Greenfield Village – Late October

Saturday morning we woke up determined to have some family fun time. It’s been all work all the time around here lately, and we all needed a break. We tossed a few ideas around before deciding on Greenfield Village. We got there as the gates were opening, the day was overcast, and we pretty much had the whole place to ourselves which was awesome.

I love visiting this time of year. I love fall and Halloween, as you all know, and the Village is all dressed up in vintage Halloween decorations, as well as some spooky ones too. They do Halloween Nights there, with candy and live performances, but to be honest, we prefer it like this. Empty. Without the fanfare and other people. Plus, we can actually see everything rather than be part of a huge crowd in the dark. We did that once and while it was fun, we like visiting on our own terms more.

We walked around the farm, greeting all the animals who were enjoying their breakfasts al fresco. The horses, John and Wilbur, were on their way to plow up the fields and we gave them a quick wave as they went off to work.

We walked around the “town” area, by the Wright Brothers house, closed up refreshment stands, and creepy decorations.

And made our way across the spooky covered bridge, making ghostly ooos and boos as we walked through…

These scarecrows were terrifying. I stepped in close for a photo, and and had the weirdest feeling they were watching me back. I freaked myself out, imagining one would leap off its post at me, and after snapping the picture, raced back to Billy and Wyatt.

We toured around the homes, and headed back over the bridge, not knowing the scariest monster was still to come…

Such scary!!!

Needless to say, Wyatt had fun! And so did we! (I look like a crazy person…I was helping make scary noises with Wyatt…lol)

I love this time of the year at the village! I am so happy that this year they extended the length of the visiting season for members through November. I see some mornings there in our future for a few more weeks at least!

The Weekend Vibe

I felt like we lived in this car most of the weekend! We kept busy for most of the weekend, whether it was time spent outdoors, with family, and sometimes just taking a ride around. I apologize, this will probably be a long post with lots of photos!

Friday morning we loaded up the car with our new little red wagon, a cooler of water, my backpack of snacks, and headed off to the zoo! We were meeting my brother Devin, his wife Chrissy, and my niece Dino Girl. Thank goodness it was a cooler day, it has been so hot and humid in Michigan it’s like a swamp out there. But Friday was practically perfect.

Whenever we go out we have to make choices on how Wyatt will get around. A backpack carrier? And with me or with Billy? A stroller? I hate that these options limit his independence to practically nothing, but he outgrew his wheelchair over the past year and the way insurance works, if we were to get another one we would practically insure that he would never get another walker again. So, we are trying to work around that since he is working on walking and can use a walker, just not well enough for a trip to the zoo. And not to be negative on here since I hate doing that, but my husband took him for a stroll around the neighborhood the other day in the stroller and was stopped by someone asking what Wyatt’s “issue” was. They also let Billy know that Wyatt was eligible for therapy services, like he hasn’t been in them since he was six months old. So frustrating. I get that the person had good intentions but frankly it wasn’t her business. And now I feel super self-conscious taking Wyatt out that way, I don’t like people staring at him. It will more than likely happen his whole life but I want to be able to make things as easy as I can for him when I can. I’m his mom. I can’t help it. Anyway, Thursday night it clicked that we could use a wagon. So, Billy headed out at 8pm to find one. And delivered like the awesome dad that he is. I felt like the wagon would first, blend in, and second, I was positive my niece would crawl in there at some point too, giving him company and making him feel less isolated. And it was so much easier to take him in and out, he could move around a bit, and it folds down into a bench seat as well. Win-win. There were a million wagons at the zoo too, just like ours so I feel like if he looked around, he wouldn’t feel as different.

Anyway. Once that was out of the way, we were golden for the whole day. Zebras, lions, giraffes, rhinos, camels, tigers – they were all out and about and looking cute. Zebras are Wyatt’s favorite (and mine) and I was excited to see them so close this time!

However, we all seemed to love the Amphibian House the very best. I guess our family does love its little creatures!

I also got super excited about this turtle in the marsh system outside. And this bee!

Saturday we stuck closer to home. We loaded up our little wagon again, this time with picnic supplies, and had a little picnic in the park. Later on that night we had drinks with my brother and fam, plus my dad and stepmom too.

It was so hot and sultry out this weekend, and I think we were all remembering our many trips to New Orleans – which inspired Billy to make a cocktail. Which he never does. And I rarely drink at all, if ever. But it was good, y’all. Also, my new favorite summer wine made an appearance. The drink Billy made is called a Gin Basil Smash, and it is so light and refreshing and citrusy. And actually so is the wine. (Loveblock, Sauvignon Blanc)

Sunday morning, and we just kept on rolling. We took a drive around Detroit, specifically Belle Isle and the farmer’s market area of Eastern Market. Eastern Market was closed so I was able to grab photos of the beautiful street art.

From here we headed to Belle Isle for a total change of scenery…

And someone got a little sleepy.

It was a busy, full weekend, full of people and sights and things that I love.

I hope you all did something or talked to someone that made you smile over the weekend!

Chit Chat Coffee Time

My week this week was just…blah. Not good, not bad, I can’t quite say what I even did this week. It was just sort of like a week on autopilot. This upcoming week we are taking a break from school, maybe I just need a refresh.

This morning we left bright and early to go to a different garden center. I was joking with Billy that this particular garden center is the one ALL the butterfly people talk about, so we had to be cool too and check it out. I am hoping to help raise monarchs this year so I needed to go to the cool garden center too. And honestly, it was really cool.

My friend who has done the whole monarch thing for years gave me a list of milkweed I needed, particularly common and swamp. I found those and grabbed them, and added some prairie milkweed and also a kind with a very interesting name. They had tables set up with types of butterflies and their host plants which made it really easy to shop. I also picked up a butterfly bush and a few forget-me-nots. They have a butterfly house but it is not open yet, so we will have to go back to check it out.

We went first thing in the morning and no one was there. I love having places practically to myself. We had just planned on Billy and Wyatt hanging out in the car but when I saw it was so empty and open, I called Billy and told him to join me inside, and I am so glad we did, we had a great time. I feel like they just needed to serve coffee and it would have been perfect. (Hint hint Barsons if you read here – set up a little coffee area for people to buy coffee, I am sure it would do well.)

However, now it is so humid and hot outside that we have unloaded it all and are waiting until it cools off a bit. I found a few butterfly eggs on my rue this afternoon and gathered it up. I am actually getting my mom in on this too, and I am taking her these first eggs from a black swallowtail. I think she will enjoy it!

I have spent the past few weeks working on our final month of lessons for kindergarten! I can’t believe this year is almost over! We are going to spend a month finishing up our regular curriculum and we will also be spending some time learning about the ocean and ocean animals. And mermaids, per the request of my niece. Then I get to start planning for next year, and I have to be honest I am really excited about that. We will also be continuing school throughout the summer but more informally. We are spending July immersed in learning about Italy, as part of our family ancestry studies combined with geography. It should be a lot of fun. And delicious as I am going to use it as an excuse to eat all the pasta and tiramisu that I want.

I hope you are all having a good day so far! Enjoy the weekend!

A Trip to the Farm

Last Saturday we took a ride out to the country. I had placed an order with Trillium Wood Farms in efforts to better support small Michigan farmers. This is better for the animals, for us, the environment – it’s really a win-win all over.

I would say local farmers but for us, a trip to the farm really is a road trip, at an hour and half drive one way. It’s a pretty drive though and this time I enjoyed seeing the suburbs, then the city, slowly turn into fields of green, dotted with animals along the highway.

We started early, picking up coffee for us and hash browns for the kiddo before hitting the road. Wyatt decided he preferred Goldfish crackers to his hash browns though. This kid and Goldfish crackers…lol.

I rarely talk about the fact that we live a mile from the Detroit River – it has been a fixture in my life for so long that I just don’t think about it. But Saturday we drove along the river for a bit, watching as the sun hit the water just so, making it glitter.

It wasn’t long before we were on the highway, heading west. It was not a bad way to start the morning, hot coffee, hash browns, the radio playing country music as we all sang along. There wasn’t much traffic since it was Saturday morning, and we just enjoyed the time together.

I had to take a photo of the Fowlerville sign. When I was attending Central Michigan, my friend and I would say “Fowlerville, already??” every time we passed through on our way back to school. It was the halfway mark, and I am not sure why we said it but I find myself thinking it when we pass it now, still. Here the landscape really begins to change from city to rural, and I kept my eyes glued to the fields around us, looking for horses and cows and hawks.

While we were en route one of the farmers emailed me that they had to change part of our order (which was ok) and to not be alarmed if we saw pigs running around when arrived, since a tree had fallen on the fenceline and they had escaped. I have to admit, it did make me a little nervous. I have a little bit of a fear of pigs, they can bite through metal and I feel like they just want to take a chunk out of me. I know this is irrational but..there you go.

We did not see any pigs on the loose however when we arrived. Wyatt was disappointed but I was quietly relieved. We were the only ones there and it works on the honor system for no contact pick up, we just grab our order from the freezer. So we took a minute to stretch our legs. We didn’t stray away from the lot so as not to trespass on the farm itself, although I did want to get closer to the cow and the turkeys I could see. We did see pigs in a pen so they must have gotten rounded up and the fence fixed. They were a little distance away though across a small field and through some trees.

We did make friends with these cuties! Farm dogs and farm cats.. I love how that tabby is guarding the deliveries like she is the postmaster or something.

I am reading a book called Sheepish right now, and the author, Catherine Friend, talks about how small farms are really the only link for people to be able to get up close and personal with farm animals these days, and how if you do not grow up near them farms are places people can go to experience that wonder. I know in talking through emails with the sisters that run this farm that they do offer little tours of the farm to interested people. I think we might take them up on that when it is safer to do so.

As we were leaving one of the farmers was coming back up the drive and we stopped to chat a few minutes about the dogs. There is something to be said about knowing where your food actually comes from, the people raising it and caring about the entire process. The sisters at Trillium take the raising of their animals very seriously and treat them with compassion, all the way until the end with a humane quick finish. After our chat, it was sadly time to turn around and head home. We watched the drive in reverse, from fields to concrete and traffic and felt like we had had quite an adventure for not quite noon. One of us even needed a nap.

The car covered in black and white swirls is a sure sign we are near home again. These are the new models of cars that haven’t been released yet and we see them all the time around here. Since they are still secret they are covered in this to disguise them although we can usually guess what they are. It’s a common sight to see around here with all the auto industry.

So, it was an interesting morning for us and one we plan on doing again soon! We didn’t order much this time but hope to do small orders once a month or so. If nothing else, we get to take a nice ride together and see some new sights!

Handmade Holiday Gift Ideas for Children

I think most of us are facing a different Christmas this year – one that looks a little less like our normal traditions. And while we may be celebrating differently, some of us may be choosing to shop differently as well. Maybe going into less stores and opting for more online shopping, like me – in which case I am thinking the sooner I get started the better, as shipping may be a little slower than normal. As I consider my list this year, I want to try to patronize small businesses and artists more than usual as well, since this year has been tough on makers, so I will be purchasing a mix of gifts for the littles in my life this Christmas, and trying to be mindful. Here are a few things that have caught my eye this year! (Just make sure to check shipping dates if something happens to grab you!) This list is geared for younger kids, and I am sure a lot of it will find it’s way under our tree or as a gift to one of my nieces.

Wooden Play Dough Stamps: These are so adorable! I love how sturdy they seem, and easier on little hands to push! Wyatt and all of his cousins are play dough fanatics and I can see them all having a good time with these. I linked to the woodland set, but there are a few others like dinosaurs and unicorns, sea creatures and mushrooms.

DIY Personalized Puzzle Kit: There is so much about this that I love. All of my nieces have non-traditional names and can never find anything personalized, and at least two of them love art and putting puzzles together. If ever there was a more perfect gift!

Preschool Sewing Kit: I actually bought this for Wyatt to practice with over the summer and he really liked doing it! I thought it was creative as well as teaching hand-eye and fine motor skills.

Personalized Baking Set: This one ships from the UK, so if you are not in the UK, make sure it can be sent to you and what shipping costs and time will be before ordering! I just can’t with it’s cuteness though.

Wooden Puzzle for Kids: So, I have puzzles on here twice… but they were so different I thought it would be ok. These are so cute and I am a fan of wooden puzzles for kids.

Wooden Toy Kitchen: Ok, so this is brilliant. One of the best things we ever bought Wyatt was his toy kitchen – but it is so big and takes up so much space in our house! He still loves it and plays with it everyday though so although it has its own area, it stays up. However, had I seen this I may have been considered this as an option! It is perfect for small spaces or even for people who may not want to give up house space for a toy kitchen.

Handmade Knit Fox: I am totally in love with this fox. We bought Wyatt a knit badger for Christmas his first year, and he still loves it and sleeps with it every night. His name is Henry and I am always afraid something will befall Henry and then where will we be. I am tempted to pick this fox up just in case.. (update: I had a different fox here originally, but it sold out so I added another)

Stocking Stuffers:

Felt Mask for Pretend Play: The kids in my life love pretend play, and wearing masks and headbands and capes and clothes – and I thought this unicorn was super cute.

Felt Beard: This is definitely making its way into Wyatt’s stocking this year. Billy has a beard and Wyatt always pretends he has one like his dad’s – now he can have a play one!

Personalized Patches: I just think patches are neat. I like to get them and put them on Wyatt’s backpacks that we use for exploring.

Wooden Owl Pendant: I can see just about every kid I know wearing one of these. And they have different versions available as well!

Letter Subscriptions:

Writings from the Wild: I love these monthly letters from the “wild” and so does Wyatt. I signed him up for this two months ago, and they are informative and beautiful – plus Wyatt loves getting mail so that makes it even better. It is inexpensive as well, only a few dollars a month, and right now they are having a sale, 15% off if you enter Christmas15 (off 6 or 12).

Letters from Afar: These are neat, and if Wyatt was older I would definitely get it for him. They look gorgeous!

The Wild Hunt

A week ago I had an idea that very quickly snowballed and took shape – a Wild Hunt. I wanted something similar to geocaching, but for my fellow outdoor loving, hiking friends and family. When I mentioned it to Billy, we just started coming up with ideas left and right and started working on it immediately.

We quickly printed out this invite for the two family teams we were inviting, respectively named Team Veggiesaurus Rex and Team Unicorn Sparkles. We were Team Corvid, because Wyatt really enjoyed our ravens unit the other day and even picked a raven/crow costume for Halloween. We distributed them on a Wednesday, and gave them the basics: On the following Saturday we would text them a set of coordinates at noon, and the race would be on. There were three locations, and teams needed to put the clues back in place after finding them so that the other team could continue to play.

We really leaned into our team name too – Billy carved out a rough feather from a chunk of wood to use as a stamp for our clues, and it turned out really cool.

Early Saturday morning Wyatt, Billy, and I headed out to hide the clues. We had to start in reverse order in order to get the coordinates to put on each note, so we started with the spot we were going to hide the treasure. It was a very cold morning, especially near the water where we ended up. It wasn’t our first choice of a spot either actually – we got to the area where we planned to hide it and saw that one of the participating family’s car was there too – meaning they were somewhere in the woods! We had to change it up at the last minute and try to do it fast so that they didn’t see us; it added an extra sense of adventure and urgency!

It’s hiding spot was the stump – it turned out better than our original plan. After hiding it well, we scurried back to the car and headed to location #2! Wyatt was feeling a little tired and we were running short on time so Billy ran it out to the spot on the trail while Wyatt and I waited in the car.

Then it was on to spot one, the starting point, and this time all three of us trekked out to the spot together.

Then all we had to do was send out the group text with the reminder to leave the clues and to text me only when they found them. And they were off! They both found the first clue, no problems. But the second clue gave them a bit of a challenge – and they ended up looking for it together before Billy needed to call with a hint..

From there the teams headed off to the final spot, and the treasure! I love that they actually found it at the same time. I had a surprise for the kids – two treasures, one for each team, as I did not want any disappointed little treasure hunters!

The treasure itself was pretty simple but enough for little girls – some tiny little animals, and an assortment of polished crystals and such, like jade and moonstone. The teams decided who was going to do the next round, and we are all looking forward to it! We had a blast setting it up, and our friends had a great time doing it. Apparently the kids were so excited, which made me so happy as that was my goal all along.

And onward to the next Wild Hunt!

Trip to the Pumpkin Patch

One of our most beloved family traditions every year is our trip to the pumpkin patch and orchard. We have been doing it since I was a little girl, when we would go with my cousin and follow it up with chili for dinner and cake to celebrate my uncle’s birthday. This year, it almost didn’t happen, for obvious reasons. But the kids have been studying pumpkins all week and we needed to find a way we felt comfortable going, if possible.

So we did! Billy, Devin, and Chrissy took a day off of work for our “field trip” this year, we got up early so we could arrive right when it opened, and we chose to go one of our favorite orchards, one that is a favorite because it is just about the pumpkins there. No rigmarole or fair like atmosphere – just an orchard, pumpkins, and for adults, a hard cider tasting room, where they make the cider onsite. We didn’t do any tasting this year but we definitely bought some to go.

We pulled up around the same time almost exactly, and headed off through the grounds, which we had all to ourselves. We kept our masks on, as good practice for the kids, and my mom as well, and maintained our distances although it was just us.

Well, us and this dog. He was with us our whole excursion and didn’t stray too far from my niece’s side. He lives there and decided to hang out with us.

It was an absolutely glorious morning – sunny, warm, a bit crisp. The perfect day for our adventure. We messed about in the orchard, laughed about our dog friend and honorary group member – we are the James Herriot Primary school after all..

Then we headed to the store area to shop for our gourds and pumpkins and all the good things. All the pumpkins were really up there so no picking through the patch for one but that is ok, much easier to lug them the two feet back to the car then all that way. We did have to run in to pay and to pick up our cider, and I also added a jar of honey from their hives to my order.

And the dog’s name turned out to be “Greater”. All Creatures Great and Small, anyone?

Happy Fall everyone!

Mini-Post: Feeling Squirrely for Chestnuts

Last Sunday was a gorgeous autumn day. The light was perfect, the trees were on fire, it was warm but not too warm, it had just enough crisp in the air to make you know that fall has arrived. In short, perfect. My favorite kind of day. I was happy too, because we had planned a small new-to-us adventure – chestnut foraging! I am calling it foraging although it was more like collecting at a chestnut farm, which I didn’t even realize was a thing. But foraging sounds better to me, so I am going with it.

When we arrived, I was surprised to see the place was hopping! Getting chestnuts is serious business – people were leaving with pounds and pounds of them. These are the type of chestnuts you can eat – the type that grow in our neighborhoods, the Horse Chestnut are toxic and inedible. These are the sweet English variety, the kind you hear about in old Victorian stories, or even stories from your own father who grew up in the sixties and has memories of buying roasted chestnuts from a cart and enjoying them. We had sort of anticipated just grabbing a pound or two and then figuring something out after, we were going for the experience and to enjoy the day out together doing something new and outdoors. This figures importantly later, you will see why.

Despite it being busy, I was so happy to see everyone had a mask on, and was distanced. The only place that was crowded was the roasting area, where Farmer Mike was showing people how to roast their own chestnuts, and it seemed like the people crowded around it were usually family groups. We skipped that part anyway, but for the most part, everyone had masks on and was staying well over six feet apart. We sanitized a bucket and headed out to the stand of chestnut trees, and got to work.

We were scrambling around on the ground like squirrels, gathering nuts, going from tree to tree, to pile to pile, exclaiming over the shiny conkers. Lots of getting up and kneeling back down, crawling about, throwing the chestnuts into the bucket as we went. It was a workout for my thighs as well, which were a bit sore the next day… and Billy even had Wyatt strapped to his back in the backpack carrier, so he had a bit more of a workout even. They were a good team though.

Once we filled our bucket up halfway, we decided we had enough, considering we had no idea what we were going to do with them anyway. Roast them for sure. But then maybe cake, like Rowan’s on the Bake Off? Soup? We tossed ideas back and forth as we walked back to the front to pay. I decided to stand in line (which was outside so bonus) while Billy and Wyatt went back to the car.

I waited patiently and then overheard the cashier tell the person in front of me some alarming news – they only took cash or check, and the nearest ATM was miles away. Guess who didn’t have any cash or checks on them? Yep me. I sadly had to dump my bucket out under the trees, consoling myself as I went that some people were going to find the piles and be excited over the jackpots they were finding. I walked back to the car, slightly disappointed, and informed Billy and Wyatt that the good memories of our adventure were to be the only things going home with us.. good thing at least that was the objective. Although, some chestnuts would have been nice too. We decided to consider this a scouting mission, and that we would return next year having learned two things: the first, bring cash. Second, bring work gloves, those sea urchin like protective seed casings are prickly!!

So, we went home empty-handed but at least it had been a good time. And Michigan was at its best, all lit up for fall.

Mini-Post: A Morning in the Country

Every summer, we take a family trip to the orchard to pick peaches (and sometimes blueberries). This year we realized it was a pretty perfect family activity, even with our present circumstances. So, Friday Billy took a vacation day, we packed our lunch and our blanket, and headed out to the country.

When we got there, we found we were not the only ones with this idea, even on a weekday morning. We hadn’t planned on masking up, except for in the store of course, but we put them on for the first part of our adventure due to the amount of families also wandering the orchard. We didn’t need them on long though, after ten minutes everyone else left, and we had the place to ourselves.

We took our time, looking for the peaches we wanted. It was slim pickings due to a late frost that had affected the peach crop but we still had fun. After we picked as many as we thought we could possibly use, we set up our blanket and had a little early lunch. And it was so quiet. So quiet. We are used to always hearing something – cars, people mowing their lawns, sirens, whatever. The sounds of living in the suburbs, you know? But this was so peachful (I meant to type peaceful but peach came out and I rolled with it). The weather was gorgeous, just warm enough. There was a breeze, the sky a brilliant blue, and just the sound of bird song and the rustling of the leaves. I could have stayed there all day! But Wyatt was ready to explore more, so on we explored.

It was a perfectly perfect lovely day. And now we have a ton of peaches, for jam and cobbler and pie!

We had such a great time, such a great time that I think we will organize a larger family trip for later this month with my mom and brother and his family. I am looking forward to it!

Summertime..

This week has been a mix of busy and just simply being and enjoying. I gave us a week off of schooling, and we had some good times playing outside as well as time inside in the A/C. Neither of us enjoy sun or heat that much…

We headed outside in the mornings and evenings, but in the heat of the day we tucked up in the house to craft or read or watch tv or just play and veg. Lots of that happened this week.

I am still catching up on the yard and garden areas – most of it is still wild and crazy but we have some semblance of actual garden areas coming together. I planted lots of lavender, and my lavender from last year is forming a wonderful little hedgerow in front. I love it. I also got some herbs and veggies in the ground, and some flowers, finally. Today we mulch and I am going to plant a few more seeds, which hopefully will grow for me. Fingers crossed all!

I signed up for a virtual conference/workshop for a homeschooling philosophy I wanted to learn more about, and this week there was pre-conference coffee chat every morning. While I did my work, so did Wyatt. I am such a huge researcher of everything . So before I move forward I have to do tons of research – reading, conferences, speaking with homeschool moms (looking at you Lisa!) Wyatt seems to enjoy doing work with me so that is a bonus. Although, he does do the Mom, Mom look thing every 5 seconds. Lol.

Sunday we also made soap together as a family – we did the melt and pour variety so that Wyatt could be involved, and it was so fun and easy! I wanted to show Wyatt some different things that could be made using honey, and I thought soap would be an interesting one. And then we could also use this adorable bee mold too, which was sort of for Wyatt but mostly for me. The soap turned out really well. It has a great lather and smells good too – I added lavender oil to it. If you are interested, I used this DIY recipe. We are hooked now though, and have a cart full of oils and soap making things filled over on Bramble Berry to make more. My sister-in-law makes soap from scratch, using lye, and is going to teach me next weekend, which should be really neat! Since we have to wear PPE anyway, it is almost the perfect activity to do with a friend.

Billy took some much needed vacation time this weekend, Friday and Monday off, so we have a long weekend of family time ahead of us. We have no real plans but I am sure we will have fun!