Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Rings and Things

Hugh wanted me to add the above picture to show his perfect poise. 

I've been teaching a little history class to my kids and a few friends. Their mum, in return, has been teaching science. It's been totally fabulous to outsource some learning, and I love the weekly discipline of presenting a class. I miss teaching. 

Here's one of the little history projects they did for our Ancient Mesopotamia study:
Built the Code of Hammurabi out of cardboard and black paint and, when they ran out of black paint, charcoal. It was a beautiful cooperative effort.

They carefully copied the image from the top of the famous stele. Hammurabi is receiving his right to rule from the god Shamash. Then they copied it by eye with white oil pastel.

 Each child came up with ten rules for the house which must be written on the stele and obeyed. The Code commands that if we spill the compost, we must pick it up with our teeth, if we do not eat our vegetables, we must eat more dessert...

Below, Hugh and Kai demonstrate how the Code came to be: Hammurabi spake, and it was written.

I read aloud the fabulous, juicily poetic children's version of the Epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh the Hero by Geraldine McCaughrean. I highly recommend it! It was the basis for the most entertaining and philosophical conversations we've ever had about life, death, immortality, love, friendship, grief, courage. And it really is an exciting story.

The author muffs up the character of Siduri, the wine seller at the edge of the world. Siduri, in my opinion, holds the key to Gilgamesh's quest. In McCaughrean's version Siduri is a fat, tipsy buffoon who doesn't care about lofty quests for immortality. I went to the original epic to find the real Siduri, whose wisdom unlocks the problem of Gilgamesh's obsession with immortality.

               When the gods created man
               they alloted to him death,
               but life they retained in their own keeping.
               As for you, Gilgamesh,
               fill your belly with good things;
               day and night, night and day, dance and be merry,
               feast and rejoice.
               Let your clothes be fresh,
               bathe yourself in water,
               cherish the little child that holds your hand,
               and make your wife happy in your embrace;
               for this too is the lot of man.

Immortality might be outside of our grasp in this life, but the present moment can be luminous—this too is the lot of man!

Saturday, January 23, 2016


wintergreen collected by Hugh and Will for winter tea
solution to the problem of rendering goat fat

Once again, soap! This is going to be a yearly tradition (along with eggnog, yes) because I can't get enough of this beautiful substance.

I just made one batch this year. The big excitement was using tallow from our own goats. Goat tallow is every bit as disgusting as it sounds. Hugh's solution was quite sensible while it was rendering in a crock pot. After straining it and storing it, however, it was virtually odourless.  It stored well, too—almost three months at room temperature without any sign of rancidity. I melted it down and mixed it with olive oil and coconut oil and the soap turned out perfect, just the right texture and very nourishing for the skin.

I scented the soap with essential oils that a friend gave me for laundry soap...ravensara (which smells a bit like eucalyptus), mint, and orange essential oils. The little brown bits are balsam fir needles which I pulsed in the coffee grinder. I was hoping they would add scent to the soap, but alas. For exfoliation purposes only.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Twas the Season

I really wished the Christmas season would never end. It only just started to be cozy after Christmas when the snow finally fell. Will and I are in a season of total exhaustion, so reading by the light of the Christmas tree was good soul medicine.

I didn't make any handmade Christmas presents this year, as I decided that simplicity and sanity was more valuable than my ideals of handmade. I barely did any decorating or baking. We ordered everyone's presents from Amazon in November and consequently had a peaceful Christmas.

We won't always have a nursing, sleep-defying baby. Next year I will glam it up. But I was kind of edified that, for us, Christmas magic lies in the traditions we love best: sleeping under the Christmas tree (the kids), putting baby Jesus in the manger, chai tea, singing carols in candle light.

Also, I discovered rum and eggnog.

We make our own with maple syrup and farm eggs and milk. I'm already looking forward to next Christmas.

 1 litre milk
 1 whole egg
 2-3 egg yolks
 1/2 cup maple syrup
 blend well until thin liquid

 separately, pour 1/4 cup boiling over:
 1 tsp nutmeg
 1/2 tsp cloves
 let steep five minutes

  Combine all ingredients. Chill if desired. Add shot of rum.

"Thy nativity, O Christ our God, 
has shown to the world the light of wisdom;
for by it, those who worshipped the stars
were taught by a star to adore Thee
the Sun of Righteousness,
and to know Thee, the Orient from on high. O Lord, glory to Thee."

I finally got around to making a nature table for the children. I've been admiring beautiful Waldorf seasonal tables like these and for years. Our children bring a steady stream of natural treasures into the house: cool rocks, birds' nests, skulls. Actually its more of a bone collection than a Waldorf display, but thats OK, we need a few memento mori around. So now we have a place to put our skulls and branches, as well as our field guides and seasonal books.


Hugh is really into. He's taken up needle-felting and is a big fan of gnomes and woodland animals. He scans his big photographic National Geographic animal books for fresh ideas. Above, bald eagle.

I change the nature table at night while the children sleep, to preserve the mystery. Also, I can quietly throw out the bottle caps and unidentified flotsam that the boys deposit everywhere.  

And finally: TIS THE SEASON! After a record green December, January snow! Hurray for cross-country skiing! 

And so a new year begins.

The boys are gearing up for a production of Macbeth! We have friends who are real home schoolers—they found a script for Macbeth that is modified for children with a few extra parts (the Scottish play is a bit short on female roles) but uses Shakespearean lines for the most part. We are so excited! it embraces the Pemberton boys' greatest loves: friends, sword-fighting, fighting, costumery, speaking in a bad Scottish accent, and, so I am informed, playing the jaw harp The boys have been pouring over the lines and of course we do not mention the Scottish play by name. We care about our safety. 

Here's to a new semester of life, love, and learning!