This year, more than ever, our house has had to find new routines and be flexible. While Billy is at work, Wyatt and I are pretty much at home all day, doing our thing – homeschool, art, playing. All that good stuff. And we have a great time together. But Wyatt is an extrovert, like his dad. He is nonstop, go go go all day, and his speech has improved like crazy this year, which is awesome and amazing and I love it. But as an introvert, there are days that by the time Billy gets home that I need some quiet alone time to decompress just from all the chatter and play. I love my child more than anything in this world, but mama needs a break sometimes!
So, on those nights, after dinner is done and all cleaned up, Billy starts bath time and I take a glass of red wine or a cup of mint tea, and hide myself away for a bit. To take a much needed deep quiet breath, and just chill, quiet my mind. In these moments I am too scattered to read, I don’t want to watch a television show, and I have found that Youtube works perfectly to fill the transition for me from go go go get it all done to evening and calm down time (that is what I call it for Wyatt- calm down time). I have found a few that are so quiet, gentle, and serene. I just sip my beverage and watch and listen. They are soothing and picturesque and inspiring.
The first is Fairyland Cottage. Her beautiful lilting accent, her slow way of living, her home and lifestyle make her videos a treat to watch. She shares about simple, quiet living, minimalism, nature, plants – all things that I love. And she makes tea a lot and I weirdly love the sounds of tea being made. I think it makes me think of when I was a little girl, and I would wake up and hear my mom in the kitchen, making her own tea, remembering that safe feeling I had knowing I was warm and cozy and my mom was there.
Another Youtube vlogger I enjoy has a similar name! The Cottage Fairy. Her videos are so beautiful, full of majestic landscapes, snow, meadows, books, dogs, and her bunny Mr. Darcy. She is an artist and a teacher and loves reading and lives in a tiny house. She also talks about living a very simple lifestyle. She painted a running rabbit over one of her doorways, and it looks so cute. I think I am going to ask Billy to do that here…lol.
The next one is a little less solitary and slow living, but still is very soothing to watch most of the time. Trout and Coffee is a young guy just kind of living the best life, in nature, vintage cars, great experiences. And good coffee too apparently. His videos have spectacular shots of landscapes, the kinds that make people dream.
These are my top three favorites for taking a beat, decompressing, restoring some peace and quiet in myself before getting back to it. Sometimes we just need the space to be able to take a deep breath and relax for a few. This is a gentle escapism. Just grab your tea and a blanket and get cozy, and turn off for a minute.
I am going to be honest here – I am not a big shopper, especially for clothes. Books? Yes. Art? Yes. Clothes? No. I would like to blame motherhood but that is not it, not really. I have never been interested much, but yeah, I have let the wardrobe slide even further since I had Wyatt. I love buying him clothes but looking in my closet the other day I was like, ok, this is not good. Sure I am not going anywhere due to COVID but I need to do something about this situation. So many old t-shirts and ratty jeans, a few sweaters that were my dad’s that he gave to my husband but I stole because they were soft and comfy, a sweatshirt or two, and you have the contents of my closet, such as it is.
But what to buy, really, when I am not planning on doing much this fall? Well, I thought about that too. And, after seeing this closet reveal and how adorable Leslie looks, I was super inspired! I have a list, we will see how I do! (I need lists to survive..)
Gatherings this fall will be small, intimate, and (socially distanced) outside. And in Michigan, that means dressing for cooler weather. And fireside drinks! So this is where my mind went.
I totally definitely want this black Ivy Cardigan from tentree! It looks perfect for snuggling up in around a fire – plus it has a hood!! And the price is not bad either. I also love that they are sustainable and plant ten trees for every purchase.
And for those nights when I get together with my friends, hanging out by the firepit, sharing stories of homeschooling and parenting during these strange times over glasses of red wine, I think this sweater from H & M might help to make me feel a little less mom and a little more put together.
Wyatt and I met my SIL Chrissy and my niece L. at the orchard yesterday, and I am so glad that we went. I was very nervous, it was 8 days post surgery and it would be our first outing too. I am glad I felt brave enough to say yes, because we had fun, despite the slightly damp day.
Chrissy and L. met us at the orchard at 11:30, and Chrissy masked up and headed into the store to grab out bags for picking while I stood between the cars and watched both kids. Then we headed back to the orchard, where they had row after row of apple varieties to choose from. Our little caravan of two headed all the way to the end before turning around and deciding we wanted to head for the honey crisp first. We parked and we put a blanket down as our base and went up and down the rows plucking the apples from the branches. The kids thought it was super fun! When we finished that area, we wandered over to the golden delicious and braeburn section, and added more apples to our bag.
Our bags were filling up and getting heavy, but we were not ready to call it quits yet. We had one more small section we wanted to check out, the winesap apples. I have to be honest, I am not certain what these apples are like but we liked the name. Wyatt was super tired by this point so I stuck him in the back of the Subaru to hang out with while Chrissy and L. explored the field across the way, looking at the pumpkins, looking so autumnal sprawled out in the dew among their vines. L. came bouncing back, filled with excitement and wanting to show me the baby pumpkin that she saw so Chrissy stayed with Wyatt while I followed L. across the little bridge to the pumpkins. And we saw some enormous pumpkins as well as some teeny baby pumpkins. I guess fall has arrived, at least to our part of Michigan! I joked with Chrissy too, that she looked like a character from a Jane Austen novel walking through the fields..
By this point all of our feet were soaking wet and squishy, so it was time to call it a day. I would have loved to have had a picnic among the trees for Chrissy’s birthday (did I mention it was her birthday?) but it was too gross. We loaded the kids up and headed back to the front, making a little stop at the pick your own flowers field, where we realized we had no way to cut a bouquet. I never realized that one day I would be standing in a damp field lamenting that I didn’t have a pocket knife, but there I was. (and I came home and added a pink Opinel to my Christmas list..I will never go without flowers again! Lol)
All in all, we had a great time. I am so glad that we went, despite my anxiety, because I really think being with family, a change of scenery, and the fresh air did Wyatt and I both a world of good. I am so happy that we were able to share in Chrissy’s day! And look at this happy face!
This week started off with Wyatt’s first day of kindergarten, homeschool style! We had laughs and learning, and my hope is to foster a school year full of wonder and curiosity.
Our week went awry midweek though – early Wednesday morning Wyatt started throwing up at about 3 a.m. I don’t talk much here about some of the medical things Wyatt deals with, but one thing he has is a shunt that regulates the fluid in his brain. He has had it since he was one month old, and has never had a revision, which apparently is pretty unusual for a child to go this long without needing one. Well, one sign that the shunt is malfunctioning is repeated vomiting with no discernible other reason. After he vomited three times, we gathered him up and packed a bag and headed to the ER, crossing our fingers it was nothing. It ended up being a shunt malfunction, which was discovered very quickly by the amazing staff at the hospital. Within hours, Wyatt was in surgery, then in recovery. Within 24 hours Wyatt was home recovering. It has been a whirlwind of emotion and this momma is tired. We both slept in today, and he is now watching Mickey Mouse and eating Fruit Loops while I sip coffee and type this up. Billy is taking today off and is on a little walk and we plan on taking it easy today, but the hospital expects Wyatt to be able to resume his normal life activities probably by Sunday, maybe just with more breaks.
The resilience of my child is amazing. His tenacity and strength of will, which can be a test on normal days, is his power during times like this. He is a little groggier than usual, but otherwise happy to watching his cartoons and singing along.
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!
We had a fantastic long weekend together – it was a nice combo of lazy and active. Lots of reading, sitting around, playing games, but also exploring – and even some socially distanced social time!
On Saturday a few friends and I got together for some 6-8 feet away drinks and conversation. I put on a dress, my new necklace, slipped on sandals and off I went. We even all brought our own beverages and glasses so that we didn’t touch things others had touched – and so Kelly didn’t have to wash a glass. It was so nice to just see their faces – and I was so relaxed, watching the birds. And this was the very first time I had been away from Wyatt since March 12. I probably could have curled up on the outdoor couch and taken a nap, I became so comfy. I have taken to naming my friend’s homes lately (I blame all that British tv), and I have decided Kelly’s house should be called Refuge.
Then Sunday and Monday we spent pond dipping, as part of our homeschooling for the week! This week is all about ponds and frogs so we were hoping to catch some minibeasts in our catch and release beach aquarium. We only managed to find an aquatic snail in the water, but we did spot a Northern Water Snake, two turtles, a Great Blue Heron, a ton of Red-Winged Blackbirds, heard a bullfrog, and a little American toad! We brought the toad home as our guest for a few weeks, then we will let her go. Wyatt has named her Uh-Oh. the funny part is my brother found a toad yesterday and brought it in as a pet for my niece (who named hers Cupcake). But it all started with Kelly who found one last week and brought it in to avoid the cold snap. Her toad is a beast! They named her Theodora.
Later Monday evening my brother invited us, my mom, and my sister-in-law’s mother over for a socially distanced bonfire. It was so very nice to be near my family again, even though I itched to hug them all! Again, we all brought our own drinks and cups. What a strange new world we live in. Regardless, it was so fantastic to see their faces and talk to them, and not through a screen! Wyatt was so happy too, and just kept pointing to everyone and saying “Wow”. It was his first time seeing his family in months, and even though we were apart, it was wonderful to be sitting and talking together.
It was nice to be back exploring and seeing people again, no matter how we had to do it.
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.
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!
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.
So, this is obviously a little riff on Monday’s What Are You Reading post that is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. I don’t really intend for this to be a weekly feature, but I thought this would be pretty fun, maybe once a month or three. And I would really really love to know what you guys are listening to!
Let’s start with podcasts.. I am in love with them. I have some that I listen to when I am sans child, since they are not appropriate for his little ears, but we have a few that we listen to together too.
Storynory – This is a great storytelling podcast! They share classic stories, fairytales, myths, even poems and all told in a fun, easy listening way for kids. Stories have great sound effects too, to make it more of an experience! Our favorite episode: The Owl and the Pussycat (super short, but I LOVED this poem as a kid and so does Wyatt now)
Circle Round – Another storytelling podcast, presented by NPR. This one is based mainly on folk tales, and some even are read by actual actors. I love the different range of stories that they present on this podcast, and they often pair with orchestras to add music as well. Our favorite episode: The Piper and the Pooka
Ear Snacks for Kids: This is a new one for us, we just found it, so no favorites yet but we are having fun discovering all of their quirky songs based around art and science and culture. We listened to one about teeth and teeth brushing this morning and it was so fun – who knew that topic could be so funny?
Classics for Kids: So, this one, I am pretty sure Wyatt is not paying too much attention to what the hosts are saying, but is just enjoying the music they play. Lol. However, I have learned from this one! Another one new to our lineup.
Lore by Aaron Mahnke: The first podcast I ever listened to, and I still love it. Mahnke has a way of unfolding a tale! I love his eerie, spooky tales that he slowly unwinds for us, bit by bit. So good! I actually listen to this if Wyatt is around, most of the time, unless the topic is too macabre. Lore is also a show on Amazon and Mahnke has a few books out too! Favorite episode: Black Stockings
America’s National Parks (L.L. Bean): I love this one!! Different stories about the history of our national parks, the people who have visited or worked there, and celebrates the wild nature of them all. I have so many favorite episodes, but here are three that I have made family members listen to because I wanted them to hear these tales: Favorite Episodes: 37 Days in Yellowstone, Alone on a Winter Island, and The Strange World of National Park Gift Stores.
My Favorite Murder: Another old favorite- Karen and Georgia and their quick witted banter lends a much needed mood lifter at times during this true crime podcast. However, this one is not safe for children to listen to, due to language and violence. Favorite Episode: The Live in Glasgow episode
Living Homegrown: A new one to my list, all good stuff about sustainability and how to live on the farm without actually living on the farm, tips on how to live closer to your food source while living somewhere you don’t really have access to land. The podcast was on a hiatus due to Theresa Loe’s cancer, but I think the podcast is starting back up again.
I usually use Spotify pretty exclusively, because I can listen to music and podcasts all in one place. Plus I have the app on my television now, so I can just play everything right from my tv, which has way better speakers. I have to be honest, my music lists are pretty bare! I could use some suggestions and help!
What we are listening to – music:
The National Parks – I had never heard of this band until I was searching for the National Parks podcast. Lol. They are pretty good, mellow for slow mornings or evenings, and coffee or wine.
Lord Huron: Sort of similar in sound to the National Parks, I discovered them for the first time while watching a vlogger on YouTube that we love, Trout and Coffee (jeez, I could do a post on vloggers too!)
The Okeedokee Brothers: So this one is Wyatt’s choice. They have so many albums for kids, and they are folky, bluegrass music, lots of nature imagery. We listen to them a lot! So much that now I actually am a fan too. Lol. Particular favorites here are Jamboree, Through the Woods, Evergreen, and Thousand Star Hotel, and Howl. Look them up on YouTube too, they have little movies!
And some people need no introduction – Tom Petty, Carol King, Van Morrison, Eric Church, Luke Bryan, Luke Coombs. We also listen to a really cool playlist called Classical Nature – I found I love Gustav Holst’s The Planets! Wyatt loves Flight of the Bumblebee. There is of course other stuff that we listen to, but these get the most play. This list is so different from what I used to listen to! I had no idea musical taste could change, but ours seems to have. My husband was a Skinny Puppy, Misfits kind of guy- I listened to a lot of alternative stuff and wore a lot of black. But now? We are country music, folk music type of folk. Lol.
So… I would love to hear what you are listening to! I could always use more suggestions! Do you listen to any of these?