Babies and Redbuds

Every year, we take a picture with our kids and our redbud tree, on or around April 19th.  Here’s 2011’s pictures, here’s 2012’s, and because I forgot to post them the last two years (poor Mark), here are three more year’s worth of redbuds and babies (some of them all grown up!)


011 (800x545)2014:

083 (800x533)getting a little more difficult to hold two at once!

And, 2015!

011 (800x533)refusing to smile into the sun (best for pictures, not for kids)

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Ellie is now allowed to run around the WHOLE house ALL BY HERSELF.  She loves it!

024 (800x534)at the end of lap 1

We also just found out that redbud flowers are edible (not only edible but really nutritious).  So here we are trying them out.

033 (800x533) 035 (800x533)Ellie starting eating them by the handful after this!  (They are slightly bitter.  The fully open ones taste the best.)

I really am amazed how quickly this tree has grown.  We bought it on a whim in 2008 and here it is in 2009.

IMG_5540 (600x800)And look how big it is in 2015!

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I especially love how the flowers cling so closely to the branches/trunk.

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I suppose it’s pretty great that the kids have grown so much also! ;)

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Signs of Spring – Some Creepy, Some Cute

Ellie has finally admitted that “real spring” is here.  To her, spring means that she gets to wear tank tops and shorts because it’s really warm.  Spring does not mean “Yay, things are starting to grow!”  So, despite my best efforts to point out gorgeous blooming trees, the lack of snow, and the non-existent need for coats, it took this past week of fabulous weather to convince her.  In case you need convincing, here are some more signs of spring!

First, take a look at the creepy (but awesome).  Last fall, a very generous gardener neighbor gave me three pots of rhubarb crowns.  I split them into six sections, planted them, and hoped for the best.  (It took me several weeks to plant them after she gave them to me so I wasn’t sure if they would survive or not.)  I’m SO happy to say that instead of last year’s two rhubarb plants in the garden, we’re now the proud owners of 8 rhubarb plants!  Rhubarb crisp and rhubarb crisp bars, here we come!  It’s going to be hard to wait a year or two until we can really harvest them fully.

Why is all of this creepy?  I find the newly sprouted rhubarb to be really creepy as it comes out of the ground.  What do you think?

002 (800x533) 003 (800x533)004 (800x533) 005 (800x533)kind of looks like bloody skin, right?

006 (800x533)knuckles?

007 (800x534)**slight shudder**

I took the creepy pictures two weeks ago and look how much they’ve grown since then!

003 (800x535)not creepy anymore – just delicious!

Now that I’ve forced you to suffer through the creepy, here’s the cute!

001 (800x534)Mama and Baba’s flip flops are out and ready for wearing!

008 (800x534)Our favorite farmer’s chickens are back in action and making all kinds of sizes, shapes, and colors of eggs!

019 (800x533)She wouldn’t hold still for a picture but here’s proof that she’s wearing tank tops now!

024 (800x533)First asparagus  showed up at the Waverly Farmers’ Market this Saturday!  Toasted Almond, Browned Butter, and Asparagus Pasta immediately became our Saturday night dinner plans.  We also are planning on asparagus pizza very soon.  YUM! 

And finally, I went outside with the kids just now to take these pictures ofthe quintessential sign of spring.  I thought my spring-starved family up north (who are currently suffering through a snow storm) might need some hope of spring!

005 (800x533) (2)I love these tiny ones the best. I forgot we had them in our garden until today!

002 (800x533) (2) 001 (800x533)


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2014/2015 Sewing: Mark’s Doll is Finished (AT LAST!!)

I started the doll head in July,

055 (800x533)creepy alien eyes, part way through needle felting the wool ball that is the head’s base.  (See this post about Ellie’s doll for more about making the head.)

sewed the clothes in July,

024 (800x533)from Nik’s old dress pants and dress shirt!

finished the wool ball for the head on our trip to Alaska in August, didn’t touch it again until after Christmas, made the head in late December, was certain I was on track for a pre-January 3rd finish (also, Laura = delusional),

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then made a bunch of mistakes and didn’t finish it in time for his birthday, proceeded to make a ton more mistakes in January, lost all motivation, decided I hated sewing dolls, forced myself to JUST FINISH IT in February/March, and finally finished the doll hair on Wednesday, (in April).  That’s a ten-month span in case you’re counting.

FINALLY: presenting, Mark’s doll (his actual 2nd birthday present)!

018 (800x800) 020 (533x800)the precious boy for whom I suffered through to make the doll.  He’s worth it – but just barely. ;)

023 (800x800)(Don’t mind that teenager talking on her cell phone in the background.)

025 (800x533)crazy hair!

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I’m linking up with Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish It Up Friday because I finally finished another project on the list.  Only two more to go!

  • Quilt the table runner that I almost finished last spring
  • Finish the dining room shades that I have been avoiding for 3 YEARS SIX years!


My thanks to all the moms at my moms’ group at church who put up with me doing hand sewing while we’re discussing our study.  I likely never would have finished this otherwise!

I used the pattern for the Little Amigo doll from Growing Up Sew Liberated and used this doll hair tutorial.  I forgot to take many process photos while I was doing the hair for Mark’s doll but here are a couple from Ellie’s doll which I forgot to blog about.

006 (800x533) (2) 007 (800x533) 008 (800x533)

Basically, you sew on a very long braid of wool in a spiral until it covers the scalp and then you use a crochet hook to loop shorter piece of wool through for the hair.  If you ever did latch hook in 5th grade, that’s exactly what you’re doing.

007 (800x533)Mark’s doll with base finished but no “hair”

Finally, these two dolls were made from the same tutorial, by the same person (obviously), and I did not try to make them look different (other than eye and hair color and style).  And yet, they’re totally different!  Even the head size is widely different! Crazy!

001 (800x533)Ellie’s doll needs a good cleaning!

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I Promise My Sourdough Recipes Taste Better Than This

While reading My Antonia for the Classics Club last month, I came across this lovely passage.  Jim, the book’s narrator is speaking.

I remember how horrified we were at the sour, ashy-grey bread she gave her family to eat.  She mixed her dough, we discovered, in an old tin peck-measure that Krajiek had used about the barn.  When she took the paste out to bake it, she left smears of dough sticking to the sides of the measure, put the measure on the shelf behind the stove, and let this residue ferment.  The next time she made bread, she scraped this sour stuff down into the fresh dough to serve as yeast.

From My Antonia by Willa Cather

I feel the need to reassure you that although my sourdough bread is homely, it’s super delicious! I wonder if Jim and his family ever ate the bread Antonia’s family baked?  Perhaps taste wasn’t the problem? Maybe their expectations of what good bread should be were not met by this bread?  I’m curious as to whether or not Antonia’s family brought their original sourdough from their country with them, as they did the utterly foreign dried mushrooms (the other random bit of food lore that fascinated me in this novel).  The method that this passage describes is the way that bread bowls were originally used.  I’m lucky enough to have a real bread bowl but I just don’t bake bread often enough to use it this way.

027 (800x533)not washed but not full of dough to be used again as yeast either

Please know that if you bake with sourdough, it doesn’t have to cause horror in your guests!  It’s delicious and good for you!

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Classics Club, Books #13, 14, and 15: Willa Cather’s Prairie Trilogy (from January-March, 2015)

This is my first 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.  

O Pioneers! ; The Song of the Lark; My Antonia all by Willa Cather

IMG_0613 (800x600)O Pioneers! (Photo credit: Ellie)

I’m including all three books in this review, so you aren’t overwhelmed with Willa Cather.

  • Year Published: 1913, 1915, 1918
  • Reread? Or new to me?:  all were new to me
  • Number of Pages: 210, 417, 252
  • Date Finished: 1/12/15, 2/21/15, sometime near the end of March
  • Number of Days it took me to read it: 3 days, 7 days, 4 days
  • Page/Day ratio:  70:1, 60/1, 62:1
  • Will I reread this?: Probably not for all three of them.


Having heard these three books called, “The Prairie Trilogy” I thought that they were going to be related to each other.  They’re not, at all, except for their geographic location; even that isn’t totally true because The Song of the Lark is set in Colorado and the other two are set in Nebraska. They do have some similar literary themes as well but certainly the plot lines are not related.

I enjoyed reading O Pioneers! although the ending was certainly terribly depressing and fairly predictable.  I didn’t love My Antonia, primarily because it just wasn’t even that much about Antonia! I was disappointed by the false advertising. The narrator, Jim, told his whole life story, ostensibly while telling Antonia’s story.  There were long stretches of the book without any mention of her.

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My favorite of the three was The Song of the Lark. I wouldn’t have told you that while I was reading it because it is a SLOG to get through. There were long stretches of descriptive narrative that made me what to poke my eyes out with boredom and even other longer stretches when nothing seemed to happen.  However, I was surprisingly overcome with sadness by the end.  I don’t know that I’ve ever been passionate enough about anything to make the sacrifices like what Thea did for her music.  I don’t know that I want to be that passionate about something if it means sacrificing in the ways that she did.

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Since I read it, I’ve been thinking about how the decisions we make, some large, some small, can lead us down paths we never would have purposely chosen.  I didn’t intend to live in the East Coast for forever when I moved here almost 13 years ago.  It was just for fun for a couple years.  And now I’m planted here. [SPOILER] Would Thea have chosen to go to Chicago for her initial training if she knew that ultimately she would have to forsake her family, including refusing her dying mother’s plea to come home to say goodbye?  She didn’t belong in her small Colorado town and so perhaps she would have chosen to leave. I do still wonder if she would have made those decisions again.

How about you? Have you read any (or all) of these books?  If so, I’m curious to hear your thoughts!


Would you like to join me in reading Les Miserables in April/May?  I’m attempting to read 20 pages a day and am basically on track right now.  At 1200 pages, there’s no way even me, the crazy speed reader, could read that in a month without my house and family falling apart!

IMG_0615 (800x581)“Ellie! Give me my phone back!”

006 (800x533)one book Mark really likes to read

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Providing Identity Options (other than anti-princess)

IMG_0855 (533x800)Mark and Ellie, who was too busy peeling her stick to look at the camera

Yesterday, we joining a hiking club for homeschoolers.  Mark was by far the youngest kid and Ellie was next.  She did an admirable job of keeping up with the bigger kids but about half an hour into the hike, I decided to have us turn around.  I was getting a bit tired myself from carrying Mark in the Ergo on my back and knew that we faced a significant amount of uphill climbing on the return trip.  Ellie was sad to turn around.  She even told me, “Mama, I think my legs want a little bit more hiking!” Not too many minutes later, she was complaining of being too tired to walk any more so that confirmed my decision to turn around.

Part-way back, we stopped at the stream crossing to throw rocks, drink some water, and eat some snacks (including Easter chocolate that I’d packed as a bribe!).  Mark got down from my back and was THRILLED to be throwing rocks in the stream. It was a bit of a job to get him moving again.  Once we started walking again (uphill the rest of the way!), he was a hard worker himself and I didn’t have to carry him any more.

IMG_0856 (533x800)still peeling that stick, even though Mark was fed up with waiting for her!

We had such a lovely time. On the hike back, Ellie was making plans – “Mama, when I’m five and if it’s a Saturday so Baba can stay home, either Baba or Mama can come with me and either Baba or Mama can stay home with Mark and we’re going to come back here and I’m going to walk the WHOLE way and see the end because I’ll be FIVE!!”

IMG_0857 (800x533)holding Ellie’s stick for the photo, at her request

Last night, as we were saying what we were grateful for (how we conclude dinner every night), both Mark and Ellie said they were grateful for hiking and throwing rocks.  As we were hiking out, it struck me that although Nik and I have worked really hard to keep Ellie from being obsessed with princesses (and largely succeeded), we haven’t tried nearly as hard to provide her with other images/identities to seize onto instead.

IMG_0859 (800x533)my first hike while wearing my new zero drop, minimalist “barefoot” shoes = success! (more blogging to come on that eventually)

Based on Ellie’s delight in running, exploring, being with the big kids, and being in the woods, Nik and I agreed last night that “hiker extraordinaire” is a great identity for Ellie to seize onto and one that we plan to cultivate.  We’re part of two homeschool hiking clubs now (although this was the first hike we’ve managed to do).  Give her another year or two and she’ll be big enough to keep up with the bigger kids.  I’m excited to keep on hiking!

IMG_0860 (800x533)Mark’s big stick! (just like his sister)


For anyone local, we were hiking in Loch Raven Reservoir.  We’d never been on this trail before and it was fabulous.  The street address to get you close is 1704 Providence Rd., 21204.  Park wherever it’s legal on Providence Road (somewhere near the houses in the high 1600s) and then walk on the side of the street, just past the “entering the reservoir” sign).  From there you’ll see a trail going off into the woods to the left (west side of the road).  A bit into the hike, you’ll connect with another broader trail.  Follow that one to the left and eventually it ends up at the reservoir (or so I’m told).  Hopefully someday we’ll make it far enough to see it! :)

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Upping Your Cuteness Quotient for the Day

This blog post is for Nana, Grandpa, Yiayia, Pappou, and any other Salmon and Souvlaki readers who wish I would stop posting about shaving and baking and books, and just get on with the Ellie and Mark cuteness!

001 (800x533) (2)learning backgammon with Baba (they are Greek after all)

161 (800x533)Easter egg hunt happiness
(shaggy mane and all.  Nana – we need you to fly in from Alaska to cut it for us, OK?)

IMG_0330 (600x800)Winter hiking is cold! (from February)

IMG_0382 (533x800)Good “it’s a south pole Christmas” morning! (with pajamas from Yiayia)

IMG_0419 (600x800)“Mark is reading a book in the picture from Baba.  This is a plane.  You can lie down and take a rest and sit and read books and that’s it what we can do.  And we can bring babies on the plane.” (This caption is from Ellie!)

IMG_0444 (800x532)It’s a backrub train! (while I try to get some sewing done)

IMG_0447 (800x533)Switch!

IMG_0595 (800x600)“The giraffes have necklaces on.  The Baba giraffe has a necklace.  The one with the purple has a dress on and that’s a mama.  The other ones are little sisters.” (Ellie describing one example of ultra-cute giraffes that she was obsessed with making a few weeks ago.).

IMG_0803 (800x533)Everybody is walking on the bridge.  (Ellie’s words)
P and I and Ellie and Marko going on the bridge! (Mark’s words)
at the Rawlings Conservatory

Posted in Ellie, Mark | 4 Comments