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.