July 25, 2012


There are levels of unpacking. On one level, we are 90% unpacked. As in, there are only a few boxes still sitting on our sun porch. Pesky things like office do-dads and tidbits that we threw into boxes right at the end when we were packing. I'm doing by best to NOT just shove those in the basement to be dealt with "later" because I know from experience that later might be a few years from now. So if you looked at the porch you'd think we were pretty close.

Except that we still have half, maybe a little more than half, of our worldly belongings in a storage unit in Virginia, which will shortly be dragged up here and, inevitably, onto the sun porch. This is part of the reason I'm trying to get things OFF of the sun porch now,  so there is room for the next load when it comes.

Unpacked is also relative. Things are out of boxes. They are not in boxes and therefore they are technically unpacked, but they aren't really put away. We have lots of piles. Piles of clothes that need to be hung in closets. Piles of toys that need to be put onto shelves or into bins. Piles of art that needs to be hung.

Secretly, I kind of like unpacking. In general, when we move, I unpack. Not because Will is lazy or unwilling but because it's just how it happens. He goes to work, I stay home and unpack. And really it's the best system because I like to figure out where things go. I try things out and shift them around and try more things out. When Will comes home we move furniture and hang art because that's what he cares about, not where the plates are or which cupboard holds all the extra sheets. It's exhausting and tiring and sometimes dusty work, but I do sort of enjoy it. Although figuring out what goes where in this kitchen might just drive me insane. It's not that I don't like it, I do, but I've never had a kitchen with absolutely no cupboards under the counter. I have drawers drawers, drawers, aplenty, but no places to hide away the less pretty things that are better stacked on shelves. Ah well, in time. For now it's just another pile.

July 23, 2012

the "before" tour

Last time we bought a house I only took a few "before" shots. Mostly because we were sort of aghast at the state the house was in and didn't really want anyone to see it until we had at least gotten the worst of it taken care of. In the end I wished that we had taken more. Because we did a lot to that house and it's fun to look at how far we came.

This house won't need the same kind of crazy overhaul, but it needs a lot of updating and brightening. New paint, new fixtures, new flooring. So on Saturday, before we could test paint on the walls or start hauling in boxes, I went through and took lots of before shots. I wont share them all here but I'll give you a little tour. Forgive the phone quality photos, I forgot the real camera and wanted to make sure the photos got taken before the house filled up with boxes. The exterior of the house is strangely hard to photograph, it's tucked up in the woods so much that you can't get a good angle, but this is the main entrance.

You enter through a big glassed in porch (which needs doors, instead of windows, across the front.) and into a mudroom. Yay! A mudroom. I'm sure we'll need it here!

 Most of the downstairs is one big open space built around the chimney. So we have the kitchen

 And the dining/living area.

At one end of the kitchen is a desk, which overlooks the living room. I think this will be our family computer space, perfect for homework, paying bills, all that jazz.

In the kitchen there is a walk through pantry that leads to the downstairs bathroom.

 Up the stairs we have an interesting combination. In the real estate pitch they called this room an "open bedroom",  but we plan to use it as the den/upstairs living room where the TV will be.
We also have this funny sleeping loft. At first I didn't know what to do with it but I think we will turn it into a reading nook with floor cushions and shelves along the wall. It has a little escape hatch to Briton's loft above.
Briton's loft room is the room that needs the most work and is the first that we will tackle. It needs some drywall in spots and a lot of trim. Oh, and flooring. Although he seems to think a rug over plywood is just fine.
Down the ladder we have the main bedrooms.

Evie's is the slightly smaller one but has a great window that she already loves to perch in. As you can see we are already trying out paint for her room. Blue, with lots of roses. Per her request (of course)

Our room has two closets (yay!) and a private deck with scary rails. Another thing to fix ASAP.

The bathroom is, without a doubt, the most hideous room in the house. It's really the only room that I find cringe-worthy. While I want to change things in other rooms, I can live in them as-is pretty happily. This room. Yuck. But on the plus side it's pretty big and the laundry is upstairs in here, which makes my day. No more basement laundry!

And speaking of the basement, we have a good sized one that's dry enough to finish out. At some point. I'm thinking craft room.
Down the hill from the house, closer to the creek, is our cabin.

It's rustic in a RUSTIC kind of way and needs to be totally redone. I think Will is most excited about that project. There is still some debate over what, exactly, it will be, but we'll figure that out.

So that's the ten-cent tour. Today we start unpacking the things that we brought from New York before we head down to Virginia to retrieve the rest of our belongings. Ah, unpacking is not my favorite thing. I hope, hope, hope that I will not be packing or unpacking again for a LONG time. Because, man, it's tiring!

July 20, 2012

into the woods

There is a little house in the woods, on the side of the mountain, that has been waiting, just for us.

It is not too little, but it's also not too big. It's neither old or new. It's not perfect and ready to go, but it's also not, ahem, quite the dump that our last house was when we bought it.

If someone had asked me what kind of house I wanted to buy, I would not have described this house. And yet...

It's perfect. When we went to look at houses here, we sped through most of what was for sale, knowing instantly that they weren't right, and then we drove down a hidden driveway through the trees and saw a half shingled house tucked into a sea of green, and we knew. All of us. We knew.

Our realtor hadn't even seen it, which seems improbable, even impossible, given the fact that it's been on the market for two years and there are very few houses for sale here. But I guess it was just waiting for us. It knew better than we did, or at least than I did, about what we needed. A desk nestled into the kitchen, a wood stove in the living room, a room that can only be reached by ladder-just the thing for an almost ten year old boy.

There are plenty of things that need doing on this house. Walls that need to be painted, carpet that needs tearing up, a little cottage by the brook that will, with some work, be an excellent work space for me, and also a guest house for our friends. A garden needs to be planned and built, a deck needs railings that you can't fall through. But even with the work that needs doing, maybe because of the work that needs doing, we love it. There are river rocks set into the chimney and windows that look out onto nothing but green and a workshop for Will. There is a convergence of four brooks that all meet at the perfect spot for a fort. There is a fairy house.

And at last. We are home.

July 19, 2012

knit swap

Before we moved to Vermont, before we even knew we were moving to Vermont, I signed up for a tea-themed knitting swap through Ravelry, my first ever. What, exactly, possessed me to commit myself to a swap when I knew we would be in the middle of graduation, job hunting, packing, moving, buying, renting, car shopping, school hunting and all the other lovely chaotic things that come from moving a family from one place to another, I'm not really sure. But I did, and with the swap due by the end of the month, I put together my package last night and now I'm afraid I'm hooked. Because as much as I love receiving gifts (who doesn't), thinking up fun ways to treat a perfect stranger on a set budget - this swap had a max of $15 - was really, really fun. If you happen to by my swap partner, look away! I don't want to spoil the fun. But for anyone else who might be interested in what went into my box, here we go.
Because the swap had a pretty low max spending point, I had to get a little creative in order to fit everything I wanted to send into my budget. This is my first swap so it's possible that this is cheating a bit, but one of the tricks I used was to buy things that came in larger amounts and then split them up so that only part of them went into the package. So instead of sending a $10 box of tea, I just packaged up a few tea bags in little fabric bags that I made from larger pieces I needed for a project for Evie. I was trying very hard to stick with locally made or purchased items for my swap, which often means the prices were higher, but by splitting it, I came in just under the wire.
So, into my box went four tiny tea themed stitch marker (these were the only non-local thing, but I found them on etsy so I was supporting a local artist somewhere) some chocolates from Lake Champlain Chocolate Company, yarn sold by the local yarn store and milled at a farm on the Vermont/New Hampshire boarder, tea bags from the Groove Tea Project, which has a great mission,  and a project bag made from fabric I picked up in Burlington at the fun and fabulous Nido yarn and fabric store.

I wrote little tags describing where things had come from and, other than the project bag and the yarn, wound them, along with the corresponding items, into a surprise ball. I'd never made a surprise ball before but it was a lot of fun, I think I'll have to put some together for the kids. They would love the idea of unwinding a ball and finding little treasures as you go. 

Have you ever done a swap? Since it's my first, I have no idea if what I put in is what usually goes in, but I had a great time with it, so I'm not too worried. I think I'll have to make a habit of making a project bag for every swap. I find them so handy and they are fun to make. This time I tried out using a french seam for the edges so that there would be no fraying inside the bag. Ah, I miss having a serger. One of these days...

July 16, 2012

day camping

We had great plans to make our first foray into canoe camping this weekend. Alas, it seems that everyone else also had the same idea and by the time we tried to reserve a campsite, there were none available. In the whole state of Vermont. And also New Hampshire and the easily drivable part of upstate New York. Ah well.

With all our gear ready and camping food packed (BBQ jars!) we set off for the Green River Reservoir to do a little day camping and to check out the rustic canoe camping sites for next time (When we will book well ahead. Ahem)

Compared to Blueberry Lake, the reservoir is huge. We paddled past island camping sites to a day use area at one end of the lake and spent most of the day swimming, fishing, sunning and swinging on a rope swing we found tucked along the edge of the water.

With no motorboats allowed, the lake was quiet and peaceful. Before the sun went down we cruised around the edges, watching campers set up for the night and loons diving for their dinner. By the time we got home, the kids were asleep and our arms felt a little jelly-like but oh, we've found the perfect campsite. And also a snack-bar with 60 flavors of creemes (soft serve) conveniently located at point in the drive where we all realized we were starving. Perfect.

Although having hauled in everything we needed for day camping, I'm not exactly sure how we will add a tent and sleeping bags. And more food. And clothes. And a dog. Maybe we can load up Will's float tube and pull it behind us. Anyone ever canoe camped? Advice?

July 13, 2012

new favorite things

Oatmeal has always been one of my favorite breakfasts. I think I could live happily for the rest of my life eating only oatmeal or Greek yogurt (with honey) every morning. Except with bacon now and then. But it's always been my thing. No one else in our family would touch it. I could load it up with berries and honey or mix it with an equivalent amount of brown sugar and both kids would turn their noses up at it. "I don't like oatmeal!" Will will occasionally eat some to please me. Because I keep telling him that it's so much better for him than the Frosted Mini Wheats he eats every. single. day.

And then one day, everyone woke up and asked for "some of that you're eating mom."
The difference was that this time, it was steel cut oats. I only discovered steel cut oatmeal myself this spring, having avoided it at all costs for years because I thought it would feel like grits, and I don't like grits. Except then I remembered that I do, actually, like grits. So I gave it a try and low and behold, my new favorite thing! And surprisingly, everyone else likes it too. Even Evelyn, miss picky, will gobble up a bowl. At least on alternating days (because she doesn't consistently like anything except fruit and "Chicken Wings" at the moment).

Since the mornings here are nice and cool, I've been making up a big pot of it when I first get up, giving it a stir now and then while I'm making the coffee, and generally, it's perfectly done by the time the rest of the crowd drags themselves to the table. Curiously, I've found that the Bob's Red Mill Farm brand cooks much faster than the classic tin of Irish Oats. They don't taste different, so I'm not sure why, but in this case the faster cooking time tips the scales in Bob's favor when I go shopping. Because it does take time. Not a horrible amount of time. Like I said, I can get a pot of oatmeal simmering away first thing and it's ready about the same time the coffee is. But it's not as fast as, say, instant oatmeal (gag - sorry, I love oatmeal but I can't stand the instant stuff). At the moment our crock pot is in storage, but I'm eager to give the overnight cooking method a try once we are moved and unpacked.

At the moment our favorite mix ins are dried cranberries and brown sugar (for the kids) and blueberries and granola and a teeny bit of brown sugar (for me) Will flips back and forth on which he likes better. I'm curious though, if anyone else is a big steel cut oats fan? How do you eat it? How do you cook it?

July 12, 2012

sweater beginnings or christmas knitting, the summer edition

I know it seems early to be thinking about winter sweaters, especially when half the country is broiling away, but sweaters, as I've learned (remember Will's Christmas/Valentines/Spring Break Sweater?) take time to knit. So if I want to knit three before December, it's time to get started. In fact, I think I started Briton's in May last year. So really, I'm behind. Whoops.
courtesy of Ravelry
This time around I'm starting with Evie's sweater. Since last year I made the colossal mistake of believing that anything pink would be fine by her and we ended up with a sweater that she wont wear, I enlisted her help in selecting a pattern. After some perusing through Ravelry she chose this sweater, which, unfortunately, only comes as a kit. In Danish. But the idea is pretty straight forward and armed with my trusty copy of Knitting Without Tears (which just happens to include directions for a round yoke sweater) I think I'll be OK.
The plan is to use two of my handspun yarns, the colorful one I chose for the purpose, knowing it would be about as Evelyn as it could get with all that pink plus all those other colors. The white is a soft mohair that I just finished spinning last night which seemed like a good foil for the brightness of the pink. I'm hoping it will be a good combination. And that there is enough of the white. Although on the plus side, I can always spin more. One of the benefits of spinning.

So it's official. I've started my Christmas/Solstice knitting. Christmas in July, right? Briton's sweater, which he has very sweetly requested be EXACTLY like the last one (although since the last one still fits he has agreed that it can be green and green instead of another blue and blue, for variety) and Will, well, he might get a hat. Or socks. Or another Spring Break sweater. We shall see.

Anyone else crazy enough to be knitting Christmas sweaters in July?

July 10, 2012


We have frogs, people. Lots and lots of frogs.

In the first weeks after our move, Evelyn spent hours and hours (and hours) watching tadpoles. Tadpoles in the creek, tadpoles in the river, tadpoles in the lake and even some frighteningly ginormous tadpoles in a tiny pond near Stowe. She loved them. She talked to them. She named them. And then, one day, they were all gone. No more little herds of black commas scuttling around the shallows of the lakes. We moved on to minnows and wildflowers and building rock towers.

My guess is that they went somewhere to hide from her prying fingers. They'd probably been scooped up in a jam jar one too many times. But they are back, and grown, and catching frogs has become part of the daily routine around here.
"Mom! You have to look at THIS one!"
Yesterday we spent a good two hours catching frogs, and then bugs to feed the frogs, and then letting the frogs go and catching more frogs. Armed with the net we made out of a mesh bag and a wire hanger to catch them and an old Cool Whip tub to hold them, they are as happy as clams (the kids, I'm not sure the frogs are super excited about the whole situation).

 This is what we wanted. Children knee deep in mud, catching frogs, and minnows and salamanders. Writing messages with sticks and rocks and smelling like river water and needing to be hosed down nightly, and sometimes twice a day. Sweaty, stinky, happy.