Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Winter Warmth in Spring

I'm almost always cold and am constantly seeking out warmth. I always want to sit by a fireplace. Our last house had one and for a while I didn't want to look at houses that didn't have one. I quickly realized that was a bit ridiculous. When we found this house I was very excited to see that the previous owners had put in a stove pipe for a wood stove. They had taken the wood stove with them, but had left the fixture from the ceiling through the roof. Over the next couple of years my husband and I debated whether we had the room for a wood stove. We talked about putting in a fireplace in the corner. We've had so many great conversations about possible changes we could make to this house; it's such a blank slate. 

After having multiple snow days this winter we decided to get one. I picked up a few brochures at a local family owned shop on day in January and that evening it snowed 8". We were snowed in for the next week. We spent that snowy week drooling over those european wood stoves, wishing one was already in our home. We picked one out, only to find out it was on back order. We chose a different one, much smaller, only to hear that not only was it also on back order but it was the 'most popular stove in the world.' We decided to stick with it and wait. I kept calling, trying to get an idea of when it would come in. I didn't hear anything. We were frustrated. Six weeks later, after complaining and complaining, we finally got it. As it was delivered we were told that we were lucky because they're still on back order and the other one they received had fallen off the truck and had cracked. The squeaking wheel gets the grease! I'm so glad I kept calling.

Now it is officially spring, temperatures are warming up, flowers are blooming, and we now have this wonderful wood stove. Neither of us had ever built a fire in a wood stove before and wrongly assumed it was the same as a fireplace. It isn't! It's so much easier. You pack it full of kindling, paper, and dry logs, light it and close the door. That's it. It puts out so much heat when it gets going. I'm actually looking forward to next winter already so I can keep a fire going all day. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Sigh, It's Still Winter

Highs and lows of the last few days

Lows: kid stomach flu leading to lots of laundry, excessive tv consumption and parental sleep deprivation, also waking up to snow falling Monday morning.

Highs: kid learning how to puke successfully in a bowl (!), the shelves that Vincent built for the kitchen that make it feel finished, blooming quince branches from the backyard.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A Hope of Spring

Tomorrow is March 1st and we are all feeling quite ready for spring to begin. The garden is tilled and ready to be planted. Vincent built that lovely cold frame box at the foot of the garden for me, so I can harden off the seedlings I start inside.

The finishing touches were put on our new kitchen pass through/counter and it is now the most popular spot in the house. One morning I heard the kids get up and I found them both sitting on stools in the dark, waiting for breakfast to magically appear on the counter. We all love it. Now someone can sit and chat with me while I cook. Before, friends would, understandably, drag chairs into the kitchen and, unfortunately, be in the way. Now it's much more inviting.

Gianna has been creating books lately. She staples the pages together and then writes and illustrates them. If she finishes her story but still has a page or two left she adds an authors note, which includes the list of all the other books she has written. It's so cute. Our favorite is called "I Love My Family." In it she lists how much she loves everyone: Daddy to the moon and back, Mom as much as gold, little brother as much as money, the cat as much as a pearl and herself as much as a ruby. I was so happy to see that she included herself. I hope she holds onto that love for the rest of her life.

Last week I read Hillbilly Elegy. It was compelling and well written. I've been listening to Rebecca Solnit's Hope in the Dark which is uplifting, beautifully written and makes me well up with tears frequently because I'm one of those people (overly sentimental) that cries at anything sweet, sad or good: commercials, movie trailers, community parades... I'm looking forward to some serious (non-emotional) escapism with Big Little Lies.

Sunday, February 12, 2017


It has warmed up about ten degrees and the sun has come out. I think we are experiencing our annual February Fake-out, where I think spring has arrived, but really it's just a tease and there are months of cold and rain ahead. The other day I left the house without wearing a coat and I wasn't cold!

This weekend has been spent mainly at home. Yesterday Vincent and Gianna put the kitchen cabinets back into their rightful place in the kitchen. I cooked a delicious meal of roasted chicken with mustard garlic butter and onion gravy, broccoli and a salad. I hadn't made gravy in years. It was so good and easy. I don't know if I'll ever make a roast chicken without gravy again. Next time I'll serve it with mashed potatoes to catch all that gravy. Last Thursday I baked a Citrus Yogurt cake with a lemon and orange zest glaze. The flavor was sweet, tangy, and bright at the same time. The cake lasted a day and a half, only because I was strictly rationing it out. When it was gone I mentioned perhaps making cookies next and was told that I really should just make this same cake again. Sounds like it was a winner!

While the kitchen was getting put back together (the finishing touches are almost complete on the remodel!) Dean and I were outside checking in on the garden. We weeded and cleared downed branches. I'm hoping to get the soil tilled before the rain starts again. It was so good to be in the sun, breathing fresh air and spying signs of spring. The quince buds and daffodils poking out of the ground are so uplifting. Our cat even enjoyed herself with the catnip plant.

I went to a little community knitting group this morning. It was fun to meet some new knitters and crocheters. We picked up Brownie Groundhog and the Wintry Surprise from the library on Friday. It is sweet and I love the illustrations. It would be a good one to add to our Winter/Christmas book stash that comes out of storage each December. Is it strange that I want the fox's sweater?

Monday, February 6, 2017

Let The Sun Shine

Friday morning greeted us with a mini ice storm that cancelled school. Saturday brought a fever for Gianna and an unending marathon of My Little Pony. Sunday brought a contractor who cut a hole in our dining/kitchen wall. We've been wanting to make this change ever since we bought this house. It's amazing how different it feels. The light from the living room is flowing into the otherwise dark kitchen. The various drawers are stashed in the dining room and garage, and the counter top is on sawhorses but it's only temporary and totally worth this little inconvenience. I can't wait to see it all finished!

Before the contractor arrived yesterday I spent the morning putting beef stew into the Instant Pot to slow cook all day and assembling a lasagna for tonight. When Gianna, who didn't eat anything but maybe one saltine yesterday, saw me making the lasagna she said, "Will you please save a piece for me because I just don't think I can eat it tonight." She was so sad and then was delighted to hear I was saving it for the next night (tonight). She is much perkier today and is looking forward to dinner.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Looking For The Bright Side

To be honest, I've been in a funk ever since the election last November. I stopped knitting, found cooking dinner to be a chore, and have been really upset in general. I'm still upset (and don't foresee that changing any time soon based on the events of the last week and a half), however I am also choosing to channel my frustrations into action, no matter how small, and look for the good in life.

How I'm staying informed: Listening to political podcasts such as Pod Save America, Slate Political Gabfest, NPR Politics Podcast, and Face The Nation. Reading as much of The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate and The Atlantic online that I can.

How I'm balancing out the potential for information overload which leads to more stress/worry: starting up knitting again, lots and of spontaneous dance parties with the kids to Gianna's new favorite song "Can't Stop The Feeling" by Justin Timberlake, spending more time with friends face to face, embracing the school fundraiser night at the local pizzeria, looking forward to Ryan Adams' new album later this month, and engaging in some fanciful escapism while listening to the Anne Rice classic Interview with the Vampire. I haven't read it since I was in junior high. I devoured the whole series years ago.  Also, lots and lots of cute cat videos.

How I'm taking action: monthly donations to our local chapters of Planned Parenthood (who provided me with years of healthcare in my twenties and thirties), the ACLU and the International Rescue Committee. We also set up a monthly donation to the Neighborhood House, which is a local organization dedicated to "helping low-income, recent immigrant and other vulnerable people overcome challenges so they can achieve success, stability and independence." I think supporting national causes is important, but local groups are just as important and tend to get overlooked, especially when big things are happening nationally. The best news was discovering that my husband's employer will match our monthly contributions. I have been writing postcards to my representatives, urging them to keep up the good fight! Taking my kids to a neighborhood peace march was a great way to spread love on inauguration day while teaching them to support our values (love, peace, equality) instead of simply booing the opposing side. In addition to bringing my own grocery bags to the store, I've gone a step further and have been bringing my own jars to fill with bulk food instead of filling plastic bags and containers. It's such a tiny thing to do, but I love not contributing as much recycling and garbage to the planet. I've also been diligently planning this year's garden. Audrey Hepburn said, "To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow" and I agree. Here's hoping for brighter days in the future.