Showing posts from January, 2019

Winter reading

Winter and books go together particularly well. There's nothing better than sitting in a cozy chair, under a blanket, with a good book and a hot cup of tea. I thought it might be good to talk about some of the best family winter read alouds that deal with cold weather. They might make you appreciate the season more, or at least they will make you appreciate central heating.

The first is Winter Holiday by Arthur Ransome. This is part of the Swallows and Amazons series, thought it could also be read as a stand alone. I also think it is one of the very best in the series. It will make you want to go out and appreciate the weather. It is a great book for below freezing, but bearable weather. Certainly not for what the Midwest has experienced this week. For that you need something a little hardier.

Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder gets a little closer. Will you all stop reading my blog if I tell you that I was never quite smitten by the Little House books? I did love Farmer Boy, thoug…

Fashion for the frozen

With how quickly fashion changes, it can be difficult to keep up to date. I'm here to help you make good fashion choices so as not to embarrass yourself with out-of-date styles as you pass your friends while walking on the tundra.

What's very on point this season is layers. Lots and lots of layers. The most useful layer to begin with is silk long underwear. This should really be your base layer for everything you choose to wear. It's light and warm. You'll regret not making use of this layer when all your friends are happily sitting and chatting in the bright sunlight while you are shivering. After the silk long underwear, the season continues the layering theme by adding a slightly heavier layer of mid-weight long underwear. These come in a variety of colors, so you can really display your own individual style with this piece of your wardrobe. Of course, you are the only one who will enjoy this little pop of color, but hey, you can't have everything. Topping this …

Bring it on!

Posting has been spotty the past couple of days because R. has been... challenging. Sleep deprivation does not equal good or frequent blogging. The other thing taking up a lot of brain space the past few days has been the weather. Or more precisely, the impending weather.

Even if you don't live in the central upper midwest, you have surely heard about the temperatures which are very nearly upon us. The hype has been significant. I hope like so often happens, reality does not live up to it. I guess we'll know soon. This whole week has been odd. J. has been off work all week, and isn't due to go back until Thursday. Nearly everything in the area that can close will be closed for the next 36 hours or so. J. got back from errands and M. returned home from work, so we are now all in for the duration.

Well, "in" is somewhat misleading. When I say in, I mean no one will be leaving the house to go somewhere in a car. Some of us will be leaving the house fairly often thro…

A post about weather

I love having a horse, don't get me wrong. Only for a horse would I venture out of my house in sub-zero weather to take care of her and check on her. I have the right clothes, so that helps. A lot. What doesn't help is also having a head cold right up in the sinuses. Both J. and I are feeling less than spectacular, so we've been taking turns with outside jobs. I hope we're both feeling better by the time the super cold weather arrives on Wednesday. There is absolutely nothing fun about hearing your daytime high will probably be in the negative teens and wind chills around negative fifty. Yes, you read that right. I will say that once you've survived that, everything else seems pretty darn easy.

And because moaning about one's health and the weather hardly makes for a riveting blog post, why don't I show you how my quilt is going to look when it's all sewed together. Right now it is just laid out.

There will be two borders around it once these squares ar…

Friday bullets, January 24, 2019

Let's jump right in.

It's cold, and we're due to be colder in the middle of next week. I've been pretty well-bundled when I've gone outside to take care of Emmy, so it hasn't been horrible. But, what is so tiring is just the sheer effort it takes to get everything on and then take it all off again multiple times a day. This whole week has felt a little off. There was the excitement about bringing Emmy home, plus J.'s school closed due to weather for a day and a half. It was one of those weeks where you just weren't sure what day it was.We had spaghetti with pesto last night for dinner. It was pesto I had made with the last of the basil from the garden at the end of summer. It felt like a night that needed a little bit of summer. I want to be a little more diligent about picking basil leaves to freeze more pesto this coming summer. We ate the only pesto I had in the freezer.I realize I need to do some planning about next years garden, as unbelievable as i…

Adoption 101: Attachment

This isn't what you think it is going to be. In the past couple of days, there was a discussion on one of the groups I moderate about a parent who still didn't feel attached to her adopted child, even after a year and a half. In reply, I mentioned that it took more than twice that amount of time for me to attach to at least one of my children, and that I had some tips I could share that, while they wouldn't solve the problem on their own, could help with the general trajectory. There was enough interest that I thought perhaps it would be of help to a broader audience, so decided to turn my answer into a blog post.

My short list of things that can help the parent attach to the child in adoption... because it is just as likely that attachment issues will be that direction and not just the child towards the parent.

1. Normalize it

If you are struggling with this, know that you are actually perfectly normal. While it might not be something that is as openly discussed as other i…

Dinner in Nigeria

The cookbook I got from the library which I wrote about last week (The Africa Cookbook: Tastes of a Continent by Jessica B. Harris) was a huge help with figuring out what food to prepare for our dinner in Nigeria. I finally settles on some spicy chicken broiled on skewers called suya and a yam salad. There was also steamed rice as another side. It was all really good. As in, K. decided that he thinks it is what he wants for his birthday dinner good. The spice mixture on the chicken was pretty tasty and everyone liked the yam salad, even though it was the part of the meal everyone was least sure about. It was essentially a cold potato salad, but made with cubed, boiled yams. (And finding yams and not sweet potatoes was an effort.) Along with the yams were minced onion and chopped red and green peppers. Mayonnaise bound it all together. For dessert, because sweets and sugar are not a huge part of general African cuisine, we had fresh, sliced pineapple.

Yam salad
What the plate look…

Horse day

Emmy is home!

But that wasn't the only big event of the day. Yesterday I also had my first real riding lesson in several years. I am taking P.'s lesson spot where she has been riding because I need to brush up my skills. I was a little nervous. It had been some time since I had really ridden and I worried about how many skills I had lost. When I last really rode, I was feeling pretty confident and was jumping. How long would it take to get back to where I was?

Well, the good news is that I haven't lost that much ground. While I felt as though I must have looked like a rag doll being toted around on a horse, my new trainer thought I looked pretty good for that much time off. She even had me jumping some low fences. Not gracefully by any stretch of the imagination, but I made it over and didn't come off. She also thought I had really good fundamentals, which is always good to hear. The bad news? I am sore now, as I am writing this the night before it posts, and I cannot …

Today's the day!

This afternoon we will bring Emmy home! Of course, it is supposed to be 11 degrees today, and was 10 degrees yesterday as we were getting things ready. I am so glad I bought snow pants and good boots last year. It makes all the difference in the world.

We have a stall made out of round pen panels set up. The round pen is moved by the barn. The trailer is ready to go. A hay supplier for the rest of the year is lined up and we have hay for the next month. And J. is off from school tomorrow and will be the driver.

I'm nervous and excited. And nervous. And excited.

I'm sure there will be pictures tomorrow.

Works in progress

I've started a few new projects today, even though I still have a few projects kicking around waiting to be finished. Sometimes you just need to start something new. Plus, my quilting class was cancelled this morning due to weather, so I didn't have that to work on. So, first the quilt, such as it is so far.

These strips will eventually be made into this:

Mine will be a darker version with dark blue batik instead of white. I also got my over-achiever quite to the same place. Here are the strips for it.

It will be much brighter with the blue strips standing in for the white in the pattern cover. I also cut out some sewing projects. Girls have been after me to start sewing the things they have been asking for. First is a dress for G.

That's a lovely green silk that was in some fabric a friend from church passed on to me. G. loved it and it will work well for this dress she picked out. First I had to trace the pattern, though, but I did get it cut out.

This is the dress patte…

Friday bullets, Jan. 18, 2019

With P. off on her great adventure (and safely arrived and on the ship), I feel as though I have some brain space again.

This past week has been very much an unschooling week for us. I allow for such weeks in my yearly planning, so it's fine as far as our schedule. I just couldn't focus. When I was home, I couldn't sit still, much less think about grammar and math, and found myself doing things such as chipping away at the ice on the back sidewalk, clearing the whole thing. There were also quite a few stretches of time where I was with P. trying to get everything taken care of that needed to happen before she left, such as going downtown and getting her yellow fever vaccine. I think next week will be better for concentrating on school.At least in theory it should be a better week. I have some big news. Our builder told me a couple of days ago that the barn will be finished today. Yes, you read that correctly. As of yesterday, there was only a bit of siding and the doors to …

"I want to go somewhere"

From the time P. was very little, this was the phrase I would hear all the time. She would follow me around and tell me she wanted to go somewhere. It was not something that I ever really stopped hearing. She wanted to go somewhere, though when asked, she was a little unsure of where that somewhere was. Well, it turns out that somewhere meant everywhere.

We sent our want-to-be world traveler off to travel the world today.

Here she is with her Class Afloat duffel (which is pretty heavy) and her Class Afloat t-shirt right before she and J. headed to the airport at 3:45 this morning. Notice Midnight, her cat, who definitely knew something was up and was not happy about it. We're all a little concerned about how he is going to fare with P. gone.

So P. is off on her great adventure. We will have email contact when she is in port, but not much other than that. I'm dying just a little bit inside, and will be counting the days until May when we see her again.

For those who want to fol…

Delayed grief

I didn't mention it earlier, but we have passed the three yearanniversaries of Y. and R. being part of our family this past month. I'm finding January to be a little tricky to navigate personally, and it seems that this is true for R. as well.

I've written before about traumaversaries being a very real thing, with physical and emotional feelings which do not seem to make sense with what is currently being experienced. It's seems the lack of sunlight, the proximity to the anniversary of my father's death which happened after Christmas, and the adoption of our two new girls, particularly R. just a couple of week later, and the unexpected death of our dog just a few weeks after that, January abounds in messy memories. I think it's one of the reasons I have dived into a mass of making things. I find it therapeutic.

R. does not have the same self-awareness or ability for self care. In fact, this is the first year we've seen an uptick in grief. I might even make …

January table runner

I loved my quilting class on Saturday. I have all the strips cut and sorted, and just need to sew them together for next Saturday. It's playing with the color that I love the most. I also enjoyed being with a group of people all making something. It was so interesting to me to see which palettes and fabrics each woman chose. I find it endlessly fascinating to see what appeals to people. We start putting all the bits together into a bigger quilt by laying it all out. I'm looking forward to that.

While I don't have something I can really show you in the quilt department, I can show you something else I've been working on that I finished on Saturday. Having discovered how well table runners work on the square dining room table, I've made a goal of making a new table runner for each month. These will nicely take the place of all of the tablecloths I have, and which I used to mark the change of seasons. I also realize that this goal seems a little at odds with the goal …

Finally a successful art project

We have been in an art project slump. Either what I picked doesn't work out as well as I had hope, or some child or another goes off in a fit because of frustration. It has made me a little gun shy about doing art projects. I admit to holding my breath a bit when we started the one I had planned for today.

The project was pretty scripted, so I was hopeful that things would go well. There were some bad moments. I will admit to pausing to give a lecture as to appropriate attitudes, how nothing ever turns out perfectly, and often something can end up looking nice if you just keep going and don't leave the table in a screaming fit. I might have had to give that lecture twice.

But we ended up with completed projects that everyone is happy with.

from left to right, top to bottom: D., Y., TM, H., E., K., R., L., and G.
There was another success other than everyone having actually completed it. R. did hers nearly all on her own, by looking at what I had done on mine and copying it. I …

Friday, January 11, 2019

And like that, it's Friday again.

P.'s trip draws ever closer. On Wednesday it suddenly popped into my head that we had yet to do anything regarding a bank account so she could have a debit card. I blithely thought to myself that we could take care of that on Saturday morning, until a friend reminded me that debit cards often have to be mailed. Cue panic. So yesterday morning, first thing, she and I set off for the bank. Three hours (yes, you read that right) later, she now has a bank account, a debit card arriving in the next day or two. After some long discussions with the banker, she also has a credit card arriving as well. Her having that little bit of emergency insurance with her makes me feel a whole lot better. We also ordered her some Euros so she has a bit of non-American cash to take as well. Because it took to much longer than I had planned, I ended up texting D. and asking him to put on the video I had planned for that day. So, supposedly, my children have learned a…

The joy of...


I have found your perspective changes when you move from city to country. In the city, when walking around, you might have to skirt a low part of the sidewalk that has filled with water. Other than this nuisance, you can pretty much walk around without fear of ruining shoes. In the country, I have discovered, there is a constant and intractable battle against mud. There is mud everywhere. And when your driveway is just gravel... gravel which has not been replaced for years and years with many bare spots... then mud becomes a real difficulty. Parking vehicles, getting out of the vehicles, getting back into the vehicles, and most importantly, getting the vehicles back out again becomes an everyday concern.

Our driveway was more mud than gravel. Our parking area had become a mud bog which threatened to actually swallow the cars, forget about trying to drive them away. Muck boots or rain boots were required just for walking around. It was bad. B. A. D. bad.

So bad that when a man …

Back to the schedule

We survived our first day back at our usual school work after a long break. It wasn't nearly as dreadful as I was imagining it to be. We all survived... even me, who definitely was NOT looking forward to having a more intensive schedule again. I've enjoyed the children playing and being able to pursue all sorts of things that strike my fancy. I feel a bit rebellious about other constraints on my time.

Consequently, I spent some time this afternoon writing down things I would like to have time for, and then taking a look at our current schedule. While I know I can be a little more purposeful about how I spend my time, no matter how I move things around, there is just not a lot of wiggle room. The only thing I can figure out is to get up earlier and make better use of the hours before we start school around 9 am. I have tried doing this for many, many years, and it has not proven terribly successful. I suppose I could try again. I would dearly love a couple more hours in my day.

In search of yellow fever

Well, not really in search of the disease, more in search of the yellow fever vaccine. Because of where Class Afloat travels, proof of a yellow fever vaccine is required of all participants. We didn't start searching it out sooner because it didn't seem necessary. We had plenty of time to get P. in some where that does travel vaccinations and get the shot.

Except, that there seems to be a country-wide shortage of yellow fever vaccine. In fact, there are no doses of the primary vaccine that is used, and the secondary vaccine is in very short supply. It looks as though we will be driving about an hour to one of the very few places in the area which still does have the vaccine.

This also leads to vaguely disturbing conversations with the pharmacist as I was trying to track it down, leading me to say things such as, "So, you don't have yellow fever, but do you have any typhoid. We're also looking for typhoid." Happily, they pharmacist did have an extra dose of th…

Friday bullets, Jan. 4, 2019

Usually I'm thrilled that it's Friday, except for today. This is mainly because it means that we go back to our usual school schedule and lazy days and leisurely  mornings will be coming to an end.

My lethargy could also be because R. has been, um, not at her best this week. This means that she is not sleeping. I don't know how she is still standing, in fact. J. and I (J. in particular) are pretty wiped out. The barn is starting to be built! They started putting it up yesterday, and here is where it was in the middle of the day today. By the end of today it was looking even more like a structure, but I didn't get a picture before the sun went down. I am beyond excited because soon we will be able to bring Emmy home.
While the people are thrilled to see the barn going up, the poultry is not. They have been constricted to quarters when the construction is going on for any number of reasons, mostly involving safety. That doesn't mean the chickens and ducks like it. Here…

Reading as psychotherapy

So those last five or so books on my reading list...

They weren't very good or well written. The plot was pretty superficial, and I managed to figure out the murderer about two-thirds of the way through each book. In one there were even some pretty significant continuity errors. And yet, I kept reading them. I couldn't really figure out why, because I knew they weren't very good. Normally, I would read one (or two to give a series a fair chance), and then set them aside for something else. It took me a while to figure out why.

My reading is a little bit all over the board, if you hadn't noticed. I enjoy mysteries, and tend to read them like a child eats candy... with as little benefit as that candy. After a bit of this, I feel the need for something more substantial, so that is when the "good" books come out. After having done that, I'll go back to the book candy. If I am feeling more than a little overwhelmed, the level of book I feel capable of reading …