Friday, December 30, 2011

The View from Here

This is a moment for sharing , inspired by SouleMama's "This Moment".  In her words,  "A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember."  To play along go to the SouleMama blog.  

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Signs of the Season: Happy Holidays

      White Christmas
                         T'was the night before Christmas

      Happy Happy

And, the pictures I never took:

On the first day of Christmas Santa gave to me:
1 feverish daughter
2 puking boys
and a few days recovery...

Thank goodness they were able to rally for a few hours of fun on Christmas morning.  Otherwise it was a low key weekend of napping, movies, and thankfully much less sugar consumption (there is something to be said for the stomach flu.)  It is continuing to wind its way through the household--so far I'm the last (wo)man standing.  I'm crediting my health to the warming properties of cardamom bark and the vitamin C in countless gummy citrus slices.

Hope yours was a happy, healthy one.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Monday Morsels: a little celebrating

Last week we busily prepared for an early Christmas celebration with Rob's family.  I finished a doll for our niece, we made some sparkly ornaments, canned some of that cranberry comopote (here), cleaned like crazy (my new "studio" is also the guest room, which meant all of my projects had to be stashed away and the place made over into something a little less like the fabric scrap/thread end tornado it had become.)  We decorated with evergreens and berries, changed sheets, blew up air mattresses, froze banana bread, defrosted the turkey, and created space to entertain an extra six people and one more large dog.
It really was worth it.


* Our advent calender features a family activity for each evening up to Christmas.  It is clear this year, our third year with it, that some activities kind of suck.  A few will need to be revised because the kids have outgrown them, and some need to be ditched altogether. I can't wait to here what the kids come up with as suggestions for replacements.  Last week's lantern walk continued to be a work in progress (the last two years were near disasters.  It sounds lovely I know, but grouchy toddlers, surly children, darkness, cold, and fire have a way of mixing badly despite my best intentions).  This year was a rocky start, but it turned around quickly and was fun after all.  I'm not ready to ditch it yet, but its clear I'll need to do some serious prep work in order to pull off the lantern walk I'm hoping for.   Lanterns aside, we all enjoyed the following day's activity:  creating this centerpiece, and several smaller bouquets through out house.  

* Wylie used his greens to decorate this pump he wired.  The clay sculpture is a sheep spitting water-- why not?  If you look closely you can see a snake skin adorning the cardboard container (which houses the pump--salvaged from one some small appliance he's collected).  It actually looked quite nice when he had it all decorated with greenery covering the wires--but inevitably one of the connections came loose, or perhaps the battery died.  In either case the project was abandoned, which was fine because Wylie is always about the process (with a very clear view of the product mind you)  and once its completed he's done with it.  Maybe my lantern walk will be like that?

* Reality check:  This is what our kitchen looks like a lot of the time.  I didn't show you the floor, on purpose.

* Remember those fugly pinecones? The water didn't work.  But, my biologist sister out west informed us that pine cones release their seeds when conditions are right for seed sowing ie. warm and clear (not wet and cold--right.)  So we put them on the wood stove and viola:  Big beautiful pine cones.  What a great trick.  

* Rob comes from a line of card players.  Any gathering with the Fowler's is spent playing any number of games around the table.  This weekend we learned a new one,  Marbles.  Its basically "Sorry" with cards.  This is the first time that kids have joined the adults in some of the games.  It kind of felt like the beginning of something new, instead of the parents taking turns between hands, the kids joined us at the table.  And they weren't chewing on the cards (most of them anyway).  I love some of the things we can do together now that they're getting older.  Thanks Grandma for teaching them the rules!

* Toddlers busy in the kitchen.

* One of many thoughtful gifts the kids received were these blocks.  They came from "Roy Toy" and are hand made in Maine.  They are basically Lincoln Logs, but come in kits to build a few different options.  They were a hit with all the kids. (The trucks were made by Grampy for Wylie's first Christmas).

* As a finally finale to the weekend Juniper lost her first tooth!  It was an emotional affair with a fair amount of tears and grouchiness leading up to surprising bravery as she allowed Rob to pull it out.  Hooray.  We were all ready for that thing to come out.

Happy Monday!

Monday, December 12, 2011

monday morsels: yummy

Right now, in this season I feel like I'm surrounded by yumminess. 
Hot chocolate with whipped cream while decorating the Christmas tree--yummy (add a little chocolate liquor for the adults).  

This morning Juniper wanted candy at breakfast.  Mama:  "Um no, candy is not a good choice for breakfast"   Juniper: "OK, but hot chocolate is a healthy choice for breakfast because it makes you warm for these cold wintry days"  Never mind that it was just over 30 degrees, with little more than a hint of snow on the ground.  "All right, yes, hot chocolate would be yummy with breakfast".  It was.      

* The kids have been watching some of our favorite holiday specials.  So far "Merry Christmas Charlie Brown" and "How the Grinch Stole Christmas".  Tomorrow Wylie is pushing hard for "STARWARS" prequel one, which I'm pretty sure is not actually a holiday film, but I'm feeling pretty generous these days.  

*This is our favorite wreath.  It is one Rob's mom made years ago and we inherited along with many of his ornaments from when he was a child.  Some year I'd like to make a few of these as gifts.  I haven't looked for a pattern (and probably never will) but it seems to be just three long, stuffed tubes braided together.  Its hard to tell in the pic but the red and green are a tiny wildflower print, and the white has polka dots.  Its very kitschy in really wonderful way. 

* The pine cone is the Maine State flower.  We've been collecting a lot of pinecones for various gift making and other projects and have noticed this:  some are really open and beautiful, and others are tightly closed and kind of skinny and fugly.  Hmmm.  Did the skinny ones fall before they opened?  If so, will they open if we keep them alive? We stuck these skinny dudes in water to see if they would open up for us.  I'll keep you posted.

* We added a few wintry touches to some corners of the house including these framed photos from last winter, and a make over for the seasonal table which had been terribly neglected since last spring.
Juniper sewed the little snowman herself.

* A sneak peak at a few little friends being created in the studio.

* Kale has perfected the side shuffle (think high school basket ball warm-ups).  He thinks he is so cool--and he totally is.  And those dimples--yummy!

* Chubby baby wrists, more yum.  

* Also yummy:  short bread cookies--the store-bought kind in different shapes sprinkled with sugar (though not gluten free), and this cardamom-chocolate-bark. We may be making a second batch of this, with a little more cardamom (we use dried, pre-ground and maybe it wasn't as strong as the pods suggested in the recipe).  Yum!

Friday, December 9, 2011


Greenery, Gifts, & Goodies

We've been gathering all kinds of supplies for baking, crafting, decorating and giving.  I've gone back and forth over the years in my enthusiasm for doing up the holidays.  Sometimes it seems crazy making with too much clutter.  But, these days its nothing but fun.  All this excitement of creating provides a natural shift in focus away from the buying and receiving.  It feels right.  

Some of the goods in no particular order:  peppermint bark, re-purposed hanging flower baskets, the singing frog (a holiday favorite here), more advent fun, lots of homemade gifts (not pictured) as well as a few big ticket items from the UPS guy, on-going gift tag decorating, apple pie with gluten free crust (the crust recipe is over at Gluten Free Girl, its her "ratio recipe 3,2,1")--this is one of the contestants in our search for the perfect Christmas breakfast.  Also in the running:  apple-upside-down cake, cinnamon rolls, and coffee cake. 

The kids have also been creating/continuing their own traditions including the second annual "Duck Duck Christmas", this year's event included a parade with lights!

I'm usually not much of a wreath fan.  We have one braided fabric number that Rob's mom made in the 70's that's so retro crafty we love it, but otherwise I've never bothered to even consider them.  Then, a few weeks ago I read this post over at Dig and I was inspired (I was also laughing so hard I nearly cried--really).  I considered copying her felted S.O.B. (you gotta read the post to understand) but couldn't wrap my head, or wallet around all that wool felt.  Then I remembered these sheepskin scraps I've been toting around for years.  I scored them at some yard sale--a whole bag of them, long strips too narrow to do much with.  Until now.  I'm really loving this wooly dude.  So cheesy and elegant, and it took about 5 minutes truly.  I may need to make a few more.

Happy Holidays!

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Last night I had a  great run with my sister (pretty much all runs with sisters are great aren't they?)  
This is a bit of a production, involving piling all the kids into the car and driving to town, meeting Rob at the back door of the hospital as soon as he exits the building and leaving him with the kids-- all in the name of a bit of exercise and grown up time before pitch darkness sets in.   Its totally worth it.

Afterward, however, I was driving home at 5:30 wondering what I could throw together in the name of a meal before bedtime.

I arrived at home to find that Rob, with the help of some unexpected (though always welcome) guests had prepared dinner and a salad and were enjoying hard cider around a warm fire.

Just one reason why I love this man.  Thanks honey.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

monday morsels: tis the season

 It suddenly feels really busy here, with very little time for blogging (hence Monday Morsels posted in time for Tuesday reading).  A quick highlight of the Holiday (and other) business and fun:

Lovely walk with friends along the Passy River.  I'm kinda digging this 40 degree winter--perhaps white Christmases are overrated?  

Toddler twister anyone?

                     Well yes, a wool thong, why not?   (this was much wider after blocking)

                     Wouldn't you like one of these for your sweetie?

A Christmas tree in the tree house with handmade ornaments.  We're more of a mid December tree kinda family---but I'm all for decorating the tree house any time of year.   
The countdown has begun...activities include donating a box of toys to Goodwill, a lantern walk after dark, dessert by candlelight, making our own gift wrap, and lots more.  
                     Wrapping paper decorating 

More wrapping

We'll use the fabric for sewing into gift bags.  We used bingo paint and hand made cardboard stencils.  Not sure if this is permanent, but how often will we need to wash our gift bags?  (it sure didn't come of the kids' skin real well.  Kale still has a green spotted belly).  
Happy Monday!

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Homeschooling Thursday: This and That

These days we have a bit of a rhythm going, with a short morning session of math (sometimes on the windows just for kicks*)  and a few sentences of handwriting.  For handwriting we work on a few lines of a poem each day, and by the end of the month have memorized a new poem.  My go to book for seasonal children's poetry is the  "ChildCraft book of Poems and Rhymes".  We adopted a whole set of ChildCraft books from our neighbors last year, and they have been a great resource for just about everything.

Having accomplished these two subjects I'm pretty happy to leave the rest of the day up to chance.  It usually involves a little of this and some more of that--for instance:

* We have been slowly working our way through some study of Ancient Arabic times.  I was envisioning all kinds of excitement and imaginative play to arise from this study but so far the kids are showing little interest in it, aside from the classic stories we've been reading.   I'd like to be reading so much more with them, but find that life with a two (2!) year old allows for very little sit down reading--unless its of the worker truck variety.

* There's always plenty of outdoor play which leads to some pretty amazing nature study, almost always unexpectedly.  Yesterday Wylie took down our bird house and found an abandoned chickadee nest with eggs still  in it!  The nest was made up entirely of moss and hair and was somehow full of mushrooms.  It was unclear whether they'd grown from the nest, or had been stored there by some other critter.  A week ago we got to dissect a basketball sized wasp's nest that had blown out of a tree.  We were surprised to find the biggest wasp I have ever seen still inside it (um...yikes!).  Fortunately she was too cold to move quickly and just sat there enjoying the sun.  (I have since heard the trick of putting the nest in the freezer for a few days to make sure everything inside is dead.  We'll be sure to do that next time.)  

* Artwork happens on its own around here, with very few structured projects.  Juniper however, has created a new tradition of hanging a new collage in our mudroom at the start of each season.  Her project has specific guidelines, namely that she and I work on it side by side, that it involve paper, glue, and some elements of nature.  This is our third so far.  I'm hoping next season we can break out of the box a bit, but I seldom have much say in these matters.
Wylie's art is mostly in sculptural form, heavy on the hot glue and random electronic pieces.
Playdough rarely makes an appearance but when it does it is always a good time. In the picture above they were "in Mexico learning how to make cannoli"!   Which reminds me that we should certainly learn to make real cannoli--sans playdough. 

* Recently the kids have started performing all kinds of plays for us, usually in the after dinner hours.  They always involve some kind of ballerina, along with many costume and set changes.

Add an afternoon of playgroup, a homeschool co-op day, a play date, an afternoon of errands, and a quiet day at home (hopefully more than one) and that's our week.  Its almost never what I plan for and the mood is likely to change dramatically from one minute to the next--but its never boring.  Just the way we like it.

* The window crayons are Giotto Decor for glass, purchased at our new local art store, Fiddlehead Artisan Supply--they wash off really easily and would make a great holiday gift.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Happy Birthday Bittle!

Two years ago this morning, I woke up still pregnant.  It was only one day after my due date, but for weeks I'd been feeling ready-- surely this third baby would come even earlier than the first two.  
The waiting ended that evening with very little warning.  After an intense, surreal, and beautifully fast forty minute labor Kale was born.  He hasn't slowed down since.  
He's been doing his best to grow up as fast as he can, and while I am always silly proud of each milestone, a part of me is screaming slow down kid!  

Happy Birthday Bittle!