Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Ugg...weary...and yet....

OK, I won't lie, I'm weary of winter. February is almost over and everything is covered in deep ice and snow and I want it to be gone.  I slipped and fell on the ice yesterday and whacked my kneecap against the car. Various family members have been feeling low, whether from sickness and fever or from restlessness and lack of outdoor warmth.

Our plans were cancelled so often for thundering ice storms or blustering snow accumulation that even my introverted self felt a little isolated.  The more extroverted among us felt it more deeply.
And yet ... there's beauty intertwined with it all.  There's the warm maple-y smell of granola baking in the oven.
There's time for a sleepover for Camille and her friend,
while Sylvia and Ayla have their own sister sleepover in the living room.

There's the start of a new project...

and admiring the deer,
and spying our first robin of the year.  
Surely, he thinks spring can't be that far off, and the migrating geese seem to be in agreement.

We made a trip into the city to run errands and be with some favorite-est friends to blow off some of our cabin fever.
Camille was able to give the mittens that she knit to their intended recipient and he loved them.

Everyone enjoyed themselves thoroughly, (which made the episode of carsickness on the way home worth dealing with).

I know almost nothing about woodworking and furniture making, but there was a stack of repurposed boards calling my name and they are slowly becoming a shelving unit for our playroom. Papa used a table saw to cut them all to uniform length for me and I'm trying my hand at creating an almost 8 ft. tall by 8 ft. wide unit that will have a rod for dress up clothes to hang on, as well as hooks, a spot to slide bins into, and a removable shelf for taller items. I'm hoping to get a little more organized with all of our games, puzzles, books, craft supplies, etc.
*photo by Camille


I can say that I'm both weary of February and making the best of it anyway.  Even while there is a deep longing for springtime, there is a stillness here now that invites connection in the home. I can appreciate the child sitting on my lap on the rocking chair in front of the woodstove. I can connect during long stretches of time for playing board games and math games and rediscovering old favorite computer games (Fidget). I can revel in the mess of tangled, snuggling limbs that is my cozy bed in February.  Every girl in the house has been falling asleep in my bed watching DragonflyTV and Design Squad (on PBSKids on the Roku) every night this week. There is a feeling of hibernation, of creative ideas simmering just below the surface.  While we are awaiting the thaw, there is a need to dig a little deeper for gratitude (for me), but it's there. 



Last week, we were on a papermaking kick. We tend to do that; dive into something for a while and keep going with it, until everyone has tried out their ideas and filled up on the project, and then we drop it for altogether. Last week it was all about paper.
We've been saving up old receipts and junk mail and discarded drawings and doodlings and construction paper scraps and coloring pages and grocery lists. The first part of the process is picking the colors/textures of paper to use, then tearing or snipping them into little pieces. Then we throw them all into an old blender with plenty of water to create a paper slurry.

Whether the paper bits are chunky or finely blended  has a big effect on the final product.  We experimented with a variety of textures.
The pulpy liquid then gets poured into our 'papermill', which is essentially a four-sided wooden box with a fine mesh screen strapped to the bottom of it. The water can flow out and the paper mush gets trapped on the screen when we lift it out of the water-filled container below it.

After the box is removed from the screen, another screen is placed on top and the excess water gets sponged off. Then the wet paper is flipped onto a thick, absorbent paper called 'couch paper'.  It gets sponged and pressed again before the last screen is removed.
 In the end, we sandwich it between two couch papers and press it firmly, then let it dry.  We usually just air-dry it at that point, but we also experimented with ironing it while still damp for a more uniformly flat piece.
 Then we tried it again and again, with different colors, textures, amounts, and additions (such as glitter and dried flower petals).

We even varied the shape using an envelope 'deckle' on top of the screen.

perfect for a letter to a penpal
By the time, everyone exhausted their interest in papermaking we had a whole rainbow of beautiful recycled paper.
Do you or your kids get on kicks? What has got your interest lately?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

random doings in mid-February

Camille's Valentine's nails

Sylvia's Valentine's crown

gluten-free sweet biscuits topped with strawberries and hand-whipped cream

Camille made us a lovely Valentine's-inspired strawberry dessert. Papa and I spent part of Valentine's day resurfacing concrete.  Romantic, no? Oh, well, it was nice to be able to spend some time working together on the house.
Camille now plays saxophone in the local school band twice a week.  When I drive her into town for that, Sylvia, Ayla, and I go on mini-adventures if the weather isn't horrid.  We've checked out a hydro-electric dam, climbed on trains, walked out on the ice, or just gotten doughnuts and went to the library.

The chickens are venturing out of the coop a little more often these days with temperatures inching above freezing some days.

 full moon drive

 We're finishing up our play / homeschool / rumpus room.  It still needs trim and two more doors, but it's getting close!  It's a large L-shaped room that previously had unfinished walls and a concrete floor that was all bumpy around the edges.
 I love to bring color into the house and can be counted on to pick some wacky paint colors every time.  This room didn't turn out at all how I pictured it in my head, but if I don't come around to liking it more, it can always be repainted. I brought a lightly-faded terracotta pot into the paint store to match for the floor color, and picked a lighter shade of the same color for little accents.  I really wanted a warm earthy, forest-y feel, but the floor ended up being really orange and the accent color went almost sherbet. Ack. With the green walls and the pale blue sky, it's all a bit much, even for me.
 Maybe it'll feel right when it's laden with tables and toy bins and bookshelves and a rug and chairs and whatnot....

 a stroll around the 'neighborhood' in black and white

 a snowperson in the shade of the solar panels so it won't melt as quickly

 happy pup

 We had a cooking day today where each girl picked a project to work on.  Ayla chose granola.  We used gluten-free oats, walnuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, almonds, cashews, coconut oil, vanilla and maple syrup. Ayla cut up dehydrated apple rings (from apples from our trees) to add, as well as dried cranberries.  It turned out delicious.
  Camille made grain-free honey-sweetened 'thin mints'.  They turned out nothing like the girl scout cookie, but were tasty nonetheless.  They were chewy, chocolate-y, and rich.
Sylvia's choice was greek yogurt (in the crock pot).  It's still in the works. We've never made yogurt before, so I hope it turns out well.

I helped the juniors from Camille and Sylvia's girl scout troop make recycled paper last weekend and ever since we've been in paper production mode.  I think I'll save the rest of that process for another post.  This one is getting long.

Cheers!  Here's to bringing in lots of color and flavor and adventure in the middle of a long snowy February!