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Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

Weather can be a gamble around here.  Sunny, clear-skied and mild — then blustery, brittle and cold.  A lot like the northwest really – the kind of climate that makes you dress quickly and SEIZE a glorious moment before it passes.

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Thankfully, England has approximately 140,000 miles of public footpaths, so you are never far from a spur-of-the-moment stroll through the countryside. We found a footpath stile just outside our gate here on the farm and had just been waiting for a (clear) day and (dry) time to follow it. 

We set out yesterday, for a late afternoon walk – eager to explore and meander. The girls ran ahead much of the time – chasing after waymarks as though they were clues on a great treasure hunt.

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One of my earliest memories (and first loves) was chasing those same waymarks and public footpath signs…hopping over stiles & stalls across the English countryside…a little girl in Wellington boots, on a grand adventure with her sister.

As you can imagine, as I watched my girls do the same, the world felt balanced and familiar. The moment, both ironic, but inevitable.

Of course they would learn to love waymarks and stile-hopping. Of course they would grow up traipsing and touring the hills & vales of Britain in colorful rubber boots while the sun set behind them.

Because even though life is uncertain – memories and nostalgia are powerful things; forces, as they say, to be reckoned with.  Like waymarks, perhaps they have a way of guiding us back towards places & spaces where we’ve been wild & careless, loved & brave. Just a big happy heart in tiny boots.

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Moving house isn’t easy. Crossing an ocean has its hiccups. Saying goodbye stinks. Getting resettled is Hard (with a capital H).

But – as the sky turned a deep, royal, endless blue and the stars came out around us – I watched two tiny shadows hop and run towards the farm they now call “home.” And I couldn’t help but think about why we left and why we came here – and why it is that roads less travelled have their lure. 

Life, I guess, can be like fickle weather.  Can’t it?  If it gives you a moment to reach for your coat, put on good boots and find a path to explore – you should jump; because the weather may change at any moment.  And if you go, I’m fairly convinced you’ll be glad you did.  Even if you all lose your boots in the mud for a while…like we did. <smile>

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So. As I mentioned in a previous post, our “living arrangements” have been a bit up-in-the-air since we arrived (three weeks ago today). 

In some ways, this has caused a fair amount of stress, resulted in seemingly endless property searches and involved many (many) late nights.  In other ways, this has been an amazing gift (perhaps best appreciated in hindsight…but appreciated nonetheless). It’s not everyday you get to view your town/life from three unique vantage points. 

This was our first “home” (a sweet and delicious B&B on the banks of the River Severn)

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And this was “home” for one week…(a three-storied townhouse on a quiet street in the heart of Worcester City…also where Wynn had the stomach flu for four(!) days…but that’s another story)

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And now this is home for the month of February…a working farm just three miles from the centre of town — full of blue sky, mountain views and bright (bright) stars.

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Our next home? Who knows.  There are still neighborhoods to visit, schools to find, transportation to arrange, realtors to meet, etcetera (etcetera).

But — while many things feel a bit “hard” at the moment – it’s nice to know that living here (if only for a short time) is not one of them.

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Predictable and organized? Ummm…no. 

A one-of-a-kind introduction to the hills and vistas, towns and varying landscapes of Worcestershire? Yes.

Now – you’ll have to excuse me – I have two little girls in Wellies reminding me that, for now, we live on a farm and it’s time to explore…

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Snow’s on again! After a week or so of mild, rainy (think Seattle-like) weather, the white stuff is falling again. For the past two days light, fluffy flakes fall and swirl around, leaving a fine powder on the ground. Mid-February usually has me dreaming of sunny destinations, but I am embracing this right now. Winter can be so beautiful.

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The girls are on midterm break or “vinterferie” as it’s called here. I have some classes to attend, so Brett and I area trading off being home with them.

On the inside things are warm and cozy…which usually means some cooking and baking is going on. (Brett made his first-ever batch of cookies today!) 🙂 Here are a few things we’ve been cooking up…

Oatmeal with maple syrup and heaps of seeds, nuts and dried fruit…

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This is brunch we hosted for some friends…mini spelt pancakes, bacon-wrapped dates, frittata, coffee and mimosas.

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Roast chicken and a bulb of roasted garlic…

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Portobello mushrooms with sundried tomatoes and goat cheese…

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Homemade granola bars…

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Soup!

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Cherry tomatoes stuffed with pesto goat cheese…

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Brett’s gluten-free chocolate chip cookies turned out awesome!

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As promised, tomorrow we will cut a couple into heart shapes and add some icing and sprinkles as a half-hearted (yes…pun) attempt to celebrate Valentine’s Day, which (like most Hallmark holidays) is quite absent in this country.

On a random, yet somewhat-Valentine-related note, Matea has been into word searches lately. I made her one yesterday with love related words. They are quite easy to make and fun and educational.

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So – apparently this year’s Black Friday didn’t disappoint.  People camped and crowded, elbowed and engulfed major stores across the country. 

They even left friends and family, opting out of post-feast, full-bellied conversations so they could take advantage of the deals that are now being offered ON Thanksgiving Day. {Or, as I think they should be advertised: Thankless-giving Day Sales.}  I won’t get “into” what I think of all this.  After all, I like to keep this space light and happy, productive and positive.

Let’s just say – our family did not partake.

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Instead, we spent one of the sweetest long-weekends on record – easing our way into lazy, blue-sky mornings, visiting parades and parks and libraries, making art & waffles & warm baguettes (Oh! BTW, I make baguettes now! Recipe to follow…).  Then popcorn was popped and we curled up to watch movies in the evening under blankets made by grandparents (and great-grandparents).

No deals. No discounts. No stuff.

Just one small family – practicing the very underappreciated art of being thankful.

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“Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend.” -Laertius Diogenes

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So, between preparing for Halloween, an Election and a Hurricane it’s been a busy couple of weeks.  Apologies that I’ve shared so little… Here’s a glimpse of what’s been keeping us busy (and spinning and whirling and rushing and swirling)…

Still clearing up after the Hurricane.  We were so (so) lucky, compared to so (so) many.

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In the wake of “Sandy,” Halloween got a bit forgotten.  In fact, our township tried to cancel trick-or-treating (due to downed trees and whatnot).  Apparently this wasn’t an idea they cleared with the children in our neighborhood, who had been out of school for four straight days and missed all the usual Halloween festivities along the way.  Once the sun went down, they were off and thrilled be outside for the first time in days.  It was beautiful night – warm and calm – with no sign of the wild and endless wind that caused so much damage a day earlier.  In the end, we let our girls join in and they came home with an impressive collection of treats.  Once again, they enjoyed taking part in our family tradition of separating favorite versus our not-so-favorite sweets; leaving the latter for the “Candy Fairy” who accepted their offerings and left them each a surprise the next morning.

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And of course, the election – something our family/neighborhood and THIS side of the Atlantic has been very involved in.  We’ve been busy registering and reminding, canvassing and calling – with the hope that our efforts will teach our children what active-citizenship looks like…and encourage a lot of people to get to the polls tomorrow.

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Looking forward to a perfectly boring last two months of 2012!

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It’s been a more-chaotic-than-usual autumn for us (as everyone in the family has projects and causes keeping them busy) – so there hasn’t been too much time to ponder and plan Halloween costumes. So far we have a request for a Pirate Princess and Wonder Woman.

The Pirate Princess has me a bit baffled…and since this a request from a 3-year-old – I figure she’s counting on me to work out the details.  Maybe we’ll go with pantaloons and a homemade pirate map (a very simple project)?

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Wonder Woman just might require the super-human help of Amazon.com this year.  Sorry crafty counterparts of the world – I just don’t think a homemade costume is going to make my Top Ten List this month.  {I’m human, right?} 

But we did make a few Wonder Woman accessories. This bottlecap + resin project was pretty fun and something I’ve seen everywhere recently.  I’ll include a detailed how-to later…if that’s okay.

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We still haven’t gotten around to dragging out the decorations or carving proper pumpkins…but we did manage to paint a few acorns – so at least our birdhouse is looking ready for Halloween!

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Happy Half-Way to Halloween!  Any signs of this mostly-American holiday on your side of the ocean? 

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…that if you accidentally brew too much coffee, you can pour it into ice cube trays and use it to make iced lattes? This way – as the ice melts, your coffee gets stronger – not weaker. Brilliant, right??

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…that 85% of people don’t wash their cloth grocery bags (a number that included me until recently!)?  I feel so much better about plopping these clean bags onto my kitchen counter.  I am the 15%!!!

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…that if a Professional Declutterer/Organizer visits your home, he/she might walk straight to your refrigerator and draw a direct correlation between the number of magnets on your refrigerator and the level of clutter in your house?  <Gulp!>

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…if you take an old birthday/holiday card and pre-punch holes around the words/images (with a dull embroidery needle), little kids might spend hours quietly “sewing” next to you on a rainy afternoon?

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…that this is what a locust looks like right up close? 

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He looks kind of innocent, doesn’t he?  Giving no indication that he would ever think to swarm or ruin, cause plague or famine.  All I know is, I’m going to miss his constant summertime sound. See you next year Mr. Locust. Until then, stay out of trouble little guy!

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