Archive for April, 2008

Tom Waits said it’s so.

After a near-miss with a tornado last night and violent arctic winds today that threatened to blow the whole state off the map, I found a little bit of solace when my iPod, in its grand omniscience, selected this song for random play.[1]

Ah, Tom Waits. You make my heart sing. Every fiber of my being resonates with the magic that you weave. Sigh.

The photo above was taken on our pilgrimage to see him live in Chicago 8/9/06.


[1] Music by Tom Waits accounts for approx. 22% of our iTunes library.

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Meme this.

Long, long ago, Meg tagged me for this 7 Things Meme. What’s a Meme? Not exactly sure, but gather that it’s kind of like a game of Blog Tag. Here’s the trusty Wikipedia explanation.

So, here are 7 random things you may or may not know about me.

1. My name is Mary Jo. The only other Mary Jo I ever shared a classroom with in school was Sister Mary Jo, our 5th grade teacher for half the year. It was a tough year all around for the Mary Jos.

2. One summer I worked in perhaps the most redundant job ever: assembling assembly lines.

3. When I studied in Florence for a semester in college, I was friends with a guy who was apprenticing Daniel Day-Lewis for an upcoming movie role – as an old-world-style shoemaker. Never did see him or meet him or even know about it until he had already left.

4. Once I framed a print made by David Lynch that was to be gifted to Sissy Spacek. Reportedly.

5. My daughter was born on the Full Harvest Moon.

6. I have 10lbs of lard in my freezer and 10 more en route to my freezer.

7. At this moment, two of my (extracted) wisdom teeth are in a small beaker on the windowsill of my studio, awaiting instructions for their next incarnation. Who’s birthday is coming up next? Perhaps a nice necklace?

There we have it.

These are the rules:

1. Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog. 2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird. 3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs. 4. Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

And you fine folks have been tagged. Sorry if you’ve already been tagged for this one, or if you despise memes and the people who perpetuate them. Really sorry.

1. Mom in Madison

2. NeedleCloud

3. Betz White

4. Posie Gets Cozy

5. Fidalix

6. Smoothpebble

7. The Mama Chronicles

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We are awaiting royalties from the mayonnaise company.

“Hey – that’s MY house!” exclaimed Isadora with glee one evening of late. Clever girl. Pretty darn close.

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Some order is established. At least for today.

Toys, toys, toys. Everywhere. Yet almost never where they matter: in her hands. She’d almost always rather play with all of the non-toys strewn about – tape dispenser, post-it notes, Daddy-O’s socks…

After we removed the Christmas tree from this very spot, I concocted a clever plan to contain the toys. One that would 1. make them accessible to her (and thereby APPEALING!), 2. keep them sorted, 3. limit the number of toys we could accumulate, and 4. be made from storage pieces we already had. The missing component here was 5. incorporate an intuitive and simple system of sorting the toys that was known to NOT JUST ME. Yes, the cubes were a great way to sort the toys and get the art supplies just a little bit out of her reach, but it turned out that I was the only one who knew where anything went. This is typical here, especially in the kitchen. It turns out that I may be just a little bit anal in those moments that I’m not frantic and free and spontaneous.

So I had found these great aluminum frame thingies from our local University surplus outlet. It’s the place where anything from the University goes to be liquidated, like the their own personal Goodwill. You would not BELIEVE the great things I’ve gotten here – this office desk, for one, random office supplies, some biology cross-section slides that I used to make this:

Yeah, great place for repurposing things.

So I found the frames and knew my problem was solved. Now all I had to do was photograph the toys that were supposed to go inside each cube and my messy house woes were solved. Right. Well, first a Designer, and now a Blogger, I actually hauled a nice and weathered backdrop up to the house from the Chicken Coop to use in the photographs. It’s a great color, a nice texture, and I do, after all, have to look at these pics in my Living Room, so it seemed like the right thing to do.

And so far, it’s working. Isadora pointed to one of the games shown in one cube and we had at least 15 minutes of undivided Fairy Fun this morning. Which is a lifetime in the Isadora timezone.

And now, I’m riding on the tails of this success to solve some greater problem, like what to have for dinner.

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Love is in the air.

On Saturday morning, we were roused out of bed by a very bold display of lovemaking. Our neighbors, it seems, have been caught up in the Fever that is Spring and have embraced it wholeheartedly. While I wasn’t quick or clever enough to rush for the camera to record this display as proof of our witness, I see that we aren’t the only ones with such neighbors. Here’s a pretty comparable display that I found on YouTube.

Ironically enough, just as I was writing this, two other neighbors (or maybe even the same gregarious ones!) were within range of my window’s view. I ran after them with the video camera to try to catch some footage, but today they are a bit more modest. Ah well. YouTube will have to suffice.

And Happy Earth Day!

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We’ve got to be clean.

Happy Earth Week, everyone.  While I’m of the “Earth Day Everyday” sort of mind, I’m racking my brain for some nice ways to commemorate Earth Day this week.

To begin, how about this lovely green shampoo I whipped up this weekend?  If I had the (kick-ass) job of naming color swatches for paint companies, I’d call this one “Swamp Thing”.  Or, if I were the target demographic, I’d call it something like “Fern Frond” or “Green Goddess”.  Yeah, I would totally buy it then.  Joking aside, I love the homespun herb-y look it has.  And it was a really easy project (adapted from that same Herbal), so I’m sure I’ll be making more.  (Read:  if you’re on my Christmas List, you should cross your fingers and click your heels and spin around real fast and maybe you’ll get some)

How do you make shampoo?  Easy-breezy.  Start with an ounce of dried herbs.  I used burdock root, nettle, and yarrow.  Both burdock and nettle are wonderful all-around hair tonics and the yarrow is a bit astringent, for oily hair.   Simmer the herbs in some water for 15-20 minutes.  This is called a decoction in herb lingo, and is great for getting all the good stuff out of tough, woody, root-y things like burdock.   Strain the mix and incorporate some castile soap, then jojoba oil and your essential oils of choice.  I used Lavender, Clary Sage, and Tea Tree oils, which I had on hand.   And the smell?  Mmmn.   Even as the herbs were simmering on the stove, I got a “it smells real herb-y in here” remark, which I took as a compliment.

Why make my own shampoo?  Besides having a compulsion to MAKE THINGS?  Well, my itchy scalp has spent the last several months building up an immunity to our gianormous bottle of Aveda shampoo. It’s getting boring and running low and I can’t be bothered to give them all my money for a new bottle.  And I’m really sensitive to the kick-you-in-the-teeth fragrances in the “normal” shampoos out there.  And I’m studying herbs, after all.  And there are some people who question some of the additives in conventional shampoo.  But really, it’s just very satisfying.  To say “Hmmm.  Itchy scalp – what herbs might be nice for that?” And then take those herbs, which are pretty common, accessible ones, and begin the very sensual process of making the preparation.  Sensual in the See! and Touch! and Smell! sense, not the lets-hop-in-the-sack sense.

So, I’m going to be very busy now.  Busy washing my hair.

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The importance of claiming the space

Here’s a post I’ve been thinking about writing for a long time now, if only because the act of writing it helps hash it all out in my own head.

I’ve always been a believer in energy as a tangible force, especially as it relates to Feng Shui. That is, every place, be it home, work, friend’s house, emanates a feeling that we can perceive. Some are welcoming, some are not. Some are filled with joy, bubbling aromas of supper on the stove, too many pets. It’s what makes a house “cozy” or “inviting” or “stifling” or “like a museum”. And these feelings or energies are dynamic, ever-changing. Some corners get dusty and stale – both physically and energetically. And some rooms take on an air of heaviness after an argument occurs there. Or likewise, are brightened after a family dancing/singing/banging things session.

I’ve been pretty in tune with these subtle or not so subtle shifts for a long time now. Looking back on former homes and apartments, we remember feelings embodied in each place. One apartment, a flat in a Victorian home, stands out in our minds as one of the “warmest” places we’ve lived. Somehow all of the collective experiences of the home culminated into an overall feeling of well-being and comfort. Not because it was big, (because it wasn’t) not because of the style, (which we loved) not because we had free heat. (and lots of it) Not even because of the slanted, quirky doorways which we loved showing off to new guests. Subsequent apartments never quite measured up to the memory of this particular home.

Keeping this always in mind while house-hunting, we were able to do a sort of psychic reading of homes we toured. Not in a “I see dead people” sort of way but a “how do we feel in this place” way. In this last bout of house hunting, we actually thought we’d found our “house” before this particular house was even on the market. But one home we really liked was being sold by a couple apparently going through a divorce. Not the kind of energetic baggage we’d like to inherit. And another just didn’t feel like “it”. But was pretty darn close, so we thought maybe we were expecting too much. Well, you know how this ends. The Universe pulled some strings, the deal fell through, and we ended up here, in our personal Nirvana. And you know, the moment we walked into the kitchen, we looked at each other and knew immediately that it was beckoning us.

And the rest was history? Not quite. We’re only the third family to own this home. The folks we bought it from lived here for 20 years and poured themselves into the home and land and maintained it with love and integrity.

The problem, if you’d call it that? They don’t live here anymore. We do. And I’ve been really caught off guard by how important it is for me to claim the space as Ours Now. I’m just not quite feeling “at home” yet. There are a few things they left behind for us, very generously, and our room configurations aren’t so different from theirs, so we’ve not really deviated much from the home’s previous incarnation. And we do, after all, want to preserve the warmth and joy and kindness that radiates from the home, drawing us to it in the first place. That’s the challenge. Making it ours while honoring the homes history.

So I’ve been taking it slowly, tackling a room at a time, or a corner here, a nook there, cleaning every square inch of that space and becoming acquainted with it. Arranging our things in it, setting it up in a thoughtful way, and trying to figure out just where everything goes. Slowly, slowly, these spaces are filling with our energy as we start building our own history here. Paint chips are being assembled and ear-marked for various rooms, personal touches like a vintage floral tablecloth or art hung on the walls make a big difference. To me.

And today, I’ve claimed our bedroom. Embraced the purifying Spring winds and set about some deep cleaning. I scrubbed it down to the bare surface, creating a blank slate for us to grow into, and removed all the dust, pug hair, and bug carcasses that were bogging us down. All shiny and fresh. Ours now.

And it’s a little bit embarrassing to admit that it’s the first time, I think, that I mopped the floor. It just hadn’t come up in the To-Do rotation before now, I guess, falling behind things like Making Moisture Cream, Fresh Bread, and Purse for Isadora. At least I have my priorities straight, right? So that should put a rest to the “how does she do all that?” question that may have been lingering out there. She doesn’t. The cleaning and “having it all together” part of this life is rather neglected, but today, I took a teeny-tiny step towards a better balance. Ah. Smells like Spring.

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To interject:

Call me a copious post-er today, but I just had to interject with this, the report on my blog’s dashboard. Every day, you see, I get access to a little report with all my blog’s stats – how many visits, which sites are referring people, and these here – search engine terms that people entered and then clicked through to arrive at my happy little blog. (Of course you understand that I’m compelled to check these stats obsessively) And it’s hilarious to me to see that, upon typing “cleaning deer droppings” into Google, some poor sap winds up here, where I offer absolutely no instruction whatsoever on how to accomplish this.

This really, really cracks me up.

Yesterday

Search Views
deer droppings 1
cleaning deer droppings 1
silver toast holder with rooster 1
five green acres 1
ladies with exposed bust 1

Dear Enterers of Deer Droppings, Cleaning Deer Droppings, Silver Toast Holder with Rooster, and Ladies with Exposed Bust:

I’m sorry I let you down.

Regretfully,

Mary Jo

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The Obligatory Crocus

Here it is, the obligatory pic of our crocus. It seems there’s an unwritten blogging rule that mandates a pic of the first crocus and I’m trying so hard to fit in. And after months of stretching the creative limits of blogging photos taken indoors, any kind of photogenic life outside is a breath of fresh air, especially life this lovely. So you see, I too, couldn’t resist photographing it for some spring-y eye candy. Judging by the other posts I’ve seen of the crocus, we’re a little behind the times here, perhaps due to the 100 inches of snow that was dumped on us. This one is fresh-picked.

Would you believe that these are the first crocus we’ve owned? We’ve somehow never had them planted before.

Oh what a spring it will be – surprises popping up everywhere for us to discover.  We’ve only seen the place in late Summer, Fall, and Winter.  Lots of surprises around the corner…..

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My Little Herbalist

“Oh!  Look at this, Bo.”  (Bo is the poorly-dressed baby doll)  “This is mullein. Smell it!”

“And look at these milkweed pods!”

My heart exploded with joy today when I glimpsed this little guided herb walk.  Isadora was intent on taking Bo out and showing her all of the surprises that Daddy-O and I have pointed out in the past few weeks.  She soon found that Bo’s stroller was not the all-terrain type and resorted to holding her by the scruff of her back, as shown.

And this was pretty great too:

“Smell this beeswax!  Isn’t it yummy??”

I had started making some luscious moisturizing cream and was almost finished by the end of her nap.  She caught me just as I was grating the beeswax into the mix and was completely captivated by the sweet smell of it.  Smelling it, offering it to the doggies to smell, and smelling it some more took a good ten minutes, an eternity in the Isadora Time Zone, and I was able to finish whipping up this cream.

The recipe is from my current favorite herbal: Rosemary Gladstar’s Family Herbal.  Mom and Diane – there’s a jar with your name on it, since I don’t think it’s ethical to test it on animals.  Hee hee.

Up next on my herbal to-do list:  make some shampoo.  There are some easy recipes in the Gladstar book, I see that ReadyMade has featured homemade herbal shampoos in their latest issue, and Amy from Angry Chicken spoke about it a bit too, so I’m clearly tuned in to some great current of like-mindededness.

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