Category Archives: Outside

family time

We just returned from 5 days (3 full) in Park City, Utah.  I was not sure this getaway would be a real family vacation – thinking that we would be trying to ski as often as we could fit in the short amount of time we were there and we would not have a lot of quality family time.  But, I was wrong.  We had a wonderful time, together nearly the entire time – William and I, the children, our nephew, and my mother (and our sister-in-law for a short time).  Even though my mother, our nephew, and Steven either did not ski or were in ski school every day, we still had lots of quality time together.  And, that was partly because we stopped skiing everyday at about 3 and had the whole rest of the afternoon and evening to spend talking, playing, and relaxing together.  And, the kids really needed to relax and veg out after 6 hours of skiing!

“Out West”, I was reminded again on this trip, is majestic.  The mountains are large and rugged, rising into the sky, seeming to reach into heaven.  Space is so large – large mountains, but also large sky, large prairie, rocks, slopes.  So different from the mountains we live in here “back East”. We were in awe the whole time.

We stayed in a beautiful, modern house, close to the slopes, and skied every day.  And, everyday we had bluebird skies and cold (but not too cold) weather. It was perfect conditions.  I couldn’t get many pictures because I was not willing to take my good camera out there (and I was more interested in skiing than photography).  I took a few pictures and videos on my phone, but the best pictures, the ones I wish I had on a hard drive, are only in my head.  One picture I hope to keep in my memory was of our oldest three children skiing in front of me, down a ridge on top of a mountain with a 360 degree view of the Wasatch Mountains, with confidence and joy – no one else in sight.  They outpaced me for nearly that whole long run (a blue trail, no less) – along the ridge, through the woods, and finally down a long, wide, empty slope – and I hope I can keep that beautiful, awe-inspiring moment with me.  My children truly impressed me with their skiing skill and confidence.

And, perhaps they come by it naturally.  William is quite a good skier and snowboarder, and my father was an impressive skier.  One night we got my mother to tell us some stories of my dad and his skiing abilities.  She said he was one of the best skiers she had ever seen, that he would ski down vertical slopes with speed and skill.  I remember learning how to ski when I was 5 (and my brother was 3).  I didn’t realize that my dad was a ski instructor at the mountain where and when I learned to ski, but I do remember watching him ski with grace and ease.  Unfortunately, he died less than a year later.  I like the thought that the love of skiing, and possibly some of his gracefulness on the slopes, may keep going in his grandchildren.

our life in snow







snow1 snowman




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.

at the beach (the other week)













We decided to go camping at Hunting Island State Park for the kid’s fall break because I wanted (needed?) to get to the beach again before summer and the warm weather ended.  Also, I wanted to try camping as a family since I keep seeing our friends with children go camping and they seem to be having a great time.  We have not camped together since being a family of 6 – though going to Tuckaseegee is almost like camping.

Hunting Island State Park is a barrier island in South Carolina – the whole island is a state park and only campers stay there.

We packed up and drove 5 hours to the campground.  It rained for the first 4 hours of the drive (and at home it had been raining for 3 days straight), but it cleared up in the last hour of the drive and was sunny and warm when we arrived!  We unpacked, set up the tent, and went to the beach, where we hung out for the next few days.   We so enjoyed the sun, sand, and warmth – and mostly enjoyed the camping together part, too!


  1.  Biking – We brought all our bikes and that enabled the kids to ride their bikes around the campground while we were cooking, unpacking/packing, or just sitting and relaxing.  We all took a long bike ride through a beautiful maritime forest to the island lighthouse.  And, we rode our bikes across the beach at low tide to the same lighthouse.  Everyone loved the lighthouse.  It was a fascinating to the kids especially.  We biked to it first thing, then found out you had to pay $2 each to climb up the lighthouse (and no toddlers allowed).  So, we came back at low tide later in the afternoon via the beach.  Since we didn’t bring the baby seat for my bike, Steven rode with William, riding on his back, holding onto his neck.  He fell asleep on the ride over the beach to the lighthouse, but did not fall off.  It was a funny site.
  2. Our camping neighbors (not the ones who brought a dog that barked loudly every 10 minutes until they left with him at 1 a.m.  . . . the other ones) – They were kind and generous and met us with smiles and jokes when we pulled in.  The first night we were there after Hythe finished supper he asked if he could go “hang out with them”.  We said yes and he picked up his camp stool, walked over to the neighbors camp fire and sat down with them, joining their conversation.  It was precious.  We saw May on the beach the next day at low tide with a pair of kitchen tongs catching blue crabs from around a rock groin.  Hythe and I watched her and Hythe started finding crabs for her to catch.  When we got back to the camp site, May had cooked the crabs and brought a bunch over to us to eat.  Hythe and I enjoyed  them thoroughly (no one else did much, though Evva and William did eat a little).  May caught crabs the next day as well and Hythe was right there beside her, helping – and we (May, Hythe, and me) feasted on crabs again that night.
  3. The beach – sun, sand, ocean.  It was wonderful.  We went to sleep listening to the waves crash just over the small dune from our tent.  We could wake early enough to watch the sun rise over that vast ocean.  We played, we swam, I read, kids found hermit crabs (lots of tiny ones).  There was plenty of splashing and running.  The children and I could have stayed all day on the beach.  It was bliss.
  4. Fishing pier – Hunting Island has a small Nature Center (which our children loved) attached to a fishing pier.  After looking at all the turtles, terrapins, snakes, and lizards, we borrowed the free fishing tackle from the Center, bought some bait, and went out on the pier.  As we set up, an older man next to us said he loved coming there to camp and fish, but also said he had not had a single bite that day.  I settled down in a tiny bit of shade to read while the kids and William fished. I was sure that we would stay out in the hot sun for 30 minutes or so until everyone was bored, then go back to the campsite.  But, within a few minutes, Anne caught a baby shark.  Ten minutes later, Hythe caught a small croaker (I think that’s what it was).  Then, Steven had a bite that bent his pole over and scared him (but the fish got off),  Then, Hythe caught two more croaker.  We released everything, but it was fun and exciting.  After an hour or so, the tide turned (literally), we had no more bites and soon everyone was hungry and bored, and we went back to camp.

All in all (and despite the sweltering nights and loud dog which meant I did not sleep well – how everyone else slept through it all, I don’t know), we had a great time.  I hope we’ll do it again.

hand sewn




It is pretty well know that I like to sew.  I try to work on some kind of sewing project everyday.  Often at my machine, but sometimes it may be cutting out a pattern or fabric.  I love that I can get a garment finished in a relatively short amount of time.  Machine sewing allows me to whip out a simple shirt or dress or shorts in an hour or two.   Rarely do I hand sew.  My grandmother taught me to sew, starting by hand sewing dresses for my Barbies.  The second thing I ever sewed was a bright yellow jersey dress with a gathered skirt and tank top bodice for my Barbie.  I hand sewed every seam and hem.  It felt like a long and arduous process.  I wanted to use the machine and get it done faster, but my grandmother thought I ought to learn hand sewing first so I could learn, slowly, how sewing works, how stitches work, and how fabric behaves.  She did not put it in so many words, though.  But, I definitely gravitated to quicker sewing when I was older.  I love using the sewing machine.  If I have to stitch down a collar or bodice lining by hand, I will, and I usually enjoy that slower process of sewing, realizing that I get a better product when I do spend a little more time and effort, but the machine is so convenient and quick.

That said, I made a tank top with a pattern from Seamwork Magazine the other day.  I made it from an organic cotton baby rib which I dyed with goldenrod from the meadow by our house.  I realized I am not a huge fan of baby rib for garments (shirts at least) because it stretches just a little bit too much.  It is such a soft fabric with a little bit more weight than a jersey, but I don’t think I’ll use it again.  I loved the tank top anyway, though, because it fit well and it was a little more complex than a normal tank top (pleat in the back, gathered straps in the front, and a curved hem).  I decided to make another but to do it more slowly.  I had just read Natalie Chanin’s Alabama Stitch Book and thought I would like to try some of her techniques.  I would hand sew the hems and do a reverse applique.  I used an organic cotton jersey which I dyed with marigold, and the reverse applique fabric was the same but dyed with black walnuts.  I used a dark brown top stitching thread for the hems and applique stitches.  I changed the hem to be straight because I wanted to the look to be a little more different from the first tank top.  I was really pleased with how it came out.  And, I really enjoyed the slower process of hand sewing my hems and applique.  I will definitely be doing this again – probably next on a skirt (I need to make a plan).

One of the reasons I thought about doing more hand sewing recently was because the end of summer can bring some of the best weather of the season, and we had the best of it over the last few weeks.  It was warm, not too hot, much less humid and with a slight breeze.  I just did not want to sit in my sewing room/mud room/laundry room to sew.  I wanted to be on the porch, in the breeze, with a beautiful view and a glass of wine.  With this mostly-hand-sewn project, I got it all.  It was fun!

There is a rhythm to hand sewing – a meditative quality that makes it go by quickly – and when I can stay in that meditative state (i.e. not thinking too much about what I am doing, not over analyzing my stitches and state) I find that I sew the most even and beautiful stitches.  Like my grandmother tried to teach me – hand sewing this was been a good practice to understand sewing, understand fabric, and understand how stitches work.  And, to get a beautiful garment at the end – wonderful!

tank top


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:


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





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).





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.









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

























  • 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.


summer is . . .

swing2 swing









. . . 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!

in the garden 6-4-15











anne weeding

Everything in the garden is growing like crazy.  The potatoes look really great, but there are still some potato bugs (Colorado Potato Beetle) on them, so Hythe has been helping me pick them off every other day.  He likes to drown them (rather than smash), and I agree – they can be a little gross to smush.  I am now working to get the potatoes mulched with straw.  I am half-way there and will finish this weekend, I hope.  The straw fills in for the second potato hilling and works quite well.   I love the potato blossoms.  They are so pretty, and with five different varieties, each flower is a little different in color.  I told Hythe we could start getting some potatoes from the ground when they starting flowering, so he has been reporting to me each time a variety starts to flower.  I have only dug a few little baby potatoes, though – they still need some time.  It is a pretty time in the garden.

The snap (or English) peas are producing lots and lots of peas right now.  We’ve been picking (and eating) every other day.  I have a stock pile in the refrigerator for lunches and snacks.  I will try to freeze some tomorrow because we finally have grown enough that I can feed everyone who wants peas, and have some left over.  My family far prefers to eat the peas raw, and they end up on plates and in lunch boxes in the pod to be split open and snacked on during the day.  I have also been shelling and throwing them into salads and soups every chance I get.

Lettuces are still growing, though some are starting to bolt.  I need to do my “next” sowing of lettuces, carrots, beets, and beans.  Maybe this weekend.

The squash and watermelon are growing well and are all now mulched with straw.  I hope to have zucchini soon.  The beans are getting ready to flower and the okra is about 3 inches tall now.

And, we have (or had) cherries.  Lots of cherries, so many we could not possible pick them all.  Plus, they were at the top of some tall-ish trees and we could not reach them all.  Nor, would I have had the time to pit them all.  But, we did get a couple of gallons.  We ate lots fresh, then I pitted a lot and made jam, a pie, and froze the rest.  While I love cherries, I am ok with the season being short.  We’ve had so much rain that the over-ripe ones in the tree are mostly split and moldy now.  I am grateful for all the fruit we have.  Strawberries are just finishing, cherries have come and are nearly gone, but while we were getting the last of the cherries tonight, Evva came up to me with the first black raspberry!  And, soon there will be blueberries.  And, the boys have been finding some ripe mulberries.  So glad to have all this fruit!

The garden work is continuous, and for now, still enjoyable.  Hythe enjoys helping me, and I love it when William joins me in the garden to pick or mulch or weed.  The girls have not been so enthusiastic.  Well, they are enthusiastic about the theory of a garden, but not in practicality of it.  They cheer on the great food coming from the garden, but rarely participate in the work.  I should probably encourage them more, but I don’t want to nag.  And, they often have their own passions and interests they want to pursue while I pursue my in the garden.  But, I came home from a run last weekend to find William had set up Anne with the weed wacker and she cut all the weeds around the garden and near our house.  She had fun and felt grown-up and useful.  It was wild to see her from a distance as I came home from my run, wondering who the teenage boy (or old man?) was who was weed wacking our garden, only to realize it was Anne.  Looking strong and capable.   While I never would have set her up with that machine (I can barely run it myself), I was glad William had.

in bloom: in fruit


The peonies have bloomed and passed.  It happens so quickly.  These here are the ones I transplanted from my grandparents house a few years ago.  They are quiet in color, have a sweet fragrance, and are just beautiful – perfect flower in my opinion.


These poppies are blooming right now, and will continue for a while, I think.  Every time I send Evva out to pick flowers for the table, she picks a poppy and within a few hours, the petals fall off.  But, they are so irresistable.  These poppies came from my great-grandmother’s seed.  But, my sister-in-law grows some on her farm that are from her great grandmother’s seed (brought over from France just before WWI).  They look identical.  I love that these flowers are passed on through generations and have a bit of a story.  And, they are beautiful.


And, the wild daisies are blooming.  These flowers are so sweet; delicate yet hardy.  I love seeing them come up through the grasses, waving in the meadow.

And, I have a beautiful purple Salvia growing in a bed by the house.  Evva loves to pick them and use them in necklaces and arrangements.  And no,t your typical arrangement, but many like this one I found one the rock outside our door (our door-rock).


Also, cherries are in fruit.  This season also is short, a little over a week.  The cherries are going fast.  We’ve picked a few gallons, which have been eaten fresh or pitted for jam and pie (and a few for the freezer).  We’ve got 2 sweet cherry trees (at my mother’s house) and 1 sour cherry.  The sweet cherries were loaded with fruit, but we just can’t reach the higher branches.  But, at this point (after pitting cherries for 2 hours today), I won’t be terribly sad to see cherry season end here.  Though I will miss them.  My, they are delicious!