is perfect.) Sliced almonds are sprinkled on top of the jam, through the window. If you're in the mood to make AND EAT some fabulous cookies, don't even think about it, make these!


Cut 1 1/2 C butter into 3 C flour and 1 1/2 C sugar.
Add 1 t vanilla and work ingredients into smooth dough.
Chill thoroughly.
Roll out dough as thin as possible on a lightly floured surface.
Cut out circles OR HEARTS that are about 2" in diameter.
Cut a 1" center out of half of the circles or hearts for the tops.
(this is done, obviously, with a small circular or heart shaped cookie cutter)
Bake rings and rounds on ungreased sheet at 325 degrees for 10-12 minutes.
Sprinkle the "tops" with granulated sugar when they come out of the oven.
Spread "bottoms" with preserves.
Assemble the "sandwich"
Sprinkle sliced almonds in center.

Yum. Yum. Yum.
If you want to knock someone's socks off, bake these.
A friend of mine sent this picture of a similar recipe that she made for Halloween. Cute!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Tea Time

(Miss Kathy working her magic at the Library)
At the library on Tuesday, I checked out a children's book When the Snow is Blue by Marguerite Dorian. It is a 1960's book about a little girl imagining what she would do on a snowy day. Well, she imagines that she'd walk down the road and invite some bears (real bears) for tea at her house. When I read the book to Ripley yesterday, he decided that he wanted to give tea to his bear. So we did. This afternoon, we read the book again at his request and again Ripley requested that we have tea with his bear. So, this time we created a tea party (with real tea) with all of the household stuffed (shhhh) bears. It was too cute! Ripley enthusiastically set the table with play food and real "nakims", spoons and forks. At one point I asked Ripley if he'd like to ask the bears a question (you know, like "Would you like some tea?") He looked at me like I'd lost my mind and snickered as he said "You not ask dem a question." As if to burst my bubble and tell me "Hey Ma ... didn't you know ... their STUFFED."

Monday, January 14, 2008

Snowday at home

I have to confess (this is a source of much teasing here in our household) I love the excitement of an approaching storm. It's embarrassing to admit ... but true. I'm glued to the television listening for clues as to whether or not we are getting 6 inches of snow, an ice storm, or a hurricane. It's almost as bad as folks who slow down to look at a fender bender on the side of a road. I hope you don't think less of me. (Thankfully, Victor is still sticking with me)

However, today I was totally blindsided to wake up to winter wonderland this morning. I was getting the kiddos ready for school, starting with the daily weekday chores, etc., etc. turned on the news ... to see about the weather of course ... and noticed that there were all kinds of school cancellations! Sure enough, I went online and saw that both of my boys didn't have school! Yipee! French Toast, Snow Forts, Snowball Fight, Superman to the rescue!! Here are some pictures from our adventures so far ...

This picture is precious because my little sportsman Ripley was a little underwhelmed by fort building and imagination. Before I knew it he was raiding the garage for balls. Here he is kicking a football around longing for warmer days and ball related sports. (He liked the snowball fight just fine.)

Benjamin helped me to bake these loaves of Honey Oatmeal Bread. I got the recipe from for their Oatmeal Honey Raisin bread. I just baked it without the raisins. They didn't rise as much as I would like. I've decided that I need some more education in my bread baking so I've ordered two books from Amazon by Peter Reinhart. One is for whole grain breads -- looking forward to that! I love the concept of baking your own bread because you're getting SIMPLE ingredients (flour, oatmeal, water, yeast, honey, oil). I can not say that it's local, because I don't have a source for flour down the street ... but you never know. Stay tuned. (They couldn't have been that bad though, because in two days we've consumed two of the three loaves!)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Huevos Rancheros!

From our Locally Laid eggs. Yumola!

p.s. Victor thought I'd lost it when I stopped him from digging into his breakfast so that I could take a picture.

Friday, January 11, 2008


Look at these cute things! Today for the first time I was able to purchase LOCAL eggs. As in -- about 3 miles from my house! Now, that's local! (OK, I could have my own chickens.) Antibiotic Free and Hormone Free. Just good old fashioned "Rhode Island Red" Chickens laying their eggs in the most picture-book perfect little hen house you've ever seen (yes, red with white trim). They have a cute little yard to roam around and are adorable. Wonderful!
After feeling like I was going to have to move to the rolling hills of the Virginia countryside to experience LOCAL foods, I started to discover something . . .
Sometime last month I went to the Town Hall to complain that as far as I could tell our trash carrier Waste Tech was taking our recyclables and driving them right to the Taunton Landfill and dumping it (this was after much research and a few miraculous bits of information coming my way). While I was there at the Town Hall I noticed several signs that read "Rehoboth is a Right to Farm Community". So, I went up to the front desk and asked what that means. It basically means that you or your neighbor has the right to have everything from corn, to chickens, to pigs and you can't complain ... even if they smell bad or are cockadoodle-dooing at 4am every morning. Excitedly I went to check out the bylaws in my little rural development and found that much to my chagrin we cannot have anything except a pet (and I don't think George Clooney's pig would pass either). My dream of a few chickens was dashed. Then I got to thinking ... hey, if this is a Right to Farm Community, there have to be some farmers out there that are willing to sell to locals. I found a few things online, but the real scoop came from my local library -- chatting it up with the gals. How wonderfully small town old times is that? The librarian actually called me at home when she'd asked around and found an additional place to get eggs in Rehoboth. Wonderful.
Around this time of year in New England the poor little gals don't lay as many eggs. Lack of sunlight. I can relate to that! So, every morning they put out the eggs, and by mid-morning they are gone. When I say I have fresh local eggs, I'm saying "A Day from Laid"! Apparently, as we get closer to spring, there are plenty of eggs to go around.
So, that is the story of my local eggs.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

How Cute!

"Miss Kathy" at the Blanding Library outdid herself as usual this Tuesday. At story hour this week (back in session after a break for the holidays) we read two snowman themed books, then we created this adorable little guy ....
Our snowman was created using Ivory soap "flakes" (although I was informed that they no longer resemble flakes) and water. 4 C flakes to 1 C water. Ideally mix with a mixer, but Miss Kathy wasn't able to use hers and the snow seemed to come out just fine. In time, your snowman will air dry. Kathy says she still has snowmen her children created when they were little ... and the way she told it sounds like it wasn't last week when they were three. Of course Kathy had twigs ready for arms, buttons, felt, beads for eyes, light-brite pegs for noses. We held the two "snowballs" together by sticking a cut off straw in between the body and the head. Two CUTE! A great earth friendly, child friendly craft. Enjoy!

Monday, January 7, 2008

News! News! News!

How is everyone? Did you know that you can respond to the blog right at the end of each day's entry? Let me know what you think!

Here is the PHOTO of my nutty parents dressed as Roman Soldiers and their nutty daughter ... me ... dressed as Freida Khalo for Halloween that I'd promised to show you! What fun! And what a hoot!


I guess I'm the last to know .... But, just in case I'm not the LAST one ...

Did you know that when you make Green Tea, you are not supposed to steep it in boiling water? You should let the boiling water cool just a bit (or use before it boils) then pour over the tea. Steeping Green Tea in boiling water makes it very BITTER. I learned this over our vacation from my mother. My sister-in-law Tanya jumped in and explained that she'd heard this directly from someone from Asia (Can't remember the exact connection). Then, of course my darling (and handsome) husband jumps in, "Yeah, come to think of that, I've heard of that too!" Wow! And, when you look on the directions on the box, (who looks at the "how to brew tea" directions?? Not me, obviously) sure enough it says "To avoid bitter taste, steep for 2 to 3 minutes in hot, not boiling water". To give myself a little credit, my Yogi Green Tea comments on the water temperature, my TAZO tea does not.


Finally, the results are in ...

We have a full months worth of data. Here is what we changed. We started LINE DRYING our laundry instead of using the dryer. We probably dry 2 loads a week in the dryer. I replaced six of our light bulbs with the newer, more efficient CFL light bulbs (more on that later). We tried to chip away at our ghost electricity, like making sure ALL of our television "stuff" was turned off completely, same with the computer, printer and the monitor. Then, of course, trying to make sure we turn off lights if we are not in the room. We DID do outdoor / indoor Christmas lights this year, however, I did NOT put my typical electric candles (8 of them) in each of my front windows. Last year for the same period we used 1058 KWH. This year we used 786 KWH. Wow! That's a big improvement, eh?? Exciting.

OK, CFL Light Bulbs ...

Has anyone else been asking themselves about the mercury levels in the CFL bulbs? When I heard about the recent energy bill that passed, I was dismayed thinking about what else besides fish we were going to contaminate with mercury when we all switch to CFL bulbs by law. After chats with my sister-in-law Tanya and cousin Dave, I checked it out. Here's the gist ...

Incandescent light bulbs are only 5% efficient. Not good. "Replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents saves energy as you are replacing a 100-watt bulb with one that is only 23-watts, while still producing the same amount of light. In addition, the CFL bulbs produce 70 percent less heat, lowering the need for air conditioning. A CFL bulb will typically last ten times as long as a traditional incandescent bulb, saving you $30 or more over the life of each bulb." But, what about the mercury? A CFL contains 2.4mg of mercury. A power plant releases 10mg of mercury to create the electricity to run an incandescent bulb. So, a CFL will ultimately release less mercury than the incandescent bulb. The important part about the CFL, is to dispose of it properly. To be perfectly honest, it scares me to think of trusting the general American public to do a responsible job with this. But, anyway, Tanya had reported to me that a friend of theirs had a CFL spontaneously explode in their house. On a web site I read a response by Helen Suh MacIntosh, a professor in environmental health at Harvard University, regarding the danger level of a broken / exploded CFL in your home.

Here is what she said:

"These toxic effects are why any mercury spill should be handled carefully, including one that results from a CFL breaking. Having said this, careful handling does not mean that expensive or complicated clean-up of the spill is needed or that you should be worried about you or your family's health, if a CFL were to break in your home. This is because CFLs contain relatively small amounts of mercury -- EPA estimates this amount to be 4-5 milligrams (mg) in a typical CFL. A spill of this amount of mercury is not likely to present any excess risk to you or your family. A quick back-of-the-envelope calculation shows why. [Note: This example is meant only as a quick and dirty example. It is not intended to represent every case nor every situation.] For example, we could imagine the following scenario:
A CFL containing 5 mg of mercury breaks in your child’s bedroom that has a volume of about 25 m3 (which corresponds to a medium sized bedroom). The entire 5 mg of mercury vaporizes immediately (an unlikely occurrence), resulting in an airborne mercury concentration in this room of 0.2 mg/m3. This concentration will decrease with time, as air in the room leaves and is replaced by air from outside or from a different room. As a result, concentrations of mercury in the room will likely approach zero after about an hour or so.
Under these relatively conservative assumptions, this level and duration of mercury exposure is not likely to be dangerous, as it is lower than the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard of 0.05 mg/m3 of metallic mercury vapor averaged over eight hours. [To equate these values, we could estimate the average indoor airborne mercury concentration for 8 hours, beginning post-spill at an estimated starting value of 0.2 mg/m3 and decreasing from there. If one assumes the the air exchanges completely in one hour (a fairly standard assumption), then the 8-hour average concentration would be 0.025 mg/m3.] "

Ms. MacIntosh goes on to explain how to handle a broken CFL ....

"Even though mercury from the broken CFL is not likely to be dangerous, it would be wise to take extra precautions to minimize mercury exposures. The US EPA publishes guidelines about the specific steps that you should take to clean up mercury in the event that a CFL breaks in your home. Briefly, EPA recommends that (1) you immediately open windows to reduce mercury concentrations inside your home; (2) you do not touch the spilled mercury; (3) you clean up the broken CFL glass carefully and immediately (but not with your hands or a vacuum cleaner), and (4) you wipe the affected area with a paper towel to remove all glass fragments and mercury. EPA further recommends that you place the paper towel and glass fragments in a sealed plastic bag and bring the sealed bag to your local Household Hazardous Waste (HHW)Collection Site."

This link is helpful:

LOW MERCURY BULBS: Philip's ALTO bulbs offer mercury content only 13 to 25 percent of typical fluorescent bulbs without sacrificing longevity or performance. Several other manufacturers are now offering low mercury bulbs as well.

Hope this hasn't been incredibly boring, but it's been something weighing on my mind and I thought I'd pass it along.

Enjoy! Stay tuned ... I've got some great family recipes to pass along after our Christmas Vacation. (WHO KNEW my mother used to make chocolate eclairs regularly! I still have to get that one Mom!)

Friday, January 4, 2008

Naples, Florida Adventures

Here is Benjamin with fast friend and second cousin Jesse (aka "Jimmy" crack corn and I don't care)

Here is Victor and I on the stern of the "fly-bridge" on Dad's boat "Tut-Tuttle". It looks like I'm reading my book club's current book RUN by Ann Patchett ... but actually, I'm napping. This is no reflection on the book, it's great! Also, see the whole family on the Gulf Coast in Naples. We were blessed to have perfect weather for all but two days. How incredible!
Thank you to "Grandma-ma and Gramp" for a wonderful, memorable time.