But, right now, the house is fairly calm. My music is on, I'm in between cooking stuff for Super Bowl, the boys are napping, the dogs are almost behaving, and Justin is .. well, I don't know what he's doing and I find in those times that it is best to not ask. Just go with it. So let's ramble about a little, shall we?
January 13th was Shannon's 6th birthday. Justin took 1/2 a day off and we picked him up from work and headed up to Mill Mountain Zoo. We try to do trips instead of gifts for birthday presents. Create an experience and memory rather than junk. We did, however, give him on little but very special gift for his birthday: his first camera. He loves taking photos and this was a perfect time.
The cake above is a completely from scratch, organic as can be, Chocolate Zucchini Cake. Insanely delicious. I have to admit that when I first heard of using zucchinis in cake years ago that my first thought was "yuck!" but no no no .. this is some good stuff. This is the cake Shannon gets every year for his birthday. He just asks for a "Zucchini Cake" now. Both boys got to help make this one.
As part of our homeschooling journey, Shannon has been slowly learning Russian. In honor of that, the front of the cake says "Happy Birthday" in Russian. On the back (you can't see it here) it says "Many Years" in Ukrainian. Similar languages, subtle differences. Alla, my stepmother, is from the Ukraine though, so hence the use of both.
Also new, the Blue Nymph just got a little blue-er. For Christmas my brother gave us a gift card to Lowe's, so we put it to good use and painted the living room. Finally. This makes our 5th room that we've painted some shade of blue in the house, and of course the outside of the house is blue. Well, maybe 4 1/2 - one of those rooms was a 1/2 bath and I used the same paint from another blue room. So, between 4 & 5.
The reasons for the two photos above is to show how much the color of the room changes depending on the light. Seriously, I've never seen a paint color like this, it is bizarre. Which makes it a natural fit around here!! hahaha. It goes from a beachy shade of blue, to a very greenish blue, to a gray-blue that is like the ocean. Wonderful and strange all at the same time.
We're trying to work on the front room and hallway as well, but still have to get the right shade of paint for that. Sometimes colors don't work out like you'd expect. Not bad, just not right either. Until we get the paint though there is plenty of paint scraping that needs to be done. Always fun.
If you live around here you're VERY well aware of the snow we've gotten this year. It started mid-December and just as the last of that snow melted we got hit with a couple more storms. FINALLY!! I LOVE the snow!! LOVE IT!! So, I've been very, very happy about all the storms. The only part I'll admit to not liking is when the snow shines bright on the snow and bounces back in all my windows. For someone who has migraines that are triggered by bright lights this makes me feel like a vampire running for cover of darkness.
We've been sledding up at the local golf course, Salem Municipal Golf Course, which is within walking distance up the hill from the house. For the first time since I've known him, Justin and I actually went sledding together. We kept getting turned around and going backwards down the hill, tumbling over and out, laughing all the way. Shannon would come to our "rescue," trying to push us further down the hill, while Tristan sat up at the top of the hill, content to eat snow. At least he was eating the fresh, white snow. That has been a fun lesson to try and teach him this winter. We don't eat snow from the bottom of our boots. We don't eat snow that has been plowed. And, though he didn't try this one (he did do the other ones), we don't eat the yellow snow!
Days of sledding followed by mugs of hot cocoa. Making more hot cocoa mix. Making hot cocoa using Cacao bars and warmed milk & sugar. Comforting, warm foods. All the things that make Winter so truly wonderful.
And, while I think I talked about this last year, it is worth noting again. Life is a little different when you have an urban homestead. It's gonna dump snow?? Well, better get out there and cover the chickens' tractor so that their winter run area stays dry. Once the snow stops, gotta get out there and uncover them, even if that the cover has more than a foot of snow on it.
Mornings find me out there, in flannel pj bottoms, an old sweatshirt, and worn-out faux ($15) ugg boots, checking on the chickens. Navigating not-cleared off steps down the deck with fresh water in one hand, feed in the other. Scraping snow off the top of the hay bin to make sure they have fresh hay. This morning Justin was out there with me: scooping the spent hay out of the nest boxes and walking it across the yard to the snow-covered garden.
The biddies aren't liking this weather. The last egg we got was on February 1st, and even then we only got one egg. I've tried enticing them with treats and even a plastic Easter Egg in the nest box. The plastic egg only seemed to annoy them. The treats were gobbled up, but we haven't yet gotten any more eggs, and so yesterday I resigned myself to buying a dozen from the store. Such is life.
A Little More Rambling.
Our next door neighbors have a huge Holly tree. It is taller than their two-story house, just the biggest Holly tree I've ever seen. It makes me think of my great-grandmother. She loved Hollies and planted several (all of which are now gone) here when she lived here. Their tree is gorgeous. I can see it from our bathroom window quite well, where it seems framed perfectly with bright blue sky behind it.
The past couple of mornings when I went out I noticed that the tree was swarming with life. Hundreds of robins were in it. If you made a loud noise they'd quickly fly out and into nearby trees. Yesterday morning I had to get the kids to see this. I ran back inside and grabbed everyone. I was in my pjs and held a barefoot Shannon on the deck. Justin was still barefoot too, so he held Tristan from the back doorway. We listened to the birds in the tree. Then we clapped very loudly and yelled "BOO!" at them, and watched as hundreds of birds quickly flew everywhere around us. It was magical.
The tree had been full of bright red berries (I have a picture of it that still needs uploading, as do all my snow pics). Within a couple days, all the berries are gone. The birds have eaten their way from the top of the tree to the bottom. Randomly dropped red berries stain spots of snow in our yard. Nature is buzzing all around us, and at the same time is dormant and silent.
Perhaps this is why I love this time of year. Life abounds, but is silent. It forces us inside. Inside to the hearth, where we cook foods that warm our bellies and souls. It forces us to be with one another. It forces us take the time and be quiet, to look within ourselves and reflect.
Like flower bulbs that require the cold so that they can bloom in the warm Spring sun, we too require Winter so that we may bloom anew and refreshed.
I think I may go do one of my truly favorite Winter activities now: take a nap.