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Happy Winter Solstice

Today I have planned a little feast for my brood. Making cookies and spending time with family and close friends on this shortest day of the year.
I hope all your holidays and the new year are filled with love, warmth, and comfort!
Here is some pretty pictures I found online I’d like to wrangle in one place 🙂 I hope you enjoy them as I do!
Xo


This girl reminds me of my eldest daughter, Ophelia.

This reminds me of Ophelia a bit as well.

This boy on the polar bear reminds me of my eldest son, Settimio, and Jack Frost.

All my little dancing around a fire 🙂 though I have less than what is pictured!

Little Asian girl makes me think of my two smallest daughters, Fiammetta and Persephone.

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children, christmas, divorce, Holidays, home life, recipes, single parenting, Winter, Yule

On the First Day of Cookies

My true love made with me…
Italian Nut Balls …. or as some people may call them Thumbprint Cookies.
Before I had a million kids it was always so easy to whip out multiple batches of a dozen or so different cookie recipes during the holiday season. I have come to realize that the more children that are added to the family, the less time I have for anything that isn’t following after them cleaning up their paths of destruction. So, last year I decided that I would have each able child pick out a recipe that they would like to make with me and if I had time I would expand on that by myself. I’m sad to say last year we didn’t even make all the cookies that each child requested. In my defense I had just had baby 6 and was still trying to get used to adding another human to the family minus a husband.  I’m hoping that the 5 oldest kids will all get to make what they chose this year. 
Since the 4 oldest are still in school today and tomorrow before winter break starts, I thought Persephone and I could make her cookie choice. I am hoping to get the majority of cookie making done during the next two days because Wednesday is not only the first day of winter break, but it is also the Winter Solstice and I plan to have a little celebration with the kids!  We are going to do grinch night again with a grinchy themed feast and a showing of the Jim Carey live action movie.  We did it last year and they loved it. Well, Ophelia was indifferent but she’s also a high schooler. I also got the kids a little something warm and cozy they can open on the Solstice morning. Sally informed me he knows it’s clothes because he squished them! 🙂 haha

Then Santa will come by on xmas eve night and bring those fabulous children a gift. Later on xmas day the rest of the family will come by and we will have dinner and gifts with them. 
Persephone chose to the thumbprint cookies because she was excited about rolling the dough in to balls and smooshing her tiny thumb down 🙂 She is my go to gal when making and rolling meatballs as well.
Persephone helped me chop up all the nuts too! We’ve been practicing chopping with real knives. She’s so good about keeping her little fingers out of the way! I have actually noticed knife control improvement since the first time I let her help me chop a couple months ago. 



While the cookies were in the oven she took a break to wiggle on the floor.


After they came out I placed them on a cooling rack and she filled each cookie with jam. We did raspberry jam in half and blackberry jam in the other half.

Valentino watched, not so patiently. Thankfully he didn’t grab all over the cookies!


And since she didn’t have a xmas apron I let her have the last one that was in my shop. She loves the hungry caterpillar so it was perfect for her!

CHEESE!


Oh how she loves little baby ears! 🙂


Such a sweet big sister!


My little Krinkles (Valentino) with jam face! I let him lick the spoon when Percy Pie was done with it. 
I got this recipe from my mom years ago, and now to pass it on to you..

**I always use organic and/or local when possible.**
Italian Nut Balls / Thumbprint Cookies

Preheat oven to 350 F

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup butter

2 egg yolks (reserve whites)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

* in a large bowl or mixer combine ingredients, mix well

2 cups flour

* gradually add flour until well mixed
2 reserved egg whites, slightly beaten

1 – 1 1/2 cups finely chopped nuts (we use pecans)

Roll dough into 1 inch balls. Dip dough ball in to egg whites, then nuts

Place on greased or parchment paper lined cookie sheet about 2 inches apart, make a deep depression in center of cookies with finger/thumb tip.

1/2 cup jam or preserves

Bake at 350 F for 10 – 12 minutes until firm to the touch and lightly browned. Immediately remove from cookie sheet, while warm fill centers with a little jam or preserves, allow jam to set before storing.  Store covered or in the fridge for about a week. 

Yield 3 – 4 dozen

(Today we got exactly 31 cookies)
Buon appetito! 

What are some of your favorite holiday treats?

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Blasphemy, children, christmas, Embroidery, Holidays, home life, Homesteading, painting, sewing, single parenting, Winter, Yule

The road so far

Yesterday morning woke up to a chicken torn apart in our back yard. That kinda sucked 😦 goodbye sweet Chicka!  Had a quick little burial under the plum tree.

So it’s December! It’s actually 5 days in to December. I got my good old fake tree up before thanksgiving but I honestly have not had the time to get it decorated. (I like to use fake trees because I think murdering trees sucks. Even if they were specifically grown for it I still don’t like it.) I wanted to decorate our tree multiple times already but I can’t find those dang ornament hooks. The little kids have been begging me to go through the boxes of ornaments to find them but I am not looking forward to a sea of breakables across the floor while I search. Valentino isn’t the gentlest of baby’s. Actually, he is quite the turd!
Though, I do have other areas of holiday goodness.oh you beautiful, beautiful lamp you! It’s a Major Award!! This baby is in the front parlor window. The tree got demoted to the back family room this year so my beautiful lamp could take center stage. Ginger kitty wanted to be in the photo too. Don’t mind the laundry piles and the baby clothes I’m working on embroidering on the chairs there!our naked tree. I’m hoping to find those ornament hooks or I just may break down and go spend the $1.50 to buy a new bunch of them. I just hate to do it because I already have like 3 boxes of the things from previous years.

More messy! Need to get rid of those pumpkins still! Haha! Threw some candles and some lights in the front window and call it good. It actually looks a little different now though, I cut out a bunch of stars from white computer paper and taped them up on the top half of the window.I bought a wreath and some garland from Costco so I can enjoy a little bit of that fresh tree smell.put up a string of lights in the dining room window.. ahh the ambiance. The kids keep knocking it down somehow. Plus it got stretched out a bit as time went on.
I love these star lanterns, but these are actually a year round lamp I keep up in the front parlor.

I was able to find some of our winter/xmas books in the boxes yet to be unpacked and get them arranged with some nutcrackers on our lonely shelf. I need like 5 more of those things to hold all of our books!

And although I am not a follower of the christian persuasion, I did put up my moms old chreche above the computer desk. I just think it’s pretty.. And peaceful.. And I love images of Mary with her baby. I’m a sucker for babies 😉 I also like it because it was my moms.

Some people may be aghast to learn of this, but I fondly recall childhood memories of my middle younger brother and I hanging baby Jesus every year from the rafter above with a noose I lovingly hand crafted from speaker wire. My mom would get so mad. I still hang the noose on my tree every year. I try to put it next to the ornament said brother gave me a few years ago of a stately Santa figure stuffing a small child into his red sack. That child must have been naughty! 

Hung up some of our old advent calendars, just for decoration. That big Santa face one is from 2002 when Ophelia was just 1 1/2 and we had our very first apartment together. Our collection grows every year! Especially now with 6 kids and sometimes each kid getting their own calendar. We don’t reuse the calendars though, I don’t want the cardboard getting weak and the little doors falling off. We never buy the chocolate ones, yuck. Eventually I want to get around to making a reusable advent calendar.. let me just add that to the list!


We just had to get a new fridge the other day, the old black one was on the fritz. So again, please don’t mind the mess! But here are our cupboards dressed up for winter. I put lace on the inside of the glass cupboard doors so I didn’t have to look into our messy cup cupboards all the time! Damn my realistic unmatching cups! Damn them to fake hell! Sweet little Persephone again!old black fridge. It went with the other appliances better. Oh well, I’d rather have unspoiled food!close up of the kitchen wreaths. I bought them at Michaels when they were having 50% off all fake goodness sale. It isn’t really called that. I liked the holly leaves and berries in these ones. Plus, sparkle! I had to use my own ribbon though. These ones came with a tiny red hanger.

So, some of the things I’m working on for my shoppy poo. I decided to move all my painted signs to their own shop, Painted Lady Signs at http://www.etsy.com/shop/PaintedLadySigns Some of the lighting isn’t great. Sorry!

I also make those mobiles in many colors in my original shopmade a silver and gold version of the reindeer names in honor of Yukon Cornelius! 

I just finished up these Joy signs this morning.
I am still in the process of moving all my signs from the original shop Mary, Mary Quite Contrary at http://www.etsy.com/shop/MaryEGuad but there is a lot more signs posted on both shop sites. These are just the holiday ones I’ve been working on lately..  as for other items I’ve been working on in the original shop..

I always have some classic Pooh or Peter Rabbit thing to work on! So $&@%* precious!!

Some Holly and Mistletoe baby gowns. I love gowns. They are so convenient when baby’s are first born!

Little stag/Reindeer head gownand I even converted a couple Reindeer heads into Rudolph with a little red nose 😊

Some cozy flannel baby blankets. They are about 42″ square. I love these blankets. I made them for all my kids and they get used for so many things!

Sweet Persephone modeling for me ❤️ This one is my favorite! I kept one of these for Valentino. I am also planning on making all 4 of the little kids matching pajamas out of this flannel. It’s so cute and cozy! Hopefully I can get to that before the solstice as I want to gift each of my kiddos new jammies! I would make the 2 big kids the same pajamas but I need to find a pattern for their size too. I wish Oliver and S patterns made teen sizes!
So there we have it, for now. My list of things to accomplish or clean is never ending. 

And here is a mug I bought for myself so I can sip hot cocoa out of something cute for a change.

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christmas, Holidays, home life, single parenting, Winter, Yule

Visiting Santa at Skagit Valley Gardens

Since we missed the correct date to see Santa last year I made an appointment to guarantee we would make it this year! 
This last Saturday we made it down with time to spare. Valentino was not a happy boy!


 But I was able to get some cute photos with the other kiddos. Ophelia and Settimio didn’t want to be in all of them but the professional photographer got a few. I get to pick up the photo cd next weekend, with all the photos the professionals took. So for right now I just have the photos on my phone. 


My oldest brother and his son met us there and my nephew  Jacob got to be in some of the photos too.

Skagit Valley Gardens always looks so magical with the many trees dressed up for Christmas. It is one of my favorite places to ornament shop, though I have to admit this isn’t quite so fun with all the little ones!

He looks so sweet when he isn’t crying!

Afterward we went back home for lunch, then headed over to Nanas to decorate some shortbread cookies. I never seem to get photos of that! Always too busy either helping or trying to keep a baby distracted. 
A little less smooth running than in years passed but all in all it was a nice day. 
These might be the last photos you see of Settimio with his luscious hair 😔 he wants me to shave his head over winter break!!

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recipes

Hummingbird Cake for Valentinos 1st Birthday

Today my little pumpkin butt is 1! Holy cow! The time goes so quickly. I have noticed the accelerated passage of time more as I’ve gotten older and had children. It’s easy to see as seasons pass, birthdays and holidays anticipated then quickly fly by. 


Well, today I made my squishy fella a Hummingbird Cake for his first birthday. I got the recipe years ago from a magazine and tweaked it here and there. It’s a pretty forgiving recipe. I’m not sure where the name “Hummingbird Cake” comes from but it consists of Bananas, Pineapple, Pecans, and various spices.  If you don’t have enough bananas it’s ok, too much pineapple, throw it in!  I also like to put in more pecans than called for and I chop them up as tiny as I can. Some people may prefer to keep the pecans chunks a bit bigger. Do what calls to you!
Top this delicious cake with cream cheese frosting and your tastebuds will thank you.

We’re going to make a layer cake!

-Pre-heat oven to 350 F

-Butter and flour three 9″ cake pans.

Grab a large bowl for the dry ingredients, add to it

3 cups flour

2tsp cinnamon

(I also like to grate a bit of fresh nutmeg, or throw in some allspice)

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

Sift together or stir gently with a fork

To an electric mixer bowl add

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup brown sugar

3 large eggs

Mix thoroughly then add

1 cup vegetable oil

2 tsp vanilla extract

Mix well then add all dry ingredients at once. Mix until moist and thoroughly combined.

Add

2 cups (4 large ripe) mashed banana

1 cup crushed pineapple (canned ok)

(Usually I use a whole can!)

1 cup chopped pecans

Mix until just blended.
Divide batter among 3 floured pans.

Bake at 350 F for 25 – 30 mins or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool for 5 mins in the pan then turn out into cooling rack until completely cool.

Frost with cream cheese frosting.

Cream together in an electric mixer bowl

8 oz cream cheese – room temperature 

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter – room temperature 

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 – 4 cups powdered sugar depending on your taste preference. I usually use less than more.

You may need to double this to cover the entire cake.

Store cake in the fridge (overnight is best so all the flavors meld and love each other). Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.

Voila!


So delicious even Mr. Zombie Pants will forsake his usual feast of brains to partake in this culinary delight.

We practice safe eating in this house! Baby on the edge of the table with a fork in hand!


New hat from Uncle Joe!

My mommy loves my sweet face! (Don’t mind the mess, We are still unpacking!)

I love lamp.

Peek-a-boo!

The sweetest smile! Melts my heart!

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birthdays, Chickens, children, home life, Homesteading, Spring

Assessing Growth (I spelled ass)

Thursday we celebrated Settimio’s 12th birthday. Sometimes it is hard to believe he is almost a man. He is nearly as tall as I am. I do think he will surpass me in height this coming year.
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Settimio chose banana pancakes for his special dinner. We also made 3 lbs of bacon!
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I have never been a fan of bacon but lately I’ve been enjoying it if it is cooked very crispy, almost burnt. He decided on a chocolate and peanutbutter ice cream cake so I picked one of those up from Dairy Queen, as well. Overall I think he had a nice birthday. Spring break started the next day so they got to stay up late watching a movie. Friday, was a reserved make up snow day, but since the kids had no snow days this year in our very mild Pacific North West winter they got the day off. Though, we did have to get up nice and early for a dentist appointment. Such a nice mom I am to schedule their dentist appointment on their first day of spring break! Ahhh.. they finally get to sleep in.. Nope! Gotta get up to be to the dentist at 9 am! Oh well, at least it’s done and over with for 6 more months.

Today is Saturday, day two of Spring Break 2016(!! Said like a stupid mtv announcer!!) and Fiammetta has a birthday party to go to in a little while. We have already been up for about 5 hours. Well, the 4 youngest kids and I have. The eldest 2 are still snug in bed, as they usually are on the weekend mornings (afternoons and eveings as well if I let them!). The littles have all eaten breakfast, made messes, cleaned up, gotten hurt, climbed trees,
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ran around inside and outside screaming, climbed the railings,
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etc.. etc.., and now are calmly watching a bit of television while I nurse the baby in bed. It is always very lively at our house. After vacuuming this morning I decided to go outside and assess (heh heh I spelled assess, I’m pronouncing it asses in my head) the growth of our garden and weeds. So many dang horsetails are coming up. I really dislike those things!

The other day when I was outside I tied a some disposable water bottles to a couple branches of one of our cherry trees.
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I need to do more branches so they grow downward instead of upward. Makes for easier picking in the future.
image I actually need to tie water bottles to all the fruit trees to train their branches downward. Must remember to pick up some more next time we head to costco!

I planted the fruit trees the first or second year we lived here, as well as a plethora of other plants. I planted a total of 2 different kinds of cherry trees, (here is our other cherry)
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a pear tree with different varieties grafted on, (the next 2 shots are the pear, it’s hard to see all the flowers in front of the other big flowering tree/bush behind it. Not sure what that one is called but it smells beautiful!)
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(The pear from a different angle, you can really see how vertical the branches are)
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and 3 grafted espalier apple trees. The apple trees really need a good pruning. They are not looking very espalier at the moment! I also planted a variety of other plants including a lilac bush/tree,
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a climbing hydrangea, 4 currant bushes, a spirea, (the spirea is in the foreground, the climbing hydrangea behind it)
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and some hostas.
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I don’t remember the variety of this one but it is the only one that survived. I love its variegated leaves!

The kids and the chickens followed me around the yard wanting their photos taken too. Every time I turned around there was a chicken! This is Goldie.
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I also got a couple of our cats Ginger
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(she looks like such a stuck up b**ch, she can be fiesty but she’s a sweetie)
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and Arya.
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Arya likes hanging out on the roof. She is all black but in the sun her coat looks red too, it’s very pretty. She also has extra toes on all her paws, and she doesn’t smell very good. I don’t know if it’s her breath or her butt, but it grosses me out a bit. 🙂 haha!

The Phlox I planted grows back thicker each year.
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When it flowers it looks so pretty and smells so sweet. This particular one has white flowers.

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This shot is going up the side of our house from our back yard up to the front. The first cherry tree I showed you is right up there just past the stone steps. The second cherry tree is right behind me. I used to have a whole bunch of creeping jenny, a ground cover type plant, planted along the side of the house. The creeping jenny was spreading so far it had almost covered the entire pathway. My sweet chickens have torn it all up and now use that area for dust baths. I need to move the tiny fencing, now it just looks weird! I would love to put more ferns or hostas toward the right side near the fence. We had over 100 – 150 strawberry plants in various places through out the garden but it looks as though the chickens have torn up and eaten them as well.

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Sal is so cute 🙂 we cut his hair the other day. He wanted me to but then wasn’t pleased with the results. At least it grows back quickly.
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A view from under our deck. To the left is the huge hydrangea that was here when we moved in. I’ve trimmed it down low multiple times since we’ve lived here. I wonder how large it would be now if I hadn’t! One tier down from where the shovel is are a few blueberry bushes our landlord dropped off 2 summers ago. They have a blueberry farm and were thinning out their crop so I asked for a few bushes. All back outside of our fence is a large field and blackberry brambles. To the right of this picture is our chicken coop.
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Stays snug and dry in the rain.
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This is going from our front door up to the road where we park. To the right is the garage. On the side of the garage is various plants including a fuschia. It’s very pretty in the summer. On the left is a citrusy smelling, yellow orange peony bush. It is just starting to bud.
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It smells so wonderful in the late spring/early summer.

I am hoping I will be able to stay more on top of weed pulling this year in the garden. Last summer was very unpleasant with the high temperatures while being pregnant and still trying to do the Farmer’s Market. This year I won’t be doing market because it has been extremely hard to get anything done with the new baby in arms minus a husband to occasionally help out around the house. I am keeping my etsy open and hoping to be back at market for the summer of 2017.

I need to get out in the garden soon with out the baby and get the horse tails pulled up before it gets out of control! Although I prefer the introspective, colder months I do find myself looking forward to the season of growth. I’m hoping to get a few more pots for the deck and expanding our herbs and tomatoes.

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Mishapocolypse 2017 that is for Ophelia 🙂 xo

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