Holidays around the Rose Garden

I hope you all had an amazing Christmas!

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This year was one of the best I have had in a long time.  The celebrations were relaxed, gifts were thoughtful, and the company was good.  I’m not sure you can ask for better than that.  

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Due to a few family emergencies that took up my mental space (not to mention Thanksgiving being incredibly late), I felt festive much later than normal.  But when I got to it, I once again used things I had on hand for most of my décor, only buying a beautiful wreath from a friends scouting group.  Although it was on the cheap, it still had a lot of charm.

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Pictures inside the house are horrible this time of year, so most of the ones that turned out well are of our outdoor decorations.  We had no lights up outside the house this year due to breakage (along with “brokeage”, haha), but it still turned out festive and cute.  And I LOVE the bells I purchased earlier this year at a thrift shop.  They are all metal and have a beautiful sound.  It was fun to add them in here and there.

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Merry Christmas my friends!  Blessings for a beautiful New Year!

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Advent Days

This years advent activities went off beautifully!  Many of them were tons of fun and we started some new traditions that I am excited about as well.  The kids had a blast getting to open the card for each day and finding out what kind of adventure we were going on.  My favorite thing about doing the advent activities is the memories we get to make as a family.  All those incredible, collectable, stories that start with “Do you remember when….”

Here are some highlights and I added the links where applicable.

Dec 1st: Christmas Movie with Caramel Popcorn

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For this activity I actually ended up using this recipe:  Honey Vanilla Caramel Popcorn from PineappleandCoconut.com

It includes no corn syrup and uses honey instead.  It was SO tasty!  I don’t think I will ever go back to the corn syrup version again, even if we only make it twice a year.

Dec 2nd: Pomander Oranges

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Dec 3rd: Dreidel for Hanukkah with friends

Dec 4th: Paper Snowflakes and Stars Crafts

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Dec 5th: Journey to Bethlehem

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Dec 6th: St Nickolas day

The kids laid their shoes out the night before and I got to treat them with a chocolate coins and a neat little trinket.  Smile  It’s a fun tradition considering Santa Claus coming down the chimney is a ‘fun’ thing at our house and not a ‘real’ thing.  I read the story of the real St Nick and we celebrate his life, completely separately from the Christmas holiday.  (That's where the chocolate coins come in… if you want to read about the real St Nick check this out!)

Dec 7th: Breakfast with Santa at the Station

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Dec 8th: Family Game Night!

I WISH I had pictures of this.  This was one of those memory nights.  Highlight:

Playing Taboo w ILs and family.  Boys vs girls...

Carlos says "um... Ah... I love this?"
Don says "beer!"
Carlos "yes!"


This game is rigged.

Dec 9th: Get Christmas Tree

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Dec 10th: Teasel Hedgehog Crafts (Never got to this… teasels are still on the nature table… maybe after break?)

Dec 11th: Going to see Santa scuba diving with some sharks at Zoo Lights

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Seriously… how cool is that??

Dec 12th: Cards and Gifts for Friends

Dec 13th: Going to see Paradosi Ballet Company

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Dec 14th: St Lucia Day (make St Lucia Bread)  (Technically it was the 13th, but we ended up making it for Christmas brunch.)

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Dec 15th: Go find some snow at Mt Rainier!

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This was Ember’s (our 4 mo old puppy) first outing and she was so excited!  It was adorable watching her run around in the snow.  Luckily, we had had some snow just last week, so she wasn’t entirely unfamiliar with it.  She just jumped in and had a blast!

Dec 16th: Shopping for Mommy with Daddy

Dec 17th: Chocolate dipped treats

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Dec 18th: Make peg doll nativities

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Dec 19th: Make gifts for our feathered friends

Dec 20th: Christmas Cookies for Neighbors

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Dec 21st: Christmas Light Scavenger Hunt with fresh hot cider 

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Dec 22nd: Ice Skating!!

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23rd: Fantasy lights at Sprinker Park

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Dec 24th: Light a fire and roast s’mores

Haha!  Joke was on us, burn ban started today!  Smile with tongue out  So we had some boxed chocolates and watched It’s a Wonderful Life together instead.  I cried.  I always do.

And that was it for this year.  It was on to Christmas!

Advent Activities 2009

Advent Activities 2010

Advent Activities 2011 

Advent Activities 2012

Chicken Boy

Here in the Seattle area we have had a nasty cold snap these past few weeks.  Teens or lower at night, high of twenties during the day.  The creek froze over, the tiny bit of snow we got just after Thanksgiving is still on the ground, the grass crunches as you walk on it, and the chicken waterer is frozen all day long, despite the fact that we were bringing it into the house each night.  This isn’t normal at all for us sensitive West Coasters.  So we all got a little stir crazy.  Which meant that as soon (like the HOUR) it started to cloud over and warm up, everyone went outside.  Even the chickens. 

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While inside my toddler figured out that he is now big enough to pick up the animals.  My cats were the least happy about this arrangement.  But Luke loves to ‘pick her down’ as he calls it when he dumps our pretty grey cat, unceremoniously into a spot that is not NEAR as cozy as wherever she had decided to nap. 

 

She has started sleeping in places he can not get too…

like the top of my closet shelves,

or in my kitchen cupboards. 

 

The puppy is now too big for him to carry… so what is a boy to do?  What could he possibly carry around that wouldn’t avoid him or squirm or be able to jump out of his arms?  Oh yes!  Chickens! 

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They don’t seem to mind too much. 

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Advent Activities for 2013!!

Our advent activities are looked on as the most serious of traditions.  My kids wait for the calendar to be put out almost as much as they wait for Christmas morning.  It is a signal for the countdown to Christmas, but it is also a month where we only do basics for school and concentrate on doing crafts, elaborate baking projects, and enjoying lots of family time together!

This year is filled with fun things to do that are a little more subdued than in some years past (2011 comes to mind), but I am so looking forward to being able to watch my kids eyes widen on the days when we do things like Journey to Bethlehem and Breakfast with Santa at the PD.  These are the things memories are made of, and everyone (including me!) look forward to this month each year.  I highly encourage everyone to make this time of year as personal and family based as possible.  As my kids get older I am quickly realizing that my time with them is finite and it won’t be long before I have a few less people to make December plans for, although I hope they have such fond memories of the time that they still come from far and near to enjoy ‘chocolate dipping day’ or ‘family game night’. 

Links where applicable for the most inspiration possible.

  1. Christmas Movie with Caramel Popcorn
  2. Pomander Oranges
  3. Dreidel for Hanukkah with friends
  4. Paper Snowflakes and Stars Crafts
  5. Journey to Bethlehem
  6. St Nickolas day
  7. Breakfast with Santa at the Station
  8. Family Game Night!
  9. Get Christmas Tree
  10. Teasel Hedgehog Crafts
  11. Going to see Santa scuba diving with some sharks at Zoo Lights
  12. Cards and Gifts for Friends
  13. Going to see Paradosi Ballet Company
  14. St Lucia Day (make St Lucia Bread)  (Technically yesterday, but it’s where I can fit it)
  15. Go find some snow at Mt Rainier!
  16. Shopping for Mommy with Daddy
  17. Chocolate dipped treats
  18. Make peg doll nativities
  19. Make gifts for our feathered friends
  20. Christmas Cookies for Neighbors
  21. Christmas Light Scavenger Hunt with fresh hot cider
  22. Ice Skating Today!!
  23. Fantasy lights at Sprinker Park
  24. Light a fire and roast s’mores
  25. Open your stocking!!

Advent Activities 2009

Advent Activities 2010

Advent Activities 2011 

(2011 is the year we ‘traveled’ around the world for Advent)

Advent Activities 2012

Wondermill’s Grain Mill Wagon Challenge!

Late this summer I got the opportunity to join in the Grain Mill Challenge.  I got a free, amazing Wondermill out of the deal and I had to develop a few good recipes using it and post them to their blog to encourage others to try new things with their grain mill.  It didn’t take long to figure out that most every recipe I developed with the fresh ground wheat and spelt was more amazing and delicious! 

Here is the latest installment for the Grain Mill Wagon blog that I thought I would share before “pumpkin everything” season was over.  

Light & Fluffy, Spelt Pumpkin Muffins

Click on picture for link to the recipe.  Enjoy!

All the fall color is now on the ground

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Sigh…  my aunt sent me a picture earlier this month.  It was a beautiful shot with trees and a pond filled with their color.  It said “My favorite color is October”. 

I couldn’t agree more.  November is going to be very grey in comparison.

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Yay for hoop houses!

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It was late August, I had just gotten done with 4 boxes of peaches and was setting up for the waterfall of squash that was to happen at any moment.  And I was planting kale, lettuce, and chard.

Two weeks later, my lettuce mix was doing great!  I got my first harvest only 3 1/2 weeks after I planted… and it also started to rain. 

The thunder storms this year were beyond anything I can compare living here.  Back to back, for over a week, September came in like a lion (isn’t that supposed to be March?) that roared incessantly through the night as Fall hit us like a punch in the face. 

I knew that these storms would be too much for my little seedlings, so I decided to put my hoop houses back up.  I am so glad I did!  That first bed I planted was soon joined by two more.  I was trying hard to hold on to whatever heat we had left so I could get just one more salad bed from my garden.  Now I have three hoop houses, one that holds that first lettuce mix crop,

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one that holds lettuce and spinach

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and a third that is growing two different types of kale and some volunteer dill, of all things! 

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I have enjoyed MANY salads since that first major weather turn. 

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Everything but the tomatoes in this amazing salad is from my garden on Nov 2nd after three frosts.  The violets and borage flowers and parsley. 

(The tomatoes are from Trader Joes… I wish hoop houses worked that well.  Winking smile )

I have used them often for getting a jump on the spring season and putting tomatoes in way too early for my ‘zone’, but I haven’t used them regularly for extending the season on the Autumn end of things.  It has worked amazingly well and I will be doing it again!

{this moment}

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{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

{Inspired by SouleMama}

Soup Season - Slow cooker French Onion soup

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There are only a few downsides to growing your own onions.  One of those is sprouting.  I do not have a root cellar.  I do the best I can with my garage and some burlap and baskets, and it generally works very well, but every now and again I go to get an onion or potato and I will find that they have started to sprout and will need to be used right away.  This time I had four onions that sprouted and I decided that a nice pot of French onion soup and some fresh made crusty bread would be the perfect way to use them!  Both take about 10 hours to get to tasting their best, so I put them in as I was making breakfast for the kids and by dinner it was perfect!

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Slow-cooker French Onion Soup

  • 4 Tbs butter
  • 4 Med onions, sliced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbs brown sugar
  • 2 cubes vegetable or beef bullion
  • 64 oz vegetable or beef broth

Sauté the onions and garlic in the butter until the onions go clear.

Now is the hardest part, caramelize the onions for about 25 minutes on med-low heat, stirring occasionally to make sure they do not burn.  This is where most of the flavor comes from.  So it isn’t a step to skip. 

After they are good and carmely (they will be soft and many will be broken down so they break up when you mix them with a spoon) then add them to the slow-cooker. 

Add in thyme, pepper, brown sugar, vinegar, bullion, and broth. 

Let cook for 8-10 hours on low. 

(If you like a thicker French onion soup, about 25 minutes before serving, mix 2 Tbs flour with a cup of water or broth and add that into the slow-cooker.)

For serving - it is customary for a piece of French bread to be placed on the top of the soup and then a slice of cheese (provolone or gruyere) to be broiled on top, creating a delicious crust that your spoon breaks through to get to the yummy sweet and yet tangy onion soup beneath.  I did not do that because my bread was not finished cooking and I didn’t want to wait that long.  I just dug my spoon into the soup and enjoyed.  lol!  But for a even nicer finished product, I do highly suggest it! 

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