Monday, October 30, 2017


Marilyn is laying one egg almost every day.

I take it as a sign that she and Dan are healthy and happy and that brings me joy and peace.

We don't have space for any more birds, so we eat the eggs, rather than letting them grow to hatch, etc.

They are delicious, taste just like chicken eggs, actually, though they are much, much smaller.


Sunday, October 29, 2017

Beef, Barley, and Old Bay Stew

It's cold, rainy, and windy, so I made a stew for dinner tonight.

I gathered what I had on hand and got creative.

This one scored a five out of five, because everyone in my family of five liked it, even my five year old!

That's really something!

Grass-Fed Eye of Round, thawed and chopped.
Note: You could use a pound or two of stew beef instead.
Four celery sticks, chopped
One yellow onion, chopped
Three carrots, peeled and chopped
One green bell pepper, chopped
A heap of minced garlic, approx. 1/4 cup
Half a stick of butter
Homemade Beef Broth (approx. six cups)
Approx. 1 cup Barley
Approx. two tablespoons of Old Bay Seasoning
One bay leaf
Kosher salt to taste
Optional: Saltines

1. Chop everything.
2. Melt 1/4 of a stick of butter in a skillet and sauté the chopped onions, garlic, celery, pepper, and carrots.
3. Melt the other 1/4 stick of butter in a deep pot and brown the beef pieces.
4.  Once the beef is brown, combine everything in the deep pot, including the broth.
5. Add the barley, the Old Bay, bay leaf, and kosher salt to taste.
6. Simmer the stew until everything is tender, approx. 30 minutes.
7. Turn off the stove top and let stew sit until it is medium-hot.

Serve this with saltines.


Friday, August 25, 2017

The Girls Met Tui T Sutherland

Dwayne and Brandt took Norah and Samantha to meet Tui T Sutherland in NYC on Saturday.  The girls are both obsessed with the Wings of Fire books.  

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Solar Eclipse Boxes

I just didn't get around to buying glasses in time, and I am not sure I wanted to spend the money anyway, so we made a bunch of solar eclipse viewing boxes using instructions we found online from several good sources.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Making Paths

When we moved into this house, our front walkways were rotting, unsightly, and unsafe, and our hillside was really wild and unmanageable, covered in unkept bushes, trees, and weeds of all kinds.

So we hired landscapers to help us, because we needed professional help and advice.  This was too big a job to do or plan for ourselves.

The landscapers built a new path leading from the driveway on one side of the house to the front door

and from the top of our hillside down.

The landscapers also cleared stumps, and stones from right in front of the house up the hill to the tree-line, making it possible to grow grass in that section and making it possible to have beds of flowers around the biggest rocks that couldn't be moved.  

On the other side of the house, we had the landscapers clear out tons of overgrowth, but we could not afford to have them do more than that at this point. So we got their advice about what to do there, and we watched as they worked on the other parts of the yard and we asked tons of questions while they were here, so we feel confident that we can do that part of the work ourselves in the coming years if we are willing to be persistent.

The other day, I spent a few hours building a little staircase up to the new yard on that side of the house.  You can see my staircase in the picture below.

The top stone was already in place when we moved in and there were a few other stones down at the bottom, so it already suggested a staircase, but it wasn't a staircase.  When you stepped on the bottom rocks, they moved under your feet and at was really treacherous. But we always need to get up to the yard in that same spot, so I was determined to try and make an actual staircase with the stones there combined with others I pulled from other parts of the yard.

It was really physically difficult work and I got dirty head to toe. It was grueling to move even the smallest rocks in this picture from different places in the yard. It took persistence to get them into the right place and stand on them and then wiggle them again and then slip and start over. It took patience to find and add other little rocks under the big rocks in just the right spots so that the entire stairway was secure no matter how or where you stood on it.

But I did it!

And now that it has been a few days, and we have used the staircase everyday, the rocks still don't move when you walk up them, so I am quite proud of myself.

And then last night, Dwayne and I took two shovels and rake outside after dinner as the sun went down. We started digging up the little rocks on that side of the yard the landscapers cleared. We started making piles and piles of rocks of different sizes and we started exposing more and more of the bigger rock face.

Right now, we think we will build another gravel path on that side of the house, too, using the stones we pull out the ground over there to line the path.  (There are plenty!) The landscaper told us what gravel to use and where to buy it, etc.

We think we will use other stones to create more borders for more plants and flowers on that side of the house, too.

And, best of all, we are thinking we may build a nice fire pit with all our rocks! That side of the house is clear of trees and it would be safe to have a fire pit.  And, of course, being in the woods means we have tons of dead wood around that needs burning, including a massive old, wood pile that the previous owners must have never used.

I find that I really love rocks more than I knew and I knew I loved rocks when I moved here. Each rock I pull out of the ground feels like a treasure with potential to be used in a unique way to make the yard glorious.  It's strange, but I am actually glad we have limited funds and will have to do some of this good work for ourselves.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Muppets Litmus Test

After the girls made their wineberry tarts, my kitchen looked like the Swedish chef had been there.

Flour everywhere!

I was like, "What did you do?!  Did you actually throw it??!"

So then I showed the girls this video.

The fact that my girls all laughed to the point of holding their sides at this video assures me that all is well deep within their souls.

So now we have started watching random Muppet videos like this together when they ask and we have the time.

And now Norah is doing an impeccable Swedish chef impression.

It brings me so much joy and pride and I feel so rich when she does it that it almost feels wrong to be so blessed.

To be able to laugh at what's really funny is the greatest wealth there is.      

The capacity for mirth is the surest sign of a healthy soul.

And there are few things more telling than what sort of things make a body laugh.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Quail Doodle

Avril's most recent doodle 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Sarah's Wedding Shower

My niece Sarah's getting married in October!

Sarah's mom, Lisa, lives here in Connecticut now, too. And our mother-in-law and father-in-law are here in Connecticut visiting both of us for a few weeks.  So Lisa took her younger daughter, Samantha, and I took my van that seats eight, and my oldest daughter Norah, and we took Mom, and we hit the road.  We stopped in New Jersey for like, a minute, and picked up Michelle, my husband's sister, and then kept on going.

(My little girls stayed home with their dad and Grandpa for the weekend. My nephew stayed home with my brother-in-law. So, basically, all the men were given the responsibility of keeping all the other children alive. They did well.)

We arrived in Virginia the night before and settled in.  (We did lots of stuff like eating at restaurants, swimming at the hotel pool, exercising at the hotel gym, and shopping, of course. But we were really there for one thing.)

The shower was lovely!

There was a ton of delicious food and a bunch of fun games. (I even won a bag of prizes!)  And it took the bride-to-be forever to open all her gifts, she had so many!

I thought the amount of gifts really must speak to the bride-to-be's character. And it speaks to the character of her fiancĂ© Justin, no doubt.  These are two outstanding young people, and I am not that easily impressed.

I thought the amount of gifts also speaks to the abundance of upright people the couple has surrounding them, encouraging them, and celebrating their union.  This is another young couple that is already involved in church, not waiting to start that sort of thing until they are "older."  I love that they are so wise beyond their years!  It makes my heart sing!

And all the gifts also just speaks to me of the abundant love of God and His great provision for a new family just starting out.

As I sat at the shower, watching, laughing, making jokes, I found myself thinking of my own marriage, naturally, now sixteen years in, and thinking how fast those years have gone by, since I was that young bride opening all the gifts. I, too, was marrying a really, really good man.  We, too, were in church and surrounded by so many good people.  

I enjoyed it all again, but this time, it was through someone else's joy.

Then I began to wonder if that's just exactly what God intended all along. Did He plan it this way? That we not only experience our own joy, but then we get to repeat our joy again and again through other's joy.

Like the flowers in spring repeat the same joy over and over, by growing up in the same patterns over and over.

Boy meets girl...

The flowers of spring never disappoint us, no matter how many times they come back again.

And, like that, watching a new couple start out right really never fails to bring joy.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Marilyn and Dan, Quail

I have a soft spot for birds.

I have loved them hard for a really long time.

I really wanted a parrot or conure, but we couldn't afford one.  We had a baby and were struggling to pay rent for just a one bedroom apartment.

Priorities, people.

My friend offered to give me some canaries for free. I enjoyed looking at them, because they were pretty. But they were also pretty dull, since I couldn't ever hold them and they had no personality whatsoever.

A few months later, my husband's cousin traded me my quiet (dumb) canaries for her smarter (louder) cockatiel. She was a school teacher and she had gotten complaints about the cockatiel in the classroom/s.

I enjoyed that bird. I fed him from my plate (Don't judge lest ye be judged) and he climbed all over me and even took showers.

But he pooped everywhere. Birds do doo-doo.

And we had a baby who was beginning to crawl, and then toddle, and she was starting to grab at everything, and birds are fragile, and I was still postpartum, so it was just too much.

I gave my cockatiel to a little homeschooled girl who managed to stand up to all my intense grilling about bird care and the ethical and moral duty of owning pets.

That's when I let the bird-loving part of me just go to roost, while I focused on looking after my own brood.

My friend offered me her quail a few days ago. She was moving. They needed a home.

I said, "Quail? (Ha!) No. But thanks." without any hesitation.

But then we went to visit her to say, "Goodbye" before the move, and the quail were still there, and the kids went over to see the quail, and then they held the quail. And then the quail promptly flew up and out of their hands and ran all over the room.

I saw how fast they run and funny they look while running.

We all worked together and caught one. Finally!

I gently cupped it in my hands and brought it up to eye-level to have a closer look.

That tiny bird focused its eye on me, too.  Little as it was, it seemed to take me in in total.

Then it settled itself into my palm like it was nesting and made the sweetest, humming sound. It's whole body vibrated about one hundred times in that one second.

Then it started slowly batting its beady, little eye at me.

The eye lid seemed to close bottom to top.

And it had the tiniest, little, most perfect eye lashes.

That was it.