We love our technology, but in some ways we are taking the old road.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Saint Lucia's Day

My daughter is getting us into the Saint Lucia tradition.

My husband and I both have Swedish ancestry. But we didn't grow up doing this. The churches in my area did crown a Saint Lucia, who wore the crown of candles and the white robe and served coffee. I've always thought it was cool.

Now my daughter is a big fan of Kirsten, the Swedish immigrant American Girl. She's read all the stories. She saved her money for a year and a half, I think it was, and bought herself the doll. And we've all given her the clothes as gifts. My mom got her the St. Lucia outfit.

Recently, Kirsten was discontinued :( and my daughter used the money she'd saved to buy the holiday treats.

They're so darn cute. The Scandinavian painted candle holder, the woven table runner, the heavy enameled coffee pot... Just precious.

And then we have a cobbled-together St. Lucia outfit my daughter wore once to school for a parade in which the kids dressed up as book characters. We used a white robe I'd (badly) made for her to be an angel for Halloween (yes, you've seen it on Princess Leia this year). And we turned a paper grocery store crown inside out and fastened on some tall, skinny candles and some silk ivy. Tie on a ribbon sash and you've approximated a St. Lucia costume.

Daughter wanted to get up early and serve rolls and coffee on the 13th, the way you're supposed to. But it just wasn't reasonable that morning, so we waited for bedtime. She and I baked lemon mini-muffins (not exactly saffron buns, but very tasty) and made hot chocolate. And she served it by the light of our Advent candles.

Little sister wants a turn next year.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


I've gotten one Christmas baking project done: gingerbread people. Well, I have also done basic, everyday sugar cookies, the kind I roll in balls and dip in sugar. I dip them in colored sugar and, voila, Christmas cookies. But gingerbread is a multi-step project.

I must say, a KitchenAid mixer is the best thing that's ever happened to my gingerbread process. It mixes up that big batch of stiff dough in no time flat. I got it for Christmas last year, and I'm feeling grateful.

I have the cutest gingerbread people cutters ever, thanks to my mom.

They're Raggedy Ann & Andy. We had them when I was growing up, and she let me have them when I had my own place and started baking gingerbread every Christmas. I have a traditional gingerbread boy cutter, too.

The kids helped roll out the dough, cut out the cookies, and frost them. It took two evenings and they were unusually squirrely, so I had to go looking for some patience. I put on Christmas CDs and we sang along, which seemed to focus all of us - them on listening and singing rather than acting crazy (really, they're very well-behaved children in general), and me on the meaning of Christmas rather than how much mess we were making.

The frosting turned out too stiff for the decorator utensils we were using. I ended up scraping it all back out to thin it, then using a plastic bag with the corner cut off, because that was just easier. Of course, I cut too much off. At that point I didn't care. We're just getting them done.

You can see that some have such skinny lines of frosting; that's from the first attempt. The thicker bands are from the second. None of them are beautiful. But our tradition is accomplished for the year. I hope the kids had fun.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


In November, I worked on doors.

I stained and varnished my kids' bedroom doors.

No, I have not been keeping up with finishing my house.

I stained and varnished the windows and trim and door frames (with a little help from my friends - you know who you are) before we moved in. And then I stained and varnished a bunch of new windows after we moved in because the window company agreed with our builder that they were defective - unbeknownst to me.

When the window company called and told me they were ready to deliver the new windows, I told them they had the wrong account. They had to convince me that, yes, they really meant my windows. Well, shoot. I was done with the windows. I needed to do the doors! We'd put those off because we just needed to move in once we'd sold our old house.

That was last year. I did get the doors in the public areas of the house done last year. Bedrooms, no. I still have some to do next year once it's warm enough to work outside.

That was the great thing about this November. It was so mild. October was rainy and cold and, as you can see from one of my posts, it even snowed. I got so lucky with the nice November weather to get some things done. I do well with desperate deadlines. So, yes, I was painting outside in November in Minnesota. Crazy.

I worked on the chicken coop.

I got the trim all primed and painted. I also got a second coat of red paint on most of the building, which will make life easier once the rest of the trim gets put up. It's a pain to paint two very different colors on adjoining surfaces. I actually still need to get a second coat of red paint on the door next year.

I also primed and painted my front door.

My husband put on a storm door this fall, which made it SO much easier to paint the outside of the front door. We have a lot more bugs here in the country than we ever did in town. I painted my front door there, just leaving it standing open for hours. Once a wasp flew in, but that was about it. Here we get attacked by swarms of Asian lady beetles, quite a number of flies, and wasps, off and on. A storm door was the answer to "How am I ever going to leave this door open long enough for the paint to dry?"

It still needs another coat to achieve nice, solid blueness. I love having a little color. Our house, garage, and shed are white. We like white. But we needed some color accents.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Our Pet Chickens

We have carried out most of our original plan to bring the started hens over to my parents' place to add to their flock. They'll be selling eggs soon.

For a few different reasons, we decided to keep three hens here at our place. Two of them are very, very friendly and curious. They run toward you when you come outside and follow you around to see what you're doing. And they talk to you. More like warble loudly. It's so funny. The third is very docile. She used to let the kids pet her - not so much anymore. But they're the three that my kids are attached to. Oh, who am I kidding - we're all attached to Miss Curious, at least. That's the name of the most sociable one. She explores everything and is unafraid to strike out on her own without the other chickens. And she is the most like a puppy with the way she follows us around.

The other two are Georgie (we used to call her "the second curious hen", but she needed a name) and Dovey (the submissive one).

It's fun to have them around and not have to be worried about the rooster.

When I put straw down on our strawberry patch, they were in heaven. They like to scratch anything loose like mulch. So even though they'd been walking around on the strawberry plants right before that and should have known that there were no bugs or anything else tasty to eat there, they were powerfully driven by their instincts to scratch in the straw and try to find things to eat.