Saturday, December 20, 2008

Blizzard of 'O8

David and I always look forward to the first big snow fall and we have been blessed with a big one right before Christmas this year. It has been so much fun, getting snowed in, drinking hot chocolate, playing games with friends and having sing-a-longs with Jeff & "Nate" playing music. We ended up going over to the Bucholtz house last night and sledding on the reservoir and then back to their place for dinner and fun. It was the best set up for a blizzard. And then today we got to go sledding again. We have an awesome huge tube that two adults can easily sled on together, and we got some pretty sweet air off of the lip that is half way down the hill.

We are really enjoying ourselves and hope that you are taking advantage of this weather to get outside and enjoy this snow. Also for all those that are traveling we hope you all get to your destinations safe and sound.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Arts & Crafts!!

I have never considered myself very creative however I find that I've surround myself with people who are and lately they are really starting to rub off on me and I have made sure to take advantage of this creative energy and put it to good use. I'm unable to post pictures of everything I am doing during this well deserved time off because they are wrapped under the Christmas tree, but there are a few things, actually books to be specific that I can share. While I was in England my friend Mary taught me how to book bind (see above and below), which was so amazing. And now I'm on my own working on one with a friend here in the U.S.
I decided as soon as I got back that I should made a second book so that I didn't forget how to do it. Luckily at my house a good friend of my Margaret wanted to learn which was perfect because it's proven you learn the best when you need to explain the task to someone else and it ended up being so much fun. I decided to work on a larger album, 12x12 and Margaret has made a book to fill with fun stories of her son Kasaan. Below is a picture of Margaret's cover after drying. It's so awesome, covered in a gold book binding paper and then topped with a great paper that has different types of dinosaurs on it with their names. It has come out really great, the picture isn't the best. She also made one out of an old Starbucks bag which is really beautiful however I don't have a picture of it. I also have been sewing and scrapbooking but will share those after the holidays ;-) This holiday season has been so much fun for me and I am excited that I have learned so much from my friends and family who have inspired me.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Big Kids Now!!!!

Emma and Kasaan have now both celebrated their first birthdays, Emma this past Sunday at Rainforest Cafe and Kasaan last month with a celebration at the house. I thought I would share some fun photos from Sunday at Rainforest Cafe of the two big kids.

Kasaan enjoying his chicken finger and Emma being a ham for the camera
The two of them enjoying Emma's monstrous volcanic cake
Emma enjoyed chewing on her wrapping paper, maybe next year she'll understand that you don't eat it but rather open it to see the present inside.David and I both really enjoy living with these two kids and Emma's brother, Theo. It has been a wonderful experience and they are all so precious.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Meet the Garden St House Family

David and I have been wanting to introduce our family here at Garden St House for a while but have needed to collect pictures prior to writing so that you can meet everyone almost face to face. So as of right now there are 4 couples living in the house, Danielle and Nigel just moved out with their son Caleb who is now 1mo old. The other family members include Austin and Missy, Margaret, Gregg and Kasaan, and Natalie, Mr. L, Theo and Emma.

Missy and Austin are the ones who started this community home we live in. About 4 years ago they decided that they wanted to start a community house in Lawrence, to have community in their own home and get involved in the growing community of Lawrence. They are continually taking time out of their own schedule to help those around them and to support their neighborhood and larger Lawrence community by taking part in Lawrence Community Works and different groups in the area. Missy is also a physical therapist in the area and learning spanish to better treat her patients and Austin works for LCW. David and I have know Austin since middle school and really admire what they are doing in this area.

Gregg and Margaret "Bird" as her family and friends call her, just moved in this past summer and we are all so thankful to have the opportunity to get to know them and their son over the past couple of months. Bird is an ER nurse, which I think is so cool and Gregg is a minister, which is also cool of course ;-) . Their son Kasaan has fit right in with the other kids in the house with his giggles and love for. All three of them have been a blessing to David and I and we are so thankful we can call them our friends.

This beautiful family is Mr. L, Natalie, Theo and Emma. They are part of the original crew that moved in when Austin and Missy bought the house and the Garden St House would not be the same without them. They are a real joy to get to know better and spend time with. Natalie, originally from France, is teaching her kids French as they grow up which is so fun to hear in the house. Theo, who loves to play with David, asks him all the time to help him make a track with his train set and play with him, which he often does and is always entertaining to watch. And Emma, the little princess, of the house is learning to walk and become more independent with Kasaan which is so fun to watch even when you aren't their parents.

David and I are really blessed to be living here. We are learning so much from everyone and it has been a really wonderful support system. We hope you all can come visit and meet these wonderful people for yourselves by taking part in the activities the house hosts or ones in our neighborhood...parties, documentary night or just come over for dinner.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Recipes for the Things We Make

When we posted about roasting our own coffee, we mentioned that we made some other things from scratch as well...granola, bread, yogurt, laundry & dish detergent. From the comments we learned friends and family would like to learn how to make these things as well. Most are very easy and can save money over time along with giving you the opportunity to say you made it yourself.

Dry Dish Detergent
Equal parts of washing soda, borax and regular dry dish detergent (helps with the rinse cycle). We usually do 1.5 cups of each and it lasts about one month because you only need 1-2tsp/load with a regular sized dish washer.

Laundry Detergent
1/3 bar of fels naptha or ivory soap
1/2 cup washing soda
1/2 cup borax powder
6 cup water
4 cups HOT water
1 gallon plus 6 cups water (each water is added at different times)
Containers to hold detergent in will need to equal 2 gallons

Grate the soap and put it in a sauce pan. Add 6 cups water and heat it until the soap melts. Add the washing soda and the borax and stir until it is dissolved. Remove from heat. Pour 4 cups hot water into the bucket. Now add your soap mixture and stir. Now add 1 gallon plus 6 cups of water and stir. Let the soap sit for about 24 hours and it will gel. You use ½ cup per load.

Things you need: crockpot, milk, starter yogurt
Process takes 24hrs with little hands on time

1. Plug crock pot in, place temp on low, add 8cups milk; the lower the fat content of the milk the thinner your yogurt will be. We usually use 2% and it still is very thin unless you decide to strain it.
2. Leave the crock pot on low for 2.5 hours.
3. After 2.5 hours, unplug crock pot, keep lid on and leave for 3 hours.
4. After 3 hours, take about 1cup of milk out of crockpot and add 1/2 cup of yogurt to be the starter, wisk together and then pour into crockpot.
5. With crockpot still unplug, wrap in big towel to insulate and leave over night.
6. Next morning you can eat it. If you would prefer it was a thicker texture you can place a big coffee filter in a colinder and place the yogurt in the coffee filter. It will filter the liquid out and become thicker.

We love to add things to our yogurt - granola, sugar free fruit preserves, frozen chocolate chips or some honey are all our favorites.

Granola (this is my mom's recipe)
Process takes about 15hrs with 45min hands on time

Large container of old fashion oats
1/2jar sunflower seeds, unsalted
1cup coconut
1cup slivered almonds
1/2cup sesame seeds
mix in 20oz cup - 1/2 full of HOT water, 1/3 more honey, 1/8 of oil

1. mix all well in later mixing bowl
2. pour into 3 9x13 pans
3. Roast in 200 degree oven stirring occasionally for 2hrs
4. lower temp to 170 degrees and leave over night.

Now we are working on making our own cheese. I'm sure you'll hear about it soon...ricotta, goat, mozarella, it's going to be wonderful.

Andover High School 5yr Reunion

This past weekend David and I had so many things to celebrate and take part in. One of them being our five year high school reunion which took place at the Brewery Exchange in Lowell. I was so nervous heading over there, nervous people wouldn't remember me, nervous I wouldn't remember people's names, nervous it would be a night filled with awkward memories. And to top off the nervousness, David and I got lost driving over there which is always frustrating.

It ended up being a lot of fun. It was so great to catch up with old friends that we hadn't seen since high school. And of course there was always the funny stories of the night, Eddie knocked over one of the DJ's speakers which caused a big hub bub, Dan M. (a good friend of ours who wasn't able to come) had his quote from the time capsule read "Your brain stays alive for 8min after you die" and there was crazy dancing that looked like we were back in high school. Overall it was a great night, reconnected with some people, enjoyed ourselves and feel really proud of where our lives are 5yrs out of high school.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Coffee Roasting

Today the Garden St House got a very special delivery... a coffee roaster! We are always trying to find ways to save money and do things for ourselves. The coffee roaster fulfills both of those. We make other things as a house: bread, yogurt, granola, laundry and dishwasher detergent, but this is the first time it has warranted a blog.

First, let me tell you about the price difference. We were ordering fair trade, organic coffee from a local roaster at about $9/lb we now order green beans from the same company for $4/lb. The coffee roaster, which cost us about $100 will pay for itself very quickly, especially in a house the size of ours (10 adults). Then there is the quality. Perhaps even you coffee drinkers out there don't realize that coffee is not actually supposed to taste bitter. Green coffee is fine to sit on the shelf for months, but once it is roasted time only makes coffee taste worse. Think of the difference between Maxwell House (roasted goodness knows how many months ago), and Your local, high quality coffee shop (roasted maybe a couple of weeks ago) and you start to get the idea. Now consider that coffee is at it's peak flavor 12 hours after it's roasted. Then think of having a cup of that greet you every morning for $4/lb! And, its great fun too. The beans start out small, green and very dense (I tried to bite one and hurt my teeth). They don't smell like coffee either; more like an earthy vegetable. In our roaster it takes about 8 minutes to go from green to espresso roast, in which time a lovely smell and sound of crackling emerges as the beans slowly darken.

You all will have to come over some time for a fresh cup of coffee.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Some Work From Lawrence

David here. I have been able to spend some time here in Lawrence photographing and printing. I have been drawn to the mill district. The history and character is so rich. Per request of my good friend Mary, here is some of what I have so far. You can see some of her wonderful illustrations via a link on the right. Sorry about the quality (no scanner) but you get the idea.

Remember, Remember the 5th of November!!!

Liverpool Historic district across the river with the longest running ferry system in the world making it's way across the river.
On my way to find the Historic Warship Museum, that doesn't exist, I walked by this amazing old building that looks like an old lookout tower on the water
Wirral Museum in downtown Birkenhead
Jesse and I at the firworks display
Mary and I at the fireworks display
Today I travelled across the river with Mary to Birkenhead, she was interviewing for a position at an all girls private school in the art department while I explored on my own. I walked along the boardwalk and looked at Liverpool across the way, spent an hour trying to find a warship museum which I never found, and meandered through the downtown streets of the very pretty town of Birkenhead. Then after returning to Mary and Jesse's flat we enjoyed dinner and went to watch a wonderous display of fireworks and later mulled cider and treats, to celebrate the day Guy Fawlks was unsuccessful at bombing the parliament building. It was really fun to be able to celebrate a English holiday while I was hear. You can read more about it at

Thursday, November 6, 2008

On My Own

 I ended my day at Union Coffee, Mary's favorite cafe with an Americano, cappucino muffin and my book. Below are select pictures of the days events while Mary was working. Blogger has been unruly here in England so the pictures are actually all backwards so it starts with pictures from the end of the day and ends with my first adventure to Victoria Museum, however you get the idea.

St Luke's - was bombed during WWII and the shell of the building is still in good condition. Artists and musicians use it as a stage for their shows. Above is a show called Liverpool Ladders

Below is the inside of the Anglican Cathedral in Liverpool, it took almost a whole century to build and is absolutely magnificent.

Anglican Cathedral from St James' Garden

Below - St James' Garden, is both a garden and cemetary with gravestones dating back to 1700's

Below - Victoria Museum on University of Liverpool Campus - it has a great photography exhibit of ...

photos of Liverpool from late 1800's, early 1900's

Catholic Cathedral - Entering Liverpool you can see both the Anglican and Catholic Cathedrals and Jesse likes to say they look like the two towers looming over Liverpool city center.

Remember, remember the fifth of November...yesterday I spent the day in Birkenhead across the river from Liverpool and we celebrated the 5th of Nov with a huge fireworks display in Sefton Park, soon to come.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A New Day

This is David reporting from Massachusetts. Last night was one of the most memorable of my life, to be sure. Some 30 people from the Lawrence community came over to watch the election results. From very early on the mood was jubilant. As soon as we saw some of the first key states coming in bongos came out and people started to sing in Spanish something I didn't quite understand--"Obama! Obama! Obama! bah bah bah bah bah, Obama! Obama! Obama! bah bah bah bah bah." We drank Presidente beer and ate American flag cookies. When the announcement came that Obama had won, however, the real celebration began. Whoops, hollers, random hugging, crying, champagne. Then came McCain's concession speech. There were some cynical remarks, but we did quiet down and we listened. It was the best concession speech that I have ever heard. Everyone agreed. In the time between McCain's concession and Obama's acceptance speech people got up and spoke about what that moment meant to them. One woman, Rosa, got up and talked about how up until that night she had thought that government had nothing to offer her. It was her first time voting. It was an amazing night, not only on national scale, but because we also had a house full of people involved in their community and hopeful that they, too, could make a change in their city of Lawrence. Then we watched the Obama speech. It was a beautiful thing. After emailing Alison in Liverpool, walking around in a bit of a daze, I went to bed.

I worked today glued to the radio, listening to stories from across the country about people inspired by the election. It sometimes seems like a simplification to talk about this as a symbol, but I believe in the power of symbols, especially on this level. Listen to this to hear what I mean. I was only sad that Alison could not be here to share this moment with me.

I voted for the first black President in U. S. history. This is a momentous day for us all.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Mary and Alison's day in Liverpool City Center

Mary at her favorite cafe on Bold St, that serves an excellent Americano
Down by the water, there is a section of town that is protected from construction because of historical laws, providing a beautiful cityscape
Liver Bird, originally was suppose to be an eagle, however it doesn't look like an eagle so it was decided it would be called the Liver Bird.
Typical architecture in city center
Catholic Cathedral
Mary and I spent the whole afternoon walking around city center, she showing me the sites and sharing with me her favorite parts of town. It was so much fun to have the day to reconnect and see this new home of her and Jesse's. It's really quite beautiful. I often felt myself thinking the buildings were so unique and very thick or solid feeling. I hope that is captured in these pictures.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Alison is in England!!!

Hey everyone, I am in England for the week, specifically Liverpool, visiting very special friends of ours, Mary and Jesse!!! I thought I would update you on my travels every couple of days while I am here. It was a very long day and half of traveling, beginning November 1st with a redeye from Bostonto Amsterdam, then Manchester England and taking a train from Manchester to Liverpool, but now that I am here I am so happy to be able to spend time with these two. They really are such amazing  people. They have been good friends of David and mine for years as many of you know, so to not have them in the states with us is very sad but now we both have an excuse to make our way to England to visit them. David sadly is not visiting with me this time but is making the sacrifice to stay home and work while I am here. Thank you so much David, your the best!

The first picture is Palm House in the Sefton Arboretum right down the street from Mary and Jesse's flat, we didn't get to go in because there was a concert but it's filled with palm trees from all over. The second is on Lark Lane. The first afternoon we went for a long walk through Sefton park and down Lark Lane, it was really neat, the architecture was awesome. The streets are so narrow and it really freaks me out that the cars are on the left instead of the right. I always follow Mary across the street, afraid I'll look the wrong way.

I will post more photos tomorrow since it appears the computer doesn't want to cooporate.I have spent more than half the time trying to rearrange the post and fix the font instead of writing about my trip. Soon to come... Alison and Mary in Liverpool City Center.