Tag Archives: winter

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.

it’s cold, cleaning . . . and nutella


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.




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.



winter hand care

As a child, I thought my mother’s hands were perfect (I still do).  They were smooth and soft, always cool, dry, and comforting.  Long, thin fingers with perfect nails.  She rarely painted her nails and they were a soft pink with fine cream colored tips, filed to oval perfection.  She did not spend a lot of time on her hand care routine, but she did apply lotion and filed her nails regularly.

Something went wrong for me, though.  It started one year in elementary school when I rode my bike to and from school every morning and afternoon.  All winter long, I rode in the dry cold until my hands literally cracked. The winter weather had so dried out the skin of my exposed bike riding hands that all of my knuckles cracked open and bled, even all the way down through my thumb to my wrist.  It was painful and not very pretty.  My mother had me apply Vaseline in thick coats and don cotton gloves to sleep in.  This was our traditional soft hand routine, I learned.  I hated this routine, but it did eventually heal my hands, though I imagine it would have would have been better if I had actually worn gloves when I rode my bike to and from school.  Because it happened each winter for about three years (the total time I rode my bike to school).  Ever since then, my hands have been prone to drying out and cracking, especially in the winter.

Not only do I tend to have dry hands, but I often work outside – in the garden, on the farm – and so often have dirt embedded under my nails (which I always keep quite short) and small cuts and nicks on my hands from scraping them.  This outdoor work in the soil, combined with frequent hand washing when making soap and cleaning up after children  really dries out my skin, especially in winter and spring.

So to attempt to remedy all this, last winter I made some hand salve from some of the oils we have on hand for soap making.  I ordered a few more that I thought would be better for moisturizing and healing hands.  By the end of last year, we were selling the salves.
This year, I have been religiously applying them to my hands, legs, and even face as the cold weather came in and settled.  They have been wonderful and comforting.  Even still, the week I forget to apply the salve, one of my knuckles cracked open.  I am sure I’ll never have hands as nice as my mother’s, but I am embracing what I have – and enjoying pampering them a bit this winter.   Do you have any winter hand care practices?  Let me know!

You can find our salves in our on-line store – quite affordable as a little goes a long way, they last quite a while.  www.farmerjanesoap.bigcartel.com

You can also make your own with a few simple things you might have around anyway.  Here’s an easy recipe:

1 T beeswax (pellets or grated chunks)

6 T coconut oil (or shea butter or whatever moisturizing oil you want, or combination of oils)

few drops of vitamin E

few drops of your choice of essential oil (optional)

Melt the beeswax with the coconut oil (or other oil) in a glass bowl set over boiling water.  Once melted, stir in the vitamin E and essential oils.  Pour quickly into a container of your choice.

Notes: 1.) plastic containers may melt when exposed to hot oils.  I like metal tins or glass better, but glass tends to break if dropped.  You can get good containers (and essential oils) at Mountain Rose Herbs.  2.) It may be hard to clean the bowl with melted beeswax and oils.  If you cannot dedicate this bowl to making salves, wipe it well with paper towels when you are done, then wash thoroughly with very hot water and dish soap.

salve containers TLC


inside fun



While we, especially the children, get out in the snow (and ice) to sled, hike, romp, and play, the very cold days have also had us inside quite a bit.  We limit screen time as much as possible, though the girls are slightly obsessed with Harry Potter right now and short sections of movies tend to get played once or twice a day on snow days.  So, what to do?  Generally, the kids have good ideas about what they want to do – there is lots of art and crafty projects.  The girls read, I read to the boys.  I cook and have helpers.  I made some awesome mini fried apple pies (with my canned apple pie filling and basic biscuit dough).  They are a treat!

We all do some writing – letters to friends or family, stories, book reports.  We have lots of art, sewing, and craft supplies on hand most of the time.  Evva drew pictures all over a sheet of paper to send to a cousin last week.  Anne made “monsters” out of colored puff balls, glue, and glitter.  Hythe enjoys drawing and coloring and having “work” to do with his art.  Steven loves uncapping a marker, scribbling a bit (on paper, the floor, his arm), re-capping it, and going on to the next one.   Hythe also loves needle work.  A wonderful aunty gave him a set of constellation sewing cards which he loved, and now he is also asking to sew on fabric.  He concentrates and does a great job.  My next idea is to get him to do a simple drawing on the fabric and see if he can embroider it.  He may be too young.

We had some friends over on the weekend – somewhat to celebrate the thaw out and socialize (it can get isolating to be snowed-in in the country).   Music was made, and Hythe tried to join in with every instrument he had any knowledge of – violin, harmonica, guitar.  Finally, one of the guests put his banjo in Hythe’s lap and gave him a pick.  Hythe loved it!  He had a pretty good rhythm and enjoyed playing so much.  He is now clamoring for banjo lessons and his own banjo – “I’m really good, Mom.”

a real snow day








We woke up to a real snow day today – not icy/sleet days like last week.  We spent the morning sledding and are back home for some play, crafting, and Harry Potter movie watching.  Off to a kids yoga class soon, too, as the roads are not bad and the temps are well above those of last week.

The cold and ice of last week brought with it a growing dissatisfaction with winter and and growing longing for spring (at least for me).  I watched my sweet little snowdrops  and the first lenten rose blooms keel over and touch the ground with their sweet blooms as the temperatures dropped last week.  I expected, and hoped, they would perk back up, but they haven’t yet.  The lenten roses look even more bedraggled and browned than before.

We did have enough ice on the local pond to skate and play hockey on Saturday.  I was so tired of the cold that I did not even want to get out, but I finally did and was glad I did.  It felt good to glide over the ice and was lots of fun to play and watch the game.

On our good thaw-out day, Sunday, I made it up to the Big House (the beautiful, old, rambling house of William’s great and grand parents and now of his aunt and uncle).  William’s great grandmother, Elizabeth, planted scores of snowdrops and English crocuses in what is called the rock garden in the late 19-teens.  There, I found the snowdrops just opening, unhurt by the recent weather – hardy, beautiful, standing in the remaining snow.  I took hope, as I always do, that spring is coming.  It also reminded me of one of Cicely Mary Barker flower fairy poems – the Song of the Snowdrop Fairy:

Deep sleeps the Winter,
Cold, wet, and gray;
Surely all the world is dead;
Spring is far away.
Wait! the world shall waken;
It is not dead, for lo,
The Fair Maids of February
Stand in the snow!


it is cold!



Predictions of snow – the first this year – were coming in Monday morning.  100% chance of 2 to 4 inches.  That would probably be enough to go sledding on, play in, build a small snowman.  We were starting to look forward to it.  About 11 a.m., large snowflakes started falling beautifully from the sky.  School let out early.  Then, the snow turned into a kind-of sleet. Small icy pellets drilling down until there was an inch on the ground.  It lasted all day and all night.  Well, actually not all night, because we woke up to find that icy rain had also fallen in the night, covering everything (even the icy sleet pellets) with 0.2 inch of ice.  Most. Dissappointing. Snow. Ever.

But, the kids had a great time sledding on the ice covered hills around the house.  It was fast, hard ride, and there were a few broken sleds when a child bounced too hard over an icy bump.  And, there were a few raspberries where exposed skin got pulled over gravely ice – my hip during a sledding wipe out, Hythe’s knee and ankle (the boy won’t wear socks and had holes in his jeans), Anne’s face.

The roads were slick sheets of ice, the driveway more like a luge.  It was even hard to walk in the yard (on the grass)!  Needless to say, school has been cancelled ever since, with a valiant attempt yesterday with a 3 hour delay but a 1.5 hour early release when it started to snow again.

And, it did snow again, putting a dusting of snow over all that ice.  And, the temperatures have dropped so that the high today is 10 degrees.  It is cold!

I am ready for spring.

But, William keeps telling me we need to have winter.  That winter is important.  I’m not convinced.  He does seem to relish the coldness, snow, ice,  and similar uncomfortable winter elements.  I, on the other hand, tolerate winter.  I love the time up till Christmas and New Year and then I am ready for spring.  I actually don’t mind snow – it is fun to sled in and play in – or ice when there is pond hockey.  But, the continued bitter cold with no snow, can’t-get-outside-because-it-is-so-cold, bundling of reluctant children, is just not fun.  I do see the beauty in winter.  Even in those cold, gray days I see the breathtaking starkness of the  mountains.  The raw beauty of naked trees.  The silvery sheen of ice on branches.   My children playing outside in the frosty world.











I also loved the Valentine I saw Anne had made for herself propped up on the art table.



brrrr . . . and soap






We moved our soap making business to a tiny stone cottage in November.  The move was good for our growing  cottage (literally) industry.  We needed the space, we needed to take the next step for the business if it was going to grow.  This cottage is a perfect size with plenty of room for storing our supplies, great views and light for working, and is really cute.  There a couple of downsides so far, though.  First, and most important at the moment, there is no heat.  But, there is a wood stove.  So, we have to fire it up a lot.  It is a balmy 43 degrees in there on most days lately without the fire.  When we make soap, we need to keep that fire roaring to get the cottage up to about 65.  We want to be comfortable when working, but this is also important for the soap making process.  The soap gels and sets up much better when we have the temps up to at least 60.  We also don’t want the water pipes to freeze.

For the next few days, we will be checking in with the fire and temps in the soap cottage and hauling wood over there while this winter storm passes over and a very cold front descends.  Hopefully. it will stay a little cozy.

One of the exciting products I have been working on lately with the soap business, is a shampoo bar.  I made a shampoo bar last year just for myself after I decided I did not want to use conventional shampoos that had so many unpronounceable ingredients (even the “organic” ones).  I have fine hair and I use great all-natural soap on my body.  Why not on my scalp and hair.  So, I did a little research.  I made the shampoo bar with some heavy, very moisturizing oils, and have always used a vinegar rinse after shampooing, which leaves my hair soft and without buildup.  I have used this shampoo (and rinse) for the last year and love it.  We will be slowly rolling out the shampoo bars in the next few weeks.

Anybody used any alternatives to “traditional” shampoo?


This is how I often think of winter here.   The sky and some birds provide the only vivid bits of color in nature.  The landscape is often monochromatic, especially in the morning when the sun has not yet come over the mountain and vegetation is covered in frost.  It is starkly beautiful.  A set of colors indescribable – tan and gray, accented with the evergreen of pines and the gray-green of the last of the hemlocks.  The souls of flowers are long gone, leaving only their ghosts and skeletons.  Tree branches are grey or golden brown in the sun, buds still deep in hibernation.






from out to in




It is supposed to be very cold here tomorrow – down to 12 degrees.  And, as the temperatures have been dropping, we’ve started the transfer of lots of play time outside to lots of play time inside.  We’ve already had our first snowfall. As much as I wish we could be outside (or I could easily send the children outside!), the bitter cold does not allow it for very long. We try to dress warmly, but for little ones especially, it can be hard. So, our days are filling with more inside activities – games, arts and crafts, trucks, building blocks, train tracks, and lots of books. Being more confined to the inside makes this house feel much smaller also. Something we all have to get used to again. It can be loud and messy with little arguments popping up more quickly. We try to find our “quiet” spots, try to pick up our projects and toys (except for the 2 yo who is by far the messiest!), try to help out and sometimes be out of the way – try to make this HOME.

The boys and I were out on a hike enjoying the last of the fall color last week.  Today was mostly inside with blocks, dress up, art projects.




weekend excitement




This past weekend began with the excitement of Halloween.  All the children were anticipating dressing up and deciding what exactly they were going to wear.  Since the weather was turning cold, we also had the challenge of what to wear with the costumes to stay warm.  Anne was still debating what she was going to be on Friday and even changed clothes/costumes halfway through trick-or-treating.  She started as a German bar maiden, but after she got a very puzzled expression from the first person who asked her what she was, she changed her story to “Laura Ingalls” and got rid of the beer stein.  Halfway through the night (after the horseback ride), she changed into regular clothes and said she was a teenager, hippy, or spy, depending on who asked her.  Evva, was of course, Pippi Longstocking – her current favorite book character.  Hythe went as a race car driver, and Steven as a bee (costume courtesy of a friend and neighbor).

Evva asked a few weeks ago if they could go trick-or-treating on horseback.  Anne and Hythe were enthusiastic and I got it arranged with William’s aunt to borrow a few of her horses.  It was a fun little ride (William and I actually walked–good exercise!) and they made it to 6 houses and the farm store.  Since we left early enough to not be riding in the dark, we ate supper after putting the horse back at the barn, and had time to caravan with a group of friends to the rest of the neighbors who were just a little too far to ride horses to.  Lots of candy was got by all!





We woke up the next day to this:


Nearly 3.5″ of snow – and it snowed all day, though the temps were above freezing so the snow on the ground melted as more floated down.  It was a beautiful overcast day and the children had lots of fun playing in the snow.  I stayed inside much of the day, cooking and cleaning – but, I did get out for a few walks to enjoy the fall/winter scenery.




We had a Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) party on Saturday night with lots of friends making it over despite the cold.  Everyone brought a dish to honor a dead loved one.  It was fun and special and made me remember how much I enjoy being with friends – and how it takes effort to make those gatherings with friends happen in our full busy lives.  I want to do it more often.

My favorite view from inside the house is this sink.  Nearly always surrounded by dishes to be washed or put away – typical in this household of many eaters.  But that view makes it much more enjoyable to complete those tedious tasks.  (we need to get some bird seed!)