Wrapping Up 2013

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Happy New Year, everyone!

Laziness All Around

I can’t even believe Christmas is over.  It hasn’t quite sunk in.  The day itself came and went in a flash; the season itself never quite had a chance to find the right “feel”.

It was still a quiet, lovely holiday, with our traditional pigs in a blanket and chocolate cream pie.  In the evening we watched the new episode of Doctor Who with my friend Jessie’s family.

Since then I have been struggling to do as little as humanly possible.  A staycation of sorts.  It’s not always easy, or even possible, what with animals and children.  But I’ve certainly spent more than my fair share of time on Pinterest and Twitter, and even more time complaining about the awful unseasonable weather (rain, rain, more rain).

I may get some sewing or knitting done this week; more likely I’ll download some books and glue myself to the couch.

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I’ll also try to soak up as many scenes like this as I can before the lovely ambience of the tree goes away for another year.

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Everyone was happy with their gifts (and I can’t wait to try some recipes with Emily).

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Neve and her twin, Grumpycat.

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I may make another pie later.  If there’s one thing that can rouse me from my extreme unwillingness to move, it’s food.

 

Nearly There

It’s December 23.  I cannot believe how quickly we’ve gotten here.  I wish we had a few more days to linger in this “it’s nearly Christmas” glow, where everyone is home (or on their way home) with friends and family in joyful anticipation and excitement (unlike the nasty holiday crowds in the bigger stores today).

We may not have accomplished everything I’d hoped in time, but we did do quite a lot.  Holiday stories were read.  Gingerbread houses were made (and eaten).

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My Christmas quilt was finally finished.

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Friends were received and parties were attended.

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Lots of food was prepared (and eaten!)

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One more glorious day of “before-ness” is left us.  One more day before the explosion of gifts and sugar-loaded children.  One more day.

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I’m going to curl up with my cutie and watch It’s A Wonderful Life with some mulled wine.

It’s nearly time.

Holiday Time-Out

Lately I’ve been throwing myself into baking and prep for Christmas, as I do every year.  Every year I whip up a massive amount of food and goodies so that everyone can have a relaxing, magical holiday.  Because do you remember how that felt as a child?  When the holidays were magical?

I want that magic again, I really do.  But sometimes, it is really, really difficult to make it happen.

My kids have been steamrolling toward the holiday with a kind of manic, no-holds-barred, all-out war on peace and sanity.  The younger two have been at each others’ throats at a rate previously unseen.  Warm holiday moments with the family have become something akin to forced labor as I try to drag them through holiday activities kicking, screaming and hurling insults all the way. My dire warnings about naughty kids who get no presents have fallen mostly on deaf ears. I think Neve suspects where her bread is buttered, and further knows I’ll never ruin Christmas just to teach those jerks a lesson, and Oona is simply following suit.

How I get around that one without actually cancelling the presents…..I haven’t got that figured out yet.

Fortunately, I have seem to instilled in them the joy of giving.  For two weeks they’ve been collecting things from their own bedrooms and wrapping them up to give to one another, and to people they know. It’s lovely, but it’s also aggravating when your six year old wants to gift a lovely stuffed animal you paid good money for to the dog (or worse, one you made). But they do genuinely enjoy making things for each other and their friends and family.

The past few weeks, therefor, have been a rather mixed bag for me. There’s been the goodness of having friends over more nights than not, and there have been some quiet moments in the evening where everyone is entranced by a Christmas movie and snuggled together on the couch.

Today, though, I realized I was headed toward a low point.  I was wrestling with the problem that my younger kids don’t necessarily need to be rewarded for their deplorable behavior, but that I don’t want Christmas to be sad.  I was feeling bummed out by the weather; upper 70’s and pouring.  I had to deal with nasty mud and flies and just general wet-weather grossness while feeding the animals.  Plus my head was aching from the rain, and I had myself set to make three different batches of cookies.

Baking, you see, is how I express my holiday joy and attempt to regain some of that magic.

So Paul took the girls to their Scouts event so I could get to work (they sang carols and did crafts with the residents of a nursing home).

Immediately I realized I had to go to the store, as I was perilously low on butter and dishwasher detergent.  Off I trudged to deal with the Sunday-before-Christmas grocery store crowds.  I got what I needed, came home and set about getting the dishwasher loaded up to make room for baking. And realized I had forgotten the dishwasher detergent.

No big deal!  I whipped up a batch of dough that had to chill before baking, and headed back out.

I had now wasted over an hour just running around, and soon it would be evening feeding time.

I grabbed the dough from the fridge and rolled it out to cut with my Springerle mold.

Lo and behold….I couldn’t get the dough to NOT stick to the mold.  I chilled it again while working on some butter dough for Linzer cookies and got some advice from a friend.

Back to the Springerle dough.  Still sticky, even though I had added flour and chilled it and now it was next to impossible to roll out.

But I persevered!  I would have a batch of cookies finished, damn it!

Finally I discovered that I needed to keep the dough a little thicker than I had, and the mold worked like a charm.  For a few.  Then it got sticky again.  So I went to my butter dough since I’ve worked with that millions of times and never had an issue.  I really needed a win, here.

It, too, was waaaaay sticky.  And then it hit me: humidity.  It was massively humid outside, and not much better in.

Once I adjusted the flour more, I had success all around.

But it was feeding time and I was fast losing steam.

I texted Paul to see if he’d bring me home a Gingerbread Latte. When he said yes, I headed out the door into the rain, mud and poo, some of the spring restored to my step.

I returned to the house ravenous.  The rotisserie chicken I had picked up for dinner mocked me with its deliciousness from the kitchen counter, and I ate all of the skin off of it.  Still, I wanted more.  But Paul and the kids were in town, and this was supposed to be dinner.

Two wings and part of a breast later, I got back to work with the cookies.  I was disappointed with how little I’d accomplished for the day and my feet were aching.  The one thing pushing me to finish using up all the fresh dough in front of me and getting it all baked was the thought of that beautiful, luxurious latte I’d be getting soon.

By the time Paul did get back, I was starving again, my head was hurting again, my feet and back were aching, I was tired, cranky, and it was nearly 8:00.  I barely had one plate of cookies finished and it felt like so very little for how hard I’d been working.

When Neve walked in the door holding my coffee, it was like the heavens had parted and all would be well.  This would be a wonderful night of accomplishment and snacking.

And then Pippa ran to Neve, jumped on her, and knocked my beautiful latte to the floor.

It splashed and pooled all over the kitchen floor, its heavenly aroma assaulting me with the cruelty of knowing it was not to be.

Then the knowledge that I would have to clean it up.

I cried. Big, ugly ears.

Tears for my lost promise of a salvaged evening.  Tears for my frustration with my family.  Tears for the crappy weather and my headache.  Tears of exhaustion.  Angry tears.

I was on full-scale meltdown and I needed a time-out.

But then?

I went back to baking and knocked out two different batches of cookies.

Sometimes it all gets to be too much and I wonder why I do this to myself.  Then my day goes to crud and I realize I do it because I love it.  I love baking.  I love Christmas.  I love my terrible family.

I do it for love.

 

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like…Solstice?

It feels more like the Vernal Equinox, though.  While I’ve ensconced myself in the kitchen baking Christmas goodies and listening to carols, outside it’s tee-shirt weather.

Even the flies are back.

We even decided to nix the bonfire because I didn’t feel like sweating by a fire outside.

Not that the goats or chickens are complaining.  Or my husband.  Or most of my friends.

But Emily came in from locking up the coops tonight and exclaimed “Alright! It’s too darn warm out there!”

I agree.  It should be blissfully snowy and wintry and Christmas-y out there.

I remember many years ago when we were first married I was watching The Jeff Foxworthy Show (I only had like 3 channels, don’t judge!) and they aired a Christmas episode wherein the wife was super bummed-out because they lived in the South and she missed having a white Christmas.  And I very clearly remember thinking “That poor woman.  I will NEVER allow myself to suffer such a thing by moving SOUTH of all places!”

And yet….here we are.

Sigh.

So I will continue to bake and prep for the big day and try to fool myself into thinking it’s wintry out there, and ignore the thunderstorms we are supposed to get tomorrow.

Today is once again Solstice, and we will light candles and lift our glasses to the return of the light and the promise of spring (even if I don’t feel particularly springy right now), and enjoy snuggling sweet wooly creatures.

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Happy Solstice, all.

Everyone Loves Tanya!

My wonderfully sweet friend Tanya came and stayed with us this weekend so she could have some visiting time with us before the holidays, and to see Susan and accompany us to our friend Lisa’s Christmas.

We also managed to talk her into staying an extra few days so we could take a trip up to Ikea and pick up Francis the ram.

Tanya’s visits are always lovely and calming, but this time she did something extra special for me.

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She made- MADE -Susan and I each one of these felted pin cushions.  I can’t even tell you how much I love this.  I would love it even if it was store bought, but the fact that she crafted it herself makes it so much more meaningful.

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She made it to look like an English manor house (knowing how much I like all things English!)  Check out the walkway.  And the little chimney and smoke!  You know what’s even better/more amazing about the bushes and smoke?

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They’re pins!!!!!!

I truly have some of the best friends a girl could ask for, and I am going to be more mindful every day to tell them so.

Tanya?  I love you!  You’re awesome!

If you’re interested in where the idea came from or to make one of your own, you can buy the pattern HERE from the talented designer, Mimi Kirchner.

 

Whole Lotta Lovin’ Goin’ On!

Sheep week may be over for most people, but we still have no shortage of ovine happenings around here!

LambCam is still up and running and is more or less a permanent fixture, at least through lambing.

And speaking of lambing, Susan and I convinced our friend Tanya to join us on an adventure to pick up a ram yesterday!

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His name is Francis, and he is a gorgeous Border Leicester we are borrowing from the best darn shearer around, Emily the Amazing!12.18.13d

Our colored sheep are Border Leicester like him, but we are also breeding him to the Cormo ladies and the Cormo/Southdown ladies.  I can’t wait to see what the babies will look like!

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He’s a little stand-offish with us bi-peds, but I can’t blame him, considering we’re the ones who stuck a halter on his face and put him in the back of a truck for a four-hour drive home yesterday.

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He’s definitely not crazy about the dogs, and head-butted Cini pretty hard when he got too close.

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He’s smitten with the ladies, though.  There’s been plenty of sniffing and nuzzling.  I haven’t seen him actually accomplish the deed, but not for lack of trying!

The real obstacle to Francis getting an ewe loving is really Samantha.  You know, the dairy goat.  She’s having a bit of confusion about this interloper.  She’s been swinging back and forth between ramming him, biting his wool, knocking him off any lady he tries to breed (and then trying to breed them herself), and snorgling up to him like she just can’t get enough of him.

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The poor, hormone-addled, confused girl.

Keep an eye on the LambCam, and with any luck, we’ll have lambs by May!

Sheep Week!

This week is very exciting for us around here for two reasons: the return of the LambCam, and Modern Farmer Magazine.

LambCam has been a crazy popular JMF institution since Susan came up with the whole idea waaay back when she was still up in New York.  It’s called “LambCam” for obvious reasons: it was a way for shareholders of her newly minted fiber-based CSA (also her invention – she was the first one in the US to do it) to see the lambs being born and finding their legs.  LambCam followed her down here to Virginia where it continued to have heavy traffic.

This past spring it was with heavy hearts that she dismantled the LambCam as we moved her out of her farm and installed her – and the animals – here with us temporarily.  Susan never stopped talking about getting it back online, though.  For my part, I thought she was crazy.  Who would want to watch the animals at my little farm?  Wouldn’t they rather wait for Susan to move them to greener, lusher, better pastures?  Wouldn’t they rather see Susan herself out there instead of me?

Susan didn’t think any of that mattered.  And you know what?  She was right!  People want sheep, sheep, and more sheep! And goats!  And a llama!  And even though currently her flock is here, it’s still her farm, her vision.  It’s as though we’ve blended to become one happy farm for now, and I am thrilled because I get to care for my best friend’s animals and have my best friend living with us whenever she’s not traveling.

This week Paul finished up the camera placement and we went live.  That’s where things got super exciting, because the JMF LambCam is now the official Modern Farmer Magazine LambCam!

It’s a bit shocking to see how many people are watching at any given time but it’s also been pretty fun.  We are expecting a new microphone to come any day and we can get the sound working so you can hear just how ornery and prehistoric Cosmo’s baa sounds.

Edited to add:  WE’RE ON BUZZFEED NOW!!!!!!

Until then, keep an eye on that cam, and here are some flock pics!

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Cosmo

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Martin calls shenanigans on this weather.

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Peregrine

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Adelaide

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Caramel

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Piper

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Yummy hay!!!!

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Jerry

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Fairfax

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Lucy, trying to eat through the fence.  I love how Orzo is in the back all, “Mom?  I really don’t think we’re supposed to do that.”

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Hannah

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Samantha

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Cassie

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Alabama

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Cosmo and Darby, snorgling a bit.

Feeding times are roughly 9:30 am and 5:00 pm, so stay tuned to that LambCam!

Iced In

Right now I should be drinking wine, eating delicious homemade pumpkin ravioli, and enjoying a lot of warmth and laughter with some of my best friends.

Instead, I am sitting in my pajamas drinking coffee and looking forward to next week, when our annual holiday book club meeting will take place due to today’s ice storm.

We are well and truly iced in here.  And by “here” I mean our property, not necessarily the house, because we have to go outside and care for the flock, ice or no.

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It’s miserable out there.  The gates were iced over and stuck shut.  The slope down to the pasture was all iced over.  The outer pen where Lucy and Orzo currently live is all slushed mud and poo. The pig pen is nearly solid ice.  So is the back deck, though Cini has been hanging out there anyway.

So yeah, feeding was tons of fun, with all that cold, wet wool pressed up against my legs, and jerk-face Jerry trying to knock the bucket out of my hands.

The good news is that the tank de-icer is working beautifully! The water tanks are nice and full and liquid.

In between feedings we all huddled around the fireplace for a bit and I got some actual sewing done.

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New pajama pants for me in a lovely flannel I bought last year. I also reconfigured the serger so I could put a rolled edge on some holiday fabric squares to make napkins.

There’s a zillion other things I’d really like to get done.  Like my Shepherd sweater, or some new Christmas pillows for the couch.

I also wouldn’t mind getting started on some cookie baking.  Or knitting some socks with some of the yarn I’ve been dyeing.

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These are the holiday colorways I came up with. It’s been fun messing around with color and learning how the chemicals work, but alas, the whole caboodle of supplies has been boxed up and is on its way to Lauria so she can finish up the JMF Sock Club yarn.  However, I’ll be playing with it some more in the near future and helping Susan and Lauria with it next year once I’m a little more confident.

BUT rather than all of those super fun and creative things, I am going to make dinner for everyone.

No rest for the weary, as they say.