November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009 was a success - good food, good people and minimal property damage. Only two family heirlooms were broken, and a potential bathroom flooding situation was averted in the nick of time thanks to quick maneuvering by Joe and Jenny. Of course, the situation wouldn't have occurred in the first place if it weren't for Jenny (in fact all of the property damage incurred over the holiday was due to my little sister Jenny and her progeny).

The family gathering was much smaller this time than it has been in recent years - only 35 people. In the past, our Thanksgiving gatherings included everyone my great-grandmother was responsible for creating - her four daughters (my grandmother being one of them) and their respective families. This was often a crowd of 50+, but since the passing of my great-grandmother a few years ago, we've scaled back some. Now our Thanksgivings mostly include my grandparents, my mom's four siblings and their families, and my family. As good as it is to gather everyone together for one afternoon a year, with 35 people and 3-4 hours in which to catch up on a year's worth of happenings, Thanksgiving is an awful lot like speed dating. I rely on Joe to fill me in on the deeper happenings in my family members' lives. Each year he manages to pull three or four people aside and get the REAL story, while I usually get quantity over quality. Even still, the chaos, the crowd and the food is what makes Thanksgiving my favorite holiday.

Speaking of food, I came a little closer to my goal of eventually making it through a Thanksgiving without overeating. The hard part is that there's not much warning that you're reaching the limit. You think you're doing good, and then ONE bite will be all it takes to push you over the edge. Being vegetarian has helped by eliminating about half of the available options, but as long as there is a dessert table with 8-10 different delicacies, I'll always be in trouble.

Here are a few photos I've managed to edit so far. More to come soon, maybe.

A rare photo of Joe with a normal smile. :)

The boys looking tough.

November 23, 2009

Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother's house we go....well, the last part is true anyway. It's more like down I-81 over to I-95...not quite as romantic as a sleigh ride through wintery woods. Still, I'm looking very forward to the giant annual Thanksgiving/family reunion. Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday of the year. What could be better than a holiday centered entirely around eating delicious food and being thankful? Here's wishing everyone a blessed and very happy Thanksgiving!

November 18, 2009

There's no place like home

After what has seemed like several years, but in reality was only two weeks, I have returned home from my Vipassana meditation course in Massachusetts. Contrary to popular opinion, this was not a retreat or spa, there was no yoga or pampering involved. If I were to write a short, descriptive advertisement for the course, it might go something like this: "Free meditation course. Learn to liberate yourself from misery through 10-days of physical and mental torture. Includes hot showers and two square meals a day."

Here are some of the highlights and key insights I had during the course.

- Itches do not have to be scratched.
- It is surprisingly easy to adjust to rising at 4 am and only eating two meals a day.
- There is NO seated position, however comfortable it may seem at first, that will not be excruciatingly UNcomfortable if maintained without moving for an hour.
- Enlightenment may be available to everyone, but it is certainly prejudiced towards those who do not have allergies or sinus problems.
- Through sheer determination and the fanatical use of a neti-pot, I was able to reclaim the use of my nose as a breathing apparatus, a function it has not served in almost two decades.
- Quieting my mind and focusing my attention on a single goal is a bit like trying to get an entire room of preschoolers to lay down and take naps after they've just been pumped full of sugar.
- Talking actually burns a lot of calories. After 10-days of total silence, a simple conversation is enough to break a sweat.
- Joe was right. I did hate him, but only once or twice every day.
- This too shall pass.
- There's no place like home.

Seriously, it was one of the hardest things I have ever done, but I am glad I did it. The potential lessons learned and benefits received will take time to settle in and manifest themselves in the coming days. Whether or not I would ever return to a second such course remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Joe was lucky to survive my absence with no casualties or catastrophes (which always seems to be my experience when he leaves for an extended period). Whereas Lily barely noticed I was gone, Joe says he missed me terribly and Wilson was apparently battling severe depression. I am SO glad to be home. As Joe said, the perfect "vacation" is one that leaves you rested, entertained AND wanting to go home again. :)

November 02, 2009

This is really old news, and I'm sure everyone else knows it by now (I'm usually behind the times), but did you know that in addition to a installing an organic vegetable garden at the White House, they are also keeping bees? How exciting!

This blog will be pretty quiet for the next few weeks, not that it's ever that happenin'. I'm headed off tomorrow morning, dark and early, to a Vipassana meditation center in Massachusetts to sit a 10-day silent meditation course. Joe of course has already done several of these and volunteered at several others and is the main catalyst for me going. Frankly, I'm terrified. Joe said that he's pretty sure at least once during the 10-days I will decide that I hate him. How reassuring. Here's hoping I not only survive the course but revert back to loving him, or at least forgive him, by the time it's over. :)

November 01, 2009


After three years of beekeeping, we finally had our first honey harvest! It was well worth the wait, too. From one shallow honey super, we extracted 11 quarts of dark, liquid gold known as wildflower honey. The amount of bee-hours that went into making this honey is simply staggering. If I were to do a cost/benefit analysis of the various creatures we are responsible for around here, the bees would certainly top the list of most benefit received for the least amount of work. In fact, it almost feels like robbery. (We did in fact only take a little over half of the honey we were "legally allowed" to according to our bee book.)

Here are a couple of photos I took during the honey extracting process.
A full framed of capped honey.

The same frame after the caps have been removed.

Empty comb after the miracle of centrifugal force has done its work.

An equally exciting milestone this week was the grand opening of the Shanty Loo! Yes, after 10 months in process, the world's nicest outhouse is now open for business. Interior decorating and landscaping will be done at a later date, photos to come soon. :)