Puddles and Pinecones

Over the weekend the weatherman predicted torrential rain storms, flooding, and then to top it all off, ice. Well, it did rain, a very drizzly cold rain that did do a little flooding, and raised the rivers and creeks a little bit higher. We had plans to stay inside and do fun things there for most of the day and night, but..we couldn’t resist a little splashing in puddles first!

Wyatt wears AFO’s – braces for his feet to help him stand stronger when he is working on walking and standing. We love his braces, they are great tools to help him. But they also make it hard to buy shoes and boots, boots especially, as we can’t really manipulate his foot into one with the stiff braces. But we found that Butler boots have enough give in them that they slide fairly easily right over the braces – so we ordered him a pair of bright cheery yellow boots, his favorite color, and perfect for adding some sunshine to a dreary day. Then it rained and we got our wish to go stomp around in the puddles!

The cutest little stomp and splash ever!

While we are all excited that we found boots that work with his needs, Wyatt is more excited about the fact that he now has gumboots like the character and kids on one of his favorite shows, Scout and the Gumboot Kids! This very morning while we were watching one before school (they are short and perfect for a moment like this!) Wyatt went and got his boots out and started putting them on, just like Scout and the Gumboot Kids. Gumboots are another name for rain boots, or wellies, whatever you want to call them, and this show is adorable, with nature mysteries presented by a felt mouse in his own little cardigan and gumboots. The episodes are short, with a quick mystery that includes clues, and a mindful moment, which I am hoping to incorporate more of into our lives. The talented Jessie Farrell also provides the music and song for these episodes, with lovely lilting tunes that are so catchy that kids don’t even realize they are learning as they are singing along. As a companion to the Scout series, there is also Daisy and the Gumboot Kids, and Daisy is a crafty little mouse full of ideas for nature crafts. We love these shows and I love the inspiration they provide, while teaching Wyatt about all sorts of things – caterpillars and butterflies, space, agates, trees, dinosaurs are some of our favorites!

Not only is this series on television, they are now a series of books published by Firefly Books! We were lucky enough to receive a set of four signed books before Christmas, and now that the holidays are over, we really have time to spend looking through them together and talking about what we read. These books are beautiful, with full page artwork that captures the eye and attention, as page-size photos of the characters that Wyatt loves, solving the mysteries on paper within a book! Each book also contains two pages of field notes that relate to the mystery, mindful moments, and a nature craft. There is so much within the pages to inspire creativity and learning! We have been having a lot of fun with them. We also received a cute little coloring and activity book, a signed CD of Jessie Farrell’s music for the show, and stickers!

Today we spent some time reading through the books a little after school – Wyatt likes to “read” them to me too.

After we read about bird feeders and butterflies, I had a book and craft set up in the other room waiting for us.

We read the book, The Wooden Timekeeper, and talked about conifer trees, pincones, and the rings on trees, and how when you count them you can find the age of the tree. Wyatt really liked playing with the pinecones and petrified wood the best.

I showed him the pictures in the book of the craft, and let him choose whether we made an owl, bear, or mouse. My sweet boy chose to make an owl, my favorite! It was a group effort, with him doing the gluing while I helped out with the placement and cutting. We had a great time reading and making this little owl together! And look how cute!

Scout and the Gumboot Kids and the series, both on television and the books by Firefly Books are such a great resource for kids to learn, and entertaining and cute to boot! (yeah, see what I did there..)

Thanks to Firefly Books for the wonderful gift of the books, CD and extra little fun things!

Last week in photos

We had such a busy week last week! Honestly, parts of it were pretty rough. Wyatt had some arm spasm that we had never seen before and that scared us; then later in the week hit his head which further sent me into my own anxiety. Then we had a heavy duty weather storm warning that caused me to worry about my mom, alone in her house 10 miles away. I did not want her to be stranded without power because I knew it would upset her so my husband went and picked her up to have her stay with us, just in case. The weather never actually got bad but we had fun all of us anyway, munching on giant family size nachos, having a dance party, and finding our animal personas. I wrote a bunch of animals on popsicle sticks, and some fun qualities like joyful, curious, strong, etc and then we pulled to see what we were. I was Quick Owl, whatever that means lol, Wyatt is my little Bold Badger, Billy is a Strong Wolf, and my mom is a Fearless Rabbit. It was fun! So aside from my worries, we did have our fun times.

So this old turtle shell. On Tuesday after therapy where we asked Wyatt’s PT about his arm spasm, we took a little hike, and spotted this turtle shell. I couldn’t get it out of my mind after seeing it, and knew I couldn’t leave it there in case someone found it and destroyed it, dishonoring this turtle’s life. So, Wyatt and I took a trip back on Thursday and retrieved it, bringing it here to keep safe. I don’t know what to do with it exactly, but I know it is safe at least.

Then on Thursday night, I actually got out of the woods and mud and dressed up, did my hair, and went somewhere that served adult drinks with my best friends! We reserved these cool igloos at a restaurant near us, and it was so neat to be in them. It would have been prettier had it been snowing, as it should be in Michigan in the winter, but it was raining. Not as pretty, but the gentle rain sounds on the igloo were enjoyable. It was a seriously much needed time with my tribe, we laughed so much our faces hurt, ate so much food, and exchanged our Christmas gifts for each other. I had made everyone hand painted by me ring dishes (made the dish too!), Chrissy made everyone lavender soap that smells amazing, Mary bought everyone the softest plaid blankets, Kelly gifted us all the cutest cat shaped cheese boards, and Jill bought us all wine based on our personalities/likes. Mine is called The Woodlands, so very perfect- and I am drinking a glass right now!

On Friday we celebrated the Full Wolf Moon, with wolf paw cookies, and chili. Lol. Wolves might eat chili right? My hungry wolves did at least. My mom made these delicious butter wolf paw cookies, which we ate the heck out of. Then we had a collective “howl” at 7:30, where my mom went to the window at her house and we went to ours and howled, which Wyatt of course thought was awesome. His favorite song is Howl by the Okee Dokee Brothers, so we followed our howl up with the song version. We calmed things down by turning off the lights and reading picture books in the tent by lantern light. My dad bought us that battery powered lantern and Wyatt loves it.

So although my week had its anxiety ridden moments, it also had some pretty darn good ones.

Planning a garden

We woke up this morning to snow, which was beautiful until I got onto the road to take the kiddo to school. Apparently Michigan has become too complacent this year, with our mild winter, and has forgotten it needs to salt its roads! The drive was one of those steering wheel clutching drives, nervous and slow down the winding road to his school. My brakes locked up, I saw another car hit a stop sign – the driver was ok though thank goodness. These are the parts of winter I don’t like. I love the walks in a gentle snow, I love being inside, huddled against the cold with a book and my family, but I don’t like the idea of driving in it, or any of my loved ones driving in it either. It made what I did on Monday seem even better. I planned my garden.

Well, a rough plan at least. My sister-in-law Chrissy and I got together Monday morning with coffee, and strudel and seed catalogs with our little helper, my niece . And her Care Bear. And we got to talking and planning and the room just seemed warmer and more full of life just discussing what we hope to grow. I had Chrissy’s houseplants behind me, adding to to the ambiance.

We discovered we have both been watching or following The Elliot Homestead on YouTube and Instagram. And while we are planning nothing like they have, although dreams there, we have both been inspired by their gardens. I love the idea of a potager garden! I love the look of an informal garden, with vegetables and herbs and flowers all packed in together, spilling out and spilling over with color and goodness. So when I picked my seeds, I divided my garden into three different distinct areas – our front garden, Wyatt’s little garden, a potager garden, and then special features like a strawberry garden and an arch covered in squash and beans. We decided to order the seeds that we felt essential first, the ones that neither of us could live without, and combine forces growing. We ordered carrots (Tonda di piragi), Cherokee Purple Tomatoes, and Easter Egg radishes that grow in all the pretty shades of spring; we ordered Ice Queen lettuce, arugula, and all sort of peas and peppers and squash. We threw in a few flowers for good measure, dahlias and strawflower and sunflowers. I can see them all growing and reaching for the sun, when it finally returns stronger in the spring and summer, not this weak little half light we have been getting. We have another order ready to go, and that one is more flowers than vegetables – a flower called strawberry fields, some apricot lemon cosmos that my niece picked out, nasturtium and phlox, hummingbird mint and pumpkins and marshmallow flower. I am super excited about something called a Mexican Sour Gherkin, that is going in Wyatt’s garden – they look like teeny tiny watermelons but taste like a lemony cucumber. I can’t wait to get started! Then in a month we have one final order, one that will have strawberries, a lemon tree for Chrissy, a cherry tree for us.

This feels really ambitious for us right now. We haven’t had a real garden in more than 6 years probably, and our backyard has turned feral, so before we do anything we need to get it under control. But what better motivation than a garden, in my opinion, to get us out there again? Last year we loved our front garden, where we grew flowers and salad greens and lettuce and basil, and a tiny pumpkin grew all on its like magic. The amount of insect diversity grew last year in our front yard – funnel spiders and caterpillars and praying mantis and snails; flying insects like bees of all sorts, and butterflies. We had a magical summer out there, and hope that this one will be even bigger and better.

One thing Billy and I love is our front yard apple tree. It builds such a sense of community for us. The neighbor kids love to pick the apples and eat them as they play outside, and while they are not the prettiest all the time since we don’t spray them and they get attacked by squirrels and birds (the apples , not the kids) they taste amazing. My family comes over and picks them to take home, to enjoy in pies or just on their own. We eat them, and we feed the less attractive ones to our snail. We used to feed those to the local deer but then learned that we are not supposed to do that, so I might find another place to donate them too, perhaps a farm animal sanctuary I heard about nearby. This is something else we want to encourage – we are planting our strawberries next to our house, not in our backyard, and we hope that the neighbor kids and Wyatt can just go out there and grab a handful and eat them. I love the idea of growing enough so that we can share, although growing enough for us is also important. It’s been a long time since I canned or made jam, and I hope to do that again this year as well.

So we have a few goals, and we always start with a big picture, and work our way through it slowly, bit by bit, area by area. And planning a garden in winter is one of my favorite things to do.

A Slow and Cozy Fall Day

Saturday we hit the city; Sunday, we were back tromping in the woods. It was the most perfect fall day. Not too cold, not too warm. The leaves were a blanket over the ground, crunching under our feet, paving a yellow golden road for us. We didn’t hear many birds, just some geese flying overhead occasionally, and sometimes catching a glimpse of a woodpecker or two, with their distinctive red heads. Mostly we walked and talked and listened to the woods, keeping our eyes open for an owl tree, where an owl may by roosting. A few signs would be a tree that has been “whitewashed” and owl pellets at the base. Despite our best efforts though, we didn’t spot one. Billy and I are going on an owl prowl in a few weeks though, so hopefully we spot an owl that night!

I found the teeniest little baby acorn!! We may not have spotted any owl trees but we did spot lots of mushrooms, and stopped to make some nature art near the trail out of acorns and oak leaves. Billy also made a “clock” to signify the time we took to hike together that morning near the trail as well.

When we got home, we dug in and kept cozy, listening to music, having impromptu dance parties, and baking. Well, Billy and I at least. I made an apple pie while Billy tried his hand at a hand raised hot crust pork pie, inspired by the Great British Bake Off. We have a pie project for this month, and this was our first attempt. I have never made a completely from scratch pie, nor has he, and we didn’t do too bad for the first round. My dough was a little tough, which I guess can be too much water or over handling. Billy needed a little more flavor in his filling and he had made his crust a little too thick. So, we will see how we do next time! My recipe came from the Art of Pie, and the filling was delicious! I ended up using Granny Smith and Gala apples and it was very tasty together. And I apologize, I am the worst at food photography!! I thought Billy’s little dough piggy looked cute though.

I am so glad that we had such a fabulous fall day together, because the next morning we woke up to a whole new landscape…

We got 6.5 inches of snow!! Our little gnomes in our gnome garden are totally snowed in! And it is still here, sticking around.

But hey at least we had pie!

A Sunday of Foraging and Gathering

After a week of not feeling well, by the time Sunday rolled around I was feeling well enough to get out. And I wanted to. Needed to really. Cooped up for so long at home we all needed to stretch our legs and breathe in some fresh clean air. Greenfield Village is closing for the season in two weeks, and we wanted to get a last trip in before they close. We have had so many fun day trips there this year that we wanted to take a last walk around. And I knew it was decorated for their Halloween event so it was bound to look pretty cool too!

The air was brisk and cool, the day was a bit overcast, but it all added to the moodiness of the moment, with the jack o’lanterns lining the streets as far the eye could see, the hay bales, the spooky scarecrows – we felt like we had entered some sort of creepy children of the corn type town this trip.

We meandered our way over to the gardens, which in the summer time is bursting with blooms and busy bees, little birds darting here and there, and elegant butterflies floating from flower to flower. A garden in fall can be just as beautiful, but I think they are in spite of the lack of life. The beauty is a stark one, a lone candle in the window, if you will. The colors shine so much brighter, mimicking the colors on the trees around. There is glory in the brightness of fall, the last flare before winter.

Billy is naturally an outgoing person, and he and Wyatt strolled around that red house while I poked about in the garden. He ran into a friendly gardener who gave him two seed heads, from a sedum and a blackberry iris. She told him that if saw anything in the garden that we liked that was either off the plant and on the ground, or had gone to seed, we could gather and save for our garden next year! I usually have my seed envelopes with me because I am a nerd so we spent some happy time gathering seeds from flowers that we will plant in the spring. Wyatt enjoyed playing among the rows like a little bunny, some of the flowers taller than him. He is such a sweet kid, smelling the flowers and enjoying time in a garden.

Needless to say we found some things. We harvested seed pods and black walnuts, just a few and left the rest for the squirrels, and nicked a few blooms that had been already been bent practically off by overzealous wildlife, or perhaps other people, or their purses and bags or strollers. We felt so lucky leaving with our bounty!

It was nearing lunchtime so we picked one last spot in the village to visit before heading home – Daggett Farmhouse, my favorite. It makes me think of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and it was so perfect to visit so close to Halloween.

If I could move into the village, this is the house I would pick. I love it so much. The colors, the simplicity, the squareness, the big garden, and the windmill next door. Lol. So very New England. It was built before America was America, this house, can you believe it? We poked around outside and headed inside where the reenactors were sitting down to a lunch of pies and cabbage. It looked delicious honestly. Wyatt really enjoyed the mention of pie – I am pretty sure he is going to dig our month or so of pie making. Or at least the eating of them.

We headed home to our lunch soon after, bowls of warm chicken lemon rice soup, which I think did much magic for our colds. It was a good day!

A Girl’s Day Out in Midland

Last Saturday a small group of my friends and I took a little trip away, just for the day. Away from our families and responsibilities for a few hours and it was simply perfect, hanging out together, having new adventures, and eating some pretty excellent food.

We do this every year and while usually we head to the West Coast of Michigan, this year we ventured north, to Midland. Most of us had never been there or really ever heard of it, but Jill had been there and said it was cool so, off we went. However, we went without much plan or direction which could have derailed our journey but luck was in our favor and we had an amazing day.

We started our day with coffee from Starbucks for the drive, then ate when we arrived. Tip for visiting Midland – make reservations before you go. We had no clue that we needed reservations for pretty much everything. I guess we were not aware that it was such a hot spot or tourist destination so we were unprepared to walk into Cafe Zinc at 10 am and be told there were no seats until 2pm. We ended up asking to sit at the zinc bar, which worked out perfectly. Three out of four of us ordered these Nutella and Rhubarb compote crepes, which were out of this world. Seriously delicious. We drank and enjoyed our food, and made our plan for the day.

After filling up on food, we shopped downtown, picking up this and that, whatever caught our eye. I am not a big shopper so I ended up leaving with a new blank journal and some special Halloween candy for Billy and Wyatt. Jill bought a few wooden quote signs that were adorable, Chrissy got a little purse and some candy, and Kelly was the winner of the day when she bought a hanging mobile made from a branch with a hundred paper cranes dangling from it. It was very delicate and beautiful hanging from the ceiling. I am excited to see it up in her house!

From here we headed to the Dow Gardens, a place I have been dying to go for months! I ended up waiting in the Forest Cafe while my friends walked around the woods and through the canopy though, since I had just had my big asthma scare the previous day. I still had fun sitting in the cafe drinking coffee and reading my book, with the woods as a view though. And I was able to get the lay of the land for a return trip there with my guys! Everyone told me the gardens and walk were really pretty – but cold!

The timing of the end of their walk coincided with almost the beginning of the tour of Alden Dow house, which we wanted to try to get in on, despite not having reservations. (our fault for not planning better!) So we scrambled over to the house, Kelly worked her magic, and voila, we got to go on the tour! And it really made the day. It was such an awesome tour!

The Alden Dow house is a fantastic mid-century modern space, designed by Alden Dow himself. 14,000 square feet of house, with two tour groups of twenty, and we never saw the other group once after we started. This house is gorgeous, y’all. Dow wanted a house that was like a seamless oasis of home and garden, believing that “gardens never end and buildings never begin..” And he accomplished this goal, as the outdoors and garden is reflected in every room, and is never far away. Huge windows that open onto terraces and gardens, a floating conference room that is 18 inches below the pond level, so you can literally open a window and be in the water. It felt like being in a boat, the pond and room were so connected. It boggled our minds how the water doesn’t get into the house, but it has never been an issue according to our tour guide, who was the nicest guy.

Dow also built this house with security in mind. It was built after the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, so he installed a safe room in the basement, that is unlike the safe rooms we think of today. It was a huge space, with a place for play for the kids, a fireplace, a plush bright carpet and huge comfy furniture to sink into. Not a bad place to have to hide out if necessary! And it also had its own terrace over the water so you could go outside and enjoy the outdoors as well. I’m assuming that would be if it was a non-emergency situation though! Lol. The terrace was also not accessible to people from the outside so it kept the security feature too. Besides the safe room, Dow situated the bedrooms along one hallway, on one side of the house, the pond side. The windows opened from the bottom and not wide enough for someone to gain entry, and the doors to the rooms did not open from the hallway. They were all in a row with connecting doors, so you could start at one room and head into all the rest locking doors behind you until you were all in one room at the end as well. It was really cool. From the master you could head into yet another room, a morning gathering room that I loved. It was cozy and warm, apple green and wood, with a view over the water and woods, a big fireplace, a table for breakfast, and bookshelves. That would have been the room I was in the most often, had I lived there.

We were not able to take photos of the inside, but I took a bunch of the outside! This tour was the highlight of our day, and I definitely recommend it to anyone in the area. Just do better than us and make reservations ahead of time!

After our tour, it was almost time for our dinner reservation (which Jill made at breakfast, having learned our lesson here) so we headed back into town. We had a quick drink at Whichcraft Taproom, and then bopped over to Gratzi for an early dinner. And omg, what a feast we had! The food was amazing, seriously. Chrissy had mushroom pasta, Kelly had Pollo Mostarda, Jill ordered the Mezzaluna a Costine Corte, and I had the Alfredo da Tavola. Mine actually was prepared tableside in a gigantic wheel of Parmesan cheese, that had been aged near the sea in Parma, Italy. It was quite an experience and I want to eat it again. I want everyone to eat it actually, it was so delicious! However, I was too full for dessert after eating it! It was a sacrifice I was happy to make though, as it really was one of the best things I have eaten, ever, maybe. Lol. The meal concluded with a splash of limoncello and we trudged happily and tiredly, full of carbs, back to the car to ride home.

Midland was a great choice of places to visit – I love being a tourist in my own state, and seeing new things about it. It kind of has a little something for everyone, outdoor adventures, home tours, shopping, good food. If you are ever nearby, I suggest popping in for a day! Just remember to have reservations first.

Getting cozy

The weather is finally turning here after having almost summer like temperatures persisting well past their season. The mornings are colder, the evenings have a bite, and it all makes me want to get all snuggly and cozy in my home, like some little squirrel. I see our neighborhood squirrels hopping and digging and searching out their food stores, getting ready to snug down for the winter. And I am getting us all ready too, maybe not quite for winter yet, but definitely for autumn coziness.

Drinking: My husband remarked the other night as we were settling down for the evening that it was getting to be tea season, and he is totally right. Our iced teas become hot teas this time of year, and I usually start placing our tea orders to have a ready supply on hand for these chilly nights. I will pick stuff up when I am at the store of course, but we have some favorites that I like to keep around. I love the Breakfast in Paris tea with its lavender notes and the refreshing mint of Moroccan Mint from Stash, while Billy is all about the Earl Greyer from Republic of Tea. I think Wyatt is going to try tea this year too. My grandma used to give my cousin and I weak tea heaped with milk and sugar and I felt so special. Maybe I will try that too with him this year, just a little taste of tea. If we are out and about on the weekends, we like to treat ourselves to London Fog Lattes at Starbucks. So worth keeping as a treat! We splurged last weekend and picked two up before we went to the bat festival.

Wearing: Sweaters of course!! I usually hit up the thrift stores looking for their softest, most comfortable looking sweaters to lounge about in, but Target has a cardigan that looks super comfy that I plan on picking up on one of my next Target runs (embarrassingly I usually hit up Target once a week..) and Modcloth has a fox sweater that I absolutely need.. Although I do need help with leggings – I don’t really own any and maybe I need to get a pair? Any suggestions?

Using: Blankets! I have had to pull all of our extra blankets out of storage and get them ready to throw on when needed. We have our heirloom quilts that my great-grandmother and my friend’s great-grandmother made, in our bedroom for those afternoon naps, and a few random throw blankets we have picked up as the years have passed. We are such throw blanket people though that we are thinking of splurging on a blanket from Sackcloth and Ashes – although we are undecided between Camp Forest and Camp Lake. We still have our quilt that we use as a picnic blanket but I am thinking about getting one that is more all weather since the ground is a bit colder and I want to continue with some picnics into fall. We are also burning candles again. I don’t usually burn candles in spring and summer, but fall and winter call for candles. The glow of their light is as warming as the heat from the flame, and add to the ambiance of coziness. (and so very hygge, remember hygge? I still swear by its principles) I don’t have any particular brands that I stick with, I just pick them up as we are shopping (probably at Target! lol) but I go for woodsy or apple, cinnamon, or pumpkin scented ones. Yum! Wyatt loves to help me pick them and smells them all, wrinkling his little nose so cutely.

Reading: I am such a seasonal reader. It is so hard for me to read a book that doesn’t fit my mood or the season. So this time of year I read cozy mysteries like Barbara Michaels and the one I just read by Eva Gates, thrillers and scary books, non-fiction that feels like autumn to me. I also turn to comfort reads, like the Little House series and Harry Potter. I read to Wyatt Halloween and fall books, we talk about the leaves and pumpkins and animals and how they get cozy just like us, all snug in a bug and safe and sound.

Because isn’t that how cozy feels? Safe and sound and like being wrapped in a hug.