Saturday, December 22, 2012

This and That

Miscellaneous doings about here.

Gymnastics event – Clara was there mostly as an assistant coach, but was able to get involved for a moment:


As I mentioned before, Tarquin is now reenacting with the rest of them. I finished knitting his little period-correct scarf, modeled here:


The Patriarch and I got away for a one-day trip for our anniversary, which was pretty great as we were last away overnight together 16 years ago!


The big girls attended a Christmas ball at a venue that only has a couple of reenactments a year. We make odd comments as a result of being a reenactor family, such as one I overheard prior to this event from Sophia to Clara: “I remember my first ball; you’re going to love it”. I would say something wondering how many generations we’d have to go back to have heard a similar comment, but I come from pretty peasant stock and I doubt either of our sets of ancestors were attending balls.

Here are the lovely ladies:

paintnetball 2012

Nigel had his capstone project presentation – many universities require these now to graduate with a bachelor’s degree. We were all able to attend, and were very proud of him:


He challenged himself by doing his capstone on the “other side” of the English major, the creative non-fiction side.

Trying to catch the blog up a little, with my apologies for the long silences!

Backyard Update

Our backyard is a confusing place this winter. Sarabi is clearly pregnant, and has been for quite some time. As Sophia puts it, “She looks like if she were human she’d be walking around with her hand on her back all the time.” Indeed. Here she is today, with a due date of January 13th (I modified from a later date when I learned Nigerians generally go five days earlier than other breeds):


Baby movement can clearly be felt, as well. Selkie is another story. She wasn’t witnessed being bred, and I go back and forth on a daily basis trying to make up my mind whether she’s pregnant or just getting fat from participating in the pregnancy diet! Today is one of my “Oh for sure she’s pregnant” days, and I just might have felt baby movement today:


Her due date is ten days behind Sarabi. I’m wondering if she’s not carrying a single. Well, time will tell. We’ll have kids from her by the end of January or not! If not, the girl is going on a diet for sure.

Here is a picture of both of them, exploring a short fence that has come down:


In other backyard news, we have weird ducks. They’re supposed to decrease laying as the daylight grows shorter, perhaps stop altogether. But ours? All of a sudden it’s four eggs a day. Crazy ducks! It might just be the quality of their diet – there are leaves on the ground and it’s wet and they spend their days blissfully overturning said leaves to find bugs, bugs, bugs. They’re not eating much of their store-bought food at all.

The only downside to all of this agricultural bliss is the mud. Gracious. There was never any grass to speak of in the backyard, but where we have dumped out the duck’s water over the summer, it is a gigantic mudslick.

I am definitely thinking about options for that situation for the next growing season.

So that’s the backyard report, December, 2012. Back to you, Chet.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Chasing the Urgent

Oy. Sometimes there is a stretch where you just seem to chase from last-minute crisis to last-minute crisis. Perhaps “crisis” is an over-dramatic word, but I’m not coming up with a better one – just those things that need to be done right away. I’m winding up the remodel of our master bathroom, done in one huge swoop in response to a leaking toilet. Tuesday Clara found out that she is in a gymnastics performance, and it has been FAR too long since I made her any new leotards. The one leotard that still fits her is quite shabby. So I hurriedly made up another one. She measured perfectly to Jalie’s size S, but when made up this is tight in the armsyce, so I’m going to make the next one in a T and see what happens. The pic is a little blurry, but my children have veto power on what I post about them and this is the only shot Clara OK’d. The white things are classic polka dots even though the blur makes them look like bars in this photo.

My sister asked for a picture when I finished, so this blog post is for her :-).



Sunday, December 2, 2012

An 1855 Christmas

I Have Several Posts Queing Up

But meanwhile, I noticed the wonderful Clarice over at Storybook Woods is having a Shabby Apple giveaway! She is the lovely blogger who hosts "Tasha Tudor Day" each year in August and is an all-around talented lady; love her blog! Though the giveaway ends tonight, thought I'd post a link for those of you still able to enter!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Life Keeps Marching On

Nigel recently turned twenty, and I took this photo with my phone, as the batteries in the camera had died, to commemorate the ending of the era of this particular set of four-teens-in-the-house:


We’ll have another set early next year when Araminta turns 13, but in the meantime we’re back to “just” three teens in the house!

What Happened to that Renovation, Anyway?

We are all super enjoying what has been done in the kitchen so far. I am a little bit stuck with my upper kitchen problem, where old grease bled through the paint before I had a chance to seal it. Sigh. Just about to work on that, reeeeeally!

But in the meantime, I’ve climbed on the IKEA Numerar bandwagon, and the gorgeous new countertops are out in the garage getting their pre-treatment:


After far too many hours on the internet spent researching finishing options, I’m using spoon oil. Anything containing tung oil (which includes IKEA’s finishing oil, by the way) is unsafe for people with tree nut allergies, which also ruled out the ever popular Waterlox treatment for us. I am using the recipe posted by blogger Katy here, with gorgeous beeswax ordered from Mountain Rose Herbs. This is a really inexpensive, foodsafe, allergy safe treatment and the whole project is strangely relaxing. I just can hardly wait until they’re installed! This does give us a design problem, though, which is what to use for the backsplash. I’m not loving any of the alternatives I’ve found so far, but it’s been fun looking.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Fair

As I mentioned, the family went to the fair the other day while I hung out with the goats. When I’m along I make them do a few educational things, but The Patriarch is all about the fun :-). Sophia had the camera:

fair afair & bird songs 015

fair afair & bird songs 023fair afair & bird songs 032

fair afair & bird songs 045

fair afair & bird songs 047


A little scarier than he’d expected, apparently:

fair afair & bird songs 053     

fair afair & bird songs 064

fair afair & bird songs 075


One quirky thing is that the three little allergic people can actually eat cotton candy! Well, the kind that is spun on the spot, anyway – bagged brands often have additives but the stuff at the fair is just plain ol’ sugar. So that is a huge deal for them each year, to feel normal for a moment food-wise and walk around eating a fair treat like anyone else. Even Tarquin, who has 5 safe foods at this point, can eat cotton candy. Makes a wonderful once-a-year treat :-). They stayed until 9:30pm and arrived home happy and exhausted, just as they should be.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Backyard Ramblings

When the goats came home from the Goat Girls Gone Wild Vacation, all nice and hopefully pregnant, the first day they were super quiet. We told each other, "Wow, that quiet buck taught them some manners!" The next morning, however, they started continually bleating like the bad-ol'-days. Still, it was a weekend, and Sarabi in particular looked confused about her surroundings. She had also become way more aggressive, T-boning Selkie any time Selkie approached the alfalfa feeder. We had someone stay out back so they wouldn't drive the neighborhood insane on the weekend. The following week, though, they were both very quiet. And again this weekend, the screaming. It seems to be that they hear the neighbors outside and are just wanting some company. I'm outside again today and blogging from a little netbook while I hang out with the livestock.

The ducks are traveling from garden bed to garden bed, looking for something nummy. Nancy Drew likes cherry tomatoes, but the others don't. It's so strange to see her eat them - you can watch the tomato go whole down her throat. The goats have been great about eating weeds when I weed beds or the brick path - our yard waste container hardly ever gets wheeled to the curb. They both love sage but are "meh" about thyme and oregano - we have too little rosemary to share with them this year.

The rest of the family is going to the Puyallup Fair today. I'm staying home both for "the screamers" and because I don't want to be the limiting factor in how long they stay, but I did already go this year. Last week, knowing that I'd really wanted to see the goats at the fair, the Patriarch took me one morning while they were there. It was just wonderful! I got to make an idiot of myself displaying crazy fangirl behavior over the farmer that blogs This Goat's Life (she was most gracious about it), and discovered that the Patriarch actually works with the owner of another goat farm that I totally "know" online. He didn't know she has goats, but saw her in the goat barn. What fun! I learned so much by watching the judging, and I have to tell you, judging of the youngest class of Nigerian goats is pretty hilarious. Nigerians are small anyway, but that class is so tiny and so wild that it makes for a comic show. The owners have to sort of crouch down and waddle along to hold them, while the little things sproing and fight - one little doe kept trying a "play dead" maneuver which was funnier yet because she was a chocolate brown, and each time she stood back up, the light pine shavings all over her made her look like a sheep toy.

What I need to be doing instead of goatsitting is working on our current ginormous sewing project, getting ready for the biggest Nisqually event of the year, Candlelight. It is a first person event, and will be the first time Tarquin will be present. Because of that fact, I also need to garb up and participate. I've always been on site for this, because Lucinda in particular often needs nebs or meds, but in the past I've always brought a flashlight and a book and hide out in a darkened, unused room at the fort. Anyway, between two of us who need to be pretty much completely outfitted, and the little girls outgrowing everything, there is a boatload of sewing to do, and no project currently needed that lends itself to the backyard. My own next jobs involve cutting things out, which is a lay-out-on-the-floor event. If the goats are so kind to quiet down, I'll do that this afternoon.

The garage clean-out mentioned in the last post turned into a five day event! We took everything out but the refrigerator and the shelving, basically. We do a clean-out every summer, but haven't ever gotten this far down into the very back of the garage. It is such a delight to go out there now! Makes me smile every single time. We took at least three flatbed loads to the dump (I lost count), two to the recycling place, and at least 3 back-of-the-van loads to Goodwill. We'd done the major thinning of outgrown clothes in last year's clean-out, so the thrift store trips were other items this year. While we can't actually put vehicles in there, there are wide open spaces and just a couple of "islands" of stored items, and these with only one layer, so accessible. Our Christmas boxes are all together instead of here, there, there, here. We also re-cleaned the "milking parlor" as I like to call it :-), which is a covered area out back that often is the victim of garage overflow. That totally needed to be done before their due dates in January, and we're sure not going to feel like doing it once the rains set in. It just feels so good!

Well, enough backyard rambling. I'll do ordering of some historically correct buttons before the battery on this netbook dies, and hope the girls let me head in to be productive with the rest of the day.

Friday, August 31, 2012




Lymphoma ribbon

Ugh. I don’t want to make this a cancer blog because I give away enough normalcy to lymphoma as it is. But I’ve just got to say that it can be so frustrating to have a full day of things that need to get done when the world spins every time my head moves and the Zofran is only dialing the nausea down to a “7”. Of course I try to cultivate patience with what I can’t control, but you know . . . it’s hard.

Just a moment of vent there. School for the little guy, menus and shopping lists to be done for the next two-week cycle, very grateful so little driving today. Grateful for the pretty sunshine out my window and big children on their break from their jobs until next week. They’re getting quite a rest and I’m striving to protect that – they need a window of free time, and it’s so short a vacation.

Tomorrow The Patriarch is planning the annual garage cleanout. This year I’ll just sit in a lawn chair and make decisions. Sounds cushy – I’ll have an extra cup of coffee or a lemonade, depending on weather, and be quite the princess! It’s always so deeply satisfying the week after the garage is cleaned to walk through it, although I don’t quite understand how it refills so quickly. Something about nine of us still at home, you think?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Beach Trip

The family went to the beach this last week. I stayed home with the ducks, and because with the goats at the farm for the first time, we wanted to be responsible if they needed us to come get them suddenly – the beach is too far a drive to do that. It was good all around, though. I needed to focus on Tarquin’s new language arts curriculum that should be good but is fussy to figure out, and that’s what I did (plus caught up the food blog, watched a movie, and folded a mountain of laundry).

The Patriarch took them on our annual beach trip and gave them an excellent time. He always, always has taken over all the cooking when we go on vacation because he wants everyone to relax. Since we haven’t had TV for many years, he also tries to catch something on sports for his off-time, between trips down to the beach.

Tarquin has never, ever liked the sand, so I was super curious to hear what would happen this year. Last year, at five, he was really a good age for sandplay, but if you were reading this blog last year when we had the big beach outing, he got really sick and just lay there the whole time on blankets on the floor. This year, they told me the first day he liked being on the beach but didn’t want to touch down on it – rode Nigel or his daddy’s shoulders the whole time.


The second day, the other children set up a teeter-totter out of a log, and something snapped. Tarquin wanted to play on that, and afterward was entirely reconciled to sand (in fact made “sand angels” that day).

118Too fun to resist

129OK, I guess I do like sand!


Lots of catching up to do – Sophia and Clara teach Sand Castle 101

157 Patriarch relaxing a moment

107Looks like Nigel spent most of his time constructing stuff for the small people

138Although here somebody caught him having a moment to just watch the ocean.

061   I saw this and thought, “Awww, look they’re having a nice talk” but then heard that Gareth had put a dead crab in Sophia's way and she was about to retaliate!


147 Clara enjoying the unexpected sunny weather – it had been forecast to be in the 50’s and cloudy!

141The weather looks really perfect

009  Araminta pretty much embodies the word “relax” here


026  They seemed to have misplaced half of Lucinda

094Beach! I love it now!

Fourth Time Through our Family Read-Alouds


The living room books – there are downstairs children's bookshelves, homeschool bookshelves, Nigel’s bookshelf, sewing bookshelf, and you’ve seen my cookbook bookshelf if you’ve linked over to my cooking blog. Pardon the remaining stack on the bottom right that will live there until the kitchen remodel is done.

I’ve been getting Tarquin’s first grade language arts material together this last week, and part of that is digging out the family read aloud list. He just wasn’t ready to begin last year, plus I did “Five in A Row” with him, and that included its own list of shorter read-alouds.

I read this list of books aloud to Malcolm (and many more – anyone who uses/used Sonlight curriculum knows what I’m talkin’ about), then read it again to Nigel/Sophia/Clara, and again to Gareth/Araminta/Lucinda, and now I’m heading into the fourth time through this book list. There have been a couple of additions or subtractions over time. But this is the basic list. I’ve divided it in three sections to roughly correspond to three years, but I do a little juggling at times depending on my listening audience.

The Books That Mama Reads Aloud

Did You Carry the Flag Today, Charlie?
Beezus & Ramona (or Ramona the Pest)
McBroom's Wonderful One-Acre Farm
Betsy's Little Star
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle
My Father's Dragon
Pippi Longstocking
The Boxcar Children
Mr. Popper's Penguins
The Mouse and the Motorcycle
James and the Giant Peach

Charlotte's Web
Mary Poppins
Little House in the Big Woods 
Indian in the Cupboard 
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 
Stuart Little 
All-Of-A-Kind Family 
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe 
Ginger Pye 
Phantom Tollbooth 
Five Little Peppers and How They Grew 
Caddie Woodlawn 
Harriet the Spy
The Hundred Dresses
Homer Price 

Eight Cousins
Kildee House
The Lemonade Trick
Little Princess
The Wizard of Oz
Anne of Green Gables
The Borrowers
Roller Skates
Secret Garden
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler
Enchanted Castle
The Swiss Family Robinson

I only read Swiss Family Robinson to Malcolm, but I’m thinking after what will be about an 18 year break, I just might be ready again to read it to Tarquin in a couple of years. Maybe. Gosh that book goes on forever! One of those things that feels good having done it, and I sure doubt that any of my children will make themselves read it after trying out the first chapter. And I am talking about a family of readers here. The last three books Clara has read for summer beach fun are Les Miserables, Vanity Fair, and Jane Eyre, and when we were discussing S.F.R. she said, “Oh yeah – I couldn’t make it through the whole first chapter”. Still. Anyone read it? I find the whole thing fun once I get going, although a bit irritating how that boat acts as a deus ex machina. “Oh right, why don’t you just swim out to the boat and handily find a surgical suite?” you find yourself muttering under your breath. Hmmm. Anyone notice that I’m not quite recovered from reading it to Malcolm yet? Maybe I can guilt him into reading it over Skype! Hey, there’s an idea . . . surely he owes me, right? :-)

I have an ironclad rule: I don’t read sequels or others in a series. This rule has served me well over the years, providing a strong incentive to learn reading skills well enough for the child to read the rest of a series that caught their interest. We do own the entire series of the books in our list that are part of such, so I’m not tormenting them or anything . . . I just want to make it through the whole list, and as I say, this rule has had happy consequences.

So anyway, that’s the read aloud list. I’ve been asked about it over the years off and on and will be glad to have a place to link. If anyone sees this who loves to read aloud to children, and has something magical I’m missing, do comment! Some of these are definitely not “classic” in any sense (Lemonade Trick, I’m looking at you) but I use them for light relief among the longer or linguistically harder selections. In the first year in particular, the “Pippi” and the “Piggle-Wiggle” are really needed. But we always love a new classic, and our family library is full of other wonderful children’s books they read on their own.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Goat Girls Gone Wild - hopefully

Well, the buck rag wasn’t the Easy Heat Indicator we’d hoped it would be. There were days when one or both goats would be acting more aggressive than normal and loud, but they’d only sniff at it. Friday we had yet a couple more indications, but sadly, our buck owner was out of town. She’d offered to let the girls board at their place for a month, and we’d considered that. “Like a visit to the spa”, I mused to Sophia. “Well, no, I guess you don’t go to a spa to meet a guy, do you . . . how about one of those Florida spring breaks you hear about? Goat Girls Gone Wild?” Sophia snorted and answered, “Yeah, except you’re glad that they come home pregnant”. Oh. Yeah.

So when the buck owner came home Sunday night, we took the two out to their farm hoping that we could come home with them, but no . . . the magic didn’t happen. So Selkie and Sarabi are staying there for a month unless there’s an observed . . . uhm, event. The buck owners are super nice, and their goats look so well cared for.

Sarabi, Selkie, and SummerStorm in the “honeymoon suite”:


SummerStorm struck us as a quiet gentlemanly buck. Didn’t chase them around, just waggled his upper lip at them. Our goats took right away to the hay offered in the new accommodations (you never know – they’ve been picky about hay before) and so, while we miss them, we do feel really comfortable about where they are.

Just got an email as I was typing up this post. Sarabi is bred! Whooooeeeee! OK, so I know I’m being an obnoxious first-timer here. Like that first tomato out of your first garden, y’know? It’s always like the person invented tomatoes. “It tastes so different than a store-bought tomato!!” And I’m totally being that way here, I do recognize. Still.


Goat babies!

. . . being out in the barn at 3 am on her due date, January 18th, but we’re not going to think about that, now ARE we?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Progress on a Couple of Fronts

Yesterday was our long anticipated visit to our regional referral center, Children's Hospital in Seattle. The little girls had been there in early 2005, shortly after they got so sick, to rule out Job's Syndrome. Since then, they (and later Tarquin after he was born with the same disorder) have been followed by a local immunologist. Since they have no diagnosis, and our immunologist was unable to find another case like theirs, they have been receiving management of each symptom that arises. This is not a negative judgement on their health care at all. We have had some horrible issues with health care, but not from their immunologist or the nutritionists that we work with. Given the complicated and unknown nature of this all, the immunologist has been just fabulous over the years and has put so many of her personal hours into researching our children's situation and care plan.

But . . . new variants of Job's Syndrome have been discovered since 2005. There have been discoveries about specific genetic mutations that are involved in immune disorders. The three of them got a new peds pulmonologist, a youngish guy (what am I saying? They all look young to me!) who started stirring up the waters again. He started talking again about Zolair, experimental for this purpose, and looking at genetics. I've always been horribly uncertain about the former, but the latter? OH yes.

So up to Seattle we went yesterday morning, arising at the hour we would if we were real goat farmers, and braving the Seattle gridlock. Wow. Really a fabulous experience this time. The upshot is that all three of them got massive amounts of blood drawn (11 tubes for Lucinda - 2 of them big honkin' green tops), most of which were screens they've had over and over, but each of them had DNA banked and entered into the research Children's is doing into this area, and Lucinda is having genetic mapping done. Only one of them needed that done, as they all obviously have the same disorder. If no useful information is obtained from this, the NIH will be contacted, as they're doing deeper genetic mapping and "would probably be interested in this DNA".

The neat thing about this is that they're kind of in the research loop now. There are so many advances being made right now in this area of genetics and immune response/disorder that even if there's nothing right now, there is such basis for hope in their lifetimes. I feel like I've been driving this train for so long, pushing (fruitlessly) for movement in their diagnosis, and suddenly someone else has taken over and is actually getting somewhere. I didn't realize how heavy that burden was until it was removed suddenly.

And on a lighter note, I had a puzzling goat task. I needed a "buck rag" now that we're poised to get the goats bred. We have a handsome buck all picked out and lined up, but his owner had just shampooed and clipped all her goats for a fair, so he isn't currently stinky! She recommended that I get a buck rag from someone local. Uhmm, OK, the only local Nigerian owner I "know" (only via email) sold her goats. I looked through Craigslist and chose the closest Nigerian farm, took a deep breath, and wrote the weirdest email possible. How on earth do you seem sane when writing, "I know I'm a stranger, but can I come over with an old towel and rub your buck's head?" Sigh. The Craigslist lady was amused and very kind about the whole thing (I'm certain I over-shared) and one of us will go out there tonight to rub a stinky buck head :-).

Our goat girls are just too dramatic in general to tell if they're in heat. The traditional ways of knowing are: discharge (nope), rubbing up against a fence (they do that all the time just for amusement. Or itchiness.), "flagging" their tails (dinner, seeing a squirrel, or a juicy leaf nearby will all do that), and being louder than usual (which is called a weekend around here). So I'm definitely calling getting a buck rag progress toward eventually being in milk! The theory is that when one of them is acting scream-y we take the buck rag out and if she's in heat, she'll think it's the most enticing thing ever, but if she's not in heat, she'll be all "blah" about it. Gosh I hope this works.

Well, that's it from this odd corner of the world!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

I’m Still Here!

Just summer busy. Well, summer and Clara has retired from the kitchen, which keeps me busier. We are driving, driving, driving.

Here are just a few highlights since the last post.

Sophia graduated from homeschool and got her associate’s at the same time.




Which of course demanded a gluten free mocha caramel cheesecake, right (hard to see in this pic – the stars were sort of shiny)?



I had a birthday (it’s my birthday, I’m gonna have some sugar) which meant more gluten free chocolate:


No, that’s not bacon on the top! Caramel, silly!



My birthday meant that the goats had birthdays, too. Happy first birthday, Sarabi!



Happy first birthday, Selkie!




They got summer haircuts, as you can see by their sleek looks above, and a vet visit for bloodwork in preparation for breeding them. This backyard is proudly CAE/CL/Johnes free :-).

I have started a new blog just for the cooking journey I’m undertaking, trying to enrich my skills. It’s called “mama’s sabbatical” and you can find it here if you’d like. There aren’t any recipes. I’m merely wandering through the stuffed cookbook shelf (and by shelf, I mean an entire Billy bookshelf of cookbooks, not just one shelf) in quite the adventure, blogging as I go as kind of a scrapbook of food. The Patriarch and I are cooking together on Sundays as an in-house date night.

I had another biopsy in June, with fewer yet cancer cells found, although I’m not in remission yet. I had a vacation for a few weeks from the nausea, then it returned, although not as bad. I haven’t had to go back on the Zofran at this point, thank goodness.

I’ll blog soon on projects happening – the little girls have done some adorable dolls, and Araminta is making the cutest project for Tarquin’s birthday, which is coming up soon.

Also upcoming, the three youngest children were referred again to our regional children’s hospital, which is in Seattle, to see if they fit the profile for new variants of Job’s Syndrome which have been discovered since their first trip to Children’s in 2004 (the girls – Tarquin wasn’t born yet). I’ll keep you posted!

Sorry for the really long silence. I have good days, when I rush to get everything done, and bad days, when I don’t make it downstairs to the computer to blog. I tend to be better about keeping the food blog up as I’m doing that as a discipline of sorts.

And all of the summer regular fun goes on as well. Fiddle Camp, two separate Nisqually camps, Nisqually events, church events, summer jobs that need a mama chauffer – all happy summer events. Hope all of you are having a fabulous summer!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Clara the Brave

We needed to send a photo off to someone with both goats and the youngest three children, and Clara bravely volunteered for this hazardous duty. Forty-three shots and one bedraggled 16-year-old later, there were only TWO semi-usable photos! Poor thing doesn’t get paid enough for this :-).





And we found on the camera this fun shot, of one mud lovin’ duck girl:



What am I doing? Why am I not doing the photo-wrangling? I am (in between regularly scheduled chauffeuring and bad nausea days) sanding, sanding, sanding, and sanding. It’s looking good (or at least smooth). I’m thinking we’ll be ready for primer by the weekend.