Almost Like Summer

This past weekend we had our first porch campfire of the year. For us, this is essentially the ushering in of summer (even though we actually enjoy our porch-fires anytime of year we can).

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Neve in particular has been waiting enthusiastically for this.  It’s among her favorite traditions to sit out around the fire, roast marshmallows, play mad libs, and wait for the bats, stars, and frogs to come out.

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Even reclusive Emily likes to join us, and Paul, who is generally outdoors-averse.  We’ve been doing this regularly for several years now and it has become a wonderful way for us to bond as a family, and laugh together at our silly Mad Libs creations.

I do have a rule for Mad Libs, however: no simple answers. If you’re going to give me a noun, make it creative. Don’t give me “dog”. Give me “mangy dog”, or “flea-bitten dog”.  If I ask for an adjective? Better not give me “stupid”. Give me something like “horribly distasteful” or “terribly awkward”.

This is what happens when you play word games with a homeschooling family.

We’ve added extra-nerdy fun this year by getting our hands on “Doctor Who” Mad Libs.

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Neve enjoys being the game master.

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The dogs enjoy hanging out with us, also, and trying to steal the occasional marshmallow.

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Since it was a full moon, we also spent a great deal of time looking at the sky and talking about the different planets, stars, and constellations.  We identified Jupiter and Venus (with the help of an app on my ipad called “Star Walk” that allows you to point at the sky and it reveals what you are seeing), along with Ursa Minor, Gemini, and several others.  Neve and Oona were lucky enough to spot a shooting star.

Before we went in for the night, Neve took a flashlight and wandered out where the noise of the frogs and toads was loudest and found herself quite a few of each to observe and talk to to round out a lovely early-summer evening.

We went to sleep full of contentment and excitement for the summer to come, and many, many more night like this.

A Quick Trip, And Back to Spring

Last week I took a quick trip up to the Hudson Valley to attend the funeral of my uncle Joe. Although it was a sad reason for gathering, it was fantastic to see cousins I haven’t seen in a long time and be able to give and receive much-needed hugs in person. I was glad for the first time this year to not be worried about lambing this season; otherwise I might not have been able to go.

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Unfortunately the weather wasn’t very spring-like (indeed, it snowed the day I left), which is too bad, because my father and stepmom live in a really lovely spot overlooking the Rondout Canal.  I’ll definitely be going back when the weather’s nicer.  At the very least, I plan to stay there in October, as I will be there for Rhinebeck Sheep & Wool this year.

Back home in Virginia the daffodils are blooming, my hyacinth are growing, and I’m seeing the dark pink shoots that mean my peonies are on their way.

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The peas we planted not long ago are sprouting, and we’ve got radishes, beets, various lettuces, arugula, kale and chard seeds in the ground.

The sheep are playing and kicking up their feet as they run, the bees are happily foraging for pollen and nectar. The songbirds are chirping. It’s a great time of year!

Sunday Progress

It was so sunny and warm out today that we opened the windows early and had vegetable omelets and coffee in the fresh air before getting to work outside.

Oona and I mulched a raised garden bed for her use and she planted peas.  When it’s warmer she will plant sunflowers and mini pumpkins as well.  She is beyond excited!

After we took care of that we finished mulching the back garden and Oona helped plant peas back there as well.  We got tomato and pepper seeds started inside, and I tied the long, spindly rose branches down to the trellis after some pruning.

I checked on the bees and they were happily buzzing about and working hard to bring nectar and pollen back to the hive.

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There were tiny little blue wildflowers blooming all over the lawn, and I found two little crocuses in the front.

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It was great to have the kids all outside all day for once!  Oona conned Paul into playing on the swingset for a little while before dinner.

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Our house lamb is getting used to life outside once again, and is walking and eating on her own.  Her head is unfortunately still turned a bit back, but very slowly that seems to be improving as well.

In the coming weeks we will be putting in the cooler weather crops: lettuces, beets, carrots, radishes, etc.  I can’t wait for them to be ready.  I’ve been craving crunchy salads like nobody’s business!!!!

The sheep have been running and playing and kicking up their feet, and the dogs have been rolling happily in the grass.  Everyone’s got spring fever!

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I think Lucy is the most photogenic dog!

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Though Orzo doesn’t want to be counted out.

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I know spring doesn’t officially start for a few more days, but we are enjoying life as though it is here already!

Welcome Winter!

Many people tend to forget that while we are welcoming the first day of winter (which many people aren’t fond of), we are also welcoming the return of the light.  The days will start getting longer again now, so for all of you winter haters, silver lining!

You all know of course that I adore winter.  I function better in the colder weather than in the warm, and I still love the magic of snow.  Since we live in an area that is iffy with its weather, we have begun the yearly wondering whether we will get any snow this year or have any real cold temperatures.  Last year saw the Polar Vortex, and for the first time in the eighteen years we have lived in Virginia, even I thought the cold was excessive!

Sadly, it seems we will not have a white Christmas yet again this year.  The last I checked our forecast it even looked like we may get thunderstorms on Christmas Eve.

Thunderstorms! If it isn’t going to snow, it may as well be sunny!

Nevertheless, I won’t give up hoping.

For tonight, we will enjoy homemade cookies and light all of our candles in the windows to celebrate the season.  We’ll also keep watch on  Gavlebocken, who, on December 21 is STILL STANDING!!! (And incidentally, those of us lower lattitude types who have complained about daylight savings would do well to remember that the Swedes are only averaging about four hours of daylight right now!)

Have a warm, wonderful, and light-filled Solstice, all!

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Hygge

I came across an article about the Danish concept of Hygge not long ago; about how people with Seasonal Affective Disorder (or those who just hate the colder, darker months) might benefit from adding a bit of it to their lives.

Hygge, as it turns out, is all about the “cozy” in life.  Or, something like that. It’s a feeling that encompasses all of those things that make say, Christmas, so magical. It’s love. It’s an inviting fire with a cup of delicious tea when it’s snowy outside. It’s snuggling with your loved ones – furry or otherwise.  For most of us knitters, it’s an afternoon free and a bag full of fresh-spun wool.  It’s well-being. It’s sanctuary.

When I read about it, I knew it deep it my bones already.  It was in there all along, just waiting for a good word to put to it. Paul has always called it all of my “little things”.  Those things that make you feel at home, that make you happy. It turns out I’ve been practicing hygge my whole life.

December is, indeed, the sort of “holy month” for hygge, for lack of a better term. Think about it: the tree, the lights, the comfort foods, the festivities.  It’s a month where we all know the cold and dark of winter is breathing down our backs but we push it aside to  celebrate joy and warmth and love.

I have it all around me.

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A darling paperwhite bulb in the kitchen window.

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My favorite happy little sparkly reindeer ornament.

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My very favorite tea, which I will enjoy this evening, snuggled on the couch with my girls after a dinner of spicy vegetable soup.

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The soft glow of the Christmas tree, which still smells divine! We sat cuddled up next to it today and watched the classic Baryshnikov version of The Nutcracker.

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These fantastic little heat packs.  Great for cold feet, headaches, backaches, and cozying up your blankets at night.

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A big, furry, polar bear of a dog and a tiny sweet kitten.

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My purry little companion, curled up in a wool blanket.  A wool blanket woven from the wool of the very sheep I can see from my comfy chair as I type.  If that’s not hygge, I don’t know what is!

Go forth, fill your world with hygge!  And even more, allow yourself to revel in it a bit!

‘Tis the Season To Be Snuffly and Sneezy

The past week and a half or so has been rather trying.  Each one of us has gone through a few variations of the same nasty virus and it doesn’t seem ready to go on its merry way any time soon.

I did manage to get the tree up and all of the decorating completed before things went south for me, but I’ve been more or less down with it ever since.

Fortunately, I’ve had some resources to get through it.  I was well stocked with spicy gingerale and garlic chicken soup (not to mention Alka Seltzer Cold & Flu and box after box of tissues).

Being stuck on the couch next to a glowing and happy Christmas tree isn’t too terrible. It’s topped with our mini Gavlebocken:

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The Gavlebocken is a giant straw Christmas Goat in the town of Gavle, Sweden.  They put him out every year, and every year it’s anyone’s bet if he will survive until Christmas; mainly he is at risk from arsonists. There is a webcam on him and we spend hours upon hours watching.  You can find the cam HERE.

Susan has bought me a mini bocken from Ikea the last few years and we are starting to have quite the wonderful collection of them.

The other thing keeping my mind off my misery is the new podcast from This American Life: Serial.  It’s an absolutely riveting true crime story told over the course of many, many weeks (we are currently up to 10).  There were 9 out when I started listening and I binge-listened to catch up.  If you enjoy mystery or crime, or even just a good story, I urge you to check it out.

With any luck I’ll soon be back to normal and in a baking frenzy!