A tour through OZ

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.oz2

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.oz4

(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.oz6


The views from the top were stunning!

I had a run in with the mean neighbor who was trying to find Toto.  oz9

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.

Dorothy’s roomoz13

Aunt Em in the kitchenoz14

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 oz15


Then, we went through the house after it lands in Oz.oz17


And find that we’d landed on the witchoz19

And the Mayor of Munchkinland has proclaimed her dead.oz20

Soon, we met Glinda the Good Witch oz21

And begin to walk the yellow brick road!!oz22



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.oz26



Sweet Cowardly Lionoz29


Once we met up with Dorothy and her traveling companions, we ran into some of the Wicked Witches guards.oz31

Cranky talking apple trees

And the Wicked Witch herself, who tried to turn the kids into flying monkeys.oz33

The witch’s castleoz34


Once we made it through the forest, we found everyone waiting for us in the poppy field.oz36


Once you make it to the Emerald City, you are almost home!oz38

You meet the Wizardoz39


Say hello to the horse of a different color.oz41

Watch the wizard’s balloon fly away without you!


Click your heels three times and you are home!oz43

Flying back to the car 🙂oz44




A wonderful family weekend!oz47

The Artistic Process



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.
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He’s very proud of his work and plans to display it on his wall once it’s dry.

Traveling with kids – Week 4 and Finally home!

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?)



pikespeak3You 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.pikespeak8


In the distance is a working gold mine!pikespeak11

View from the top.pikespeak12

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? pikespeak13



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.


The next day, we headed to Durango to get on the Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.  This train ride was a full day adventure!  DSNGRR19


DSNGRR2We 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…


DSNGRR4 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.DSNGRR8


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.DSNGRR10

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.  DSNGRR16

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.DSNGRR20

And some of us got tired 🙂DSNGRR21

Selfie with the kid.DSNGRR22

When we finally got back to the hotel, this is what the sky looked like.DSNGRR23

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!!windturbine

On our way through Oklahoma, the sky began to darken.storm1

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.storm2



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!home

The tomatoes are bigger than my hand!home2

And the flowers are gorgeous!home4


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.

Where should we go next year???


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?!)


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.)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.


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.cave2


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



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. 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!






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.)







apachekids12Can 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.apachekids23


(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




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.



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.schacthbree

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


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.


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.

Apache peak

Apache peak2

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.

Apache peak4

Apache peak5

The lakes still had a good bit of ice on them.
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Apache peak7

Apache peak8

The Marmots on the trail were super friendly.Apache peak9

Apache peak10

Apache peak11

Apache peak12

Apache peak13

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.

Apache peak14

On they way out they saw moose!


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.



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





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.


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?

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!


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.lilylakechurch

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


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.market

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


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).


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!


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


Another lovely bracelet.


Art yarn twisted into a necklace.


Art Yarn


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?


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.


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!!

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!



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.iceballoons

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


iceballoons2 iceballoons3

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.




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. 🙂





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!



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.”



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!




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!



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?


We took a spur-of-the-moment trip to the beach this week.  Had to get away from the constant rain we’ve been having.  Seriously!  It’s been constant.  Last week we actually passed our average amount of rainfall for the year.  And the year is only 1/2 through!  It was nice to feel the sunshine again and to play outside.  Though we came home to more rain, I’m feeling refreshed enough to appreciate my home in the rainforest again.

Both Kaia and Leif get more confident with their water skills each time we visit the beach.  It was great to see Kaia diving under the big waves.  She couldn’t get enough of her new boogie board.


Leif, of course, rolled and dug with his trucks until the sun went down.  But, he also had his fair share of boogie boarding and jumping over ‘scary waves’.


Loggerhead Turtle tracks!!

And her nest!!  She came up onto the beach the first night that we were there!

Moving forward

Sorry for the blogging hiatus.  Things have been busy at the homestead, as usual.  The garden is bursting, the school year has finished up, I’m continuing to move along with aerials… but what’s really taken up a lot of time and emotions is Kaia’s kitty, Oreo.  Back in April, we noticed that Oreo was not his normal self.  He seemed depressed and lethargic.  We took him for a check up and discovered that he had FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis).

For those of you who have never heard of this awful virus, I hope you never have to get to know it personally.  It is a 99% fatal virus that attacks the kitty’s immune system.  For the last two months there have been special foods, syringe feedings, IV fluids, many medications, and lots of love.  Oreo fought a hard fight, but he crossed the Rainbow Bridge last Friday.  It was a sad time for all of us, but especially me.  Oreo and I had bonded and I will miss his sweetness.  I still tear up thinking of him.  It’s so hard to feel so helpless when someone you love is sick.

And in the midst of all of this, my baby girl turned 10!

That’s double digits!!! That’s starting puberty!!  That’s pre-teen!  Holy cow, how time flies!!  I asked my girl what she’d like for her birthday and she quickly replied, “A Treehouse!!!”  Sweet!  We can do that!  So far, we’ve (Toby and his dad, really) gotten the platform done.  It’s been raining cats and dogs here all spring.  But the walls and roof will go up as soon as the sun starts shining again.  Then, I may have to kick Kaia out of the tree house so I can play!! 🙂




A bit of Mother’s Day sewing…

I have an ongoing list of sewing projects that has been sitting on the sewing table for months.  This weekend, with some “me time” for mother’s day (thanks hubby!!), I was able to whittle down the list a bit.

A square skirt for Kaia (if your daughter has a twirl requirement of her skirts, this is a definite must!)

And a few pants for Leif. (He goes through them so fast.  Being the track-hoe that he is, the knees of his pants take a beating.)

He insisted on lifting his shirt so you could see the waist band.

Then he insisted on a kneeling pose 🙂

Next on the list, some new undies for Leif and a square skirt for ME!

Decoupage baskets and a celebration of eggs

We had a gooey time last week putting together these adorable cloth baskets.  We followed these instructions, only altering them to make the baskets a bit deeper, and using Modge Podge as the final coat of glue.

Leif tired of the messy, gluey hands very quickly, but continues to pick out fabric pieces for me as I glued them on to his balloon.

After we covered the balloons thoroughly with cloth and glue, we hung them to dry by the wood fire.

When it was completely dry, the kids popped the balloons and removed them from the bowl.  I WISH I had gotten a video of this.  The sound that the balloon made as it slowly released itself from the bowl was like a build up to an implosion.  This sucking sound that made you think the bowl would collapse down to nothing. It was so crazy we all went wild when it happened!

We punched holes in the sides and strung on the ribbon handles… and wore them as hats!

It just so happened that the day after we made these, we headed to a fabulous party, hosted by the also fabulous Ashley English, in celebration of eggs.  (She is working on her sixth book due out in 2014.  This one is going to be about handmade gatherings and celebrations, and from the fun our family has had at these parties, this book is definitely going to be a keeper.)

There were, of course, egg hunts!  Egg hunts in the bamboo forest…

Egg hunts in the gardens…

Egg toss and egg rolling competitions.

Silk egg dying (Yes!  You are looking at a hard boiled egg silk dyed with an old neck tie that had elephants on it!!)

And a table spread fit for a king!  Everything was either made with eggs or had eggs in the title 🙂  We brought a pumpkin flan (yes!  It was paleo)!!

And, to top it all off, a magnificent, melt-in-your-mouth Pavlova!  (Ashley, this recipe had better be published, because it alone is reason to get the book!!)

(Folks, there were actually two decadent desserts at the party, one made by Ashley and the other by Dan and Jael of the French Broad Chocolate Lounge, and neither of them had wheat!!!  What a treat!!)

“Just one more chocolate, mom??!!”

And when we got home, it was time to organize the booty.  (There are three more silk dyed eggs here, too.)

And, in celebration of the egg, my ladies wanted to let you know how hard they are working now that it is spring.


Hope you had a lovely weekend!

Bristle Brush Monsters

AKA – Quick Entertainment for The Whole Family

Kaia got this idea from some friends of hers…. all you really need is a vibrating tooth brush, a nail or vegetable brush, and a rubberband.

But, it’s even more fun if you decorate a bit with giant pipe cleaners and googly eyes.

Just rubber band the toothbrush to the nail brush, turn it on, and GO!

More Sacagawea

We continued our studies of Sacagawea and the Lewis and Clarke Expedition this week with some basket making.  We used a kit from a local craft store.  It was said to be ‘easy to use’. Other than a bit of prep work (measuring and cutting the reeds, and dying a bit of it blue), it really was fairly easy to do.

The kit came with enough to make two baskets.  So, I made one for Leif while Kaia made hers.  Mine was much easier to make.  Mainly because I didn’t have a kitten trying to attack the moving weavers, or jump into the basket every chance he got.

We’d like to get to fire making soon, but I’m hoping for a bit warmer weather first 🙂

My plan was to move farther into the 1800’s with our history studies, but Kaia found a book on Marie Antoinette that she really wants to read.  So, we are stepping back to the French Revolution for a bit.


The kids and I have been having a hard time following any history curriculum.  It seems like there are too many names and dates and too little hands on experiences.  We find ourselves yawning.  So, we put the curriculum aside and decided to do some living history.  We’ve just wrapped up the American Revolution and are now learning about Sacagawea.  The book we used was mostly about what her childhood might have been like, with a few chapters at the end about her travels with Lewis and Clarke.  The book discusses basket making, salmon spawning, leather working, fire starting, and other skills that are fabulous to work into a homeschoolers day!  We watched a great video on the life cycle of salmon, and I may pick up some salmon to cook over an open fire, or even try drying into jerky.  Kaia was most interested in leather working.  So, we got some scraps and she created different types of pouches.

She made a simple circle pouch:

And Leif helped me make one for him:

Then Kaia did a flap style purse out of some buffalo skin:

She and I both love how this one turned out!

They also worked in a full afternoon of playing in their teepees, ‘hunting and fishing’, and trading with the tababone (“white face”).

We wrapped it up with a fish craft:

Next week, basket weaving, fire starting, and a documentary about Lewis and Clarke!