"She refused to be bored, chiefly because she wasn't boring." Zelda Fitzgerald

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Fall Basics

We have been having so much fun at our house lately....although the garage does still loom, full to the brim with our excess. We are going on leaf-kicking day trips on the weekends, starting to schedule those dinners with friends and field trips with local mamas that we mean to do. We have been eating baked potatoes, carmelized onions, sausages, roast chickens and mushrooms of every kind. This afternoon I put an apple cake in the oven impulsively after we got back from our afternoon walk.

We spent more money than I like to admit on the Goodwill run for procuring supplies but we are well into the process of Halloween costumes...a mixture of purchased and hacked together. We are talking to our family regularly, spending time reading long chapter books, eating outdoors, and taking all the weekly hikes we said we would when we moved to this amazing state.

I feel like our life has finally calmed down a little and we're hitting a more normal rhythm again. Getting back to the basics has helped. I've cut objects from the house, I've cut things from our schedule, I've cut complications out of the instructions for the kids routine, I've cut dinner one night a week in favor of a cheat meal, etc. etc.  Its easy for me to get all in a dither about "things" all the many, many things that seem like they need doing and celebrating and making.

 Fall is a time to slow down....a time to curl in a little and to think more carefully about what's needed for the upcoming winter. Its basics time. I made myself a little list today of what I think is basic to fall for me....the other things that I think are important really take second chair and end up being extra credit. Here's how it looks from here, in Autumn.

Little Autumn Basics

  • Harvesting something might be my number one essential. I always say I am part squirrel. Head outdoors for mushroom hunting, apple picking, nut gathering or pumpkin harvesting and kick a few leaves for extra credit. Breath deep, smell the fall air. 
  • Roasting things in the oven. It can be so many things or just one delicious meal. So many good options: parsnips tossed with thyme and oil, pumpkins whole in their shells, apples stuffed with nuts and cinnamon, a big juicy beef roast, a chicken from the farmer's market or a tray of oysters topped with butter and tarragon.
  • Wearing plaid. I'm a Scot and a girl from the woods and a Northern soul....flannels are my favorite. My boys all have them and I have them and my patient husband finds he keeps getting them for gifts. They keep you warm, they can dress down and add a cozy charm to outings, work days and evening snuggles by the fire. Extra credit for plaid lined jackets and wool blankets in tartan shades. 
  • Seeing some colors. Go catch a brilliant maple show on a favorite local road, hike the mountains to see the aspens flare or just stay up in the cool of the evening to catch a spectacular autumn sunset. Wherever you are, even if maples and cool evenings aren't part of your world, there is "autumn color" in some form. I have to have pretty leaves...do your bit however you can.
  • Thanksgiving. The origins are murky and the politics are sticky but beauty that is unquestionable remains. Family gathering is powerful and rhythmic and right, celebrating harvest and abundance and the gathering in of nature is a beautiful thing, offering gratitude to The Creator who sustains all things is peace-giving and honorable.  Bring on the turkey!
  • Boiling potpourri on the stove always ends up happening. I throw in whatever I have that smells cozy....bits of pine branch, cinnamon sticks, cloves, orange peel, etc. Its fast and simple and makes me feel like housekeeper of the year and most festive girl in the neighborhood.
  • Having cozy drinks is always in order in the autumn. I love fresh, raw cider, hard cider, mulled wine, hot cocoa (extra credit for cinnamon!) and chai tea myself. 
  • Extra sleeping always seems to be inevitable if-not perfectly appropriate. Snug naps after chilly-aired hikes, sleeping in with the one I love on cozy weekends, hitting the hay early when the dark and the fog push us indoors and make us snoozy...so many ways to get extra zzz's and wind down the way that nature pushes us this time of year.  
  • Taking long walks is rythmically autumnal to me. I grew up walking through the woods deer hunting with my papa in the fall, but it was also a time to go out for mushroom walks and follow-the-truck-down-a-two-track treks to find wild apples by the bushel. Everything in me wants to pack a napsack in fall and go stretch my legs...maybe all day! My husband grew up with trail hiking, following plotted state-park walks and looking for blazes and map following through the woods. We both like to get out and if  you call it a walk I'm un-intimidated and if you call it a hike he's eager. 


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Things That Matter

We are working and working on settling in....I keep taking more things out to the garage again, we keep finding spots for things to live, this week I put up some pictures on the walls and the boys and I bought bulbs (science, you know) and double used them as biology lesson and garden improvement. The garden has suffered, the whole yard has from vigorous tiny-male use and motherly neglect while I have been working on the inside. So many balls to juggle.

Last night something gave and I stayed up....way past my bedtime...I snapped and washed every single dish in the whole house, then swept the floor, then wiped down the counters and polished the stove. And then, I had a cup of tea.

And then I got out my paints in the quiet glow of the office and I made colors swirl together and image magically appear on the blank page...until about 3am. So beautiful, so feeding, so irresponsible. Tonight I am going to bed early.

Boxes matter, dishes matter, gardening matters, school work matters....but painting in a silent house with a mug of tea beside you matters too.


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Dying The Tub Purple

We almost dyed the bathtub purple today during a lesson on the Phoenicians which was exciting. Whew. Yay for bleach. Seriously, I know it t'isn't green but it gets anything out. The shirts we all dyed purple are out in the washing machine having their first wash and after I finish writing I am going to dash out to the garage to lay them out on the heaps of boxes (we still don't have a dryer or a clothesline hooked up) and we'll see how they really turned out in the morning. Dido would be proud! (the Phoenician queen who founded Carthage, not the singer....although maybe she'd fancy purple shirts too....who knows!)

I love it when I have the energy, and thought and time to actually get to the cool projects like this. We all enjoy the whole learning business a lot more if becomes less about galloping through our required reading and more about dabbling and trying things and exploring our way through more hands on experiences. This is the kind of teacher I want to be.
"sidewalk" orange from one of our strolls through the neighborhood

So, there's that proud fact. There's also the fact when we left the house for a walk so the shirts could have their dye soak....a certain child took it upon himself to go stir the bucket full of dye one last time and sprayed the tub with a grapey drip stain. That's how it got purple. I was aghast when we got back from sidewalk windfall harvesting oranges, apples, limes and jelly-palm fruits (Oh, California!) and found out that all this time the shirts had been soaking beautifully but so had our newly be-speckled tub. Boo!
The good news is that although I was super pissed (not my proudest teacher moment) and the child in question quickly lied to me...I calmed down and he got brave and confessed...which meant I had to calm down even more and remember to be kind and a safe place for that scary admission of guilt. So, he helped me clean it off the wall trim and I scrubbed the tub and it ALL came off! What a thing....plus, the bathtub actually got properly cleaned. Maybe tomorrow someone should spray something all over the inside of the van? Man, do I need to get to cleaning the car.

In other news... We are settling in well...this morning Aaron, I and our van all became registered Californians at the DMV (best license picture every!), the kids are excitedly involved in 4-H and see their piano teacher for the first time this coming Wednesday, we all have library cards and have scheduled a "Library Day" once a week on our calendars, I even have several new friends who have first names I really remember and although I'm not to the last name or phone number stage with most of them....I feel hopeful. I have begun hauling anything I am wondering about back outside to the garage. Yes, that means that the garage is completely overwhelming and insane but it means that I have slightly more room to think and process the house and what should go where. Its amazing how quickly it gets overwhelming. The list of things I actually missed while we were waiting for our absurd about of possessions is impressively small:

  • My juicer
  • My hair dryer
  • My spices
  • The coffee maker
  • My cowboy boots
  • My hiking shoes
  • My guitar
  • The kids crayons and paints
  • My good chef knife
  • My field guides
  • A full-size shovel (the previous tenants had left a trowel)
  • A washing machine
  • My sundresses

I was talking to a sounding board kind of friend the other day and realized that I need to take almost everything back to the garage and only unpack and bring in the things that I truly want and think we're going to happily use. There is so much extra. Must cull and must own what we actually mean to. Pinterest board about Brilliant Yard-Sale-ing in the works! I will not hold on to all this STUFF!

If you are local and interested in coffee with me....please report below. I need socializing.


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Acorns and Insect Traps

It was 85 today and yet it is indeed fall. The weather is cooling slowly, pumpkins are everywere, the oak trees are throwing acorns around like confetti and I hallucinate thunder lately. We have a bowl of acorns mixed with buckeyes on our table and a today the boys and I picked a bowl of olives to go with them. Must cure some. Sometime this week I am also bound and determined to take the boys and head for the mountains to pick apples for pie and sauce and have a donut or two. Its time.

The neighbors two houses down have a pair of sweet gum trees that were just beginning to blush yellow (the closest to maples on our block) and then we had a wild, windy day and in the night the tops snapped off. Strangest thing ever. There they were all over the sidewalk. Have to walk a little further for our fall leaves.

Today I chatted with a super friendly man who works with the city, hanging traps for invasive insects in many of the neighbor trees including our orange tree. I saw him install it, reaching up over the fence on the neighbor's drive and there it hung all week, this strange glass jar with fluid inside on a wire hanger. He was a super friendly guy who must have been at least 6 feet tall, tall, strong boned features and a great smile, he had a Hispanic accent and I was almost brave enough to try Spanish with him. His name tag said Mohammed. Such a fabulously interesting world we live in now. Mo will be back to check out the tree again with his traps and has taken the results back to his lab for research. 80 some species are being watched for and hunted down. Hope our tree is clear!

Tomorrow is Park Day with our new homeschool group, time to keep digging that social connection framework in a little firmer. Tomorrow I also workout. For serious.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Saffron Robe Unpacking

Moving is so much hard work y'all! Whew.

I am a tired lady. The boxes are taking over my life. I hide in the book I got from the library sometimes, in my phone sometimes, and out in the car on a drive sometimes....because seriously....

Where did all this stuff come from? There is no end to it. I want to cull everything down to four wooden bowls and a saffron robe. We'll share the robe. No need for excess.

These are all my husband's socks....that spot on the right in the drawer is where is socks are meant to go. 
Argh...on the upside, tonight the nine year old made dinner because I was stressed and drowning in boxes in the hallway and his chicken wings and jicama was delicious and hilarious and so helpful. I also managed to make the boys bedroom completely livable today, including a trip to Home Depot for plywood (45 minute wait to get the pieces cut to size! Patience lesson + assertiveness lesson!) I also signed up the older two for piano lessons, scheduled a piano tuner and didn't do any laundry at all. I did however successfully get paint matched for our kitchen cupboards so that I can spot treat as needed in the future and cover the spots where I took the hinges and doors off of one section. (open shelving! Yay!)
See!?! Took the upper doors off! So pretty!
I know that I will manage to spend time with kids in a fun way again soon. I know that I will feel like it is a home again and not a junk heap soon. I know that the chi will return to normal flow soon. I know I will work out in the garden again soon. I know that I will actually walk through the garage again soon. I know that I will someday feel like I can breathe at night and lay down my head with genuine relief soon. Its soooo hard to go to sleep when the house is finally quiet and just "relax" and get some rest when I see every box behind my eyelids! Argh!

In other news, Ru is cooking well and reading well. We have somehow slippingly drifted over into the land of chapter book reading and obsession with returning to the library asap and never getting enough story. So lovely to see it really happen. So much leap of faith breath-holding in parenting and homeschooling. You want to believe that you're kids are of course amazing and brainy and footsy and success material but you also feel so utterly responsible for the whole outcome and all the ingredients and the process and and and..... Its hard to do all you can and let go optimistically. Its so easy for me to trust that "all I can" is a reasonable contribution and that I am not forgetting something or screwing up in some obvious way. I worry about their flaws and weak spots and annoying little ways....although I hope I don't show them too much of that. I do try to make sure that they know I am in their corner always and that they can make it. I'm just their mom and I do worry! These little successes taste like extra rope, a little margin, some safety net of possible "fine-ness" in the ways of the world. Tangibility feels meaty and full of heft.

We had rain this week! I am believing that the drought is going to be over. That this is part of the cycle of nature, just like the wildfires and throw us humans all into panic. I am believing that the hibiscus we planted will live and that the little sprouts that are coming up the front flower bed and something cool and that the 40th year of my husband's life (tomorrow everyone!!!!) will hold wonderful things for him.

I love you babe. I'm going to try sleeping, even though you're snoring.