Monday, August 22, 2016

To the Cabin, and Beyond...

We had a wonderful weekend up at the cabin, despite how impossible it felt to get ready for it with my three precious yellers underfoot.  I'm glad we went!  I feel ready and excited for our last two weeks of summer (and REALLY ready for a schedule to start again!)

Aunt Jenny did the girls' hair one morning.  This was BEFORE Ainsley gave herself severe bangs and I cut both of the girls' hair shorter.

Back to school/birthday shoes!  I love 6pm, despite them having to try FOUR times to send me the right size and color of Ainsley's shoes. (I'm saving them for Christmas gifts, but STILL!!!) P.S. They have Ainsley's favorites from two years ago and I'm SO excited to give them to her this weekend.

Our walls are finally complete!  Well, there'll always be a little more to do, but this up the stairs photo wall felt like quite the accomplishment.  I used velcro fasteners to attach them to the wall so I didn't have to make a million holes.

Haha, now that above the couch artwork looks so dinky!  Love this view of the kids art wall through the front hall all the way to the living room.

End of summer play on hot days consists of dining benches being turned into stores stocked with everything in that room.  I bought an original art piece of Ainsley's and some stuffed animals for  a mere $1,250.00!

Trying on my new Norwegian sweater I found at the thrift shop for $25! (an notice our new oak park artwork framed behind me?!!!

The Itasca County Fair on the way home from the cabin.  Based on how excited the kids were for this, the State Fair on Friday is going to blow their mind!

Ian forgot his camera this trip but took a few more photos on his phone.  I'll have to steal some to show you next post.  The full moon off the dock was incredible!  AND I have no photos of the girls in their church musical they did last weekend.  They worked so hard and did so well.  It was a special weekend celebrating all their practicing!

Our youth director sent me this photo of Felix and I at the outdoor movie from last Wednesday (the girls were sitting with their 5th grade buddies on the other side of the lot). 
We feel so fortunate to have found a church home here that fits us so well.  The kids beg to go and want to do everything available to them.  I love that there are so many opportunities for fellowship and service.  It's made it feel so much like home here.

I know these next weeks are going to fly.  Louise turns 6 this Friday!!!! Right now all roads lead to that.  Ian is going to take off work on her birthday for a surprise trip to the State Fair.  Based on how excited they were about the Itasca County fair I think it's going to be a big success.

Other than that I'm scrambling this week to get everything done for Louise's birthday.  I have just a few things I'm hoping to make, but of course I waited too long.  It's been hard to find any time with all of my little people underfoot needing me ;o).

This week I'm looking forward to cooking healthy things in between all of the cabin and fair food we've been eating.  I'm so thankful for the garden still producing so much.  The tomatoes and zucchini continue to produce at ridiculous rates.  I'm already excited for the garden next year.  I've learned so much!

I know a lot of you have started school already or will next week.  Wishing us all smooth transitions and happy times this fall!

Thursday, August 4, 2016


I have wanted to try canning things for a long time.  It seemed like a vital step in the homemaker book that I hadn't conquered.  But bulk farm produce didn't come cheap in Chicago and I could never grow enough of my own to have anything substantial.  This year was the year!

The tomatoes and cucumbers are doing really well this year so I focused on those today.  I ended up pulling all of the beets because a new bunny has found it's way into the garden and was starting to get at them.  I went for super simple recipes for everything.

I slow dried the cherry and roma tomatoes in the oven.  I'll put them in a freezer bag to use for sauces and soups etc.  The heirlooms and beefsteaks we blanched and skinned (the girls were fascinated/delighted by this process) pureed and cooked down into a thick sauce.  It ended up making 4 pints!!!! which I canned in my mom's old canning pot.  I'm so proud of those 4 pints.  I hope they work!

Both recipes almost verbatim (and can I just made a big ole nod to her title of this post? truth!) 

Next up were pickles. I'll admit I totally fumbled with the cucumbers and despite buying traditional pickle sized cucumber seeds I let some grow way too big.  Some hid from me too long, it' wasn't all me I promise!!! In any case I had SO MANY.  So I made 4 quarts and still have three giant cukes and lots more on the vines. Uff dah!  I stumbled across Smitten's recipe for refrigerator dills and it seemed like just what I needed.  Reassured that simple can work I plowed ahead.  I made 2 quarts just like she instructs, one with pickling spice added and once with garlic added.  We tried the garlic and regular dill with dinner and both "tasted like pickles!" as the kids exclaimed.  What tremendous satisfaction.

This was my second go at pickled beets and I was so dismayed to not be able to find/remember the first recipe I'd used (which was stellar).  The one I found was close, but not perfect.  I'll have to keep searching for that keeper!  Still so good though.  If you like pickled things and haven't tried pickled beets you simply must!  They are a favorite of mine.

So now I feel like I can take on a bit more.  It feels good to have at least gotten my feet wet.  Now any great canning recipes for zucchini or cabbage?  I have those coming out of my ears!!!!

Ordinary Everyday

I've noticed lots of photo "challenges" going around facebook.  The one about spouses has been fun to see old photos of some of my favorite couples.  Of course if I ever tagged Ian in a spouse photo challenge he might crawl into a cave for the embarrassment.  Haha!  Plus we have about 7 photos of us together before we got married.  I know because I just looked for making prints for the new house. 

The ordinary everyday life challenge I can totally get behind though, especially in these first true dog days of summer.

With June and July so full and fast I really want August to be pretty free and open.  That means that I start my week with lots of time to fill with my little people.  Just the way I like it.

Admiring handiwork from the previous day when we made homemade model magic and shaped it into letters and decorated for the kids' rooms.

A typical morning, a show or two waking up in the sun before the day truly begins.

The girls' hiding from their brother at breakfast.  He's taken to chewing with his mouth SO WIDE OPEN just to bug us all.  It's hilarious (and so gross!)

Love turning that calendar page!

My mom is working her way through the grandkids with special dates for each.  Ainsley made an America Girl doll dress with her a bit ago and today was Louise's turn.  A morning trip to the Crayola Experience at the Mall of America and a special food court lunch.  She was in heaven declaring the best thing about her day was "just being with Grammy."

The start of two ordinary days with nothing on the docket but the usual housework for me.
When I got the library hours wrong AGAIN we rebooted and went to the closest school park, Scenic Heights.  I can see why they call it that!

This is where we ran into a tball teammate of Louise's.  They all had a ton of fun.  Thanks to the heat and sun they were pooped out by 9:45.  Time to reboot again!

I decided to take the scenic route to uptown.  We first stopped at the Jamba Juice located in the Whole Foods, then made our way to Lake Calhoun where the kids promised me they'd just dip their toes in.  Yeah right!!!

The sailboats and ducks and sandy bottom was perfection. Next time we're going with swim suits!

Later in the day when the library was actually open we went back and checked out 33 books.  Oops!  They had such fun though.

The next day I was dreading.  I had to return a jumpsuit I'd bought for and upcoming wedding cocktail party.  I don't like malls on the best of days, but with my three in tow I was sure it'd be disastrous.  It was not!  We parked as close to the store as we could, got the return done (and they only touched about 47 things in the store while I made the return!)  We walked over to the indoor playground but Ainsley (and almost Louise!) were too tall for it so I decided to splurge and buy them each a ride on a coin operated toy of their choosing.  It made their whole day.

After this I took the kids to the legit indoor playground at our gym.  They had a blast until Felix bit Ainsley because he thought she was attacking Louise so that was super delightful for us all.  But we made it home in one piece.  Felix actually napped so the girls and I got some sewing underway.  When Ian got home I went for a little walk to clear my head.  I made fried rice for dinner.  I always forget about fried rice.  It's such a good last minute use up the leftovers meal that the kids love.   The girls had their Irish dance class and Ian took Felix with them so I got an hour to myself.  I did some exercises while watching Friends, then showered in a quiet house.  All such luxuries.

Today it's storming, which I love.  I just need to fold laundry and clean a bit this morning to prepare for Ruth and Dan coming to watch the kids this weekend while Ian and I travel to Pittsburgh for a family wedding.

Today I'm thankful for another ordinary day with my three little people.

Fairies and Innocence, Holding On

Ainsley has become a bit secretive about her room.  She often tries to get away with locking her door, and who knows what she's stashing up there in those many desk drawers of hers.  She's learning to retreat when she needs to regroup, even shies away from family story time sometimes to read on her own.  It's heart breaking and lovely all at once.

The other day I was helping her tidy when I lifted her blinds and found a shrine to the backyard fairies she so fervently believes in.  On the window, facing out, she'd taped a note.  "Dear fairies, I love you so much.  I believe in you.  Why won't you let me see you?  Please write to me, anything, so I know you are real. Love, Ainsley."

My heart stopped for a minute, broke a little too.  We started the tradition of leaving a tiny fairy written note with their tooth money, but I hadn't realized she'd been wanting more evidence.  It's one of the millions of parenting decisions that I have to make in a day.  How far should I take this?  How much is just good childhood fun and imagination? How much will it hurt her if she ever truly stops believing?

She's already declaring that she's not going to share what she's asking Santa for this year.  "He knows.  If he's the santa I think he is, he'll know."

I am reading a new book, unlike any book I've read before.  There was a guest pastor at our church this weekend and his sermon was incredible.  His message was so profound, I need a whole separate post about that, but my point is about his book that I brought home to read.  The first chapter is about loss of innocence and how it's the first and biggest thing we must overcome as adults.  Children are born innocent and pure and perfect.  Somewhere along the way we shed that and with it welcome in a whole host of unpleasantries and demons.

So much of it is resonating with me.  So much of my conflict is within myself, with my own insecurities and feeling like I need to defend my choices, or like I feel I'm being judged or doing it wrong.  If I wasn't worried about what other people thought and could just focus on the goodness and the joy all around me, esepcially with my children and in my marriage, well, life would be different.  But I have lost that and I struggle.

Now I am watching my oldest child start to shed bits of that childhood wonder.  Just today I screeched at her for saying "no" when I told her it was time to read during rest time.  I ranted at her, frustrated and angry.  When I can step back I know that so much of my frustration with her lack of wanting to do schoolwork in the summer is because I am worried about her getting behind, I'm worried about what her 2nd grade teacher will think of the mom who didn't make her child work everyday to stay sharp as a tack.  If I take away that pressure, I am delighted by my girl.  She spends her time so well, so creative and innovative and free.  If she's not into reading for hours a day, well, there are far worse things.

I'd rather she spend her time with those fairies while they are still around for her.