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lettucepeppers kimchi

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I’ve been pretty quiet on the blog lately, but fall seems to be my busiest time – with children, activities, work, business, etc.  I got a pulled into what felt like chaos and hectic-ness.  But, I am feeling a bit better now.  A bit more grounded.  I think I am ready to head into the next set of holidays (which I love) with more peace.

But, first, some of what we’ve been up to . . . .  This fall was lovely and quite warm and wet.  I’ve had lots of lettuce in the garden (it may have been killed back by the freeze yesterday), as well as green, carrots, and beets.  I bought some of the last peppers at the farmers market the other week. I roasted them (and the last of my jalapenos) and froze them.  I also made my version of kimchi – I love it’s spicy, sour, hot flavor on just about anything, but especially on grilled cheese sandwiches.

I’ve also been making rope bowls (I’ll post a picture soon) and dying some of the rope.  I dyed a batch with turmeric, but my favorite has been with black walnuts.  I just love the brown that black walnuts make (though I hate black walnuts for eating) – I find the color really beautiful.

We had a great Halloween.  Normally, I refuse to make or buy costumes for Halloween.  I feel like we have enough dress up clothes that they can find something or make something themselves.  But, this year the three oldest wanted to be characters from Harry Potter (Hermione, Fred, and Luna), so I sewed the robes and bought patches to put on them.  I even made wand pockets inside the robes.  I figure they will probably get lots of use other than this holiday.  And, they had such a good time playing in them, I felt good about spending the time and effort to make the robes happen.  Steven did not want to be a Harry Potter character so he dressed up from the “dress up box” (as a race car driver).  Trick-or-treating in our rural neighborhood took 3 hours and we only made it to 13 houses.  As we are usually the only trick-or-treaters, the kids get nearly all the candy at each house, so they do get lots.  The long time is because we drive to each house, visit for a short bit (occasionally have an adult beverage), and then load back into the van with cousins (7 children, 4 adults).  This Halloween, most of us somehow ended up bushwhacking, as darkness fell, over a nose ridge to get to another house instead of getting in the van.  That definitely affected our timeline since we got a little lost, left a trail of candy (all the children fell down multiple times, spilling the candy buckets), and lost one shoe (one of Steven’s best pair – it got snagged by a branch and we could not find it).   It was an adventurous and fun time.

Soccer season is over for now, and they all enjoyed playing, but especially Anne.  I did not get to watch many games, but I did make it to Anne’s last one where she wore a mama-knit hat while playing.

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Finally, these warm fall days have kept us outside as much as possible.  We are playing, going on walks or hikes, and even making it on some horseback rides.  This is my favorite kind of weather – just warm enough to be outside and active in shorts.  And, the afternoon light (and morning light) is so beautiful.

Also, for a little humor.  Hythe came home with this note he wrote to me in his Kindergarten class the other day.  I love seeing these early writing attempts.  They are precious, even if this one is slightly chastising!

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Dear Mom, Please do not send any more pears.  from Hythe

*I’d packed sliced pears in his lunch for the second day in a row.

moment with my boys

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I am cherishing these moments with my boys while they are still home so often.  Hythe will start school in August, and will be gone much more because of it.  I am looking forward to it, but also sad that he won’t be home as much, as we won’t have as many of these moments of easiness and just “being” at home.  I love to see these boys play together — which they so often do quite well.  So, I am trying to remember and savor these precious moments.

 

what’s growing

The garden is growing.  Peas are starting to creep up the trellis, fava beans are almost 8 inches high.  We are picking lettuce and spinach to eat now which is such a treat.  We are also pulling up some of the walking onions to eat.  They are so pretty this time of year – and also delicious.  The regular onions (Parma) are growing quickly too. I planted potatoes two weeks ago tomorrow.  We got a good bit of rain since then and some warm weather.  I dug up one of the potatoes yesterday to see how they were growing and was disappointed to see the little buds only about a 1/2 inch long.  So, they are growing slowly right now and I have to keep up with those very fast growing weeds until they do pop out of the ground.  By the way, I planted my potatoes with a little compost and organic fertilizer.  Anybody have any good potato growing tips?  And, yes that is a basketball in the garden.  The garden is downhill from the house and basketball goal, so this is where balls end up sometimes.

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The trees are growing leaves!  This is my favorite part of spring.  Dogwoods are in full bloom and the trees on the mountain have a more subdued color autumnal cast.  Almost the reverse of fall, as a dull rust gives way to light greenish yellow then to spring green then to dark green – day by day marching up the mountain.  We have some black gum trees around the house, and this under-appreciated tree is one of my favorites.  In the spring, it puts out its tiny leaves, pointing them strait to the sky in little clumps so that they look like tiny green stars.  Unlike most trees, black gum branches set out from the trunk at 90 degree angles (for the most part), so those tiny stars are perfectly placed to look like celestial bodies held out over the earth.  This week, the black gum leaves have grown a bit more and little flowers are being set.

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And, the children are growing.  Anne is determined to ride horses as often as possible, loves playing soccer, and her excitable spirit is sometimes challenging.  Like the other Anne (of Green Gables) she has high highs and low lows, but she recovers quickly.  Her joys and sorrows and angers run hot and fast.  Evva, due to a small scare last week, seems a little more precious right now.  She is reveling in the spring flowers and growth, and is outside as much as she can be – making fairy houses, decorations, and soil/flower mandalas.  Hythe, like a stereotypical boy, wants to go fishing, dig for worms in the compost, and sled down piles of manure at the farm (he and his cousin call it “poop sledding”).  In other words, he likes getting as dirty and smelly as possible.  Steven wants to do anything his brother is doing, but also wants to go anywhere anyone else is going; “I go too” he is always saying as he runs for the door.  He is talking so much now and says cute things like “Sit a me, mom” (sit with me, mom) or “I go fishing now”.  He also says, “go way, mom, go way!” when he is thinking of doing something that might get him in trouble.  Spying a bag of chocolate chips on the counter, he glances at me, back at the chips, then looks at me and says “go way, mom!”  He is still making big messes in and out of the house while becoming more capable!  Yesterday he dumped William’s tackle box upside down and took all the tube worms out of their bags.  I came home last night to find he had dumped three entire jars of spices into a pan on the stove (garlic powder, dill weed, and cream of tarter – yuck!).  That meant he opened the spice drawer, picked out the jars, took them over to the stove, climbed on the stool, unscrewed the caps, and dumped them out.  Quite capable.  He got so tired the other day, that he fell asleep sitting up while we were watching  a video of Dado talking about WWII.  It was pretty funny and cute.  While they all have their challenging moments, they are fun, loving children, and it is a joy to see them grow.
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spring break

The girls have two weeks off for spring break this year, and leading up to the break, other mothers would ask me, “What are you doing for spring break?”, or “Do you have plans for spring break?”.  My answer was, “No plans.  When is spring break?”.  “Umm, next week!”

So, we were slightly unprepared for spring break.  I let it sneak up on us, with vague notions of getting away without any hassle or spending any money when it arrived.  The week before spring break, William and I frantically talked about what to do in the spare minutes we get for conversation.  We decided to go to Tuckaseegee . . . then not to go to Tuckaseegee . . . then to go camping . .  then not to go camping . . . maybe we’d go out on a lake, or go fishing, or go bike riding.  Finally, we decided to not make any plans but to stay at home and do some area activities depending on weather conditions.  A friend called this a “staycation”.

William took off most days from work last week, and I did the same, though we both spent a few hours a day checking in and typing on computers.  I took the children to the WNC Nature Center one day – a visit they always love.  Another day, we went biking in Dupont State Forest, where we also met up with Aunt Elizabeth and a cousin and played on the shore of a small lake.  it was a gorgeous day, but I did not bring a camera.  We went hiking one day, looking for wild flowers, and the children had friends over to play quite often as well.  And, on Friday we rode bikes at Biltmore Estate.  We rode right up to the gardens and walked around looking at the flowers – one of Evva’s favorite things to do (again, no camera).

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There was also lots of playing at the house and in the yard.  I worked in the gardens a bit, and the children had free time to do what ever they wanted–read, build fairy houses, swing, look for salamanders, walk to the barn to help on the farm (they helped deliver a baby goat one day!).  I loved that they all had time to play together, which they do surprisingly well most of the time.  Steven has reveled in the attention he gets from his sisters when they are here.  They read to him, carry him around, get him dressed, build train tracks for him.  He is going to miss this when they go back to school.

We had a fun Easter, with egg hunts at church and at the Big House.  And, so much candy that I think it might have been Steven’s sole dietary intake of the day, despite my best efforts.

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Steven stuffed a powdered doughnut into his mouth right before the hunt at church (so maybe he did eat something other than candy this day).

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Instructions from Auntie Annie on where to hunt for eggs at the Big House.

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This has been my first “staycation”, and I really enjoyed it!  We have one more week of spring break, but William has gone back to work this week, and lessons and practices are back on this week as well.  We don’t have nearly as many plans this week, so we will slowly work back into a school schedule.  We will probably work on learning some life skills like doing your own laundry, making grocery lists, gardening.  But, playing and working at home will be fun with these guys around for the week.  I will say, however, that while everyone helps out with chores and cleaning, the house can quickly become a disaster with all these guys at home all day!

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Kids Clothes Week: day one review

I will be one day late in revealing what I sewed, or cut, or drafted for Kids Clothes Week (a one week challenge to spend one hour each day making clothes for your children) since I usually do my sewing at night after the children are in bed.  After sewing, I go to bed!

Yesterday, we had a beautiful snow flurry that blew about so much that the mountain was nearly whited out.  The wind howled and the trees roared on the mountain and the ground got a slight dusting.  Steven had to go out to see.

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The bitter cold wind kept everyone inside in the afternoon, playing happily with that wonderful classic toy, Lincoln Logs – and their imaginations.

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But, I did finally get around to sewing and made Anne a pair of sleeping shorts she has been wanting.  I made them from the never-seems-to-be-gone knit cotton fabric.  Luckily, all the children think the fabric is cool so I can make lots of things from it.  The pattern is Oliver+S Nature Walk pants (modified to shorts).

I laid the shorts on the table so she would see them when she got up this morning.  She was excited.

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My plan for today is to make a pair for Evva (and maybe Hythe).  I hope to get them cut out sometime today and sew them up tonight.  It only takes about 30-40 minutes to sew these up.

 

week in review and sewing projects

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The first two pictures show our poor girls when they were suffering from the stomach bug this week.  I am glad they could use their quilts (the only ones I’ve ever made) for comfort and warmth.  William hung a hammock chair in our living room last week and it has been a spot everyone has wanted to sit – and Evva took her sick nap there.

Luckily, everyone was feeling better by William’s birthday this week.  I made a chocolate pound cake for him.  I had plans to make a s’mores cake from Smitten Kitchen cookbook, made with graham crackers, chocolate, and a frosting that needed to be toasted with a blow torch.  But, I gave up on the idea when I realized I really did not have time (or energy) for making a semi-complicated cake.  I would have had to go to the grocery store – and figure out how to use a blow torch.  So I went with a cake that I had the ingredients, time, and skills to make.  And, that chocolate pound cake was delicious, even if I did go on a short walk to have a moment to myself and forget to take the cake out of the oven beforehand.  It did not really burn, just got a little crisp on the outside.

Then, I settled down to do some sewing at the end of the week.  But, first I had to open up my machine and stick a magnet down in there to get all the pins that Steven has been sneaking into the tiny holes on the top of the machine.  He loves to do it and I’ve caught him at it a few times.  I’ve told him not to put the pins down the holes, but he told me that was where they go.  And, to be fair, there doesn’t seem to be a point to those two tiny holes and pins fit through them perfectly.

The girls both had birthday parties to go to this weekend and they were up for gifting homemade presents.  So, we made a pair of pajama shorts for one friend from a soft cotton jersey.  I bought the end of a bolt of this fabric from Hancock Fabrics many months ago.  I did not realize how much I was getting until it was measured – 8 yards!

I also made a circle skirt for another friend.  Evva picked out the fabric from my stash.  I debated if I should put my tag in these garments.  A tag gives the garment a more professional, slightly less handmade, look.  But, is it too silly or pretentious?  I finally decided to put a tag in, figuring I should be proud of my work and my children like to have the tags in their handmade garments.

This week I also finished up an outfit for myself.  I am trying to make some core clothes or outfits for my wardrobe.  I sewed up a black cardigan a few weeks ago, and made a pair of leggings last week. I love the leggings.  They are very comfortable and have a cute petal cuff.  They are also very simple and easy to sew up.  I made them from a black French terry of cotton and bamboo with Spandex.  They hold their shape well and are very warm.  Finally, I finished a mini-skirt I made from some plaid wool with tiny silver strips running through it.  You can see the outfit above sans cardigan (I was actually too warm to put it on – it may have also been in the washing machine).  I am pretty happy with it!

Thanks to Seamwork Magazine for the cardigan and leggings patterns!

This coming week is Kids Clothes Week and I am planning on participating.  The theme is upcycling.  I am not sure what I will do with the theme yet, but I have some ideas – and some projects to work on.

 

mid-winter grumps

I came down with the grumps today. I was so grumpy I felt like smashing the plates as I cleaned them out of the dishwasher. So grumpy, I felt like kicking across the room every toy that was left on the floor then slam dunking it in the trash can.  So grumpy, I considered pouring a large glass of wine to have for lunch.  So grumpy, that I would take deep breaths and focus on calmness when I was told for the 5th time in 15 seconds to “get me me milk”. I will get your milk, please don’t ask so much, and you need to say please. And, thank you.

I don’t know what got me in to me. I tried to think of why or how I got so grumpy.  Maybe I am jealous that one of my best friends is away this week with another friend enjoying wineries and spas in Sonoma, CA and I am here in frigid WNC with mid-winter blahs (and children with mid-winter blahs). Maybe it is because we came downstairs this morning to find the cat had the stomach bug too – it wasn’t enough that all the humans in the house had it this week. The cat had to get it too – and we had to clean up after him also! Maybe it was because it was so cold and windy outside that trying to go out was miserable (and made me sick of winter). Maybe it was because I skipped my morning exercise (yoga) today to try and fit in a little more to-do’s, which of course did not work out (the way I wanted them to). Maybe it was because I often feel that I don’t have more than 5 minutes to focus on anything (not dinner, not work, not exercise, not laundry). I am called upon for so much, am doing so much, that it is hard to get my brain to prioritize and “get things done”. I feel at loose ends. I love my time at night when everyone is in bed and I can work or sew or write. Maybe my grumps, though, are because I’ve stayed up too late for too many nights trying to get some things accomplished and I am just tired. Maybe I am feeling guilty that I am not spending enough time focusing on my children and engaging them, or when I try, they are uninterested in doing anything I suggest and would rather jump on furniture and throw all the laundry I just folded in the air. Maybe technology is not allowing me to focus (or I am allowing technology to keep me unfocused), as I can jump from page to page, activity to activity, looking up a recipe, a pattern, a new idea, my email, business news. Doing this with technology just keeps me with that “never more than 5 minutes uninterrupted” feeling. Maybe, it’s hormones.

Probably it is some of all of it.

The children were sweet. I told them I was feeling grumpy and to please use caution with mommy this afternoon (i.e. do what I say right away). I also asked for cuddles. They complied.

At the end of days like this, I make a point to write in my bedside journal, just before I go to bed. I write three things that made me smile today – three things that brought a little joy to my day. Remembering these things reshapes the day into something that was good – a day with good memories, not bad ones – happy feelings, not grumpy ones. These small things actually change the way I think and help life stay positive. I call this practice “my three things”.

Here, I’ll put my three things from this week:
1. Hythe and Steven helping each other clean out the dishwasher. This was a great help this week when they did it and it was awfully cute to watch them. Steven handed Hythe the dishes to put in the cabinet and together they put the silverware away.

2. Snowdrops. The first flowers of spring have come up in one spot in our backyard.

3. Seeing the girls off for a horseback ride on a beautiful, not-frigid, day this week.

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thanksgiving weekend

This time of year is so busy.  But, I love it.  Once the splendor of fall is behind us, I start looking forward to the “holidays”.  It starts with Halloween (which I don’t really like though I do love watching my children get excited about it) and All Saints Day or Dia de los Muertos, which we celebrate at our house. Then, its on to Thanksgiving, quickly followed by Advent and the Christmas season.

I love the good feelings these holidays conote: family, good food, friends, love, sharing, graciousness, giving.  I love the family time (even though it can be stressful), cooking baking, present making.  I love decorating with nature as well as with the old ornaments and the semi-junky ones my children make (they are precious to me).

This time of year is always very busy for my soap business and this year seems extra busy – a good problem to have.  Craft shows, farmers markets, on-line orders – it has been a little crazy.  I’ve been working at night after the children are in bed, some nights at the business, some nights crafting gifts for my family.  And, I still try to through in those nights were I go to bed early!  I’ve not had much time to write here, but I think about it.

We spent Thanksgiving in Elizabeth City at my mother’s house and with my side of the family.  Lots of little cousins brought a sweet and slightly chaotic feel to the celebration.  It was fun to visit with so many little ones and a blessing to see them all playing together happily.  I was glad that the generations in my family stay in touch as the family gets more extended.

A break between bike rides (7 of the 11 cousins 9 years old and younger)
A break between bike rides.  7 of the 11 (9 years old and younger) cousins  – and one special grandmother!

And, the girls set the Thanksgiving table using their knowledge gained from two years at Manners Camp.

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We biked everyday on our mini-vacation.  This is a special activity that we love in Elizabeth City because the landscape is so flat (as compared to our very hilly, somewhat steep land around our house).  The kids LOVE it!   William also took the little ones out to fly a kite on one windy, cold, brilliant day.  The wind was so strong that near the end of the kite-flying session, William tied the kite around Hythe’s waist because otherwise the kite nearly blew out of his grip.  I was slightly worried the kite might lift Hythe off the ground.  But, he stayed put.

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We also had many games of classic pinball – thanks to my mom getting the old pinball machine fixed.  One night, we went to the small downtown lighting ceremony, then visited with Santa in one of shops, had hot chocolate and took a sleigh ride [Note: “sleigh” was a wagon pulled by a tractor].  Very sweet and easy – quite different from what you have to maneuver through to do something similar in Asheville.

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On our last morning, William and I ran a 5K race, and my very first race ever.  My mother brought over our children after we finished, and then the three older ones ran a 1 mile race.  I was impressed with our children’s determination and speed, and I was happy that I got to run with my husband and finish in the top 50.  I was also impressed that almost everyone could eat multiple doughnuts and drink coffee (at least William for the coffee) right after running a race.  Evva and I only made it through 3 bites before we felt sick.

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It was a beautiful weekend – very busy – and I was quite exhausted by the end of it.  I always find it a little sad to leave that place I was born.  Not necessarily the house or neighborhood, but the landscape of sky and water, of flat fields and pine forests, of old farmhouses and backroads.  There is something in me that longs for that place.  There is a beauty there that speaks to me and calls to something deep in my soul.

But, I also love the home I am in now – and most especially the family that is there.

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Each visit, I never get to see everyone I hoped to see or visit all the old haunts or beautiful spots, but we’ll be back.