Spring Daydreams in a Snowstorm

Working on a newsletter piece for a spring issue, I decided to do something with terra cotta pots. Now, this sounded like a lovely craft project while I dream of spring as the snow piles up out here and the temperatures have been dipping below zero.

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getting to the garden shed to gather some pots was…

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a bit of an adventure in the middle of a snowstorm!

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But in the name of a good craft project, I persevered.

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Now that we’ve finished laughing at my coordination and bright idea, we’re warming up with a cup of tea. Cheers to spring daydreams and refreshing winter storms!

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Celebrating Sophia with a Winter Shower

In our “Stitchin’ Post” Oct/Nov 2016 issue of MaryJanesFarm, I demonstrated how to carve carve an old window using a dremel by engraving the name “Sophia Grace” for my dear friend’s new baby.

So, a couple of weekends ago, we finally got around to a formal celebration of this sweet little addition in our lives.

Here are a few snippets from the weekend.

I don’t have the juices, San Pellegrino, and champagne loaded in the white bucket yet in the above photo, but do try a San Pellegrino, pear juice, and fresh thyme sprig for your winter festivities. Delicious!

And anything and everything ought to be garnished in baby’s breath and tree trimmings, don’t youu think? The centerpiece garland is actually from the base of our Christmas tree. Perfect.

We went all white for our dessert table in honor of our little sweet pea. Three mamas did all the cooking!

Here we are attempting to gracefully enjoy our Russian Teacakes while dressed in black. I should have taken a picture of the pile of powdered sugar at our feet.

To the left is Sophia’s mama, Christin. Then, myself and Tina, to the right, have been honored with the joint title of Godmothers.

And who doesn’t love baby feet??

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Beginning to Feel a Lot Like… Valentine’s Day??

Well, we’ve wrapped up another magazine issue. While most folks are pondering their holiday meals, winter festivities, and gift giving, we’ve put the finishing touches on Valentine’s Day and the month of love. We’re excited to share it with you, and here’s a sneak peak at what my coffee table has looked like this past month.

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Curious to see what this large mess could possibly look like in the magazine? We’ll let you get through the winter holidays first, but mid-January, your magazine subscription should be on its way to your doorstep. If you’re not yet a subscriber to our magazine, MaryJanesFarm, subscribe here for $19.95/year.

Farmgirl Apple Pie Sunday

I’m always up for celebrating any occasion with a pie. Since Farmgirl Apple Pie Sunday was on September 25th this year and I just so happened to be in the Big Apple …

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… my two girlfriends and I decided to make it our mission to find an apple dessert, at the very least. With a good pair of walking shoes, we started the day with muffins from a nearby NYC bagel shop. Who buys a muffin at a NYC bagel shop!? But we started the day ready to satisfy a sweet tooth or two. Never mind they were berry muffins.

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Hooray for Pulses

You’re probably thinking,  “Well yes, of course, hooray for pulses because pulses (plural) means our hearts are beating, which means we’re alive.” For sure! But I’m talking about another kind of pulses, a crop group that includes dry beans, dry peas, chickpeas, and lentils. Here at the farm, we {heart} pulses!

Bean love via iyp2016.org

And we’re not alone in our adoration. The United Nations has declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses. They are hoping their focus will raise awareness about the protein power and health benefits of dried beans and peas, as well as highlight the economic advantages of growing them. Pulses have been an essential part of the human diet for centuries, contributing double the proteins found in wheat and triple the amount found in rice. They are also rich in micronutrients, amino acids, and B-vitamins. Pulse crops are one of the most sustainable crops a farmer can grow.

Bags of beans via iyp2016.org

It takes just 43 gallons of water to produce one pound of pulses, compared with 216 for soybeans and 368 for peanuts. They also greatly contribute to soil quality by fixing nitrogen. And growing them offers great potential to lift rural farmers out of poverty, as they can fetch two to three times the price of cereals, while processing them provides additional economic opportunities locally.

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Check out the International Year of Pulses 2016 (IYP2016) website for upcoming events, recipes, and piles of other inspiring info on pulses. It’s a great resource and we really truly love our pulses. We’ve been serving them up for 20+ years! My kids love it that most anyone can make NannyJane’s soups exactly the way she does. Haha. If you haven’t taken a peek, here’s a link, and Happy Year of the Pulses!

Looking for your best friend?

Many folks nowadays are taking advantage of Internet dating, looking for love from the comfort and safety of their laptops. You’ve heard of FarmersOnly.com?

We put a lot of effort into finding our soulmates. But what if we took that much time to find our “soulpups”?

After all, dogs are traditionally known as our best friends. Our old-man golden-retriever, Walker, is most certainly a best friend and family member.

So why not spin the Internet dating craze to include our four-legged companions? PawsLikeMe.com contends that they’ve created an intelligent algorithm to perfectly match you with the dog of your dreams, and boasts that the matches are accurate an astonishing 90% of the time.

This matching system takes into account personality, lifestyle, and environmental factors when generating a score. The personality assessment is based on personality traits that influence the human-canine bond: energy, focus, confidence, and independence. In other words, if you don’t like a lot of activity, you probably shouldn’t choose a breed that requires a lot of exercise.

The team founded the company in response to the rising rate of unwanted pets in shelters nationwide that have to be euthanized. If people and pets were perfectly matched and happy together from the beginning, PawsLikeMe believes the incidence of shelter abandonment would drop significantly. So if you’ve been daydreaming about your dream pup, check out PawsLikeMe.

Next, they need a farm animal section. I’m pretty sure I’d match up with a Jersey!

Running Wild

I’m a runner. And it’s taken me a long time to say that out loud. What motivated me to finally say it? Well, running is good for you.

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My first running shoes that I actually ran in.

Running regularly improves your health immensely, from increasing bone mass and helping prevent age-related bone loss to keeping your mind sharp as you age. It can prevent obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. Running makes you a happier person by releasing those feel-good chemicals known as endorphins, thus protecting you from anxiety and depression. Although I’m super slow (so slow some can walk alongside me), running has made a huge difference in my life.

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Me and my brother after my first half marathon.

One of the comments I hear most often when I talk about running is this: “I’m so out of shape, I’ll never be able to run.” That is simply not true. In my humble opinion, all you need is a pair of comfortable shoes, a little motivation, and the ability to start slow. I would say the last item on that list is the most important.

Turns out, the team at Couch25K agrees with me. This company designed an app that accompanies you every step of the way in a bid for your very own 5K (that’s 3.1 miles!). The designers made it for folks who want to approach running, but want to be somewhat comfortable and in control while doing it. They say the biggest mistake made by new runners is going at it too fast. Their bodies rebel and they wind up miserable. The Couch25K program conditions you slowly over a period of nine weeks, but you can vary that pace to accommodate your own fitness needs. Each session lasts 20-30 minutes, which is the recommended length of time to gain benefits from moderate exercise. You can choose to measure your progress by time or distance, and you can set up the program in a metric version, a treadmill version, even a Poochto5K option, which is all about improving the health of our canine friends. There’s a running forum where you can connect with like-minded souls online, and lots and lots of resources are available on their website.

If you decide to jump in, please keep me posted. Have fun!

Freezing Pants

A good sense of humor can go a long way toward combating the doldrums of a dreary winter.

That’s why I want to share this funny story about some wise-cracking residents of the city of Minneapolis. Residents there are creating statuaries of frozen pants around the city.

It all started a few years ago when Minnesota suffered at the hands of what is called a Polar Vortex, which left the city with dangerously cold temperatures for weeks on end.

photo by Frank Kovalchek via Wikimedia Commons

To lighten the mood, local resident Tom Grotting decided to pull a prank. He soaked a pair of jeans in water and then hung them outside. As they were freezing, he shaped the pants to look like a person was wearing them and then placed them in public locations around his neighborhood.

Photo: Heidi Wigdahl, KARE

Now he’s doing it every winter, leaving pants busting through sidewalk snowdrifts and standing in front of coffee shops, and he’s gaining accomplices. Since then, others are taking up the prank in the name of winter fun and frozen pants are appearing all around the city. Tom says he does it mostly to bring a smile to the face of his neighbor, who doesn’t care much for winter. That’s definitely a RAOK in our book!

Softie-making

With another holiday on the horizon, I’ve been doing a little gift browsing. Of course there are all the usual pinks and purples and hearts this and hearts that, but I stumbled upon an enterprise called Child’s Own Studio that claims to have perfected the art of “softie-making” from children’s drawings.

In other words, they can take your child’s drawing and turn it into a plush toy … but I like the term “softie-making” better. And why might you be interested in one of these softies? I learned that young children draw from their imaginations with pure self-expression, and it’s based on an understanding of what is being drawn rather than on observation.

Around the age of 5, children develop a visual vocabulary, or their own unique symbolism. When they draw a cat, it will always be the same basic image, maybe altered with stripes or color. It’s not until around the age of 9 or 10 that children begin to be influenced by realism and often lose their passion, frustrated that the object being drawn doesn’t look exactly like what it represents. From what I can gather, there’s a sweet spot of self-expression from about 5 to 9 years of age, and these plush toys serve as an excellent way to preserve that.

Snail Softie via childsown.com

Inspired by a drawing from her 4-year-old son, Wendy Tsao started Child’s Own Studio in 2007 as a home-based art venture in Vancouver, B.C., but she’s had so many orders that she’s had to expand. The softies start at $70, but that seems like a small price to pay for such a unique and personalized gift that was hand-stitched just for you. The average size of a toy is about 16”, but they also offer super sizes up to 5′. And to top it all off, Child’s Own Studio is enthusiastic about helping fundraising campaigns for non-profits and schools.

Scorpian Softie via childsown.com

Sweet Harmony

I recently shared a titch about the sweet, sweet harmony reigning in our home since both of my girls started music lessons in September. But I was skeptical about squeezing a piano into our tiny living room. A piano is generally a big-ticket item, and I really, really want to instill an appreciation for frugality in my children.

Well, it turns out I know a guy who knows a guy who is a professional tuner by day, and he gave us a great deal on a 1950s Kimball that’s in super good shape. Not excellent shape, which is perfect for me, because I’m happy to give it a little cosmetic love. So with plenty of encouragement from a music teacher that I am thankful to have in the girls’ lives, my hubby and her hubby carefully hauled it up our front-stoop stairs and into our living room.

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Here’s what the experts say: Playing an instrument is the brain’s equivalent of a full-body workout, especially for children. Learning to play an instrument develops physical attributes in the fine-motor-skills department for sure, but research is now showing that learning an instrument aids in emotional and behavioral maturation as well. That means the little ones are honing their attention skills, managing their anxiety, and gaining control of their emotions, because playing an instrument actually thickens the parts of the brain used to fight depression, aggression, and attention problems.

In school, music-makers generally understand math and science concepts more easily. By learning about note lengths and how they relate to the whole piece of music, students exercise the part of the brain that processes proportional thinking, and that kind of thinking is required to understand math and science at higher levels. It also improves spatial-temporal reasoning, which is the ability to see disassembled parts and mentally put them back together.

Wow, all that from a little ivory tickling. The results I’ve seen in the short time we’ve had our piano are rather astounding. The girls even play it while they brush their teeth! To say the least, they are appreciating it far more than I ever dreamed. This year, I’m anticipating a year filled with sweet, sweet harmony and music.

American Trade Cards, Boston Public Library via Wikimedia Commons