Snowballs in Late Spring – Wordless Wednesday

Yes, we have snowballs in late spring.

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I refer to this as a snowball tree, but it’s technically called Viburnum Opulus.

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I look forward to seeing it blossom every spring. It only stays in bloom for a short time.

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Enjoy your Wednesday.

Flowers for Mama – Wordless Wednesday

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When the Explorer, 6, returned from recess, he carried with him a surprise for me.  He presented me with a bouquet of fragrant wildflowers he’d picked from our yard.  😉

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“Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul.” ~Henry Ward Beecher

Nutrition Nudge


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As the warm spring wind blows away winter’s cold, I’ve decided to make some changes around here.

Throughout our day we usually have two snack sessions: the first at about 10 a.m., and the second around 3 p.m.  As you can imagine, we get our share of processed foods.  For example, we usually have granola bars, pretzels, and any number of crackers plentiful in the cupboard.  Though I have no problem with our eating of snacks, I do think we eat too many processed foods during these times.

My children do like fruit. But too often, in the rush of our busy days, crackers or pretzels are what they go for. And the lonely fruit sits and rots, forgotten in the deep dark fridge.

I’ve come up with a possible solution: I’ve decided to make our 10 a.m. morning snack be a fruit snack.  I’m not talking about fruit juice or items that contain fruit ingredients, I’m talking about eating actual fruit – bananas, oranges, grapes, apples, etc.  Just simple, refreshing real fruit.

How am I going to get my children to go along with it?  Well, not in a extreme, pushy way.

In addition to suggesting a morning fruit snack, my plan is to set out freshly washed fruit around 9:45 a.m. With shiny fruit smiling at them in a bright, colorful bowl, what’s to stop them?

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If that doesn’t work, then I’ll move on to plan B – which will be to tell them they have to eat a piece of fruit sometime before they go to bed.  They may just take the fruit early, and get it over with.

For us, I think this is a change worth making.  Imagine how much of a positive impact it could have on their growth and development if they add in another piece of fruit each day over time.  My goal is to gently and welcomingly develop better eating habits in them.  Morning snack time seems like a great time to make sure fruit is included in their day. If I’m lucky, they may even carry the habit into adulthood.

 And do you know what I’ve noticed?  They often watch me to see what I’m snacking on.  Yes, I’ll be joining them in the morning fruit snack.  No excuses for me, either.  😉

How do you encourage healthier eating habits in your family?

Fabric Art: North Woods Quilt Quest

There is an artistic side of me seeking to be remembered by the other side of me.  You know, the busy side.  Beyond the many responsibilites I have, I want to carve some time out of my day to be creative.  And so that is just what I’m doing.

I took advantage of some free time over the holiday break, and I’ve begun my lastest fabric art project.  Ever since I finished the Explorer’s Colorful Cars  quilt in November, I’ve been planning in my mind.  This will be the first of several posts regarding the North Woods quilt I’m making for the Architect, 8.  You’re welcome to follow along with me during my journey to develop this quilt [and remember my artful side] through both its trials, and hopefully, eventual success.

Design Decisions:

My son loves all things outdoors like trees, moose, bears and cabins.  I was inspired by several North Woods quilt patterns I’d seen over the years, and I’ll put them all together into a design for this twin-sized quilt.

About 8 years ago I designed this baby quilt for him, also North Woods themed.

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North Woods Baby Quilt, 2005

I prefer hand-quilted quilts, and some of my favorite quilts are those made by the Amish.   I enjoy browsing at Amish Country Lanes, and I am a big fan of their applique quilts.  The care taken in every stitch by these ladies really shows.  (I admit that the quilts I make are not quite as carefully quilted. ;))

Similar to the Amish, I also construct my larger quilts with a pillow fold, where you fold back the head of the quilt to tuck the pillow in.  Though this may add an extra 11 to 16 inches to the quilt top, I don’t mind.  Then I don’t have to make accompanying shams.

Fabric Finding:

My son and I recently made a trip to the local quilt store.  I’m fortunate to live about two miles from the coolest quilt store in the state!  Really.  The selection in this store is amazing.  We wandered around a bit, but were soon drawn to the fall colored woodsy-themed patterns.  The owner came over and helped us with choosing between a few different reds, and I was impressed with her knowledge.  For example, she advised against a lined fabric, because she said it’d be more difficult to line up the lines when piecing.  She also special ordered for us some soft fabric backing to make the quilt especially warm.  The colors of this quilt will be mostly greens, browns, and a little orange and red.

Preparing the Fabric:

I always wash my fabric before using to shrink it right away and test for color bleeding.  I just throw it in with some gentle deteregent and take it out when it’s a little damp to iron it to prepare for cutting.

Cutting With Care:

This quilt will be a combination of both machine piecing and hand applique.  Machine piecing is relatively simple, IF you are careful with cutting and 1/4″ sewing.  I fold the fabric, line up the ends, fold once more, and then I cut.  A wise person once said to measure twice, cut once.  Speaking from personal experience, I’ll tell you that that’s great advice.

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Strip cutting

Here are some of the items that I’ve found useful for cutting, especially the pizza cutter looking thing (a rotary cutter).

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Border fabric

I cut for a for about an hour or so, of course with a little music playing in the background.

There.  That’s more like it.  All done with my cutting.

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Fabric to be used box

 This is a good place to pause for now.

The next step is to start constructing the lower section.  I start at the bottom of the quilt to allow time to refamiliarize myself (make mistakes in a less noticable place) with what’s next: hand applique.  It’s the hard part.  Hand appliquing trees with inner and outer curves can be tricky, and you can bet that I’ll have to remove my threads and start again at least once. 😉

Please send your prayers or positive thoughts my way for this next step.  Thanks!

Wrapped Up in Art

I still have the quilt that my grandmother made for me when I was a child.  Though no longer in the best condition, it has a special significance and is still warm.

Over two years ago, I started a quilt for my now five year old.  But after realizing how much of my time it took, I decided that I’d finish it the next summer when I’d have more time.  Of course, when next summer came, it did not get done.

I had pretty much given up on finishing it until about a month ago.  My older three children already have a hand-made quilt from me, but my youngest son does not.  I knew I had to do something.

I mostly learned how to quilt by reading quilt books, experimenting, and especially by making and fixing lots of mistakes.  For example, I really wanted to make an eight-pointed star quilt several years ago.  I’d cut on the bias and pieced everything just as I had read in a quilt book.  But when I’d finished the final stitch, my star did not lay flat.  I felt frustrated.  Rather than give up, I got out some scrap fabric and started over – that day.  I was determined that if the lady smiling back at me on my quilt book could make this, then so could I.  But this time I was more careful and aware of the seam allowances.  And after the final stitch, it laid flat.  This was a lesson for me.

In light of my busier schedule with homeschooling, for my youngest son’s quilt I chose a simple pattern – squares and rectangles – with the theme of cars since he loves cars.

Though I pieced the quilt fairly quickly with a sewing machine, I decided that I didn’t want to machine quilt it.  (In the past, I’ve found that the machine jerks the quilt too much when quilting the final patterns.  It’s also difficult to stay on the lines.)  Instead, I prefer hand quilting because it gives me more control over the stitches and more accurate stitch results.  But the problem with hand quilting is that it takes a lot of time.

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Putting on the binding…close to being done.

So I have been waking up at 6 a.m. most mornings for the last 30 days hand quilting for an hour before everyone else gets out of bed.  (Yes, I’ve easily spent over 30 hours hand-quilting this.) At first, I wasn’t enjoying it.  I admit it.  It felt like another of my long list of things to do.  I even put myself in a routine just to get through it and get everything done.  But towards the end, something changed.  The peacefulness I felt in just having a little time to myself to think while I hand quilted made a difference in my day.  Now that I’m done, I’m even considering making another quilt.

The lesson for me in finishing this quilt was that when I put my mind to it, I finally started to get somewhere.  Making a quilt is a big project requiring a plan, time, and effort.  But the thought of having created a piece of art that my son will be able to wrap himself in for years to come makes me happy.  And now he will have his own quilt like everyone else.

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The Explorer’s birthday is this week, and guess what he is getting as one of his gifts?

Caught in a Blizzard

When we really want something, we are not easily deterred. We try everything we can think of to go over, under, or around obstacles. And when we want something bad enough, sometimes we’d rather join a caravan of denial than face the painful truth. Perhaps that is why I decided to attend a relative’s wedding this past weekend rather than let the threat of a blizzard blocking our path stop me.

I’d read an online weather report about possible bad weather near the location of the wedding. But hey, it was 70 degrees that day where I live, so whatever they were predicting – it couldn’t be that bad. I mean most big snowstorms don’t happen this early in the year. And how many times has the weather man overblown his predictions?!

I’d been looking forward to this wedding.  I’d pictured in my mind the groom on his big day with his new bride walking down the aisle.  I’d planned on a night of catching up with rarely seen family members.  I’d rewritten our homeschool plans to allow for a lighter schedule for traveling.  I’d booked hotel rooms and plotted our itinerary.  But that’s where it ended … mother nature had her own plans.

We’d made it quite a few miles down the road. There had been a little rain, but nothing serious. The kids had done their lessons, and I was feeling relieved the closer we got to our destination.  Yet I couldn’t help but notice something unusual: there were not many cars on what is normally a lively interstate.  The cows in the fields huddled together.  As we got within our final 60 miles, I began to notice eerie white sheets of freezing rain appear like fog misting around us.  The leaves on the few lonely trees along the increasingly silent road were beginning to rustle.  Over the next hill a giant flashing sign read that no travel was advised ahead.

We got off at the next exit.  While we gassed up, I spoke with some locals who warned me that others had gone ahead on that road only to end up disoriented and in the ditch.

We stopped and got a room.

From our hotel window, we watched as the weather conditions continued to deteriorate.  The snow was now coming down heavier and the wind was picking up.  About an hour later, the road that we’d arrived on was now closed ‘until further notice.’

During the middle of the night I awoke to the sound of harsh winds hitting the walls, and not long after, our electricity abruptly went out.

The next morning when we went to our continental breakfast by candlelight, I realized that some of the men and women who operate the road plows were also stranded with us in one of the worst blizzards I can remember.  I could tell from the stern looks and the serious tones that we would not be leaving the hotel that day.  And worse: the wedding was not going to happen.

For the next several days we hung out in our hotel.  At one point, the kids thought it would be great fun to go out and run around in the snow.  They tried it…and were back within 60 seconds.  The winds were so fierce that it was painful to even walk across the street to a convenience store to buy our daily, picked through junk food. The snow drifts had reached over seven feet high in some places.  Locations west of us were reporting up to 48 inches of snow.  We were caught in a blizzard.

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Card stacks designed by the Architect,8, in our hotel room.

In these types of situations, even though in the back of our minds we knew this could happen, we still feel a sense of loss. Our expectations (realistic or not) haven’t been met.  I felt so bad for the bride and groom, and I also grieved for our not being able to see them marry.

This is the time to focus on and be thankful for what we do have.  At least we did not keep going down the road and end up trapped in our car alone in a ditch.  We were stranded where we had shelter, food, and cell phones.  We had interesting conversations with others who also could not leave the area.

Eventually, the lights came back on.  We dug our cars out of snow caves. The wedding was rescheduled.

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The view from our hotel window: digging out after the blizzard.

We gained perspective in that sometimes things like this happen.  Life does not always go how we want it to; we have to make the best of whatever situation we’re given.

An Unfamiliar Path

When venturing down an unknown trail, there is always risk.  You don’t know what lies beyond.  You may encounter difficulties and dangers or you may find relaxation and enjoyment.  And when you are hiking in the Flatirons with four children, you prefer it be the latter.

Imagine: your morning journey begins by heading up a windy path into the aptly named Rocky Mountains.  You feel slight trepidation; you’ve never been up this way before.

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An Uphill Path

Further along you wade into rocky terrain that twists your ankles a bit.  The road becomes increasingly scattered with boulders as it steeps upward.  Because you have a husband and four children with you who are showing no signs of fatigue, you smile and keep moving.

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The Rocky Road

Eventually you reach the point where you can feel pain in your legs and thirst in your throat.  You pause, drink some water, and wait for a moment.  You wonder how you will get through this.  You speculate that hiking is a sport that should actually be trained for.

Just then you look up and notice something protruding from the side of the mountain.  There in front of you rests an outstretched tree root that resembles an arm.  With this ‘arm’ you pull yourself along this strenuous path.  You feel grateful and are now fascinated by this root that seems meant for you to notice.  Is this a helping arm from above – just when you needed it most?

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The Helping Arm

You trek along a bit further and notice that the path slope is gradually veering downward. You are overcome with delight and your legs are already feeling better.  You feel the warmth of your child’s hand in yours.  Did the sun just come out from behind the clouds?

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The Downhill Path

Finally, as you reach the end of the trail, you understand why you endured as you did.  You gaze out and behold breathtaking views.  You breathe in the crisp, mountain air.  You feel a gentle breeze brush your skin.  You braved the journey and feel fortunate you did not cross paths with a bear or mountain lion and that no other tragedy befell you.  You are glad you took the opportunity to embark upon this unfamiliar path.  Your family will remember this adventure for years to come.

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The Flatirons

“A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” ~ William Shedd

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