Monthly Archives: February 2016

The Evolution of Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day has changed a lot over time.  From the early years of black dresses, perfume, high heels, red roses, table-for-two… to something quite different…just as sweet but very different.  It’s become a week-long celebration with the kids, home-made valentines, pink and red M&M’s all over the house, class parties, and a not-so-quiet meal with all of us squeezed around our kitchen table eating home-made pizza and chocolate cake.  The evolution of a love story; our love story.

The week began with some valentine crafting.  The kids each planned and created valentines to share with their classmates.  Miss E has a very small class she chose to give her friends strawberry sodas with fancy straws.

Valentine's Week | In An Orchard

J wanted to make his valentines completely from scratch.  He hand-drew Minecraft cards to staple onto small bags of candy.Valentine's Week | In An Orchard

Valentine's Week | In An Orchard

G is crazy about bubble gum, so he gave each of his friends a long tube of gumballs, with fuzzy Valentine critters stuck to the ends.Valentine's Week | In An Orchard

Every year I get tulips for the kiddos’ teachers, I think tulips are the perfect spring flower and they’re usually so reasonably priced, especially compared to roses.Valentines Week | In An Orchard

I made Miss E a special skirt to wear to her class partyValentine's Week | In An Orchard

Valentine's Week | In An Orchard

On the morning of Valentine’s day Justin woke the girls up and took them to get doughnuts at Mr. T’s. Valentine's Week | In An Orchard

He came home with a beautiful bunch of flowers for me, his mom, my mom, and a single pink rose for each of the girls.  He’s amazing…Valentine's Week | In An Orchard

I dirtied every pan and bowl in my kitchen to make a double-layer chocolate cake.Valentine's Week | In An Orchard

Later that night after we got all the kids in bed, Justin and I cooked a delicious dinner of steak, creamed spinach and chocolate mousse, which we enjoyed by candle-light.  The romance isn’t dead it’s just delayed :)

With Valentine’s day came Spring.  A streak of 70 degree days and suddenly the world around us was full of blossoms, flower sprouts, open windows,…Valentine's Week | In An Orchard

…and long walks down the canal with blossoms arcing over our heads.Valentine's Week | In An Orchard

Valentine's Week | In An Orchard

The kiddos have been eating their lunch picnic-style on the back lawn.Valentine's Week | In An Orchard

Valentine's Week | In An Orchard

We did some spring cleaning too.  J volunteered to scrub all my kitchen cabinets.  Big kids are awesome!Valentine's Week | In An Orchard

We even spent the day at the beach with cousins, swimming until the sunset.
Valentine's Week | In An Orchard

Valentine's Week | In An Orchard

In completely unrelated and un-valentine’s day news; Miss P is potty training.  Her older siblings are her biggest cheerleaders. Miss E keeps her company while she sits, and her big brothers are always ready with high-fives, fist-bumps, and a hearty “Way to go Pearl!”.    Valentine's Week | In An Orchard

Speaking of Miss P; last week she woke up from nap just in time for a fresh loaf of bread to come out of the oven.  I sliced a thick slice, smeared it with butter, and handed it to her.  The girl loves her bread and butter…the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.Valentine's Week | In An Orchard

While I was snapping her picture she suddenly took an interest my camera lens. Valentine's Week | In An Orchard

She got up real close so she could see her reflection in the surface of the glass. Man I love this kid.

Valentine's Week | In An Orchard

Summer seeds arrived in the mail last week and I am daydreaming about a summertime garden and flowers all over the house.  I agreed to give up a small portion of the garden to Miss E who really wants carrots, tomatoes, and squash in our garden this year (the sacrifices we make for those we love ).

I hope your Valentine’s day was just as sweet, and thanks for stopping in  ~April

Homemade Juggling Balls

Homemade Juggling Balls | In An Orchard

Justin was pretty tickled with the kids sudden interest in juggling.  Being a self-taught juggler, I think he really fancies the idea of having his own personal juggling troupe.

After a full day of the kids wildly throwing clubs and baseballs, Justin mentioned it would be good for them to have some soft juggling balls.  Something more suitable for juggling rookies and breakable household items.  Sunday afternoon I found Justin and J in the sewing room working on their homemade juggling balls.  My plan was to make regular old bean bags for the kiddos, but Justin had a better plan.  Real, perfectly-palm-sized juggling balls.  A set of three for each of the kids.

Homemade Juggling Balls | In An Orchard

He found the free printable pattern and instructions here.  It really is such a clever pattern.  The instructions show you how to make a round ball out of a single square of fabric.  You do this by tracing the pattern onto the fabric, and then using a kind of Origami style sewing, the square almost magically becomes a sphere.  I watched Justin sew the first two just to get my barrings, and then I sat down and made 12 more.  Once you get the hang of the folding and stitching process, the balls go together so fast.  The instructions suggest sewing them by hand but I used my machine.  I don’t trust my hand-stitching enough to risk the balls bursting all over the house.Homemade Juggling Balls | In An Orchard

At first Justin was cutting the squares of fabric with scissors, but I stepped in and started cutting squares with my quilting blade and ruler.  This sped up the process considerably.Homemade Juggling Balls | In An Orchard

He also found that cutting out 1/4 of the pattern and tracing it onto the square one side at a time worked the best.  You do need to be precise with the tracing and stitching, otherwise the ball will be badly misshapen.Homemade Juggling Balls | In An Orchard

Homemade Juggling balls | In An Orchard

At first we were stuffing them with rice but we switched to millet half way through.  Rice will expand if it gets wet but millet will hold up much better to wear and tear.  We found it was best to pack them pretty firm.Homemade Juggling Balls | In An Orchard

The kids were excited about the new juggling balls.  Miss P likes them especially, and keeps stealing them from the big kids.  She has a set of her own but three isn’t enough…she must have them all!  They get put in the back of little toy cars and tractors and stuffed in play purses.  But her favorite game is what I like to call, mama bird.  She carefully makes a nest out of her special blanket, gently sets each ball in the middle of her nest, and then sits on her “eggs” with a very pleased look on her face.Homemade Juggling Balls | In An Orchard

The Week that Was

The Week that Was | In An Orchard

I think this jar of tulips perfectly reflects my state of mind this past week.  Monday came and the tulips stood beautifully tall and cheerful…The Week that Was | In An Orchard…and by Friday they looked like this, ready to throw in the towel.  Okay, that’s a tad dramatic :)  My week wasn’t horrible, but Justin was out of the country for work, and the children and I were on our own.  Truthfully, the kids were a huge help to me, working hard, obeying cheerfully, going the extra mile because they knew I needed it.  But still, being a single parent is not for the faint of heart, and our big bed is a lonely place at night.

We managed to keep ourselves busy which helped the week go quickly.

The Week that Was | In An Orchard

The girls did a simple art project with coffee filters that I cut into heart shapes.  They colored the hearts with washable markers and then sprayed them with water.  The effect was the hearts took on a pretty watercolor look, and the girls love watching as the colors spread and bleed into each other.The Week that Was | In An OrchardOnce the hearts had completely dried I took them and stitched them into a garland for their room.

The Week that Was | In An Orchard

The kitchen is the happiest and busiest room in our house.  It’s were I spend the biggest part of my day.  From schooling with each morning, cooking meals, baking cookies, even folding laundry… it’s were I spend my days and I think of all the rooms in the house, it reflects my personality the most.
The Week that Was | In An Orchard

I’ve been experimenting with sourdough these last few weeks.  Feeding my starter each day; getting it nice and bubbly and tangy.The Week that Was | In An OrchardI’ve tried several new recipes all of which I found on King Arthur’s Flour website.  Some recipes were delicious and some ended up in the garbage can (too brick-like to be consumed by humans). I should note the failed recipes were a result of human error, not a badly written recipe.

The Week that Was | In An Orchard

The kiddos played outside in the evenings, right until the sun dipped behind the horizon.The Week that Was | In An Orchard

Winter sunsets are so striking.The Week that Was | In An Orchard

On Friday morning we went with our Homeschool Co-op to see the Gizmo Guys preform at the Gallo Preforming Arts center.The Week that Was | In An Orchard

It was such a fun show!  The Gizmo Guys are a team of jugglers who preform fantastic juggling fetes and then explain the science behind the trick.  The kids were so impressed with their talents!  As we walked out of the show and all three of them were excitedly talking over each other, wanting to relive their favorite parts of the show; I interrupted and said, “You know your dad can do almost every juggling trick the Gizmo Guys did, plus a few others.  He can even juggle knives and torches.” Their eyes grew wide with excitement; “Do you think he’d do those tricks for us?!!  Would he teach us how to juggle?!”The Week that Was | In An Orchard


By Friday night I was ready for an easy evening.  We were on the home stretch; Justin would be arriving home that night around midnight.  I let the kids eat popcorn, cheese, and fruit for dinner, and we rented a movie to watch.  Justin surprised us by coming in the backdoor at 9:30 instead of midnight.  He came baring gifts from France; a small box of French pastries, and lavender sachets for the girls.

The next morning as soon as Justin had finished his breakfast and coffee the children were begging to see him juggle!  He found his bag of juggling things in the shed and put on a good show for them.
The Week that Was | In An Orchard

This led to juggling lessons and things being wildly tossed in the air for the rest of the day :) The Week that Was | In An Orchard

The Week that Was | In An Orchard


I  got my Sweet Pea seeds soaked and planted in my small greenhouse boxes.  If all goes well, I’ll have 144 Sweet Peas to plant in the ground in about 6 to 8 weeks.The Week that Was | In An Orchard


On Saturday night Justin and I got an unexpected date night thanks to my brother and sister-in-law; who played with, and fed, and loved on our kids; while we had a delicious hot meal and uninterrupted conversation.  I even got dressed up much to the amazement of the children.
The Week that Was | In An Orchard

Sunday morning Justin got up before the children were awake, and made us homemade sausage McMuffins.The Week that Was | In An Orchard

I enjoyed my coffee and watched him create magic.  I like a man who knows his way around a kitchen.  He even cleaned up when he was done.The Week that Was | In An Orchard

The Week that Was | In An Orchard

The McMuffins were a huge hit with the whole family, and were so much better than anything I’ve ever bought at McDonald’s :)  They’re never going to want to eat toast and cereal again.The Week that Was | In An Orchard

Here’s a few things I’m enjoying right now:

We started listening to Anne Of Green Gables last week.  I suggested it mostly for mine and Eliza’s enjoyment, and was surprised to look over and see Justin chuckling, and equally surprised when the boys begged to hear more each time a chapter would finish. (We listen to lots of free audio books on LibriVox

This blog is one of my current favorites.  I’m not a knitter, but I never get tired of seeing yarn on needles being made into something beautiful and cozy.  Ginny’s dreamy photography, and gentle way of writing is so appealing to me.  For those of you who do love to knit, she also has a small online shop were she sells her hand-dyed yarn, and I don’t think I have ever seen such gorgeous colors in my life.

Floret Farms has been a longtime favorite blog as well (I also love their Instagram account). But they just recently launched their own online seed and bulb shop, and I am smitten with everything they sell. Their Sweet Pea seed selection is probably one of the best in the country.

And that’s all from our home this week.  We turned another page of the calendar and the children are dreaming up ideas for Valentine’s day, I’m already thinking about summer flowers, and hoping to get our chicken coop fixed up for a new batch of spring chicks.