December 31, 2012

greetings from snowland

I love waking up to snow covered branches, all white and towering. It makes our house even lighter than the blanket of snow on the ground. We've had a week, almost two, of family visits and sleeping in and eating yummy, not so good for you but oh so good things. There has been much knitting and some sewing, most of it at the last minute (hello midnight Christmas eve knitting!) And now we are getting back into the grind of normal life. Early mornings, early nights, healthier (sad but true) foods. And more projects of course. Happy New Year everyone! Here's to a good one!

December 18, 2012

instead, spread kindness

I have been telling Will since Friday that I can't seem to stop crying when I watch or read or hear, and yet, I also cannot stop watching and reading and hearing. In some ways I'm glad. I'm glad that this is affecting us so strongly. Because maybe this time, if we are unable to forget, we will be able to make something happen to change it. I'm ready for that. I'm angry. Give me a petition to sign or a march to march in or a law to vote on. I'm in. I'm angry and I'm in.

But anger, as we have surely seen in these last days, does no good. Marches and bills and petitions are all in the future, made possible by people who are not me, and power that I do not have. It is not immediate enough to say "we will fix this" even though I do, so very desperately, hope that we do.

So instead, I've decided to do something I can do. And that is to spread a little kindness out into the world. The opposite of horror is, I think, kindness. The opposite of hate is love. So in the face of horror and hate, let's spread kindness and love. Every day, people. Not just until Christmas, every day.

Yesterday my kids were home sick, and I'll be honest, I was kind of glad about that. Today I dropped them off at school and it was hard, harder than I expected. Especially when it came to leaving Evie in her first grade classroom. It's taking a lot right now for me not to go back to school and bring them home. It's what my heart wants to do. But my head tells me otherwise. Drop them off. Kiss them goodbye (or in Briton's case, get a nod and a "not here mom!" look when I try) go home, get to work. Instead, I drove to the nearest place that sells coffee and handed the cashier some money to buy someone else a cup, or two, or three. However long it lasts. Because I needed to feel something other than sad. It's not heroic. It's a couple of cups of coffee. But, at least I hope, it will make someone's day, or make it a little better. And if we make everyone's day a little better, maybe something good will come of that.

Friends, there is a lot of divisiveness out there right now. A lot of anger. And I'm with you, I'm angry too. Sad and broken and angry. We need to get something done. We do. But while we are fighting that battle, let's spread some kindness where we can. Do something today, something small for someone you don't know. And then do it again tomorrow. And the next day. And I will too. If we all do it, well, can you imagine a world like that?

December 17, 2012

I have no words today. Or maybe I have a lot of words, but saying them, typing them, will just lead to more tears and sadness. I feel unbelievably, unbearably happy and lucky to be able to hug my children tight right now and unbelievably, unbearably sad that there are those that cannot, as I'm sure everyone else does.

If you are a knitter or a crocheter, please consider knitting or crocheting up a monster for 600 Monsters Strong for Connecticut. I know it's a small thing, but it's something.

Hug, people. Hug everyone you love.

December 14, 2012

and we still have half birthdays

It seems, that even at 6 (and a half), half birthdays and half birthday cakes are still very important. On the actual day we got a little caught up in making salt dough tags and peppermint bark and the cake got forgotten (by me, at least) so yesterday a cake was made, and decorated (SPRINKLES! also very important) and almost entirely eaten.

This time around I used this cake recipe, although I upped the bananas to 4 large ones, reduced the oil to 1/2 cup and the sugar to 2 cups. Frosting wise I tried this which is very weird to make, but tastes amazing. But really, a roux in frosting? Weird. But also, again, really really yummy.

I'm going to make a wild guess and say that ten and a half will warrant a cake still as well. And why not? Who doesn't love cake?

December 13, 2012


Yesterday, as soon as the bus dropped them off, Briton blew through the door and stopped only long enough to announce that he'd won a bet about it not being the end of the world (and that it was a good bet, even if we DO NOT BET, because if it had been the end of the world and he lost, well, the world was over, so he wouldn't have to pay) then immediatly snatched the phone off the hook and dashed upstairs to "make a call".  After a while (and some strategic eavesdropping) I realized that he was talking to a girl - but not the girl, just a girl - about texting. When he appeared again he asked if we could download an app on the computer so that he could text his friends. I agreed that we could try it,  sat down to set up an account for him, and off he went.

So I find myself with a mama question this morning. We have, up until now, pretty much avoided the threat of kid cell phone talking/texting by telling Briton that he could get a cell phone when he could pay for a cell phone. I realize that that's probably not how it will really happen. There will come a day when I want him to have a phone so that I can find him. But for now, it's holding.  Yet here we are with a texting app (which I think is really an instant messaging service) on our computer. At the moment, the computer the kids use is in the kitchen, where everyone can see what is happening on it.  The idea being you won't write/do anything you don't want your mom to see if your mom is right there behind you. And yesterday, it worked as planned. Each time I passed by I read a message or two, just to check. When they started to talk about another student - the girl, as it happens (do you like her or do you like like her?) - I reminded him that he would never want to type anything he didn't want others to see. Because you never know. It prompted a good, albeit brief, discussion on how things on the Internet never really go away, even if you think they will. But oy vey! When did my son become a phone talking/instant messaging teenager?

I'd like advice, pretty please, from anyone who's been there. Because it's a little scary, this technology and kids thing. Up until now it's been so very controlled for my kids. They had sites they could go to and play on and that was it! But I can see that this texting thing is just the beginning. Do your kids have their own computers/cell phones? When did they get them? How do you check up on what they are up to? How viable is having a "family computer" when kids are doing more and more homework online?

And I thought the scariest thing that could happen on 12-12-12 is that the world would end! Clearly I hadn't imagined that kid texting would enter my life (or maybe that's what the Mayans we warning us about! Briton texting!)

December 12, 2012

mittens gloves hats (and more mittens)

Our house has lots of little odd quirks that I often didn't appreciate until I found myself in need of something...and bam! Ah! That's what that thing is for.

Like the weird spiny dowel contraption fastened to the wall in the basement that looks like it could easily take out the eyes of three passersby in one go. This summer it did a decent job of drying towels and swimsuits and float tubes but now-now that there are snowy and wet and muddy boots all over the place-now I get that it's a boot drying rack. And all those odd angles meant that you can dry LOTS of boots all at once.

Or the oddly configured coat hanging rack in the sunroom which is actually, we've figured out, meant to hold skis upright out on the tile floor where they can drip dry in peace. (It's pretty good for snowshoes as well)

The two linen closets seemed to have a strange lack of shelving on the bottom half until I realized the opening was the perfect height for a vacuum, which means that for the first time ever I actually have a place to put my vacuum away. And bonus! The upstairs linen closet uses the chimney as a back wall, which means that blankets and sheets pulled from it on cold nights are nice and toasty.

The list goes on. I suppose this is what comes when someone builds a house over time (ten years, I believe) and thinks about each step carefully. Handy spaces. And also hyperinsulation, since almost every wall was, at some point, an exterior wall. It's warm in here.

But it was never a house with kids. Not till ours. And while its former life as a ski house-with all the nooks and crannies that implies for bunking down extra people - adapts itself well to kids, there are a lot of things that are not as kid accessible as they could be. The bar side of the kitchen counter is a few inches too tall, even with a bar stool, for little bodies. The hatch to Briton's room would have given me a heart attach if my kids were any younger. And the storage in the mudroom (and everywhere else) is all at tall-adult height. Which means that I spend a lot of time picking mittens and hats and gloves and scarves off of the floor.

We have, as you might guess, a lot of winter accessories to deal with these days. Ski goggles and soft gloves and waterproof gloves and bootliners. There's a lot of it, all the time. And while I love having a mudroom - LOVE having a mudroom - I don't love sopping wet mittens on the floor. A) Who wants sopping wet mittens on the floor and B) Even worse, when you leave wet mittens on the floor they don't dry, and then there is whining about cold, wet, useless mittens. For the past few weeks we've gotten by with a basket on the bench. But it was neither big enough nor sturdy enough to hold up against the onslaught of getting ready in the morning/flying in the door in the afternoon.

I pondered and pinterested and finally found a pair of old kids bike baskets on ebay that I thought would do the trick. They arrived with the hardware hooking them together to hang over the back wheel still attaches (ahem, rusted on) and there was a little bit of swearing involved getting them apart, but once I did, the rest was pretty quick and painless. I used a piece of leftover wood we had stained with vinegar to do a repair in the kitchen. It's not a perfect match, but it's close, and bits of the hardware that arrived with it to attach them, one over the other, to the wall. One for us, one for them. So far, so good. Not a wet mitten on the floor in sight (not that that will last, but a mama can try)

Now I just need to decide what color to paint the mudroom because boy is it hard to take a decent picture with that muddy tan paint on the wall (and also it's pretty blah to look at). Humm... Suggestions?

December 11, 2012


The weekend was after all, not really much calmer than the week. Gingerbread houses to see and admire, grocery shopping to catch up on, Christmas lists to make and basketball games and holiday parties to attend. All on top of three preformances of a play that three out of four of us are in (but oh, it's so fun to see my children fall in love with theater. Squee! And also to be reminded, after more than a decade away, how much I love the theatre).

But now it's quiet. Or quietish. The show is over (till friday at least) the car and the refrigerator are both back in service and there is very little on the calander this week. Blissfully calm after the chaos of the last one. And while it's not particularly cold (or snowy, which I miss) it's a good week to stay inside and work on all those Christmas gifts we have a-making. And also maybe to watch some Once Upon a Time, because the girl and the boy have discovered it and it's right up their alley. So we've started at the beginning and are makign our way through.

Ahhh. How nice to have time again to make dinner (that doesn't involve pizza or sandwiches) and snuggle on the couch to see what Snow White is up to this time. I'm sure the crazies will come back, how can they not? But I think I'll just take advantage of the lull for the moment and enjoy. How about you? Are you in the thick of it this week or have you made it over the hump to the calm?

December 7, 2012

a friday ode

The phrase 'it never rains but it pours' must have been coined by a harried mother. Yes, everyone gets busy at times, everyone has days where they think "I can not take one more thing on my plate today" and then they get two more. That's how it goes. But I think moms have these days more than most. Or maybe it's just that those days have the added "MOM! HELP" moments added to them.

When you have a baby, people give you all sorts of advice. Some good, some great, some really really bad (meanie nurse who told me I would permanently damage my son if I put him in a bouncy chair for even a moment, I'm looking at you lady!) but no one really tells you the truth about motherhood. They tell you about nursing and timeouts and choosing diaper brands and stopping biting.They tell you about babies and toddlers. Which is about all you can handle when you have babies and toddlers.

But they don't tell you about later. About those days when every second is accounted for with deadlines and rehearsals and lessons and meetings and homework and actual work and cats with hairballs and a refrigerator that you need a repairman for and then the school calls and says "Hi! Your kid has lice!". So you drop everything. You stop cooking parts for for the gingerbread house competition and run like hell to the pharmacy to buy up lice shampoo and you spray and you scrub everything down (including your child and yourself because ever since that encounter with the Lyme Disease tick, you get a serious case of the heebeegeebees when it comes to small creepy crawlies). You give a buzz cut and wash everything in the house and then take the now lice-free child back to school so you can get on with the rest of the day.

They don't tell you that there will be days like that.

But you know, I wouldn't trade it. Even when I'm so tired I can barely breath but the gingerbread house has to get frosted or when I'm coming home from dropping everyone off and the car starts clunking so I stop at the mechanic and surprise! The front rotor has frozen (and you aren't actually sure what that is, but it makes the car undriveable), I still wouldn't trade it.

Motherhood is hard. Parenthood is hard. Wonderfully, blissfully hard. Because even when you have too many things to do and then someone frantically calls "mom! I NEED you" at just the wrong moment,  the thing is, they are calling you mom. You are their go-to person and that, that is what makes it wonderful.

I didn't intend to leave this space for the whole week but, as you may have guessed, things got a little crazy around here. It's the kind of week that, back in high school, would have sent me out to but a six pack of jolt cola to keep in my locker so that I could make it thorough the day (this was before I discovered coffee. Ahh those lost years of nasty soda when I could have been drinking the morning nectar of the gods) I should be freaking out about now (as I sit here at the mechanic's listening to them grind something on, or maybe off, my car) but I'm not. Life is messy, and busy, and I'm exhausted. But my son was funny as hell in the school play last night. And my daughter wrote a book for me this week called "I am so lucky" (my favorite line? "I am so lucky- I have a lovely mommy") and tonight the kids and I are all in the town Christmas play together which is so very fun. And my husband made a hilarious snowmen vs gingerbread men candy battle scene for the gingerbread contest with the kids. And sure, the fridge crappped  out this morning, but its only 27 degrees out so we can put the food on the porch until the guy from Sears arrives. It's a beautiful mess, this life. And I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Hug your kids, ignore the dishes, and have a good weekend my friends.

And also, maybe don't buy a car from some shirtless Russians in a back lot in Brooklyn.

December 3, 2012

and then mud

Saturday was glorious and snowy and sunny. The perfect sledding day, which we took advantage of (golf courses, as it turns out, make excellent sledding hills) after a long lazy morning of knitting and sewing and warm apricot vanilla ricotta scones.

But then yesterday it rained most of the evening and all the snow washed away, leaving mud. And a hint of this dreaded thing to come called Mud Season. I think our driveway will be more treacherous in the mud than it is in the snow. We may need mud tires after our snow tires come off.

So today it is muddy and brown outside, and almost warm. Or at least not at all cold. But on the up side I've started making homemade yogurt again after not having my yogurt maker all last year and then forgetting about it in the first six months of living here. And bean soup cooking in the crock pot making the house smell cozy and delicious. And I think there might be more scones after school. Why not.

Vanilla Apricot Ricotta Scones

2 cups of flour
1 Tablespoon of baking powder
pinch of salt
1/3 cup sugar
6 tablespoons chilled butter, chopped in small pieces
8-10 dried apricots
1 Tablespoon vanilla
3/4 cup ricotta
1/3 cup milk
hot water

First, chop the apricots into raisin sized pieces and put them in a mug or small bowl with that vanilla and enough hot water to more than cover. Let it sit while you get the dough going.

Whisk together the dry ingredients and then mix in the butter until the flour has a grainy consistency. Add the ricotta and milk and stir gently until the dough starts to pull together. Strain out the apricots and add them to the mix, stirring gently until the apricots are evenly distributed.

Knead the dough lightly in the bottom of the bowl and then turn out the ball onto your pan. Flatten the ball to a thickness of about 3/4 of an inch. Cut the circle into eight wedges and then pull them away from each other a bit so that the sides aren't quite touching. Sprinkle with sugar and cook in a preheated 425 degree oven for 17 minutes, or until the tops are lightly browned.

November 30, 2012

morning sparkle

We had about five inches of snow last night. Which, if we were still in Virginia, would have cancelled school and probably been labeled by the news as some kind of end of the world storm, but here, the radio weather guy called it "some light accumulation." So, ya, business as usual. And also beautiful.

I am thiiiissss close to finishing another Christmas gift. They are so soft and squishy that I'm tempted to keep them, but I wont. Besides, I have lots and lots (and lots!) more gifts to get on the needles, so the sooner I finish these and get onto the next (and stop petting them) the better it will be for everyone. A weekend of snow and fires and sledding and knitting sounds pretty good to me. 

I've been making fried apples in the mornings for my breakfast (ok, second breakfast. First breakfast is coffee as I'm throwing snow pants on children and shoving snacks and homework into backpack) When I was growing up, my dad used to fry apples to pile on our oatmeal or eat with eggs and bacon (sounds strange, but it's good, I promise). I'm sure that it wasn't just a cold winter morning thing, we probably ate them all year long, but for some reason, waking up to below freezing temps outside makes me crave them.

So we are snow suited up, full of crispy apples and ready for a some sledding and yarn and maybe some more apples. Because why not.

Happy weekend.

November 27, 2012


I'm sure there will come a time when I am sick of snow. Because if it's snowing now, in November, it will be a long time before it's not snowing, or at least before there is no snow on the ground. So, yes, the moment will come when I declare that I hate snow. But not for the moment. For the moment, I love snow.

There is a lack of sound when it snows. Unlike rain, which pelts on our metal roof, drumming or pattering, depending on how much there is, or wind that howls and pushes the trees against the windows, snow has an absence of sound. It is so quiet outside. Silent.

This morning there was sledding before school. Because they could. The snowpants and boots and, yes, ski goggles (why not) were donned before breakfast and they ate with their bottoms only half in their seats, ready to go.

When everyone is off for the day, I wander though the house, making beds that were forgotten and turning off lights before sitting down to work. There is enough light from outside, reflecting off the snow, to make the house bright inside. Or bright enough. I like the cool light from the windows better than the yellow light from the lamps. We have a new shag rug in the living room that is getting much love from the animals, although this morning it's all about the chair next to the fire it seems.

As I said, I know there will come a time, probably not too terribly long from now, when I hate the snow. But for now, I'm going to enjoy the quiet and the light and the crunch underfoot and sleds in the driveway and snowpants on the floor of the mudroom. Anyone with me? Or do you hate the thought of snow? Maybe I'm the only crazy one (although, clearly not, since there are other people up here in snow country with me, right?)

November 26, 2012

Five days is, I think, the perfect length for a vacation from school. Just enough longer than a three day weekend to be able to feel really lazy some days while still having time to get a few crucial (or maybe not crucial, but fun) things done on others. Plenty of stay up late nights and sleep in mornings, but not so many that routines get royally messed up. And just about the time that it becomes obvious that it's time to get back to the grind (for us, that was at 7:13 last night, complete with melt downs and a small sibling argument over...something...I'm not sure what) it's time to go back to school.

We had a really lovely, wonderful, restful Thanksgiving break. And it was exactly what we all needed. Friends over to play and playing at friends houses. A date (oh my!) for the grownups, dominos and knitting and Risk and chess and cross stitching. And snow.

The snow held off till Thanksigiving was officially over and Christmas (at least at our house) had started. It fluttered down prettily while we hunted for our tree and then built up enough over the rest of the weekend to enable some light driveway/dog-aided sledding. Perfect.

And you? How was your Thanksgiving Break? Ready for Christmas? (I'm not! So many things to knit, so little time left!)

November 20, 2012

in thanks

We've had a rough few days around here. Not because anything specific is wrong but because sometimes being a parent is just....hard. So it seems like a good day to remember what we are thankful for.

For kids who love you (even when you are so MEAN and make them do homework and...wear pants, and mean things like that). And husbands who keep you sane when you are MEAN and make them wear pants.
For good food and a good house and a good community.
And for wood stoves to keep us warm. And cuddly pets. And new hobbies. And being together. For friends and family.

And for warm boots. Warm boots are good.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

November 16, 2012


This week, Evelyn has been working hard to learn to tie her shoes by herself. Her class is having a party for all the kids who learn the skill before the winter holidays so she has been a very determined girl. Last night we had a breakthrough on the shoe tying front (Yay! Party!) which left her feeling mighty confident. So when I sat down to work on my embroidery project, she was full of "I want to try's!"
I've used stitching cards and felt and that plastic grid stuff for little finger sewing and I have to say, burlap was a far superior material for her to work with. Being able to put the fabric in a hoop was very important (because we need to do things like mom!) but having holes ready to go so that there was no hard pushing and poked fingers made things nice and easy for her. She has all sorts of plans for making Christmas gifts for the family now that she's got the hang of it. I have a feeling that I'll need to replenish my embroidery floss supplies before long. I wonder if I could convince her to do a sampler. I've always had a soft spot for samplers. And for little girls who want to sew with their mamas.