Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Yes, I admit it….. I Have been avoiding my blog, and I can’t honestly say why. It’s true, the last two weeks have been busy, stressful sort of weeks. Oh, there’s been nothing hugely momentous, just plenty of little trifles, lots of running about and all our evenings full, full, full.
I think I blog more for myself than for any other reason. I like having a photo journal, a living scrapbook of sorts. Homeschooling three boys, and juggling all my other normal responsibilities leaves me no time to compile the beautiful scrapbooks that I used to make. I suppose this is my “new” way of preserving memories. Plus, blogging has it s perks…..comments from dear friends and readers. And so I blog….ha…or try to anyway.
This morning was another “normal” school day. We finished most of our work by noon and then headed outdoors to hike. The weather was perfectly gorgeous and wind was warm and invigorating. We had a lovely time!

But tonight I am tired, and I have a huge “to-do list” (I always do). Still….. maybe I will just make myself a cup of tea and curl up with a book near the Christmas tree. It sounds deliciously inviting.
What shall I read? Oh, I would love to hear your suggestions.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Winter Preparations

We heat with wood.........and we love it!

Today was a perfect day for taking care of a task that has been put off entirely to long.  Normally we cut, split and stack wood a year in advance.  This time we are rather behind the ball.  Fortunately, our neighbor has quite a few trees in his pasture that have been drying slowly for the past three years.  He was glad to have them removed and we are glad to have them for the winter months.

The boys were a great help this year.  They each worked right alongside of us the entire time.

 The day could not have been more beautiful.  The air was crisp and invigorating.  Fall is beautiful!

A stacked cord of wood is somehow almost a thing of artistic beauty.  There is certainly a wonderful feeling of accomplishment  when you turn to look at the product of your labor one last time before going indoors.  And, oh the joy of a wood fire on a cold winters' night.  I love the inviting curl of smoke from the chimney, the scent of wood smoke in the air outside.

There's something so deep-down satisfying about stretching out in front of a fully stoked wood-burning stove on a long, dark, wind-swept winter's evening.
Wood heat, besides being such a readily available low-technology source of energy, is just plain enjoyable!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Great Things? or Great Love?

"We can not do GREAT things, only small things with GREAT LOVE." - Mother Teresa

Today I read this quote and the thought has lodged itself deeply in my brain............I hope, permanently.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Celebrate Life with Birthday Cake!

Celebrate with a real home-made birthday cake, please.
This Espresso Chiffon Cake with Fudge Frosting has been calling to me for weeks.  I  saw this lovely gem on Smitten Kitchen.  Read all about it here:
  This past weekend I had a very good excuse to make it.  You see I really needed something festive and a bit extravagant  to celebrated D's 32nd birthday.
I made it just like the recipe.............well, almost.  I only made a very small adaption by putting vanilla bean whipped cream between the layers and Fudge frosting only on the outside.

Within less than 36 hours it was gone!Yes, that is right, ever last crumb and the platter licked clean too. :-)
It was quite nice, if I do say so myself.
I would offer you a piece, but as you know, it is already gone.

But that's okay, you can pop over for a fresh bagel.  I am just now pulling two dozen golden puffy bagels from my oven, and I'll share.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Smooth Sumac

We just gathered a massive stainless steel bowl of these wonderful berries, probably about 3 gallons.  I will use some fresh and the rest I am drying in the oven on low heat for future use.
Sumac berries make a wonderful tart refreshing beverage.

When I mention making a beverage from sumac, many people think I am crazy. Quite a few people assume that all sumacs are "poison sumac." Poison sumac, however, is quite different from the true sumacs.
The true (edible) sumacs have dark reddish or purple fruit in erect, tight clusters. The surface of the fruit is fuzzy or grainy.
The poison sumac Toxicodendron vernix is classified in a different genus (along with poison ivy and poison oak). It can be differentiated from true sumacs most readily by the fact that the berries are whitish, waxy, hairless, and hang in loose, grape-like clusters. Poison sumac also differs in that it rarely grows in dense, pure stands, and in that it inhabits swamps rather than dry areas.

Now for the delicious part: "Sumac "lemonade"
The red-berried sumacs make a tart and refreshing drink. It is delicious, easy to prepare, fun to gather, nutritious, unique-and free.  Yea!!!  What could be better?
It is called all sorts of names:
 sumac-ade, rhus-ade, sumac lemonade, Indian lemonade, sumac tea and probably some other names that I have yet to hear.  Like lemonade is is universally enjoyed.
We have lots of Smooth Sumac and the preparation of the beverage is simple. The first step is to
Harvest the berries.
Sumac "berries" are really just seeds covered with a thin coating of flavoring substance and hairs. The large clusters are so easy to collect that in just a few moments you can have enough for a pitcher of wild Kool-Aid that kids will love.
You want to get the berries when they are dark red and fully mature, so that they have fully developed their tart flavor, but before the rain has had the opportunity to wash the flavor out.
A dark purple coloration usually indicates that the flavor of the fruit has developed fully; yet some of the best clusters I've tasted were light pink. Sometimes a white, sticky substance coats the berry heads; this is pure essence of sumac flavor-don't let it scare you off. I pluck about six average-sized clusters for a pitcher of sumac-ade.   
Remove any large stem peices and leaves,
Place the berries in a pitcher, pour very warm tap water over them (for Staghorn Sumac you will want to use cold water).Pouring boiling over the berries makes for poor flavor, for it leaches tannin from the stems, causing the drink to become bitter. This is also why you will want to remove any large stem peices.
Squeeeze and rub the berry cluster together with your hands, this releases their color and acid.
Leave the pitcher in a cool place for a while.  The longer the berries infuse, the stronger the drink will be.
Strain the drink through a cloth to remove seeds and hairs. Sumac-ade is pleasantly tart with a light pink color. Some people add sugar, some do not.  If you wish you can
Add just a little bit of sweetener  and serve over ice.
The tartness of sumac is partly due to ascorbic acid (vitamin C) so one also has a health incentive to drink this beverage.

The dried berries may also be used in cooking to add a tart/lemony flavor.

Note: Sumac is related to cashews and mangoes,  if you are allergic to those foods  you hould avoid it, or proceed with extreme caution.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

An Amazing Find

This is a totally amazing and freaky looking caterpillar!   We found it several weeks ago but I never got around to blogging about it until tonight.  Did you ever see any caterpillar that looked this strange?

 We have identified this creature and found it has a freaky name to match it's freaky looks:
"Hickory Horned Devil"

I'll quote from Ohio State University's Giant Caterpillars Fact Sheet:
"This caterpillar is the larva of the Royal Walnut Moth, also known as the Regal Moth. The larva is not one for a timid person to suddenly discover. It has a scary, frightful appearance resembling a small dragon with up to five pairs of long, curving hornlike structures over the back of its thorax with the rest of the body covered with shorter spikes. The body color ranges from deep blue-green to tan with orange spikes tipped with black. Shorter spikes are black. Though very ferocious appearing, it is quite harmless to handle. They are enormous in size, being five to six inches long and nearly 3/4-inch in diameter. They feed for a period of 37 to 42 days on the leaves of hickory, walnut, butternut, pecan, ash, lilac, persimmon, sycamore, sumac and sweet gum. Larvae mature in late summer, wandering around searching for a place to burrow underground to pupate. Overwintering occurs in the pupal stage.

The moth has a wingspan of five to six inches and is seen in midsummer. It has a long body covered with orange yellow hair. The forewings are gray with orange veins and yellow spots. The hindwings are primarily orange with scattered yellow patches."

What's missing from the description above is the feeling of holding it. The body is smooth and firm, the spikes are stiff and noticably pointy, but not tear-your-skin sharp. When it crawls, you get a gentle "pickery" sensation from the little points on its feet. It's a little odd at first, but not unpleasant.

Most of the time, it hardly seemed to notice that it was being handled. One time, however, I appeared to trigger some sort of defensive behavior. I'd just taken it back from a kid who'd been holding it, and it suddenly started twisting and writhing vigorously in my cupped hand in a way that made it rotate more or less around its long axis. As it rotated, its spikes were poking at my hand. It didn't hurt, but it was startling, and I imagine that it might very well make a bird or other predator drop it.

 After observing it we also added a watercolor entry to each of our nature notebooks.

Weekend in the Foothills

We spent part of Saturday and all of Sunday in Oconee State Park. It was lovely! and so very much what all of us needed right now.  I wish I would have taken more pictures, maybe next time I will remember.

We had a very relaxed and leisurely Sunday morning around our campfire.

After biking off some extra energy, The Timber wood Brothers( Nicklebee, Freckles and Thunder-Feet)  enjoyed sitting around the fire sipping Peppermint Tea and anticipating a big Pancakes and Sausage Breakfast.

Mr. Thunder-feet himself

We all hiked the Hidden Falls Trail and had some unanticipated excitement when we arrived.
The boys decided to climb the mountain side along the falls and do some exploring. Mister and I sat at the foot of the falls to just enjoy it for a bit.  Several quiet moments passed, but where quickly broken by a piercing shriek. Naturally, my first thought is... Snake! My boys don't normally Shriek about anything.
Nicklebee appeared through the foliage running and sliding and falling down the steep hillside.I have never seen anyone of my boys come down a hill that fast, it was quite something to watch.
A yellow jacket nest had been encountered, most likely he stepped in it.  Yellow jackets were all over his shirt, and on his head. We rapidly removed all clothes and swatted yellow jackets like crazy, while trying to leave the area at the same time.  I am actually surprised that he only got 6 or 7 stings.  I am quite thankful that he is not allergic to them .  Thunder-feet and I both got one sting each and swelled up accordingly.
Needless to say, we didn't hang around.  Further down the trail we reinspected clothes and got him dressed.  I found a little bit of plantain and wished for more.  Then we headed the remaining 2.5 mile back and by the time we got to the truck Nicklebee said his didn't hurt much anymore at all.  Wow!  I was impressed with that.  I wish I was like that!!!!  It has been 3 days and I still have a bruised and red area around my sting.
Say, didn't I read something somewhere in Backpacker about staying on the trails?  Ha!  That just might be some rather good advice.

Moving on...

OK... Time to move on with this blog.
Before I resume our "normal life blogging" I must back up and briefly cap our last two, rather emotional, weeks.

On Saturday, 10-3-09 we found out that "our" little girl was born 8 days earlier (9-25-09). We had been promised a call when the birth mother went into labor and told that we were to be present at the hospital during the delivery etc. etc.

The para legal and attorney never contacted us at all and it was only through my attempt to contact them that I found out anything. Itty Bitty baby girl is now in foster care and beyond our reach. Our dealings with this paralegal have been very upsetting. She (the paralegal) has been less the honest and up front with us.
Quite a few rather blurred days have past, with lots of tears and questions.

But time is healing, and gracious. Life has returned to a new normal. We still have an empty bassinet and unanswered questions, but we have chosen to continually leave this before the Lord. We can only wait to see how He decides to make sense of this story.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Needs & Niceties

I feel incredible blessed by all the caring friends around us who have been giving freely. We have a car seat, bassinet and bouncer on loan from various friends. We have been given a large bag of newborn, 0-3, and 3-6 Month clothes, diaper bags, baby socks and blankets. I was able to pick up a New Native Baby Carrier at a sale for only $10. and it doesn't show any signs of wear. (They are normally $40-$50, so I was totally thrilled.)I really don't mind doing without lots of equipment and extras. But there are still a few things that we need or would be very nice to have. We loved pre-owned things, stuff doesn't have to be new to bring us joy. :-)

As requested, here is a list of our needs and a few niceties, too:
- Cloth Diapers I don't mind an assortment of styles. I will need some flats for the winter months, since I have no dryer. These dry much faster than the prefolds or all-in-one diapers.
- Covers/Vinyl Pants This is covered now, thanks to another great friend. PTL!
- Natural Baby Wash, Shampoo, Oils and Salves
(stuff like Dr. Bronner's, Burt'Bees, Avalon, Bentley Organic, Weleda, etc)
- Several 3-6 month sleepers (Preferably 100% Cotton)
- Crib - second hand would be perfect
- Two Waterproof Crib Mattress Covers
- Lact-Aid Supplemental Feeding System
I am planning to breastfeed and will use this system until my milk supply is full (indefinitely, if needed). I currently have the Medela SNS but have read lots of negatives and probably will have to upgrade to the Lact-Aid nearly immediately. I wish I would have spent more time on research before I ordered the other one, since they won't accept returns at all. Grr!
- Boppy Pillow
- Rocking Chair (preferably used, an old wooden one would be lovely.
- Baby Stroller - something with good solid wheels for use on dirt roads and flea market gravel areas.
- Several Small Toys made from Natural fibers. i.e cotton, wool, and wooden toys.
If I think of some other things, I may come back and update this list.
Thank you again for all your support and prayer, we feel very loved.

Hopeful Days

I know some of you are dying to hear more information about my short update, and our hopeful adoption.

In July we began working on updating all the necessary paperwork in preparation to hopefully adopt a baby girl. All the necessary background checks: Criminal, sex offender, and child abuse. Plus a home-study update, physical assessments...
Steady progress was being made and I expected to have everything complete within eight weeks, making the date about Sept. 15.

On Sept. 2nd we got a phone call about a baby girl, bi-racial (Caucasian/African American) and within the state. The birth mother is now somewhere between 37-39 weeks pregnant, and has been hospitalized twice with preterm labor during the last three weeks.
We could have placement any day or not for another two weeks. As with any adoption, nothing is for sure until you hold the baby in your arms, though this scenario is extremely positive for several reasons.

Needless to say, life has been a flurry of activity as we try to tie up all the loose ends with paperwork and make baby preparations.

From our previous experience we had expected to finish our paperwork and make contact with several sources, and attorneys and begin the waiting process. During this waiting period we planned to prepare for a baby and continue saving each month toward the expenses involved with adoption. Plus, work on getting a second vehicle that would actually accommodate six people. (currently we only own a truck, which seats five).

We really were not ready, in the physical sense. It has been five years since we had a baby and all our baby things have been passed on to other people who needed them. So I had next to nothing by way of baby things and furniture. We just didn't expect it to happen this fast.

It has been an amazing experience to see God putting things together for us. Many generous friends have blessed us with baby items, clothes and even financial aid. We still do not have another vehicle and the finances for the adoption aren't all together. It has been another faith venture, a bit stretching and exciting and crazy. Through it all, I have a peace that things will continue to work out and fall into place as we have need.

Though this has been exciting it has also been stressful, and busy. We expect that the initial weeks after placement could prove to be a bit rough also. She has had some drug exposure and may have withdrawal issues in relation to this, along with nicotine withdrawal.

Keep us all in your prayers, the mother, the baby and our family too.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Great Happenings

We are off to another adventure, and though it has been a dream for several years we didn't see things happening so quickly.

One moment things are going quite as usual. You move through daily routines and activities and there is no thought that one small shift could completely alter your life . But a phone call has shifted our lives dramatically.

It looks like we will have a newborn baby girl joining our family within the month. Unborn as yet.

I will write more about all that has happened, and is happening soon. I am presently engulfed in a whirlwind of a activity and preparation.

We need your prayers, there are so many details that only God can work out. When we come to your mind please lift all of us up in prayer.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


My Quote for today:

"Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are. "
-Marianne Williamson

No explanations needed, simply profound.... and thought provoking, too.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A New School Year/A New Blog

It has been months since I wrote my last blog entry, February to be exact. I miss blogging, and I know I am ready to pick it up again.

I suppose my blog address is rather descriptive of my ideals for our lives.
In the 8 1/2 years that I have been married life has certainly been an adventure. I can't say that I have always enjoyed the adventure or have been joyful in it all. But I can say that I have learned (and intend to keep learning) to be more joyous and to embrace life as an adventure. I want my kids to grow up remembering their childhood as a joyous time. Not because everything was perfect but because there was an atmosphere of joy and thanks, and it was okay for things to turn out in unexpected ways.

But like I said, it hasn't always been this way in my life.
Reminds me of this line from the beginning of the Hobbit where Bilbo was talking to Gandalf and says. :
"[We] have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!"... and then, after the dwarves sing their song, something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick.
Sometimes it is just like that. We rather suddenly discover that we need to break away and be more daring and more adventure-some. For me it was partly because I finally realized that I am married to a visionary guy and the life with him will be so much more fun if I can allow myself to go ahead and enjoy all the unexpected things and changes that daily life brings.

This week the changes aren't so drastic really. Just the discovery for everyone that summer vacation is over, we have begun our new school year in earnest. The three brothers are now all "officially" being educated. It is rewarding and exhausting. I am so glad for everything that I have learned from Charlotte Mason. After a tentative trial year, I find that I am totally sold with this method of education even though it takes a good deal of planning and coordination to pull it all off.

All of us are learning our new daily rhythm and within a few weeks we should find it all a bit easier than the last several days have been. Still I expect it to be somewhat of a juggling act, after all they are only 7 1/2, 6, & 5 (next month).

Last Thursday morning (5 days ago now) we met with a CM Cottage School Co-op for introductions and to discuss our plans for this coming term. This Co-op meets every week but we will only be able to do every other week, because of the commuting distance.
Plans are to meet from 9AM-1PM for shared learning experiences centered around Nature Studies and the Arts. Music Appreciation, Artist and Composer Studies, Handicraft Times, Nature Walks and Nature Journal keeping. The boys are thrilled and honestly, so am I.

Thursday evening also marked the beginning of my venture to start a book club specifically centered on understanding and implementing Charlotte Mason's philosophy in our homes and schools. I was surprised with a turn out of 13 people but a bit overwhelmed to discover that I am the only one with any background in Charlotte Mason.

.... oh, but time has gotten away from me and I must start dinner this very moment. TTFN!