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Deep Rest

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A Solstice gift for the ladies. Tutorial from Fresh Eggs Daily.

We opened the holiday season with our Solstice celebration, then followed it with days of cookie making, gift finishing, birthday festivities, and finally Christmas (followed by the ever holy 26th of December... oh, that is a good one). We aren't quite done yet, with the new year coming up in just a few days. 

This year was the second in our family's history that we were home alone on Christmas, just the three of us. The only other time we spent Christmas alone was followed by travel the next day to see my parents in northern Maine. So there were preparations and packing to do that year. Not this year though. And while we missed seeing everyone, it was truly therapeutic to not look at the clock once during the day. To sink fully into the holiday. After we opened gifts in the morning, there was no rush to put everything in its place in order to prepare for guests, or for us to get ready and go to another family members house.  I've heard of some extended families having their big Christmas celebrations on Christmas Eve and then just chilling out at home with their immediate family members on Christmas Day. I kind of like that idea. But our house is pretty occupied on Christmas Eve with celebrating Emily's birthday so that likely wouldn't work for us. This birthday marked her seventeenth year, an age that I wasn't expecting to have a lot of feelings around (unlike her sixteenth, and what I'm anticipating for her eighteenth), but I was so wrong about that. How can you not stop and feel the magnitude of entering your final year of hands-on, active parenting? I totally did not see this coming, but here I am... parenting on the cusp of adulthood. My swan song. There is more to say about this new place I find myself in, perhaps in another post. For now, let's get back to the holidays. 

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I realized something this year. As we solidify our family traditions around Solstice, I noticed how much more "me" this celebration feels than Christmas. Not that we celebrate Christmas in a way that feels inauthentic, but our Christmas food for example is steeped in tradition, in my own childhood. It is the time when the sugar comes out and cookie dough is rolled. Chocolate kisses are plunked down in the center of peanut butter cookies (made with that ultra silky kind of peanut butter). There is confectioners sugar and a cheese ball and After Eight Dinner Mints... because those mints and that cheese ball have made an appearance every single Christmas my entire life. You get the idea. I don't feel like the world is going to stop or I'm "failing" at some kind of nutritional perfection by revisiting these childhood foods once a year, but at the same time, we aren't used to eating these things regularly and it does sort of grab my attention when we do. 

But Solstice? We did not celebrate that in my family growing up, so I have no particular foods tied to the day. When it came time to plan our menu for Solstice this year, it was simple. A pot of soup and a pan of my almond butter brownies. Have you ever made these brownies? Oh man... I've shared the recipe in one of my workshops but I'm going to share here with you now as well because it really needs to be out in the world. Made with no flour, no dairy, no refined sugar, and with an egg free option; it's the perfect sweet treat for all sorts of dietary preferences. 

(Click here for recipe - ALMOND BUTTER BROWNIES)

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So yes, Solstice food feels like our everyday kind of food, just dressed up a bit. Christmas food though... it's a stroll through memory lane. 

Our Christmas dinner was really fun to pull off as it was a nod to our many childhood holiday meals, but sourced from two local farms. Prime rib from Baldwin Brook Farm and various vegetable dishes from Provider Farm. The flavors and spirit of the meal were amazing. 

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Holiday mode lingered through the 26th and 27th, but yesterday we started to feel the shift. Adam's return to work was on the horizon, as was my own. Attempting to hold on to the magic that was felt over the last several days, we chose to linger. Not worrying about the clock, we made soap and knit and read books, we cooked potato leek soup and watched a movie, we read some more and went to bed early. After a full season of busy, this past week was the first time in months we've all felt truly in a place of deep rest and relaxation.


Generally I'm a big fan of Mondays, and today is no exception, but it does feel more like a "Monday" than a holiday, so I'm adjusting. We'll take it, though. In just a few short days another long holiday weekend is upon us - and with it comes a clean slate, big dreams, and freshly laid plans. This Virgo is not going to miss out on such an opportunity... which is basically a holiday for making lists and getting organized. Yes, please. 

We've got some pretty big plans for 2015. Nothing that we're attaching all of our hopes, and dreams to, but huge plans nonetheless. Here's to making it all happen... and if it doesn't all get done this year (and let's be honest, it won't), here's to at least having great fun along the way.

Busy Life (didn't see it coming!)

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Mason Jar Cozy 3 Ways with a Cuppow lid makes a sweet gift that can be made in just a few hours.


This school year has been unlike any other we've experienced. It's hard to remember that I still have a high school junior living with us. Truthfully, it feels like we are three adults living under one roof with two drivers licenses - which is not always the easiest thing to coordinate. Between Emily taking two classes at one college, piano lessons at another college, debate classes 45 minutes away, her two jobs, and an orthodontist that needs visiting every time you turn around for another micro-adjustment... not to mention her love of adult community classes (anyone in need of a CPR certified teen?), and figuring out a way to take classes at a second state university this spring - we all feel like we haven't come up for air since September! The idea of Emily having her license so that we may ease up on the "two adults getting three adults where they need to go" thing certainly has its appeal. But, we're not ready to go there quite yet, so Adam and I continue to taxi. 

A few months ago Emily did get her learners permit and practice driving is happening all the time (even at night!), official drivers ed classes will start in the spring. I have very strong feelings about teens getting their license at 16, thankfully Emily feels the same way. We're all being patient and respectful of the process. (I might feel differently about the drivers license age if we lived in a remote area, but living where we do, 16 is too young.)

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Our first winter CSA! Thanks to Provider Farm.


The bright side of all this busy is that Emily has taken the idea of pre-college and is R U N N I N G with it. And why not? She's young, inquisitive, and her days are free to be designed as she wishes. Of course, I have to laugh at myself as I'm writing this because by cultural standards, we're not at all busy. We all get plenty of sleep, spend hours and hours together each day, make time for physical activity and meaningful pursuits... yada yada yada. And yet, if you asked me how I was, I'd tell you I was SO BUSY!

So, we're busy, which is out of character for us.  We're having dinner together only a few times a week right now, and there are more trips to the Whole Foods Bar than I would like, but we are still mostly cooking at home. It's just that we grab and eat on the go, often at separate times. (For the record, I'm not opposed to eating out as some form of moral nutritional high-ground, it just makes us feel unwell 9 out of 10 times and never seems like a good use of our budget.)

All of this is fine, and hardly a crisis, but different from what we're used to. We decided to join a winter CSA this year and after only one week I can say it's been a saving grace, doing all the thinking for me. We picked up our first box last Friday, went away for the weekend, then I was able to jump into cooking on Monday with no thought of heading to the store. Dinner this week has included so far - scrambled eggs with roasted sweet potatoes and sauteed spinach topped with home canned salsa, pan seared venison steaks with caramelized onions and rosemary, baked potatoes and sauteed kale with dried cranberries, and tonight will be potato leek soup and green salad with roasted beets. No recipes, just working our way through what was provided. A perfect mealtime solution. 

Last week I was visiting with a friend in the late afternoon. She asked how my day was going and I immediately threw out the "b" word. Which was quickly followed by laughter because, Oh my gosh I am so not 'actually' busy... it just feels like if I have more than three things to do in a day I'm completely tapped out! Thankfully, she totally got where I was coming from for she is the same exact way. On that particular day I had vacuumed, wrapped a few gifts, packed an overnight bag, drove to the farm, then drove to a really sweet cafe for book club... and this mama was ready for a massage and a nap!

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I have no idea what the point of this post is. A couple of months ago I made a conscious choice to notice the various thoughts occupying my mind and free them via this keyboard. My hope was for less chatter upstairs. In other words, to write my way through to the other side. I have to tell you, it actually works! It might not seem like the things I've been writing are particularly meaningful, but they are to me because each time I post I feel a little lighter, a little more clear. A kind of sweet release. This is a strange realization for me as I've never considered myself to be a writer, but here I am with a process for clearing my mind through the written word.

Funny, I hadn't noticed until now, but perhaps the writing I've been doing lately is all about calming the activity of my mind as a way to cope with feeling like I cannot calm the activity of my life. Ah, nothing like a good dose of perspective.

So, thank you busy life... you have taught me a thing or two. But I am done with your teachings now, so please feel free to leave at anytime. I would be so very grateful.


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I thought of leaving the french press at home. It's only one night, I told myself. But at the last minute I changed my mind and grabbed it - along with maple syrup, cream, and coffee as we headed out the door.

Checking the forecast also wasn't too high on my list. There wasn't really any kind of weather that would keep us home. We knew heading to northern Vermont in December meant snow gear and wool so it was to be packed regardless of the forecast.

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Well, did we turn out to be prepared! A snowstorm moved in during our drive up Friday night, increasing with each northbound mile. The final approach to the inn was sparkly white against the headlights, our room key was waiting on the front desk as the inn keepers had long ago retired for the evening. We settled in ourselves. The next morning, we woke up to the most beautiful snowfall one could ask for. The young lady working the front desk told me the snow was expected to fall throughout the entire day... I booked another night (safety first, right?)... she told me there were sleds and snowshoes for us to enjoy... I told her we were headed to the north ridge to visit family, but maybe later.

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Lately I've been trying to recall the "center of town" that Adam grew up in. I know I've been through it countless times over the years, but did I miss something? Is there a market? A gas station? A hardware store? A stoplight? So, on the way to his aunt and uncle's house Adam drove us through the town center for a little refresher. Well... just as the small town saying goes - if you blink, you'll miss it. And in case you blinked, I can tell you that you missed the grange hall, the small elementary school (Adam helped build the stone wall in front as a young boy), and the town hall building. That is entirely it.

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We had such a nice visit with Adam's family. Before we left to carefully make our way back to the inn, we decided to take a walk in the woods. At one point, Adam and Scout went off in one direction while Emily headed off for another. I, wrapped up in my near ankle length down coat, fell down into the snow and leaned up against a huge boulder. I wanted to be still, and soak it in. For some reason I started thinking about how some people have never experienced the silence of a snowstorm. No matter where you live, be it in the city or the country, snow has a way of making everything more quiet. If you happen to be in a place that is quiet on a sunny day, the silence of a snowy day is deafening.

As I sat against the rock, cozy and dry in my coat (that is essentially a sleeping bag you can walk in), I started to hear a soft distant sound. A gentle yet persistent, thump, thump, thump.  For about ten seconds I couldn't figure out for the life of me what I was hearing. The world felt silent and still, my breath slow and quiet. What could it be? And then I realized... the only sound I could hear in those snowy sugar woods, was the sound of my own heartbeat.

My own heartbeat.  

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 I thought about that moment for the rest of the day. Over maple smoked cheddar, over tomato bisque with fresh herbs and chevre, over wine, over reading my favorite passage from Green Mountain Farm to Adam and Emily.

I was in a world so utterly silent... that all I could hear was my own heartbeat.

Daydreaming About a Cabin in the Woods

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The other day I spilled the beans about a little hobby of mine. It wasn't a confession really, but more an acknowledgment of what I was up to at the moment. A simple retelling through the snap of a camera, posted on Instagram. My hobby is a little something I like to call, Daydreaming About a Cabin in the Woods

Or, more accurate, Daydreaming and Vision Mapping About a Cabin in the Woods. (Why can't I seem to have a hobby without a crafty element?)

Sometimes when I have a few minutes between work, doing my best to keep our home comfortable and clean (enough), and shuffling Emily to her various classes... I think about what it would be like to live off grid. Because that's a perfectly normal thing to do. I've even created a few Pinterest boards to organize my ideas, which have been a great catalyst for all that vision mapping. So yes, on any given day I can be found printing photos, pretend shopping on Craigslist for materials, and sketching cabin plans in my journal. Care to peek at my cabin related Pinterest boards? 

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It's fair to say that I was a pretty idealistic young person, youth is good for harboring idealism. At my current age, I don't think of off grid living in terms of oh, what a cute and cozy idea where everything will be wonderful and juuuust right! Hardly. I think of it more practically than that. I break it down in terms of our household systems and piece together in my mind possible ways to make each of them work. Laundry, cooking, washing dishes, bathing, powering computers for my work (internet!), food preservation, pumping water, lights (when truly needed, not just wanted)... the list goes on. But actually, it doesn't go much further than that. Which is good because that list is enough to keep my mind plenty occupied for a good long while. Living off grid does not mean living without amenities (though it often means living with fewer); rather it means you need to source alternative methods to power and operate your household needs... most of the time. Sometimes, you may need to dig deep and get in touch with your inner pioneer. 

Generally, people love the idea of living off grid until they think about using the outhouse. But there are ways to make that a better experience. Adam's grandmother lives in northern Vermont and though she has indoor plumbing now, her home did not always. The outhouses still remain on her property which serve as back up in case of extended power outage. She has one privy out behind the house attached to the barn, a pretty typical set-up on any older homestead. Then she has a second privy inside the carriage house which is attached to the main house for secondary use, either at nighttime or during a snowstorm. You don't have to go outside! 

Here's the thing. I'm not sure why more outhouses aren't made to be charming in their design. Can you believe I just said that? But it's true... watch any Alaska real estate show and the buyers are always afraid of viewing the dreaded outhouse - even native Alaskans! The way I see it, if we had to build an outhouse for day to day use, why not design it to be something like this? (Seriously, check out that video. Jump to 4:55 for an immediate look at the finished interior.)


So, the idea of an outhouse is actually not the biggest hurdle for me. Neither is using a wood cookstove (I would prefer that), doing laundry (that would be super hard work, but doable), and most of the remaining items on the list. Hard... maybe they'd grow old real fast... but possible. The biggest hurdle for me is bathing. I like soap and water and at the end of the day I'd really like to slip between the sheets and not bring the day's sweat and dirt with me. There are of course plenty of options for bathing off grid, but none are as convenient and luxurious as turning the faucet and having endless amounts of hot water with decent pressure streaming out. Hot showers have got to be one of the greatest pleasures of modern day. I'm pretty attached to the idea of creating an excellent off grid shower system. Well, as excellent as can be. 

The idea of living in a small-ish cabin, off grid, can trigger some pretty big responses from people (it turns out). As for me, I'm more curious than anything else. I see it as a potential means to an end - a way to "pay as we go" if the right piece of land presented itself to us. A way to test my resolve, to identify through experience what our true energy needs really are. Maybe over time we could pay cash for a few first world systems of luxury (water! lights!), but maybe they would still be delivered through off grid means. The big kicker for me is that if we ever did go off grid, and eventually tied into the grid for whatever reason, I'd really like to do it in a way that allowed us to easily revert back to off grid living in a moments notice. You know, for when the zombies come. I like the idea of having the ability for our home to function with total independence, if needed. 

Maybe another day I'll write about the other items on the list (laundry, food preservation, etc.), but we're already closing in on 1,000 words of mostly outhouse talk and I wouldn't want to ruin the charm of today's topic. (That was me trying to be funny.)

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In a time when we tend to over think everything, it's important to remember that off grid living is not rocket science. In fact it's the opposite of rocket science. Considering this, I totally see the irony in using Pinterest to organize my off grid education. But, seeing as most of us are 3-4 generations removed from using these types of skills as the norm, it can indeed feel like you need a PhD to figure it all out. You don't! I don't! We do need a big shift in perspective and expectation though. Perhaps that will be the greatest education of all. 

Thanks for visiting this daydreaming and idea collecting hobby of mine, further proof that it's an absolute party everyday around here. Also, I fully realize my penchant for twinkly lights will likely not have a place in an off grid cabin. Perhaps I can bargain with the universe... twinkly lights for the hot shower. It just might be worth it.

A New Season is Upon Us

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For as long as I can remember, we've held the tradition of heading to the tree farm the day after Thanksgiving to choose a beauty that will deck our halls well into the new year. We are a poky group of people in many ways (but let's go with "slow living"), so bringing our tree home on Friday, putting the lights on Saturday, followed by ornaments on Sunday, feels like the right speed for us. Then I'll spend the following week hanging the rest of our decorations throughout the house. 

My aunt has hosted Thanksgiving for the last several years so here at home we've been without precious leftovers. My family was feeling a little twitchy without the coveted post-Thanksgiving bounty, so a few years back we added the tradition of making a second Thanksgiving meal to be enjoyed during our tree trimming weekend. It's become a much anticipated event around here! I could be better about planning and prepping ahead and I would really like to work on that - preparing an entire meal, multiple pies and full Thanksgiving spread, from slow-roasted pastured turkey to cranberry sauce to stuffing to countless other side dishes all in one day is a little tiring. Tasty for sure, but tiring. With the help of my family I can pull off better planning and prep for sure. It was actually kind of a big revelation for me this year but I'm looking forward to working smarter not harder in the future. (I know, I'm late to the party when it comes to cooking as much of the holiday feast in advance as possible. Better late than never.)

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Leading up to Thanksgiving we had a really hectic couple of weeks. It seemed there were appointments and activities that pulled us out of the house more days and nights than we were home. My parents (and their kitty!) were staying with us, I opened registration for Hibernate (thank you! thank you!), and then Emily developed a not so lovely ear/nose/throat/fever thing that kept her in bed for a few days. Everything combined, we were really looking forward to a slow yet festive post-Thanksgiving weekend. 

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This year we had the idea to tie a little holiday shopping and perhaps lunch into our annual Christmas tree outing. If you're following the time-line here you know this means we'd be out shopping on the dreaded and often proudly boycotted Black Friday... and exactly how was this bright idea going to work out for my family of fairly introverted, highly sensitive people? Good question! I'm pretty sure I can count on one hand how many times a year we find ourselves at a mall or box store so of course the idea of that kind of shopping was not appealing for our day after Thanksgiving shopping experience. We weren't looking for door-busters or stores that opened at 5am, we were looking for Currier & Ives

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So we drove out to a little town in northeastern Connecticut that is filled with antique shops, yarn and bead stores, plenty of cute cafes, a pottery shop and a few good ol' thrift shops. Just the kind of holiday shopping we prefer. And I do like holiday shopping, really I do! I just like the kind that puts our dollars directly into the hands of our community and provides us and those we love with goods that are made to last and are things we could truly use. It's a simple equation, really. I'm not opposed to consumerism, I'm just not into the way consumerism is typically practiced in our culture. And when you venture away from the mall, look at the sort of beauty you will find!

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The little town that we lunched and shopped in was ten minutes up the road from the tree farm we go to every year, so it was a quick car ride from one place to the next. We found the perfect tree almost immediately, because it is truly hard to find a bad tree at Allen Hill Farm. We sipped cider and took family photos (including one with Scouty-boy via modern technology), we warmed up by the wood stove in the gift shop and literally drove off into the sunset with our perfect tree in the back of the truck.

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The following two days were spent gathering final ingredients and preparing our big meal, decorating the tree (and even downsizing a few decorations... yeah!), knitting here and there, listening to Christmas music, watching Christmas movies and enjoying the remains of our Thanksgiving snowfall (which melted last night, sadly). There are still many decorations to put up throughout the week, adding a bit more sparkle and twinkle with each addition. Today, I'm simmering broth and catching up with all of your Hibernate registrations. Thank you so much for your support and interest in my work, I can't tell you how much it means to me. Well, it means everything... truly. (The "Bring a Friend" special officially ended yesterday, but I sure don't mind if you need to slip yours in today.)

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We are heading to Vermont this weekend because when Adam's aunt emailed and asked if we'd like to come for a holiday visit and perhaps make wreaths with greens from their woods and sip hot cocoa... of course the answer was yes, please!

Until then, I'll continue to deck the halls, work on some gift-making, and prepare for our soon to arrive Hibernation. Three of my favorite things.