It All Got Started…

…when I hung some curtains, well, I suppose, they are sheers. Well, they’re not exactly sheers either… they’re cotton swiss dot… uh… things to hang in a window that prevents everyone driving by from looking in when your daughters are putting on yet another two hour dance show. And now I’m in the throes of moving things all over the house.

The Sheers or Something

But we started with window coverings. And look! It worked! Privacy that doesn’t exclude the pretty, pretty light! Unfortunately, all that nice, filtered, soft light made it obvious the rest of the room needed some work. Or maybe it was all the piles of stuff in the shelf and under and beside the bed that I had managed to ignore before that sent me over the edge.

Old Bed Arrangement

Old Dresser Position

We’ve shifted the girls around a bit in the past few months, to try to align sleeping with room arrangements, one moving into her own room and the baby into a new room and a new bed. It’s been going… uh… it’s been going… hmm. I guess it’s been going. Eventually we want all the girls to be in the same room, but we couldn’t quite wrap our head around how to arrange the beds. with all the windows and doors. So I decided I would try to fit a bed where the dresser was, and move the dresser in front of the window.

Dresser in Window

It was feeling a bit cramped. But I persevered!

And yes, before we go any further, you’re right, there is a significant amount (nearly all of it) of IKEA furniture and other fixin’s in here. Ah… IKEA… we have flipped and flopped with our decisions to add more of their products in our home. I think it will likely always be a mix of their pieces and old vintage flea market finds for us; IKEA is practical, their manufacturing processes are economical, and their environmental practices are a far cry above others, and honestly, you pay the right price for what you’re getting. I find most furniture stores offering similar quality pieces for a significant percentage more and paying all that money for something the kids will only need/use/want for a few years boggles my mind.

Flipped Around

But back to the arrangements, I surprisingly liked putting the beds in front of the window, flipping them with the dresser, the pushing the youngest’s bed closest to the wall. And now it’s obvious the third bed can easily fit!

Different Angle

The Rug

All the past week (I started with a bang, then the schedule overtook us all) making changes in the room, organizing the stack, tossing out things that were beyond broken or were no longer useful, moving furniture from other parts of the house, refinishing some pieces, dusting everything and scrubbing baseboards, packing up small clothing sizes out and bringing in things that fits… there has been a lot of work here, but it’s still not done. I’ll show you more as things settle and plans are made.

One thing that’s absolutely certain? This rug has gotta go! I think I’m going to sell it, but NOT to someone who has small children who enjoy legos. Or beads. Or playmobile… or anything small, plastic or wood, with sharp or pointy edges. Well, not unless they sign a waiver. Stepping across this rug in bare feet is both brave and stupid… and I don’t want to be held liable for someone else’s pain and suffering.

Yeah, it started with the sheers, and now I’m knee deep in the thick of it all over the house. Hopefully I can dig my way back out this week!

Ten Minute Meal :: Panzanella with Cannellini

The weather here has been a bit extreme. Unbearably hot and humid with a drying wind that burned what was left of my hydrangeas, then this week sunny, bright, and cool, with nights that required long sleeves and socks. But it’s still tomato season, and they are having their moment and should be utilized, even if I don’t feel like spending time in the kitchen.

With the start of school last week, and quite a number of adjustments to our schedule—relaxed or possibly even non-existent over the summer—this week, I’ve been a bit tapped out when dinner time rolls around. But there’s only so many days one can eat pasta or pizza, isn’t there?

Luckily, we are all fans of panzanella, which the kids call crouton salad, and we have a few variations that are the perfect thing to make when you don’t really feel like being in the kitchen. This one is my favorite version.

This here is a mix of canned and rinsed Cannellini beans, chopped ripe tomatoes (these are amazingly sweet yellow heirlooms), thinly sliced yellow bell pepper, a handful of parsley, and the leftover, sliced heart from the head of a Boston Bibb lettuce. Mixed together with the juice of two lemons, salt, pepper, and olive oil.

10min Beans N Greens

While that sits for a minute or two, I take some lovely sliced bread from a local baker, slather it with olive oil, stick it in the toaster, then stack and cut it into bite-sized chunks. This is such a time saver! Broiling takes too long, and I can’t count the number of times I burnt all the bread because I forgot it for a few extra seconds. As an added bonus the kids can help with this part while I sliced and toss the other ingredients.

Toasty Bread

First, the bread goes into the bowl… I like it to be the base to soak up all the juice from the tomatoes and lemon and olive oil.

In A Bowl

Then the other ingredients.

Lemons N Oil

Ten minutes. Well, maybe fifteen depending on how comfortable you are with a knife. Super simple, incredibly tasty, and no cooking required (toaster doesn’t count).

 

Mama Son Day

Before the first day of school arrived, before we all got sick and sniffly and miserable, before the weather turned so very cool, before the return to the hectic days of homework and the tyranny of weekly schedules… My seven year old and I took some time off for one day, just the two of us.

Antique Cars

Flume

Fountain Flume

Lily Pad

Frogs

Carnivore

 

Deadly Dinner

Take A Peek

Downhill Engineer

Water Works

Up Up And Away

We walked all around the magnificent acres of the Heritage Museum and Gardens looking at cars, and playing in frog ponds (our favorite part, we think), wandering through the current exhibits, and discovering hidden hollows meant for exploring and building and getting wet and being a kid. He laughed and jumped and ran, stretching those legs of his and soaking up the last bit of clear summer sunshine as I walked more slowly, following his lead and letting him chose which paths to follow. He waited for me around the corners, unseen, and even when climbing up ahead, he checked back when he reached the summit, just a small glance and only once or twice, before running on

The most difficult, heartbreaking challenge of parenting isn’t about the number of times you’ve failed them, how often you’ve lost patience, how many fevered brows and scraped up knees you’ve kissed, or the growing pains you’ve witnessed but can not take away… it is learning how to let them go, bit by bit, even when you don’t know how and you’re not ready.

Hand Held

 

I hope, as he gets older and we experience more of those bumps and bruises known as the adolescent and teen years, that he remembers this day as fondly as I do. That maybe if he doesn’t exactly remember that moment he reached for my hand, that he’ll have internalized the knowledge that mine was there, waiting and ready, for his.

 

Thoughts of Things and Souvenirs

While our kids were being spoiled by the grandparents, my husband and I were walking around the streets of Paris. It was so nice to have the chance to celebrate such a momentous occasion—the tenth anniversary of our wedding—the way we began it ten years ago, just us two, and I’m grateful to my parents who were willing to lend a helping hand, granting us the freedom and peace of mind to travel so far away knowing our kids would be so well taken care of.

Eiffel

They were far from our reach, but not from our thoughts. I was surprised—then after some thought, maybe not so surprised after all—by how often we found ourselves talking about them, pointing out things they would find interesting, wondering what they were doing at that very moment, making plans to somehow shift our priorities and save some funds so we could travel as one whole big family circus. Traveling with four small kids however, is no small feat; we now exceed the maximum occupancy for one hotel room and it’s not as if Europe is known for their extra spacious rooms. Regardless of its difficulties, I’m pretty confident we can find a way to make it work.

It turns out—thanks to check baggage and luggage weight limits—it is also no small feat to bring home a little something for each of our four. We stopped in a number of shops, every single one of which I found something for at least one of my kids. All the museum shops were chock full of over-priced t-shirts and books, funny little oddities, and of course, tons of crap that would be tossed aside in less time than it took me to type this last sentence. Since I’m the one who gets to clean it all out and throw it in the trash, I needed to find something else to bring home.

The Supplies

In the end, I found a few pencil bags for all four, and at each of our stops, I picked up a little school supply related item. Pencils and erasers from the museums, a few markers from a small shop from my husband’s hometown in Germany, little notebooks and graph paper pads from a stationary store in Paris… I managed to cross off a bit of back-to-school shopping as well as fulfill a desire to offer them each some physical token of how often I thought of them.

The Pencils

Rhodia Pad

The Thinker

They have been much adored by the kids. And even though I paid a fortune for those doggone pencils from the Rodin Museum with “The Thinker” on the top—I put them back the first day we went there because they were so ridiculously expensive—I’m glad we went back the next day to get them… I suppose it’s reasonable to find a better excuse than “I really need those pencils” to get back to Paris next year.

 

 

With Open Arms, Welcome September

It never fails… ever.

August rolls around, the cicadas start to sing, the grass is burnt to a fragrant, golden, late-summer crisp, the shops pull out all the stops for their back to school displays, and my creativity starts to trickle back to life, slowly building into a steady stream that come September is a full-on flood. I welcome its return. Often, I find this time of year more rejuvenating, more full of promise and excitement than the turn of the new year in January. Surely I’m not the only one?

Travel Prep

This summer was so very, very full for us all. There were :: broken bones, or I suppose, just one bone; lengthy stays with the grandparents back in Pennsylvania, European travel to Greece, France, and Germany; ten year wedding anniversaries to celebrate (hence the reason for the grandparents and travel!), garden created just for flowers, a visit to a yarn facility run by family, birthdays galore, visits from new friends just to devote some time to making, creating, lobster bakes, time for socks and sandals (socks and sandals? my goodness who let that happen?)… oh I could go on!

Thems the Breaks

Socks and Sandals

Already there are ambitious plans shaping up for this Fall as well :: a cookbook club, some long-planned and much-needed home improvements, a new photo project or two, more knitting to finish up and even more to start, some amazing fiber to spin, a few rooms to revamp and/or finish up, a much neglected blog to return to, maybe a weensy bit more travel, Christmas projects to begin (I’m determined to get a jump start this year!)… oh I could go on!

I’m really looking forward to diving into all these projects that are floating around my head. Do you have any exciting plans?

“Sparklers” for the Fourth

This year, instead of running back to Pennsylvania after school let out at the end of June, we decided to stick around and enjoy our seaside community’s early summer activities. One of the first things we crossed off our list was a friend’s famed 3rd of July party… The 3rd of July, so that everyone could take the 4th to recover. It was brilliant! We enjoyed homemade pizza from their hand-built, backyard wood-fired oven (where I took notes from the oven’s builder to add to my ever-growing list of dreams), and then walked to our local beach to watch the neighbors put on competing fireworks display up and down the coast. With the light breeze and clear sky and beautiful calm low tide and most excellent company… we could not have asked for a nicer day. I am so thankful for the people we have met here.

But before the festivities kicked off, the kids and I decided to make our recent tradition of chocolate covered sprinkled pretzels to bring along to the party. One of the kids decided they looked like sparklers, and so now we have a little family name for our fourth of July treats!

The Set Up

It really is a lovely little craft-like dessert project that all our littles can enjoy helping with. And the best part for me it that it requires no baking, which—as many of my friends and family can attest—is not my strong point.

No Baking Required

The process could not be more simple:
• Melt a few bags of chocolate candy coating (my kids also enjoy the vile vanilla, but maybe they’ll outgrow it) either in the microwave or over a double boiler, taking care to not burn it, which is really the only trick. I find a double boiler a bit more cumbersome for set-up, but easier to control for heat. Inevitably I burn the coating in the microwave, which causes it to seize up and crystalize.
• Pour melted coating into a tall, thin glass
• Dip pretzel rods—I’ve found the rods in buckets have fewer broken pieces than the rods in bags—into coating, placing dipped rods onto parchment or wax paper
• Shake your choice or sprinkles over the still-melted coating
• Let cool, then eat

Foodie Crafting

So easy, I promise!

Add Sparkles

All the kids enjoy the dipping, and with as many kids as we have (and one extra who was here on a play date!), we’re able to make a whole bunch in a short amount of time.

Too Many to Eat

Once we were done with all the dipping, we took the rest of the melted coating and put it in a lidded jar to save for next time. And yeah, if you have the time and patience, it would probably be even better with real chocolate, but I have neither the time, patience, nor equipment for proper tempering. I have made my peace with chocolate candy coating, since we have it only once or twice per year.

TaDaaaa

We brought them to the party in a galvanized bucket filled with rice so they could stand up on their own. We didn’t even get the bucket set down on the table before our sparkers started walking off in little (and big) hands.

What a nice little crafty-type foodie project to start off our summer!

Vacationing :: Cherry Picking

To The Sky 

Pictureskew

Apple Bins

Bounty

Getting Started

Picking With Pappy

Abundance

Ladders

Beautiful Buckets Reaching

Huge Haul

Big Barn

A few days ago, the eldest two finally finished up with school for the year, so I packed up the car, stuffed the kids and the dog in, and drove back home to Pennsylvania. After a weekend of sleeping in and catching up with family, we kicked off our newly schedule-free days with an early morning of cherry picking.

The orchard we visited opened at 7am, but the day was forecast to be rather rainy and dreary, so my dad and I decided we didn’t need to be there at the crack of dawn since we thought not many people would venture out. Well, that turned out to be a bit of a mistake. Bu the time we got there at 8.30, the place was mobbed and the sour cherries—which we love for pie baking—were completely picked through and we barely collected enough to make two pies. There was an overabundance of sweet cherries though, and we are working our way through the many pounds of them at an alarming rate, although not fast enough for my dad who claims there isn’t quite enough room in the fridge and we need to eat. more. now.

And that big haul up the page a bit, with the dozen or so 5 gallon buckets of cherries? They were collected by a group of Amish women (who obviously showed up at exactly the crack of dawn!) the total cost of which was two cherries shy of $500.00 worth. The women checking them out gave them five free fruits, which I though was a nice little bargain, but she did make them run and grab the five themselves. I wonder what deliciousness they will make with such an abundance, and I also can’t help but to be curious how they’ll pit them all.

Buck In Velvet

Black Raspberry

Rolling Hills

Big Sky

Stormish

Enclosure Path

After the cherry picking adventure was over my dad took us all to a local deer farm for a little walk. The weather was, well, it was quite unpredictable, but absolutely lovely at the same time. And the views? Let’s just say I miss the sweeping views of all those rolling hills more than I could have imagined. But then again, that ocean view of ours does make up for a bit of what we lack in purple mountain(ish) majesty.

Inlows

DriveIn Diner

Foot Longs for Lunch

After all that picking and walking we just happened to find ourselves at one of my favorite little local drive-in diners for foot-long hot dogs and malted milkshakes. I love this place and stop by every summer I come home, even though the drive-in part is a bit of misnomer; no one has come out on skates to take your orders ever since I can remember. Those are the original 50’s counter-tops by the way… not much has changed here since they opened up back in the day of car hops and greasers.

I would say overall, we’re off to a great start to our vacation!

On today’s agenda? Resting, pie making, and maybe a nap or two! The black raspberries are coming in, so I suspect there will also be some jam-making soon.