Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Salad in sight!

It's been raining, hard, for three days. We've been out (we always go out), but not really been spending a lot of time in the yard. It was wonderful to take a tour of the gardens today and see what changes the rain has brought. That's the lemon balm, above. We planted it last year in this leaky watering can. A ton of the soil seems to have disappeared, and yet, this plant is happy. In fact, it's coming along much more quickly than the other herbs in that bed; I think the metal can acts as a sort of greenhouse, keeping it nice and warm.

Oh, I do love perennials! I began gardening 12 years ago with a large flower border. I couldn't see myself spending the time, money, and energy involved to fill it with annuals; if I was going to invest all that, I wanted flowers that would last! And what a treat it was to have that garden come back year after year, better each time.

For years, that was it; our yard is much too shady for vegetables. Or so I thought! Then I heard about forest gardening, and it seemed like the perfect solution for me: works in shade and includes perennials for lazy gardeners like me. So I've slowly been working on incorporating more and more food plants into our yard, keeping the principles of forest gardening loosely in my mind.

Now, imagine us at the tail end of the winter, eating stored food all these months. We've been eating well, don't get me wrong. But it's been a long time since we've tasted fresh fruit, or crispy veggies, or greens. There are no frozen berries left. No onions, even. Imagine the thrill when we wander around the yard and find this:

(wild leeks!)

and this:


It's just a bit. Enough for one meal, in a while, when the plants get bigger. But it's something. The seeds I planted haven't even poked above the soil yet. But my "forest garden" is already producing food. And it'll only get better every year.
Don't forget to enter my giveaway for a copy of Spring; I'm choosing a winner on Friday. Your chances of winning are really good!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

30 days of beauty, day 16: water play

(An attempt to calm a fussy baby who's miserable from dairy in her system. It was time for Andi to try dairy again, in the hopes that Lucy'd outgrown her allergy. She hasn't.)


Scroll down to the next post if you haven't yet entered the giveaway!

Monday, March 29, 2010

1-year "blogiversary" and a giveaway

(How do you know it's time to start a blog?
You start taking pictures of things like bread dough rising in a bowl.)

One year ago today, I began blogging. I'd been reading so many amazing blogs--about the environment, about cooking, about motherhood, and teaching, and homeschooling, and unschooling, and homes and crafts and sewing and all the other incredible inspiration that's out there. And I couldn't help it; I started taking pictures of the things I was making and jokingly referring to them as my "blog photos" when I emailed them to a friend. After a while, my partner started to insist "you need a blog." And I kind of did. I wanted to show the things I was sewing to someone who'd be just as excited about it as I was. I wanted, when I joined a challenge, to be able to record my progress on my own blog. I wanted to participate in some of those tempting swaps! I wanted to add my voice to the bloggy conversation, though with so many inspiring bloggers out there, I wondered what I had to offer.

I'm still wondering. Why do I feel compelled to do this? Why does the feedback from strangers matter? What is my particular niche?

But it doesn't really matter to me right now. What matters is that I've loved doing this. I've loved coming here to record some of the bits that make up my life. And most especially, I've loved "meeting" you who come here. Thank you. Thank you for reading and caring and commenting.

In honor of my "blogiversary," I'd like to offer a little thank-you present. I hope you'll understand when I tell you it's thrifted and used (the way I like things, and a part of my commitment to the environment). I know you'll understand when I tell you it's a children's book (have you noticed I LOVE books?). I recently came across a near-perfect copy of the lovely book Spring by Gerda Muller (you can see my copy here), and I'd like to share it with one of you. Just leave a comment on this post to be entered in the drawing, and I'll pick a name on Friday. (Please include your email address if your comment doesn't link back to your blog.)

Independence Days challenge: first foraging

Time again for Sharon's Independence Day's Challenge:

1. Plant something:
Grandpa Admire's Lettuce (from seed). Raspberries (from a neighbor, delivered midwinter, frozen in the pot. They survived!). Green Arrow Peas (again; the chickens dug up the originals). Peas and lettuce apply to the Growing Challenge, as well.

2. Harvest something:
Eggs. Dandelion greens. Chives. Bits of sorrel. The sap didn't run this week, but I don't have nearly enough syrup; am hoping for another chance this week.

4. Waste not:
I got that great pile of books this week, which (in addition to being a passionate hobby for me and useful for my work with children) will be a part of my children's education, so I consider it "preparation." I got that great

7. Eat the food:
The kids and I had the first green eggs of the season, made with foraged dandelion greens and chives and sorrel from the garden. I made these cheese crackers twice this week, and oh, my gosh, are they amazing! Crackers is one of those packaged foods I just hadn't learned to make yet, but now I can't wait to try some other recipes (got any good ones?). These are like Cheez-Its, but much more delicious (and real). I also made two batches of wonderful granola this weekend (one with dried elderberries, one with dried strawberries). And I made a batch of bread dough to have on hand this week (something I'd like to do every week--not quite there yet.) I need to have more baking weekends like this, so the house is full of goodies and we're not tempted to buy meals out.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

30 days of beauty, day 15: little things

Many little beautiful things this weekend:

The first tag sale of the season:

Candlelit coffee and a long chat with a good friend, during "earth hour":

My baby's first pigtails, for a birthday party today:

(Thanks, Tim, for taking this one!)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Because there are still cold days to come...

...I finally finished some new longies and a wool dress I cut out weeks ago. (Why, oh, why does it take so long to finish things sometimes? Sewing these together took less than 1/2 an hour, and yet, they'd sat waiting for weeks!) I've wanted to share them with you, but I've been having a hard time getting photos; Lucy is no longer an easy model. Here's what I get instead:

You wanted to take a picture of my new dress and longies?
But there are kids to chase! I can't stand still!

What do you mean, stand up to model my pants?
There's a step to climb!

And what's going on over there?

Come out? Don't be silly, mama. I have to eat this bread I found on the floor! And I like being in here!
(We call this spot behind the chairs "baby jail." Lucy puts herself in there all the time and hangs out there to play.)

You want a picture of my new longies?
You'll have to catch me first!


Friday, March 26, 2010

Spring in a basket and on the table

Spring is here, and this week, you can see it beginning to show inside our house. I spruced up our little seasonal table with a flower-sprigged embroidered cloth, some spring books, a nest full of wooden eggs, and a crocus from the garden. By the end of the day, a neighbor had dropped off a big bouquet of daffodils, which really brightened it up:

(The books shown are Countdown to Spring by Janet Schulman and Meilo So and Spring by Gerda Muller.)

And I stowed away the winter books from our basket and replaced them with spring books. Two of the boys made us a new sign:

Clearly, we must live where it's winter for most of the year, because I have about a million winter books and about 10 spring books! I have a ton of gardening books, but it doesn't feel like time for those yet. In there now are:

Spring is Here! by Lois Lenski
This book is requested every single day, multiple times. Its text is so quaint and almost sickly sweet, but the pictures are so appealing, as is the feeling it brings of a simpler time. Today, the kids asked "what's hopscotch?" while reading it, which led into a whole morning's play.

Galoshes by Kit Allen
This is a favorite of my youngest children, most of whom can "read" it for themselves ("Galoshes. Shirt. Overalls.") There is something appealing about that bald round-headed kid. Lucy signs "shirt" and "hat" as we read and acts out "stomp" and "sleep."

It's Spring! by Samantha Berger and Melissa Sweet.
I cannot resist that joyful bunny on the cover, and apparently, neither can the kids. Simple and happy.

Spring Story by Jill Barklem
I adore the detailed world Jill Barklem created in the illustrations of these Brambly Hedge books. What I find fascinating is that it's a 5-year-old boy who most often sits and studies this book or asks for it to be read. I'm so glad that it's not "for girls only."

Wonders of Nature by Jane Werner Watson and Eloise Wilkins
This is one of the books I just found at the book sale. I was so thrilled! I love Eloise Wilkins' children; they remind me of favorite books from my childhood, and of Lucy's face, and of an innocence I want to preserve for young children. And the wonder and reverence for nature in this book is just delicious.

Maple Sugaring Time in Vermont by Lula A. Shaver and Topsy Samuelson
A friend bought this for me when we started sugaring a few years ago.

Wake Up, It's Spring! by Lisa Campbell Ernst
Again, a favorite with the toddlers.

Spring is Here by Taro Gomi
This book actually encompasses all the seasons, but focuses mostly on spring. The illustrations of the calf are particularly wonderful: large and simple, but with a complex twist the older children notice: the spots on the cow are also the snow melting away on the land.

Bear Wants More by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman
Nothing can compare to the first and best one in this series, Bear Snores On. But this one is sweet, too, and if you love the first one, it's fun to see bear and his friends again in their other stories.

Tom and Pippo and the Washing Machine by Helen Oxenbury
Tom and Pippo are so adorable, and their adventures so familiar to toddlers. Here, they get muddy on a puddly day, and are separated while Pippo is washed.

Alfie's Feet by Shirley Hughes
Another book about rain puddles; and the importance of new shoes to toddlers, and the simple activities of daily life. We really love these Alfie books.

Over in the Meadow by John Langstaff and Feodor Rojankovsky
This folk song is not specifically spring-y, but the illustrations in this gorgeous rendition remind me of late spring days.

The ABC Bunny by Wanda G'ag
Again, not necessarily "spring," but bunnies seem to go with spring, don't they? This alphabet is unique in that each lettered item contributes to an ongoing story. And of course, the illustrations are wonderful!

The Golden Egg Book by Margaret Wise Brown and Leonard Weisgard
I've never understood the (gorgeous) cover of this book: despite how it looks, it's not about Easter or even a decorated egg, but about a plain duck egg. I almost didn't take it out for the group, thinking "Easter," but if that's not your thing, don't worry--it's not! I just adore the illustrations in this book with their sweet animals in egg-shaped spaces framed by flower-decorated borders. And, as always, Margaret Wise Brown's storytelling captivates children.

Missing from my basket (because, um, there are a LOT of books in this house, and my nice organization is currently all messed up and I haven't found these yet!):

The Happy Day by Ruth Krauss and Marc Simont
Oh, I have to read this sweet, joyful book now, before the melting snow is a distant memory! Where is it?

Mud by Mary Lyn Ray
Gotta love the idea that as soon as the snow melts, you're going to sink naked feet into gooey, squishy, wonderful mud!

Annie and the Wild Animals by Jan Brett
Again, best read while the snow's still melting away. This early full-on spring caught me off guard and unprepared!

The Story of the Root Children by Sibylle Von Olfers
For magic and fantasy.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Another pile of books added to the stack

There's a library near here that has an amazing book sale twice a year. I've become a "friend of the library" just so I can get into this sale on the first night--it's that good. I work my way around all the dealers with their hand-held computers looking for books of "value," and go to the back-in-the-corner room where all the books cost 50 cents and have far more value to me: the picture book room.

Oh, how I love picture books! But I showed restraint. I considered bookshelf space (there is no more). I "only" brought home these:

Oh, and look what I discovered inside You're the Scaredy Cat, by Mercer Mayer:

What a treasure!

This book sale has become a sort of standing date with some friends of mine. We go together, grab any book that looks tempting and stuff it into our bags, then find a corner where we sit and look more carefully, whittling down our piles to a more manageable size. We ooh and ahh over each others' discoveries and help each other with the difficult decision of which books to keep and which to let go. Then we go out to dinner (this time, we brought our books right into the restaurant for a closer look). To me, that's the perfect night out!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Vintage Swap goodies sent off to Pennsylvania

My partner, Lorena, has received her (super-late) Vintage Swap package, so now I can show you what I sent.

The swap started with a questionnaire, which I found so helpful. When I read Lorena's answers, I got an immediate picture in my head of just what sorts of things I would get for her. I printed it out and kept it in my purse, and had so much fun going to all my favorite thrift shops over and over on the hunt. But it turned out to be much harder than I expected to find what I wanted! (I'm sure I'll find tons of stuff now that it's over...). Each time I entered a store, my mind would recite the litany of hoped-for things: "green, brown, orange, paper ephemera, tins, pyrex, fabric, crochet..." Slowly, a package started to come together. I was delayed by sickness and over-busyness, which gave me a bit longer to find things to include. So, in the end, I sent:

--A vintage sheet (because she said she liked vintage fabric, but found it hard to cut into. Sheets are easy, because they're so plentiful!) The funny thing is, I have the same sheet. I've made an Itty Bitty Baby Dress, some bloomers, a 4-year-old's dress, and a skirt and headband for myself from this sheet, and still have some left over!

--Some rick rack and trim from my stash, tucked into a little appliqued fabric pouch.

--A vintage postcard of the courthouse in our town.

--A brown and yellow scarf.

--Two volumes of Stitch by Stitch. These are from the late 80s, which just doesn't feel "vintage" to me, since I was in high school! But I've read about them on blogs described that way, with good reviews. If you can look past the horrible 80s fashion and styling, there's some really good info in there about crochet, knitting, sewing... I had a hard time passing them on!

And my favorites...

--A pyrex mixing bowl with those lovely handle/spouts I find so handy when baking:

And these fabulous vintage knitting booklets:

I was so nervous putting this package in the mail! I sent it the day I received my package, and I so hoped she be as pleased as I was. It sounds like she was, thank goodness!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Challenge updates: first days of spring

Time again for Sharon's Independence Day's Challenge. I've decided to combine these Monday posts with updates for the Growing Challenge.

1. Plant something:
Golden Chard, Green Arrow Peas, Chioggia Beets. (From seed, so these apply to the Growing Challenge, too.)

2. Harvest something: Eggs. Maple sap.

3. Preserve something: 3 quarts maple syrup.

4. Waste not: I made 2 new pairs of longies and a dress from felted wool sweaters this week. (Need to blog those soon; it's almost too warm to wear them!)

5. Preparation and storage: I spent a lot of time cleaning up the yard and gardens this week (and obsessively checking to see if anything is coming up yet). I began digging out the (still mostly frozen) compost, and used it to replenish planting boxes. I also added another bottle of water to storage (am slowly working on this, as we empty suitably-sized glass bottles).

6. Build community food systems: We attended a fundraiser for the Survival Center and donated more than we'd expected we would.

7. Eat the food: Oh, my gosh! In the midst of this week's lovely spring weather, I gave myself the most delicious welcome-spring treat--Strawberry Lemonade from The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. It was perfect!! We almost missed strawberry season last year, and picked very few. I'm so glad we used some of them for this! We've been eating a TON of dried fruit this week, and I made a pretty good cream-of-broccoli soup using frozen broccoli. And I've done a good bit of baking (tried a new quick bread recipe which I liked a lot: "Whole Wheat Muffins" from The Tassajara Bread Book, using crabapple jelly as the sweetner).

30 days of beauty, day 13: first day of spring at the beach

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Starting spring with Soulemama

I got to meet Soulemama!

When I heard she'd be "nearby," I knew I had to take a road trip. Every day, I look forward to reading her blog. When I first discovered it a few years back, I had to go all the way back to the beginning and read every post. I was thrilled to find someone who raised her children like I planned to; who focused so beautifully on home and family and creativity; who shared so many of my interests; and who wrote about and photographed it all so beautifully. She inspired me to start my own blog. She taught me to keep something crafty close at hand so I could squeeze crafting into the tiniest pockets of time in my day. Every day, she reminds me to focus on the beauty in life. So a two-and-a-half hour trip to meet her in person? Totally worth it.

We drove through a gorgeous first-day-of-spring morning to Gibson's Bookstore in Concord, New Hampshire, a lovely small bookshop with an attached bakery. Headed to the bathroom (first stop after a long car ride!), the first thing I noticed was her whole family in the bakery. I love that they were there. (And isn't that the weirdest thing about blogging? I knew who they are; I knew their names and their ages and some of their interests and wardrobes and projects. But they had no idea who I am. Just one of the fan club.) I wondered where the reading would be held; there seemed to be no space. Then the bookstore employees started moving book carts around, and I realized, to my great joy, that this would be a very small intimate gathering.

Sure enough, we were a small crowd. Andi and Lucy and I got to sit right up front. Amanda read from The Creative Family to explain how she came to be the crafty mama she is today. Then she took questions from the group: about unschooling, about her next book, about blogging, about "how do you do it all?" I loved her answer to that: "we all do huge amazing wonderful things...I just happen to document it all." Afterwards, she took the time to sign books, pose for photos, and chat with us. She was just as real and humble and sweet as you would expect. I feel privileged to have had the chance to meet her.

I can't be within an hour of the ocean and not go to the beach, so that was the next part of our trip. I'll save that story for another day...

Friday, March 19, 2010

Joy in the mail

This week, after weeks of baby sickness and sleeplessness, I've been inching my way back to normal. The gorgeous spring weather has helped immensely: the kids and I have spent many hours outside each day. Cleaning up the yard and gardens has helped; it does my soul good to see beauty and order emerge from the drab mess.

And this

helped oh, so much! It's my Vintage Swap package! Yay! My partner, Lorena, really pinned down my taste.

I knew I was going to like it when I peeked inside and saw that dishcloth used as wrapping paper. And it just got better as I pulled more out of the box:



Lucy decided this little jar was hers:

I had a hard time getting it back from her! It's full of lovely old buttons, which are sure to find their way into something for her, anyway! Even the jar is super cool--it's from ink (I had to look up the Skrip name on the lid right away, I was so curious about the unique shape), and has a little glass pocket inside it so you can have ink right up near the top to dip your pen into.

I am in love with this apron, and put it on right away. The colors are perfect for spring. No super baby in this one yet; I'm busy wearing it!

And there was Pyrex (in a pattern I've got some of already!), and a super soft, totally adorable dish cloth,

and cool old cookbooks,

and the cutest vintage children's book:

What a thrill. Thank you so much, Lorena. I love it all. And thank you, Heather, for organizing these swaps. I can't wait for the next round!

Lorena's package is on its way (we were a wee bit delayed; oops!). I'll show you what I sent when I know she's gotten it.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

30 days of beauty, day 12: super baby

Lucy has strong opinions on style. She loves to dress up. Lately, she's been bringing us bib after bib after bib (I have a basket of 40 to accommodate all these kids) and showing us that she wants us to put them on. With about 10 layered bibs already on one day, she moved on to my aprons, so I tied those on in back as a cape. This is now one of her favorite fashion accessories. She points insistently to an apron until I tie it on, cape style, and then she toddles off toward the mirror for a look at herself, clearly pleased. How I adore that super baby!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Independence Days challenge update: syrup and fruit

Time again for Sharon's Independence Day's Challenge:

2. Harvest something: Eggs. Maple sap.
3. Preserve something: 1 1/2 qts. maple syrup.
7. Eat the food: I'm working on clearing out last year's frozen food (and, dare I say, some from the year before? Yikes!) We ate rhubarb "cuppa cuppa cuppa" (recipe below) this week, and polished off a well-hidden bag of raspberries and ate lots and lots of "blueberry oat bake" for breakfasts.

Dairy-Free "Cuppa Cuppa Cuppa"
(adapted from a recipe from my friend Eric)

Melt 1/2 C coconut oil in a baking dish in a 350 degree oven.
Add 1 qt. frozen or canned or fresh fruit.
Mix together 1 C coconut milk, 1 C flour, 1 C sugar (that's the cuppa cuppa cuppa) and 1 T. baking soda, and pour it over the top.
Bake for an hour or until browned.

(This came out delicious with rhubarb. We ate it with company, and all had seconds.)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

30 days of beauty, day 11: the bulb show

One of our favorite first tastes of spring is the annual bulb show.

It's a riot of beautiful color. It smells amazing. It's a wonderful reminder of what's coming.

What you don't see here (because my camera battery died after only these 3 photos, darn it!) is my father visiting, our baby ooohing as she smelled the flowers, and our good friends who go to the bulb show with us every year. A truly beautiful afternoon.