Week 3 – traveling with kids

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?!)

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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…

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…the kids hands-on areas…
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…learned about water and land formations…

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…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).

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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.)lyonsfork

Kaia and I had a decadent meal with truffle fries… (yes, she is really enjoying her root beer!)lyonsfork2

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.

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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?

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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.

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Once inside the cave you’ll find an old rope ladder from the original explorers.cave2

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Leif loved calling out the names of the formations when he saw stalactites or stalagmites, popcorn rocks, or crystals.cave4

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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.

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And do a bit of flying. plane4

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.

 

Week 2.1 – Isabelle Lake

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!

apachekids1I took lots of wild flower pictures.  Many I’d never seen before and the colors were so rich!

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apachekids6There 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.)

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apachekids12Can you see the slithering “S” back and forth on the snow?  Snow boarders have hiked into crazy areas to snowboard down!

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I love the vibrant colors in this picture!

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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.apachekids23

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(Yes, I am wearing my Chacos.  I wear them every where and didn’t even bring another pair of shoes on the trip :-) )apachekids25

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.apachekids27

Don’t get too close.  It’s a steep drop and a very cold swim under the snow!apachekids28

This was the view from our lunch spot.  The water falls off the far side of the lake…apachekids30

…And DOWNNNNNN to the river below.apachekids29

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Such a lovely day!!

 

 

Traveling with kids – Week 2

teatour3We 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.

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We also hit the Butterfly Pavilion.  We loved hanging out in the butterfly room, but also learned a lot about other insects.

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This is where the chrysalis hung until they hatched and were released into the butterfly room.

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Leif got to hold Rosie, the Salmon Pink Tarantula, and pet a hissing cockroach (Kaia left the room) :-)

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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.

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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.schacthbree

For each spinning wheel there is only one crafter.  This man (Ben, I think) makes all of their Schacht-Reeves spinning wheels

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I love the way the drips look on the drip rack.  Each piece of wood is coated with Danish Oil.

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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!

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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.

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pool2Toby 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.

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Apache peak3With 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.

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The lakes still had a good bit of ice on them.
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The Marmots on the trail were super friendly.Apache peak9

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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.

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On they way out they saw moose!

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I’m super excited about going back!

We went on Banjo Billy’s Bus Tour of Boulder yesterday and learned a bit about the history of Boulder.

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Today, we took a shorter hike around Settler’s Park.  The trailhead is just on the edge of downtown, but the views are amazing!

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Yes, the kids have had some emotional times and some breakdowns, but all in all, at the end of each day we pretty much all look like this… happily exhausted.harddaysleep

 

 

 

 

Traveling with the kids – Week 1

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.

entertainmentI 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.

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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.

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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 :-)

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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!

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turkeys

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?

We all loved seeing the sea of windmills along the highway once we got into CO.   This happened to coincide with seeing a video about two Russian scientists who are attempting to build Tesla’s Wardenclyff tower.  So, we learned a bit about energy and how it’s transmitted.  Leif thought this was pretty dang cool!

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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).

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We had a lovely hike around the lake and up into the mountains a bit.

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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?)

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Kaia shot this picture of me photographing the storm rolling in.

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The storm over Longs Peak

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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.

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And this one was a bit of a camera hog.

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On the way to the mountain, we found this gorgeous church growing out of the stone.lilylakechurch

Back in Boulder, Leif had a big thumbs up for the big slide at the community pool!communitypool

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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)!

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We stopped at an art booth and learned a bit about the Ndebele people of South Africa and their style of house painting.market

And of course, there has to be a cute picture of our friend’s little boy Isaac, who loves peek-a-boo.

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Giveaway!! And my new baby!!

No, not a human baby, but a new spinning wheel!!!  Woohoo!  Isn’t she amazing?

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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!

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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! :-)

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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.

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Sheep Shearing

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!

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There was a professional shearer there.  So, we didn’t actually do any of that part.
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But, I did get to help with the skirting (removing the plant matter and dirt) of the fleece.shearing6

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!shearing7

Sustainable terrarium

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).

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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.terrarium3

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.terrarium4

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.terrarium2

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.terrarium5

Once the plants were tucked in, we filled in any gaps with more soil.

terrarium6 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.terrarium7

Then, put the top on…terrarium8

And admire your work!

terrarium9We are excited to see how this grows!

 

Like a kid in a candy store!

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!

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Fiber spun onto a wire, then knitted into a necklace!

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Another lovely bracelet.

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Art yarn twisted into a necklace.

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Art Yarn

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Another lovely bracelet.

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More art yarn.

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Enjoying a fabulous day at a spinning weekend/camp with Pluckyfluff.

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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?

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DIY Blending Board

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.

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Once we had the cloth, we put some wood glue on the door and placed the cloth securely onto the glue.

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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.
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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.

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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.

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And I found a cat brush to help with pushing the fiber into the blending cloth.

blendingboard6Then I got to blending.  Here’s how the process looks.  I gathered all my goodies and began ‘painting’ them onto the blending board.

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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.blendingboard8

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.

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Keep adding stuff until it’s full.  These are blue and white mohair locks.blendingboard10

I added sari silk, silk cocoons, tinsel, more wool of different colors, and whatever else I could find.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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That’s it!  Now, I must get to spinning!

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Maple Taffy

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.

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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.

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Drizzle the syrup into the snow.

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Roll it up onto a skewer.

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tap it in the snow a bit to be sure it’s cooled off and EAT IT!  YUM!

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We got tired of rolling them up and just made plops in the snow.  We all liked the maple syrup flavor better.

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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!!

When the temperature drops…

icebubbles4Like 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!

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The aftermath looks like broken glass, doesn’t it?

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Then we decided to fill up some balloons and ice cube trays with colored water and leave them outside to freeze.iceballoons

These turned out so lovely. (We popped the frozen ice cubes out of their trays and put them all in water to refreeze.)

 

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iceballoons4After 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.

 

 

Child guided learning or Going with the Sappy Flow

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.

 

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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 :-)

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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.

 

 

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Once it was all mixed, we poured it into our jar and let it cool.

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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. :-)

 

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Defrosting

Winter is here.  The toys have been brought in to warm up by the fire :-)

defrostingtoysLeif spent hours out in the snow this morning.  Now he’s defrosting on the couch.

The first snow always brings such a peaceful day with it!

 

Tingle Fingers

I’ve just added a new whipped body butter to my Etsy Store.   It’s silky smooth and smells like wintergreen lifesavers :-)

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The butter is fabulous for warming cold hands and feet, and soothing sore muscles.  But, it’s also great for the skin!

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Leif let me know that he was trying very hard not to eat any because “it looks too much like icing mommy!”

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Winter Chicken Soup – Keeping the Immune System Strong

chickensoup 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.

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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

Ingredients

  • 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

chickensoup4

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.

Done!

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.)

Enjoy a scrumptious bowl of nourishing soup!

 

Words

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!”)

welcomehomedadToday, 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.”

 

Maple Bacon Banana Ice Cream

Ok, here you go.

baconicecream

Maple Bacon Banana Ice Cream!!!!  

Yes, that deserves four exclamation marks because you can never get enough bacon!

Put the following ingredients in your food processor and blend until smooth:

3 frozen bananas
2 Tbsp canned Coconut Milk (the full fat kind)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1Tbsp Maple extract/flavor
8 drops of stevia extract (optional, use if you like it sweet!)

Add in 2 pieces of cooked, diced bacon and stir well. Eat up!  (There were large chunks of bacon in our ice cream, the picture just doesn’t show them….. don’t dice it up too small.)

Makes about 4 servings.

It came out really good….. I might add a couple of drops of liquid smoke next time to see if I can enhance that bacon-y flavor even more.

Vampire on the Trapeze

I was just playing around on the trapeze last night and had a friend take a picture of this crazy position that I just learned.

trappose2

When I looked closely at the picture I discovered something concerning about myself.  Looks like I turn into a crazed vampire when I hang like this.

trapposeIsn’t that crazy!?  I’ve never seen that kind of red eye in a photo before! :-)

 

Carrot Cake Banana Ice Cream! Ohhh YEAH!

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)

carrotcakeicecream2Ingredients:

  • 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!

carrotcakeicecream

Catschooling

In our home, even kitties do school… with their pj’s on…. in the cat tent :-)

catschooling

 

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!

research

 

 

Ninja Chickens has arrived!!

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!

 

teaofthemonth2

Arizona, beautiful Arizona.

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.
through tunnels
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!

A place of her own

 

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!)

Know your food

Kaia and I recently began reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma – Young Reader’s Edition.  She wasn’t super interested when I mentioned it, but she was hooked after the first chapter.  The first 100 pages discusses the industrial food system from farm to store, focusing on corn.  Kaia was amazed by how common corn is in our lives, not just in food, but in medicines, packaging, glues, paints, cosmetics, antibiotics, and so much more.

We decided to take a trip to the local grocery store with a list of corn products, just to see what we could find.  We walked down the aisles picking things at random.  Out of 30 products, there were only 5 that did not contain corn:  two varieties of  crackers, Enjoy LIfe Chocolate Chips, some gluten-free wafers, and a B-12 supplement.  In the other 25 products we found corn and its by-products 106 times!!!!!  We found it in things like pineapple juice, mayonnaise, Cheerios and other cereals, non-dairy creamer, pet treats as well as cat food (cats are obligate carnivores and should definitely NOT be eating corn!), fish sticks, wet walnut toppings, candy, crackers, frozen burgers, BBQ sauces, peanut butter, TV dinners, ice cream, baby tooth paste, icing, chili seasonings, gluten free ice cream cones and bread mixes, Centrum vitamins, and in jelly (4 different corn by-products in this jelly)!  All of this and we only made it half way through the store when we decided to stop.

WOW!    Just WOW!  So, how many of these things really need corn in them?  Have you ever made home-made ice cream with corn?  What about jelly?  Doubtful!  Corn is shoved into just about every processed food!  And that’s not even counting the corn that is used to feed the cattle, pigs, and chickens that produce the meat and eggs in the store, or the ethanol that’s used transporting some of these products, or the corn starch used to make some of the packaging, or the corn used to make the glues to seal the packages!

Our country has gotten into a vicious  cycle of over producing, over subsidizing, and over consuming corn.  (King Corn is a fabulous documentary if you want to learn more.)

From the list we brought to the store, we found corn in the form of: ascorbic acid, coloring, cellulose, citric acid, corn, corn meal, corn oil, corn starch, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, flavorings, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, malt flavoring, maltodextrin, polydextrose, polysorbates, sodium citrate, sucralose, tocopherols, and xantham gum.

If you’d like to take a look in your local store, or how about in your pantry, here is the list we used to get us started.

 

 

Making Dimples, a free pattern for you! :-)

I posted a picture of Kaia’s fabulous doll creation on Facebook and a FB friend, that I’ve never even met in person, was so impressed with Kaia’s ambitious sewing project that she sent Kaia a care package.  The package had doll making books, supplies, and even a hand made bunny!  Kaia was so excited that she got to making one of the dolls immediately.

The pink one she made for herself and the yellow one she gave to her dad for his birthday.  The little bunny was given to her in the care package.  Aren’t they cute?!?

 

So, then I was inspired.  The patterns in the book are so cute that I wanted to try to make one of my own.

Please meet The Dimples

They are super easy and quick to make.

Here is the pattern (two pages) to download if you’d like to try one: dimple2     dimple3

First cut the pattern and choose your fabrics.  Pin your pattern and cut your pieces out.  I used felt for the body and cut it with pinking shears. (Make sure to read through the instructions first.  There are different ways to sew up the doll depending on if you are using felt or not.)

Be sure that you cut your legs and ears so that they match up.  You don’t want two left legs…

Lay out your pieces to make sure you like the fabrics you chose.

Once all of your pieces are cut, you will start sewing by attaching the face to one of the body pieces with a very close zigag stitch on your machine, or you can do a satin embroidery stitch.  You will do the same with the eye and the heart.  Using contrasting thread colors to make them pop.

Next, embroider on the face and attach a button for an eye.  I used a basic back stitch for the mouth and blinking eye.

 

Next, pick a contracting color of embroidery thread or yarn and make a wide whip stitch around the face.

 

Next, you will sew up the legs and ears.  Place the right sides together and stitch around, leaving 1/4 ” seam allowance.  Make sure you don’t sew all the way around.  Leave a space where they will be attached to the body to turn them right-side-out and stuff them.

 

It helped me to use a chopstick to turn them right side out.

Trim the corners of your ears before turning them out.

Then stuff them leaving the end open.

Pin your pieces together making sure the ears and legs are tucked nicely between the front and back body pieces.

Sew it all together using a straight stitch in the same color as the body, and leaving an opening at the top to stuff.

Stuff your doll and sew it up, either with a straight stitch on your machine or by hand.

Now, if you want to use cotton fabric (or a non felt) you follow the directions exactly the same until it comes to sewing the whole thing up.  You will need to lay it out with the ears and legs on the inside with the edges lined up, like this:

The ears and legs are place up on the top body piece and then the back body piece is placed, right side down, on top.  Pin it well and sew it up leaving a space for stuffing and pulling everything right-side-out.  Does that make sense?  Here it is, ready to sew, with legs and ears tucked inside.

Stuff, and hand stitch it up with a whip stitch.

The pink one was made as a birthday gift.  Of course, Leif and Kaia wanted one, too.  Leif’s has an X eye, instead of a blink.

What do you think?

It is definitely that season again!

The kids and I headed out to one of our many local orchards yesterday and picked the heck out of some peaches and asian pears.  So, today, guess what we’re doing?

Cinnamon Spiced Pears

And Ashley English’s Spiced Pear Chutney almost ready to go into the empty jars.  (I love the look of the blue jars!!)

What I’ll need to tackle in the next few days:

Spiced peaches, brandies peaches, peach cobbler… what else?  Anyone have a nice recipe for a peach shrub??

While I was working away in the kitchen the house became very quiet.  Knowing that the kids might be getting themselves into a lot of trouble when they get quiet, I was thrilled when I walked out of the kitchen to see this:

 

What have you been canning up lately?

Meet Caroline Riffraff

Kaia has been asking to do this doll project for a few months now.  I thought, instead of starting the new school year a little early, I’d put aside the last week of summer for her to make her doll.   Often times, with sewing projects, she will start off with great gusto and then dump the project in my lap begging me to finish it.  This time, she took off and ran with it.  Not only completing the doll, but accessories, too.

Beginning the first arm

Voodoo doll!

Stuffing the legs

 

Button hips and brown boots

 

Sometimes others fall in love with our creations

And sometimes we get side tracked by cuteness

 

Pinning on the first layer of hair

 

Hair’s done (Crazy Happy!)

I did help Kaia by sewing on the face.  But, while I did that, she made Caroline a dress and accessories.

 

Caroline now has a purse, book, pencil, and saddle bag with snack pack, apples, water, and a burlap bag of oats for her horse.

Stay tuned!  Movie episodes of Caroline in “My life as a doll” are in the making!!