Friday, August 31, 2012

Thank You, Garden

All summer long our garden has been blessing us with its abundance.  Even though our harvest this year is far from over, the end of August seems like a lovely time to pause and say thank you.

Big Kale

Thank you, Garden, for the kale: my most favorite vegetable, growing like a lush palm-tree jungle out there.


Thank you, Garden, for arm-loads of basil: for all the pesto in our bellies and in our freezer and in the homes of our dear friends.


Thank you, Garden, for the sunflowers: the girls marvel at how tall they have grown, how the bees love them so, and how they really do make seeds for the birds.

Chinese Cabbage

Thank you, Garden, for the cabbage: our second planting that has grown into robust heads after a rough start and is now almost ready to be made into Jeffrey's delicious sauerkraut.

Sun Golds

Thank you, Garden, for a never-ending supply of sun gold tomatoes: how I love to watch the girls come running around the corner of the house with dress-loads of their golden goodness!

Chech Black Peppers

Thank you, Garden, for the peppers: they've made our pizzas, our salsas, and our sauces absolutely delicious.  Hopefully I've left enough for pickling. . .

Baby Russian Sage

Thank you, Garden, for your surprises: like the baby Russian Sage plant that snuck in alongside a poppy transplanted from my parents' garden in the spring.


Thank you, Garden, for the flowers: every single day the insects have a feast and we have a rainbow of color brightening our home.

Bronze Fennel

Thank you, Garden, for the herbs: the thyme, the cilantro, the parsley, the bronze fennel, the dill—have all graced our dishes.


Thank you, Garden, for flowers that keep blooming: the more the girls pick them, the more and more blossoms seem to appear.

Apricot Tree

Thank you, Garden, for our apricot tree: for its lush growth despite this hot, dry summer.

Raspberry Bushes

Thank you, Garden, for our baby raspberry bushes tucked away down the hill: for helping them grow strong, even when we left them mostly to themselves.

Harry & Amie

Thank you, Garden, for nourishing our family—our bodies and our souls—all summer long.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Making Books

Tiny Book

Remember Nancy?  Nancy and the rest of the doll family have acquired quite an extensive library this summer.  Since Amabel seems more interested in teaching the dolls to read than in reading herself, we decided to make a few tiny books together.

Ella's Journal

I've had a love affair with book making since high school.  I'm sure many of my family members remember receiving crude little folded, glued, and stitched books that I made over the years.  Well, when I recently discovered the creative goodness of alphabet glue, my love for making books was reignited.  Annie's magazines are filled with wonderful book-making activities for parents and children alike. 

Little Books

We've discovered this summer that tiny books are good for so many things: reading and writing tiny words; housing tiny drawings; and storing special tiny photographs.  And they aren't just for dolls.  So be on the lookout: a tiny book may be coming your way soon!

Mini Story

Tiny Photos

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Bien Dans Sa Peau

The Coat

I'm pretty practical when it comes to clothing.  My favorite outfit is a pair of well-worn jeans, a tank top, and rubber boots.  In fact, if it wasn't for my personal shopper (thanks, Mom!), I might not have any other clothes in my wardrobe.  I have no idea how I made it onto my sister-in-law's new site Northern Swag (it must have been the girls and the pup with a bandana), especially considering that Kim's daughter Cora once asked, "Aunt Zane, where are your heels?" when the girls were playing dress ups.  Heels?  Sorry, honey, the only shoes that you'll find in my closet are those in which I can comfortably walk the dog. 

Amabel, on the other hand, has a bit of style sense at almost seven.  Not anything trendy, mind you—but her very own look.  She knows what she likes.  She is, as the French would say, "bien dans sa peau," one who is well in her skin.  Amabel naturally chooses clothing and accessories that maintain her own state of comfort and grace.  She looks good because she feels good and not the other way around.

As I was scanning the more logical choices for a fall coat this weekend, (something that goes with most everything; is easy to wash; and made of natural materials), she fell in love with this 'faux wool' (price tag reads wool: actual garment tag reads acrylic) purple jacket and put it on.  I stopped myself from immediately dissuading her because of its impracticalities and instead just looked at my girl.  It was so utterly her.  And she knew it.  And then I knew that because it was a coat she would love to put on every chilly morning, it was the right one.  

Indeed, she likes it so much that she was willing to model it for me on a humid 85-degree afternoon!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Shop Keepers

I'll Take A Tomato

If you would have visited our house last Monday afternoon, you would have been greeted by five friendly shop keepers, two eager puppies, and one reluctant kitty—all trotting back and forth from the garden to a little table filled with produce and flowers for sale.  Truthfully, it was a small miracle that I managed to take a few photos during all the excitement.  Especially considering that I was the only customer until my sister came to retrieve her three children!


Serious Business

Nevertheless, this was a serious business.  The whole thing was Philena's idea, and she kept careful track of the money.  All of her workers got an even share of coins (except for 18-month-old Charlie who was more interested in eating everything than selling anything).

Sampling Some Grapes


To be fair, he did help wash off the vegetables.


Tait took his responsibility very seriously, even briefly wearing an apron like the girls.  He took the apron off after it got soaked by the hose (momentarily forgetting that he was washing off carrots and drenching his smiling brother instead).

Little Man in an Apron

Ellen decided that Mitty needed to visit the shop.  Unlike our two plant-loving dogs, the cat was not interested in carrots, radishes, tomatoes, pumpkins, flowers, or even wild grapes.

Mitty Customer

By the closing time, everyone was dirty and happy, and I had changed Charlie out of three saturated shirts.  Bliss!

Nice Eyebrows!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

From Michigan with Love

From Michigan with Love

For a very special aunt in California: a little package from Michigan—sent with our love.  

A couple of weeks ago, the girls and I spent a delightful afternoon gathering things to fit in this box: lavender from the garden; soap from the market; a petoskey stone from the beach; blackberry jam from the neighbor's berries (labels from taproot); a handmade box inspired by alphabet glue; and a little picture book of our summer highlights.

As the care package was filling up, Amabel and Ellen continued thinking of things we could include: A handful of ripe sun gold tomatoes?  A spicy pepper?  A bunch of sunflowers?  Tansy?  Kale?  As they listed off gifts from the garden, I realized how they've been influenced by the bounty we've been blessed with this summer.  When friends or family visit us now, the girls run around outside gathering flowers and veggies to pile in our guests' arms.  What a wonderful thing it is to have an abundance of growing things to share—and especially to watch as that sense of abundance has spilled over into the girls' hearts.

Now if only we could have sent a box of produce through the mail to our Aunt Debbie!  Maybe she'll be back soon to pick some with us. . .

Friday, August 17, 2012

August Light

Russian Sage

Dearest August Light, 

How I love to watch you filter down in the evening,
turning the over-grown jungle of a garden 
into the most magical of places—

Bronze Fennel

illuminating the flowers and seed heads,
decorating colors and patterns,
as you generously scatter your beads of radiance.


All summer long you've graced us with your warmth.
And now as the evenings come sooner, 
you remind me to hold on just a bit tighter 
to this lingering season
of abundance.


8 feet tall




And a note for the garden savvy: all these beauties are growing at parents' home, known as Gousty.  Jeffrey and I try to soak up as much garden wisdom as we can every time we visit—while children and dogs race around and around in delight!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Growing Together


This little guy is only up in Michigan for two more days.  Then he will travel back to New Orleans with his mama and papa for the academic year.  We savor our summer months with his family—every dinner, every conversation, every trip to the beach.  He has grown so much just since the first week of June. . . and it will be hard to say goodbye, not knowing quite when we'll see him next.  

I realize that many families go through this: being apart from loved ones during the early years of tremendous growth and learning.  But we are ever so fortunate to live close to all of the girls' cousins—all the cousins except for little Julien.  And there is something about that looming distance that has made me extra nostalgic this summer.  Perhaps it is knowing how different he will be next summer, at three?  At three, he probably won't want Ellen to follow him around the dinner table with a fork, feeding him bites of salmon and rice.  At three, he might not laugh every time he says the word "peanuts."  At three, he may not actually eat the spicy radishes and the lavender and the oregano he picks fresh from the garden (Then again, who's to say?  Maybe the youngest forager in our family will maintain his distinguished tastes!).

And then there is the endless, enthusiastic love between this little boy and his father (his father who also happens to be my big brother—the brother who teased me relentlessly and then became one of my very best friends).  The love between the two of them certainly won't disappear over the coming year, but I will certainly miss watching it.  I will miss that very much indeed.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Tug of Bread

Tug of Bread

There was half a loaf of stale baguette in the bread drawer.  A few days ago I threw it into the woods behind the compost pile, forgetting—briefly—that we have curious puppies about.  The next morning Jeffrey called me outside to watch Harry and Nancy parading around the yard with their newly discovered treasure.  The girls laughed hysterically along with me as I chased the puppies around with my camera, trying to capture a picture of their tug of bread.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Simplicity Parenting, Revisited

Beach Boy

I followed little Julien around on the beach tonight, watching him turning driftwood and feathers into tools for digging, sweeping, and vacuuming.  I admired the joyful, natural concentration he brought to his "work" and his intuitive ability to use the simplest objects as playthings.



Big and Little

When Amabel was four years old, I wrote a blog post entitled "simplicity parenting," inspired by the well-known book of that name.  My simplicity parenting post was centered around cleaning Amabel's room, taking things away and removing clutter from her space.  

Although getting rid of clutter is an important part of the simplicity parenting idea, I think I sort of missed the point when I first wrote about it; because at the heart of "the extraordinary power of less" isn't really what we take away, but what we make room for.

Watching Julien and our girls on the beach tonight, I was reminded of this.  I was reminded that the beach is among the "simplest" places to play, providing the "simplest" materials—water, sand, sticks, and stones—and yet it is among the richest of places too.  Rich because it allows us the space to imagine—and thereby create—almost anything.  Simplicity parenting, as I understand it now, is about providing our children with space (actual physical places, as well as emotional peace and unhurried time) so that they can bring deep attention to their work (or play, as it may be)—whatever form their work might take.  

Julien was so utterly absorbed in his world on the beach tonight.  Watching him play in that world was a like a gift for me, as I continue to think about how we maintain our home and spend our time as a family.  In an ongoing effort to give us all a bit more space for the things that matter most, I wonder how I can help make our home a little more like the beach?
Boy and Dog

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Ten Things

In the spirit of Soule Mama, I would like to share my "ten things."  
Ten things I love today:

Big Head

1. Terrier humor: especially amusing on days when we all need a good laugh.  I mean, who can resist that head?!


2. My brother and sister-in-law and their boy: the enthusiasm, the love, the learning.  Having them here all summer.  Getting to watch two-year-old wonder all over again.


3. Amabel's collections: I just never know what I'll find in her room.  Here we have a tiffany's box filled with tiny rocks and berries (i.e., trail mix for the dolls).

That dog again

4. That dog again: have I told you how much I love having a dog or two following me around everywhere?

Butterfly Weed

5. Butterfly Weed: we started from seed.  There is something wonderfully rewarding about starting plants in the early spring months and watching them slowly come to fruition.


6. Echinacea: we brought from our old house in town.  These flowers will always remind me of our move.


7. Dog training: when little girls take it upon themselves to teach the puppies their commands.  I was on the phone when the girls took Nancy outside (with their fists full of treats) to practice "come."


8. Books: the stack next to my bed.  I'm especially loving Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, which is giving me even more appreciation for the introverts in my life.

Watercolor boxes

9. Reusing watercolor paintings: and all the other wonderful project idea from alphabet glue.  I've been saving a pile of beautiful wet-on-wet watercolor paintings the girls created over the years.  Finally I've found the perfect project to give them new life.

Garlic: July

10. Garlic: and all the abundant gifts from our garden this summer.  So much goodness growing out there.