Wednesday, October 22, 2014

I went, I did, I thought, I read


I almost feel silly posting here. It's been so long, and who reads this thing anyway who doesn't already know everything I'm going to say? Oh, well. I'm feeling a little melancholy and self-conscious. Maybe it's the rain.

Where I've Been
Let's see, since I posted in May we had a busy summer. 1) I flew to LA with my step-sister for her surgery. We got to hang out for a week, got manicures, massages, and tattoos together, and explored Cedars-Sinai medical center. 2) We had Arizona family in town for two weeks, which was so fun, especially now that we have a house to accommodate guests. We played at being tourists in our own city, hitting Pike Place Market, the Space Needle, and the Underground Tour in one day. We spent a day up in Victoria, B.C. and had high tea at the Empress Hotel and visited Butchart Gardens, where I drooled over the tuberous begonias and Himalayan poppies. And we celebrated John's second birthday along with my cousin Jack and my stepdad. 3) Our family traveled to Long Beach for our annual trip with some friends. I'm the newbie in that group since they've all known each other since college or before, but I never feel it. It's like we're all old chums, and all the kids get along. We played at the beach and the girls went antiquing in town. 4) I did an overnight trip to the peninsula with my Kindreds, which was soul satisfying, beautiful, and memorable. We visited the lavender fields in Sequim, watched the sunset at Second Beach at LaPush, and spent the night in a cabin in Forks. The next day we spent several hours soaking up the magic of Lake Crescent's cerulean waters, surrounded by mountains and the charm of the lodge, then had dinner in Port Townsend. Every meal the whole weekend was amazing. 5) We did the annual Gough family trip, this year to Camp Casey, which was the best! Casey is one of my favorite places in the world, and it was so fun to stay in the big old Victorian house overlooking fields and sea and watch all eleven kids play together and sit with the sisters-in-law talking. We also had a family friend who is a photographer take some photos, which turned out so well. 6) And, oh yes, Bryan and I went to Paris for nine days to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary and my birthday. I cried at the Louvre and during a boat tour on the Seine when I saw Notre Dame for the first time. I drank champagne with every meal. We saw the Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur, Shakespeare and Co. bookstore, Musee d'Orsay, the Tuileries and Luxembourg gardens, the Montmartre cemetery, (which is on Avenue Rachel!), the Champs d'Elysees and the Arch d'Triomphe, Versailles, and more charming buildings and cafes than I can remember. And just this past weekend we went up to Chinook pass with my Dad and stepmom to close up their cabin for the winter. It was so beautifulthe mountains, the yellow trees. It was such a refreshing weekend.























What I've Been Doing
We had our backyard filled in all summer, thanks to our neighbor who runs dump trucks and has access to free dirt. Have I mentioned how we hit the jackpot with our neighbors? They are so awesome, and have helped us out a ton. The yard is level now, the grass is sprouting, and we have to decide where to put the fence, how to accommodate the dog, the chickens, and the future goats, pigs, sheep, and cow we're going to raise. We have no idea what we're doing, so it's difficult to make decisions without the benefit of experience. But Bryan has a beautiful plan for turning our nondescript shop into an attractive barn, and we'll be moving the garden to the backyard and building raised beds and a fence to keep the critters and weeds out. I'm excited about that. The garden did so well this year considering it was my first try. I'm so thankful for that. I've discovered that gardening is the only area in my life where I don't tend toward a debilitating perfectionism. I have surrendered to the process of trial and error, of accumulating wisdom through experience, and not expecting to be able to survive on the fruits of my labor right away. It will take years to get this place to homestead status, but we will be learning and tweaking along the way. Besides what we grow and raise, Bryan has been hunting this year. He's brought home quail, pheasant, and turkeys. He's hoping for a deer next month. Our freezer is half full with the birds and with the pork and lamb raised by our friends. I haven't done any canning yet this year, but I'm hosting a pickling class in November that I'm excited about. A local woman is coming to teach it. I want to learn fermenting, too, as I've been reading about the significant benefits of probiotics. As soon as my pumpkins are ready I want to make pumpkin butter. It is my favorite fall breakfast on top of sourdough toast. We've enjoyed homegrown kale, broccoli, beets, lettuce, carrots, chard, tomatoes, beans, peas, yellow squash, cucumbers, potatoes, rhubarb, and a slew of herbs, as well as wild huckleberries, thimbleberries, salmonberries, and blackberries. I planted my blueberries and raspberries in the wrong place, and my onions and strawberries never thrived, so I'll have to make some changes to those. The Brussels sprouts are still growing, and should be ready after the first frost. There are mushrooms everywhere right now, but I'm not brave or knowledgable enough to forage for those yet. We're still getting a handful of fresh eggs every day, and I need to decide if we're going to install a light on a timer to increase winter production, or just let nature take its course. I bought spring bulbs to plant, but I'm not sure where to put them yet. I might put a flower garden where the vegetable garden is now. Come spring, I will have crocuses, giant allium, narcissus, tulips, anemones, bearded irises, snowdrops, ranunculus, and grape hyacinth making appearances. Most of them are good naturalizers, so I'm hoping they'll just spread throughout the garden over the years and make it look wild and lovely.




What I've Been Thinking About

This fall, when everyone was posting pictures of their kids in their back-to-school outfits, I nearly had a panic attack. We've decided not to do preschool again this year for Amelia, and I've been looking into homeschooling and unschooling, but by no means have I made up my mind. I laid awake almost all night thinking about education and what the best path would be for our kids and for me. I think our kids would do well no matter which path we choose, but I want to give them the freedom to explore their interests and become lovers of learning, which I think can be more difficult if they're confined in a classroom for seven or eight hours a day. I have almost no confidence in my abilities to be a homeschool parent, but I like the idea of learning along with my kids and letting them play and explore and participate in the daily life of our little burgeoning farm. (Caveat: Putting my thoughts here runs the risk of offending someone who has chosen a different educational path, but I have no judgment for anyone else's decision. These are just the things that have been rattling around in my brain, and we may well completely change our minds.) This fall we planned out a bit of structure to our week to get a taste of what home-based education might be like. It's very loose, but it's been so good for us. We go to swim lessons at the Y on Tuesday mornings, have a play date on Thursday mornings, go to the Farmer's Market Thursday afternoons, and we're working on reading with Amelia. Our themes for the year are reading, swimming, and gardening, and I plan to give the kids their own patch of earth once we move the garden. We have a great local homeschool resource center through the public schools that our neighbors utilized for all four of their kids. And we have a local branch of Classical Conversations that I'm going to check out. Bryan and I are also going to an advanced screening of Class Dismissed in Monroe next week. It's a feature-length documentary about homeschooling, and the filmmakers will be there. I'm looking forward to it.

What I'm Reading & Writing
I've been reading the Anne of Green Gables books again. I just started Anne of the Island yesterday and I'm just immersed in that world right now. I love it so much. It's so fresh and wholesome, but also deals with difficult things. I'm also reading Home Grown: Adventures in Parenting off the Beaten Path, Unschooling, and Reconnecting with the Natural World by Ben Hewitt. I've just acquired The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It by Peter Enns. And for my birthday I received a wish list book, E.F. Schumacher's Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered. In November I'll be hosting a small gathering of women for a Bible study on hospitality written and designed by a lovely company called She Reads Truth that Joey got me turned onto. I'm excited about it. My writing group has just celebrated four years of meeting together weekly. I can't believe it. I don't have a novel finished, but my life has been enriched beyond recognition by the friendship of these kindred spirits. I am so grateful for them and for their faithfulness. Speaking of having a novel finished, my sister's YA paranormal romance, Velvet, will be published by Macmillan this spring under the author name Temple West. It's available for preorder on Amazon. It's been so fun seeing her go through this process. I'm quite proud. My brother, too, has written two science fiction epics, and is working with an agent to begin pitching to publishers. I'm the oldest, and the farthest from having a published novel, but I suppose we're just going in reverse order, so it will be my turn next. My mom sweetly reminded me that I was published long before my siblings, just in newspapers and magazines. It was a comfort to me. And speaking of that, I've met with the editor of our little local newspaper and she wants me to write for her. There's not much money in it, nor fame, but I think it will be fun.

Well, this is quite long, and I haven't said half of what I could have said, and I've said more than half of what I should have. I may try to post here a little more often, if anyone cares. Is anyone out there? Don't be shy about leaving a comment. What are you doing, thinking about, reading and writing these days?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Bookended by beauty

Yesterday was bookended by beauty. I strung a strand of crystals in my window and when I woke up the sunlight cast splashes of rainbow all over the room. "Mom, look! A rainbow here, and here, and here!" Amelia said. 

The middle of the day was lonely and monotonous. I was coming off the high of my college roommate's weekend visit. She is a kindred and we see each other rarely. We stuffed two years of conversation into two days, laughing and crying together over life's turns. Her departure heralded the return of normal, and I was short with the kids and out of sorts. 

Bryan came home and took us out for burgers, then showed us this trail he and Watson had found the week prior. To the right was Crescent Lake, a little slip of a thing in the dry season and swollen with fish, frog's eggs, and water lilies when it rains. To the left was a fallow, furrowed field that will grow corn eventually. The living hedge along the path was brimming with lifefoxglove, blackberry brambles that hid rabbit and coyote dens, ancient towering maple trees, a whole sudden grove of wild rose bushes, and grass taller than our heads. The diversity was stunning. The light of the low-slung sun shone perfectly: Those magical hours between dinner and darkness are definitely my favorite. 

A promising beginning and an idyllic ending with a little bit of mess in the middle. Isn't that life?


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Restyle



I love finding things around my house that need a new home. I also love antique and thrift shopping. This morning was my weekly morning out alone. My sister watches the kids and I go to a coffee shop to write and often stop by a shop or two. This morning I saw that the local antique store is going out of business and everything is on sale. I went in and found a southwest wool rug, an industrial pendant lamp, a woven basket, a black walnut bowl, a Windsor chair, and a midcentury wire shelf for very minimal cost. 

I had also been eyeing the African woven market baskets at Tolt Yarn & Wool in Carnation, so when I went to pick up chicken feed in Fall City yesterday I stopped in and snagged one. I love it so much. 

Amidst the monotony of dishes, laundry, and disciplining children and puppy, restyling gives me a little creative lift and makes me happy. I'll take it!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Coconut Mojitos


I thought I would share one of my favorite cocktail recipes as the weather warms up here in the Pacific Northwest. I first had a Coconut Mojito of the virgin variety at a restaurant in Edmonds when I was pregnant with John. I tried to recreate it with canned coconut milk and coconut water, but those didn't work, although coconut syrup might do the trick. So I never perfected the virgin version, but the real deal is divine. Here is what you will need for one drink:

Ingredients:

  • Malibu Rum
  • 1 Lime
  • 6-10 mint leaves
  • Lemon Lime sparkling water (Talking Rain, Perrier, Pellegrino)


Directions:

Tear the mint leaves into small pieces to release the oil and toss them in a pint glass. Cut the lime in half, and cut one of the halves into four wedges. Put the wedges in the glass and muddle to release lime juice (if you don't have a muddler, the handle of a wooden spoon works). Fill the glass with ice. Pour the Malibu Rum in until it reaches an inch or inch and a half from the top of the glass. Using a citrus press or your hand, squeeze the other half lime into the glass. Top off with the sparkling water. Stir, and enjoy!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Ten on Ten :: April 2014











*Amelia took the picture of John and the picture of me.

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