Archive for the ‘celebrating the seasons’ Category

These happy little bird houses made their way into our New Year’s celebrating this year.  They came via kits from Paper Source and were assembled on New Year’s Day by hands both young and old.  The idea was to write our resolutions on the paper perch, all rolled up for safe keeping.  Things deteriorated slightly when it was suggested that we write resolutions for our spouses.   It went, as you might imagine, quickly downhill from there.  Fortunately we were laughing all the way.

Once we returned home after days of visiting, gathered around our warm and quiet (okay, only quiet by comparison) family table, we wrote our honest aspirations for 2012 and tucked them cutely into our little bird houses.  Soren, given that he’s not writing, or even really talking for that matter, was given a honorary resolution to “keep being awesome”.  I don’t think that will be a problem.

As we tinker into this bright and bold new year with a brand new tradition, some of my older, more familiar traditions are getting some exercise.  The house gets a good scrubbing as it really feels nice to start things off fresh and clean.  A couple strong weeks of cooking, celebrating and visiting can surely inspire a good, hearty cleaning.
And last year’s calendar gets made into this year’s envelopes.  My 2011 calendar (also from Paper Source) made such pretty, vibrant envelopes and I had fun pairing them with note cards from my scrap drawer.  My pen pal has months of delightful mail awaiting her and I have the thrill of turning the old into the new and starting 2012 off with the very best morsels of 2011.  Sweetly marked into last year’s calendar squares, birthdays and soccer games, vacations and visits with friends all got neatly folded into fresh, new envelopes.  For a whole new year of correspondence.

Happy, Happy New Year to All!  May this year bring beautiful moments to cherish and a whole slew of bright new traditions.  Hazzah!

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There was some serious making happening over here in the sparkling days leading up to Christmas.  The merriest kind of making.

There was the stitching and glue-gunning of felted acorn and little clothespin elf ornaments.  I was delighted that Eli wanted to join in.  Really I think it was the lure of the glue gun, but he quickly got swept up in the fun and the two of us cranked out enough little ornaments to bestow upon family and friends.

The jams and relishes that were processed during the height of warmth and sun and tangerine-colored nasturtium vinegars were dressed up pretty with tags and twine.  Strawberry, blueberry and raspberry jams were given.  Along with delicious Roasted Beet Relish made in the weeks of farm boxes overflowing with beets.  I used a recipe from The River Cottage Preserves Handbook and would gladly make it again.

And my salve… my salve!  This month I made the first batch of salve that I’ve made in many years.  I was so excited by this batch because I was able to include oil extracts of my own garden’s comfrey and calendula.  It felt extra special.  I added cocoa butter, shea butter, beeswax and some drops of essential oil and oh my, is it ever a dreamy combination.  We’ve already dived into some here and it’s been amazing on diaper rash (that would be Soren’s), weird face rash (that would be Eli’s),  cracked, weathered skin (that would be mine) and fingers that got a bit grated with cheese grater (that would be Jeff’s).  It’s already a hardworking family medicine in our house it was so fun to share.

I hope your holidays have been merry and that you find many more beautiful moments to relish in as the new year creeps in.

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I love snipping a little bit of this and a little bit of that to decorate my holiday wreath.  It’s the ritual of gathering a little bit of green.  And boy do I love those green things in the middle of deep winter.  The balsams and the boxwoods and the hollys.  They pep up our winter landscape that would otherwise look so bleak.  Anyway, clip-clip and snip-snip and my plain balsam wreath got some added color and texture.   Some moss made it’s way in this year.  It was found during a run one morning as I pushed Soren in the jogger past a mossy stonewall.  Somehow a few good chunks of the lush green stuff had wound up in the middle of the sidewalk and well, isn’t that what the pockets on those jogging strollers are for?  Picking up little bits of nature that wants to come home with you?  I thought so.

Fortunately now my door is decorated with these bits of nature.  A lovely holiday nod to those gorgeous greens that remind us that even in the wintry depths of New England, there is life!

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 There are only so many years that you can get away with dressing your babe up like a tree elf.  Like maybe two.  So I thought it prudent to seize the opportunity now.I wasn’t exactly sure how the tree elf was going to materialize, I just knew that felt would be a sure ticket to get there.  Felt is my friend.  It transforms beautifully with a pair of scissors and stays that way.  I sketched out some ideas first.  I wanted ease in assembly.  And I wanted cute.  Cute was essential.

I decided on a few different pieces instead of one big suit.  The ease part, you know.  A vest, a pair of wrist cuffs, a pair of ankle cuffs and a hat.

I quickly discovered that everything looks magnificent when adorned with felt oak leaves.  I “veined” many of the leaves with stitching for some nice detail.And the cute factor?  Well Soren pretty much took care of that one…

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Have you heard of ghosting?  If you live in a neighborhood then maybe you have been exposed to this exuberant little week-before-Halloween ritual.  It’s sort of Halloween meets Pay-it-Forward meets Ding Dong Ditch.

You put some goodies in a bag with a little note alerting the recipient to the fact that they’ve been ghosted.  Then you wait for dark and stealthily make your way to their doorstep where the goodies are carefully placed before you ring the doorbell and run for it!

Eli adores this yearly activity as it really satisfies the secret agent in him, so he was delighted when we got our chance to ghost-it-forward.Obviously it’s hard for me to pass up an opportunity to surprise people with something cute on their doorstep, so I made up some special tags and some ghost straws.  Ghosting is supposed to be this secret hush-hush kind of thing.  Everyone in the neighborhood winds up getting ghosted by someone, but no one knows who ghosted who.  At least that’s how it’s supposed to go.  After our evening of ghosting espionage, we were greeted at the bus stop by cries of, “Eli ghosted us last night!”  We were that obvious?  Eli’s friend Sarah looked at me, Well duh….

“Heather,” she said.  “We know your work.”

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The spring garden was planted several weeks ago now when the trees were still bare and the air was cool.  We reap so much fruit and veggie goodness from our weekly CSA boxes (starting in June) that our goal with our little home vegetable plot is plant what we don’t get in our boxes or anything that we want more of.  This year’s spring crops include carrots of different colors (Dragon and Yellowstone varieties, both new to us this year.  We’re so excited about red and yellow carrots!), bunching onions, snap peas, mesclun and watermelon radishes (cannot wait for those!).

Growing things, growing food is such a satisfying yearly ritual.  Our tiny little garden in our tiny little yard yields us such a tremendous amount of joy.  It hardly seems proportional.  And the joy has already begun…

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So it’s a yearly tradition for me to make a wreath for the door.  Okay fine, I don’t really make the wreath.  The evergreen wreath part I buy from our neighborhood boy scout.  The decorating of the wreath, that’s what I like to do.

Years ago, I worked for a couple of seasons at a garden shop.  It was one of those open-air garden centers with a couple of greenhouses and small outbuildings.  It was a pleasure to work at in the warm months, but come November when my fingers were too numb to work a pair of shears, I was wishing for some warmer employment.  The owner made a decent holiday business selling trees, greenery and Christmas wreaths.  That’s where the story gets good.  She let me have a go at the wreath making (ahem, wreath decorating) one day.  I was nestled in the sunny, warm greenhouse with a whole bunch of wreaths and beautiful greenery and left to my own creative devices.  It was heaven!  I’d layer on various and lovely combinations of cedar and juniper, holly and pepper berries, white pine and hemlock.  I had barrels of different types of pine cones to choose from and a whole wall full of ribbon choices.  I was teased by the other employees as they would dip into the greenhouse now and then as a respite from freezing fingers and toes, ” Oh, so you’re a deeesigner now”.  Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed my new status and wreath making has since become a favorite seasonal activity.  My choices might be a bit more limited now that I don’t have a garden center’s worth of inventory, but every year I find a nice smattering of natural goodies.  And every year my holiday wreath proudly adorns our front door.

This year all of my wreath findings came right from our yard.  I pruned a few boughs off our arborvitae, gathered up copious amounts of black haw berries from our bushes, clipped those pretty pink flowers off our front hedges (I feel slightly sheepish to admit that I’ve lived here for five years and still haven’t looked up the type of shrubbery we have.  If anyone recognizes it, please feel free to enlighten me…) and trimmed plenty of dried-up hydrangea blossoms off the plants that never got their fall clean up.

The end result pleases me immensely.  There’s enough color to be festive and interesting (and compliment our cranberry-colored door), but the wreath still looks natural.  I was feeling mighty high on my wreath-making talents when I hung the finished product and then shut (okay fine, slammed) the front door and half of my goodies fell off onto the doorstep.  Just a humble little reminder that there’s always room for improvement.  Even for a deesigner….

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It is obviously no secret how much I love the water.  Swimming is my best.  My absolute best.  And so every summer season that rolls around becomes aggressively packed with ocean outings and trips to the local swimming hole.  As soon as it heats up around here, I want to be immersed in the wonderful weightlessness of water (how’s that for an alliteration?).

Many people have commented to me on what a drag it must be to go through late pregnancy in the summer.  And it’s true, that maybe I’m a bit sweatier or crankier than I would normally be in my favorite months of the year.  But really, being pregnant in the summer rocks for that one magical reason:  swimming.  I can slip into the cool wetness of water and leave my heaviness behind.  It’s pure splashy bliss.

We recently got ourselves a little rubber raft.  It’s nothing fancy.  Just a quick way to get into the water and out to a little island or special swimming spot.  It truly is lovely to relax in its squishy rubberiness and float happily along.   But really it’s even better to let Jeff and Eli take the raft and to swim along behind them until we reach our destination. The more swimming the better, I say.

Soaking up the lake and sea.  That’s how I get through late pregnancy in August.

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35 years ago today my mother pushed me into the world.  The world has since looped me 35 times around the sun.  As I pause here today mid-decade I feel so much appreciation for the elements that have shaped my being, and for all the years of being that have caused me to become.   Funny though, how after all this living and becoming and following the sun, really I still feel like the little girl on the high end of a seesaw-  happy to be dangling free in the air and equally thrilled for the ride down…

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I am keenly aware of how often I wax on about summer swimming.  For me it is the absolute highlight of all my summer activities.  It is the sweetest dessert on summer’s abundant plate.  And like dessert, it’s special.   It’s not something we get all the time, so when it is plentiful, I’m all for heartily indulging.  And knowing that the autumn breezes are already beginning to sweep in, I feel okay about a few more props to my cherished watery adventures.

Sooo…  one wonderfully steamy day in Maine not so very long ago, the only goal for the day was to swim.  This quickly evolved into the swimming project, with the objective being to swim in as many different bodies of water as possible.IMG_2786We began with the ocean, which only Eli and I were bold enough to walk right on into.  And, if I might toot my own horn for a moment, it was only I who fully immersed myself and actually swam in the 55 degree water.  It really was cold enough to stun your heart, I think.  Needless to say, my swim was short, but I felt awfully good emerging into the baking sunshine afterward.IMG_2807Next we worked up a sweat discovering a hidden lake tucked into the outer parts of Acadia National Park.  The sparkling water was soothing and clean and surrounded by dense pine forests.  IMG_2857And lastly, we hiked into a quiet brookside trail and dunked into the chilly water among trickling waterfalls and mossy banks.

Swimming, I think, is my longest and truest love.  A summer-loving piscean has a yearning for water.   So a day with three spectacularly beautiful, unique swimming spots just might top the list as my best day ever.  May all projects be so refreshing.

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