This weekend, we hopped on the ski lift at Beech Mountain Ski Resort… our tornado ride into the wonderful land of OZ!
The theme park was started in 1970 by Grover Robbins (who started Tweetsie Railroad). In its first year, it attracted over 20,000 visitors.
Unfortunately, Grover died a few months before its opening and the enthusiasm for the park died with him. It only stayed open for 10 years, but in 2009, it was reopened to the public for a weekend event once a year. We were super excited to go this year!
After being airlifted in, we met up with Dorothy.
(No, Dorothy isn’t that short… she’s squatting down for the kids
Once into the woods, we meet up with the Professor to have our fortunes told.
The views from the top were stunning!
I had a run in with the mean neighbor who was trying to find Toto.
Then, we found Dorothy again (there were probably 10 dorothies spread throughout the park
Dorothy’s ruby slippers. (Her dress from the movie use to be on site, but it burned in a fire in 1975.)
We got to listen to live music (including Over the rainbow) while we waited to enter Dorothy’s house.
Aunt Em in the kitchen
We headed into the basement where we experience the tornado in a dark room lit by black lights with a little swirling house and the tornado scene from the movie
Then, we went through the house after it lands in Oz.
And find that we’d landed on the witch
And the Mayor of Munchkinland has proclaimed her dead.
Soon, we met Glinda the Good Witch
And begin to walk the yellow brick road!!
The scarecrow was happy to see us, but we didn’t have any brains to spare
Leif said the Tinman is his favorite, because he has an ax.
Sweet Cowardly Lion
Once we met up with Dorothy and her traveling companions, we ran into some of the Wicked Witches guards.
Cranky talking apple trees
And the Wicked Witch herself, who tried to turn the kids into flying monkeys.
The witch’s castle
Once we made it through the forest, we found everyone waiting for us in the poppy field.
Once you make it to the Emerald City, you are almost home!
I got Suki from a rescue when she was about 1 1/2 years old. I didn’t know a lot about her back story except that she’d been turned into the rescue twice by families who said they just didn’t really want her anymore. I promised her that I’d stay with her to the end. My sweet Suki passed away this evening after 14+ great years. She was a fierce and loyal companion with a mind of her own.
I picked her up from a rescue 6 hours from my house. After the long drive home she bounded into the house, ran into each room, and then jumped on my bed and peed. I’m not sure if she was just super excited to finally be home or if she was getting me back for the long ride in the car.
Soon after I got her, a friend lent me his book on training Akitas. I’d skimmed it a bit and left it on the table so we could start our training soon. The next morning I woke up to find the book shredded on the floor…. Suki had never torn up anything before and never did again! She just wanted to make sure I understood that she didn’t need any training. She would walk to her own beat.
One of Suki’s favorite games when she was younger was to steal your socks or underwear as soon as you jumped in the shower and run off with them. She was a stealth little thief!
She also had this toy that was actually a stress doll… one of those things you beat on when you are stressed and it would scream (Weird, I know). Well, Suki took it from Toby and claimed it as hers. She loved to carry it into our room at night and chew on it so that it would scream “YOUR DRIVING ME CRAZY!!!” as we were sleeping.
Suki was a bit of a puppy until she was probably 7 or 8 years old. She finally started to mellow out a bit. The kids took advantage of that and would dress her up. Sometimes it was just to keep her warm in the winter.
Sometimes it was because she looked so cute in hats.
Dearest Suki, I hope you are now at peace. I hope your heaven is full of squirrels and chew treats, underwear and all of your favorite things. I love you and will miss you dearly!
The plan today was to freshen up the paint on the fruit tree trunks, which helps keep the borers away. But, our paint had frozen over the winter and was no good so we had to put that off for another day. Leif would have none of this and insisted that he paint SOMETHING this morning. So, we set him up and let him go to it.
He’s very proud of his work and plans to display it on his wall once it’s dry.
Last night I fell asleep to the music of cicadas and crickets. I didn’t realize I missed it until I heard it coming though my window. Ahhhh!!! Home!
We had a wonderful final week of travels and rode TWO trains! We took the cog railway up to the top of Pikes Peak, one of Colorado’s 14,000 foot mountains (they have 53!) Cogs are used for steep terrain (generally over 7%, but some of the inclines on our ride were 25%!!!). It’s basically a gear on the bottom of the train that connects with the middle rail. This keeps the train from slipping on the tracks during a steep incline.
Here is what the railing looks like. Leif really enjoyed learning how this works. There are currently only 3 cog railways in use in the US: Pike’s Peak in Colorado, Mount Washington in NH, and Quincy and Torch Lake in MI. (See the deer in the woods?)
You can see the angle of the incline here. Looks more like we are in a plane!
Above the tree line.
“The hills are alive….” I could just see Julie Andrews dancing in the fields. The grass up here grows SOOOOOO slowly…. about an inch every hundred years. So, we cold still see the 100 year old wagon trail.
In the distance is a working gold mine!
View from the top.
One thing that I learned on the trip was that Katherine Lee Bates wrote the poem America the Beautiful after being inspired during the wagon trip she took up to the top of Pike’s Peak in 1893. Isn’t that cool?
Since this was the highest point we would be at during our trip we emptied our water bottle of water and put the cap back on for the long trip back home. We talked to the kids about air pressure and how it would change the bottle as we traveled home.
Leif loves his sister so much. But he DID NOT want her in this picture with him. There was a long line of people waiting to take pictures of the summit sign and the train was ready to leave. So, since Leif couldn’t have a picture by himself, he ran around screaming like a crazy man. Toby finally had to help him off of the rock and back into the train. Poor little man. The low oxygen must have been getting to him
The sweet deer came right up to the train on the way back down.
We had a book about the railway that described the language of the different horn blasts. So, we could tell when the engineer was signaling to his conductors, when he was warning about crossings up ahead, when he was about to stop…
Some parts of the rail line were over some pretty steep cliffs. This is looking straight down from our window.
Sometimes, when going over bridges, the train would blow steam out of the side. This helped clean out a part of the engine (I don’t remember what part
Over the bridge.
We stopped twice to take on more water. The water tanks were fed by streams above them. The tank fills up and overflows back into the stream.
Our destination was Silverton. The town was named after the ton of silver that you could find there. (A little gold, too.) But it was known for being a bit of a lawless town. There were 40 bordellos on one street! There was so much trouble making in the town that Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson were brought in to try to keep the peace. When they couldn’t, Masterson left and Earp began dealing cards for local saloons.
Of course, there is ‘mining’ for the kids in Silverton.
They were very happy with their haul.
After a couple of hours in town, we headed back to Durango. The train in front of us was having some troubles, so this trip took a bit longer.
And some of us got tired
Selfie with the kid.
When we finally got back to the hotel, this is what the sky looked like.
We had thought about making a few other stops, but we all agreed that we had seen as many things as we could and it was time to make the 26 hour trip home. We passed a train carrying wind turbine blades. I had no idea they were so big!!! Each of these blades took up two train cars!!
On our way through Oklahoma, the sky began to darken.
And lightning began to explode in the air!!! The sky was pitch black at this point, but the clouds look white because of the lightning inside.
We stopped in Memphis for a night and checked out our bottle, since this was the lowest point in our trip.
Yesterday, 4300 total miles later, we finally rolled into home! What a trip! It really couldn’t have worked out much better! But, man, is it great to be home!
The pumpkin vines have to be 30 feet long!
The tomatoes are bigger than my hand!
And the flowers are gorgeous!
So, now we go back to our normal routine. Time for me to start planning out the next school year for the kids, getting things canned up from the garden, and enjoying the last days of summer.
Hello there! And welcome to our third week of travels. We continued to explore around the Boulder area, including the areas right outside our home. Leif made fast friends with the neighbor’s little boy, and they played in the yard almost every morning. They share a love of construction trucks and were wowed by the big compost truck that drove up one morning (Boulder picks up trash, recycling, and all of your compostables!! Isn’t that awesome?!)
We drove into Denver one rainy day to explore the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. We spent many hours there and still couldn’t have seen half of it! We started with a 3-D IMAX movie about Lemurs, which we all loved, then went on to the dinosaur exhibit…
…the kids hands-on areas…
…learned about water and land formations…
…and saw a mummy exhibit, learned about Colorado wildlife, and more!
We took a day to drive out to Eldorado Springs to swim. The pool there was part of a resort that opened almost 100 years ago and is fed by natural springs. So, it’s very cold!! Set up against the Eldorado State Park, the view from the pool is amazing. The kids enjoyed the super long slide and floating around the pool for a bit, but it was a wee bit too cold for our southern blood (I admit it… I didn’t even get in).
Our third week of travel has also been our most trying so far.The kids were getting a bit tired of exploring, so we spent some days just going to a park or watching a movie. Also, when you spend 24/7 together you can easily get on each other’s nerves. I found myself a bit jealous of Toby, who got to go to work three days during the past week. Yes, I know it’s work, but it’s still time to yourself :-) I thought it might help dynamics a bit to get the kids apart for a while. So, Friday night, I took Kaia out for dinner, just to two of us. We drove to the sweet town of Lyons and stopped in at the Lyons Fork restaurant. It was nice to get out of the city and chill a bit by two aspen trees. I don’t know if I’d ever seen an aspen before this trip. I do love the way the leaves shake when the wind blows, and the trunks look so wise with the ‘eyes’ on their bark. (Kind of reminds me of the weirwood trees from Game of Thrones.)
Kaia and I had a decadent meal with truffle fries… (yes, she is really enjoying her root beer!)
and grilled salmon over parsnips and asparagus, topped with a pesto sauce! YUM!! We finished it off with a white chocolate creme brule and drove home very happy.
This morning, we packed up and finally headed back out on the road. Our friends were such amazing hosts. I can only imagine what it’s like to have a whole family move in and take over your space for almost 3 weeks. On top of that, they have a young baby and just moved to Boulder a few months ago! Wonderful people!
Tonight, we are in the Sunflower Lodge. I was lucky enough to stumble on this place through the grand ol’ internet. The kids were so excited when the owner’s kitty came out for some loving (we miss our fur babies)! She’s not spoiled, is she?
We headed to the Cave of the Winds (ok, how many of you are thinking of farts right now?? Tell the truth!) for a little exploring.
You drive up a handful of switch backs to get to the main house where the view is gorgeous.
Once inside the cave you’ll find an old rope ladder from the original explorers.
Leif loved calling out the names of the formations when he saw stalactites or stalagmites, popcorn rocks, or crystals.
After the tour, we headed to dinner at the Airplane Restaurant! The restaurant is built around an old Boeing KC-97 tanker! Though there is a restaurant attached we actually got to sit in the plane for dinner.
And do a bit of flying.
Tomorrow starts our final week of travels. We have a lot of wonderful things planned (including two train rides!), but I think we are all a bit home sick. It will be nice to sleep in our own beds and snuggle up the animals.
Toby had such a wonderful time hiking towards Apache Peak that he had to take the kids and I back… and it was breathtaking!
The kids were most excited about the snow! We saw a bit at the bottom of the trail and a bunch at Isabelle Lake!
I took lots of wild flower pictures. Many I’d never seen before and the colors were so rich!
There was a little bit of complaining about going on a long hike, but attitudes changed pretty quickly once we got going. It reminded Kaia and I of our time in the Ponderosa Pine forests last year. The air was cool and crisp and smelled of conifers. So refreshing. (This is the lower lake, Long Lake.)
Can you see the slithering “S” back and forth on the snow? Snow boarders have hiked into crazy areas to snowboard down!
I love the vibrant colors in this picture!
Isabelle Lake still had a good bit of snow around her. On the left is what looks like a snow damn coming off of the lower side of the lake.
(Yes, I am wearing my Chacos. I wear them every where and didn’t even bring another pair of shoes on the trip )
The river on the right was flowing down from snow melt up above. It punched a whole through the snow and fed into the lake.
Don’t get too close. It’s a steep drop and a very cold swim under the snow!
This was the view from our lunch spot. The water falls off the far side of the lake…
We had another wonderful week in Boulder, starting it off with the Celestial Seasonings factory tour. The tea factory is only a couple of miles from where we are staying, so how could we pass it up? Our tickets were sample baggies of tea which the kids thought were fabulous. While we waited for the tour to begin we filled up on yummy sips of different teas, read a bit about the history of the tea company, and looked at gorgeous tea pots and a lovely dress made of tea bags. The highlight of the tour for leif was definitely watching all of the conveyor belts move the tea along.
We also hit the Butterfly Pavilion. We loved hanging out in the butterfly room, but also learned a lot about other insects.
This is where the chrysalis hung until they hatched and were released into the butterfly room.
Leif got to hold Rosie, the Salmon Pink Tarantula, and pet a hissing cockroach (Kaia left the room)
We went on another factory tour,this time at the Schacht Spindle factory . This is where my spinning wheel was made 25 years ago. We got to put on our ear and eye protection and head into the thick of things. All the parts for their spinning wheels, looms, and drop spindles are milled on site and put together by hand.
This is Bree putting together one of the looms (the Wolf Pup, I believe). She showed us how it all fits together and we learned a bit about how it works.
I love the way the drips look on the drip rack. Each piece of wood is coated with Danish Oil.
And this gorgeous picture is a weaving!!! A weaving!! I can’t even begin to imagine the detail and planning that went into this! Such talent!
Of course, we also spent time at local pools. We found one community pool that has 2 water slides, a lazy river, water play area for little kids, and a lap pool. It was crazy!! And it’s in the community center. MAN! Asheville seriously needs one of these.
Toby and his friend, Mark, headed up to Apache Peak for a hike. Apache is over 13,000 feet tall! They had such an amazing time that we are all going back next week. We won’t go all the way to the top with the kids, but we’ll still get to enjoy some lovely views.
With all the rains they had in Colorado last year, there was still a good bit of snow on the mountain, and the melting snow created some pretty fast flowing rivers.
The lakes still had a good bit of ice on them.
The Marmots on the trail were super friendly.
Close to the top, there was so much snow that it covered the trail. The guys tried to find a good way around, but the skies darkened and they decided to head back down before the storms rolled in.
For the last few years, Toby and I have talked about how nice it would be to take a month out of each year to travel with the kids. It would be a fabulous way to introduce them to other cultures, people, languages, etc. We thought it might be best, though, to wait until Leif was 5 years old to do this, and to start in the States, just to see how we all did with being away from home for a month.
It just so happens that some good friends of ours just moved to Boulder, Colorado earlier this year and they invited us out for a visit in July. We also have a friend who needed a place to stay for the month of July and offered to take care of our homestead. BAM! Couldn’t have been more perfect.
For a few months prior to our trip, I started collecting little entertainment goodies for the kids, and wrapped each one in brown paper. Every few hours of our trip (while we are in the car at least) if the kids are well behaved, they get to open another package. We also borrowed a DVD player from a friend, and laminated road maps so that the kids could mark off our travels on the maps. We left last Sunday with the kids in PJ’s surrounded by pillows and entertainment.
I will admit, I was very apprehensive about the drive. I thought that there might be a bit too much bickering going on in the back seat for my liking. But, things went amazingly smooth.
Our drive took us about 3 days (with stops here and there). Silly Putty and Mad Libs were a hit. And, of course, the DVD player got some use! We also tried our hands at making Car S’mores.
We wrapped the graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate in aluminum foil and put it on the dashboard in the bright sun. It didn’t take long before the chocolate had melted and the kids got a tasty treat.
Oh, and the kids also got to experience PopRocks for the first time. (I know it sounds like all I did was give the kids sugar, but I promise I didn’t
Another way to keep the kids entertained was by rating all of the bathroom stops. In case you are wondering, the most pleasant/cleanest bathroom was a tie between the Breaktime at Booneville, MO and the 24/7 Travel Store west of Topeka, KS. The 24/7 may win out due to their used book store inside the rest area! (We even found a Reishi mushroom growing out of the lawn at the Kentucky Welcome Center rest stop!)
With the kids marking our progress on their maps, we noticed that most states most populated cities were not also the state capitals. In fact, in only 17 of our 50 states are the capital cities also the largest cities in that state. Can you name them?
On the way out to Boulder, we made a stop in Troy, IL to visit friends we hadn’t seen in almost 8 years. The kids wore themselves out playing while Kristine made wonderful meals and we had great conversation. Thank you Kristine, for having us out to your lovely farm!
These silly turkeys loved to gobble. And when one gobbled, they all gobbled. Leif discovered that they would gobble every time he screamed. I wonder what the neighbors were thinking?
Now in Boulder, we are spending our time swimming at the most fabulous community pool, hiking up in the Rocky Mountains, visiting markets, and enjoying time with our friends.
Lily Lake is in the shadow of Longs Peak (a 14,000 foot mountain).
We had a lovely hike around the lake and up into the mountains a bit.
The mountains here are so amazing and stunningly beautiful, just like my mountains back home. Yet, they are extremely different. So stark and dry and sharp. The mountains I’ve grown up with are lush and green, softened and molded with age. I love the contrast between the two and learning about these new mountains.
(See the rock climber?)
Kaia shot this picture of me photographing the storm rolling in.
The storm over Longs Peak
There were some VERY friendly chipmunks who may be getting fed a bit too much by the tourists
This one is trying to steal a compass from Leif’s hands.
And this one was a bit of a camera hog.
On the way to the mountain, we found this gorgeous church growing out of the stone.
Back in Boulder, Leif had a big thumbs up for the big slide at the community pool!
All of us took turns on the big slide! There seriously needs to be one of these at our local pool in Asheville!
Today we explored the famous Boulder Farmers Market. Kaia said, “It’s more Gluten free than Asheville!!” And Leif ran around like a crazy boy (and then got swung around a bit)!
We stopped at an art booth and learned a bit about the Ndebele people of South Africa and their style of house painting.
And of course, there has to be a cute picture of our friend’s little boy Isaac, who loves peek-a-boo.
No, not a human baby, but a new spinning wheel!!! Woohoo! Isn’t she amazing?
I’ve been borrowing a wheel from a very generous friend for the past year and a half. I figured it was far past time that I get my own. I began the hunt this winter and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get this lovely wheel. It was owned by an amazing artist who passed away 8 years ago and has been sitting unused ever since. For the past couple of months I’ve been waiting on parts that I needed to make her work and then passed her on to a super talented friend who decorated her with poppies and butterflies. I got her back this morning and finally had a chance to sit down and spin. Wheeeeeeeee!
The wheel is made by Schacht and is called a Matchless….. but that just won’t do. She needs a proper name. Here’s where you come in! CONTEST!
I’m having a naming contest on my FaceBook page. What do you think I should name her? Leave me a comment on my facebook page and, if I like your name best, you will win a hand spun, wire core bracelet from my etsy store (or I’ll spin you one in your favorite colors)! If you share the contest on your page you get a second chance to win!! Don’t have a FB page? Just leave your comment here on my blog. Easy Peasy.
I was super excited to get invited to sheep shearing day at a friends farm. I’ve never had the opportunity to do this and, especially now, with my spinning habit growing, I wanted to learn. When we pulled up, they were already in the middle of shearing Snow, a white cormo sheep, who had given birth to twins the day before. Well, the babies needed snuggling while mom was getting her coat off, so Kaia and I set to work immediately!
This little girl fit perfectly in my coat!
There was a professional shearer there. So, we didn’t actually do any of that part.
But, I did get to help with the skirting (removing the plant matter and dirt) of the fleece.
And my friend sent me home with a bit to play with, too! So gorgeous. It’s like the sheep keep a crimper in the barn to use when no humans are looking!
Kaia and I came across this article about a man who started a terrarium in 1960. He stopped watering it in 1973 and it has lived, sealed up, since then. The plants, soil, and water have created a sustainable system. Kaia was intrigued by this idea and wanted to try to start her own. Here’s what we did:
We found this jar at Target. It’s probably about 2 or 2 1/2 gallons. The top has a rubber seal to help keep the moisture in (and other stuff out).
Kaia used some gravel and marbles to fill the bottom 2 inches. This will help with drainage so the soil doesn’t stay too wet.
We then put a thin layer of charcoal. This was recommended in a video we watched about starting terrariums to help keep the soil fresh.
We then put in a layer of soil. We used a mix of two different potting soils (one seemed too fluffy and one was too heavy, so we mixed them). These three layers made up the lower 1/3 of the jar.
Then it was time for the plants. Kaia chose a creeping fig, blue star creeper, and two little ferns. She picked off any dead material and spaced the plants out in the jar. The largest plant went in first.
Once the plants were tucked in, we filled in any gaps with more soil.
She added about two ounces of water. We’ll add more if needed. Better to add too little than too much. You can always add more, but it’s not easy to take out extra.
Hello Friends! Sorry for the hiatus. Has it really been almost a month? Well, I kind of dove head first into the fiber world and am having a blast. Colorful batts, art yarns, funky fiber jewelry, squishy knits… So much fun! The kids are also enjoying getting their hands on the fibers and spinning on my wheels. I have to let go of my selfish urge to hog all of it for myself! :-) Oh, and did you notice I said wheels? YES, I have two. Well, there are two in my house, but I have neither, yet. The first wheel is a Louet S-10 that was graciously loaned to me by a friend. I’ve had it for over a year now and felt like it was time to return hers and get my own. Then, along came another gracious woman who offered me a Schacht Matchless (‘the cadallac of wheels’) for an insanely inexpensive price and I couldn’t pass it up! So, it’s at my house for a test drive and I hope to pay for it this week. Such a beautiful machine!
Here are a few images of what I’ve been making lately. I’ve got them for sale in my etsy store, but if there’s something you would like in a different shade or color, I’d love to make it for you!!
Fiber spun onto a wire core and wrapped into a bracelet!
Fiber spun onto a wire, then knitted into a necklace!
Another lovely bracelet.
Art yarn twisted into a necklace.
Another lovely bracelet.
More art yarn.
Enjoying a fabulous day at a spinning weekend/camp with Pluckyfluff.
Little man decided that this was his motorcycle and spun for most of the day. He is on the Louet and my new Matchless is on the left. I can’t keep calling her the Matchless, though…. she needs a name. Any suggestions?
Thanks to Nikki and her birthday gift, I’ve been having a wonderful time spinning art yarn. But, to make art yarn, you need art batts. These can be on the pricey side when you are just learning how to spin. So, I thought I’d make them myself. Usually they are made using a drum carder. I don’t have one of these and they cost just as much as a new spinning wheel (expensive). But, last year, something new appeared on the market called a blending board. It’s less expensive than a drum carder, but still pricey. So, in an attempt to create my own batts to spin, I’ve made my own blending board for under $100.
I ordered a piece of blending cloth from Natural Fiber Yarns. While I waited for it to arrive, Toby found an old cabinet door that was the perfect size to attach the cloth to. He trimmed one end a bit and removed the knob.
Once we had the cloth, we put some wood glue on the door and placed the cloth securely onto the glue.
After the glue dried, Toby used tiny screws to attach the cloth on all edges. You could also use a staple gun, but we had lots of little screws laying around.
Then, he attached a cabinet handle to the top edge so that it will be easier for me to carry and hold on to when I’m blending fiber.
I found a 3 foot long 3/8″ dowel that I had laying around the house and cut it in half (photo bomb by the kitty!) These will be used to roll the fiber up into a batt.
And I found a cat brush to help with pushing the fiber into the blending cloth.
Then I got to blending. Here’s how the process looks. I gathered all my goodies and began ‘painting’ them onto the blending board.
First was a beautiful yellow that the kids and I had dyed with turmeric (wool and bamboo). You drag it along the pins so that it catches and stretches.
Then, you can use the cat brush (The pins are at an angle so you use the brush upside down so it doesn’t pull the fiber right back out) to push the fiber deeper into the pins.
Keep adding stuff until it’s full. These are blue and white mohair locks.
I added sari silk, silk cocoons, tinsel, more wool of different colors, and whatever else I could find.
Once it is full, you pull up the end a bit to loosen the fiber. Then you place the dowels, one on each side of the fiber, and begin rolling it.
Some of the fiber may stay stuck in the blending board. You can pull those up with your fingers or the cat brush and wrap them into the rest of the fiber.
Once you are done, just slide the dowels out and you have yourself a mini batt. You pull from one end to start spinning your art yarn.
No, my kids don’t get snow days off. We still plop ourselves in front of the wood stove and get our school work done. But THEN, we get to make maple taffy! It’s an experiment, right???
First you heat your maple syrup to 250 degrees (the “soft ball” stage – hehehe). We also put a small pot of honey on the stove to make some honey taffy.
When your syrup reaches 250, turn off the heat and have the kids head out in their long johns and fill up a bowl of snow…. pack it down firmly.
Drizzle the syrup into the snow.
Roll it up onto a skewer.
tap it in the snow a bit to be sure it’s cooled off and EAT IT! YUM!
We got tired of rolling them up and just made plops in the snow. We all liked the maple syrup flavor better.
I know, I know! You don’t have to tell me that making pure sugar candies when the kids are snowed in isn’t the smartest of ideas. I just couldn’t help myself. It looked like such a fun and yummy experiment. Now, I just have to shove the kids into their winter clothes and toss them outside to play!!
Like much of the rest of the country, we’ve been hit by an arctic blast today, so we thought we’d get outside (all bundled up, of course) and have a little fun with the cold.
First, we put some bubble fluid in small bowls and used straws to blow bubbles. At first, they just froze and popped. But as the bubbles tumbled out of the bowl we noticed that some of them were freezing to the side of the bowl or the table before they popped. If you touched them, they would shatter like glass. So very cool!
The aftermath looks like broken glass, doesn’t it?
Then we decided to fill up some balloons and ice cube trays with colored water and leave them outside to freeze.
These turned out so lovely. (We popped the frozen ice cubes out of their trays and put them all in water to refreeze.)
After taking pictures we put the ice back outside. Tomorrow we plan to bring them in and use them to make ice paintings on thick white paper.
The other day, Leif and I picked up our camera from the repair shop and noticed a large pine tree just outside of the front door. The tree was dripping with sap. In fact, there was so much sap that it looked like the sidewalk next to the tree was covered in candle wax. Leif began asking all kinds of questions about how the tree makes sap and what it does. He stuck his fingers in it and got himself all gooey. We talked about how the sap is part of the tree’s immune system and when there is an injury it makes a scab, just like our bodies do. I told him that the sap helps fight infections and that you can make it into a salve and use it on wounds.
“I want to make a sap salve for my wounds, Mommy!” Leif said as his eyes lit up with excitement. And, of course, I thought, ‘Yay! An herbal project!!’.
I happened to have a little stash of pine sap that Kaia and I collected when we were out in Arizona this summer.
So, we grabbed the sap and pulled out our HerbalRootsZine about Pine (have I told you how much we LOVE this zine?!). We read all about Pine and it’s uses, and then headed to the kitchen for a little mixology
We warmed the sap in Olive oil and added a bit of beeswax. Kaia asked to add some Lavender Essential Oil for its healing properties. So, we tossed that in, too.
Once it was all mixed, we poured it into our jar and let it cool.
Super simple, super fun, and lots learned. Leif went around telling everyone that he has a pine sap salve for his cuts and boo boos, and though his chocolate-covered face looks sad, he was actually super excited about his accomplishment. He said he’s looking forward to his first cut so that he can try it out.
I love to have a big stash of chicken soup in the pantry. On those cold, blustery days of winter, nothing is more satisfying than a big bowl of hot soup (well, maybe chocolate, but that applies in any season).
A few years ago, I discovered this recipe and the whole family devoured it. I’ve tweaked it a bit over time… adding my own arrangement of herbs and spices to increase the immune boosting properties of chicken soup even more. I also leave out the noodles so that I can pressure can it and store it in the pantry.
Here you go. I hope you like it. The elderberries and burdock grow in our yard, so I have easy access to these nourishing and immune-supportive herbs. You can usually find them at the health food store or you can omit them.
Winter Chicken Soup
1 whole chicken (3-4 pounds. I keep the kidneys and liver in the chicken, but take the neck out and give it to our animals… they love it! You can also break the bones up a bit to let the marrow out)
1 cup carrots, sliced
1 cup celery, sliced
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup burdock root chopped (if using dried, use 1/2 cup)
6 shiitake mushrooms, chopped
1 cup fresh (or frozen) elderberries (1/2 cup if using dried)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 Tbsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground pepper
8 cups of water or chicken broth
Put all of the ingredients in a large stock pot. Cover and simmer for 3-5 hours. Once it is done, take the chicken out (be careful, it’s hot!) and remove the skin and bones. Shred up the meat. The chicken literally falls apart in the soup, so I usually strain what’s left in the pot and go through everything to be sure there are no bones left, removing the bay leaves when I do this. It takes a little effort, but it’s very worth it! Put all of the veggies, meat, and broth back in the pot.
If you want to make this in your crock pot, put everything in the crock, cover, and cook on low for 8-10 hours or high for 4-5 hours.
I usually make a double batch and can up the leftovers. Ladle the soup into quart jars with 1″ head space. Process in pressure canner for 1 hour 30 minutes at 10# pressure, sea level. (We are 3000 feet above sea level, so I add one pound of pressure for every 1000 feet above sea level….. so where I live I process at 13# pressure for 1 1/2 hours.)
I don’t know why I love to see my kids writing so much. Seeing their words on paper, that tangible, written expression of themselves, it really makes my heart feel warm and happy.
My first child can be a perfectionist. She wants to know that what she does will come out perfectly before doing it. This can be hard on her, since most things take a bit of practice. Because of this she literally refused to read anything until she was 7, saying she “might pronounce the words wrong”. I was worried about it at first, as many first time parents would be, thinking she might ‘fall behind’. But, when she decided she was ready to read and write, she picked it up with such a vengeance that she now reads faster than I do.
With my second child, I am a bit more relaxed. I know he will come to things in his own time, just as my first child has. He, however, decided that he wanted to read and write from the moment he could understand the concepts. When he was 2 1/2 years old he got angry with me for not ‘doing school’ with him, like I do with his older sister, and asked for his own “curriculum”. I wasn’t planning on any formal schooling until he was 5 or 6 years old, but he was so motivated I decided to start him with All About Reading and Moebius Noodles.
He started reading simple words when he was three and now, at 4 1/2, is reading and writing simple sentences. I’m so excited for him! He’s launching into a new world of independence, exploration, and expression. I LOVE seeing him plop himself down on the couch with a book, or write me a love note! (My ‘to do’ list last night was “Mom, Hug Leif!”)
Today, his dad came home from a week long trip. Leif wanted to welcome him home with a sign that said, “Welcome home dad. When you come in and put your stuff away, come and see my new legos” :-) I talked him into a simpler version “Welcome home dad. Play LEGOS with me.”
Trying to stay away from dairy and sugar wouldn’t be that hard at all if ice cream had never been invented! I think I get my ice cream gene from my dad, who use to sit down to a half gallon of ice cream after dinner….. a bowl for me, a bowl for my sister, and the rest for him! Needless to say, he wasn’t a small man.
Banana ice cream has become a simple and tasty substitute when I’m craving that sweet creaminess.
My most recent creation is Carrot Cake Banana Ice Cream!! So delicious! (Please excuse my photos. My good camera broke and I’m left with my phone camera, which is not the best)
3 frozen bananas
1/2 cup carrot, finely shredded (~1 medium carrot)
2 Tbsp. coconut milk (full fat)
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cardamom
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract.
1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
15 drops stevia extract (optional)
Place your bananas, carrot, coconut milk, and spices in a food processor and mix until smooth. Take a taste. It’s delicious the way it is, but if you have a serious sweet tooth, like I do, you can add up to 15 drops of stevia and mix again.
Pour your ice cream into a large bowl and hand mix in the nuts and raisins. Makes ~4-6 servings.
That’s it! As my little boy says, “Easy peasy lemon squeezy!” Enjoy!
In our home, even kitties do school… with their pj’s on…. in the cat tent
School has been going fairly well this semester. It’s been a little harder with 4 year old energy around the house while Kaia and I are working on more advanced subjects. She has a hard time concentrating with Leif doing anything in her vicinity. If I sent him up with something fun for him to do, she wants to play along. If I’m not doing school with him, he often gets mad, “Why don’t I have more schoolwork?!?” :-) I can’t complain that he loves learning. He’s reading simple sentences and started writing short words. This morning, as I watched him write, my mind flashed forward to him writing me a little letter, “Dear mommy, I love you!” or something like that. My whole body feel warm and fuzzy.
Kaia’s semester is falling into place in a way that I hadn’t planned, but am very thankful for. We’ve begun studying Einstein and his though experiments using the book Albert Einstein and Relativity for Kids. The experiments can be done with household objects and are fairly simple so Leif can enjoy them. Kaia and I take them a bit deeper.
While we learn about the life of Einstein, we are also studying this same time period in history. We’ve read Miss Spitfire, about Annie Sullivan and Hellen Keller, read a bit about Nikola Tesla and his inventions, and looked through If You Lived 100 Years Ago. We just finished up a fabulous book about immigration in the early 1900′s called Shutting out the Sky. Kaia has decided that she wants to take a trip to NY to visit Ellis Island and the NY Tenement Museum. (She has come a long way from wanting to visit NY because of the American Girl Doll factory.) We’ve just moved into The Unsinkable Molly Brown (Titanic) and will go from here into discussing women’s suffrage and WWI (A Time for Courage) and WWII (Number the Stars). I may be enjoying the history reading even more than she is!
Around our house, it’s very common to find one of us crafting or creating something at almost any point in time. Blending up soaps and teas, knitting/sewing clothes and toys, carving spoons and turning bowls, making herbal medicine, drawing, painting, glueing, hammering….. If it’s “Do It Yourself”, we will try it (and even if it’s not, we might try it! Oy!) We just can’t help making stuff around here.
So, I felt it was high time we open up a little store to showcase some of our craftiness. We’ve started small but we plan to add more herbal, knitted, and homesteading item. (I’m hoping to get Toby to list some of his beautiful carved bowls in there.) Drop in and take a look!! And tell your friends!
One of the things I’m most excited about in our Etsy store is our Tea of the Month Club! There’s a 3-month, 6-month, and 12-month membership. Each month, we send out a new blend of delicious herbal tea. I’ve been working on recipes for a few months and they are all so tasty!! I’m having a problem keeping the kids out of my December blend (yes, there is cocoa in that mix)… they just keep asking for more!
Kaia and I got back from our 9 day AZ trip late Wed. night. We saw some stunning sites, met some wonderful people, and had the most amazing time together! Our original purpose for traveling was to go to the Herbal Resurgence Conference. But, we couldn’t go all the way across the country and not explore a bit!
The first day we were there, we spent time at Walnut Canyon. It’s a relatively small canyon compared to some of the others in AZ, but it is home to many ancient cliff dwellings of the Sinagua people.
Just a short hike into the canyon you find evidence of community life from a thousand years ago.
Rooms were built around rock that had been carved out by ancient rivers.
The small rooms still had fire stained ceilings
After visiting Walnut Canyon, Kaia and I checked ourselves in to the Mormon Lake Lodge where we spent the next 4 days enjoying herbal education, new friends, and great music.
The pines around here are amazing. In fact, we discovered that we were in the largest continuous Ponderosa Pine forest in the world.
Kaia made quick friends, not just with the horses, but with another 10 year old who she played with any chance she got. They hung out at the stables, made mermaids by the lake, and sold Kaia’s hair clips and necklaces together.
Our sweet cabin neighbors each bought one of her hair clips and posed for me. They also prepared big feast each night and invited us over to dine!
While Kaia was playing or in her classes, I got to go to a crazy number of herbal classes with some amazing teachers!! Classes on Pine, Hawthorne, Artemisia, herbs and digestion, warning signs for herbalists, tongue and pulse diagnosis, herb walks…. I’d taken a step back from herbs since closing my clinic after Leif was born, and it felt so good to immerse myself in it again!
Once we left Mormon Lake, we headed up to the Grand Canyon. I’ve only been to the Grand Canyon once before this trip, and I just remember standing deep in the canyon walls and feeling completely overwhelmed. The immensity of it can’t be put into words. I wanted Kaia to experience this in person.
We hiked about a mile down the Bright Angel Trail.
meeting spotted squirrels
And a family of mule deer
The skies were insanely blue!
There were old pictoglyphs carved into the wall (do you see them? In red?)…
and the Colorado River in the distance.
On our final day, we took the scenic route back to Phoenix via the Oak Creek Canyon Drive. We stopped off at Slide Rock State Park and had ourselves in stitches, laughing as we slid down the extremely cold river.
Again, the skies were so blue they seemed painted.
The river has carved a natural slide through the sand stone perfect for cold water fun.
And, BOY, was it cold. The kind of cold that leaves you gasping for breath.
We had to jump out and throw ourselves down on the warm rock.
Going on adventures with your kids is the best! We almost didn’t want to leave. Almost. Except that we had my sweet hubby and little boy waiting us, arms open ready for big hugs!
I hope you have been on some great adventures lately!
Back in June, I asked Kaia what she wanted for her birthday. She went through a few ideas before settling on a tree house. ”Yes!” I thought. ”We definitely need one of those on the land!!” And so the construction began:
Leif, as always, was a fabulous construction helper!
There was a lot of excitement when the platform was finally done! (They don’t look excited, do they? It had been a long day of construction, with lots of mosquitoes.)
The house is shaped like an H surrounding two large trees.
The siding was made out of donated tin roof and lap siding. It created a fabulous mash of colors and personality.
It took a while, but thanks to the help of our family, we are pretty much done! A rope ladder and pully system are planned for the near future. But, Kaia was able to move in today and is looking forward to some quiet time by herself. (We’ll see what her little brother has to say about that!)