We’re Alive! We’re Well! We Have Short Hair!

I do apologize for the blog silence over the past couple of weeks.  We’ve been busy having a fun summer and that, combined with lots of emails to answer and other stuff has meant that I just haven’t managed to press publish (or even write anything) in a long time.  So, in lieu of anything substantive, here’s our last couple weeks, in pictures.

We’ve gone for early morning walks in fancy dresses (thank you thrift stores) and splashed in post-thunderstorm puddles.

IMG_1061 (640x480) IMG_1062 (640x480) IMG_1063 (480x640)Both Mark and Ellie have gotten haircuts.  This was Ellie’s very first one (other than the self-inflicted slash a few weeks ago)!  Ellie had told me that she wanted to get a hair cut on the day we made her birthday cake for her fifth birthday.  But then last Tuesday, she said she wanted it cut NOW! So I got to have fun playing hairdresser.

010 (427x640) 016 (640x427)Not much cut off for almost five years of growing!

048 (640x426)so big girl of her!

This was certainly not Mark’s first hair cut but it was the first time that Nik attempted to give him a real hair cut.  We had to do it over two days but in the end, he looks super grown up!

029 (640x427)with the half-cut style (pretty hipster, right?!?!)

031 (640x427)047 (640x427) 040 (640x427)all done!

I also made nutmeg plum jam, my own flavor innovation and my very most favorite kind of jam!  I used three different kinds of plums, including shiro plums (those yellow ones), which are my very most favorite kind of plum.  I look forward to eating them all year.

021 (640x427) 023 (640x427) 024 (640x427) 027 (640x427)I love the color of this jam, which is delicious on French toast!

The dogwood outside our office/playroom window has been a tree of delights for us, including a visit from this woodpecker and almost daily visits from our friend, Mr. Cardinal.  (His wife hangs around a lot too.) 019 (640x427)004 (640x427)

Ellie has been obsessed with drawing a very particular type of fairy/princess/ballerina (formula of her own devising) and then Nik has been working with her to teach her how to write.  We have stacks of these drawings now.  I’ll devote a whole post to them soon.  Suffice it to say, Ellie says she LOVES writing!

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Finally, Ellie has initiated Mark into the “cut up vegetables” club.  Mark is only allowed a novice’s butter knife at this point.  Ellie, however, is relatively proficient with the real thing and Mark is dreaming longingly of the time when he can use a sharp knife too.

002 (640x427) 001 (640x426)They’re cutting up the insides of giant zucchinis to put into compost – perfectly soft for beginner knife handlers!

Don’t be too surprised if you don’t hear from me for another week or two.  Based on the way our summer is going, it will probably be fall before I blog much again! In the meantime, if you’re bored, I now have all 4.5 years of my Xanga blog loaded into Salmon and Souvlaki.  Look in the archives on the side bar and you’ll see that there are posts going back as far as December 2005.  If you read through some of those, you’ll see the less-polished, wild-and-crazy blogger me! :)

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The Last Playdate (sniff, sniff) (and a TOTALLY AWESOME way to keep kids occupied outside)

Just before our friends moved to Cambodia, the kids (who will be referred to by the initials P and I – as in the first letter of her first name and not an awkward way to refer to myself) came over one morning for our last play date.  Their parents were in major “finish up packing and clearing out the house mode” so for the first time, P and I’s little brother, T came along too.  Nik and I were in “frantically work to get the yard cleaned up for the going away party” mode so for most of the morning, the kids played outside while we worked.  Most of that time, they spent painting the house. The kids (well just P and Ellie at the time) have been painting the house since our very first preschool together back in September of 2013 so I was a little teary thinking about it being their last time together.

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Just how does one paint the house?  Hand over paintbrushes and a small bowl for water, provide a larger receptacle of water for “paint” refills, find a large flat surface on your house (gate, fence, sidewalk, etc.) and paint away!  The best part is that when it’s hot, the house dries almost as fast as you can paint it and then you have to paint it again!  It is absolutely my favorite “keep kids busy for a long time outside” tip for parents!

IMG_1038 (427x640)Here’s poor little brother around the corner from all the fun, slowly scooting his way towards the action!

010 (640x427) (2)These two are so tall and grown-up!

014 (640x427) 011 (640x427) (2) Once the kids get bigger, they’ll start practicing writing on the house too (a great, non-threatening, non-permanent way to practice writing!)

Once the kids had completely had it with me ignoring them and trying to “just get a little more done”, we went inside for a little painting.  This had me a little teary too because of all the fun times we’d had creating art during preschool.

018 (640x427) 020 (640x427)Little T got super-duper dirty when we were outside (way worse than it looks in the picture) and he appears to be pretty happy about it!

Here’s a short video to give you an idea for how silly the kids get when they’re together.


They were all laughing like Marko just before I started filming! :)

Yesterday, Ellie told me, “I love them very much still.” And it’s true, we do still love them so much even though they’re so far way in Cambodia.  We miss you!  Come back anytime you want and we’ll paint the house again together!

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June/July Sewing: Fabric Cards for Our Dear Friends

Recently, we tearfully said goodbye to a precious family who we knew through our church.  Their first-born, P, is just three months older than Ellie and the two of them have been friends essentially since they were born.  For the last two years, we did a homeschool preschool co-op together that was so much fun.  (Remember the really big whale?) Jacob recently accepted a job in Cambodia and so, last Tuesday, they took off for a 30-hour flight on the way to a really big new adventure!

I made two different cards for their friends to sign, as a way to put into permanence what their family has meant to all of us.

This one was from our Wednesday moms’ group at church, just for Emily.

025 (427x640) 026 (426x640)I love the stitching pattern on the back!

The other one I made for the whole family, and we let everyone (kids and all) sign it/draw in it at their going-away party last Sunday (a week ago).

023 (427x640)I thought they might like some home colors on this card – hence the red, white, and blue (and also the card starring in my 4th of July post.)

024 (640x427)pre-signing – you see in this one where I sewed in the papers for writing.

If you ever want to make a card like this yourself, here’s two tips:

  1. Use a glue stick to glue on each piece of fabric before you sew it on.  I didn’t do this with these cards and the shifting/bunching of the fabric made me wish that I had.
  2. Be sure to change your sewing machine needle after you’re done sewing the paper.  Paper really dulls sharp points and you’ll find that your needle won’t go through fabric as well afterwards.
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Celebrating Freedom

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Today the United States of America celebrates the adoption of our Declaration of Independence in 1776, which famously states,

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

I rarely commemorate this day on my blog because I’m still conflicted on how to do so in a way that is both grateful for the country where I was born and grew up while also acknowledging the USA’s myriad imperfections and that ultimately my allegiance as a Christian should not be to any particular country or government.  I wrote more about it in this post.  However, last night, I made this fun, red, white, and blue project, which just seemed like it needed to be displayed today.

So, Happy Independence Day everyone! I am grateful to live here.

P.S. Here’s little Ellie helping us celebrate the 4th of July in Alaska, Greek-style! (That post was actually authored by Nik, in a rare guest appearance!)

P.P.S. Pop quiz: Does England have the 4th of July?

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Classics Club, Book #17: The Door In The Wall

This is my third post about 2015’s books for The Classics Club.  I’ll be reading one classic book a month through 2018.  Track what I’m reading for the Classics Club here.  I’ll try not to include too many spoilers in my review but I may need to discuss some in order to fully review the book. I’ll warn you if I’m going to mention one.  

The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli

003 (640x427) (2)I was so desperate to actually publish this post in June (making it the first time since book #5 in May 2014 that I’ve managed to do that) that I took this picture with Mark, after he’d fallen asleep tonight.  Luckily, we cosleep so his bed is my bed and I could easily lie down next to him! :)

  • Year Published: 1949
  • Reread? Or new to me?:  new to me
  • Number of Pages: 121
  • Date Finished: 6/4/15
  • Number of Days it took me to read it: 3
  • Page/Day ratio:  40:1 (I could have read it in one sitting if my brain hadn’t been completely fried by Les Miserables.)
  • Will I reread this?: Perhaps yes, if/when my kids read it.

Review:

My plan all along has been to read a Newbery Award winner following each huge classic I read, knowing that I will probably need a break from the really difficult books. This was the first time I tested out my plan and it is a sound one.  I went on an easy reading fiction binge following my slog through Les Miserables and The Door in the Wall was just the right book for me to read.

I’ve seen this book recommended for kids in several places recently.  Because it’s not one I read during my childhood, I decided to read it, particularly to preview it for Ellie and Mark.  My verdict?  I loved the, “it doesn’t matter if you’re disabled, you will find your own way,” message.  I was less enthralled with the focus on war, and in particular the demonizing of the Scots and the Welsh while upholding the English as perfect.  Certainly, if/when we do read this, we’ll need to talk about how every country/people sees themselves as right and their enemies as wrong.  I’m sure the Welsh and the Scots would write a different version of the story!

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How about you?  Have you read much about this particular time in the history of the Scots/Welsh/English?

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Would you like to join me in reading Till We Have Faces by  C.S. Lewis in July? I recently heard someone recommend this book, with the caveat that you have to read it several times to really understand it.  So I think I’d better get started!

This post contains affiliate links, meaning any purchases you make through them support our blog.  See the full disclosure here.
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Making Progress on My Wedding Introvert Recovery Program

Two Saturdays ago, I had the fun and honor of being the wedding coordinator for a friend’s daughter’s wedding.  It was a great weekend and a great day but by the time I got home at around 6:00 pm, I was ready for some non-talking/non-people time!  Nik and the kids had spent the afternoon at Yiayia’s house and Mark fell asleep on the way home.  This meant that we had a nice long evening ahead of us.  So I headed up to my sewing room and spontaneously decided to make a quilt.  I haven’t made a quilt since Mark’s quilt over a year ago.  It’s my favorite kind of sewing so I decided it was time for another one.  I’m using the measurements from one of the quilts from Patchwork City  but just using one fabric for each block (the same fabric, actually, in every block).  I’ve been a bit obsessed with sewing this over the past two weeks and I have all the blocks finished!

011 (640x426)It will be around 70″x70″ when it’s done.

Now I just have to sew them together, add a border, make the back, and quilt it!  My goal is to have it done by the end of July, just in time to enter it into the state fair.  After that, it’s destined to be our “picnic/relax on the lawn” quilt.

And in case you’re wondering, yes, I’m definitely an introvert.  I can play a pretty strong extrovert when I need to but when I’m tired, give me a book or sewing!

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Our 8-year-old Marriage, as seen in our 8-year-old Yard

Today, Nik and I are celebrating eight years of marriage.  Over the past four years, I’ve commemorated our anniversary here on the blog by expressing our thankfulness for Ellie (year #4), by announcing our pregnancy with Mark (year #5), by showing you heart-shaped pizza (year #6) and by showing you one picture for each year of our marriage (year #7).  We even had anniversary mayonnaise for our first anniversary (just posted  a few months late).  So how can I top all of that?

How about taking a tour of our yard?!?! (That’s just as exciting as a pregnancy announcement, right?)

Over the past eight years, Nik and I have learned a lot about what it means to be married and about how to live in the give-and-take and in the happy-and-sad.  We have a lot left to learn, a lot more we want to do, and certainly a lot of room left to grow.  As I was working in our yard this morning, I was thinking about how our yard is completely different than when we got married eight years ago.  Slowly (OH SO SLOWLY), we’ve been shaping it into what we want it to be and although I’m sure it will never be perfect, much of the major reshaping is finally done.  That’s a pretty good metaphor for marriage, right?  The first few years of marriage are when the major reshaping, pruning, planting and clearing goes on.  After that, I’m know there’s still a lot of weeding, pruning, and maybe even major changes to be done but just not so many at once (I hope!).

So, in honor of eight years of marriage, I’m giving you a tour of our eight-year old yard. Faithful long-time readers of my blog will know that I used to blog about yard work fairly frequently.  I haven’t in the past couple years so I suppose it’s about time for an update!

When we started working on our yard in the summer of 2007, it had clearly not been cared for in many years (other than mowing the lawn).  The bushes and trees were really overgrown/dying and the beds had almost disappeared underneath weeds.  We also had a vision for edible landscaping (thanks in large part to my aunt’s influence – thanks Aunt Zona!).

The beds on either side of our front driveway were covered in awful, evil grass.  Over the course of a couple summers, I dug out the sod and replaced it with creeping thyme on one side and a bunch of different native perennials on the other.

001 (640x427) 002 (427x640) 003 (640x427)At the top of that same driveway, the bed used to be dominated by overgrown old azaleas.  One summer, Nik’s mom and I cut them way back and then a couple years later, I dug them all out.  Now, we have lots of rhubarb growing in them, as well as hostas. I’m still figuring out what else to do with it but at least it’s starting to be useful.

004 (640x427)This long bed is what has taken us so many years to finish. Along with ripping out the old concrete block retaining wall/ old chain link fence and putting in that new retaining wall, we also had to design and dig out an brand new bed.  In this bed, there are blueberry bushes, rhubarb, perennial herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano), other perennial flowers/plants, an apricot tree, and a peach tree. I want to add a lot more plants but it’s looking better. (This post gives you a good idea of what we had to start with while this post tells you what we were thinking about initially. Here it is in progress at the end of 2011.  I can’t believe we’ve been working on it for eight summers!)

005 (426x640) 006 (640x427)  blueberries to come soon!

Along the back of our house, we’ve planted three fig trees.  The harsh winters we’ve had the past couple years have killed them back to the ground, but they keep on coming back and we’re excited to be eating more fresh figs this year.

007 (640x427)Our vegetable garden area is in complete disarray right now, but lest you think our yard (and our marriage) is in perfect shape, I’m going to show you that too. We’re in the process of getting rid of a couple really large shrubs and completely overhauling our raised beds.  In the midst of the mess are our temporary beds for this summer’s tomatoes, peppers, squash, basil, beans, and cucumbers.

008 (640x427) 009 (640x427)No marriage/yard is ever done, right?

On the other side of our house from the long bed, I’m working on beating back our ivy (complicated by the invisible poison ivy presence).  I’m partially done and have filled in the empty space with hostas and other shade-tolerant plants. Battling the ivy is an ever-present problem, sadly.  It’s been part of our marriage from the very beginning.

010 (640x427)You can see the line of ivy at the back where I stopped digging it out.

Our front rock garden now has strawberries in front of it and nearby, two apple trees!

011 (640x427) 012 (427x640)Finally, we planted the maple and red bud in 2008.  At that time, they were both just barely taller than us and now look at them!

013 (640x427)hooray for afternoon shade for our car!

Bless you if you’ve managed to read this far down through my own processing of the work that we’ve done on our yard since 2007.  It’s pretty easy to look at our yard and think that we’ve haven’t changed much and that we have so much work left to do.  But I am grateful to say that, just like our marriage, we’ve come a long way from where we started and we’re so grateful for what we have.

And, lest the start of this post be forgotten, I love you, Nik!  Here’s to eight more years and many, many more after that!

P.S. This is my favorite yard work post, EVER. (This one is pretty cute too.)

Posted in gardening, marriage | 2 Comments