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December 30, 2011

Sweets...

Simple and scrumptious...
Rob's mom gave us a bunch of mini candy canes...and I bought a bag of chocolate chips from Trader Joe's...we melted them in a glass dish in the microwave for 1 minute, stirred and then began to fill in the hearts. Minty chocolate sweets after dinner last night!
(see Lusy coming into the kitchen, checking out the scene)
Thank YOU for the idea!

December 28, 2011

Sewing lesson with an 8 year old...

When a button falls off, you can simply sew it back on, if you know how to sew. It's really quite simple, I think it should be taught at age 4 or 5 to all children, using:
  • felt
  • embroidery floss
  • a large blunt-tip needle (NOT plastic, the tip bends easily, making it frustrating)
  • scissors (let them make free form shapes)
  • buttons or beads
  • lace (it's easy to get the needle through)
I taught Hannah to sew using a sewing machine just after she turned 9. She has been sewing quite a bit this past week...making pillows. I thought it was time to show Olivia how to use it, too. She pressed the pedal hard when I said to put the foot down, I meant "put the foot down on the fabric" not her foot on the pedal. Laughing and learning... Olivia sewed a small pillow yesterday...her first project! We need more stuffing. I would like to get something besides the polyester fill available at most stores...any suggestions on where to get a soft natural fill?

December 26, 2011

Western Christmas

We celebrated Christmas (which we call Western Christmas) with my husband's family yesterday, Sunday Dec. 25th. Rob's grandma here is 83. His other grandma is 101...both are doing okay, using their walkers to get around.We opened all of our gifts in the morning and then went to church. Hannah got 2 new dresses for her 18" doll, meet Jessica Ann. Olivia got Tintin books and a wood mannikin. I gave Rob a pair of leather slippers from LLBean and he got me fabric to sew with...We will celebrate the Nativity of Christ with my family on January 7th (which IS Dec. 25th on the old calendar).
9:30am Saturday we got to the ski slopes in Indiana. We stayed until they closed at 4:30pm, taking a break at 12noon to eat the lunch we packed (smoked salmon, bread, clementines). Walking in ski boots is so hard!

The best gift we had was spending time together!

December 23, 2011

6 years ago

Rob joined the Army a month after September 11, 2001...and left for basic training that November. Hannah was a baby then, but we were really struggling financially (we both got bachelors degrees in fine arts), so this seemed "right" for us in so many ways. It was something to do for a steady income and after the attacks on our country, Rob really wanted to help America in some way. This place we love...and call home.

We moved May 2002 to Fort Stewart, Georgia...in January 2003 Rob left for Kuwait and then drove in his tank to Iraq. I didn't hear anything for him for a month...he was on his way to Baghdad...had some serious missions. We found out I was pregnant with our 2nd daughter just before he left. It was a very emotional time for me, but I had a good support network, made lots of friends since we lived on-post, and my parents came down to help out a week before Olivia was born. We were very fortunate that his captain let him leave, we really didn't know what was happening...and he came home just a week before Olivia arrived!
Then, he went back to Iraq in January 2005. He came home Dec. 23, 2005 for good!!! Hannah was 4 and Olivia was 2. He told us of his days in the hot dry desert, the sand in everything, working hard as a track vehicle mechanic, waiting to come home. His 4 year contract with the Army was up. So glad to have him home!
I just finished reading this book that my friend, Charlotte, gave me...an excellent, sad, yet moving and hopeful story of a boy from Afghanistan. It's based on a true story! The kindness of strangers is a blessing...

As Abraham and Sarah entertained strangers long ago...

December 21, 2011

Kitten adventures while homeschooling...

We're trying to wrap up our homeschooling today...so we can take a few days off. Our kitten, Velvet, however provides some distraction. Notice how Hannah and Olivia have gotten good at ignoring her while trying to work on their lessons...I love how she perches atop the back of the chair! It gives her the best viewing spot out the window...and Lusy also likes to look out there, too.


Lusy has graciously started sharing her bed with Velvet. I hope for some snow! We have been planning on going skiing Saturday December 24th.

* * * * *

"Wise men still seek Him."

May you all have a wonderful Christmas! We are celebrating with some family this weekend, but will mainly celebrate the Nativity of Christ on January 7th since we are Orthodox Christians.

I love this time of year! Mostly for the simple moments, a cup of tea on a cold day! The sun peaking out behind the clouds...and getting to spend time with those we love the most!

December 14, 2011

Yarn along...I'm blessed!

I think Clementine was looking at Nutmeg in a curious way, that made her self conscious...I crocheted a shawl out of some gray wool I got in either New Mexico or Arizona this summer. Unfortunately, she didn't like it, and tried to get it off and got her foot stuck in it...so I helped her out.

Follow the yarn along here: http://www.gsheller.com

Last night, I finished a wonderful book, Angelina's Bachelors, filled with wonderful recipes and a tender story...that made me realize how blessed I am indeed, to have a husband and 2 children...and 4 pets, and this one (in the photo above) is laying eggs!

December 12, 2011

Timer photos....

Setting up the timer and taking a family photo...
We wanted to have Lusy and Velvet in the picture...thought about having Clementine and Nutmeg in the picture, too, but it would be too much to get all 8 looking at the camera smiling...without us looking frazzled. All of our pets get along nicely, though.Now, which one do you think we should use for a Christmas card? I'm thinking about cropping one of them (I don't want our shoes in it).

December 7, 2011

Beautiful mosaics...


Yesterday I went to a Greek church for their Saint Nicholas day service. I have been there before (for the funeral of my friend's Irene's mother last year and for their festival). I got to spend more time inside the church after the service and took some photos...A woman donated $500,000 to have the mosaics of Jesus, Mary and the 4 evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke John) along with numerous other saints...so a team from Italy came in and worked on it for 5 months, the result is breath-taking...the photos don't do it justice, as you can't see the gold glittering, looking like stars, as it may appear in heaven. St. Barbara (my mom's patron saint), St. Theodore (my sister is probably going to name her baby Theodore when he is born, due next month) and St. Paraskeva, above.
And there are also stained glass windows, which are very nice, my favorite little one was this (rooster or hen, I'm not sure)...My cousin, Zoya, posted this picture of a chicken from Shelburne, Vermont...and I had to share it, too...was a cute sweater, I wonder how long the chicken wore it. Shall I knit or crochet a shawl for my 2 chickens?

November 30, 2011

Yarn along....and our first snow!

I'm still working on the circle blanket...inspired by this.We read a book every morning together (if you read my previous post...40 books in 40 days, but you could do a countdown just for December). I'm reading Alexander McCall Smith's Corduroy Mansions, which is okay, but I really love his No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency books. I've read all of those, which take place in Botswana, and look forward to his next one, the 13th in this series, which is due out April 2012.

What are you reading and working on (a crochet or knit project with yarn)? Follow the yarn along here with Ginny.

Last night, we got our first real snowfall...it was so pretty, but sadly has melted this morning. Hannah and Olivia put on their snowpants and went outside to play, jumped on the trampoline (there's still a small pile of snow there, actually), slid down the snow-covered slide, it was really wet. Olivia made snowballs and threw them at our house.
(I wish I'd taken some pictures)

November 28, 2011

40 books in 40 days

Today begins the Nativity fast for us...40 days from now is December 25th on the old calendar (which looks like January 7th on the new calendar, but it's still 2011 in our church calendar).

Every morning from now til then, we'll unwrap and read a book together. I added more books to our collection (thanks to our local library, we'll read those ones first). One of my favorites is Mortimer's Christmas Manger by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman. Have you read that one? It's about a little mouse who lives in a house and finds a nice bed (in the manger they have set up). Mortimer takes the baby out of the manger and sleeps there...when he hears the family reading the story of Jesus, how He didn't have a place to sleep, he decided it was better for the baby Jesus to sleep there and he would find another bed...and that's when he finds the gingerbread house!

* * *
We had a wonderful Thanksgiving...started off the day by going to church to give thanks to God and spent the afternoon with our family, most of them live here in Ohio, my sister and her husband came from Canada and my aunt from Vermont, her son and a friend. Then, we had more guests (Anthony, Joanna and Ephraim) stay the night after they left...on the way home to New York, they'd spent Thanksgiving with their grandmother in Indiana.

Hannah got 2 ukulele lessons...one from my aunt and one from Anthony (both of them are awesome guitar players). She can play the chords for "How much is that doggie in the window?" "Somewhere over the rainbow" and "Down by the bay, where the watermelons grow." Olivia is also learning how to play, now. Here she is playing the C chord. So, now I'm looking for a good ukulele lesson book. Any suggestions?
video

November 23, 2011

Yarn along...illuminated glasses & more circles!

How do you like these glasses? They're old jars (oh, have I told you how much we love the Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce from Trader Joe's?), I washed them and crocheted a cover...now they are illuminated with tealights.

I've been crocheting more circles...

Follow Ginny on her lovely blog (lately we've been picking carrots out of our garden, too, that's really all that's left) & see what others are making at the yarn along here.

November 21, 2011

Our first backyard eggs!!!


Saturday my husband found 3 eggs in the straw nesting area...I'm pretty sure it was Nutmeg the Rhode Island Red because she's a little bigger and the eggs were brown. Clementine is the Ameraucana and will lay greenish-blue eggs. Later, Hannah went out and discovered another egg. This morning, Olivia took our dog, Lusy, outside and found another egg! We ate them this morning over-easy with toast and butter. Mmmm.

November 18, 2011

Countdown to Nativity

I know, it's not even Thanksgiving, but I am preparing for Christmas, too. I'm sure most of you are, by either making gifts or cards, or if you're buying gifts you have to budget, it's not best to buy at the last minute.I have been gathering the books in our house that have to do with the Nativity of Christ, along with some snowy ones that are particularly fun, even a couple with Santa (although we don't do Santa, just St. Nicholas) only if the story is really funny (like Ian Falconer's Olivia Helps with Christmas and the wordy & poetic Eloise at Christmastime) or there is a good message. We'll open one each day and read it together in the morning. Inspired by Babyccino.My favorites are:
  • The Story of the Nativity of Christ by Vesna Nikchevich is a longer story that used very beautiful iconic drawings to illustrate the story. One of my very favorites! Good for my children (ages 8 and 10).
  • Little Porcupine's Christmas by Joseph Slate, a very sweet story about animals celebrating the birth of Christ by putting on a play called "Baby in the Manger" and the porcupine who feels left out, until they decide they need a star (he climbs to the top of the tree and rolls up like a ball).
  • The Best Christmas Present Ever by Richard Scarry is wonderful, for his illustrations and story, of children getting presents, and then seeing Huckle's new baby sister (THAT is the best present)!
  • Christmas Joy compiled by Skip Skwarek, which is full of recipes, songs, poems and stories with beautiful illustrations.
  • Niko Chocheli's Prepare O Bethlehem because all the Orthodox church hymns are used throughout the book, the drawings are a bit dark and artistic, so a younger child may think they are a bit scary.
  • Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto reminds me of our summer trip to New Mexico and Arizona, cute story and a cultural experience...if you've never made masa for tamales, maybe after the feast you could plan a day to try to make them!
  • Leo Tolstoy's Philipok is illustrated by Gennady Spirin is not a Christmas theme book, but a book about a little boy who walks through the snow to school. Gorgeous drawings of the town, church and people!!!
  • I included a Christmas carol book that has several songs like "Silent Night" and "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing," some traditional songs that talk about the birth of Christ. We love to sing together!

The best way to use Kool-Aid...

...as playdough. It's not good for you to drink, in my opinion.
Why do I like it? It doesn't require cream of tartar (which can be expensive). It's a pretty color. It has a great (yet artificial) smell. So...here's the recipe:

*1 cup flour
*1/2 cup salt
*3 tablespoons oil
*1 package of Kool-Aid (any flavor)
*1 cup boiling water

Mix well and knead. Store in an air tight container and it will last for weeks!!!

November 16, 2011

A circle blanket...

It is early morning...our new kitten (today it has been 2 weeks since we brought her home) slept at my feet atop our comforter last night. It's raining outside. I just took these photos:
I'm crocheting a circle blanket...and reading Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads book...I'm learning so much about "proofing" (that you can let your bread rise for 1 to 12 hours) and that your dough should be tacky or sticky. I confess when I make a yeast bread, I want to knead it and keep adding flour until it doesn't stick to my hands. Uh oh.
And I've been making lots of cards. Visit my etsy shop to see more of them!

November 14, 2011

online Scrabble

I played a game of online Scrabble for the first time ever this past week...with my mom and sister in Canada. AND I won. Beginner's luck? I got the Z and J. They're worth a lot of points. I love playing Scrabble (well, any word game...have any of you played Jotto?) in real life, too. This past Friday night, I went to one of the art studios and set up a table with other artists...I sold my papier mache birds and cards. The one with glasses had to have a book. My mom ended up buying this one from me.

Please keep my dad (Paul) in your prayers, he has had a difficult week, voice therapy 3x a week and medication issues...no pattern evident, so no one knows how to find the perfect balance.
* I love that he always smiles, even though he doesn't feel good.

November 9, 2011

Yesterday

I felt like I'm being called to the past...to live a simple life. Nowadays, the government has become so big and controlling, I want more freedom. I get it by going into our little backyard, which we were lucky to be able to get a 6 foot privacy fence around in the summer of 2010...
  • The 2 chickens are doing well...they love foraging around our compost and what's left in the garden (not much). Not laying eggs, yet, we're thinking they probably won't lay until spring.
  • At 8 o'clock yesterday morning I walked down the street with Olivia to vote. I tried to explain the issues that I was voting for and why they are important. My sister, Susanna, wrote on her blog about politics, too. We're both health-conscious, true conservatives who want freedom!
  • Our girls can take their homeschooling lesson outside...yesterday was a sunny and warm day...we were barefoot almost all day.
  • I worked outside on my papier mache birds, a warm breeze blowing my bits of newspaper all over the deck...
  • Lusy (our dog) and Velvet (our kitten...we got from an Amish family) are making friends. No fights, but Velvet hissed at Lusy quite a bit at first...they seem to keep out of each others way...yesterday they sniffed each other nose to nose a few times!
  • I watched a squirrel perched atop our fence, debating whether or not he wanted to come in our yard...lots of sparrows.
  • The leaves on our red oak seedlings that we got at the library a few years ago have turned a beautiful deep red.
  • I thought of my friend Charlotte and baked a loaf of bread with rosemary that I picked from our backyard.
  • I hung out clothes out on the line to dry...and I took some black and white pictures. Nostalgia.
  • Hannah had piano lessons and I helped Olivia do flips off the swing. Then both the girls had Irish dance class in the evening...

November 7, 2011

Little trumpet player?

3 years ago both Hannah and Olivia started piano lessons...after a month, we decided together that just Hannah would continue. Since then, I've wished that Olivia would want to resume, but she doesn't want to...I'm not going to push her. BUT she's expressed interest in playing the ukulele...and the trumpet. Rob's dad gave her one of his trumpets and she's getting better at it...
Yesterday, we spent a few hours with my parents, raking leaves, jumping in them, hiding in them...and ended up staying for dinner. I wish I'd brought my camera. For those of you who have been following the story of my dad and his battle living with Parkinson's disease, he's been doing better lately. He went for a bike ride alone on Saturday, 2 miles...and was fine, until he came home, fell in the driveway, my mom said that the two next door neighbors rushed over to help him out...he gashed his forehead right by his eyebrow and really should probably get 5 stitches, but I'm sure he will heal, if there's a scar, it's one to be proud of... I admire him for riding his bicycle so much! I love to ride my bike, too.