Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Pat's Wedding

Here we are. Pat and Angela got married on December 12th, and boy was it a great time. They were married in a rural Wisconsin Bar/Polka hall. It was one of the most enjoyable weddings I've ever attended.

As was previously mentioned, Libby made the kilts with some help from our friend Abby. The rest of the suits were rented from The Celtic Croft: very nice people. (The horse was a friend of a friend's.)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Snow Boys

Gibbie is our cold boy. He likes "coldness". His other favorite qualities include "softness," "coziness," and "loudness."
Man, does he love winter! He makes snow angels, and just stays on the ground, staring at the sky. He loves to throw snowballs, dress up warmly, work on shovelling, get raced around the yard in a sled, just watch the snow fall. I wonder if it's because he's a winter baby? He was early exposed to the cold. I remember that even as a newborn, he liked to be out in the fresh air.
I too love winter. I have fond memories of walking with Paul through sparkling night snow, weighing whether I ought to let myself fall farther in love; later walking hand in mittened hand together, late again because we were so wrapped up in talking. Further back, of playing outside in the deep snow until I couldn't feel my legs, that weightless feeling of lying face up in a snowbank, the squeak of my snowpants as I walked to school, and of course the gleeful anticipation of a potential cocoa-after-sledding-art-on-the-dining-room-table-filled snow day, as the white heaped higher outside the windows.
On the other hand, our little Ezra has always disliked the cold. He likes to be free from the burden of clothing and in Minnesota, in winter, especially with parents like us who keep the house on the chilly side, it's just not possible much. We've had to enact policies in our house requiring mittens, boots, sweaters, scarves, and, yes, even pants to be worn before walking out the front door. He started pitching fits for almost the first time in his life when forced to bundle up for this new snow.
These pictures are from the first snowstorm of the year, which we watched and delighted in up in Battle Lake, Minnesota--we all watched, at least, and all of us excepting Ezra delighted in it. There was enough snow, for one day, to scrape together a hopeful little snowman. Ezra would have nothing to do with the snowman. Does he look like he's having fun on the little blue sled? Trust me, he wasn't. He tearfully didn't want to wear even a sweater. He wanted to be held, wrapped up in a blanket. Well, really, he wanted just to go back inside.
I think Ezra has had a tiny bit of winter fun since then. But it's been in spite of the cold, in spite of the snow. My theory is that he's just still so little, and sees himself as such, that a little dangerousness, a little adversity, just isn't any fun at all. I bet it will be a whole nother story next winter.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Do-It-Yourself Naked Portafilter

*Warning: This is a very coffee-geeky post. I've tried to supply term-defining links for those of you who don't know the lingo.*

I've been dreaming of having a Naked Portafilter at Amore Coffee for quite some time now. I've used them on La Marzocco espresso machines at the SCAA convention last spring and also while playing with machines at Roastery 7, but as far as day to day shot pulling goes - all the action has been hidden behind the two little spouts. One of the problems has been that, as far as we can tell, naked portafilters aren't available for old Conti espresso machines like ours. We'd have to send ours in to get modified, and who's ever going to get around to doing that?

The day before yesterday Blair and I were working and for some reason discussing our portafilter with our friend Justin from Black Sheep. He considered the brass bottom of our portafilter and said, "You know, my drummel tool could cut that." So we decided to go for it.
The initial cut.
Justin considers the first draft.
He polishes off the sharp edges.
Here's a "before and after" shot.
Finally, we get to pull shots naked!

Cardboard Box

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Great Kilting Adventure

What man's garment takes a full eight or nine yards of fabric? What requires precise and extensive hand sewing? A traditional dress kilt! What eats up more than three spools of silk buttonhole twist? Six kilts! Current kilt count: two down. Abby has one and is fully taking care of it. That leaves three to go. The wedding is on Friday. Paul made me coffee before he went to bed. I've noticed I only seem to have time to blog when I'm so busy that I'm already a bit crazy.
p.s. I love Pat and Angela more every time I see them. Very excited for this marriage.

Coffee Shop Story Time

Here we are with some favorite coffee-shop family activities. We keep needing to remind ourselves that the goal of parenting is not to find something to entertain the children so that we can ignore them and do our own thing. We usually have more fun when we are all present together. This does not exclude adult conversation and down times! It just means we don't exclude the needs of the children when we plan our day, and we shift internally to enjoying one another each as we are today. (i.e., posh location, exquisite drinks, grown-up books and kid books) Oh, and we have some fun.First, we are doing a little free pen and ink drawing with supplies from Libby's little art-on-the-go kit. (like this Chinese set, a gift or this homemade one.) This takes no planning. Even Ezra can do this.Small amount of planning: bringing a few choice reads. Lately we've been way into Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Blueberries for Sal, and Henry and Mudge and the Forever Sea.I truly love reading aloud, and both kids are engaging so deeply with the stories.I love this last picture because we're all doing the same thing with our faces.

Monday, December 8, 2008

After-bath Sweet

I'm not quite sure how I converted them all, but we have become a family of happy bathers. It's sort of a problem when we have house guests (whom we love to host!) because normal Americans shower all the time and our bathroom totally isn't set up for it anymore! I've read that baths take more water than showers, but this simply can't be true. Especially if you get three people in the bath!
Near the end of a bath these days the boys like to play a raucous game they call, "Bop 'em on the Head." It's very noisy and pretty splashy and I like to get out of the room at that point.
Not long after this I am summoned to "call the kitties." Then two sweet clean soft relaxed little kitties come meowing to the bedroom for their post-bath massages. Very sweet indeed.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Polishing Shoes

We recently found the most fabulous old little leather shoes for Gibbie. They are so nice that they are decidedly only school and church shoes, or for dancing. They inspired us to get out the shoe-shine kit. Gibbie and Ezra get out the polishing work, and lay out all the pieces.They apply polish, rub, buff, spit, and shine, with a small arsenal of brushes and rags. They have thus far been very tidy, with no big shoe polish messes. They pack all the parts of the work neatly back up in the box and close the lid when they are done.Gibbie has also polished boots and shoes for Mama and Papa.
He's almost ready to hang out his shingle!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Post-Modern Collaborative Advent Wreath

I posted last year on our Advent devotions, a family tradition we're carrying on from Libby's childhood. Advent is the season in the church year that comes before Christmas. It's a time of remembering Israel waiting for the light of the Messiah (who we believe is Jesus) to come, and a time of preparing our hearts for this Christ to come again. We explain it to the kids that when Jesus comes back, God will fix all the brokenness in the world; wipe away all tears and make everything how it was made to be. We do a little prayer time, light candles, sing and play instruments, and read a story or two. It's all very simple.
I love doing Advent devotions because it takes away the bustle of December and focuses us, draws our attention to the bright light that shines in the darkness. Don't we need light when it's so dark outside! Dinner time is really deep night for us this time of year! And then there are deeper darknesses too, for which we need even more light.Our advent wreath turned out so fun this year. All the supplies for this were thrifted or gifted. The colors of the candles are not "proper" at all; I just used what we had. The Christmas candle has little kids playing instruments on one side and ducks on the other. Of course he decided that the ducks will face out. I don't think that the colors of the Advent wreath are ancient tradition. Everyone seems to have their own idea about what each one stands for, so I make free with this tradition. For our Christmas candle, I try to find anything lovely. One year it was a rainbow, another it was covered in green sparkly swirlyques, and this year it's this little volks-art scene.
There are one, two, three, and four stars on each of the candles to represent what respective week we are on. By the time we get to the four-star candle, we will be lighting all four candles, and just a week away from Christmas. Gibbie helped me design and make the candle decorations. (they are made with soft colored wax that we cut and press onto the candles) We have a blackbird for peace, a lamb for joy, bunnies for love, and a sunrise for hope, all very personal symbols for us. I think this is the essence of liturgy; using ritual to make real to us spiritual truths that we cannot see.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Racy D'lene's Coffee Lounge

Last weekend I went on a trip with my best friend Pat who is getting married a week from today. It was a "just the two of us" kind of get away before he becomes one with Angela. On the way back from his cabin we stopped at Racy D'lene's Coffee Lounge in Eau Claire. I've blogged about Racy's previously, but it's worth another mention.

I used to go to Racy's when I was in high school and home from college. This was before I knew much about coffee (which is good, because their coffee wasn't that great back then!) Racy's has been a kind of formative ideal for me of what coffee shop atmosphere can be. It's cozy yet industrial, and a little dark. It has an adequate sound system, which is a detail many other good coffee shops lack.

As I mentioned before, the coffee quality at Racy's has been elevated in the last few years. It might be the only shop with a Synesso in western Wisconsin. We had a good time talking with Kyle, the barista pictured below. Baristas have many common experiences: the gripes and joys of the job. He humored us and poured some latte art.
Thanks Kyle.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Apple ][ plus

An important, though often overlooked part of Thanksgiving is the challenge of killing time before the meal is set to begin. This year, I spent a good part of that time with an old Apple ][ plus I unearthed from my mom's closet. I intercepted it on its way from my high school to the rubbish heap about a decade ago. They were throwing it away because it was completely obsolete then. I knew I could still get some fun out of it, and I sure had fun with it on Thursday.
The Apple ][ plus was in production from 1978-1982, which means it's about as old as I am. It has a built-in capacity to understand the Applesoft BASIC programming language (which I happen to have taught myself, geek that I am, while in the 5th grade). This arcane knowledge came in handy when trying to get it to do something useful, like play Frogger.

It runs completely off of 5 1/4 in. floppy disks. (It has no hard drive.) I could only find one disk: the one that was still in the drive. It had three games on it, but the menu program to select the games had some corrupt data and wouldn't function.
Thankfully, I remembered enough of the old BASIC to type in "BRUN FROGGER" and in no time I was as happy as a frog in traffic!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Train Surprise

We went to my home town for Thanksgiving and visited both of my parents. When we got to my dad's house, for whatever reason Gibbie decided to go straight upstairs. What did he find waiting for him but a Lionel model train! We all had a lot of fun making it go and getting it to unload its cargo of logs. Apparently it will have an expanded track the next time we come. Thanks grandpa Bill!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Emergency Espresso Blend

We ran out of espresso at the shop this morning. Before when this has happened we've used some of the dark roasted Guatemalan that we always have on hand for cold press. It's kind of icky as a shot, but it's dark enough to cut through 14oz of milk in a latte and still taste like something. This morning though, I just didn't want to do that to my customers.

We've been pulling some lighter roasted Costa Rica as a single origin espresso lately. It has some nice flavor complexity after the initial brightness wears off. It's good as a shot, but doesn't stand up to a lot of milk so I couldn't just start using it as our main espresso.

So... what if I mix them? I tried blending equal parts Guatemalan and Costa Rica and threw in some Kenya we had on hand for extra sweetness. Instantly I had an emergency espresso blend to take us through the morning until our bean delivery arrived!

It's not what I would ever choose to drink as an espresso, but I'm pretty pleased with how well it worked considering what I had to work with. (For what it's worth, Michelle preferred it in Americano form over brewed coffee.)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Green Eggs and Ham

Gibbie and I were reading Green Eggs and Ham today. It reminded me of my favorite rendition of it, done by the Rev. Jesse Jackson:

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Fall Vacation

It was a few weeks ago now (ok, so almost a month) but here's some pictures from our fall vacation to Battle Lake, MN.

(If your flash isn't up to speed, here's a link to the album.)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Making Sauce

Gibbie and Ezra made tomato soup, from whole fresh tomatoes, at Oma's (that's their maternal grandmother) house the other day. In these pictures they are working with the great Vitorio Strainer. You can see Ezra plopping the tomatoes in while Gibbie works the crank.
It was a delightful little meal to greet me after my morning off, complete with fresh baked biscuits too! Oma maintains that they actually had a hand in every step of the process.
It was honestly all delicious!

Saturday, October 11, 2008


"I'm going to get on my not-puddle-boots. I think that's what they call these boots-- not-puddle-boots. And the last name is cowboy boots. Boots are like people; they have second names." -Gibbie, Oct 8, 2008

Sunday, September 21, 2008

What's in Ezra's head

A few weeks ago, the boys and I were enjoying ourselves in one of our very favorite coffee shops.
I asked Ezra, "What are you thinking about, Ezra?"
He paused, "Ummmm....

Now we know.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Gibbie on Pairs

At dinner, we were talking about how Gibbie and Ezra play and play together and how much they love each other. I said, "you guys are really a pair, aren't you?"
Gibbie responded, "yeah, and you and Papa play well together too."
We laughed and said, "we are a pair too, aren't we?"
"Always together and never go apart!" Gibbie summed it up.

That's really what marriage is, isn't it?
I love you, Paul.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Bikes on the Road!

Having spent the summer biking ourselves and the kids around everywhere has given me a fresh perspective on traffic! It's made me wonder if most drivers have no clue what to do with bikes on the road. Therefore I give you:

Bike Traffic for Motor Vehicles 101:
In Minnesota, bikes are treated like cars. If you don't know what to do when you see a bike, pretend it's a car--
1.don't hit it!
2.would you yield to it if it were a car? then do likewise.
3.always signal. It's the biker you don't see who needs to know where you are going.

Often, we have trouble with cars actually being too accommodating of us as vehicles. I think the driver may be trying to be nice by stopping inappropriately to let us cross a road in front of them. Perhaps they are charmed by the strange biking family? It often makes it more difficult, not easier, when a car yields to a bike if the car actually would have the right-of-way. (Say, the biker has the stop sign but the car waits for the bike to cross.) You see, a cyclist is less protected as a vehicle from collision, and often, drivers are not looking for bikes on the road. Therefore, as I come to an intersection, I can't assume that any vehicle sees me. I certainly can't assume I can run a stop sign. So I watch traffic closely. I have to assume drivers may not see me.
It takes a bike, particularly a bike towing a trailer full of children, much longer than a car to get going again. If I've stopped to yield to a car which has the right of way and the car stops for me, it's particularly awkward if there is cross traffic coming the other way which doesn't need to stop for me, or if there is no traffic and had the car not stopped I could have proceeded in peace instead of lugging into motion with an audience.
I regularly cross busy roads with the trailer. Sometimes I have to wait a good while for an adequate gap in traffic. That's fine by me; I expect it and plan this time into our day. I'm not biking just to get there as quickly as possible. In fact, watching the traffic, a biker often is tracking the cars, gauging thier speed to get moving while this one passes me, so that I can be across the intersection before that one comes. Now don't fret, Grandmothers! We really are careful. I'm just saying that it's usually not helpful for a driver to slow down for a biker.

That being said, I really appreciate how courteous drivers have been to us so far. I haven't encountered any vehicular hostility here in St. Paul, and we've been on all kinds of roads, in all kinds of traffic! (I might interject here that there are lots of crazy, not law-abiding bikers out there, for whom I cannot speak. Ahem, I won't mention any names.)
I sometimes wonder if drivers stop because they feel sorry for the poor slow biker. Do you pity her because the sun is shining and she's in it? Because he's breathing hard?
Rather, wish that you were in his place. There is an exhilarating freedom in going places without a motor. Less to break, less to go wrong, more time to enjoy the view. Between busy roads there are spaces of actual silence. There is a feeling of power in one's own body that can take one places! A restfulness in going days on end without starting a motor, and certainly a deeper sleep at night for a body that has worked.

At first, the kids were thrilled to bike. They begged to bike or bus instead of driving. Times have changed a bit. Recently, Gibbie said, "Mama, I see people in cars and I wish that I was one of them." Sadly, soon enough he will be. Bike transport with kids may be simply impossible year-round in Minnesota!
We're learning to bring a little pouch of playthings or snacks for when the littles get restless. Sticks for banging on each others helmets do very well, as pictured with a special birdie, above.

Friday, August 22, 2008

On Forests and Picking Berries

"I suppose all woods everywhere are really just different bits of the one wood, pushing up through the earth like the different bits of the sky that shine through the clouds are the same sky."
Elizabeth Goudge, in Herb of Grace
I can't tell you how immensely I enjoyed this lovely novel and another by the same author, "Bird in the Tree." Mid-twentieth Century writer I've just discovered. Seems she had some acclaim in her day, and was forgotten. Do tell me what you think if you've encountered her, as I would like other perspectives.
Pictured are blackberry brambles. I picked like a bear, with tongue and paw and saved them up for the long cold winter.
Blackberries vary surprisingly. We have tart black raspberries, small and dainty covered in delicate prickers, as well as blackberries on our land. In just one corner of a valley on the property, there are blackberry canes thicker than a man's thumb, with long strong thorns guarding drooping clusters of heavy berries as big as acorns, juicy and dark and sweet. These are barbs that will rip your jeans if you rush by, leave a bright scratch on a forearm, punch into a finger and leave it smarting for days.
It is because they guard treasure!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Menomonie Weekend

We just spent a wonderful weekend both in my home town of Menomonie and at the Perlieu land. We got to see both of my parents, go to my 10 year high school reunion, and relax at the cabin. Probably the highlight was a stretch of about nine hours on Saturday that Libby and I got to be around Menomonie without the boys. It turs out that, given the chance, we still really enjoy hanging out together!

Here's a small album of photos from the trip. They're not regular family vacation photos, since some are things we found interesting (signs, Menomonie's green algae-rich water, graphitti) as well as the normal cute kid shots. As always, I recommend the slide show option for viewing them.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

the Bike Trailer

A couple of days ago I mentioned biking around with the boys in a bike trailer. I didn't include any pictures in that post so I thought I might right now. We were out yesterday on our (almost) weekly trip to Java Train. I like most of the features of this trailer, except the cloth topper. It attaches to the back of the thing with Velcro, which isn't quite sufficient for the amount of tension it requires. I'm going to bolt it on one of these days. I like how Libby bungied a milk crate to the frame of the trailer. It serves well as a trunk!