Friday, January 31, 2014

Life Gets A Little Slippery Sometimes....




Sorry for the photo overload!  For me, this was a first. Clara & I were pleasantly surprised when we visited a local pond (where we relocated Shelly last Summer!) to find it completely frozen.  There were three geese there and they were all hanging out and slipping across the ice.  Clara & I watched and giggled and took pictures and had a good time!  I'm so thrilled we caught them at just that moment because it got up to about 54 degrees today and I doubt the pond remained frozen.

52 Weeks in Nature :

With this post, I'm joining Magic Onion's 52 Weeks in Nature.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Sneak Peek Inside Sophie's Dollhouse

Sophie's dollhouse is your run-of-the-mill dollhouse.  Alain and I gave it to her for her 3rd birthday.  Over time it's been filled with a family and several rooms of furniture but that is not what makes it special.  I don't remember how it started but every so often Sophie provides my Dad with a Dollhouse Wish List.  The lists are really quite amusing.  Some of the items that come to mind are birthday cake, cheese plate, car rug, birdcage, flower bouquet, and a toilet.  But one thing you need to know is that my dear father is quite creative and imaginative and he's provided her with several doll house items that even Sophie couldn't think of herself.  As  I was straightening the dollhouse a couple of days ago, I took a few photos of my favorite items to share.....

My second favorite dollhouse detail. An easel and paint palette. Not too crazy, right?  EXCEPT that my Dad took Sophie's actual artwork, shrunk it down to dollhouse size and added it to the easel.  So adorable!  Sophie was very excited when she opened this on her birthday!

Of course this one is my favorite.  I think Sophie may have even asked for a picture frame but my Dad upped the ante by shrinking down a photo of Sophie & Hubbell to put in the frame (she was about Clara's age at the time). As you can see, this has been well-loved and is starting to come apart a little. After I saw the photo, I promised myself to fix it up a little.

What dollhouse would be complete without its own dollhouse inside? So cute. Where does my Dad find this stuff?

And the car rug?  Sophie LOVES this even though we don't have any miniature Matchbox cars (good thing because I'm sure they'd be lost in 2.2 seconds!).  When Soph was little, she was obsessed with Matchbox cars and played with them DAILY.  I always adored that about her! I'm sad to report that she's outgrown her love of cars and Clara didn't inherit the same interest in Matchbox.  Pooh! We still have a huge Matchbox collection languishing in a cute bag inside one of our toy boxes.  They only get pulled out when we have boy friends over for playdates....

It wasn't long after we adopted Scout and Atticus that Sophie requested a birdcage for her dollhouse. Dad did not disappoint!  It's really quite pretty. Oh and I just noticed the little fruit basket seen in this photo on the kitchen counter ~ that was also courtesy of my Dad.

One of my favorite things about Sophie's dollhouse is the fact that the chicken coop resides right in the kitchen (that's it to the right, behind Grandpa, in the above photo)!  The rabbits are usually hanging out in the living room. And every once in a while a horse can be found up in the attic. Clearly, it's my kind of place!

Anyway, I'm pretty sure Dad doesn't read my blog but Mom may share this with THANK YOU DAD for giving Sophie's dollhouse so much soul and character.  You know it wouldn't be the same without all of your loving and special additions!


Wednesday, January 29, 2014


Let me just tell you this.....we are snow people.

When we wake up with an inch and a half of snow and no school, what do we do?  

We put on all of our crazy, mismatched snow gear and walk to breakfast.  How lucky we are to live close enough to walk to some fairly decent restaurants, the grocery store, Target, even a movie theater!  Our walk was really nice. The air was crisp, cold and clean.  There were very few people out.  Everything was exciting and new......the crunching of snow under our boots, the boot prints we left behind, watching cars slide around on the icy road, being in a fairly empty restaurant.   





Even though we're snow lovers, we know it's not to everyone's liking!  For those of you here in the Southeast especially, where nice snow is a rarity, we hope you're staying safe, cozy and warm!

PS ~ One of these pictures was taken for you, Deb.  I'm sure you can guess which one!  XO

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Peaceful Night

Right before New Years, I spent a night by myself in a local hotel.  It was maybe my favorite holiday gift!

I took my old, trusty laptop, my brand new, empty calendar for 2014, a slew of magazines and some new books that I received for Christmas.

I also took my copy of Voluntary Simplicity.  I re-read it every year and it inspires me to simplify my life all over again!

Oh, you have no idea how much I enjoyed myself.  I'm someone who needs a lot of time alone and I never get bored with myself.  I ordered dinner in and watched a movie while I ate.  No one interrupted me or tried to take my food or spilled a drink or sat in my lap or cried in my ear.  When the movie finished, I literally did a dance around the room because I was so relaxed and happy. I played Candy Crush without anyone getting annoyed with me. I even watched an hour of trashy TV without comments from my husband. I brushed my teeth and flossed for nearly 15 minutes.  Are you a flosser?  I've always loved flossing my teeth and it's one of those things that often gets pushed to the back burner when the kids are around.  (What does that say about my life when flossing my teeth was a highlight?  Ha!)  Look, I even hung my jacket!

I stayed up late reading but remained in bed until about 10:30 the next morning.  Can you imagine?  What a luxury!  I begged for a later check-out time and they gave it to me.  I was so happy!

I thought a lot about saying good-bye to 2013 and looked ahead to 2014.  I planned our Spring Break vacation. I started looking through all my photos from 2013 to do a highlights post but it made me really down (I still miss my Hubbell so fiercely!). I closed my photo files.

My sweet grandmother gave me this Wildflowers guide so I went back through my photos from Big Meadows and started to ID some of my favorite flowers that I had photographed.  I really enjoyed this and it made me realize that I'm already excited about going back there this summer.

During my stay two things really stuck out to me and caught me off guard:
1.  The daily clutter that exists in our house is stressful for me. Each time I walked into this hotel room, I was immediately overcome by how clean and clutter-free it was and it relaxed me.  Clara in particular is a messy child and, when she's home, I could do nothing else but clean and it wouldn't help much. It made me kind of sad.

2. TIME MOVES SO SLOWLY when my kids aren't around.  Being alone made me realize how high maintenance my children are.  I think that's one downside of being a stay-at-home parent.  Sophie used to be so independent but I can't really say that for her anymore. It seems to me these days that she can't even get a cup of water by herself.  I know that partially stems from jealousy issues with her sister. And Clara is Mommy obsessed. I mean OBSESSED!!!!!!!!  I am literally drowning in my children lately and I feel suffocated. You know the saying "it takes a village"?  Well, I agree, it does. The problem is that my village consists of one This also made me sad.

SO I guess you could say I realized pretty quickly that things need to seriously change in 2014.  I'm not sure what those changes will be yet but I'm working on it.  I really needed this one night alone to feel a little like myself again, even if only for 24 hours.  Thank you, Alain.

Before leaving for home, I did ask Alain to bring the girls over for a swim.


The girls were ecstatic and had a blast!  It was a nice way to end my stay.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

A Most Welcome Visitor

We had record low temps in Charlotte this week.

During the two freezing cold days, the birds were exceptionally active in our backyard.

While loading the dishwasher, I looked up to see this sweet wren visiting our deck.

He/she stayed around just long enough for me to take these pictures.

Which make me so happy!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Books Read in 2013

2013 was an AMAZING year for reading, maybe the best ever for me!!!  In general my goal is to read at least 2 books each month/24 for the year. Some years I smoke that goal and other years I don't come close. Even though I didn't read a single page between May 1st and July 30th, I still managed to read 29 books in 2013.  I've listed them below and you can also see my Pinterest board here.  Before Pinterest, I wrote the books down on a slip of paper that I kept in my calendar.  This is SO MUCH easier!


(Amazon links for each book.  Asterisks indicate my favorites!)

1. The Nature Principle by Richard Louv
2. Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
3. About Alice by Calvin Trillin
4. BOMB by Steve Sheinkin *****

I think I read this book in one day.  It was that riveting.  At least two other books on the list were inspired by this book and my need to learn more about the Manhattan Project.  I didn't think I'd like this book because I'm really not that interested in bombs/war/etc but oh how wrong I was.  If there were books like this around when I was young, I certainly didn't know about them.  I wish I did.  This book has a ton of awards and deserves every single one!

5. Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen
6. The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate ****
7. Overdressed, The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth Cline

I think this is a really important read.  It's impacted how I think and feel about shopping and cheaply-made clothing/accessories/etc.  It's made me more aware when I hear of news like this and makes me celebrate companies such as this one.

8. The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages
9. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn **
10. Clara's War by Clara Kramer
11. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein **
12. Wonder by R. J. Palacio ****
13. With or Without You by Domenica Ruta
14. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
15. The Hurried Child by David Elkind ***
16. The Soul of Living Creatures by Vint Virga
17. Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer *****

I put off reading this for years because I felt like I'd read almost everything on this subject.  I guess I felt I wouldn't learn anything new.  I always say that my favorite thing about myself is that I'm vegetarian.  That one choice says a lot about me.  This book made me celebrate that choice even more than I already do.  I think everyone should be required to read this.....

18. The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan

One of the books inspired by BOMB.  I am endlessly fascinated with Oak Ridge, TN.  To read all about the women who moved and worked there was TOO COOL.  And this cover is my second favorite from the year.

19. The Housekeeper's Diary by Wendy Berry
20. Oil and Honey by Bill McKibben
21. Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel
22. The Green Boat by Mary Pipher
23. Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt ***
24. Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper
25. Wild Comfort: The Solace of Nature by Kathleen Deen Moore ****

This book is the most "ME".  I renewed this book as many times as I'm allowed at my library.  Then I paid at least a week worth of fines.  I didn't want to return it.  It inspired endless notes/quotes/etc in my journal and one of my favorite Instagram photos this year.  AND, as you may have guessed, this was my favorite cover of the year.  So beautiful!

26. The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton **
27. The House at Riverton by Kate Morton **
28. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand ****

If you've not yet read about Louis Zamperini's story, get thee to a bookstore or library PRONTO.  You will not be able to put this book down.  I finished this book a few months ago and I still think of Louis all the time.  Truly amazing story.

29. The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan *****

This book made me think long and hard about the history that's taught in our schools (or at least what was taught in my school).  I really knew next to nothing about the Dust Bowl.  I am endlessly fascinated now that I've read this book.  The Dust Bowl is something that would have really captured my imagination as a youngster.  Like BOMB, this book also sent me on searches for other books, etc on the subject.  I'm also hoping to read more Timothy Egan in 2014.


The book I most look forward to reading in 2014 is The Highly Sensitive Person.  I don't have to read the book to know that I'm an HSP but I can't wait to see what the author has to say about people like me!

If you're still reading and haven't fallen asleep, please share your favorite books from 2013.  What captured your imagination?  Did anyone read any of these books?  What are you looking forward to reading in 2014? I'd LOVE to hear!

See here for 2012 and 2011 lists.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

NATURE in 2013

Each year I look forward to putting together my "Highlights" post.  As I went through last year's photos I realized I didn't want to do that post.  This year was NOT AWESOME (to use the famous words of Tia Jenny).  Even looking back through the photos was hard for me.  But, of course, there were nature photos GALORE.  Tons and tons of them.  It took forever but I went through ALL OF THEM and chose my favorites.  I'm displaying them here.  Some you've seen before and others I haven't shared yet.  I'd really LOVE to hear which is your favorite.

I can honestly say that the highlight of my entire year was getting my camera as a birthday present. I often wonder how I would have survived the year without it.  Every single one of these pictures was taken after April (all with the new camera).  Reviewing these I'm struck by the number of birds and butterflies.  At least half of these photos were taken right in my backyard.  How lucky am I?  And I couldn't stop thinking about how much I look forward to Spring.....when the birds become REALLY active again and all the baby birds come out.

I know which of these is my favorite, although it was exceptionally hard to choose.
Tell me, do you have a favorite nature photo from 2013?  If so, I'd love to see it!  And please don't forget to tell me which of these you like best!

Hope 2014 is off to a fabulous start!


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