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Year in Review – 2016

My blogging has been sporadic and sparse this year. Much happening with my family and not a whole lot of time to sit down and type out words, even though I have many bouncing around in my head to share.

So, although, I had planned on this being a ’12 in 12 photos’ post, it has turned into more. A quick recap of the year in photos and a few words.

Here’s to 2016. You were good to us.

January

Carmel beach - Jan 2016

Carmel Mission - Jan 2016

wall of water - Jan 2016

jelly fish - Jan 2016

walk for life - Jan 2016

ferry building SF - Jan 2016

We took our annual trip to Carmel and Monterey to visit the Aquarium for Homeschool Days. End of the month had us traveling down to San Francisco for the Walk for Life and a quick weekend getaway in the city.

 

February

Valentine kisses - Feb 2016

top of the Space Needle - Feb 2016

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tea in Victoria - Feb 2016

tiny photographer Victoria - Feb 2016

Princess Evey - Feb 2016

We attended a Valentine’s party at a friend’s house where she had a great photo prop wall set up — Lucie was hamming it up! We went to Seattle {part one and part two} and Victoria, BC as a family, where Steve was quietly taking the Washington State Bar Exam {he passed!}. We loved the Pacific Northwest and hope to travel there again soon. The girls’ cousin, Rosie, celebrated her birthday with a tea party towards the end of the month, and the girls loved dressing up for the occasion.

 

March

exploring water - March 2016

Blessed is She retreat - March 2016

Candy Land - March 2016

Easter - March 2016

petting baby chicks - May 2016

The Fountains - March 2016

Post rain walks were a huge hit this month for watching leaves and sticks float down the runoff. I went to a Blessed is She retreat in Phoenix — my first time away from the girls for a weekend — and had wonderful, much-needed quiet time with the Lord and good friends. Evey learned her first board game, Candyland, on my childhood game board. Easter was a beautiful day with family {and chickens!}. And there was twinning at the Fountains.

 

April

bouquets to art - April 2016

tea at the palm court SF - April 2016

garden helper - April 2016

morning popsicles - April 2016

first time bowling - April 2016

swearing into the Bar - May 2016

I went with a mom and friend to the Bouquets to Art exhibit at the De Young Museum in San Francisco, followed by high tea at the Palace Hotel. My little helpers got us going on our garden. It was hot enough to eat popsicles for morning snack by the end of the month. The girls had a blast during their first bowling trip. And the greatest highlight of the month was watching Steve get sworn into the Washington Bar at my parents’ house by a good friend of my mother.

 

May

 

capital crew - May 2016

pencil behind ear - May 2016

family photo - May 2016

eating strawberries from the patch - May 2016

riding with lettuce - May 2016

Evey's tomato plant - May 2016

dancing for great grandma - May 2016

May snow play - May 2016

I watched my brother, Raphael, in the Southwest Junior Rowing Championships at Lake Natoma. Morning cutie with a pencil in her ear. A gathering at my parents’ house had everyone in attendance. More gardening {lots of strawberries and lettuce!}.  Evelyn enjoyed working with her tomato plant housed in it’s own special red cage. We celebrated Great-Grandma, AM’s “39th” birthday again. It was still cold enough for some snow to be on the ground at the cabin!

 

June

water play - June 2016

holding a ladybug - June 2016

running together - June 2016

hula hooping - June 2016

Golden Gate Bridge SF - June 2016

playing xylophone - June 2016

hiding in a tree SF - June 2016

at the beach in Santa Cruz - June 2016

Santa Cruz beach - June 2016

chillin in the sand chair - June 2016

daddy's day - June 2016

carrots and chard from our garden - June 2016

corn tassels - June 2016

strawberries from the garden - June 2016

birthday girl - June 2016

Water play began this month and we spent a large part of the summer splashing in that little pool. A trip to the cabin involved a little hike where Lucie found her favorite–a ladybug–and Evey enjoyed running with Jed. I took the girls to Children’s Discovery Museum in Sausalito and we had a blast exploring all day. Father’s Day weekend found us in Santa Cruz, spending ample time at the beach and checking out the “little red lighthouse” {a great discovery due to this book}. Wonderful summer produce from our garden! And a little someone celebrated her second birthday at the end of the month.

 

July

examining flowers - July 2016

all american - July 2016

parade time - July 2016

pretend photos - July 2016

sitting on the dock - July 2016

hammock time with daddy - July 2016

swinging fun - July 2016

Serene Lakes parade - July 2016

first fish! - July 2016

blowing seeds to the wind - July 2016

flower child - July 2016

camping hike - July 2016

Evey photog - July 2016

first ferris wheel ride - July 2016

A busy, wonderful month full of much exploration! We spent a week at the cabin to celebrate the 4th of July — lots of fun with family! Then, we hopped over to the coast to spend the following weekend at Gerstle Cove State Park to camp with our dear friends, Evelyn’s godparents. And finally closed off the month with a trip to the California State Fair where Evelyn got to go on her first ferris wheel ride {worth the hour+ standing in the blazing sun!}.

 

August

blowing bubbles - Aug 2016

fishing together - Aug 2016

our sunflowers - Aug 2016

SLO beach - Aug 2016

catching seeds - Aug 2016

hanging with my girls - Aug 2016

Winding down the summer with one more trip to the cabin for bubble blowing and fishing. We grew some beautiful multi-colored sunflowers in our garden which often graced my kitchen window. I ran away to SLO with my sis-in-laws for a weekend away complete with a requisite trip to the beach. Evelyn loved pulling the seeds from the cornflower seed pods to store away for next year. Hamming it up as we say goodbye to summer!

 

September

playing in the yard - Sept 2016

BIS retreat - Sept 2016

knit hat - Sept 2016

cheers in Sac! - Sept 2016

camping dirt play - Sept 2016

large painting - Sept 2016

play dough play - Sept 2016

writing her name - Sept 2016

going up the slide - Sept 2016

Dwindling summer evenings at the Labor Day BBQ. I went on retreat with my Blessed is She writer team in Minnesota/Wisconsin for a weekend–so wonderful to meet many bright faces I had only interacted with online before. Knit up this lovely hat for myself with Ginny’s yarn and my first pattern from Making Magazine.  Happy Hour during an overnight in Sacramento. Off to our last camping trip of the summer at the Calaveras Big Trees with Gram and Pumpkin where Lucie got as dirty as she possible could. Many great activities from our Homegrown Preschooler curriculum this autumn, including BIG painting, homemade play dough, and writing our name! We took Daddy with us to explore Fairy Tale Town on a rare day off.

 

October

Seattle date - Oct 2016

Multnomah Falls - Oct 2016

rain play - Oct 2016

playing in the rain - Oct 2016

first fair isle - Oct 2016

circus - Oct 2016

pumpkin patch - Oct 2016

explode the code - Oct 2016

Apple Hill - Oct 2016

apple picking - Oct 2016

Halloween - Oct 2016

Steve and I got away for a long weekend to Portland, a place neither of us had been before. {Our first weekend away since having the girls!} Much needed rain for California didn’t stop us from going outside–a different kind of water play from the summer, but so fun! I finished my first Fair Isle hat–a sweet little cap for Evelyn–with my favorite new yarn from Quince & Co. that I picked up in Portland. Evey’s wish came true and we went to the circus after I won tickets to a show! A pumpkin patch, of course! Evelyn completed her first school workbook. Fall just wouldn’t be fall without a trip Apple Hill, enjoying the colors of the season, as well as apple picking {and eating} in our nearby orchard. And rounded out the month with Halloween and a reappearance of Anna and Elsa.

 

November

hiking with uncles - Nov 2016

Veterans day parade - Nov 2016

backyard bonfire - Nov 2016

train museum - Nov 2016

turning 4! - Nov 2016

cousins holding cousins - Nov 2016

crazy faces - Nov 2016

digging out - Nov 2016

building a snowman - Nov 2016

cracking eggs - Nov 2016

building together - Nov 2016

knitting - Nov 2016

thanksgiving tree - Nov 2016

Thanksgiving - Nov 2016

A final trip of the season with uncles to Apple Hill. Joining in the local Veterans’ Day parade. A backyard bonfire to roast hot dogs and marshmallows. A trip to the train museum in Sacramento to celebrate Evelyn turning 4. Lucie enjoyed holding her newest cousin, Zachary. Headed up to the cabin for the first big snowfall of the season. Steve did an excellent job digging us out. And we made a fantastic snowman. Our resident egg cracker. A moment of working together that doesn’t happen too often. Lots of Christmas gift knitting. Our family thanksgiving tree. And Thanksgiving dinner at my parents’ house.

 

December

Advent candles - Dec 2016

counting gingerbread buttons - Dec 2016

Advent calendar - Dec 2016

Christmas crackers - Dec 2016

mama quiet time - Dec 2016

SF store windows at Christmas - Dec 2016

decorating Christmas cookies - Dec 2016

cutting out gingerbread - Dec 2016

decorating cookies - Dec 2016

fallen Christmas tree - Dec 2016

fancy dinner - Dec 2016

Nutcracker - Dec 2016

first quilt

snuggling with Gram - Dec 2016

sledding with Pumpkin - Dec 2016

Evey skiing - Dec 2016

Christmas chaos - Dec 2016

dad's new hat - Dec 2016

Christmas morning donuts - Dec 2016

Christmas breakfast - Dec 2016

doll house play - Dec 2016

Christmas girls - Dec 2016

Christmas napping - Dec 2016

Lot’s of great things this month! We dove into Advent with gusto, but fell off a bit when I got sick. The girls enjoyed the Advent calendars and a look at celebrations from places around the world, while I got to dive in deeply with BiS’s Advent journal. We took a trip to San Francisco to take a peek at the magical displays in the storefront windows. Many cookies were made and decorated. Our tree fell over {but we repositioned the bottom to stay in the stand better and had no further accidents}. On the eve of Christmas Eve we went out for a fancy dinner at one of our favorite restaurants and to the Nutcracker at the Sacramento Ballet. I completed my first quilt, a gift for my brother, Dominic. We had a Christmas weekend at the cabin, complete with lots of snow fun! And a Christmas celebration at my parents’ that involved deep sea diving in wrapping paper by the young ones. My dad sporting his newly knit hat! Christmas morning was quiet and wonderful. And Lucie snuck in plenty of naps during the holidays!

 

Wishing one and all a Happy New Year 2017!

Thanks for taking this look back with me!

A Slew of Random Thoughts to End the Week

Quick post to end a long week.

1. We finally have RAIN here. Its been coming off and on all week and we’re due for more into the weekend. I know this doesn’t seem like a big deal to most but this drought here in California has us so parched. We appreciate every drop that falls.

skipping in the gutter

2. I’m planning and scheming for Christmas, full-steam ahead. Partly, this was inspired by the fact I like to craft some gifts for Christmas and it takes time to make them, but I’m also eager to get all my shopping done before Advent starts. It always seems to sneak up on me. We’ve purchased big gift for the girls, and I’m eager to see their faces Christmas morning. {That is one downside to shopping so early — I have to wait soooo long to gift them! And I’m more excited about the gift-giving than receiving.}

crockpot apple butter

3. My eldest is all-in with learning to use scissors. Although, her idea of using scissors is cutting up paper into the tiniest, little scraps so that it looks like a confetti party has happened in my kitchen. I’m trying to go with the flow, but it has me wigging out some days when I’m trying to get dinner on the table in the midst of a confetti mountain.

playing in the leaves

4. This autumn season has been full of squash recipes. This one and one from Ottolenghi’s Plenty More {it involves sriracha and pesto so it is automatically my husband’s favorite} have been on repeat. {You guys, if you want more inspiration in the vegetable cooking department, either this one or his first–Plenty–are absolute necessities on your cookbook shelf.}

stuffed honeynut squash

5. Poor Lulu has had a cold for about a week now that is persisting on staying in her head. I so wish I could pull out the Sudafed for her. We’ve been attempting treatments with the humidifier during rest time and nighttime, and Vick’s on her chest too. We had one evening of croup cough and it was excruciating to hear her suffering so. I hope it lifts soon.

sleeping Lulu

6. Halloween is on the horizon. Evelyn is planning on dressing in Elsa costume that I made her last year. We were thinking Lucie would wear what she calls her “ladybug dress” {it’s red with black polka dots}, but now she’s expressing interest in wearing her Anna costume again too. We’ll just go with flow. In the interest of keeping too much candy out of our house, I purchased Goldfish snacks to hand out to our trick-or-treaters. For two reasons: they were a HUGE hit last year with the neighborhood and if we’re stuck with extras, I’d rather be able to give whatever it is to the girls as a snack, not have to throw it in the trash.

fall dinner

7. Evelyn’s birthday is coming up in about two weeks. Her birthday party is next weekend. She chose a Paddington Bear theme, but it has been nearly impossible to find Paddington things in the United States. There is no way I’m paying $20 in shipping from the UK to have paper plates and cups for the party. I found some cute Paddington fabric so I’ll be making some bunting with it. I’ve ordered a couple Paddingtons on ebay to use. If anyone has any other ideas, besides just using blue, red, and yellow colored things to decorate, I’m all ears. We will be doing a luncheon tea.

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Have a great weekend!

Gathering My Thoughts ~ Apples to Apples

Outside my window: Saturated earth. Such a blessing here in this parched land. Over the past three days, we’ve had about 5 inches of rain come down and the earth hardly knows what do with it.

looking outside

Listening To: Finally a little bit of quiet after struggling for over an hour with getting the girls settled for their naps. They haven’t been good about going down lately, but the rainy days over the weekend made a change in that. The sun is back out today, though, and so are their indefatigable dispositions.

Clothing Myself In: I’m wrapped in one of my favorite sweaters I picked up at Anthropologie last year. {Don’t they have just the best sweaters??} It’s a sage color, knit all around and felted on the torso. It swings across and clasps at the shoulder. I made the extra effort of getting everyone dressed before lunch today. Quite the accomplishment, I tell you! 😉

Talking With My Children About These Books: So many great books to read this time of year! I’ll try to keep it short….

  • Lucie especially loves this book filled with poetic prose and beautiful pictures of this adventurous scarecrow.
  • This one hasn’t lost his fascination over the past few years and has been a great way to teach the lifecycle of the pumpkin so there are no hard feelings {at least in theory} when our jack o lanterns die at the end of the season.
  • This fairly new release we found at the library has the cutest illustrations and has been a hit for our highly imaginative, little one.
  • This sweet, sentimental story may have had me in tears at the end.
  • A great one to garner excitement for apple picking {although, that wasn’t necessary here}.

In My Own Reading: I recently finished A Gentleman in Moscow which I wrote a bit about here. I also quickly read through The Awakening of Miss Prim. It is next up to be discussed over at the Fountains of Carrots podcast — any day! — so get to reading before the spoilers come out! Just released today!

My knitting has been a distraction lately, so I haven’t picked anything up in about a week. But I’m about to commence reading Everyone Brave is Forgiven. It was recommended to me by my fellow historical fiction fan friend, Megan. She never steers me wrong. I’ve partly held off on starting it because it will mean having my nose stuck in a book for hours on end. I always get caught up deeply in those types of reads.

Thinking and Thinking: About the cooler weather and all the wonderful autumn and winter activities ahead of us. I definitely should search out one of those printable Fall activities you can find on Pinterest to keep us inspired. The girls are already begging to go up to the dusting of snow in the mountains. Pumpkin carving is happening this weekend.

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picking apples with daddy

Pondering:

St. Teresa of Avila’s feast day was this past Saturday. Funnily, I kept running across quotes of hers all day {and not in the expected places, like social media}. This prayer/poem of hers really touched me and is one I want to keep close.

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

Carefully Cultivating Rhythm: It’s hit or miss but we’re trying to get a routine to our mornings of “schoolwork” and chores, followed by a more relaxing afternoon. {Although, the afternoons have been anything but relaxing lately as my children are heavily protesting nap time…but need it.} We need a better wind-down routine in the evenings for everyone. Working on it.

sticker work

Creating By Hand: My knitting has really taken off. I’m enjoying trying different weight fibers, stretching myself with increasingly more difficult patterns. I’m working on my first adult socks. The pattern I chose was a bit more challenging than I probably should have with my first pair, but I’m getting through it. I’m about to the toe bed. I love the colors of the yarn.

sock knitting

Stephen and I took a trip {just the two of us — oh, the novelty!!} to Portland a little over a week ago. There was a yarn shop about two blocks from the place we were staying. Let’s just say, that was a huge danger for our bank account. I’ve been eyeing Quince and Co.‘s yarn online ever since I was introduced to it through Making Magazine a few months ago, and was pleasantly surprised to find they carried it at the shop in Portland. I came home with a huge bag of it.

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Evelyn already has a hat knit from their Lark line in Clay and Egret, which I started and finished in an evening. It was my first foray into Fair Isle and I’m very happy with the result. I’m about to start another for Steve in Quince’s Osprey. I also went out on a limb and purchased myself enough to make my first sweater from Chickadee in Malbec. I’m anxious to get it cast on.

Learning Lessons In: Making boundaries…and keeping them in charity.

Encouraging Learning In: All things apples. We travelled to Apple Hill during the week last week before the rain hit. We feasted on caramel apples, baked goods filled with apples and toted home 40 lbs of apples to make pies, applesauce, apple butter, and who knows what else. On Saturday morning, just as the drenching began, we took the girls to an orchard just a short way from our home so they could pick apples from the tree. This was Evelyn’s one wish for the apple season. Glad to see it fulfilled. Lucie enjoyed it just as much, and they were adorable munching those juicy orbs straight from the tree in the drizzling rainfall.

high hill ranch apple hill

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Today, we were working on patterns with some apple stickers. Later in the week, we’ll be stamping with apple halves, learning about the life cycle of apples, taste testing apples to choose our favorites, and there will certainly be some baking!

Crafting in the Kitchen: I spent about an hour this morning chopping up about 10 lbs of apples to make apple butter in the crockpot. I plan on canning most of it. There is another 40 lbs waiting by my front door to be turned into some sort of appley goodness over the next few weeks. Ideas anyone?

eating apples

To Be Fit and Happy: I really need to work on this. I begin something for a few days and quickly fall off. I’m just not motivated. I can’t find my groove. I’m thinking of signing on for Barre3 again and alternating that with my rowing machine for cardio. I really want to run, but it is so difficult to coordinate with Steve’s schedule going into the fall and winter months.

Loving the Moments: I’m really enjoying the curriculum that I’m working through with the girls. Yesterday, we did some apple graphing. There was also a trip to Apple Hill and Machado’s Orchards, near our house, last week for apple sweets and apple picking. We have some other apple activities this week, including stamping, pie baking, and taste testing different varieties for our favorites.

picking apples

Living the Liturgy: Looking forward to the feast of St. Pope John Paul II this Saturday. He’s one of my favorites, so we’ll be sure to celebrate him in style. Something with apples? 😉

I would really like to do something special for the Feast of All Saints this year, but also don’t quite have that figured out. Need some time to plan.

I’m greatly looking forward to Advent this year and trying really hard not to let it sneak up on me. I’m especially excited to work along with Blessed is She’s Advent journal this year and use the Jesse Tree cards once again.

Planning for the Week Ahead: Steve is switching to a new job mid-week, back to his longer commute, so we are gearing up for that change which affects the whole family dynamic. Hoping for a smooth transition and still plenty of time to enjoy together.

taking a leap

 

Also, linking up with Ginny for Yarn Along this week!

#write31days ~ day 7: our favorite autumn activities {7QT}

1. baking
It probably comes as no surprise that my favorite autumn activity is baking. In my food blogging days, I think my greatest collection of recipes was during the fall months. The spices used, the warm foods with the onset of cooler weather, the delight of turning the oven on when the house isn’t already a toasty 85 degrees.

rolling out dough

Here is a collection of some of my favorite autumn baking recipes:

pumpkin pecan scones
chai spiced granola
pumpkin gingerbread cookies
soft ginger cookies
mendicino pumpkin muffins
pumpkin chocolate chip cookies 
pumpkin crunch granola
coconut chai coffee cake
pumpkin protein bars
apple cider donuts
pumpkin spice donuts

2. Apple Hill
If you are not in close proximity to Apple Hill {or a place like it}, I’m sorry. There is nothing quite like this location of all-things-apple that affords you the ability to go apple picking, munch apple donuts dunked in a cup of warm, fresh cider, pull apart a gooey apple cinnamon roll or fritter, or sip a glass of cool, crisp cider {of the alcoholic variety}.

apple hill treats

It is an annual tradition we’ve been doing since I was a tot with my grandparents and are now passing on to the next generation.

{I’ve got a great collection of apple recipes for you here if you like that kind of thing. ;)}

apple picking

3. breaking out the warm drinks : alcoholic and non-alcoholic alike

I drink tea year-round, but the delight factor is turned up a notch of that first cup in the morning when you wake up to the chill of an autumn morning. The chai comes out more often too.

cloves

oranges and cloves

My husband has a knack for making some wonderful libations in the fall/winter months as well. He’s especially good with glühwein {mulled wine}, which we like to fill our thermos with and take on a walk through the golden, rouge leaves falling. 

In preparation for the holidays, we begin testing out our eggnog making skills. We can never get enough of this smooth drink.

4. pumpkin picking at a farm {or enjoying our homegrown ones!}
Of course, the fall wouldn’t be complete without a trip to a pumpkin patch or two! We like to visit Bishop’s Pumpkin Farm in our area. There are so many great activities for the kids, including a trampoline covered in hay, a petting zoo, and a train that takes you on a tour around the farm. The hay ride out to the patch and back for your pumpkins is a huge highlight of the day.

pumpkin picking

This year, we grew some of our own pumpkins too which we are very excited to finally display {they’ve been chilling in the linen cupboard since early August due to mama’s too-early plantings}. We just took them out yesterday to add to the fall decor on our porch. It’s so much fun for the girls to see the pumpkins they grew from seed. They are very proud!

5. decorating
On a related vein, I can’t wait for the opportunity to pull out all the warm colored decor to sprinkle all over the house. Our resident porch scarecrow is a favorite, and we enjoy picking out various squash, gourds, and Indian corn for a natural display at home.

porch scarecrow with pumpkins

6. hiking
We are fortunate to live in an area with hiking trails aplenty. Fall is my favorite time of the year to go meandering through the hills, observing the changes of the season.

hiking on the trail

taking a walk

7. watching fall sports : futbol and football

Both Steve and I were soccer players growing and intend to introduce our daughters to league play when they are old enough. {If they decide to take it to the next level will be determined by their interest.} The family enjoys going out to watch other family members play. This year our nephew is playing and being coached by his dad and uncle. We watched his first game a few weeks ago.

We are fortunate to have FC that started her a few years ago, the Sacramento Republic FC. Steve went with a few of my brothers to watch one of their first games, and we’re hoping to go together soon on a date night.

College football viewing runs deep on both sides of the family, with the biggest rooting happening behind USC, Stanford, and Notre Dame. It makes for some exciting Saturdays during these fall months.

playing in the leaves

 

What are some of your favorite autumn activities? 

{Linking up with Kelly this week over at This Ain’t the Lyceum. Go there for more of 7QT!}

#write31days ~ day 6: camping with young children

calaveras big trees camping

I’m no pro at this camping game, but I can say, without a doubt, taking the girls outdoors overnight several times this summer has been an excellent decision. The family/friend camaraderie is bar none when one is able to wile away the hours in the wild.

calaveras big trees camping
{photo by Jan}

We eased in with our first trip in July, staying just one night with some close friends at a state park we had been to before. I am glad that we only committed to one night this first time because it was relaxing to know that if things didn’t work out, we’d only be missing out on one night’s sleep.

calaveras big trees camping

calaveras big trees camping

calaveras big trees camping
{photo by Jan}

Shortly after our camping trip to the coast, we began looking at other possibilities for a second trip this summer. We chose a spot none of us had been to, and invited Steve’s parents to come along for the fun. Our spot was the Calaveras Big Trees, not too far from Yosemite. This state park was a little closer to home than the last, allowing for more play and less driving.

calaveras big trees camping

calaveras big trees camping

A few days before we left, we decided to extend our stay an extra night. We were only inconvenienced by having to move sites the second night {and the first was our favorite, boo}.

camping

calaveras big trees camping

calaveras big trees camping

Evelyn continued her tradition of searching for “mysterious creatures” in the woods with her little headlamp. She also brought along her camera again this time and was capturing snapshots of all the things of interest–moss, bark on trees, a camp chair, the dirt on her sister….

calaveras big trees camping

calaveras big trees camping

calaveras big trees camping
{photo by Jan}

calaveras big trees camping

Lucie got dirtier than anyone I’ve ever seen, announcing at the end of every meal, “I’m done. I go play in the dirt!” It’s a little hard to keep her out when it is everywhere. She took advantage of mama allowing this unbridled freedom by spending every possible minute in it.

calaveras big trees camping

calaveras big trees camping

calaveras big trees camping {photo by Jan}
calaveras big trees camping {photo by Jan}

The BIG trees were truly spectacular. They soared to the sky–there was certainly some neck craning to catch a glimpse of the top. In one spot, we were able to stand on top of the stump of one that had been cut down. It was big enough to host a party on!

calaveras big trees camping

calaveras big trees camping

calaveras big trees camping {photo by Jan}

We went on a little hike through the woods, and had planned on coming back the next day to the series of trails for another, but never made it. There are many trails to explore at this park, for various levels of experience.

calaveras big trees camping

calaveras big trees camping

calaveras big trees camping
{photo by Jan}

There was so much for the girls to be involved in, including food prep, dish washing, journaling, tree identification, and, of course, plain, ol’ playing in the dirt, which I demonstrated as Lucie’s greatest strength when it comes to camping. 🙂

We actually got the girls to sleep for a nap {despite the neighbors practicing a hip-hop dance to some loud beats–who does that in forest?}. They needed that rest to make it through the evening with s’mores on the horizon.

calaveras big trees camping

calaveras big trees camping
{photo by Stephen}

My favorite part of the trip was witnessing the girls with their hot chocolate and mugs of oatmeal first thing in the morning. It seemed quintessential camping and they looked so cozy bundled up in their warm gear. That and s’mores roasting. They took to the camping traditions like fish to water.

If you’re on the fence about taking the leap with your family, I’d say, Go for it! At least one night. It’s an excellent adventure that’s great to have in the family memory bank.

#write31days ~ day 4: circus

circus vargas roseville ca

About a month or so ago, Evelyn remarked that she would like to attend the circus. I believe the idea came from learning about the circus in The Story of Babar. She’s repeated this request several times since then.

enjoying the circus

I had no idea when the circus would be in town or whether we would be able to go. But some fortuitous events coincided recently that meant not only would it be in town imminently, but also that we would certainly be able to go.

circus vargas

I was scrolling through Instagram one evening when I noticed that one of the local events accounts mentioned that Circus Vargas was coming to town. On that photo, they were having a contest for locals to win a family four pack of tickets. I commented saying that my three-year old was anxious to go and we would love to take her.

Lo and behold, within the week, I found out I was the lucky winner of those tickets!

circus vargas

We attended this past weekend and it truly exceeded even my expectations. The high-flying trapeze, the circular cage traversed by two daredevil motorcyclists, the limber acrobatics {which Evelyn claimed were ballerinas}, the kamikaze trampoline bounces by a troupe of male gymnasts. It was truly an amazing spectacle.

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What I Learned This Summer

I’ve enjoyed linking up with Emily for her monthly “What I’ve Learned” posts throughout the year. I’ve had this one sitting in my drafts for a while, adding a little as time went along because I haven’t seen a post up all summer. Well, turns out she decided to do an end-of-summer round up. Good thinking, lady. Here’s my summer’s worth:

  • My girls enjoying things that I once enjoyed as a young girl brings me even greater joy than the joy it brought me in my youth.

Evelyn and carrots

Toys, clothes, little tchotckes that brought me much joy — slowly, I pull these out for my children and witness a similar love. Evelyn, especially, has a sentimental heart just like here mama and takes great pleasure in knowing that something she is wearing or playing with once belonged to her mama when she was little.

  • A little water can make a big difference for growing a garden.

We’ve been in a terrible drought here the past couple of years. Last year, everyone was asked to kill their lawn for the summer, to reconfigure their landscaping to a more “drought-tolerant” scape. So it shouldn’t have come as any surprise to me that it would be difficult to grow a single thing in that parched soil.

I was close to throwing in the towel when it came to gardening because of this. As much as I suspected the lack of water was a huge culprit in the piddly garden I was producing, I still was feeling like it was my lack of green thumb.

But about a month into our plantings, and we had so many sprouts this year. I was a bit giddy with excitement.

We’ve had several rainfalls throughout the months of April and May and they greatly contributed to the health of the garden. I could tell as I was ripping out weeds, witnessing all the earthworms ranging around, that the soil was a million times healthier. And I was hopeful.

It seems I had reason to be.

Rapunzel tomato plant

munching strawberries

  • Tomatillos cannot cross-pollinate with other tomatoes. They need some of their own kind. {Same goes for squash varieties.}

On that same garden vein, we planted one tomatillo plant and waited. And waited. And waited. Watching tons of flowers pop out, but no tomatillos husks appear. I asked about this at our local nursery and, sure enough, was informed that we needed at least two to produce the little buggers.

It was a little late in the planting season when I realized this, so I had trouble locating others. I eventually found a few tiny seedlings that will likely be too late to help my first, but maybe we’ll get something from them later.

Surprisingly, the other day, a couple husks showed up on my plant! Maybe one of the neighbors has some too. Thank you, kind neighbor, for the good deed you have done unknowingly.

  • Short, but sweet, podcasts are my jam. 

Perhaps it’s because my occasion to listen is always in short spurts, but I’m really a fan of quick podcasts — ones that are 10 minutes or less. This one to inspire writers is one of my favorites right now.

  • Even a three-year old is capable of finding enjoyment in needlecraft.

Evey stitching

Evelyn has been begging me for months to teach her how to knit. I really want to but I’m afraid 1) she’ll find it too difficult and just get frustrated & 2) I feel completely incapable of such a feat. Someone suggested to me trying out finger knitting, which I will have to read up on. But, in the meantime, we found a little embroidery kit at the craft store that she is absolutely enjoying. I mean, she’s not doing the stitches the way that is shown on the box, but I figure, at this point, what is important is getting the hang of threading the needle in and out of the correct side each time. {Easier said than done, even for a seasoned crafter!} I’m so impressed by her desire and drive in working it out.

And last, but not least…

  • I am so happy we chose to live a quieter summer this year.

skipping rocks

All extra-curriculars were cancelled, spontaneous trips to the cabin occurred, many, many books were borrowed, purchased, read, countless hours were spent splashing in the water outside, and we spent a lot more time just being. {Plus, there were about a hundred hiccups/disappoints that needed dealing with and it always helps to have a tad more freedom to give those things the attention their due.}

 

What did you learn this summer??

Gathering My Thoughts ~ Height of the Summer

homegrown sunflowers

Outside my window: Heat. For one more day temperatures hovering around 100, and then we’re dropping down into the 80s for a little while. Looking forward to the reprieve.

relaxing with daddy in hammock

Listening To: The hum of the air conditioner and the squeaking ceiling fan above my head.

Clothing Myself In: Still in pjs at 2 in the afternoon. When we aren’t going out, I’m terrible about getting myself dressed.

relaxing at the cabin

Talking With My Children About These Books: A few favorites this week from the library:
How Big Could Your Pumpkin Grow by Wendell Minor — It may seem early for this, but the pumpkins in our garden are ripe so it’s a topic of conversation right now. I hope none of our pumpkins are as big as the ones suggested in this book, though! 😉

Bear in the Air by Susan Meyers — A super sweet story about a cute little bear that gets bumped out of his owner’s stroller and goes on quite the adventure. My children are especially taken with the illustrations.

My Garden by Kevin Henkes — Great for the imagination. If only our garden would grow

In My Own Reading: Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt and Real Learning by Elizabeth Foss. Can you tell my mind is gravitating towards school days? I’m gaining great inspiration from these about a little “curriculum” to follow with Evelyn this year. Both are wonderful resources for reading to your children, too, even if you aren’t doing home education.

Also, anxiously awaiting The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera recommended highly by Christy. The Fountains of Carrots Facebook group will be discussing soon on their page so jump on in if this is up your alley!

socks and flip flops

ladybug backpack

Thinking and Thinking: About the Fall. Gardening, schooling, birthdays, cooler weather. It is just around the bend.

Pondering: These words of Pope Francis during World Youth Day last week, applicable to any age:

God expects something from you. God wants something from you. God hopes in you. God comes to break down all our fences. He comes to open the doors of our lives, our dreams, our ways of seeing things. God comes to break open everything that keeps you closed in. He is encouraging you to dream. He wants to make you see that, with you, the world can be different. For the fact is, unless you offer the best of yourselves, the world will never be different.

Carefully Cultivating Rhythm: We’ve been rather lax with a schedule of any kind this summer, but I’m kind of looking forward to falling into a bit of one as we move into the autumn months. I need a bit more regularity to my days and I think they girls would benefit with a tad more routine. It’s been good, though, to relax some, though.

riding cars at state fair

sierra wildflowers

Creating By Hand: I finished a scarf and hat set for my brother who is headed off to Michigan in a few weeks for law school. Can’t have him freezing to death! This is my second Barley Hat and loved the formation of the Purl Ridge Scarf. Perfect for a double wrap and fittingly masculine. {But modeled here by Evelyn.} Oh, and can I tell you how in love I am with Malabrigo yarns?? <3

purl ridge scarf

barley hat and purl ridge scarf model

barley hat

barley hat and purl ridge scarf model

Learning Lessons In: Home education. Nervous, but excited, about the prospect. Reading all the books I can, praying about the direction the Lord wants us to take with this, and trying not to be the perfectionist I have a tendency towards.

Encouraging Learning In: All. The. Things. Evelyn has hit the “why?” stage and I’m trying to be patient with the onslaught. The latest: What is electricity? Why do we need those black lines to carry it? Why does it zap us? etc. I wish my brother, who is an electrical engineer, was a little closer right now. 😉

walking in tandem at the beach

Crafting in the Kitchen: With tomatoes coming out of our ears and frequent trips to the farmers’ market for all sorts of seasonal finds, ratatouille was an easy choice last night. {Although it barely touched the plethora of tomatoes covering almost all the surface of my counter.} My recipe was from the Laurel’s Kitchen Cookbook {what? you didn’t know I wrote a cookbook?? ;)} I substituted a red onion for a regular as that is what I had on hand, as well as tossing in fresh basil in lieu of the dry. I used white eggplant from my mother-in-law’s garden which I might just prefer to the traditional purple. Surprisingly, it turned browned when cooked, too!

To Be Fit and Happy: I’m not, and something’s gotta change. I did a 20 minute Pilates video with my girls this morning which was a good kickstart. I will be attempting to follow the exercises in Core Performance Essentials as soon as it makes its way to my house via the mail. I’ve got some serious work to do on my core which has never been this out of tune. It’s been difficult for me to know where to begin on this whole endeavor of reconstructing it, so I’m feeling sort of thrown for a loop, discouraged. Just need to commit and make it happen.

Lucie Little Tikes car

Evey running

Loving the Moments: My girls playing together. Watching their joy in interacting together makes all the difficulties of two toddlers just melt away…almost. 🙂

sisters in Hanna Andersson

sisters in the pool

sisters "scrubbing"

Living the Liturgy: Looking ahead to feast days this month….. We’ve got Lucie’s baptismal day on August 6th (Feast of the Transfiguration), St. Lawrence on August 10th (my patron), Assumption on August 15th (Holy Day of obligation), St. Rose of Lima on August 23rd (patron to both myself and Evelyn), and a few others in between. I’d like to get back into living a bit more liturgically and I think this month will be the one to ease back in.

Planning for the Week Ahead: Halfway through this one, so looking toward the weekend full of home projects and a pool/birthday party. Definitely can’t wait.

 

Linking up with this week’s Yarn Along over at Ginny’s. 

Starting Somewhere {7QT}

When you’ve been away for a while, it is difficult to know where to start, so I’ll just jump right into the middle since it’s Friday, a.k.a. 7QT’s Day!

summer popsicles

1) I’m following along and living vicariously through friends that are in Poland for the annual World Youth Day with Pope Francis this week. I was blessed to be able to attend in Rome in 2000 and Toronto in 2002. I shared a bit about how Pope St. John Paul the Great has influenced my life through his great sermons given at these two events over at my friend Patty’s space, A Modern Grace.

WYD 2000 Tor Vergata Mass

WYD 2000 Pope John Paul II

WYD 2002 rainy morning Mass

2) I read through Pope Francis’ sermons {source: here and here} from the past two days and walked away with these gems that I’ll be pondering for a while:

“[God] is in our midst and he takes care of us, without making decisions in our place and without troubling himself with issues of power. He prefers to let himself be contained in little things, unlike ourselves, who always want to possess something greater. To be attracted by power, by grandeur, by appearances, is tragically human. It is a great temptation that tries to insinuate itself everywhere. But to give oneself to others, eliminating distances, dwelling in littleness and living the reality of one’s everyday life: this is exquisitely divine.”

“[God] does not want to remain on his throne in heaven or in history books, but loves to come down to our everyday affairs, to walk with us.”

“The eternal is communicated by spending time with people and in concrete situations.”

“Let us ask for the grace to imitate [Mary’s] sensitivity and her creativity in serving those in need, and to know how beautiful it is to spend our lives in the service of others, without favorites or distinctions.”

“To say that Jesus is alive means to rekindle our enthusiasm in following him, to renew our passionate desire to be his disciples. What better opportunity to renew our friendship with Jesus than by building friendships among yourselves! What better way to build our friendship with Jesus than by sharing him with others! What better way to experience the contagious joy of the Gospel than by striving to bring the Good News to all kinds of painful and difficult situations!”

Pope Francis WYD 2016 Poland

{source}

3) On the garden front, we’ve been fighting the good fight against an army of harlequin cabbage beetles {a.k.a. firebugs} that are ravaging our garden. They’ve gone from one plant to the next, taking them out. I finally found them in my tomatoes this morning, after grasping a ripe one and having a billion little babies crawl out of the middle. {Definitely woke up the neighbors with that squeal.} I promptly ran to Home Depot and we sprayed insecticidal soap all over the plant. I’ve tried regular bug spray {when I couldn’t use the soap on the nasturtiums} and pulling them off individually to throw them in a bowl of soapy water. It seems to kill a squad but not the entire army. Once I rip out the remainder of the bed where the nasturtiums are, I’m going to throw down the black tarp of death and hopefully extinguish them while the heat is still high so I can still plant a Fall garden come September.

harlequin/firebugs on chard

red nasturtiums

corn on the stalk

corn stalks

4) Lots of knitting this past month with many beautiful, hand-dyed yarns by this lovely lady, as well as some fun, blue color-way socks for my latest nephew. {First set of socks so please don’t judge.} Also, a warming set for my brother who is headed off for law school in Michigan next month and will get the chill of his life come winter.

blue baby socks

knitting tools

5) The heat burn has been phenomenal this week. Day time temps soaring past 100 and evening not dropping much below 80. Makes me ready for autumn…tomorrow. I’m just grateful we don’t live where the humidity is high or I might melt like a popsicle. The water table, kiddie pool and squirt guns have been our best friends. And I don’t just mean for the children.

watering the pool

throwing water

6) We had a TON of fun with our good friends and Evey’s godparents a couple weeks ago camping near the coast. It was the first time for the girls sleeping in a tent. Other than the scare Lucie experienced when she rolled into the side of the tent in the middle of the night, they were both troopers and slept like logs {albeit rolling logs}. We promptly came home and marked another one on the calendar in September.

munching s'mores

our campsite

searching for mysterious creatures

photo lessons with Matt

7) We’ve been dealing with many house issues this month too, which are slowly getting resolved one by one. The broken dryer for several weeks certainly slowed life down, as I was canvassing every spot in the house that might be “hanging rack” worthy. Maybe we’ll just forget the dryer from now on and install a clothesline. They are much more trustworthy, turns out.

hiking up the hill

Click over to Kelly’s space to read more of this week’s 7QT!

 

Gathering My Thoughts ~ Busy, But Happy

chasing bubbles

Outside my window: Sunshine, yet coolness. We had a wonderful spring rain yesterday and the air is fresh and light.

Listening To: Quiet while the girls rest.

strawberry picking

Clothing Myself In: Half pjs, half active wear — which the only activity I’ve done in it so far today has been dishes and general cleaning. And perhaps a few laps around the backyard with the girls.

Talking With My Children About These Books: We finished our last chapter of A Bear Called Paddington this morning. Breakfast included English muffins slathered in butter and marmalade in his honor. The girls have been inquiring about marmalade as it is Paddington’s food of choice, so we dropped some in our cart during our weekly shopping trip. They are both big fans. I wasn’t much when I was little, but I love it now too.

I’m thinking of Mr. Popper’s Penguins for our next read-aloud. What are some of your favorites to do with young children?

paddington marmalade

In My Own Reading: Provence, 1970 — I purchased this on a whim as I needed an extra book to fill my cart on a buy two, get one free sale through B&N. It is written by the grand-nephew of M.F.K. Fisher who seems to have inherited his grand-aunt’s talent for writing, detailing the winter of 1970 and how it shifted the American way of cooking and eating due to this group of food writers that includes M.F.K., Julia Childs, James Beard, etc. Probably more of interest to the foodie set and those interested in the evolution of the food scene in America, otherwise, you might find yourself bored with so many details of the relations between these writers.

Thinking and Thinking: About making a Summer Bucket List with the girls. We have plenty of things planned {which I will add}, but it is fun to have a few spontaneous options so when we find ourselves with downtime on a Tuesday morning, we have ideas of fun to be had! What should we add?

painting each other

Pondering: “The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” ~Sylvia Plath   {Thanks to Verily.}

Carefully Cultivating Rhythm: Although we don’t have a strict schedule, and I don’t believe in one with very young children, we do have a happy rhythm to most our days which I really love. One of the most essential parts of our day is nap/quiet time. They need it, I need it.

painting in the sun

Creating By Hand: I have some teeny, tiny socks I’m working on {The needles are so tiny!!}–my first pair of socks ever–for my littlest nephew born this past Monday evening. At some point this week, I also hope to stitch up his blanket. Warmer weather has me switching into stitching project-mode rather than knitting. I just don’t feel like it much when it is so warm.

Learning Lessons In: Being easy on myself. I’ve had a heavy dose of ‘guilt’ in just about every facet of life lately, most of it completely unwarranted. It makes me less than my best when I’m thinking about all my errors {or what I perceive to be such}. And it truly has not been helpful in regards my attitude/outlook on life. Trying to turn that around. My husband helps me immensely.

sock knitting

Encouraging Learning In: We have a new Chick Fil A being built in our town. I pointed this out to Evelyn the other day. She’s ecstatic…but was a tad confused why we couldn’t go there yet. Currently, it is only framed. When I began to explain that it still needed to be built, a light bulb went off in her head. “Buildings are BUILT BY PEOPLE! They’re not just there.” So now every other question is: Who built this? When was it built? It cracks me up. 🙂

Crafting in the Kitchen: Inspired by Britt‘s Instagram post last week, we pulled out the Joy of Cooking to make our own oatmeal cookies, sans raisins, this morning. They are a definite hit.

tea time

To Be Fit and Happy: I have a rowing machine sitting in my garage that is just begging me for a good workout. We finally got a bunch of things cleared out this weekend that mean I can actually access it. Now, I just need to build up my motivation….. I’ve been inactive for too long.

Loving the Moments: Lucie’s spontaneous hugs and kisses with an ‘I wuv you’ tucked into my ear. The point at which they begin to offer affection and endearments without promptings just makes you melt into a puddle…and offer whatever treats their little hearts desire!

Living the Liturgy: The feast of the Sacred Heart is coming up this next Friday. It is one of my favorites. I’m thinking of what to do to commemorate the feast with the family.

organized simplicity lists

Planning for the Week Ahead: We have a long weekend on the horizon. We’re planning on house projects that have been put off too long. I’ve been working, piece-by-piece, on decluttering our storage office room that has become out of control. Major progress was made yesterday, so painting, new bookcases, furniture rearrangement, etc. will be possible on Saturday.

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