Wednesday, April 29, 2009

corner view:: transportation

This week Corner View is Transportation! Being a midwestern college town with both the liberal crunch AND the rural farm lifestyles here, we have a bit of everything in Madison.

We have several hybrid buses on the Metro route, there are community cars, and we have scooters and cyclists on the road in the sun, rain and even snow. We can even have our coffee delivered by bike. We prefer our feet, we love to ride our bikes, and when we drive somewhere we like to avoid traffic and choose back roads where we sometimes end up behind large tractors or farm trucks.

We also love to carpool with friends to outings, have car-free days, and hypermile when we can!

Check out all of the other blogs participating in Corner View!

jane, ian, bonnie, esti, sophie, modsquad,caitlin, joyce, ani, couturecoucou, kim, a day that is dessert, natsumi, epe, kaylovesvintage, trinsch, c.t., jeannette, outi, schanett, ritva, dongdong, francesca, state of bliss, jennifer, dana, denise, cabrizette, bohemia girl, ruth, dianna, isabelle, amber, a girl in the yellow shoes, mister e, janis, kari, jgy, jenna, skymring, elizabeth, audrey, allison, lise, cate, mon, victoria, crescent moon, erin, otli, amy, ida, caroline, lisa, dorte, kimmie, la lune dans le ciel, nicola, malo, samantha

Monday, April 27, 2009

exploring on a rainy day.

We had such a rainy weekend that we had to put aside all of our big yard and garden plans and go with the flow. On Sunday we decided that even though it was cool, gray, rainy and more storms were on their way, that we wanted to get OUTSIDE!!! So we packed up the rain gear, boots, snacks and GPS and headed out to a local state park. We love this park because it has prairie, woods, beaches and is right on the big lake here in Madison, yet feels remote (you can see downtown wayyyy across the water).

The boys were so happy to get outside - and after so much record-setting rain there were TONS of earthworms out. They counted, relocated, and looked at worms before heading down to the beach. We skimmed rocks, found walking sticks, dug in the sand, and ... plotted our location in the GPS as we went (starting with the car).

After an hour or so at the beach, we wandered along the lake and connected with a nice wooded trail. The ground was wet, but the rain had (temporarily) stopped, so we were able to see so much along the way. The boys found caterpillars, flowers, green thick wet moss, fresh animal tracks and many familiar trees and plants.

We had the trail all to ourselves since we were about the only ones out in that weather. The birds were the loudest creatures around - so busy overhead - and we saw woodpeckers, bluejays, red winged blackbirds, and so many more busily collecting bits and building nests. The air smelled amazing, and we wandered and explored for a long time.

We continued to mark out position as we went along the trail, and could track ourselves on the GPS along the way...the boys loved stopping here and there to check how far we had gone!

After a few hours of exploring we were finally ready to head back. The boys held the GPS, and watching the position as we walked, they oriented themselves towards the first coordinate marked on our path, and found their way back to the car as we followed right behind them! Super fun. And a great day to be outside enjoying the weather.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

just in time...

Installed JUST IN TIME - before a weekend full of thunderstorms, high winds, and record setting rainfall.

The rain barrel was easy to install. Slips rights behind our AC unit and a big bush in our landscaping, and we will be planting some climbing scarlet runner beans on a frame in front of it to make it look nice as the summer progresses.

The boys happily helped dig a spot for the base and used a level to see if we were flat. They rolled the huge barrel up into the yard...well, G rolled it "all by himself" as A tried to help and G 'accidentally' rolled him over the barrel. Ahem. They helped screw in the diverter and seal the tubing. My boys love tools, and they love that there is a huge barrel of rainwater waiting for when it is time to water the garden!

Using rain barrels decreases the demand for domestic water - residential watering can account for up to 40% of consumption in some places, and it is a good thing to have during summer water restrictions or in drought areas to keep your fruit and veggies happy. Even a small urban style yard like ours has space for one! We have been wanting to install a rain barrel for a while - I'm glad we finally cleared a spot and put one in. Now if this rain would just...stop!!!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

blue skies and tiny tubes.

Part of my wants to just write about yesterday - fun projects and getting outside with the boys to our local botanical garden on Earth Day. In the spring when it is warm, sunny and blue skies you just have to get outside! We love to wander and see who can identify the most plants and birds - always something new as the spring progresses! Watching the frantic wooing and nest building by hundreds of birds is also always a treat.

Of course part of me wants to write about my MRI today...quite the experience. I am claustrophobic, and spent the past several days thinking about it a LOT, ending up with shaky hands and sweaty palms each time. I got lots of good advice about finding one thing to think about - like a vacation or favorite place to focus on. Of course being how I am I discarded the trick the brain method and decided that I would take the direct approach. Instead of trying to overcome the LOUD hammering noises, I used them as my rhythm, and chanted silently to myself the whole time, imagining the magnetic field and hydrogen atoms aligning in my body as white light, going along with my chant. It worked, and at the end I exited that machine much lighter than when I went in. Of course from there I found out that I do have two herniated discs and degeneration in the vertebrate. Now, physical therapy here I come!

But enough about spines and freakishly small spaces. We are so lucky to live only a few miles from the botanical gardens and during this time of year when things are always blooming and changing, we like going a few times a week for some fresh air, sunshine, and exploration. We often have the most interesting conversations as we wander there.

I know many people love the daffodils and crocuses of spring. Me, I love the magnolia trees. I love seeing those huge fuzzy buds when there is still sometimes snow on the ground. By the time the giant, beautiful, fragrant blooms have erupted, I know spring is in full swing. The last time we went it was all fuzz, this time, the blooms are here. With all of this warmer weather will come lots of hikes, adventures, gardening, travel and exploring with my two little guys. Time to get my back solid and strong so I can keep up and enjoy our long busy summer!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

corner view:: our breakfast table

I was excited to find that Jane at Spain Daily was hosting a weekly photography 'challenge'...there are so many people from all over the world participating that it is fascinating to look through all of the posts each week.

For our corner view from Madison, Wisconsin today - breakfast! Our breakfast meal varies widely, but today we were pretty American. I had fresh farm eggs over toast with a cup of jasmine green tea sweetened with local honey. I don't always eat a whole breakfast, but do usually have toast with green tea.

My husband loves oatmeal wheat toast with strawberry freezer jam we made last summer from strawberries we picked at a local farm ... mmmmm.

And the boys had a special treat today. Yesterday we made fresh whole wheat cinnamon rolls together, so this morning we warmed them in the oven and ... yum! The boys are in cinna-heaven.

What did you have for breakfast today?

Check out breakfast from around the world::

jane, ladybug-zen, ian, bonnie,esti, sophie, cele, modsquad,caitlin, joyce, ani, couturecoucou, kim, a day that is dessert, natsumi, epe, kaylovesvintage, trinsch, c.t., jeannette, outi, schanett, ritva, dongdong, francesca,state of bliss, jennifer, dana, denise, cabrizette, bohemia girl, ruth, dianna, isabelle, amber, a girl in the yellow shoes, mister e, janis, kari, jgy, jenna, skymring, elizabeth, audrey, allison

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

one year ago.

Can you believe this was a YEAR ago? :)

Monday, April 20, 2009

From hot to snow.

I can't believe it is already Monday night! Last week we had several days of weather getting warmer and warmer until peaking at 74º and sunny on Saturday. The boys were so happy - they rode bikes, played basketball and soccer in the yard, made up funny games, helped me dig and rake the beds, and played with all the neighbor kids in our busy family friendly alley. We even had a mini bonfire in our yard on a warm weekend night, and made s'mores with all of the neighbor kids.

In the garden we hardened spring seedlings and planted out all of the early spring plantings - peas, early cabbage, greens, radishes, kale, and more. So much garden work, all with the help of my sweet husband - the weather was just right for it all. On Saturday we visited an Earth Day Celebration to pick up our new humongous rain barrel (yay!) to add to our side yard.

And then Sunday came - full of cold and rain. We finished some yard work and headed down to visit a Natural History Museum in Illinois. Dinosaurs, rocks, wigwams, and a great kids room. Just what we needed to enjoy the day.

Today? More cold and rain and a lot of fun indoor play and books to read. Tonight and tomorrow? Snow! We are good with it, though. After a long cold winter we can't take on the full force heat and sun right away - it is too much (and I'm one tired mama after all that planting and garden clean-up!). We need some up and down, some cold rainy days. That is how we start to get that green grass, those vibrant green buds, and what brings our trees a burst of spring foliage. So, tomorrow? Some new fun projects inside, a big stack of new books from the library, and some baking (G wants to make cinnamon rolls). Sounds perfect.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

We've been waiting...

We've been waiting over six months for this. A whole day of sunshine, blue skies, and t-shirt warm weather. Today was 63º and sunny. Perfect for being OUTSIDE!!

Our friends joined us today for a farm outing - we all packed into our van and headed out to a friends farm for a visit.

The boys got to see the new little chicks and hold them. Verrrry exciting.

They threw sticks for the dogs, and visited the hen house to see if there were any fresh eggs.

We were able to see bees in a box who were getting ready to go into their new hive home. And, they tried on the bee hat/netting and gloves. Can't beat that.

The day was so full of being outside - casting practice, visiting the farm, playing at a park, blowing bubbles, working in the garden, reading books in the sunshine. Tonight, two exhausted boys climbed out of the bathtub, barely able to keep their eyes open. As he was putting on his pajamas, A sighed and said, "I wish every day was like today." Thank you, spring (and Jessie!).

Monday, April 13, 2009

lots and lots of seedlings.

Living in Wisconsin, we have a later last frost date than many of you probably do. But even with our cool wet spring, I have a lot of garden work to do! We have been starting all of our seeds on schedule and have many flats started so far. In addition to the seedlings below, I also have a tray of mesclun greens grown only under lights for 30 days, fully grown and ready to eat! Yum.

Seeds started so far (many more to come):

peppers: sweet chocolate, patio red marconi, tequila sunrise
swiss chard: five color silverbeet
purple tomatillo
tomatoes: orange fleshed purple smudge, brandywine pink, green zebra, riesentraube
cabbage: early jersey wakefield
fruit: ground cherry, wonderberrry ,
greens: tah tsai mustard, mesclun, lacinato kale
kohlrabi: azur star
other spinach type greens: red malabar spinach (asian vine 'spinach'), strawberry spinach
herbs: lovage, parsley, basil, shisho, stevia

I have multiple light setups - partly because my basement has only one outlet, but also because I like to use natural light when I can to help the seedlings grow strong and healthy. The basement setup has two long shop lights and a large heating mat. That is where I start the seeds. Once I get the true leaves, I move them upstairs to our window setup. That is an open wood shelving unit setup in front of a window, with shop lights hung from the top of each shelf. That gets a lot of natural sunlight in addition to the tubes. From there, as the plants are ready to be planted out, I will transfer them onto my back deck to harden off before going into the garden.

I am growing a lot of seedlings this year because it is our first year planting in a community garden as well as our yard - and in addition to those two gardening spaces, I am also starting seeds for our kids garden plot! That is a lot more than I have grown at one time before - but so far everything is going great. I think being organized has helped me keep track of when to start, when to plant, and how many of each to grow based on square feet needed per plant! Now I just hope that all of my grids and plans and sketches work out as we transplant! :)

Since our community garden is not open for spring planting, I am using our yard garden areas for all spring goodies, such as carrots, radishes, peas, cabbage, greens, and anything that goes out before last frost. All of these areas will be re-planted with different fruits and vegetables as the season progresses and the spring veggies are done! I also have garlic, chives, and several types of herbs in ground from last year which will be coming in soon, in addition to the red currants and raspberries which are already budding or showing some green.

With my back out, I have had a wobbly two+ weeks where I could not get up and down the stairs as often to check and water my seedlings. My lovely husband patiently let me describe how to check if water is needed, when to remove covers, when to turn on or off lights...and while I am more mobile now, I am still not able to do much of the yard prep since I am unable to lift or bend much (I have an MRI next week - wish me luck). I am sure I'll be up on my feet and ready to dig once we get closer to last frost in early May. And with my two happy mini-gardeners and a willing husband, we will be good to go for our early spring plantings over the next week or two! Ahhhhh. Love it.

Friday, April 10, 2009


In Wisconsin, when the sun comes out, the rain stops, and the temperature actually climbs to almost 50º --- well, being outside is about the most exciting thing you can imagine after a long winter.

During the summer the boys prefer nature walks, ponds, rivers, and woods to structured playgrounds, but for the first month or two when it finally warms up a little, there is nothing better than a slide, a climbing wall, and a swingset! Wheee!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

boldly colored.

For a few years we have dyed eggs using natural materials such as beets, cabbage, onion skins, and coffee. It is fun to see what kind of colors we can get using things we have at home. This year, however, the boys both gave me 'the look' and obviously wanted to do something different. While we usually dye our eggs for the spring equinox, pretty much any time is a good excuse to play with eggs and colors, in my opinion!

I found Greek egg coloring packets at a local Italian deli, and knew we had to try them. They looked super intense, AND there was red (a traditional Greek Easter egg color), my favorite color. Using regular 'egg' cups I combined the powders with vinegar and water and we were off. The boys used oil pastels and wax resist crayons to color the eggs first, and then soaked them in the colors. Oh, and yes the colors were indeed deep and bold. We mixed red and blue for purple and it was so dark it almost looked black. That was of course the favorite, in addition to the deep red ones.

After the boys were done I just couldn't bring myself to pour all that rich color down the drain, so we found a few blank silk scarves and dunked them in the pots for awhile to see what we would get.

We now have a few brightly colored silks - perfect for spring!

Monday, April 06, 2009

moving forward, stepping back.

While I had a major step backwards with my back over the weekend, A has been moving forward. I had to miss his karate belt promotion on Saturday (bad, bad back!), but he came home so happy and proud to show me his new purple-white belt.

The seeds have also been moving forward, and I have been taking pictures...hope to share more soon!

Friday, April 03, 2009

friday sunshine.

Today the boys ran circles, chased, skipped, sprinted, examined, and played as I hobbled around the local botanical garden to stretch my back and get some (uh, slow) exercise.

They were so happy to get OUTSIDE for some fresh air and sunshine that they didn't even mind the cold. I loved the moments of breath, cold wind and blue skies as I walked in my circles around them, or walked just behind to keep up - hearing snippets of giggles and conversations, seeing races and snuggles.

I could see them every moment, but they, in their always amazing brother bond orbited in their little guy way - one moment completely with each other running ahead, the next moment, at my side holding my hand, helping me on my path, giving words of encouragement, wishing me to feel better.

We have rain, sleet and a bit of snow coming again over the weekend - but today? It was all about enjoying every ray of sunshine and observing every little detail. With my guys.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Working my way back...

Thanks to you all for all the good healing vibes and well wishes. I did indeed get into see my acupuncture/massage/acupressure goddess on Monday and it helped a lot. I am not really up about about too much yet (yeah, still need my hubby to get my pants on...lovely, eh? ;)) but the pain is receding a bit and I can (drum roll) sit down! Woo hoo. I've also had two awesome little super heroes around to help me out.

While it is comforting to know that others can sympathize with how debilitating back pain can be, I also feel bad that so many of you have back problems too! Yowza! I hope we all have a year of strong backs, healthy bodies, and digging happily in our gardens without any twitches or wrenches.