Category Archives: Home

making, weaving

Last week, I did a bunch of sewing.  I made leggings and a t-shirt for Anne, a baby blanket, two pair of shorts for Evva, and a dress for a one year old.  Some of these makings were prototypes I was experimenting with, and I had children and friends to give them to, but the dress (and bloomers) for the one year old, I made because I loved the look and wanted to see how difficult it would be to make (not nearly as hard as I thought).  But, I have no one to give it too!   I loved this little dress.  I’ll hold on to it (maybe sell it?), and see what happens.

dress

Then, Hythe came up to me this weekend and said, I want to make something.  What do you want to make?  I want to weave, he said, and brought me a craft book with a picure of a loom set up inside a shoe box.  So, I found a shoe box, put in some warp yarns and gave him a large darning needle and yarn.  He loved it.  He made his own pattern of yarn colors, and started out with the ambitious plan to weave a blanket.  I told him the loom would only allow each piece to be a few inches wide, so he said he would weave lots of them and I could sew them together.  I think he soon realized that a weaving the size of a coaster was good enough, and satisfying enough.  I don’t know anything about how to take handwoven things off of a loom, or how to finish them, but I did my best and tied everything together.  Hythe trimmed up all the ends and he was so proud of his little woven coaster (or hot pad, as he calls it).  I have been using it to set my tea on for the last two mornings, and he likes to see it being used.

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withmugweaving

our life in snow

snowsnow

sled

dreamcatcher

wrap

goggles

angel

snow1 snowman

sledding

truck

sled

We got our first big snow of the year – about 8 inches I think, though most folks around us say it was 12 inches.  It snowed for nearly 48 hours, though during that time, we also had about 4 hours of sleet.  It was cold, windy, and snowy/sleet-y all day on Friday and Saturday.  Luckily, we had gotten out all the winter gear a few days before and were prepared to get everyone dressed for outdoor adventures.  The best new snow gear came from my mother, who purchased ski goggles for all the kids for Christmas.  They were perfect for this weather.  The kids wore them all day on Friday and Saturday, and even on Sunday because though the wind was not blowing snow in their face, the sun was creating quite a blinding glare.  I was sorry I didn’t have a pair (though I would use anybody’s who had gone inside to warm up).

We did so much outside on Friday (in the driving snow and sleet) – lots of sledding, hiking, and more sledding – that I was completely worn out by Friday evening, and so were the kids.  Walking uphill through heavy snow (and pulling a child in a sled uphill) for hours and hours is quite exhausting.

We spent a bit more time inside on Saturday.  Hythe made a dream catcher for his bedroom after I showed him a video on how to do in from Creative Bug.  The video was for adults and supplies included a brass ring, waxed twine, and nice beads.  But, I gave Hythe an emboidery hoop, some kitchen twine, and Evva gave him some feathers from a dress up mask of hers that was falling apart and he made his own dreamcatcher.  He was very proud, and so was I.  He is hoping to catch some of the bad dreams he has been having lately.  There was also a little dress up in mama’s shawls as William and I went through some of the extra clothes we have.

Then, more sledding, and more sledding.  And, Evva, Anne and I went on a snowy horseback ride while Hythe and William built two snowmen.

We are still enjoying the snow today as it slowly melts away.  Still sledding down our hill, still making snowmen, still throwing the odd snowball.  William and I were talking, and both agreed that while we love the snow, we both feel a little “FOMO” or Fear of Missing Out, when it snows.  There is so much that could be done during the brief snows we get – sledding (on many different hills), skiing, snowboarding, snow hiking, ice finding, snowman building, finding friends doing any of the former – that it can feel like you need to rush around to have fun.  But, during this snow, I felt all I wanted to do was stay at home.  I wanted for nothing and felt so much happier when I was home than tramping around trying to do anything else.  I also started and finished a great book (The Forgotten Seamstress).  And, as much as I have loved these snow days, I am ready to get back to regular life.

it’s cold, cleaning . . . and nutella

steve

lenten roses

Winter weather has descended upon us.  It is cold.  Wind chill below 0, bone-chilling, a bit refreshing (for the first minute outside) – cold.  I don’t completely understand how weather works and why some days that are 20 degrees (F) out feel just fine, and other 20 degree days feel like the North Pole and the cold goes right into your bones no matter how well dressed you are.  I could say the same about 60 degree days – some feel like summer, some feel like winter.  Is it humidity, wind, sun that makes the difference?  Whatever the reason, we are in the cold temps that feel COLD.  We had a dusting of snow the other day, and it looked pretty on the lenten roses (which bloomed about a month early because of the crazy warm December), but now the cold has really depressed (the only word I can think of) these flowers.  They are all laying in a lump on the ground, frozen.

Which means that there are shorter periods of being outside, long periods of getting dressed to go outside (finding hats, mittens, socks and shoes), and longer periods of playing inside.  Yesterday, a holiday, we all spent at home.  A few friends came over to play, and all 6 children played together (for the most part) inside, with multiple ventures outside.  Retreating, when too cold back to the house to have hot chocolate and snacks, to read, and to play.   William and I spent nearly the whole day cleaning and organizing our house.  A task that is overdue, but seems impossible to get done since we are often busy and don’t build in time to do it.  I think I also tend to avoid it, having things I would much rather do.  It is also frustrating to try and tackle a large task like this to be interrupted by the need to make snacks, or drive the carpool, or get to a meeting.  But, yesterday was the perfect day for it – a holiday, children entertained and taking care of each other, a partner to support the effort, no work or carpool.

boys

vacuuminggames

games

First, I tried to organize my sewing patterns.  I had bought large 3 ring binders and sheet protectors to store and organize the patterns, but just over half way through the process, realized I did not have enough binders or sheet protectors (which means I have over 100 patterns).  But, I found a temporary solution.

William cleaned and organized our bedroom which has been a bit of a disaster since Christmas.

I organized the game cabinet as well as the toy cabinet, both of which are getting quite a bit of use in the cold weather, and it is satisfying to see everything made neat and useful (for now at least).  Surely by the end of the season, they will be a bit of a mess again.

Tidying up like this also makes me wonder if should get the book “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”.  It seems like it might be written for me.  Perhaps the library has a copy, because I don’t have a lot of faith that I will follow through will changes that take a lot of time or effort, so I don’t want to spend the money on it until I read a bit of it.  We’ll see.

Finally, I made a batch of homemade nutella – or cholocate hazelnut spread – for the week.  This is a treat I make occasionally, and it is so good, better (in my opinion) and healthier than the store bought kind.  This recipe is based off of Susan Herrmann Loomis‘s recipe in her cookbook Nuts in the Kitchen.  Susan’s a distant cousin, too.  The kids love it and it is simple to make.

2 cups hazelnuts

3/4 cup powdered sugar

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (you can use a fancy, expensive kind, or Hershey’s – I can’t tell much difference)

pinch of salt

Toast hazelnuts in the oven at 350F for about 10 minutes.  They smell slightly toasted and are turning a little browner.  Take them out and put the nuts on a kitchen towel (not a terry towel) and rub them with the towel to rub off the skins.  After the nuts cool, I usually rub them with my hands to remove most of the remaining skins.  Some nuts will  hang on to their skin and that is ok.  Try to separate the nuts from the flaked off skins and throw the skins away (or compost them).  When the nuts are cool, process them in a food processor until they are a smooth paste.  This will take several minutes.  It will go from a paste to a smooth paste after a while, but it will never be as smooth as store bought. Again, that’s ok.  Add the salt, sugar, and cocoa powder and process till mixed well.  Now you are done.  Scrape it out and put in in a jar.  I use a mason jar (fits perfect in a pint-size).  It probably should be stored in the refrigerator, but ours goes fast enough that I keep it on the counter.

nutella

toastev

a little creativity

anne

banner

helper

One of my goals this year is to increase creativity in our children’s lives.  They have constant access to art supplies – crayons, pencils, pens, glue, scissors, paper of all kinds, art notebooks, paint and brushes – but the motivation to do something with them seems to be lacking lately.  There are lots of other activities and toys to distract from the quieter, at-home practice of art.  Up until this past spring, they had art classes at their grandmother’s house at least once a week.  Those classes ended for good and I have not intentionally worked art and creativity into our schedule since then.  I would like to change that.  I probably need to do a little art supply organizing to have access a little easier (it is easy now, but there is a bit more “gathering” than is probably needed).  I also want to let them have more access to my sewing machine and fabric.  They have such great ideas about making things.  Perhaps a box with fabric they can use, and permission to use the machine (with a little easier access) – will inspire them (at least the older two) to do some creative sewing.  I have a hard time getting Hythe to be interested in drawing, painting, or sewing.  I would like to try and explore with him what he is interested in creating.  Or, maybe he needs more of a purpose for art and creating than just doing it – a practical project maybe?  Anyway . . . .

I reflected on all this because last week, Anne came home from school very inspired to make a banner for her teacher who’s about to have a new baby (his wife is due any day).  She gathered all her supplies and made a beautiful, sweet banner.  It took her over an hour and I let her stay up past her bed time to finish it.  She was so proud and happy while making it.  She even let her littlest brother in on the fun, helping and encouraging him to make some of the banner and providing paper and materials to draw while she worked.  It was a sweet little scene and made me wish that it was happening more often in our house.  I will work on it!

Tips on working in art and creativity into life welcome!

 

late summer icons

peaches mullet and watermelon watermelon apple eating apple goldenrod summer sun

Nothing says late summer in the mountains of NC like baskets of peaches, watermelon, the first apples, and goldenrod.

I have canned some peaches, and will likely can one more batch.  Then, I’ll freeze the rest, peeled and sliced, for smoothies all winter.

The watermelon came from our garden.  The first watermelons I’ve ever grown – and they were delicious!  I think I liked them the best though.  The children are used to seedless watermelons and William says he is not a big fan of watermelon, but I enjoyed them.  I cooked mullet one night, rubbed in salt and rinsed.  Coastal NC tradition says to eat fresh salted mullet with watermelon.  It really was a good combination.  I like the flavor of mullet, but . . . my, they are bony.

The meadow is full of goldenrod, cardinal flower, ironweed, and Joe Pye Weed.  It is beautiful, and so iconic of fall here.

The first apples are ready and I have a bushel sitting in my kitchen.  I really do need to make sauce because the apples have a lot of bitter rot and won’t last long.

Nights have been cooler recently and it is less humid than normal Augusts.  One thing I notice about nights in August, though, is that they are loud.  Cicadas, katydids, crickets are all making the most of the last warm-ish nights and sing all night long.  It is a chorus, or a racket – depending on your opinion – but I am always surprised at the noise level in the middle of the night from outside.

 

 

summer vacation

Since the children are now in “year round” school, our summer break is quite a bit shorter than usual.  We only had 6 weeks of break, which seemed like a fair amount of time, but which also flew by quickly.  Summer always does seem full, no matter how long or short it is – of work, play, gardening, adventuring, vacations.  It can feel too packed, too full – can-you- really-relax full.  Sometimes I want to have everyone stay at home and just be.  But, I also feel the urge to get out and do – while we can and the weather is good! Three (!) children start school on Monday and we’ve filled this last week with those perfect summer activities (tubing on the river, hiking, waterfalls, friends) and balanced it with days and home and quiet evenings.

Summer is one of my favorite seasons, and summer break is a special time.  I get slightly anxious thinking of all the things I want to accomplish each summer, all the places I want to visit, all the activities I want to do or have the children do.  It can be overwhelming.  But, this summer, though we did not travel much, we made it to some special places.  First, the three oldest went to Elizabeth City with my mother for a week of YMCA day camp.  Anne was supposed to have surfing camp but it was canceled due to the shark attacks (fyi, you are more likely to be killed driving to the beach than by a shark at the beach).  They had a great time at camp, though, and playing in the river each afternoon.

Then, the girls went to manners camp again this year, or ,as the incredible 85 year old director calls it, “House Parties for Young Ladies and Gentlemen”.  Their cousins (my cousin’s children) go to manners camp with them each year, and it is a special time.  Manners camp was delightful, as always, and I know the girls enjoyed it.  It is certainly a Southern Experience.

We left from manners camp to drive right to the Chesapeake Bay where my cousin and her husband have a house.  We spent nearly 4 days there and thoroughly enjoyed it.  We played in the water and on the beach everyday, walked, biked, paddled, and ate great food.  I think this was the most relaxed I’d ever seen William on a vacation.  We’ll need to do it again!

That weekend capped a great summer, not too exciting, but pretty perfect.

In pictures:

fig

Figs at my mom’s were just getting ripe.  We ate some everyday – just perfect.

boys

hythe

fish

south

William and the boys fished on my aunt and uncle’s bass pond in Elizabeth City.  They caught 4 good sized bass and had a great time.  The little spiderman rod has pretty good action!  I sat and watched them and realized we were sitting, on a summer afternoon, in the shade of a trailer, fishing for bass in a pond, drinking cold beer from a can – it was a perfect Southern moment – and was just wonderful.  Fiona, a cousin who is visiting from France enjoyed it (not the beer, though).

manners

girls

camp

anne

We did not see the girls for nearly 2 weeks, since we arrived in Elizabeth City after manners camp started, which may have been a bit much for them.  When we arrived at camp for the graduation tea, Anne burst into tears when she saw us, hugging us and sobbing (while smiling, I may add).  These girls are so sweet and I love the pastels and bright florals on everyone at this camp-closing ceremony.  The house and setting are beautiful and I’m glad they’ve had their time there.

boat

crabs

icecream

steve

s

steven

baymarsh

sunset

White sandy beaches, on the edge of a Nature Conservancy property, with mild shallow ocean – had to beat.  We ate great food (including steamed fresh crabs, cleaned further than “Yankee” clean – thanks Will), had great (and plentiful) drinks.  Lots of family fun time on the beach, on walks, bike and golf cart rides, and paddling.  And, a salt marsh at sunset.  It was a wonderful time.

 

 

summer doings

Whew!  Summer has been going strong and full.  We only have a 6 week summer break from school, and it has been packed.  With work, fun, gardening, harvesting, canning, play, camps, (sewing, for me), and all kinds of other things.  I’ll give a sample here – showing much of the things I love and cherish about summer.

lighting bugs

 

chess

 

campfire

 

hammock

 

wolf

 

flowers

 

table

 

set

 

will

 

cars

 

berries

 

jam

 

 

  • Catching lighting bugs, of course.  The best kind of fun for a late night kid (it stays light until nearly 9 in mid-summer here).
  • Time for playing games.  Of course, the chess board does tend come out right when I ask for some help cleaning out the dishwasher or putting away laundry.  “But mom, we’re right in the middle of our game.”
  • Campfires and marshmallows (at least for the children).  It is a fun way to spend a long evening, especially with friends.
  • Hammocks and cousins.  Hammocks hung to relax in, take afternoon naps in.  And, cousins from out of town were here for a few weeks and we all loved seeing them.  Our three oldest children went to the farm camp for a few weeks and had a blast, playing with their cousins and friends all day, riding horses, making art.  Coming home tired and hungry and very happy.
  • Hythe, who would wear shorts and no socks nearly all winter, puts on sweatpants and a sweatshirt and plays in the yard on the hottest days of summer.  “What are you doing”, I say.  “I’m a gray wolf, mom.”
  • Picking flowers from the meadow and from my garden.  I love the fresh arrangements – large and small that I can scatter around the house.
  • And, I love them on the dinner table.  We have a 16 year old cousin from France visiting for the month (and helping out, too).  One of the wonderful things she does for every meal is to set the table beautifully, with plates at each place, napkins, flowers, glasses, pitcher of water, salt and pepper.  That sounds so simple, but often when I am getting ready to put a meal on the table, I am scrambling to get the food, plates, condiments, etc. to the table and I have to keep jumping up from the meal to fetch water, salt, knives.  Evva is usually in charge of setting the table, but often it is done with the perfunctory fork and knife, though occasionally she will find a napkin or two and put them out.  I have explained what I would like to have her do (put out the glasses, water, napkins, etc.), but see the note above about when I ask for a chore to be done (“but, mom, we are in the middle of . . .”).  We’re working on a solution!
  • Handsome husband sitting across from me at the outside dinner table while eating a great meal of fresh food from the garden and meat from the farm and washing it down with a cold local beer.  Contentment.
  • Lots of porch sitting and playing.  It is the perfect place to read a book, take a nap, or play cars.  Steven has been at without siblings for the past week (they are with my mom on the coast), and while he has enjoyed more undivided attention from parents, he misses his playmates.  (William and I miss them too.)
  • Picking berries.  While I love picking blackberries because they are free berries that I don’t have to do any work to raise, they have the most vicious thorns, and usually I have to get hot, sweaty, and thoroughly scratched up to get them.  This year though, the blackberry vines have grown right up to our back deck, thick with the largest wild blackberries I’ve seen.  So, I can stand on our deck, in the shade, and pick berries with minimal wounding.  And, I got enough to make jam.
  • Fresh jam.  So far, I’ve made sour cherry, mulberry, and blackberry.  We did not have enough jam to make it through the year last year, so I am trying to make more this year.  I’ve never made mulberry before, but William, Fiona (the cousin), and the children picked so many that I had enough berries to jam.  It is quite good.  And, jam jars are so pretty.

 

parenting fail

When supper time is drawing near and you are rushed to finish picking the berries, digging the potatoes, and picking the beans for said supper before the clouds, gathering in the west threatening a storm, arrive. And, though usually at this time of day, the five “and a half” year old is rolling on the floor clutching his stomach and crying for food, today you glance up from your haste to see him barefoot in the yard throwing steak knives at the ground. Your first thought is, “How wonderful that he is entertaining himself so well.  It looks like he is having fun.”  And, your next thought is, “I bet that game may improve his knife handling skills.”

When 20 minutes later you are driving a crying little boy with a bloody foot to the Urgent Care Clinic it occurs to you that maybe your third thought should have been to have stopped that game.

But, of course natural consequences teach a lot.  He won’t be playing with knives anytime soon, and neither will any of his siblings who witnessed the screaming and his blood-gushing foot.

Thank goodness he he only needed a little super glue and lots of hugs.

summer is . . .

swing2 swing

smores

eatingout

momdaddy

wrestle

walk

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hammock

cherries1

. . . swinging

. . . s’mores

. . . eating outside (nearly every meal)

. . . lots of sitting, and reading, and working (and some relaxing) outside

. . . playing/wrestling with daddy in the lawn after supper

. . . hikes for the view from Tom’s Rock

. . . hammocks

. . . tree climbing

. . . fruit picking

. . . and lots of other things (namely water playing) that aren’t photographed here – but it’s a start!

a sewing legacy

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notions

evva

A few weeks ago, my aunt was working to clean out my grandmother’s sewing closet.  She called me to see if I would like her to send me the things she was getting rid of.  All the sewing notions and stuff that my grandmother had accumulated over her many years of fine sewing.  I said to send it on with my mother when she came to visit next (thanks! Sandy).
And so, last week my mother arrived and brought in (small) box after box filled with sewing tools, notions, and “stuff”.  I put the boxes on the porch and started sorting.  There were boxes of buttons, boxes of zippers and ribbons, boxes of needles (hand sewing and machine), boxes of hem and bias tape, snaps, hook and eye closures.  There were several boxes of metal bobbins with thread still in them.  There were things that I did not even know existed (like “perfect waist maker”).  There were 3 measuring tapes!

I did trash a few things like worn our elastic and some of the many, many rolls of hem tape (since I rarely use it).  I felt that most everything might be useful.  I found some real treasures, too.  I’ve been wanting to get a wing needle (which basically makes bigger holes in the fabric) to try hem stitching, and there was one!  And, lots of cotton and linen bias tape which is hard to find now.   Also, all those pins and needles!

I was a little overwhelmed with the amount of things and how to organize it all.  But, sweet Evva swooped in and took over the piles of notions I had put on the porch.  She somehow understood where things should go (zippers together, other closures together, buttons together, ribbons together, hem tape and bias tape together) and how to do it neatly.  When she had a question about something she would ask, but she even encouraged me to go off and make supper and do other work while she put everything back together.  I ended up with 5 neat little boxes (unfortunately, 2 of which broke almost immediately – they are functional, but will be replaced soon).  While she was putting everything away, I mentioned that I would never need to shop for supplies for sewing camp anymore.  Evva got excited about sewing camp and has been asking about it (so have some mothers of friends of our girls).  I was reluctant to do it this year, but maybe I’ll try to squeeze it in somehow.  After all, I do have all these great supplies to share!

I feel blessed to have inherited this trove of sewing supplies.  They make me think of my grandmother.  To wonder what her plans were for some of the things she had.  What did she make with that purple thread left on that bobbin?  Where did that silvery tennis racket ribbon come from?  What were her thoughts about how to use it?  And, how would she use some of those notions?  I would love to have a lesson from her about what to do with some of it.  I am mostly a self-taught sewer, so my techniques may not always be correct.  I wish I could get a short lesson from her every once in a while.  But, I am satisfied to have her “stuff”.