February 13th, 2012 § § permalink
I’m heading out for milk
But instead find myself
Standing in this place where I
Look at you
All over you
Once, with wild hair
You carved our names into a school desk
Now you collect my secrets
Rumpled and unwound
There are at least 50 colors
In your eyes alone.
January 18th, 2012 § § permalink
When my workday has ended, and I have carefully put to bed my small spicy accomplices, I look forward to at least a light snack and a footrest in recognition of my achievement. It would be a shame if this did not happen. I am sorry to say, this is the case with many hardworking beings—nimble industrious laborers who endlessly whirl about finding food, making babies and cultivating crops only to return to, well, an empty snack bowl and an unfurnished apartment.
Small beings have the same basic needs as you and I—food, water, a place to live, and a healthy environment. Amphibians, birds, small mammals, and beneficial insects—many of these busy little creatures, neither destructive nor aggressive, are an important part of our ecosystem. However, due to fast-paced environmental change and habitat reduction, it has become increasingly more challenging for them.
It is easy to encourage these critters and to be good neighbors. Generally, larger areas with diverse vegetation have greater species diversity, but a well-laid-out modest backyard with a variety of food, cover and water can entice a wide assortment of wildlife. The relative location of food, water and cover is what creates usable wildlife habitat. Below are some simple steps to take.
- Do nothing. Allow half of your garden to remain unmanicured. Leave some wild, untamed areas in your backyard. Allow the weeds to grow up and the insects to move in.
- Go organic, or minimize pesticide use. Use compost, not chemicals.
- Reduce the size of your lawn. Instead, plant a wide variety of flowering native plants to attract beneficial insects such as ladybugs, ground beetles, rove beetles, lacewings and praying mantises. Choose long-blooming, nectar-rich flowers and plants that bloom at different times of the season.
- Feed them and they will come. Plant bushes and trees with edible fruit. Don’t snip dead flowers. The seeds within them provide essential food for many animals. Leave fallen trees or leaves in place whenever possible to allow birds to hunt for insects. Keep birdfeeders stocked with thistle, safflower and black oil sunflower seed. If you start feeding, don’t stop during the winter months.
- Landscape with features that appeal to you. A bed of vibrant flowers, a shady spot under a tree, a privacy hedge, colorful fall berries, and evergreen winter shrubs are pleasing to everybody, including backyard critters.
- Add a birdbath. Birds need a dependable supply of fresh, clean water for drinking and bathing. The best birdbath mimics nature—gently sloping, shallow, and shady at ground level. Change the water once a week.
- Provide nooks in the backyard with a variety of nesting material. Hang concentrated stashes in tree crevices, berry baskets, or mesh bags. Fallen leaves, unraked twigs, dry grass, straw, pet fur, sheep wool, feathers, bark strips, pine needles, small sticks and twigs, yarn, string, and thin strips of cloth all make excellent nest materials.
- If you have a birdhouse, add a roost box. Birds only nest during spring and summer. Overwintering birds such as chickadees, titmice, nuthatches and small woodpeckers require large nesting cavities during winter months.
Be patient. Depending on your property size, it may take several years to see all the desired results. Make a plan now, and, come spring, put out a vacancy sign. Give vegetation time to become established, and the tenants will move in.
Soon, you will receive tiny handwritten messages regarding extra storage space, laundry and parking facilities; high-pitched calls about hooking up teeny home theater components and keeping microscopic exotic pets; and little notes about room service and spa treatments.
December 23rd, 2011 § § permalink
I have known you for almost a year now, and, I have never asked anything of you, although I have hinted quite a bit about that timeshare of yours HERE.
Today is different.
Never have I invited anyone else to our awesome party—no flashy donation buttons, patterns for sale, product reviews, CPM or CPC networks, affiliate sponsor sales, Adsense, direct ad sales. I like it when it’s just us. Just you and me.
This little site is a small piece of me that I give to you. For free.
And, so today I am asking something from you. And it is free.
If you find Mossy valuable in any way, please consider voting for it as one of Babble’s Top Mom Craft Blogs. It is just a simple one-time click. To you this small click may seem slightly trivial, but to me it is tremendous. This could be your sweet, thoughtful holiday gift to me. And it just happens to be exactly what I’ve been dreaming about this year (besides THESE, maybe).
Support me HERE. It’s simple. Just click “I like this” next to Mossy.
Thank you in advance for thinking of me.
December 4th, 2011 § § permalink
It started a few Tuesdays ago, and I was totally unprepared. I was sneaking SweetTarts from the kitchen Halloween basket, vulnerable and enveloped by the threat of exposure, when an unforeseen soulful sound swept in from the next room. And….
WHAM! it hit me. Holiday music. It is time.
It’s time to give something. Something special. Of course, there is much temptation to acquire this year’s hottest trends—Snuggie, self-stirring cocoa mug, fiber optic holiday sweater, night vision goggles, nose flute, giant inflatable emperor penguin—but, I would like to suggest a few cheery alternatives, or additions.
I’ll be the first to admit that my ubercraftiness has disentangled me from many a gift-giving snarl—the cookie-recipe kit, the DIY family cookbook, handmade soap-on-a-rope, the gigantic satchel of homemade granola—but, like most, our holiday budget is currently stretched, and I cannot hide the unfortunate truth that sometimes these gifts are not really so cost-effective. As well, sadly these gifts are often not as treasured as store-bought astronaut ice cream might be. And sometimes they are just not enough.
Now, parents are certainly not perfect, and like watchmakers, disk jockeys, fortune cookie writers, professional whistlers, and (unfortunately) beekeepers, parents can sometimes make mistakes. So, in the spirit of the holiday season, I offer you this simple gift guide below as a resource. Something to keep up your sleeve and keep you on track.
It’s time to give something of yourself. To your kids. For free. A handwritten note, a compliment, an apology, a good bedtime story, a haircut, a juggling lesson, the best slice of pie, a visit with a small friend. It’s time to be a hero to them—to stand up for what is right, to speak up but carefully listen, to laugh at yourself, to quit biting your nails, to stop arguing, to know your faults and ask for forgiveness, to acknowledge your love, to live each day with gratitude, and to inspire your kids and get to know them and accept them for who they are.
Because this is what it’s all about.
November 20th, 2011 § § permalink
If you’d like to find me anytime soon—or anytime within the next year, really—you needn’t look too far. Kathreen Ricketson from Whipup has put together a 2012 calendar jam-packed full of beautiful creative goodness, and guess who is July? Yay! Kathreen always puts together a great collection of stuff, and I’m so honored that she included me this year. Joining me in contributing to the calendar is a selection of talented folks from all over the U.S. and elsewhere—Thailand, Spain, Italy, The U.K., The Netherlands—Teri from Giddy Giddy, Jodi from Daybook, Berber from Kiss Kus, Kate from Minieco, Francesca from Fuori Borgo—it is just beautiful.
Prepare for a brand new year. Print any or all of the three printable ebook formats or purchase the already beautifully printed hard copy HERE. On it, you will easily be able to circle dates when you will come visit me. Fun times ahead!
October 26th, 2011 § § permalink
As mentioned here and here, I don’t like to cook. Or even to bake, really. For me every meal is a trial.
There have been a few times when I actually have enjoyed my time in the kitchen. Almost all have involved a glass or two of wine.
And, so when my smallest person returned from school the other day determined to enter a homemade apple pie in the farmers market pie contest, I immediately broke out in a cold sweat.
I have never baked a pie.
My pie-o-phobia is mostly due to years of extensive advice provided by well-intentioned gastronomes—freeze the flour, mix with a light hand, roll from the center, pre-cook the apples, heap them up high, wet the top crust—to me, this is dizzying. But how do you dismiss a small pie-obsessed enterprising firebrand who makes a completely convincing case—Mom, we could do it together, she says.
In the end, I have learned that if you can make a purple Play-Doh pie (and my daughter is a self-proclaimed master), you can make an apple pie.
Oatmeal, hazelnuts, boiled cider, sour cream, ground cloves, lemon zest, pepper, melted apple jelly, vodka—all can do wonders for an apple pie, I’ve heard. We stuck with a few simple ingredients we had on hand—fresh fruit, flour, butter, eggs, sugar. Homemade pie can only be as yummy as the produce put into it. We put in a mixture of local Honeycrisps, Macouns, Jonathans and Crispins. Other late-fall blends could include Northern Spy, Pink Lady, Rome, Cortland, Braeburn, Rome, Idared, and Black Twig.
This recipe is perfect for making one double-crust apple pie.
Flaky Butter Crust:
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 cup butter, chilled and diced
- ½ cup ice water
In large, refrigerated bowl, combine flour and salt. Cut in butter only until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in water, a Tbs at a time, until mixture forms a ball. Don’t overwork the dough. Shape dough into two flat disks, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least an hour. Unwrap one dough disk and roll out on wax paper. Invert over 9-inch deep-dish pie plate. Ease dough into pan bottom and corners. Refrigerate.
- 6 cups apples, quartered, cored, peeled and sliced very thin
- 1 Tbs lemon
- ¾ cup white sugar
- ¼ cup flour
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp nutmeg
- Pinch of salt
- 1 eggwhite
- 1tbs milk
- 1 Tbs butter, frozen
Set pizza stone or cookie sheet on center rack of oven. Preheat oven to 475. Brush bottom piecrust lightly with egg white. Bake for 5 minutes. In large bowl, mix apples with lemon. In separate bowl, combine sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add apples and mix. Add salt and mix. Arrange apples in layers on dough-lined pie plate. Heap them up high, since they will cook down a bit. Cover filling with diced butter.
Roll out second dough disk. For a lattice-top crust, cut ¾ inch strips and carefully weave onto filling. For a solid crust, center dough onto filling and cut steam vents near crust edge with paring knife. Trim and tuck edges. Place pie in freezer for 10 minutes. Brush top with a light layer of milk and sugar. Reduce oven temperature to 400. Bake on preheated pizza stone until top crust is golden brown, about 20 minutes. Fasten foil rim around crust edge. Continue baking until juices bubble thickly at pan edges and big slow bubbles rise up through the vents, about 35 more minutes.
Transfer pie to wire rack and (the ultimate challenge) commit to an hour-long mouthwatering wait. At least.
The Story’s End
At this point, you are most likely at the edge of your seat wondering about our pie contest outcome. To our complete surprise, the pie was a prize-winning one. Yay! And so, later that week at a friend’s house, composed and confident, in an attempt to replicate success, I made the same exact world-class pie and popped it into the oven. And broiled it. A total flop. I will spare you the gory details. And yet, I remain fully committed to trying this recipe out with fresh local Anjou pears next week, er tomorrow.
Now, go forth and bake ye some pie! And at Thanksgiving dinner (It’s coming, you know!) when folks ask your kids, What have you been up to lately? He or she may reply, Oh, nothing much. Just hanging out.
And making the best pie ever.
October 11th, 2011 § § permalink
A small box in our attic keeps a venerable collection of handwritten letters—creased college ruled, plain white, plicated, ripped and rumpled, with simple sidebar sketches and thoughtfully-replaced strikethroughs—addressed to faraway places I used to live.
Someday my girls will read them.
Let us gather our senses and make an attempt to preserve the endangered handwritten letter—the numbat of the communication species. Though archaic, its value is of utter importance, since it is clear to me that no love e-mail or text message will ever be folded and carefully bundled in a small attic box and kept for years to come.
This week, join me and my family. Write and send one handwritten personal note, card, letter or postcard each week for one full year. Begin right HERE.
October 3rd, 2011 § § permalink
The air has a sudden new crispness here in New York, and if you’ve lately found yourself reflecting on carefree warm summer days, instinctively planting iris and crocus bulbs, and spontaneously considering dramatic Halloween costume options, you know it’s that time of year. Fall. That tiny respite between hot-tempered seasons. A fresh start, an ending, a new beginning. An energizing breath of fresh air.
If there is anything as magnificent as fall in New York, well, I don’t believe you—fiery foliage, Cornflower blue sky, cool and crisp nights. And suddenly, the minute that earthy, smoky autumn scent fills your lungs, you know it’s time. Harvest time. Time to make serious apple-picking plans.
If your family is at all like ours, you each have our own personal harvesting goal in mind with a specific plan to meet this goal. Be it a handful of ready-to-eat Macouns, an armful of Jonathans and Pippins for a homemade apple pie, or a bushel of Cortlands and Winesaps for applesauce canning, you need not travel far to meet your needs. As well, to solidify your apple-picking enthusiasm, many orchards feature added incentives—horse-drawn wagon ride, corn maze, farm stand, live afternoon music, farm animals, or freshly pressed cider. My personal favorite: warm cider donuts—faintly spiced, lightly apple-scented, and perfectly crisped at the edges. Mmmm.
There are several orchards within a few miles of us, though our family’s favorite crowd-free destinations are about an hour away in Orange County’s Warwick. No matter where the apple excursion takes you, be sure to call each orchard for specifics, as ripening dates vary depending on the weather.
Alternatively, lease your own apple tree for the entire season. Little Dog Orchard in Ulster County offers the opportunity to lease an Empire or Red Delicious tree for $65 and take home the bounty of an entire apple tree during peak season—100 to 200 pounds of naturally grown apples!
Or, better yet, plant an heirloom apple tree in your community garden or at your school. The Newtown Pippin, originally discovered in Queens, NY, is the most famous colonial American apple—legendary, tasty, and overdue for a comeback. Currently, there is an official campaign to revive the Pippin—for this cultivar to become New York City’s official apple.
U-Pick Orchards Just a Few Minutes Away:
• Dr. Davies, Congers
• Orchards of Concklin, Pomona
• Wilkens Fruit and Fir Farm, Yorktown Heights
• Stuart’s Fruit Farm, Granite Springs
• Harvest Moon Farm (formerly Outhouse Orchards), North Salem
Slightly Farther Away, But Worth the Trip:
• Maskers Orchards, Warwick
• Applewood Orchards and Winery, Warwick
• Apple Ridge Orchards, Warwick
• Warwick Valley Winery and Distillery, Warwick
• Ochs Orchard, Warwick
• Pennings Farm Market, Warwick
• Overlook Farm, Newburgh
• Lawrence Farms Orchards, Newburgh
• Slate Hill Orchard, Slate Hill
• Sleepy Hills Orchard, Johnson
• Soons Orchards, New Hampton
Even Farther Away, But Fantastic:
• Fishkill Farms, Hopewell Junction
• Cedar Heights Orchard, Rhinebeck
• Fraleigh’s Rose Hill Farm, Red Hook
• Greig Farm, Red Hook
• Barton Orchards, Poughquag
• Mead Orchards, Tivoli
• Meadowbrook Farm Market, Wappingers Falls
• Terhune Orchards, Salt Point
• Mr. Apples Low Spray Orchard, High Falls
• Jenkins Lueken Orchards, New Paltz
• Weed Orchards, Marlboro
• Hurd’s Family Farm, Modena
September 27th, 2011 § § permalink
It’s important for every family to spend quality time together in the woods. Admittedly, planning for a weekend camping trip (or sometimes even a short hike) can be overwhelming. As mentioned before, the key to camping success is to 1) talk it up with the family beforehand (Hey! Maybe we’ll see a yellow-bellied sapsucker!), 2) share the pure camping joy with another valiant venturesome family or two, and 3) bring good bug stuff.
For those of you living in or visiting New York’s Hudson Valley, I’ve put together a small list of spots that should be checked out. Although my family and I typically spend sleepless nights camping in the Catskills and Adirondacks, there are several areas within minutes of us that are perfect for day hiking and overnights.
Recommended Local Day Hikes
- Peter Oley Trailways, Irvington (hundreds of acres, on reservoir)
- Lenoir Preserve, Yonkers (40 acres, next to Croton Aqueduct)
- Rockefeller State Park, Sleepy Hollow (1,233 acres, on Swan Lake)
- Rockwood Hall, Sleepy Hollow (88 acres, on Hudson River)
- Cranberry Lake Preserve, White Plains (165 acres on Cranberry Lake)
- Croton Point Park, Croton (500 acres on Hudson River)
- Teatown Lake Reservation, Yorktown (875 acres, with nature center)
- Merestead, Mount Kisco (130 acres with Copland House)
- Sylvan Glen Preserve, Yorktown (180 acres with granite quarry)
- George’s Island Park, Monroe (208 waterfront acres, great birding)
- Marshlands Conservancy, Rye (173 acres with salt marsh, great birding)
- Butler Memorial, Mount Kisco (363 acres, watch fall hawk migration)
- Hunter Brook, Yorktown (45 acres along stream)
- Mianus River Gorge Preserve, Bedford (750 acres, old-growth forest)
- Hudson Highlands State Park, Cortlandt (7,400 acres, Hudson views)
Local Camp Sites:
- Harriman State Park, Rockland/Orange counties—25 miles away
46,000 acres with 32 lakes and ponds and 200 miles of trails, borders Bear Mountain, Sterling Forest and Storm King, fantastic fall foliage, highly recommended
- Ward Pound Ridge, Pound Ridge/Lewisboro, 30 miles away
4,315 acres, 35 miles of trails, Westchester’s largest park, open meadows, streams, woodlands, fishing, wildflower garden, nature museum, stone lean-to sites, open tent sites
- Fahnstock State Park, Putnam/Dutchess counties, 30 miles away
14,000 acres, 80 campsites, hiking, boating, swimming, birding and fishing, education center, weekend group hikes and craft activities
- Mountain Lakes Park, North Salem, 30 miles awa
1000 acres at highest point in Westchester, 5 lakes, fishing, breathtaking hiking, yurt camping, lean-to sites, open tent sites
- And a backyard—perhaps just footsteps away—makes a fantastic camping spot.
September 22nd, 2011 § § permalink
Yesterday we sold our wares at the local farmers market.
We were joined by local artist friends Lea, Jamie and Jennifer, a bundle of smaller people, a collection of larger people, and lots of crispy apples. Fun for all!