Monday, June 25, 2012

Grace Enough and Some Summer





Pool Playdate Party celebrating Summer at our house this past Friday

Our summer nature table


Dancing to music at a local summer concert

Ah it seems summer in in full swing here. Since my last blog (I believe it's been two weeks) we have been having lots of fun, with some tribulation. I think I am beginning to hit my stride with three children. Don't get me wrong, I have tough days. Days where I feel like I get nothing 'constructive' done. But I try not to let that get me down or define my day. In the end, loving and connecting with my children is more important than stressing myself out by cramming our schedules or cleaning like a maniac. A friend recently told me that as long as nothing is growing then we're doing OK, and so far that hasn't happened yet! 


And in all honesty I think now I have the perspective to know how fleeting these days are. I'd rather remember playing, cooking, and cuddling with my kids, than dusting. But that's just me. 


Right now my family is in an interesting state. We are trying to plan out our 'school' for the next year. Our intention was to home-school all the kids until at least the 1st grade, and we'd still like to do that. However in recent weeks, my husband and I have come to realize that Jonas is having some real issues with speech, versus just taking his time. I am not going to get into too many specifics because at this point we just don't know what exactly is going but we do knot that something is awry and that he needs help. Help that I alone cannot just give him. So he is going in for an assessment on July 22nd. 


In the meantime, my husband and I are in a big 'what if' stage. Since it is looking like Jonas is going to need us and our help a bit more, what about Deirdre... and homeschooling? Will I have the time to do it? What is best for her? What is best for Jonas? Oh yes and the baby? Ah, as you can see there are many questions. I think I change my mind 3 times a day about it all. Not to mention the whole gamut of emotions I am feeling about Jonas and the hardship he is going through. I had some really low points recently. Nothing brings you low like when your children experience hardship, as I am coming to find out. 


The upside is that it is just speech that Jonas is having trouble with. He understands everything we say, interacts, and is just such a loving fun guy. Last week we started potty training him and I am happy to say he is now trained, and he did it himself mostly! 


So all in all, things are going well. I am enjoying the kids and this time, even if I don't have all the answers and everything planned out. But then again, I never did before now either. I have faith that God has grace enough for me and my children and the Craig and I will make the best decision we can for them and our family. And quite frankly that's pretty freeing. 


So I'll leave you with some photos of the past 2 weeks. And please remember my family in your prayers. We could really use some discernment and peace. 

Until then, 
Nicole 

Making homemade icecream

Making pie-crust for our blueberry cream pie

Potty training, woo-hoo! Also yes Jonas got a much needed haircut in the past two weeks. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

{this moment}


{this moment} 
A Friday weekend ritual birthed by SouleMama. A single photo - no a few words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.
If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Brynna Lisette at 10 weeks old. 
She has fully discovered smiling and cooing. 
Be still my little heart...

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Virginia's Peaches: Picking and A Canning Recipe








Hello dear friends! I am so excited to share with you bit of our peach picking trip that my family took this past Tuesday. As I mentioned in my last post, Summer for us is fruit filled. Beginning with strawberries in May and ending with blueberries in August (plus apple in September),  we spend our summer picking and day tripping. 

Last Summer we managed to squeeze in strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and apples. However this year my daughter is determined to pick everything that comes in season... in our state! Sadly we already missed cherry season by two days due to a late frost that killed most of the orchard's crop but I was happy to discover peaches just came in season. So we packed all the kids up- baby too- and headed to Charlottesville which is about 2-2.5 hours away. While the weather was a bit cloudy and sprinkling on our way up, the trip was so worth it.  Once you've picked and eaten a fresh peach- all other peaches will pale in comparison. 

The orchard we went to was the same one we visited this Autumn with our co-op, Carter Mountain. I have come to really love this place. The set-up is great, especially for families. It is also beautiful. Every time I visit this area of our state, I don't want to leave. I adore the mountains.  After we picked, and treated ourselves to some fresh baked peach donuts and peach cider slush- we headed home to make peach cobbler, juice, and jam. 

I used my bread maker this time to make jam. My machine specifically has a jam setting! I was given this maker for Christmas from my mother. I use it almost daily. You'd be surprised how many things is can make. I primarily use it to make dough, so I can shape and bake my bread it myself. But I digress, I will just have to write a bread maker post another time!







I doubled and slightly modified the recipe that was included in my bread maker cookbook. You can also follow this recipe by using your stove top, just skip down and I explain that process below. 

Also if you blanch your peaches first, it makes peeling them so much easier! 


Virginia Peach Jam

Ingredients:
-4 cups of peeled and sliced peaches (if yours are not mushy ripe yet then you'll need to slightly mash them)
-2 cups organic sugar
-1 tps of apple pie spice (optional but I liked the extra kick it gives) 
-5 tps of lemon juice 
-3 tbls regular fruit pectin (optional but since peaches have less natural pectin in them and your jam will be a bit runny and more like preserves if you omit this)

If your using a bread machine, select your jam setting and sit back! Once it's done transfer your jam immediately to their jars. If you don't process them in a hot water bath, then you will need to keep your jams in the fridge or freezer. Processed jar will last 6 months in your pantry. 

If you don't have a bread machine, just add all the ingredients to a large boiling pot and bring your jam to a boil, stirring constantly. Once you've got a rolling boil add your pectin and boil for two minutes. Then remove from heat and transfer your jam immediately to their jars. As I said above, if you aren't going to give them a hot water bath to seal the jars, you'll need to put them right into your fridge or freezer. 

Cheers and Enjoy!
Until next time, 

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Bud the Blackberry Gnome





With Virginia's berry picking season upon our doorstep, I received some much needed crafting inspiration. I am happy to introduce to you all, Bud, our blackberry gnome. His job, according to my 4 year old daughter Deirdre, is to guard the berries from 'pesky animals' whom 'take more than their share of the blackberries'. He also keeps the 'unfriendly insects' at bay- as well as 'helps the berries ripen up just right'. 


I made him using 50/50 wool felt. I find that using blends is easier to embroider, after using 100% wool felt for awhile. His blackberry hat was made using french knots. His cloak and outfit were made using Wee Folk's pattern and a running blanket stitch. 






The blueberry bush and cherry tree behind him were made by myself last summer. If you're interested in how I did it, I wrote an article for Rhythm of the Home magazine detailing the process. Bud now resides on our Spring/Summer nature table. I plan on also making him some other berry friends to keep him company! If you'd like to read about our blackberry picking trip last year you can find it here


Summer is still officially a month away, however we are having days up into the nineties already. With a tiny baby, I am finding it hard to enjoy the outdoors as much since she can't wear bug spray or sunscreen yet. But I am making do. I set up our back yard porch (which is just a large paved area surrounded by our plum tree and fairy gardens) so that my older kids can play out there alone. 


Now when I say alone, they're really not alone. They just think they are! I am actually right next to them, since our living room sliding glass and screen door opens up right out onto the porch.  I can and hear them as if they were in the next room, yet they're outside. I have a mud kitchen, wading pool, chalk, art supplies, trucks, a table and chairs, our fairy garden, and some riding toys all out there for them. And once Brynna is asleep, I then set her in a cradle near the door inside, so I can hear her, and then join Deirdre and Jonas outdoors. Let's just say this set up has been a hit on both ends. Now they don't have to wait for me to stop nursing to go outside. 


Plus I think that this little bit of perceived independence helps build their confidence and let's them play a bit more freely. Jonas and Deirdre have been working out their sibling squabbles more on their own out there too, which is nice. 






I will post some photos of our porch soon, behind the star is a glimpse. I lost my camera for a few days but I've found it again, yippee! Oh and yes, we've been making Waldorf window stars over here. Deirdre and I are addicted! 


I also am starting up my craft for the 'Bits of Goodness' Wizardry World themed swap I joined. Thank you Kelly over at Happy Whimsical Hearts for introducing me to this group. I am making 5 wooden Hungarian Horn-tail dragons and 5 golden eggs, as inspired by the Harry Potter series. I hope they turn out well. 


Until next time, 
Nicole 


Daily Verse or Quote:

He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.


– Matthew 18:2-3 (NIV)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Farm Girl Sewing and Garden Updates



This week went by in flash. These three kids keep me on my toes for sure, but I don't mind. I am loving this new busy full life of ours. 

I did however get to steal away a few hours in my sewing room during nap time. I was determined to sew something for Deirdre since as I was sorting out seasonal clothes and I saw that she grew out of two of the dresses I've made for her- which really saddens me. 

But thankfully Mommy can sew more and I had some very cute fabric on hand to sew something for my farm girl. I especially love this fabric because we own a Dominique hen, who is black with white polka dots. The result was the above dress. I used Oliver and S's free pop-over sundress pattern. You can find the link to the pattern here.

I think I can now say that I am past being a beginner sewer. However this dress was easy. It took me two hours from cutting to finish. I highly recommend it as a beginner project. It is even easier than a pillowcase dress. I even sewed in some ribbon to the dress yoke for some added flare. 


Above you can also see our new family rhythm watercolor chart. The kids helped me paint it. So far it is working wonderfully for us. I was inspired by Becca's chart here on her blog, Chocolate Eyes. 

I hope you all had a great week too. Below is an update on our fairy garden. It is coming along nicely. Now all we have to do is keep the deer out! 

Cheers, 
Nicole 

PS: Does anyone know of any good summer craft swaps going on? I'd love to join one. 






Friday, May 11, 2012

The Beginning of Our Fairy and Gnome Garden

The Fairy Side



My Herb Garden



The Gnome Side

This week has been happily filled with lots of outdoors time. I finally felt peppy enough to get to work on my herb and summer gardens. That also meant Deirdre and Jonas got to work on their part of the gardens too- for the gnomes and fairies of course!


The gnome and fairy part of the garden are works in progress right now, but so far we're off to a great start. Deirdre and Jonas helped paint and seal the wood gnome cabin and fairy house. Deirdre chose the flowers and plants too. 

I wanted their gardens to be incorporated into my gardens as well. First, I did it this way so that we could do our gardening alongside one another. Second, I wanted their play gardens to not only be fun but also productive. So Deirdre chose to grow cucumbers, strawberries, and white squash in her gnome and fairy garden (Jonas was only interested in the pretty orange marigolds and gazania)! 

We also set up a garden journal to track our gardens's development and any wee folk activity. I am going to have to help our local gnomes and fairies stage some interesting garden scenes for DD and Jonas to record (as you can tell I am having lots of fun with this project too!) I can't wait to show you how the garden evolves over the next few weeks. The kids have got big plans I tell you! They're drawing their inspiration from my fairy pinterest board. Once we're done, I will enter the contest going on over at the Magic Onions with Donni. Her blog and work is so inspiring. I just love her! 

We also managed to lose a tree in a thunderstorm this week. But fear not, my husband took to the tree like a giddy school boy with a chainsaw. As a result we not have lots of firewood and the kids got some new log chairs for their mini-wood playground! Also my wonderful husband made from shipping palates some garden boxes, a compost heap, and planters for us. Oh how I love him!






So I hope this post finds you well. We are all well, especially Miss Brynna. I cannot believe that she will be a month old in two days. Ah the passage of time- what a blessing and a curse. 



Until next time!
Cheers, Nicole 






Thursday, May 3, 2012

A New Rhythm and Baby Bunnies

Ah hello my long lost friends! It feels like forever since I've been back in this place. I've been blissfully enjoying my newborn baby and soaking in all her sweet goodness. Maybe since she is my third baby and most likely our last, I finally realize how fleeting babyhood is? The newborn stage is so short and really one of my favorite stages- so it is so wonderful to sit back and cut out the rest of life's busyness. 






However really with three children now under five I am finding it is a bit impossible to really get a lot of rest. But I don't mind since my recovery has been fantastic and co-sleeping helps a lot with getting better sleep. While this labor was much longer than my others and Brynna's pregnancy had a lot of ups and downs (primarily my hyperemesis), it is so surprising just how great I feel. I mainly attribute my feeling so well to my lovely OB who really made sure I had a great delivery as well as the placenta encapsulation that I had done. I highly recommend placenta encapsulation and if you're interested in more information this site will answer all your questions. Also if you're local to Hampton Roads I can connect you with my encapsulation specialist- her site is here! Again I could go on and on about how great I think encapsulation but I guess it can be summed up for me by the simple fact that at four days postpartum I did not physically feel like I had a baby at all!


But on to the fun stuff :) Before and after delivery I have still been crafting and sewing. I finished with the help of my mother-in-law Brynna's Beatrix Potter quilt. I also completed knitting the oat fields and baby chicks for the knitted farm swap I am participating in! I also have a bunch of fun sewing projects lined up as well as the beginnings of a fairy garden. 






Baby Brynna continues to just amaze me. She is such a calm sweet baby. Really she is the perfect baby for a Momma with a two year old boy! Jonas and Deirdre are smitten with her and life goes on just as it did before with no jealousy issues that I can see. 


I am just so excited to get back into the swing of things but at the same time I am also happy to embrace a totally new family rhythm for my new family of five. I am so very blessed. 


Always, Nicole 

PS: the day Brynna was born, we woke up to find a litter of baby bunnies in our bunny hutch! Hoppy Peter and Brownie welcomed two babies into our growing home. I think it so neat that they share a birth day with Brynna and that her nursery is bunny themed to boot.