Thursday, March 22, 2007

Welcome Spring!!

On Tuesday evening, at about 7:00 we ushered in Spring here in the midwest. Our preparations for the Ostara (Spring Equinox) celebration began on Saturday with coloring eggs. Look at those gorgeous dyes - no pre-packaged pellets - just food dye, vinegar and boiling water. The colors were just great on the eggs - soft and new looking - like a water color painting.

Egg dying and decorating is deep-rooted in European pre-Christian cultures as the egg sympbolizes fertility and new life. Women who wanted to become pregnant would often wear a finely decorated egg to help bring about the hope of a new little life. Today, they symbolize the beauty of the season for us and bringing ferility of new ideas, new ventures, new beginnings into our lives at spring time.

And, of course, hunting the eggs is always great fun. Our egg hunt was last night - on our first full day of spring - in Bev and Karen's yard. Their yard and the weather were perfect examples of spring. There were left-over snow piles, all crusty with the melting and refreezing that happens when the days warm, but the nights are still cold. There were mud holes deep enough to swallow a small child from those places where the snow had completely melted and there were barren branches in the trees and bushes, waiting for the new buds. The weather provided lots of spring-time drama with temps in the lower 50's, fog, rain and then a series of good old thunderstorms. We got in the egg hunt between one down-pour and the next thunderstorm.

Of course these eggs were hidden by the infamous Bunny - again this furry magical creature has its roots in pre-Christian and Pagan traditions. The rabbit is understood to be a goddess who has taken on an animal form to bring newness and fertility (think about all of those babies rabbits have!) to the world in the early spring.

Friday, March 16, 2007


The U.S. war in Iraq is one of those things that often takes up space in my mind - it is there on a sub-conscious level and on a conscious one - my saddness and anger are quick to rise about it. However, I got an additional perspective on it the other day which blows me away - and saddens me ever further.

One morning this week we walked out of our house to get the girls to school to find a flyer from the Madison Area Peace Coalition posted on the telephone pole at the end of our driveway, declaring that there is to be a rally tomorrow (Saturday) to mark the 4th year of the war in Iraq and calling once again for an end to that war.

Fourth year and moving into our fifth!! This war started in March 2003. Gemma was 1.5 years old - she's now 5.5 years old. The magnitude of this has been sitting with me all week. We've been at war with Iraq nearly this child's entire life - and certainly as long as she can remember. This just saddens me to the bone and frustrates me to the quick!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

You Are Kermit

You Are Kermit

Hi, ho! Lovable and friendly, you get along well with everyone you know.
You're a big thinker, and sometimes you over think life's problems.
Don't worry - everyone know's it's not easy being green.
Just remember, time's fun when you're having flies!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


Peanut - a male dwarf hamster
Adoption Day - Saturday, March 3, 2007

He's not a dog (sniff-sniff from my point of view) though he's darn cute!!!

Rowan has been asking for a dwarf hamster for quite a while. We went to a pet shop we trust - no mill pets there, all hand-raised by the staff. This little guy has the sweetest disposition - very gentle, very friendly.

Look in the foreground - recoginize what those are? Yep, Luna's ears! She's very curious, more so than any of the other cats. After having to survive on small creatures like this as a young cat, I'm sure its very confusing about why we have a rodent in the house that she's not allowed to eat. She leaves Peanut be when he's in his house though - especially given that he's on bookshelf not large enough for her to stand.

The girls pooled their own money to get him and all of his accessories - a very smart investment on their part. He is well-loved.

Welcome Peanut!

Faery Family

Whose who?

March Maddness - Koester-Jess Style

It's true
*Madison just hosted state girls high school basketball tournaments last weekend.
*Madison will host the high school boys this weekend.
*Our University of Wisconsin Badgers men's basketball team is ranked very high and are headed into NCAA play-offs.

HOWEVER, this si not the March Madness of which I speak. We had our own family version this past week.

First up is Rowan. She joined an afterschool league run by Madison School and Community Recreation. Initally she was hesitant to join the league since its a 3rd through 5th grade league and she hadn't played before, she wondered if she'd feel comfortable playiing with kids with more experience. After reminding her that there would be other inexperienced kids there, she agreed to give it a go, though she wasn't thrilled about the games. day came on Tuesday, she started the experience in tears, having forgotten her tennis shoes for warm-up and the coaches not being able to find her team shirt. Her classroom teacher, who is absolutely wonderful, stepped in to help and I had a moment between meetngs, so I ran to the school with her shoes so she could warm up. By the time we arrived near the start of game time, her attitude had done a 180, she was pumped and ready to play. Her biggest complaint about the expeirence was that she didn't get to play enough! Yes, she loved it!!

She's a great runner and keeps up with the ball well, knows when to hang back for defense and when to move in for offense - all skills she's acquired through her years of playing soccer. As you can see from the picture though, her next level of skill development is getting those hands ready to receive a pass or go in to steal the ball. All that soccer training has taught her to keep hands tight to her sides to avoid a handball, rather than to have them up and ready for a basketball.

Not to be outdone by her oldest daughter, Jani played basketball on both Thursday and Friday afternoons. Every year Evans Scholars ( does a weekend basketball-a-thon to help raise funds for four local organizations, Jani's program, working with homeless kids in the schools has been a recipient for many years. The agreement is that her school host a few teams to play the Scholars -
*one team of fourth and fifth grade aged kids.
*one team of school staff members.
*one team of afterschool program staff members.

The kids typically play the school staff the day before the basketball-a-thon to get in practice. Jani played that game.

She was happy to only have to play for a little while on Friday afternoon against the college folks. Don't you love her basketball playing outfit - as you can see she was thinking she might not have to play at all, decked out instead of a t-shirt in her UW Badgers shirt, jeans and tennies. She kept stats and is show here sharing those with the school's prinicipal who also played.

Now as if that wasn't enough, the girls participated in a gymnastics exhibition on Saturday morning. It was a non-competitive meet where they each got to show off their skills. Gemma's favorite activities are on the bars - the little girl has incredible upper body strength. She's also great at tumbling. Rowan loves and is really good at the trampuline and beam. Here they are getting their trophies at the end of the exhibition. Gemma is so proud of hers. Thanks to cousin Carrie and Marsha for coming to watch this event and have lunch with us to celebrate afterward.

Gosh, it appears I was the only one not doing some sort of sport this weekend. Oh well, now that the weather is shifting into spring I can get back to walking, running and biking. Rowan and I are planning to train for a spring run - probably Race for the Cure, a fall run - most likely the Canterbury Run for LIteracy and an early winter run - the JingleBell Run for the Arthitis Foundation in December.

Tampontification - Donating is Just a Click Away

Seventh Generation, a company that makes chemically safe cleaning products and dye-free, chemical-free hygiene supplies has a donation link on their website at where we each can help donate tampons and pads to women's shelters around the country. Often women's shelters can provide basic hygiene items, but are often in need of feminine hygiene things. I know when Jani collects donations for her families, rarely have I seen these things come in for the moms and older girls. And, these things are expensive and often are not covered by programs like food stamps or WIC. It's a simple way to make a donation and appears to be legit.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Adventures in Felting

Remember washing a favorite wool sweater in water that was too warm and having it shrink to the size of something a doll could wear and just being bummed to no end? Well, now shrinking wool items is an intentional art form with gobs and gobs of patterns available on "felted" items. Who knew that someone would figure out how to take a disasterous moment and making it into art!

I decided I wanted to try my hand at this - it not only produces cool results, its a great little science project and guestimation process of how big (small) will this thing turn out. I wanted to make felted cloggs (house slippers like the pricey ones you can get at REI), but thought it best to start with a less labor intensive felting project first to get the hang of it.

While surfing the website one day, I cam across a pattern developed by a high schooler for a felted lunch bag. Here's the link The idea of a woool felted lunch bag struck me as both unusual and interesting. The felt would serve as a great natural insulator and it sure could be pretty neat to look at.

So off I went to Lakeside Fibers to get some felting yarn. I settled on Cascade 220. After starting to knitt he base, I could see that the original pattern was just going to be too small to hold a kid's lunch - a high schooler's yes, a kid's lunch complete with soy milk carton and a thermos of soup, no way. So I ripped out, increased the number of stitches cast on and the number of rows. As the bag neared completion of the knitting, it was HUGE - like the size of one of those messh eco-shopping bags and I wondered if I'd made a critical error in judgement by increasing the pattern. Here's the bag before felting.
Here's the bag after felting - about 3 sizes smaller than the original knitted size - lovely, soft and thick - a nice thing to hold one's lunch, good and thermal.

It needs a button clusure yet and then it will be ready to hold Rowan's lunch - yes, she's laid dibs on it which is great because her lunch bag needs to desperately e retired!! She's going to use it for a bit and then we'll evaluate whether it needs a handle. I can easily add one if needed.

I've got yarn chosen to make another of these to donate to the Lapham/Marquette Schools silent auction coming up at the end of April. First though I am making a felted eye glass case for Jani's sunglasses.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

International Women's Day - March 8

Today is International Women's Day. Read more about the day and its history at The above image is from their site.

The theme for this year's IWD is ending violence against woman - wow, I would love to see that happen in my life time.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Irish Hiking Scarf Completed

On Friday evening I completed my first cable knit project - an Irish Hiking Scarf which is about 55 inches long. I knitted the scarf with wool ease and used a soy/wool blend for the fringe. Thanks to Jani for helping me put on the fringe. The scarf is a gift for our friend, Marsha. Here's a picture of the cables up close. I decided to teach myself how to cable because -
a) I didn't know how, so it was something new to learn.
b) I love how they look and wanted to be able to create something lovely
c) cabling has its roots in Celtic culture, so I liked learning something that is an old world art.

An on-line friend found the pattern at Hello Yarn - web address is

Now I'm on to making a felted lunch sack for Rowan. She is in dire need of a new lunch box - hers has served the family well - having been one Jani used well before Rowan's time. I've not felted before, so decided this was a good project for learning to felt, since the box needs to fit food - but not feet (felted cloggs are also on my list of projects to do.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Club Penguin we go...Rowan is entering into the world of on-line computer games.

Jani just got a call from Rowan, who is at her afterschool program, asking what time we plan to pick her up today. She and her friend want to get to each of their respective houses at about the same time so each can log onto Club Penguin at and their virtual penguins can hang out together.

We're fine with Club Penguin (and Webkins for that matter too) in moderation. It just makes me realize though that our little girl isn't so little anymore - she's getting more savvy about the opportunities in the bigger world.

Well, at least she hasn't asked for her own cell phone or iPod yet.

Thursday, March 01, 2007


March begins the second month of Imbolic - just three more weeks until the solar year shifts us into Spring Time. Hm, I wonder what spring will bring?

Today began much like a lion - we are right at the freezing line in a big late winter storm - lots of snow to our north and west - lots of rain to our south, along with thunderstorms. We had freezing rain, sleet and snow falling from our skies last night and this morning.

Ever wonder where the old folk saying about the lion and lamb came from?

Some astronomers believe that the answer might come from the stars - coupling the understanding of star movement with weather patterns. Tonight, if it were clear here, we could look to the northern horizon. We would see both Leo, the Lion (in the northeast) and Aries, the Ram (lamb) in the northwest at about the same height, however Leo is rising - and often early March climate in our area comes in rocky - thus March coming in like a lion. And, on March 31st, the night sky isn't the same - the stars have found new positions in the sky - with Leo overhead and Aries sinking into the west - thus going down/out like a lamb.

Well, this year, thus far, the constellation patterns and weather patterns match up, as the rising Aries in the night sky and the Lion of the weather are in cync.