Category Archives: Uncategorized

cutting wood

boy

boys

tree

tree walking

cuttingcutting wood

A few large oak trees came down in the last 6 months in the woods back of our house.  William went up there last weekend to start bucking up the trees for firewood.  The logs on those long straight trunks were too nice to cut up for now, so he just cut the tops for the most part.  He took the boys, who quickly scrambled up on the logs and though the brush, playing.  Another benefit of leaving much of the trees in the woods, is that now, the kids have a new favorite place to go and play outside.  The day was beautiful and at a warm 60 degrees.  I went for a hike while the children played and William worked, but I brought my camera to capture some of the wood fun (and work) and green mossy-ness of the woods.

I kind of like the smell of a 2 stroke engine.  I like watching William weld a chainsaw and maul with ease and skill.  I also love the smell of freshly cut red oak.  Sometimes, I will just smell the cut end of logs just to smell that uncommon, fleeting, woody-ketchupy scent. So, this was a pretty perfect day in that I got great sensory experiences.  It is those moments that are easy to forget – those simple things that are not momentous or memorable, but are simple pleasures of life that are precious and ephemeral.  Maybe that I why I like this blog.  So that I can remember those little things with words and pictures.

cove

rocks

woods

stream

playin’

raking

boy

Play is something I think very important to kids (and it seems like lots of research is backing up that claim, too).  And by playing, I mean using imagination, running around outside, playing games – organized and not, and playing music.  Some days they get to play a lot, some days, not so much.  It depends on school, work, after school activities and schedules.  I try to make sure there is time each day to play music.  The girls practice, and we often put on other music to listen to during the day.  I would love to do more playing music with the girls, myself, but I usually have something else I need to do at the time (like make supper).  But, I am going to work on playing with them once a week – just strumming the guitar or uke with them for a song or two.  I am so impressed with the girls playing and the work they put into it.  Funny how the words ‘play’ and ‘work’ are used together for some endeavors.

violin

uke

We also play lots of games.  Rat-a-Tat-Cat is a recent favorite.  Steven and I will play in the mornings before he goes to preschool.  He loves the game, even though he doesn’t know his numbers yet, much less how to count.  He has figured out the order of numbers, if not the numbers, and knows which cards are good and their ranking.  So, he is fun to play with.  And, I get to teach him how to win and lose graciously. Such an important lesson.  There are also lots of games of cars and trains on the floor.

playing

And, I am so looking forward to warmer weather which will get all of us outside to play more.  None of us but William are really cold hardy, so we tend to huddle inside and even when bundled up don’t love being out in the cold.  We’ve had a taste of a warming a few days ago and it was great to be able to call in the children for supper from their outdoor games of fairy house building and “hunting”.

moss
I loved this moss we found on a walk with Steven the other day.

 

 

ice ice baby

ice

stomping

cutting ice

oyster

boy

We have been hiding inside for the last 3 days.  The temperatures have been COLD.  I don’t think it has gone above freezing – and the wind is blowing.  Brrrr.  We’ve not ventured out much, though the girls went horseback riding on Saturday (and came home to be thawed out in front of the fire afterwards), and I went out for a couple of walks.  The one thing, though, that will induce the children outside and get them excited about being outside, is ice.  And, snow, of course, but there’s no snow here now, just ice.  There is ice in the creeks, ice in the springs, ice in puddles.  It is fun to slide on, jump on, crack, cut (with oyster shells), stab (with screwdrivers), and throw.  If I want to get the children outside in this cold weather, I can’t say “let’s go swing” or, “let’s go on a walk”.  I just get moans and “no”s or children reluctantly shoved into coats and boots.  But, if I say “let’s go find some ice”, they rush to get their winter clothes on and are outside before I can pull on my boots.

 

quilt for the little man

 

serge

panels

quilt

binding

quilt

 

hythequilt

with Frasier

None of the women in my family quilted. My grandmother was an amazing sewer/seamstress, but she did not quilt.  Apparently my great-great-grandmother quilted (I have a hexagon quilt she made when my father was born on our bed right now), but I did not know she quilted until earlier this year.  But, my childhood neighbor (nearly like an aunt to me) did quilt.  I did not realize she did until I was an adult, and she made beautiful quilts for each of our daughters when they were born.  Those quilts are still on their beds.  Nita inspired me with her beautiful, artistic quilts.  She also encouraged me to try an quilt, lending me books to read about it.  But, I have been very slow to get into quilting, feeling it was a bit too overwhelming of a project to launch into – it seemed to take lots of planning, fabric, steps, and precision.

Then, just after Christmas, I was at a slight loss about what to sew next.  There were a few projects I wanted to do, but I was without one of the machines I needed/wanted for the project (it is being repaired) and I didn’t really have the desire to fish out fabrics to experiment with for other projects.  I really wanted to reduce the fabric stash I have, seemingly stuffed in every nook and cranny in my sewing rooms/mud room.  I spied the fabric I bought last year to make a quilt for Hythe and decided to get to it.  Last winter I decided to try to make quilts for the children.  I made two very small knotted ones for Anne and Evva and thought I might try a real quilted quilt in a real bed-size for Hythe.  Hythe sat with me last winter as I browsed fabric collections and helped pick out this one of blues and whites with little accents of red and orange.  I ordered the fabric, washed and ironed it, but then set it aside to work on other projects.

So, it felt great to get it out, and I had an idea for a simple quilt of panels of these fabrics.  I cut them into strips and cut them again, somewhat haphazardly, into rectangles.  Then, I sewed them back into strips and sewed the strips together.  And, instead of sewing I used my serger (new from just before Christmas).  It was surprisingly quick and easy.  I also used an old toddler demin shirt that had some Latin embroidery on it.  I loved the embroidery and it worked well with the quilt.  On one corner of the quilt, there is the front pocket from the shirt.  I love working old clothes into quilts, and I especially love working little pockets in.  It seems like a little secret.

I decided to back the quilt with a simple gray fabric and edge it with some brighter color.  The orange of the binding coordinated and brought out the bits of orange in the quilted fabrics.  This is the first quilt I have really quilted, and I was very happy with how it turned out.  Hythe was too.

I finished hand sewing the binding down one night after the children had gone to bed, so I slipped the quilt over Hythe in his sleep.  He woke up under it, was delighted, and has not let any other blankets on his bed since.  I can tell he feels love through that quilt, and that is special.  I overestimated the time and precision needed for quilting (at least for this type of quilt), and I really enjoyed making it.  And, I really loved how wonderful it made Hythe feel to have this made for him.

winter walks

 

S

culvert

silo

tuck

Since school has started up again, we are all happily back on something of a schedule.  The three older little ones go to school, Steven goes to preschool, and I work in the morning.  After lunch, I pick up Steven, and we have an hour or so before the big kids come home.  We often do a little work in the kitchen, then go out for a walk (or “hike” as Steven says).  We have only made it as far as a little circle of the dirt road we live on, and sometimes to the farm – and that short bit has provided a lot of interest for a little boy.  He stomps on ice puddles, throws rocks in the creek (which Tucker dives for every time), and explores places at the farm.  I love these little walks because I get to slow down a little – not trying to get anywhere fast, being in the moment.  I am treasuring these walks like taking a deep breath in the middle of the day and spending a bit of precious one-on-one time with the littlest one.

These winter walk also remind me of walks I took with my great-grandmother when I was preschool age.  I often stayed with her and we would take slow walks down the dirt road we lived on (she lived less than a 1/4 mile from my house), taking our time, enjoying the sunshine, investigating interesting things along the road, and exploring the goat barn.  Just like now, it is a bit of getting outside, slowing down from the day, being together, and learning life on a country road.

holiday makes

I sewed up a few things for holiday gifts this year. Not as many as I had in mind at first, but about a week before Christmas I told myself it was ok if I did not make all the things on my list, and I believed myself!

First, I made Seamwork Mag‘s Denali vest for my brother-in-law.  Each year the siblings and in-laws in William’s family draw names, and I drew my hard-working farmer brother-in-law.  I knew I wanted to make something for him and saw the vest.  Perfect.  I ordered the fabric and got the pattern printed.  I am not a huge fan of pdf patterns (patterns only available to download and print yourself), but most independent patterns that I love come as pdfs.  They either have to be printed on your home printer as 8×11 pieces of paper that you have to line up and tape or glue together, or you have a print shop print off the pattern on large paper.  I usually, now, choose the later because I can get our local print shop to do it for me for a few dollars (and that is totally worth the time and tedium of taping all those sheet together).  I picked up the printed pattern and the fabric arrived and I set to it.  This fully lined vest came together quickly and I was very happy with it, so I put it aside for other projects until Christmas Eve night, when I went to put in the (expensive) snaps.  And of course, everything went wrong from there.  Every other snap seemed to bend, but I got one side done.  Then, when I went to put in the male snaps, nearly all of them just punctured holes in the vest and pulled right out.  I was very frustrated and was left looking at a ruined garment and gift.  Kindly, my brother (Will) who had come by, getting out of the house he was staying in while Santa was visiting, was very positive and helpful with suggestions of what to do to fix the problem.  He and William found some tools to help get the remaining snaps removed from the vest.  I gave up the idea of gifting the vest for Christmas, but planned to fix it and deliver it sometime later.  William and Will suggested I cover the strips of holes with fabric and put in a zipper.  That is what I did.  And, it turned out great.  I gifted it on the 30th, and I think he liked it!

vest1

vest

denali

Pajamas are my other annual gift to our children.  This year, I made pjs for all but Steven.  Steven has so many pjs (some gifted, many hand-me-downs) that his drawer over flows.  Even though I did not make him any, I pulled out a pair he got last year for Christmas that were too big at the time, and he was happy.  I made sets for the other three over a few nights, using organic cotton jersey and waffle fabric from a warehouse sale at Spiritex.  I like making pjs because I can experiment with my sewing.  I self-draft the tops and use an Oliver+S pattern for the bottoms (sews up quickly and is comfy).  I can try new stitches, use my serger, do some color blocking, experiment with hem finishes, etc.  These were quick projects, and I hurried through them as well.  I gifted these on the 23rd, just before we went to the Polar Express (where they were supposed to wear pajamas).  And, just like years past, but still surprising to me, the children were absolutely delighted by them.

pjs

new years eve – then and now

I just came home from a New Year’s Eve party, consisting mostly of folks at least 10 years younger than me, most of whom do not have children.  It was a great little party – vintage dresses (and jackets), good wine, great conversation.  These friends, neighbors, and acquaintances inspire me, give me hope, and make me glad to be in this community.  And, while at this party, I recollected a New Years Eve about 17 years ago when William and I were dating (and closer to tonight’s age group).

On that particular New Years Eve, we got word in the morning there would be a team contest in the community to build, during the day, a structure that would carry you down the mountain from the top of the gap to the bottom (about 2 miles of steep, windy road).  Not just a contest, but a race – starting at midnight – organized by some of the young people.  William and I were a team (we had started dating that fall) and he found some old metal wheels on two axles.  He built a small car around those wheels during the day, with some assistance from me.  By late afternoon, we had a nice , very heavy, little wooden car with metal wheels to drive down the mountain at midnight.  I may have, at that point, voiced a concern that this little car did not have any brakes.  So, we spent the next few hours trying to fashion some kind of breaking system.  By eleven, we were ready, and we hauled the car up the gap in William’s truck.  There were maybe 15 other vehicles ready to go.  Every vehicle had a team, and there was a lot of very good-natured trash talking.  We started off at midnight, with someone at the bottom and top of the gap stopping cars.  William and I started off a little bit slow, but quickly gained momentum, as our very heavy metal wheels gave in to the force of gravity.   Apparently, we were a sight to see.  Flying down the mountain as thunderous metal wheels shot sparks off our car as we flew over the pavement.  We overtook everyone, but on the second to the last curve in the road, our speed and lack of brakes (William’s boot heels were not the best brakes and got quite wore out) caused us to careen into the bank. We recovered as quickly as possible, but not soon enough for Aaron’s (of Gaining Ground Farm) team to pass us and win the glory.  Their glory, however, was short lived, because irate drivers held up by our illegal road block had called the police who were waiting for the winners at the bottom.  No one got in any trouble, but Aaron got a scolding from the police.  Not harsh enough to prevent him from organizing another race the next year.  Which William and I also participated in – but second place on the inaugural event was as good as we ever did.  The police were more fierce in their scolding the second year, so the Hickory Nut Gap race never happened again as far as I know.  And that crazy (dangerous) car we built was disassembled for other building projects, I think.

Those years of late and fun New Year’s Eves were wonderful.  I loved the carefree-ness of it.  I loved sleeping in late the next day.  I loved being with people who were exciting and excited.

I don’t really care much to stay up till midnight on New Year’s anymore.  I get tired around 10:30 (unless I have some project fueling my excitement!) and I don’t often feel like staying up talking and hanging out.  Maybe because I don’t force myself to (and perhaps I should occasionally).  Maybe because I have only had a handful of nights in the last 10 years where I slept through the entire night – and I’m just too tired.  Maybe because I know my alarm will go off at 6:30 and it consists of a voice saying “Mom, Mom, what’s for breakfast?”  Maybe I just want to get in bed and read Mansfield Park and be alone for a little while.  Either way, I am ok with it for now.  I love hanging out with those exciting and excited (slightly) younger people, and still getting to bed early.  I love my wake up call and the snuggles that might be needed in the middle of the night.  I love this part, too.

Here’s to wishing you a wonderful New Year – whether you stayed up to ring in 2016 (and I kind of hope you did!) or got in bed early and slept through the moment.

 

our christmas

decorating the treefruit and nutschristmascakelightschristmastablesantaspottedorangesdollbighousetreebighousecarolstamalemaking

December was a whirlwind – of activities, children, making, and fun (and quite a bit of craziness).  Our children have the whole month of December off from school, so there was a lot of planning on my part to have something to do most days (not that they did the activities I had planned, but there was a plan).  I was not able to really relax and enjoy the holiday season until about 4 days before Christmas, but then, I did relax into the busy-ness, the magic, the love.  The decorating of the Christmas tree was pretty early on in the month.  William and I got no relief from the question “when are we getting our tree”. It was a constant barrage of the question from the time they got up until they went to bed, and since they were not in school . . . it was all day.  So, we got a great tree from a friend’s garden business down the road (I traded her the tree for soap!).  And, the children decorated the whole tree by themselves, with some help from cousins.  William also set up some Christmas lights outside, which I love and kind of wish we would keep up all year.  While the tree and lights were done early on, I did not do much else until the week before Christmas, when I finally made some cookies and my favorite Christmas Cake (similar to fruit cake, but less rich and less  dense and less boozy – I love it).  We also had a table centerpiece with greenery, that everyone contributed to, but the plants had faded after Christmas so I cleaned it up.  When I did, I discovered that we had set out a Santa, a nativity scene, Advent candles, and a dreidel.  Multicultural – maybe our children are confused, but I love it.  On Christmas Eve we waited for Santa to come visit the Big House, Steven spotting him first.  And, the enthusiasm and excitement built until the morning – and Christmas morning was a bit magical.  Our children amazingly sleep in until about 7:30, then we all went go downstairs together.  The amazement of these little ones is so special.  I mean, look how excited Hythe was to find an orange at the bottom of his stocking!  Santa has always left an orange at the bottom of each stocking.  I wish I could have half that enthusiasm sometimes!  Getting pictures on Christmas morning is nearly impossible with 4 little children – there is a head, or arm, or leg, or knee popping in the the edge or corner of every picture.  Understandably, it is impossible to stand still!  After a wonderful Christmas lunch with my mother, brother, sister-in-law, nephew, and grandparents, I walked up to the Big House (I wanted a little exercise), where we all spent Christmas evening singing carols, exchanging gifts, and eating supper with the larger group of William’s family.  It was chaos, but always fun.

With Christmas day over, I felt not the disappointment that one can feel after a big, exciting event, but a bit of relief – like a deep breath let out with a smile.  We invited some friends over a few days later to make tamales, and with the weather so warm, children played outside all evening and adults got to chat and hang out.

I hope your holiday season has been pleasant and you also feel some easiness in your heart.

 

college town

I headed east to be present for a conference that takes place tomorrow.  I stopped by the HR department of  my employer on the way through to pick up a 10 year “service award”. It was a small pin and a notepad cover. Though the “award” was paltry, I looked at the pin and and thought how proud my grandfather would be that I was receiving an award for working for his alma mater for a decade.

After leaving the administration building, I thought I would go for a walk around campus on that beautiful afternoon – stretch my legs before the last short leg of my trip. I thought about my time in school there and the fun and stressful moments.  I started to walk towards my old office building, but was repelled by the memory of anxiety over work, papers, and classes that never ended.  So, I went a different direction and was impressed with the number of young people on campus, the feeling of potential energy and accomplishment and work.

My image of college is one of a place for progress and learning, for friendships and freedom.  And, I am saddened by the events that happened yesterday at my other college town – so incongruous.