Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Keep on keepin' on

Well, I have been much less depressed today, and when I start missing our little Fig, I remember the serenity prayer:

"Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." -Reinhold Neibuhr.

Because despite all the guilt I try to lay upon myself for the death of our sweet little cat, I know it was his fate to die, there is a reason for everything, it was inevitable, and I just have to move on. And because in 3 days is Isabel's 1st birthday! And hers is a life to celebrate! I started decorating a bit on Monday:

And Anastasia was working on one of Isabel's presents: And I have to share this very, rare delicacy:

My mini-melon! Oh it might seem tiny, but the sweet flavor was really quite huge. And I *finally* made Anastasia a beco-like carrier for her cats (per her request).

So my children continue to keep me busy and Anastasia is already asking for a new cat, "because Figaro can't come back." And this unbelievable fall sky is very dramatic. Clear with commanding gray clouds springing small showers of rain on us. And I have been giving the girls extra hugs, and kissing their luxuriously round cheeks, thanking God that they are safe and healthy. Yes I am very blessed. Figaro is very missed. And we are sitting around with scones and coffee... perfect comfort food on this dramatic fall day.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Goodbye Figaro

I am so sad. Last night Figaro was hit by a car. I think maybe he didn't hear/see it coming because of the wind and how loud it is. He usually hides far away from cars. Anyway, I have been so depressed today. We only had him for over a month, and I miss him so dearly. He was the best cat ever.
I completely expected him to be the cat that my girls grew up with. To cuddle when they were sad, to pet when they needed to be calmed. To torment and love completely until they were much much older.

He was so gentle and sweet, and played chase around the yard with Anastasia, and would jump out of the bushes and grab her legs. Or climb our HUGE old tree. He would taunt Leia and put up with her tricks. Like I said, The perfect cat.

He became such a great part of our routine. He was with us every moment we were on the porch, or hanging clothes. He would chase the water from the hose as I watered the garden, and would run away when he caught it and it splashed him in the face. He received a trillion hugs every day from Anastasia and didn't mind Isabel yanking out his fur. Our yard feels so empty now. The porch so desolate. He really did complete things. And we haven't seen a mouse in a while.

So yes, we dearly miss our cat and all the spaces he filled in our hearts. First thing this morning Anastasia went out and called for Figaro. I explained to her that Figaro ran into the street and got hit by a car and won't be coming home ever again. We will never see him again, I said. And she just went over and swung on her swing and that was that. I guess to a 2-year-old that was enough. I placed a rock over his grave in the far corner of the yard. From there you can see the neighbor's pond and their weeping willow tree. Soon we will add a bench and a weeping cherry tree and it will be a beautiful place to reflect and remember lost loves. And then we will remember how passing life is, and how it is our duty to celebrate the life and love we have.
Rest In Peace Figaro. Your life was short but filled with more love than many cats ever know.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Pizza Friday!

I love pizza. Every Friday I make pizza for dinner. Cheap, easy and delicious. 2 people within the past 2 days have asked for my supremely good pizza crust recipe so I thought I would share. Pizza is awesome because you can use up all those veggies that often overstay their welcome in your fridge... if you know what I mean. Peppers that start to grow crinkly, onions that start to get soggy... you get the picture. My favorite store bought sauce is Rinaldi's original sauce. Yum. I have made my own, and bought the fancy organic stuff, and we love Rinaldi the most. But you use your favorite! Here is the recipe:

Yields 2 pizzas:

Combine in large bowl:

2 c. warm water
2 T (or 2 packets) of yeast
2 tsp. sugar

Let stand 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Add to yeast mixture:

5 c. flour
2 tsp. salt
4 T olive oil

Let rest 5 minutes.
Mix together in small bowl:

2 T olive oil
4 cloves garlic

Sprinkle 2 pizza pans with cornmeal, and spread out dough with olive oil-covered hands. Brush on garlic mixture to make spreading easier.
Place crusts in oven for 8 minutes and prepare desired toppings while crusts bake.
Pull out crusts, and increase temperature to 450 degrees.
Add toppings (sauce, cheese, etc) and bake an additional 10 minutes or more until crust is golden brown and the cheese starts to bubble.

Slice and enjoy! You will be glad you didn't get delivery.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Baby Blanket

I finally finished Isabel's blanket. It only took 2 late nights, after having squares cut for months! I bought a really nice soft blanket at TJ Maxx for the backing. I was going to put some satin trim around the outside, but didn't like the blue I picked... or how thick it was. I might just leave it as is, following the same directions as my previous quilts. It puckered a bit where I hand sewed it closed and I didn't do any real quilting because I like the airyness of it. I will probably add some ties.Isabel is definately very sensative to textiles, and much more of a blanket person than Anastasia. I made so many things (including 2 blankets) for Anastasia before she was born and other people made her blankets. She ended up falling in love with one of Nick's old handmade quilts from when he was a child. Isabel has a little lavender fleece throw she likes, so I am secretly hoping that she will attach herself to her very own (and possibly first non-hand-me-down) handmade blanket. She loves rubbing the edge of soft blankets as she nurses to sleep. And it looked so nice draped over this chair... which in and of itself is another craft project. There is a tiny bit of orange in one of the fabrics, and it looks really nice with this orange pillow... so I am thinking orange satin trim would be nice, only 1/2 inch thick. Has anyone made bias binding with satin? Or using satin trim? It looks nice now... but I really want a little bit of trim.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Some Really Funny Stuff

I was planning on selling Isabel's walker on Craigslist, but it really makes a great cat hammock. So on Sunday morning, (yesterday) Anastasia and Isabel were out of their beds before us, and Anastasia came into our room and asked, "Mommy, can you wash the chocolate off of Isabel's face?" The worst of things went through my mind. Thankfully, Anastasia had opened the fridge and helped herself and Isabel to breakfast from my bag of chocolate non-perils. This is what we found: And we laughed about it a good long while, and then I took some pictures and I eventually changed and bathed her. AND I was glad I only paid $1 for those pjs at the thrift store... but then I was even happier that oxi-clean took every last bit of chocolate out of them!! Seriously, what did people do before oxi-clean? And onto the "car-cart" at the grocery store. We love these things:

And one night, when Anastasia's room was especially messy, I asked her to put her toys in the toy box, and she told me she "cleaned up". She had actually rolled her carpet over some of her toys. Its hard to discipline children when you are laughing at them.

And just because it made a funny picture of the sisters:

I hope you enjoyed the amusement that my children provide daily. lol! I finished Isabel's blanket, and will post some pictures later! Hooray! And in case you haven't been following, I posted our newest activities at Sylvan Hollow Schoolhouse. Enjoy your week!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Just random...

I am so glad we finally have a clean house (for a matter of minutes) and I spent less money than usual on groceries. And Anna gave me some broccoli and lettuce plants this morning. I also bought all the small things I need to finish Isabel's birthday blanket... I have 2 weeks! Nothing like a little deadline to motivate a good ol' procrastinator like myself. I went to Joann's for some satin blanket binding, and they gave me a sheet of like 10 coupons to use next week. I was informed I could use as many of them at one time as I like. I never knew that was possible!! So guess what I am going shopping for next week? Halloween Costumes!! So long as I have sufficient funds. And guess what Anastasia wants to be? A fairy of course!! She originally wanted a black dress... but thankfully mom mentioning that purple is cool, and dark like the color black was enough persuasion to change her mind. Its really awesome that I am such a cool mom. I can't wait until she is 13... I wonder how cool I will be then!

I also wanted to let you know about a giveaway at a sweet little craft blog called Little Snoring She is giving away some of these necklaces:

I am not a huge jewelry person... but these necklaces make me want to be one! Actually I love very crafty jewelry and not very expensive jewelry. I have been eyeing these bird necklaces for a while... so if you enter and win, and don't want it, you will already have a perfect Christmas present for me! (hint, hint, Nick).

Well my 2-year old is demanding I clean the table. I don't know if that is really sad that my housekeeping skills are so lame, or impressive that my daughter has such a keen sense of cleanliness. Happy weekend to all!

Monday, September 14, 2009


We have been so BUSY!! Last Thursday we met up with Tara and the adorable Elan:
We met in downtown Staunton and lets just say, walking around an old town, shopping (or window-shopping) with several kids in tow, is just not all that easy and definately not relaxing in the slightest. So after a couple stores, we went to a park, complete with dinosaurs and more ducks in one pond than I have ever seen before! It was so nice to see my old friend. Then on Friday my parents came out and we went to the local Wilson's Wild Animal Park.

I was insanely surprised by this little zoo. I was expecting dinky-petting farm and they had everything from lions to kangaroos. We could even feed the kangaroos! I have never fed one before, and it was really one of the sweetest animals I have ever met. If you are local, I highly recommend this place! Its not as pretty as the Smithsonian Zoo, or even close, but it is more hands on and interactive. Then we went to another local place:

The Rte 11 Potato Chip Factory! We got to see how potato chips were made and sample each kind of potato chip they make. My dad bought a HUGE bag of dill pickle chips and an almost-huge bag of sweet potato chips. Yum! We finished up the evening in Winchester with some local BBQ and some coffee and ice cream. It was busy, but with my parents there and chauffering us around, I actually had one of the most relaxing days I have had in a while.

And Saturday we went to this Heritage Harvest Festival that I have really been looking forward to all year. It was put on by Southern Exposure Seed Exchange where I buy all my seeds from. Unfortunately the festival was a bust after our 2-hour-with-small-children drive. But the view was nice:

I was expecting a more country gathering of mountain-people exchanging old farm wisdom and trades. Instead it was more of an upscale, yuppie, wannabe-hippie gathering. I felt that the vendors were more political and less back-to-our-roots than I was expecting and it was actually somewhat depressing. I am sure the classes would have been nice, but I think I will skip out next year. We saved the day by stopping at this awesome mill-turned-general store and taking a very nice stroll to downtown Charlottesville. They had a great toy shop, we picked up some yummy coffee, and stopped some serious meltdowns with the prettiest cupcake I have ever seen. Anastasia is definately on a cupcake craze and this one had glitter on the raspberry frosting, and a candy butterfly that looked so real. It made her day. And walking in an old town, with my family and a cup of really good coffee definately made mine.
Oh, and we started school today! I even started my Homeschooling Blog called Sylvan Hollow School. Check it out and let me know what you think!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Labor Day Weekend

We had a very fun, very busy, very productive Labor Day weekend. Complete with a little bit of swinging on Anastasia's end and some sewing on my end:
I made up the hat myself and used a felted wool sweater for the lining. Apparently wool hats are an old prevention method for ear-infections and colds so I am hoping there will be lots of wool-hat-wearing this fall and winter! I made one for each girl. They are more cute in person. Its really hard to photograph a 2 1/2 year old. I found this post and this tutorial for making insanely cute ruffle-sleeve shirts. I made mine with shorter sleeves and have every intention of it being more of an outer layer over long-sleeved shirts. Again, more cute in person and so cute and easy that I will be making more! Many more! I used my Folklore My Forest fabric by Licein in purple. Really amazing fabric. Anastasia made some really impressive towers:

She has taken real interest in her blocks. She has built "Chicago" and many "sand castles". I am really glad because I just HAD to have blocks for her and she ignored them for sooooo long. Saturday we had friends over for hot dogs and brats. Sunday we celebrated my dads birthday. I love cookouts!!

Monday was a very productive day for us. Nick hung drywall in the bathroom and I planted peas, transplanted broccoli and a couple herbs, and picked all of our seckel pears. Unfortunately I might have waited too long because the birds sacked a bunch of the top ones so they started to rot very quickly. But if you are looking for something to grow that tastes amazing to eat plain, I highly recommend a seckel pear tree. Pear trees are very low-maintenance and nothing (except birds and deer) really mess with them. They are very disease-resistant and oh so yummy.

Very pretty too. I spent a couple hours peeling pears to can. I made some absolutely yummy vanilla spiced pears. I will now be making these every year I have pears! I want the smell of vanilla and cloves to be what reminds my children of their childhood in autumn. Mmmm.
Is canning really worth it? It is truly a lot of work, but the flavor is to-die-for. You really can't buy anything this good. And yes it takes a long time to prepare the food, but it is a good excuse to indulge in a mom movie or listen to a podcast. It passes the time and makes it more of a treat. Pair with a cup of tea during naptime and you are good to go... and it will make your house smell sooooooo good. Now onto picking and saucing apples. I hope your weekend was great too!

(Apparently spell check doesn't like the word "sooooooo". lol)

Friday, September 4, 2009

Garden Story

I wish I could tell you some wonderful fairytale about my garden and how it fed our family all summer and turned into a beautiful little Eden in the valley. Instead my garden's story is more like one of Aesops Fables... you know where one animal fails miserably and the more clever (usually smaller) animal succeeds and there is a very clear moral at the end of the story. So the groundhog and the deer succeeded. They ate most of my tomatoes AND tomato plants. They ate my broccoli and peas too. I found the ground hog's hole, right behind my compost pile which is about 8 feet from my garden and was enraged! So you ask, "Clare, Clare, skin so fair, how did your garden grow?" And I say, "ASK THE GROUNDHOG!" because my garden was really his. And the moral of the story?

"Don't lift the hoe, because your garden won't grow unless you first build a fence."

So that is Nick's winter time project. But it doesn't end there... because the clever Clare did not put all her eggs in one basket, or all her seeds in one garden. No, I made 2 gardens. One was going to be the "herb and green" garden which I planted close to our house. The soil wasn't as rich, but everything did really well. I had Lettuce all spring... I mean tons and tons of untouched-by-ROUS (because that's what groundhogs really are) lettuce and arugula. I picked up some herbs, and started a few from seed and had basil, rosemary, parsley, cilantro, mint and sage all summer long!! I even harvested seeds from my lettuce, arugula and cilantro and started a fall planting. AND my friend gave me some tomato plants that I threw in the ground near the lettuce and no one messed with them! So I finally got some tomatoes. And I had Cucumbers... at least a dozen from one plant. And I have some squash and melons that might make it... we shall see. So I didn't really fail. I just learned very clearly what not to do next year! A somewhat sad story with a semi-happy ending. Happy Harvesting to you all!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Easy-Peasy Light and Breezy Blanket Tutorial

For Bridget: and anyone else: this is my very first tutorial, so please be patient. I made a smaller version of my picnic blanket the other day. It is supposed to be an activity mat for doing school work on the floor. I figured I would take some pictures and *try* and explain the project for anyone wanting to make one. There are 2 things that are very important to making this: 1. You must be able to sew a straight line (as the patchwork probably won't work otherwise) and 2. you must be able to safely iron: enjoying ironing is an excellent bonus and will take you far in the quilting world. ;)


Fabric for patchwork on top. I used 3 yards of 1/4 yard squares for my picnic quilt, and scraps totalling around 1 1/4 yard for the activity mat.

Old or thrifted sheet for bottom

Scissors, Needle, thread and sewing machine

Step 1: Cut your fabric into desired size squares. I cut 12- 1/4 yard squares for my picnic blanket and I cut scraps into 3 columns of the same width for this smaller mat. Then lay your sheet down, and lay your squares on top in the order you wish to sew them. This will give you a rough idea of how it will look.

Step 2: Sew the columns (or rows if you desire) of squares together as straight as possible. I didn't pin them, but I am brave like that. So pin the squares together if it helps. ;)

Step 3: Iron the columns. Line them up (as in picture above). If you have same-sized squares it is important to line up the squares in the middle of the column. Once you have them where you like, place one column on top of the other RIGHT SIDES TOGETHER. That means, make sure the backs of the fabric are facing out. And pin them together starting in the middle and working your way down. I pinned the first two columns, sewed them together and then pinned the last column in the same manner (starting from the middle with right sides together) and sewed it.

Step 4: Iron the entire patchwork- right side up.

Step 5: Lay the patchwork on top of sheet (iron sheet if necessary) RIGHT SIDES TOGETHER and start pinning!! I pinned about every 4-5 inches, starting at the top of the quilt, working around the edges and through the middle. Pin in between the squares, and on the squares... pin everywhere!!! I know it is a pain, but this will keep the patchwork and the sheet even and together while you sew.

Step 6: Sew around the outside of the entire quilt, LEAVING A 5 inch OPENING along one edge of the quilt for turning right-side out. Remove the pins that you placed along the edge as you go.

Step 7: Remove all pins (I forgot this step and it was very pokey!!!)

Step 8: Pull entire quilt through your 5 inch opening.

Step 9: Sew along the outside of the entire quilt, starting at the opening you left. Feel free to iron it flat before doing so, as it will probably make it easier. Don't worry too much if it isn't perfect... NO ONE WILL NOTICE. Unless of course, they have no life. And it should look something like this:

Or this:

Step 10: Go have a picnic!!! :)