Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Handmade Holiday 2013 -- Made

We're still living in a wintery wonderland here. 

If natural disasters had a beauty contest, ice storms would win, hands down.

But on to the handmades.

This was a very un-handmade Christmas, at least from my end.

The only things I made were two pairs of felted mittens for E and Z (and since I've been meaning to make them for about three years, I'm not even sure if they count...).

Z has been very into herbalism lately, so for the grandparents, he and I (with some help from M and E), made a tea mix of our own invention (Winter Warming Tea: peppermint, lemon balm, crushed cinnamon stick, lavender, whole coriander seeds) plus eucalyptus chest rub and slippery elm throat lozenges (recipes in Rhythm of the Family).

And for his Auntie E, E knitted up this cozy neck warmer of rainbow baby alpaca yarn.

And this doesn't really count as a gift, but my grandmother from Austria used to make linzertorte every Christmas, and while I've never been able to get my hands on her original recipe, I've always made one using an old Martha Stewart recipe. This year I decided to make the crust a little healthier (minus butter and egg), and experimented using this crust recipe. It turned out really delicious, and much easier (and less tough) than the recipe I normally use. It's going to stay in my holiday baking repertoire for sure.

Happy New Year to you all! Stay warm and I'll be back Thursday with the handmades received! 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Things--Sparkly




Too many presents.

Boys in pajamas all Christmas day.

Too much food.

Z making the world's biggest fruit salad.

Visits and visitors.



Very grateful to be off-grid and safe from power outages that afflicted so many, and happy to see the sun come in for just one day to melt snow and ice off the solar panels. Back to work today, which is a drag, but more snow means a quiet, wintry weekend ahead. Trying to not feel that let-down and restlessness that comes on after Christmas. Happy Boxing Day and Second Day of Christmas, friends.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Weekend Things--Winter Solstice

We had a fairly relaxing weekend, considering it was the last one before Christmas. 

Saturday, we went to the Victorian Christmas at the WW&F Railway museum down the road. 

Where the boys were a bad influence on all the little kids with their nonstop snowball-throwing. 

And Santa promised them plenty of coal.

Ice came during the night.

It had been too rainy Saturday night for our Solstice rituals, so we watched a movie instead (trying to get these kids to watch a Christmas movie is almost as hard as getting them to take baths...they just want me to read to them, instead. Don't they understand the true meaning of Christmas is Christmas specials???).

And we went out Sunday, instead, to feed the birds the seed ornaments and popcorn strings we had made the day before.

And hiked down to the river before the trees started breaking for a bonfire.

M helped me make some peanut better balls and peppermint bark--with somewhat disastrous results (melted chocolate from spilled peanut butter balls rolling all over the freezer, slightly browned white chocolate, peppermint candy exploding all over the kitchen), but the results tasted pretty good, and since we're not planning on giving any away, it doesn't matter how they look, right?.

M played Christmas DJ all weekend (for some reason, all of the Christmas music on my computer is Chris Isaac, Willie Nelson, EmmyLou Harris and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, so it was a very country Christmas all weekend), E suddenly discovered--and became obsessed with--Mad Libs, and Z wrote and then typed up the world's most elaborate fruit salad recipe (I think there were 40 kinds of fruit in the end). 

Hope your stockings are hung in anticipation of whatever is to come! Happy holidays and lengthening days to you, my friends!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Some Things Do Get Easier

You know how when you have a crying little baby (or two), and everyone you see keeps saying, "It gets easier every day," (except that one person who said, "It gets easier for about two years, and then it gets harder until they're about five, and then it's easier again until they're teenagers,")? And as you go along, you find that, yeah, maybe it gets a little less physically demanding, maybe, but when the kid has a mouthful of potting soil or has climbed on the kitchen counter to get the big knife, it doesn't really seem all that much easier? And then they get older, and maybe you don't have to watch them that closely, so that's kind of easier, but everything's more complicated, like logistics of getting them from here to there and helping with homework and should you make them eat everything on their plate or just try one no-thank-you bite and how, exactly, are you supposed to handle sibling squabbles, anyway? And you think it doesn't get easier at all, only different. 

But some things, some things do get easier. 

Like ice skating.

I always thought I'd be the mom to get the kids out on skis and ice skates and backpacking in the mountains when they were little tots, but it's not that easy. In what was probably my worst idea ever, I took M to meet a friend at the outdoor ice rink in Augusta when he was four and the twins were eight months old. I got M into his skates, and me into my skates, and the twins into their double jogging stroller, and we all got about four yards out on the ice when M, who had been fully convinced he would do "twirls" like Brian Boitano, fell down and cried. And cried. And cried. And there I was, unstable on skates, with two babies in a stroller and a four-year-old wailing on his back on the ice.

We did not try skating again for a very, very long time. But now? Now we just walk down to the neighbor's pond, help lace up skates, and they skate. They fall down and get up and skate some more. No crying. No stress. Definitely easier.

Another thing that's easier: Making cookies.

I used to tie aprons around all three kids and pile them all into the learning tower and then manage the equitable measuring of ingredients. I guess it was fun. And no one lost a finger to the Kitchenaid, but it was a little stressful. Not so relaxing. Now? Now whoever is around and in the mood drags over the step stool and digs in. No more learning tower to stub my toe on (and to be in the way of the cabinet where all the bowls and measuring cups live). No more tussles over whether a teaspoon of vanilla is equal to a cup of sugar in terms of measuring equality. Also, they can arrange to cookie cutters to maximize dough usage. Much easier.

Another thing that's easier? 

Getting in the car when it's thirteen degrees below zero and turning the key and turning the key and pressing the gas and lifting off the gas and praying for the exact combination of turning and pressing and lifting that will get the damn thing to start and not having any babies in the backseat taking off their boots and socks, which was their favorite thing to do the winter they were little, which seemed to be a record winter for cold mornings and cars that didn't start and got stuck in snowbanks. Now, when the car doesn't want to start in the morning, they've already put on their own snowpants and coats and boots and hats and gloves and walked themselves up the driveway to catch the bus. 

Much, much easier.
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