My thought for the week: Listening to bloggers having angst about their blog, is on my top 10 list of pet peeves. So I’m walking a fine line here, when I say I’ve had doubts from time to time about having my own blog. The world of personal blogs can be so warped, and unhealthy; where we all read about each other’s lives though a very small, but public window. I see the subtle and erosive effects this can have on my own mind, and the way it can distort reality; not only in the way I see my own life but lives of other woman and mothers. Am I contributing to the “my life is better than your life” mentality that plagues social media? When thoughts like this begin to roll around in my brain I ask myself, “Is it time to set this down and walk away?”
But at the end of the day, what I keep coming back to is the heart and soul of this little blog; the place where I narrate the story that unfolds in front me, day after precious day. My heart tells me that’s worth something. For 8 years now this is the place I have written our story, the small victories, the tough days, the milestones, the sad moments, the funny stories… it’s all right here for us to look back on when these days have become memories. So I think I’ll keep at if for a while longer, and I hope you feel welcome to enjoy the journey with us.
We are entering year number two for the cutting garden, and this year’s garden is going to be stunning! At least that’s the way I have pictured it in my head, over and over, all winter long
Justin made my flower boxes for me last spring, just in time to plant dahlias, and summer cutting flowers. Unfortunately, it was already too late in the season for spring cutting flowers, bulbs, or rose bushes. While I completely enjoyed my summer flowers, I was looking forward to getting an early start on the cutting garden, by having a crop of spring flowers that would transition into summertime. This fall I was able to plant 50 daffodil bulbs and 4 varieties of sweet peas. All 50 bulbs have come up and I’ve been able to bring small bundles of daffs and snapdragons in the house! The sad news is only 2 of my 4 varieties of sweet peas germinated. SO disappointing! I held back 4 packages of sweet peas and started them a couple of weeks ago in peat pots. I have them tucked away in a nice place on the back porch. If they germinate and transplant well I could end up with 6 varieties of sweet peas and two harvests! But you know the old saying “Don’t count your seedlings before they sprout…”
The weather has be gorgeous. We have beautiful spring-times here in the valley but this spring has outdone it’s self. This week I took the opportunity to turn over the beds and amend the soil. The soil in my beds is a little too sandy, so it needed some compost and garden soil added to it, along with a some fertilizer.
Naturally I had my gardening assistant with me. She likes dirt. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
I realized too late that I had purchased two seed varieties that should have been sown in the fall along with the sweet peas. Apparently Larkspur and Nigella like to be tucked in the ground through the winter, at least in climates that have mild winters (like the winters we have here in California). I got them in the ground as soon as I realized my mistake. I’m hoping that the month of cold nights will be enough to get them started.
Here’s a glimpse at my “spring-time bed”. I’ve dedicated this bed to spring flowers. I’ll be able to use it again mid summer to sow a second harvest of sunflowers and zinnias (if all things go according to plan!)
These beautiful English ladies will be joining the garden this spring and I am absolutely giddy about it. Giddy I tell you! I’ve been in love with David Austin roses for as long as I can remember. They are the quintessential English cabbage rose. They are so old-fashioned, dreamy and romantic looking. I know it’s just my personal bias but I think hybrid tea roses looks so sterile and boring next to these beauties. If you’d like to spend an hour of pure happiness just stop by the David Austin website and feast your eyes on rose heaven! The website also has a link to nurseries throughout the U.S that sell their roses. I got my at The Greenery in Turlock, CA. These gals will stay put in their pots until the first week of April, when they will move to their permanent home in the cutting garden. I plan on planting herbs around them. There are quite a few herbs that make wonderful greenery in flower arrangements (but more on that later).
And this is the cutting garden as of this moment. Spring bulbs shooting up, sweet peas just beginning to vine, Nigella and Larkspur freshly planted, and the beds being turned over and the soil being amended. This is shot you will see a lot this summer. I thought it would be fun to document the garden’s changes by taking this same picture throughout the season and posting it here on my blog. I hope you don’t mind, but the blog will, now and again, function as my personal garden journal. This is the most convenient place to record the successes and failings of the garden. It really is such a learning process but I’m loving every step of the way!
The summer lineup has been chosen (mostly, there might be a few last minute additions). I’ve got the seeds sorted into groups. One of the key elements of flower gardening is figuring out which seeds need to be started and transplanted, and which should be sown directly into the soil.
I’ve been reading Sarah Raven’s “Grow Your Own Cut Flowers” book and learning so much about cut flowers.
Anyway, if you’re interested, here is a list of the summer flowers that I’ve chosen for the 2015 season (click on the links if you’d like to see a photo of the flower and read up on it):
Bachelor Buttons (these did wonderfully in last year’s garden and I’m putting in twice as many in this year)
Billy Balls (or Sun Balls) these are really popular flowers right now, and I couldn’t resist trying to plant some. These need to be started and then transplanted after the last frost. I’m very curious to see if these will grow in my zone.
Hare’s Ear- this is a beautiful “filler greenery” that I have often purchased from local floral shops. The texture and yellow-green color of this plant is stunning in floral arrangements. This seed is a gamble, but I’m hoping it pays off in a big way (I’ll keep you updated).
Cosmos- these are so easy to grow! Usually. Last year they gave me fits and refused to bloom, but normally they are delightful to have in the garden. I’m hoping the improvements I made to the soil will solve my cosmos woes this time around. I purchased several varieties; “double click” mixture, “sea shell” cosmos, and the standard “Sensation mix”
Sunflowers- naturally. No cutting garden would really be complete without cutting sunflowers. I got four packs of Renee’s Garden sunflowers.
I still remember my mom planting snapdragons that spring. I was four and she was adding pansies and snapdragons to the flowerbeds in front of the garage. I was at her side as usual.
“Do you know why these are called Snapdragons April?”
I shook my head as she bent over and plucked a small flower from the plant. She gently held the bloom between her thumb and forefinger and gave it a little squeeze. Much to my delight the little flower’s mouth opened and closed.
“Because it looks like a little dragon’s head and it’s mouth opens and closes”, she said as she smiled and put the flower in the palm of my hand.
We are so quick to remember the harm a careless word or action can cause our children. We worry and fret about the damage we might cause, and the impact it could have on their lives. But there is redemption in the small things. You may be flawed but to them you are magical. You are the keeper of secrets; you open the world up to them one small discovery at a time. You are mom. You sooth the hurts, you take the ordinary and make it memorable. The way a common field clover can make a crown, the names of the flowers growing in the yard, putting the crayons in rainbow order, pouring root beer over the ice cream, reading that picture book again, slicing strawberries and eating them over the sink, chalk on the sidewalk…all those little memories that have the power to tip the scales. Love fills in the gaps.
Make those mistakes, it’s going to happen. Ask for forgiveness. Remember that there are hundreds of ways to say “I love you”. Keep saying it. When it’s all said and done, and by the grace of God, your children will remember a home that was love, a home that was safe. That’s my prayer anyway.
Our family has been very blessed to be apart of a Homeschooling co-op ever since my oldest son started kindergarten. It’s been an idyllic situation for our children. Several days a week the kiddos are in a classroom of 8-10 students being taught math, reading, language arts, choir, and PE by their teachers, and part of the week they are taught at home by me. I also do reading, as well as science, and Social Studies.
This school year things have been a little different. My second born son G and I, started homeschooling full time. His co-op class got so small that we weren’t able to keep it going. I decided to homeschool G while the other two children continued to be apart of the co-op. I’ll be honest, I went into this year with a good amount of nervousness, but G and I have had such a fun year together! Not that there haven’t been moments, or even days, that didn’t go smoothly, but mostly it’s been a joy to be his teacher.
My best friend Stephanie also has a daughter in the same grade as G. When we both realized that we would be homeschooling them for their Second Grade year, we decided to do some tag-team teaching. We chose our curriculum together, planned out our school year together, and every Friday we take turns teaching both children. It’s been a great arrangement. I love that both the children get to spend time together, and it’s nice to have every other Friday off. I think it’s been good for G to be taught by someone else on a regular basis, I feel like Stephanie gives me good feedback on G’s progress. On the days that G goes to Steph’s house, I send all his schoolwork for the day, and Stephanie plans a special science project with the kiddos in the afternoon. On the days that I have the kids, I do an Art History project with them. I have LOVED this time with G and C. So far we’ve studied Kandinsky, Van Gogh, and Jackson Pollock. We’ve also studied perspective, blending colors, hues, saturation, background, middle-ground, and foreground.
This past week we did a study on Claude Monte. Our project was to replicate one of his water lily paintings. This has been my favorite art lesson so far. We worked on it throughout the school day, doing one step at a time. This project needed to be done in layers; giving time for each step to dry before we could move onto the next.
First thing Friday morning, I took a stack of coffee filters and dyed them pink and green. I did this by sticking the coffee filters in a bowl of water and food coloring. Then I set the stack of filters on a cookie sheet, and stuck them in the oven set to the very lowest heat setting. The coffee filters were soaked and I needed them to be dry for the project.
Once they had dried out in the oven, I stacked them up and set them aside.
At the start of the school day, I gave each of the kiddos a square canvas. I wanted the water background to have an interesting texture, so I had the children dip strips of tissue paper in glue and press the paper onto the canvas.
The glue was mixed with water, otherwise it would have been too thick for the delicate tissue paper. As they were adding the tissue paper I told them to think about what water looked like. The way it flowed in one direction, or the way little waves looked on the surface of the water. After they added the tissue paper there was a lot of excess glue on the canvas, so I took a dry paper towel and blotted the extra glue away from the canvas.
Once the tissue paper had completely dried (which took several hours) I filled a paint pallet with 4 or 5 different shades of blue paint and a little bit of white paint. This is not children’s washable paint. I used inexpensive artist-grade acrylic paint for this project. The color selection and texture of the paint is better than the washable, craft-grade tempura paint. I had them wear old t-shirts to protect their clothing.
I tried not to interfere too much with this part of the process. The only instructions I gave them was to cover the entire canvas in blue paint. They painted directly over the canvas and the dried tissue paper. I let them look at photos of Monte’s water lily paintings and encouraged them to think about water and what it looks like.
I love the way the water turned out! The texture the tissue paper created, and all the different shades of blue with white high-lights, looked amazing. I liked the blue canvas so much that I was tempted to leave just them blue.
This is the brand of paints I used for the project. It’s the cheapest line at Michael’s. They were $3.99 per tube but I got them 30% off. There was plenty of paint left over to use on other projects.
I cut the coffee filters into several sizes of lily pad shapes. We made the flowers by pinching the bottom of the pink and white filters together.
We used plain ole Elmer’s glue to add the lilies to the canvas.
This is G’s Water Lily painting
And this is C’s painting
I’m so pleased with the way they turned out! The kiddos were very diligent and patient with the whole process, and I think they were pretty proud of the end result.
I start each lesson by introducing the artist to the children. We learn about the artist’s work, art genre and medium, and we do a brief biography of the artist’s life. For our Monet study I found three great videos on Youtube. If I manage to coordinate a library trip before hand (which rarely happens) I’ll have biography books on hand for them to flip through as well.
The first clip is biography video about the life of Claude Monet, narrated by a young girl.
The second video is a tour of Monet’s garden at Giverny, France. This was my personal favorite. It made me realize how blessed we are to live in this day and age, with the kind of information we have at our fingertips. We sat in our living room and took a virtual tour of Claude Monte’s gardens! An amazingly beautiful and popular tourist attraction. It also made me realize how much I would love to see Monte’s gardens with my own eyes.
And the last is just a clip showing a variety of the paintings he painted over the course of his life.
This this just a small glimpse into my homeschooling lesson. Not everyday is this creative, but it’s projects like this that make learning enjoyable for both G and I.
These little ladies went to their first real tea party at a tea house. It was the only thing Miss E talked about the week leading up to the tea party. ”Is today the day we go to have tea Momma?”
Finally the day did arrive. Miss E wore her new dress and tights proudly. It was raining that day which might have put a damper on the whole trip, but really it only made it more special and memorable. We were seated in the sun-room at the tea house and the rain pattered on the roof and windows. We were cozy inside with our warm tea and delicious food.
The tiny stirring spoons were a big hit with the little girls! Being able to add your own sugar and cream to a real cup of tea was a rare treat.
Did I mention that the food was amazing? It was. There wasn’t a thing set before us that wasn’t absolutely delicious. The name of the tea house is Columbia Kate’s and if you are ever in the foothills near Sonora/Columbia CA, you must stop in and have tea! Do not leave without trying the macaroons. That’s an order!
After tea we set out to explore the town and the shops
Even little girls who go to tea and wear fancy dresses can’t resist a good mud puddle…
We wandered through Historic Columbia (a small mining town in the foothills that has been preserved), we bought candy at Nelson’s Candy store, visited the antique stores, and ended the day with a good cup of coffee and a scone for the road.
Back at home, the fresh rain made for the perfect opportunity to give the cutting garden a good cleaning.
I turned over the beds, weeded, and admired the daffodils and sweet peas that were coming up. I also finalized and ordered all my seeds for the summer (but more on that later)
Does your bed look like this on Mondays? Mine always does.
The house became Valentine’s Day central this past week as the kids worked hard making cards and gifts for their classmates and teachers
These were the Valentines the boys and Miss E made to give out at their class parties. I should mention that the children all have very small class sizes, otherwise we would have picked much simpler projects!
I know that right now much of the country is covered in snow and ice, but here in our little corner of the world, it’s spring… and it is breath-taking.
We spent a Sunday afternoon walking around in the almond blossoms. I wanted to get a sweet picture of the kids in the orchard. In my head I imagined a scene with smiling children huddled together under a bower of blossoms…
It never turns out that way. Besides funny is way more memorable right?!
Thank you for stopping by and visiting this space, for saying hello, your presence here brings a smile to my face! Gratefully yours, April
Last week the sewing room was covered in sewing projects for the girls, but with so many little ones being born this winter and spring, it was time to set all that aside and start sewing for babies.
Making things for my own babies is what made me first fall in love with sewing. I never mind having an excuse to sew for babies, it feels like coming home again. It brings back all those sweet (and not too distant) memories of having a newborn in the house and all the little things that go with those tiny beings.
My very first sewing project as a mommy was making bibs for my oldest son. Over the years I’ve used many different bib patterns, types of fabric, and fasteners.
These two were my attempt at making gender neutral bibs. I’m not very good at gender neutral. They tend to all come out a little masculine looking. These are both made from “vintage” Amy Butler farics. I’ve had these in my fabric stash for 9 years now. Amy Butler’s beautiful fabric lines were another reason I fell in love with sewing.
There are lots of ways to make a simple project look special. Small ribbon tags, top-stitching, lovely fabric, and vintage buttons.
These bibs are backed with super soft cream Minki fabric. I like having soft things to put on my babies.
This small diaper clutch is another project I like to make for friends. It’s free tutorial from a sewing blog I absolutely love, Noodlehead. Ana has long been one of my favorite sewing bloggers and her tutorials are hands down, the best.
I used more of my Amy Butler fabric and paired it with some natural linen-blend fabric. I like using a soft color pallet when I’m sewing for newborns.
The diaper clutch is such a quick sew, and it’s easy to get an assembly line going and make 2 or 3 in an afternoon. What mom doesn’t need a pretty diaper holder to keep unruly diapers from taking over the diaper bag? It’s a must. When you pair the clutch with several bibs, you’ve got the perfect baby shower gift.
Embellished onesies also make a great gift. It’s a simple thing to do, but babies live in onesies for the first few months of their lives, they might as well be fun. There are so many clever ways to dress up a plain white onesie. Just do a Pinterest search, and you’ll be scrolling for hours.
One of my favorite ways to embellish a onesie is using stamps and fabric paint.
I’ll give you a quick walk through:
Before I begin any sewing project I pre-wash and dry all my fabric and onesies
1. Start with some solid, light-colored fabric. I’m using the same natural linen-blend I used to make the bibs and the clutch. Brush your favorite stamp with a light, even layer of fabric paint, and stamp it onto the fabric.
2. Trace a 1/2 inch boarder around the image and cut out.
3. Use your iron to heat set the images. You do this by turning the iron up to its highest heat setting and holding it on the fabric for a few moments.
4. Then use the iron to fold under a 1/4 inch of the fabric on all sides.
5. Pin the fabric carefully to the front of the onesie and sew around the edge. Make sure you keep the stitching close to the edge of the fabric. Because the onesies are so small (especially the NB size), sewing the patch on can be a little tricky. Just take your time. Keep checking the underside to make sure you aren’t catching the back of the shirt in the stitching.
In the space of a few hours you can make a half dozen little shirts. Sometimes I make a stack and keep them in the sewing room to use as last minute baby gifts.
If, my friends, you have been tempted to take up sewing as a hobby (and I highly recommend it), these baby projects are a great place to start! The bib is an especially good place to start. The pattern is free, the sewing skills required are basic, and if the button and buttonhole scare you, just do what I did when I was first making them… use extra strong Velcro. You can do this! And the pleasure you get from seeing your little one in something you made especially for them, is a great feeling!