Chowdah Heads

Now that Ol’ Man Winter has been shaking his hoary fist at us in a rather threatening way, I’ve decided to feel okay with taking our fun mostly indoors. Even if there are still other things to do in the yard, once the ground is cold with frost, the soil is hard and ungiving; I’m not breaking my back when I could be inside by a cozy fire, working on lesson plans and drowning my yardwork guilt in a cup of tea.

Here are some other fun things to do on a cold, startlingly beautiful sunny day:

Watch the birdfeeder. Sounds tedious, but really, put a suet feeder out in your nearest tree, grab a naturalist’s guide and have some fun. We’ve had a downy woodpecker pair coming to visit us every day for nearly a week; first the female and then, unexpectedly a few days later, the male. This is Big Deal Stuff as I’ve never seen one in either city or forest, and is lots of fun for all us. Including Joe, who was aloof at first but soon telling us excitedly when one or the other was hanging about. A suet block and cage will run you about $5, and it’s one of those treats for the whole family.

Make some soup. Yesterday we made the delish corn chowder from Deborah Madison’s “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone". Sure, the corn wasn’t ‘fresh from the cob’ seasonal, and I didn’t have any fresh basil around (we used dried herbs), but with the stewed red peppers and coconut milk—the exotic substitute for the lactose-intolerant set—we made a pretty yummy supper. With my tendinitis acting up, I opted to use the Cuisinart for the chopping, so Kiddo was able to help by pushing the pulse button on and off while I pushed the potatoes and leeks through the tube on top. I’ve noticed that he’s been more interested in eating the foods he helps make, so I’m all for letting him help me drop ingredients like bay leaves and pinches of salt into the pot. I’m sure his favorite thing about this meal is the butter that goes on the ciabata slices, which makes me think that Kiddo is for sure my own child.

Watch something(s) silly and good. Although we just picked up, and truly enjoyed the new Star Trek movie, we had to do it afterhours, when the violence and scary stuff wouldn’t give Kiddo nightmares. Instead, “The Flight of the Conchords” tickled our fancy; yes, there’s a lot of adult humor, but it flies over Kiddo’s toddler head. He just loves the music. The show’s unusual and at times head-scratching sense of humor toys with circumstances both usual (two guys in love with the same woman) and absurd ( the racism suffered by New Zealanders?). If you ever wondered what two amoral, naive illegal immigrants from the “Land Down Underer” with no visible means of support and a wildly unsuccessful band did with their time, Seasons One and Two of the Conchords are giggly fun. And the music is the true star: songs like “Bowie” and “Bret, You Got it Going On” are hysterical and well-crafted. This show is the mirror opposite of HBO’s other young, irreverent show, “Entourage”—The Conchords suffer no angst, no character development and while both seek no larger meaning and the appeal is phenomenal.

Channel the spirit of Santa.
What recession? The other day Kiddo was asking me for one of the dried poppy seed pods I have in a vase. “I don’t have that for you”, I told him, “But maybe we could write a letter to Santa Claus and ask him if he’ll bring you one for Christmas”, and left it at that. He’s been hearing about this letter-writing ritual and I figure that gently guiding him toward something that he already wants instead of asking the open-ended question “What do you want Santa to bring you?” would ensure he’d get his request. We’ll ride this wave while it lasts…

Mark the passing time. Today we got out some construction paper for cutting. Kiddo cut all sorts of odd shapes and I cut paper strips to make the sort of Christmas paper chain so many kids come home from Sunday School with. We’ve been a little limited on paper, so we have the untraditional color scheme of brown and blue, but Kiddo was happy to help staple links and loved playing with the chain. I’d already given up on any hope of tearing off the links day by day—this sort of thing is just too much fun for a kid to destroy slowly and lovingly—but the whole process of it was a great distraction, and it gave us a Something to Do on a cold afternoon with little to offer otherwise.

Get all craftsy-like. Okay, so the curtains were necessary for the kitchen picture window—it’s like living in a goldfish bowl otherwise. We found a great golden pink Asian-style print that we can live with (another day of Overwhelm at Fabric Depot!) and I’m sewing the fabric up into panels, with muslin to line them. And now I get to sew them. There is something so zen to me about pinning and pressing, being incredibly accurate with the sewing gauge and listening to Perry Mason out of the corner of my ear. Joe just recently gave me the first volume of season four of the series, and I’ve only had a go at it once, so it’s great background chatter. I have to be alone to sew, because ironing boards, hot irons and toddlers to not go together so well. Aw, shucks, I really (don’t) feel guilty about taking a little time alone to do this. Never have curtains given me so much.

Laugh at it all. This year has been challenging; I don’t even know if we’re going to get cards out this year. And it’s not cause we don’t love you. With Joe’s job and investing in a start-up business, we’re feeling a bit in the thick of it. Not over our heads, but definitely looking forward with an eye on the horizon. I have a lot of faith that we are going to get through this okay; if not unscathed, still intact. I know a lot of people are facing very dire straits and tough situations, so I’m not going to feel sorry for myself. Instead, I’m going to focus on the fun, good things we have in our lives. Seeing Kiddo laying on the futon, feet kicking the wall ambivalently and singing along to a cd makes my heart glad. We still have our music, we have our friends and we have each other. I think that I’m feeling a lot of gratitude and abundance in the midst of all this. These moments can serve to draw us closer if we let them.

So be sure to get together with a friend and laugh a bit too. There’s a lot of sadness out there, but it’s okay to take a break and fill your heart a bit. No one is going to do it for you. We have to choose how we spend our days and focus our time, and I’m going to sign off now, put another log on the fire, and play with Kiddo.


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