33

I am infinitely blessed to have been in this glorious life for 33 circles around the sun. I do not take it for granted.

Camping at Lake Diablo 2022
Lake Diablo
Summer bike ride 2022
Spring 2022
Adventure crew 2022
Spring time PE 2022
Field trip Friday 2021
Hiking last fall 2021

I’ve really got it all. I am so thankful for every moment.

Cheers to 33!

Urban Homesteading Experiment

I’m watching my chickens hustle around foraging in the yard and I can’t help but admire their industriousness. Everyone likes to joke about how dumb chickens are but they are actually very intelligent animals. Did you know they can recognize up to 100 human faces? And it’s suspected they have names for each other? It didn’t take me long to figure how smart they are as soon as they left their brooder and we had to keep them contained outside. Despite having food available to them 24/7 their foraging instincts are so strong we’ve found our most rascally chicken scaling the fencing with her legs! They also come when called, which is very handy.


Watching the chickens be so self sufficient inspires me. Any time I try another project to experiment with self reliance I am always astonished at how much work it is. It is a good idea for me to read books about farmers and their experiences because it is sobering to say the least.

Pineapple sage going bonkers this year. I made a delish gruit with it- all my own invention! pineapple sage has tons of health benefits.


While I may not be self sufficient I am happy with the baby steps I’ve been taking to use the land we have more effectively; slowly transforming our large spaces of grass into something that will produce food or medicine. After all, lawns are gross waste of space, water, and money. The biggest issue I face in is process is the quality of our soil. I’ve always container gardened or brought in outside dirt for my raised beds because there is no way of knowing what our soil was treated with in the past.

We made a lot of chocolate chip mint ice cream this year with this mint! It was amazing!

Many chemicals used to kill ”weeds” stay in the soil for decades. I am sure our soil is very poor, since it cannot retain water well and is hard as a rock. I’ve been reading a book my mom recommend called Dirt to Soil which has put the breaks on me taking a tiller to the whole yard because it would destroy the soil’s natural microbIology, but since I bought myself some organic tillers a few years ago, but I’ve decided to put them to more effective use.

For a few hours the ladies are contained in their run to focus their efforts on that particular patch of ground, then they free range the rest of the day. We move the coop every day.

Chickens are the best tillers in the world. Now that the fall has rolled in with the smoke here in Western Washington, the kids are not outside much- a perfect time for me to experiment with the yard. The goal is to have the chickens till the whole yard slowly over the course of the fall, then once the rains and snows hit, they will go back to their ”winter pasture” and the soil has the chance to deep soak all the moisture nature provides. If the chickens till and fertilize effectively, the soil should be primed for the microbiology to make a better come back. We have a good amount of grass and clover intermixed, but if I am able to add in more diversity, our soil will be able to heal which means, it will be useable soil. I experimented with this method last fall, but I made a mistake and didn’t rotate the coop frequently enough. The grass came back really well despite the ravaging chickens. I didn’t water it even once this summer and it is just now (at the beginning to September) starting to turn brown. This tells me that it held moisture okay, but it could be improved.

I have some chicken hardy decorative grass surviving under the tree, and yes, it is a full shade variety. I hope it really takes off next year.

Forests never get watered in this part of the state, and they stay lush and green all year. So, by letting the chickens do their thing again this fall, and adding more plant diversity to the soil, I hope to be able to keep a kid and chicken friendly “yard” while being able to produce more food AND have the space be attractive to the eye. Totally reasonable right?! Ha ha! While I’m not sure how long it will take to achieve my end goal, I have already had such success seeing more green in the past year that I can help but feel hopeful. I’ll be sure to keep you updated.

The ”winter pasture” that will get some chicken hardy bush transplants soon and will be repaired before the rains come. This is where the chickens will spend winter so the yard can soak up all the rain. The ladies won’t be laying so I am not worried about poor egg quality due to lack of foraging. I do have lots of beef organ meats to help maintain their health.

I hope your fall is off to a wonderful start. Our schedule is about to get more busy with our extra curricular activities, so I’m soaking up these last few days of a slow paced week. And of course, taking all the extra time to squeeze in all the homesteading projects! Here is to a industrious autumnal season.

Happy Fall Ya’ll!

Kids Rooms Tour


There certainly is a magic in rearranging your space isn’t there? Nothing like a new coat of paint or tossing out a pile of clutter, am I right? As much as I like to decorate and refresh our home, I rarely get the time to do it. But necessity is the mother of invention, and with school coming to a close I had to make time to start the big project of switching A and C’s rooms.

C’s room originally
The bigs got to camp out in the living rooms during the weekend of painting and that was a big hit haha!

Lil C is 2 and a half and around this age we start thinking about a “big kid” bed for the gradual transition she will be making to sharing a room with A. I’m not fooling myself, I know Pickle will be sleeping near me (for at least most of the night) for a good while yet. We all embrace this. Our philosophy is; let them be little. In the mean time, she can start having a more concrete space for her toys, books, and clothes. Where toddler property laws are concerned, if they like it, it’s theirs! A bedroom space helps solidify the concept that there are Pickle things, and there are Miss A’s things, and that it’s okay to not share all the time. To accommodate for both girls and all their things, it was necessary to swap C and A’s rooms. They were both very excited for this change much to my relief. The process took me a couple of weeks, fitting in painting, shopping for and assembling furniture, and sorting toys and clothes in between school and guild prep.. you get the idea- it has been hectic.

The big kids picked the paint for their rooms and did an awesome job helping prep

As a family of five in 1000 square feet of living space, we have to get creative with storage solutions. Since hacking small spaces is super “in” these days there are quite a bit of resources and inspiration online, however, doing so amidst the current price surges and supply chain issues is a whole other kettle of fish. To solve this problem I had to plan ahead, compromise on some furniture choices, and go with used options. I appreciated the opportunity to be frugal and resourceful but I’d be lying if said it all turned out exactly how I envisioned. But the deviation from the vision wasn’t all because of the current market.

A’s room in the break down process to become C’s room

As kids get older they have the audacity to start to get opinions, so despite what my Pinterest boards looked like, C and A had different ideas. Don’t get me wrong it’s their rooms, their choice, within reason of course. So while wildflower wall paper and off white walls is what I thought the girls would like, the overwhelming vote was for purple, pink, and gold. I have to admit, it reflects their girly style and colorful personalities very well. C was confident he wanted black walls but once I said no to that he wanted white. Less is more with this almost pre-teen; I was told more than once very nicely that a few of his past decorations in his room he did not want to use again because they, ”are kind of little kid ish, Mom.” *sniff* Growing up too fast I tell ya.

We swapped dressers, this one used to be A’s but rather than take them apart to move them or buy new ones, I repaired both dressers which had the bottoms falling out, and just swamped the clothes. It doesn’t all match but no matter. I love these Trofast holders for all his Lego bins. They are awesome! Naturally, more book storage by using this old changer as a shelf. Above is the boy dress-up, dart guns, bags, and a ”grown into” clothes bin.
Yes, even more lego storage. What can I say, this kid knows what he likes. I love it!
C wanted his name “plain and simple Mom”. You got it little man.
We might hang C’s photos from his sports teams above his bed, but that has yet to be decided. And of course, ALLL the book storage. In my wildest dreams, we have a whole room for books, until then, we fit them where we can.
This is a quote from Harry Potter that has always reminded me of C. The poem below it is called If by Kipling. It’s fantastic.
Cork board for photos and school reminders. Currently sporting a “first place award for being the best brother” so sweet I die!
C has a hat collection that he has set up behind his door. He usually buys them on our trips or outings, or they are from his sports teams. Plenty of room for more!

That’s what has been keeping me pretty busy these days! I am lucky to have such helpful kiddos. C even assembled some of the furniture by himself! Miss A is always so helpful with Pickle entertaining while I paint. The project took me longer than I’d like, but I am really proud of all the hard work the kids did to help make their new rooms happen. They each got chances to work on assembling things, and they both learned how to prep for painting a room and helped me with that in both rooms. Most importantly, they are thrilled with the new look and updated space.

Pretty proud of this canopy. A really wanted one and I was able to make one from some of the curtains from her closet, ribbon that I had, and a hula hoop we had. The flowers were in A’s room from before.
I’ve been dying to put up this quote, it particularly fits our Pickle. And now she has some pictures up of herself, dollar store frames for the win. I wish that Ikea still carried those flower frames on A’s pictures, they are so pretty!
Their birth frames behind the door and A’s jewelry. Well, some of it.
This is Pickles book corner and her dresser. There was never such a cute little dresser I mean, right?!
The girls closet also doubles as some school storage for all our science and history kits. It also has all the dress up, which is beneath their dresses.
Bags, dresses, “ a grow into clothes” bin, and all the girl dress up.
A chair for Pickles book corner
Purple, gold, and white curtains
The girls needed two Trofast and extra bins for all their things. These are not the Trofast I was hoping for but we gotta be flexible these days. The cubes are from A’s room, and the dresser is C’s old one repurposed and repaired.
I love their names. A picked out the rose gold butterflies, they were super affordable and are just so girly and fancy.

Summer is almost here, and with school and our big extra curricular commitments are almost finished, we start our summer sports and prep for 3rd and 5th grade. With the bedrooms refreshed and a little more time on my hands (hopefully for a couple weeks) I look forward to writing more about our adventures home and abroad.

Cheers!

Easter Traditions

Oh, my lanta. It has been a whirlwind around here lately. Between winding down the 2nd and 4th grade (hey, Saxon math, WHY do you introduce all the hardest material at the END of the year?!) and all of our 4H events and presentations starting up, oh, and let’s toss in piano Guild Auditions for good measure (HA! Get it?!), I’ve been jam packed each and every day. Probably the remedy is more detailed to do lists, right? Right. And some deep breathing. Whew.

I promised I’d share some of our Easter traditions and I don’t want to miss the opportunity to document this years’ as it was wonderful. Easter celebration traditions start on Holy Thursday for us, with celebrating the Last Supper. The main dish after the ceremony is pierogi, and I’ll tell yoy- its been no small feat to figure out a recipe that works for our family.

Sweet potato pierogi

On Good Friday we always do the stations of the cross. While we clean the whole week extensively in preparation of Easter, we make sure we have a quite hour on Friday, a time when i encourage the kids to do some spiritual reading.

On Holy Saturday we always make Resurrection Rolls and has been one of our own traditions we started ourselves. I’ve since made my own recipe and use my own marshmallows but the link above will give you an idea pf how it all works.

Me: ”Cosima is there anything in there?” Her: ”no! is all lost!”

Easter morning the kids wake up to find their Easter baskets and the mad rush procession of haste ensues in order to get to church and to add all the last minute food preparations for the festivities. Needless to say, I usually give the kids smoothies for breakfast- something quick and nutritious to off set some of the sugar of the day.


During Holy Week we don’t just clean and do yard work- we also prepare decorations. Of course we dye eggs (I cannot wait till the bigs are ready for Pysanky, I absolutely loved doing them for Easter) and we make some Easter themed art.

During the week we also participated in a local event put on by the parks and recreation department where we search for a bunch of bunny cut outs at various parks. It was really fun!


Then, because the week wasn’t busy enough, haha, our 4H club had a petting zoo event on Holy Saturday. I hope this becomes a tradition, it was a great experience for the kids and I’ve always wanted to be a family that volunteers together.

During set up.

Can it even be Easter if you don’t have lovely new Easter dresses for your adorable little girls or a snazzy outfit for your handsome little man? I think not.

Our Easter traditions focus quite a bit on food, probably because we abstain from so many foods during Lent. Being free from the top allergies is the most challenging during Eastertide because so many of the traditional celebratory foods use dairy, eggs, and gluten. I’ll not lie to you- it’s very difficult and time consuming to bake without those things. However, there are still plenty of treats to be had. This year I made a vegan and gluten free lamb cake, an allergen friendly version of one I had growing up, a vegan sourdough pascha bread taking from the Ukrainian tradition that I grew up with, and a sourdough vegan chocolate babka. I make the lamb cake and pascha every year without fail- they are a staple of our Easter traditions! In addition to the foods from my childhood, I made vegan gluten free donuts and a gluten free vegan blueberry coffee cake. We had a decadent spread!


This donut recipe is a keeper, I plan on making them and the coffee cake a new yearly tradition.

Above you can see that our Lenten cross red candles get replaced with white for Easter. And it’s not Easter if the house isn’t decked out in lilies. Why? Because part of the miracle of Christ’s resurrection was that when the tomb was entered, the smell of lilies was overwhelming despite lilies being out of season.

How blessed are we?! I hope you had a wonderful and joy filled Easter celebration friends.

Easter Baskets 2022

Do I already have Easter baskets assembled for the kids? You bet your hot cross buns I do! I get endless teasing for how early I do things but I simply do not care. There is peace in planning and I get better deals if I gather things throughout the year for their baskets. Yes, you read that right, I got some of these things last year on a clearance sale. Don’t worry, I don’t get the candy a year in advance, haha!

There is nothing I love more than putting together a Easter basket for my kiddos. This is a tradition that I am so glad that Husband brought into our family from his childhood. This year I thought I’d do a little peak into what I usually do for their baskets. While it’s tempting to fill it with a lot of toys and tons of candy, I bet you can imagine that I tend to err on the side of practicality- you’re right! However, I’m not a total curmudgeon and I have some really great brands I recommend for candy options; No Whey, Choc No No’s, Yum Earth, Enjoy Life, UnReal, Project 7, and Smart Sweets.

Naturally, it wouldn’t be a gift giving situation for my kiddos if it didn’t involve BOOKS! Gotta have some good reads with those treats. This year the bigs are getting their own Bibles. They were due for something more substantial since they haven’t gotten a Bible since their toddlerhood. C also is getting Ember Green, a new series I’m excited for him to start, Dinotopia, and a Trixie Belden mystery. Miss A is getting a Trixie Belden, The Jolly Postman, and Just Plain Fancy. Pickle is getting giant coloring book for church and a WaterWow. Pickle is also getting some chalk for our outdoor chalk board- can’t wait to use that more again, she’s going to really enjoy it this year.


All three are getting matching summer pjs and some neat homeschooling t shirts with different sayings on them. C’s says, “Join the resistance, homeschool” in StarWars print and he’s just gonna love it! A is getting a shirt that says, “Not all classrooms have four walls” and Pickle’s shirt says, “The world is my classroom.” I think that they are gonna love them!

I splurged on the super cute wooden bunny name tags, but I figure it’s okay because all the baskets were thrifted, right?

Planning Easter was never so fun! I can’t wait for the baking and cleaning frenzy to start. For Catholics in particular, Easter is our jam, much bigger than Christmas! We are the Easter people! I try to make Easter as big of deal as possible. The practical part of assembling the Easter baskets early is to mentally check it off. That way I don’t end up buying all the cute spring nicknacks that flood the stores and am more intentional about their gifts.

Happy Lent!

Present

I recently read an article that discussed how stay-at-home moms are around their children all the time but frequently are not present. Boy, did I feel that to my core. The author mentioned how it’s so easy to be so overwhelmed by the noise of motherhood that we don’t ever really listen– which made me think to myself, “Abby, when was the last time you really listened to the kids?” Oh, I’ve heard them. I hear them all day long and sometimes night. But it’s been a bit since I’ve listened to their little hearts.




I have to be honest with you. I struggle with being present. I have difficultly focusing on all the little joys of motherhood because, well, all the big burdens of motherhood get in the way. We are the foundation of the household and if we slack I feel like the whole house will crumble. Whenever one of my kids is chatting endless in my ear I must admit, my mind wanders to the endless list of things I need to do. Let me elaborate.


My kids have the opportunity to earn what I call “special time coupons”. If I need a set amount of time with one child during school but Pickle has reached her limit, I ask the available child to entertain her for a few minutes so I am available to give undivided attention to the issue with school work. These coupons can be cashed in to add extra time to the individual special time they each get night with a parent. I was astounded that both big kids always cash in their coupons for time with me. ME! I’m the one home all day with them, I’m the one always doing things with them. I was surprised they didn’t want time with Husband. However, my daughter illuminated me with this one comment; “I feel like I never get to chat with you mom.”

Oof. Cue the mom guilt.

I felt horrible when she said that. All those parenting books I’ve read never talk about how to balance parenting with, oh ya know, homeschooling, 3 autoimmune disorders, household finances, housework, chef duties, maid duties, driving duties, extracurricular coordinator duties.. the list goes on and on! I can’t do it all! Actually, apparently I can, just not well. So when I daughter said that, I felt enough realization to ditch all my social media permanently. I didn’t need another pointless time sink. And things improved. Lately however, I feel like I’m slipping. I’m overwhelmed and over worked. Being present has taken a back seat. With my autoimmune illnesses does come a certain amount of brain fog occasionally, but this just feels like I need another jolt of fire to bring me back to the present. I want to be able to tune out all the background noise and listen more.

Do I have a plan? Not really. Except maybe, “let it goooo!!” (Sorry, I had to). I find if I am not reactive to my stress, the whole household functions better. Is that a lot of pressure? Heck, yeah. Or maybe it’s a opportunity to harness the grace of motherhood, the epic calling that is being the bottom line to an entire family. There is peace and beauty in the struggle, I am sure of it. I have felt it before and I’m searching for it again. In the meantime, I’ll try to soak up all the little joys in the journey.

Family Hikes Roundup

We try and go hiking at least a few times a month and in the summer I can usually get four hikes in a month- nothing beats a hike in our lush PNW forests. However, don’t think that I’m some magical wood nymph with little forest nymph children who frolic effortlessly over hill and dale. Our road to hiking as a family was won with lots of training, patience, and strategic bribery (and I’m not just talking about the kids, haha!).


I was tired of always sitting at the same playgrounds with C and A when they were little and quite frankly, I was bored of the monotony. But, C and A were 3 and 1 at the time, and I knew no matter how buff I got, I just wasn’t going to be able to wear two backpacks full of toddlers, so I had to figure out how to get at least one of them walking for an extended period of time. So, how to get toddlers interested in hiking…

Enter geocaching! I’d like to brag a bit here- it turns out that if you rename geocaching to “treasure hunting” toddlers get quite interested (woohoo!), well at least the 3 year old does- the 1 year old was pretty content with being bribed with crackers. The geocaching app can’t be easier to figure out, and if you pick a kid oriented cache or two out ahead of time, you’re golden! Make sure you got good walking shoes and plenty of snacks (and maybe a few dollar store toys to swap in the cache) and enjoy the outdoors with your children.

Once our bigs got older bribery wasn’t really needed. They don’t mind hiking, and even bring things along with them such as slingshots and notebooks should a perfect rock appear or a opportunity for sketching present itself. Occasionally we do still geocache, which is quite fun for us in a different way now that the bigger kids can help look more effectively.

I thought I’d share some of our favorite kid friendly hikes that we have taken in hopes that you can feel inspired to get out hiking with your kids if you happen to be in Washington. All of these hikes are do able for older toddlers and for a parent packing a baby or spare toddler or an excessive amount of snacks. However, we still do all these hikes and my big kids love them! I highly recommend the app All Trails for directions and pictures.

Maple Valley Gnome Trail – a MUST DO with kids. My two year old can easily spend an hour walking this trail- it’s that fun!

Cedar Butte Trail

Flaming Geyser River Trail– while the geyser isn’t particularly exciting, this state park is a great destination for an afternoon.

Lake Fenwick– this is a bit of a challenge simply because of the stairs, but kiddos can do it! It’s great counting practice too, haha!

Wildside Trail

Cougar Mountain Indian Trail

Coal Creek Trail– look for the coal pieces in the creek on this historical trail!

Saltwater State Park– book some extra time to spend at the beach!

Franklin Ghost Town Trail– don’t be spooked! This hike has a lovely waterfall, but I recommend it in the summer as it can get washed out in places.

Iverson Railroad Trail and Westside Road– keep an eye out, and you’ll see Mt. Rainier in all her glory on a clear day!

West Hylebos Wetlands Trail- this is not only a lovely walk, it has a historical cabin right at the parking lot- so neat!

Echo Peak Loop Trail– this is one of our favorites and a hidden gem. The views on a clear day are killer!

Franklin Falls – short but well worth hanging around the falls for a couple of hours. Pack a picnic!

Dash Point Trail

Shangrila, Anti- Aircraft Ridge Loop – sounds weird, but it’s a great loop with even better views.

Myrtle Falls via Skyline Trail– this is on Mt. Rainier, so you could easily spend a day puttering around Paradise.

Nisqually Vista Trail– also on Mt. Rainier


Silver Falls Trail – lovely views on Mt Rainier- usually this is great done in tandem with the Grove of the Patriarchs hike, but alas, the Grove of the Patriarchs in closed until further notice. If they open back up, GO!

Well folks, that’s a few of our most favorite kid friendly hikes! I hope your able to try some or let me know if you have any other good suggestions, we love to explore! Cheers!



A Word for 2022

I know, I know, it’s so mainstream to pick a word for the New Year, but I really like the idea. My word for this year is Courage.


We had an incredible year in 2021. Incredibly beautiful, blessed, adventurous (I’m looking at you 7 new pets!), and yes, also incredibly hard. Between fractures in friendships due to pandemic differences, the loss of many socializing opportunities, mask mandates, vaccine mandates, disappointment in our relocation efforts, and my own eroding health, we (like so many others) have had some really tough and lonely days.
Some of our hardships are following us into the new year and I am determined to find even more courage to ensure that my family still thrives despite our difficulties. I look forward to another exciting year full of hope and adventures with my family. We have some great plans already lined up; camping, 4H fair, hikes, short getaways, Field Trip Fridays, and more! To stay tuned, I’m sure I’ll be blogging it all.

I hope that you have a happy New Year friends. May your lives be filled with abundant blessings whatever the world may throw at you.

But no one except Lucy knew that as it circled the mast it had whispered to her, “Courage, dear heart,” and the voice, she felt sure, was Aslan’s, and with the voice a delicious smell breathed in her face.

C.S Lewis- Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Scotland 13 and 14


Our mornings have been slow in the highlands so far, but today we were off in the morning to make it up to Eilean Donan castle, one of the most well preserved  castles in Scotland. 

We drove about two hours to get that far west from Inverness and didn’t have WiFi reception which we were thankful for, as it gave us a little break from all the panic inducing travel news. The drive was so beautiful! I wish we had gotten pictures while driving up as it was sunny and we saw about 30 deer, more than half of them stags, and wild goats that were all black and had really long slightly curved horns. They were right by the road so it was easy to see. We did get pictures going back but it was overcast by that time. 

The castle tour was not included in the explorer pass because it is still privately owned, however, it was well worth the visit, mainly due to a employee they have named Richard MacLeod. As we were just started walking into the castle we were in the banquet hall and a man stationed in that room took a shine to our family, particularly impressed with how kind Caidoc was to Azelie, mentioning that over and over. As a result, we got a private tour, the kids got to see into special 750 year old spy holes! He even quickly told us he wanted to take our picture for us! In this castle pictures of any kind are forbidden so, after checking the coast was clear he took some very nice photos of us using what he called “highland zoom” since he doesn’t know how to “use these contraptions” . 

Richard then told us all about where else to go and encouraged us to jet over to Skye, and a view point we couldn’t miss that “Johnny goggle doesn’t even know about!” 

Quartz that Caidoc found on the Loch banks!

We had such an awesome day! We are so thankful we’ve had such great interactions with the locals. And I am thrilled we got to see Skye. Maybe not a lot, but as Richard said, “Well, ye have come all this way now, ye have to set foot on Skye even if just a wee bit!” 

The skye bridge
The skye bridge
On the road back to Inverness

Our time in Scotland was more than we could have hoped for. We bonded as a family so much! And it was amazing how much the kids embraced the change and adventure (we walked ~75 miles in the two weeks!). I have to say, Chris and I are pretty unstoppable as a team. It was a joy to spend so much time with him since that was rare during grad school.  

I can’t pick a favorite part so far, but I’m just so grateful we could have this amazing adventure! You’ll have to tune back in for Chris’s post, which will detail how exactly we spent our last two days in Scotland trying to get home amid the coronavirus mayhem! Haha! 

Thanks for following along everyone!

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