Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Life on the Home Front: The Rest of the Birthday


In which I discuss FIFA, wild ramps, and cherry pie.....

The days run into each other now. We are not constant news watchers so even the news seems relatively the same. Next week will be different when the kids get back to online schooling. Our second week of spring break is going along just fine though.

The weather was cold, but I did convince Drew to tag along down into the woods to see if we could find some ramps (wild garlic) to make a wild garlic butter for Michael's birthday dinner. I wanted him along so he could film me as I demonstrated sustainable ways of harvesting the ramps for my nature videos. Unfortunately the ramps in our woods were too tiny to film, but that didn't stop me from dragging him all the way to the very end of two paths to see if we could find more mature ramps.

In return for going on the walk with me, I let Drew introduce me to the world of FIFA (a soccer x-box game). Since I don't play xbox, nor soccer, the whole process is new to me. I have to watch the ball, watch which player to switch to, switch the player, tackle the ball, shoot the ball, punt the ball, honestly, it's quite overwhelming. And then the part that got me was the constant commentary that is created to match your shots. Things like: "that was uncalculated, what a surprise, his teammates are staring at him now, we expected better......". And then, if you do a really great shot, you can choose if you want a typical or a-typical celebration and then you watch your player do some sort of hilarious crawl across the ground in celebration. I kept getting so distracted by the commentary I couldn't play well. I found the whole thing overwhelming. But I will have to try again.

I baked a cherry pie in the afternoon for Michael's birthday dinner. There were just enough cherries left between the freezer and a random jar of cherries that I always wondered why I had. I also had some thin chuck steaks in the freezer that were intended for Valentine's Day but never used. I labeled them for Michael when this whole thing started. This is where all my reading is coming in handy. "The Long Winter" taught me that mother's secretly stash special things in times of emergencies so that when holidays come around they can pull something out of hiding to make the day special.

As usual, I spent some time painting and working on a few other projects. I also spoke briefly with a friend via FaceTime.

I opened up the grill and got if fired up for dinner and realized it is on the very last legs of its already secondhand life. But I managed to get the little steaks cooked, and I had picked a few leaves of wild garlic and a handful of wild onion so we had the garlic butter and some fresh veggies with baked potatoes. Very delicious!

Drew chose "The Truman Show" as our family movie and we stopped half way to enjoy that amazing cherry pie! yum yum! Then it was off to bed with the expectation of a new month in the morning!

Food Eaten: oatmeal and tea, leftover Indian dishes, crackers and olive tapenade, steak with sweet potato, asparagus, broccoli, and garlic butter; cherry pie.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Life on the Home Front: A Birthday


In which I discuss birthdays, phone calls, and cheesy Bunny movies....

Michael's birthday helped make our day a bit more interesting! Of course he would be happy if nothing was done at all to celebrate. I grew up in a home where birthdays were a big deal. So we celebrate because I want to celebrate. :) ha ha! And it's good for the children to learn to celebrate with others.

We decided on a family walk at our local park with hot tea and pie at the end. We postponed our dinner and presents until Tuesday since Drew had to leave for his job at Subway right after our hike. It was nice to be out in the fresh air and we found many signs of spring in the park, several that we have not seen in our own woods yet.

This was an unusual Monday because I was not working at the flower shop. I had scheduled this day off when we were still planning to head to NC for spring break to visit relatives. Not working gave me the chance to have a more relaxed day and I did take some time for reading!

I had the loveliest surprise in the afternoon - my grandmother's sister called to say hello. I can't remember the last time we've spoken and it was an absolute delight to hear her soft voice and catch up a bit. It brought back many happy memories and connected me a bit to my grandmother who passed away 13 years ago now. The phone call left me with such a happy feeling.

I had the two older boys pull out stuff from the little pantry and from my back closet so I could clean and organize. Now it's sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor, forcing me to deal with it. The closet is making progress.

Laura chose our evening movie -- "Hop". It's basically like a cheesy Santa Claus movie but it's about the Easter Bunny. Ha ha!

Food Eaten: Oatmeal made with oat flour instead of whole oats (I love the texture) and tea, fried egg sandwich, apple pie, leftover Indian spinach and Chana Masala.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Life on the Home Front: The Weekend


In which I discuss cooking, organization, and fake poop......

Another weekend in the books. What a gift these slower days are in many ways.

Our most joyful piece of news was receiving word of the baby girl born to friends in our congregation. All went well and they were home in time to show us the baby on our weekly Sunday evening online church gathering. What stories her family will tell as she grows up -- being born during coronavirus!

I spent some time cooking on Saturday so I wouldn't have to do much on Sunday. I'm stretching out the meat in our freezer so decided on Indian dishes with spinach and chickpeas. Once in awhile I long for something with a lot of flavor. Indian works!! People often comment that I must like to cook -- I really don't think I do. I like to eat good food and I especially like to sit around a table with others. Cooking is simply the means to that end. I'd much rather be reading or painting.

The most memorable conversation from the weekend began with my overhearing, "Remember the fake poop we used to make and leave in so-and-so's yard to annoy them?" WHAT??!!! I'm still laughing about this. Yes, apparently my kids made fake poop out of mud and placed it in an annoying neighbor's yard just for the fun of it. I always knew I would later find out things my kids did when they were young. Fortunately, said neighbor repented in sackcloth and ashes (and a large bag of candy and a free snowblower) before moving and no longer troubles the children.

One son needed a haircut so we took care of that. Fortunately we can do without a barber for as many months as we want. I typically have my hair cut twice a year, and I can actually go without for many years if need be.

I worked more on tidying up my back closet which also serves as my art storage area, sewing room and fabric storage, and book storage area (it's very large). Having tidy spaces makes a huge difference to my inner peace. I've got plans for the little pantry and more plans for my closet this week.

On our church video chat last night we heard from some of those out on the front lines. A nurse let us know that our county expects the peak to hit our hospitals in 4-6 weeks. A friend in an industry "in the know" right now warned us to expect 50-60 more days of this. From all I read online, they are correct. One day at a time I guess.

Food Eaten: Saturday: Tea and toast; leftover pizza, apple crumble for tea, leftovers with eggs for dinner. Sunday: blueberry pancakes and tea, Chana Masala and Saag Paneer without the Paneer with homemade GF chapatis (from a mix), basmati rice, and coriander chutney; apple pie for tea, leftover pancakes for dinner.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Life on the Home Front: Another Week


In which I discuss spring break, pizza, and movies....

I love this photo because it says so much about our life right now: bagpipe lessons happening via FaceTime (shout-out to our wonderful teacher, Hope!), postage stamps all over the desk from the letter writing, candles littered (one of our sources of joy), a beautiful piece of art to escape into in the background, a tiny little bit of fresh flowers all the way over to the right.

Our first week of spring break is nearly in the books. We had intended to visit relatives in NC, instead we are home. It was a good week overall. The temperatures rose outdoors, we had a lot of good family time, and no one is going absolutely crazy yet.

Friday was rainy which kept us indoors until late in the afternoon when the sky cleared. I escaped to the woodland walk to catch more footage and enjoy the solitude of nature. The kids went out front to play soccer in the street and were joined by some neighbors, keeping their distances of course! It's so hard to repel little toddlers right now, who can't understand why one is backing away from them and saying don't come near me. Very heart-breaking.

I talked to my mom on the phone about art supplies and spent some more time at my work desk painting. All this time at home is helping me prioritize the painting practice. The workshop I signed up for in April has moved to May. Can't wait for it, hoping we don't have to further postpone.

Michael went on an important mission to deliver toilet paper to Mom LeFebvre -- because the stores have been out since we all came home two weeks ago.

I convinced Drew to take another day at baking something for tea. This staying at home is going to result in my boys developing such wonderful skills: baking, cleaning, food shopping. Drew took on oatmeal cookies today and we enjoyed them so much at tea time.

Friday is an easy day to choose pizza for dinner. I had a frozen gluten-free crust in the freezer so only needed to make the gluten crust. I don't miss too many foods, but I do miss good pizza. We decided to eat in front of our evening movie. It was my turn to pick! I had a list of four and decided to go with the top one: The Beautiful Terrific. It was an interesting movie, and overall very good. It must be one of those independent art-type films. It follows a young woman who has OCD and the transformation of her life through the transformation of her back garden. Although it was a lot slower than I meant to force on the family, everyone watched it and even commented positively at the end. I think it gave us something to think about and notice so it actually had more effect than a different movie would have.

Food Eaten: The last piece of the donut cake with tea! Leftover rice, veg, and egg for lunch. Oatmeal cookies for tea, gluten free pizza (dairy free cheese) for dinner with carrots and apples.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Life on the Home Front: Another Day



In which I discuss teatime, routines, and the lack of reading....

I feel like we have a routine developing around here, I just hope the kids don't get tired of this too quickly. Thursday was a gorgeous day outside -- Michael and I took a nice walk mid-day down into our wooded path and back again. It's crazy to see how many people are out walking now, and everyone is extra friendly too.

I'm not taking as many photos as I normally do. It must be because my world is suddenly much smaller? I need to look for beauty and capture it. Checking my phone for photos from yesterday revealed mostly pictures of chores: the exploded pumpkin in the pantry that required a major cleaning effort, the closet disorganization that I spent more time working on righting, and a knitting project re-discovered along with the needles I was missing and the pattern I couldn't find. I'm making progress on household projects, but at the same time feeling like there are so many more to go. I also need to be content with a house that is becoming more worn out with age and no amount of cleaning or organizing can really change that.

Drew did our tea baking: blueberry coffee cake. We had some blueberries still in the fridge. Our normal schedule is for Laura and I to have tea together immediately after getting home from school each day. I try to buy blueberries for one or two of those teas each week because Laura loves them so much. She's loved blueberries since she was a baby and often has asked for a blueberry cake for her birthday. Anyway, the Laura tea times have been put on hold now and we still had two pints of blueberries left! It's my turn to bake today. Maybe I should use the other pint up!

The change in schedule is helping me focus on painting for about an hour each day. Being able to spend time like this will help me move my skills forward at a faster rate! I'm having so much fun experimenting with gouache and capturing moments of each day on paper. The one thing I am upset about is that I've lost nearly all my reading time. Our entire evening is spent together as a family -- which is so important I don't want to change. The day is full with the other things I've prioritized and I don't know how to fit the reading back in again. Sometimes I can squeeze in part of an audio book. But, I've chosen sleeping in right now instead of adding more time to my day so I suppose I must be content with my choice.

In many ways I feel as though I'm a person in a dark room with my hands against the wall, carefully pushing and pressing to find the doors and ease them open. It's tedious work, and I can't see, but little by little I'm making forward progress and once in awhile a door opens into a new room.

Did I mention each one of us is taking a night to pick a movie in a genre we like? This makes for watching a lot of movies I would not choose to watch -- but that's the whole point, really. We watched some kind of Samurai movie last night and sure enough the scene of a Samurai being punished by beating showed up in my dreams. Yuck. I love piecing together dreams and seeing where different parts of the dream came from a different part of my day or a different stress I am dealing with. Tonight is my movie choice -- I want something beautiful and uplifting, then maybe I'll dream of the Lake District and tea with Jane Austen.

Food Eaten: tea and a piece of the Glazed Donut Cake for breakfast (yes!! what a treat), turkey soup for lunch (its final appearance!!), blueberry coffee cake for teatime snack, and a wonderful dinner of roasted cauliflower, baked sweet potatoes, roasted chicken, and stir-fried onions, summer squash, and asparagus. Sigh.


Thursday, March 26, 2020

Life on the Home Front: First Full Day of Lockdown


In which I discuss Prince Charles, cake, and alien movies....

The first thing that I heard Wednesday morning was that Prince Charles had tested positive for the virus. That's just a little too close to the Queen for me! I am a very avid follower of the Royal Family. We grew up with an old book about the princesses (the Queen as a child) and a dollhouse they played with, then we lived in Uganda, a former colony of Britain, then two of my children were born in the UK, and of course two of my great-grandparents were also born there. It's inevitable that I be a royalist. I'm glad the Prince is not hospitalized and that he and Camilla are isolating way up in Scotland in a "cottage."

Sunshine today! I took a walk early afternoon to grab more footage for my nature videos. A neighbor was out moving flowers around in his flowerbed and promised to send me a bucket of daffodils he'd divided along with yellow lilies. I don't think I've ever seen so many people out walking in our neighborhood! Must be the new national past-time. People are more willing to say hello too. I found plenty of progress in the woods to report on -- lots of flowers making their way to the surface and a few actually blooming. Especially exciting was finding the ramps (wild garlic) poking up through the leaves.

Today was the first day when we actually knew someone who tested positive for the virus -- relatives in Connecticut. And friends in Rhode Island most likely have the virus too. And my friend in NYC continues to give me firsthand reports. Life there is very stressful, far more stressful than here. When someone you know gets the virus, that's when it all becomes real.

A friend shared a picture of her Glazed Donut Cake on Facebook and I thought it would be perfect to try for tea-time. James attempted a gluten-free version of it for us and it was SO delicious! How have we not known about this cake before??? The recipe we used is here. We used GF flour and xanthan gum and made buttermilk with milk and vinegar.

I started to putter in the garden -- mostly because I needed to deal with the plants I was given. After my long walk, and with a bike ride ahead (with Laura) I didn't want to do too much and over-do. I did find rhubarb coming up! YAY! Last year I planted some again to see if I could get it going. My attempts over the years have eventually failed.

I managed to get our linen closet re-organized. What a relief. So many more things to do like that. One at a time. The kids get the easy job: I ask them to pull everything out of the space I'm going to organize. I get the hard job of sorting and putting it back.

It was David's night to pick a movie, I think? Anyway, the movie was about humans fighting aliens and seemed to follow a similar line to the Groundhog Day movie. I spent the time knitting while we watched (and I secretly catch up on texts too).

Food Eaten: toast and tea for breakfast; leftover rice salad and eggs for lunch; glazed donut cake for tea, round two of taco salad for dinner with cut apples.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Life on the Home Front: The Last Hours Before Lockdown

In which I discuss the impending lockdown, snail mail, and Quiplash...

This was our last day before Indiana's official lockdown began at midnight. It was already our 13th day of staying at home and practicing social distancing. Not much will change for us except we can no longer make discretionary trips out in the car to randomly leave things on people's porches or exchange insignificant items. But there was a sense of urgency to think about what needed to be done before official lockdown:

1 Send Drew to Kroger to shop for us and to shop for Grandma LeFebvre
2 Send Michael to the post office to stock up on postage stamps
3 Acquire four seasons of Foyle's War and other random DVD's from a friend
4 Deliver puzzles and books to nephews
5 Sew and deliver a tea cozy

I weighed taking a walk, wanting to gather video for my next Nature Nibbles clip but realizing I would end up with a whopping sinus headache if I braved the colder temperatures. I finally gave up on the walk.

David and Laura (ages 13 and nearly 10) get up at a reasonable time (around 8?) and are quick to jump on their chores and one of them on their music practice. David heads to "his" chair and spends hours reading everyday. Laura is able to occupy herself in a number of ways and also works on her project of creating cards and letters for friends.

Drew and James (17 and 15) sleep in even longer than I do. I'm so happy for them to be getting sleep. Drew now has a letter from his employer (Subway) which he can show to police if he is stopped while driving to and from work. (Seriously??!! It sounds like we are living in World War 2!) But my neighbors have these letters too. I almost feel like I'm missing out on a letter!

My sister, Emily, sent a picture of herself from the hospital. Boy it makes it all seem real. She's there working, five days a week as an occupational therapist. She said that this week they seemed to have enough masks and that makes us all feel better. My sister-in-law, Crystal, gives ultrasounds at her hospital and it's scary because she is in close contact with her patients for long periods of time. I am proud of these women for doing what they are doing. And I must remember to keep them in prayer.

Tuesday morning was slow again because of my late wake-up and all the little things that go into the morning routine. I got some painting done before lunch, Face-Timed a friend for a few minutes for a brief catchup, taught Laura how to make chocolate chip cookies, and headed out to drop some things off on people's porches. I've been trying to write a letter or two as much as I can - to put in the "real" mail to people. I miss that so much. When I was a teenager I lived with my family in the heart of Chicago and it must have been similar to lockdown because my brain reverted to that time period as soon as we got stuck home two weeks ago! In Chicago we had few friends, could not leave the apartment by ourselves, stayed indoors in a small space much of the day, and conducted almost my entire social life via pen, paper, and stamp. I had at least three people whom I wrote to weekly. Many, many others I wrote within a months time. There was hardly anything better than getting a letter in the mail and my family stills laughs at how much I loved checking the mail (I still do but I'm willing to let others do it too).

Our evening routines are very similar right now. We gather in the front room around 8pm. Half of the evenings we begin our time with a game we all play with our cell phones and the xbox called "Quiplash". I would describe it as a word game. It's so funny and even Laura is fairly decent at it. During spring break we are watching a movie afterward (otherwise it would just be a shorter episode of something). And then it is time for bed! (During our Quiplash we were delighted to hear a knock on our door and find friends out delivering cookies! How special. Thank you!!!)

Food Eaten: Two pieces of gluten-free toast with tea for breakfast (so thankful to find a number of loaves of GF bread in the freezer!), leftover rice and egg casserole for lunch, Laura's cookies for snack, and taco salad over rice for dinner with another cookie thrown in for dessert.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Life on the Home Front: Flower Therapy


In which I discuss flower therapy, tasty food, and the secret consumption of tea cakes....

I'm letting myself sleep in more. I've been so tired all winter and I can't kick it. It means the days are shorter and that frustrates me because there is less time to get my to-do list done. I thought this wonderful respite from a busy life would mean more time to do those other things! Instead, it's just a respite from busy life outside the home (which is still good) but it hasn't given me hours to revel in reading or to sit quietly in a chair and sew, or to rearrange closets or create lots of paintings. I think I had my hopes too high.

Because I slept in on Monday it took me some time to get out of the house. Mondays are the day I drive into the city, pick out flowers at the flower wholesaler's and take them to Blooms (my sister's floral shop) where I turn them into market bouquets to sell at my brother-in-law's neighborhood grocery Wildwood Market. Usually I spend 45 minutes wandering around the wholesaler's, carefully picking out my color palette for the day and finding just the right flowers. Now I have to send my flower order in ahead of time and wait for my wrapped flowers to be brought to an outside door for pickup. It's a little different..... By the way, I call this "flower therapy" because the flowers always make me happy and bring me joy as I work with them and never fail to cheer me up.

I got my flower order sent in and did a few parts of my routine here at home, packed my lunch, and decided to make a detour to Saraga, our international grocery store. With all the baking we are doing we are blowing through our gluten-free flours at an incredible speed. I decided I would stock up while I could and try to prevent another visit in the next 8 weeks. I put on a microfiber dusting glove and was sure to hold the cart with the glove and use it to pick up all my merchandise. The store was not crowded and I felt safe grabbing my 50 pounds of rice flour and my tapioca starch, potato starch, and sweet rice flours. I even grabbed another 20 pounds of regular rice in case we get through our current bag. People were so nice. I kind of wonder if we feel this sort of rare treat of actually seeing people so we are nice to everyone. I stashed my flours in the trunk and drove off to the wholesaler.

Pulling past the doors of the wholesaler I honked as requested and soon three ladies, bearing large wrapped bundles came out of the door and piled my little car full of flowers. A check was handed over and I was off to the little shop to make the bouquets. The smell of burning filled my nostrils as I walked up the path to the door and I knew the landlord next-door was keeping his store warm by burning whatever he could get his hands on -- I often wonder if it's plastic he burns the way it smells. I try not to think about it.

Blooms is a very cute little shop with cream-painted brick on the inside, a cement floor, and one wall of rough wooden boards. It has a huge paned window which makes me think of England. Inside I can hide away and have the flowers all to myself. I play music while I'm filling buckets and then I listen to podcasts the rest of the day. I finished about 4:30 and headed home, wondering if the governor's lockdown would mean no more flowers -- or are they considered essential?

I'm always too tired to do much after flower therapy so I sat down until the last possible minute before I needed to cook dinner. Michael got a video chat going with his siblings on the tv in the front room -- this day marks two years since we lost Michael's dad. It was nice to see everyone and get a little update even though we all "talk" by text thread all day long. Dinner was finally tasty (remember I've been eating turkey soup day in and day out): I made my favorite rice dish with spinach and black olives, and dumped some eggs and ham from the freezer into a bread-less breakfast casserole. It tasted so good I had two helpings -- this is what happens with a boring diet, when there is tasty food I eat a lot.

Laura picked our first movie of the week: Johnny English Reborn. We've seen it several times but it doesn't fail to get us all to laugh, and that's the most important part. I worked on a knitting project! Some very thin alpaca mix wool and large needles -- hoping I can get through it without hurting my arms.

Food Eaten: leftover scones again for breakfast but this time with apple butter, turkey soup (!!!) for lunch at the shop with some gluten-free crackers, a piece of persimmon pudding and a cut apple for afternoon snack, and breakfast casserole with rice salad for dinner. Oh, there was a tea cake sneaked in there unannounced. Not gluten-free, I know, but I have made an exception for tea cakes since we were given four prized boxes for Christmas and they are a huge treat. This is the last box and I was going to have that one tea cake! This is a tea cake, for those that are wondering.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Life on the Home Front: The Weekend


In which I discuss Sundays, books, and weekend life.....

The weekend has come and gone and a new week stretches before us. I feel as if we are sitting with a time bomb -- wondering if this will be the week it goes off. I know for my friends in NYC it has already gone off.

The moment that sticks in my memory from this weekend is when we logged online to join our congregation for an evening "online meet up." As each person or group began appearing on the screen I was surprised to find myself becoming teary. I think the reality of the situation was clearest at that point -- we are physically removed from these people with whom we have had weekly interaction for fourteen years now, some even twenty-six years. I don't talk much here about my husband's job -- he's a pastor. That means our congregation is like our extended family -- all these people on the screen feel like aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews. And last night felt like a big family pow-wow. We all heard a report from each person/family and there was good news: a baby coming on Friday, an engagement announced. And everyone now knows how to pray for each other in the coming week.

Are you texting more than normal? I feel like my texting time has nearly doubled -- it's the easiest way to stay in touch with people and staying in touch is more important than ever. A friend sent a voice message on WhatsApp and that was fun to listen to. I should try that more.

We had a family meeting Saturday morning in which Michael went over all the Covid-19 information in great detail for the kids so they would understand the seriousness of the precautions we are taking. It's hard when one has a son who should be getting ready for prom, having his senior pictures taken, attending championship basketball games, and getting ready for graduation and an open house. No one wants the last months of their senior year ruined like this. All I can do is try to make life at home as fun as I can and then pray, pray, pray.

Today begins two weeks of "Spring Break" -- which is oddly going to look a lot like life last week. But the kids won't have to be on their computers to do school in the mornings. (But the schoolwork did help to occupy them.) Michael has made a new schedule for the next two weeks and we've decided to keep the same afternoon tea baking schedule.

I met my mom in a parking lot on Saturday afternoon for "Heather's drive-by tax service." We handed checks and paperwork through the windows and I felt oddly like I was nine years old again playing bank drive-up teller with my sister at an open window in our old Pennsylvania house. That's one person's taxes done, only three more to go.

Saturday night I got a text to check my porch and there in a beautiful bag was a book a friend knew I would love: "The Private World of Tasha Tudor." How special was that?! I decided to save it for Sunday and relish it. I read it all on Sunday afternoon. I kind of disappeared into a Tasha rabbit hole and could almost feel like I was in her garden or sitting in her house (though I wondered how it smelled with 42 birds inside and if my allergies would tolerate that???). I felt deeply inspired after reading the book, but also a longing to the depths of my soul for the kind of beauty that surrounded Tasha.

I also spent time on my bed with two of my current "book mentors": Harriet Beecher Stowe and C.S. Lewis. I'll have to talk more about Harriet some time but suffice it to say many of the circumstances in her life are things I have gone through or am going through and it is comforting to read someone else's life story and see how they got through it. I'm reading letters CS Lewis wrote to friends (in a book called "Yours, Jack") and right now I'm in the WW2 years, which are oddly applicable to our times!

I cooked a lot on Saturday: a deep, rich chili for the family, persimmon pudding, a very sweet chocolate lava cake, and banana blueberry muffins. Somehow the food seems to have only lasted the weekend, with some small leftovers today. Cooking is an energy-consuming task and there isn't much break with a family of six right now. But I'm very thankful we have plenty of food, and time for cooking as well.

Sundays are completely different for us right now. As a pastor's family, Sunday is the day which our entire week works toward (okay, that should be true of all of us, but it's especially true for ministers). Right now we can sleep in as late as we want (which is a great physical blessing for us and not something I consider to be laziness) and we can do our church at the best time for our family (which is 11am and Michael's mom comes to join us). We work through the order of singing, Scripture readings, and prayers sent out by Michael and then we watch a recording of the week's sermon. Most Sundays we have company -- for sure we have both our mothers, often we have others too. Now we just have Michael's mom because my mom must be very very careful to avoid contamination.

This Sunday afternoon after I took my rest time on my bed I pulled out a quilt top I was given several years ago and finally got it put together with the batting and backing in preparation for hand quilting. I am especially glad to have this quilt top because as a child I had several quilts that looked just like this -- made by a great-grandmother. I was very attached to them and their beauty but in our many moves they were lost. So I feel I have my quilts back again with this. I've ordered some hand quilting thread on Amazon and can't wait to get started!

I need to end this and get to work on "flower therapy" -- I never know what day might be my last.

Food Eaten: Saturday: leftover scones for breakfast, leftover rice and corned beef for lunch, Laura's shortbread for tea, leftover turkey soup for dinner (while the family ate chili). The family enjoyed chocolate lava cake for dessert and I had a piece of persimmon pudding. Sunday: fresh banana blueberry muffins for breakfast, turkey soup for lunch while the family ate tater tots covered in chili and cheese, we all had persimmon pudding for teatime and then I made leftover mashed potatoes into potato pancakes for the family with cheese and veggies and cut apples and I ate leftover scones with leftover sausage gravy and cut apples. (I have to stick to the foods I can tolerate....which is often not fun, but I am thankful for the results.)

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Life on the Home Front: End of School Term



In which I discuss schedules, the weather, and a headache.....

The children and I are sleeping in most mornings. I want to get up, but without the need to get the kids out the door at precisely 7:15am I don't feel as much pressure and sleepiness drags me to press the snooze button. Really I want to sleep in until 9 each morning, but it would be best if I got up by 8.  I am happy that the kids are getting more sleep -- I don't think they get enough during regular school times and it worries me. Moods are greatly improved by sleep.

My morning routine involves all the usual getting dressed, brushing teeth sort of things but I've got to be vigilant to throw in 15 minutes of gentle yoga. If I don't, I get all sore and achy and it takes weeks to get back to feeling well again. Everyone gets their own breakfast and most of us drink tea which everyone in this house is capable of making. The kids have had online school this past week so family worship has been at 8:45am before the 9am start of school. Michael reads the next passage of Scripture and we discuss prayer requests and pray. Then everyone heads off in their own direction.

Laura has been using my computer for her e-learning and that means I get a bunch of background commotion while I sit down to do my morning quiet time -- I mark the weather and temperature in my five-year diary, write a few lines in my yearly diary, record 3-5 things I'm thankful for in my gratefulness journal and then arrive at my Bible and prayer journal. I'm focusing on psalms right now in this crisis and trying to even pause and read one mid-day and evening as well. It doesn't take long (even 30 seconds) but it helps to re-focus.

David had a virtual cello lesson yesterday. Michael set the iPad up with the perfect angle and at 11am our teacher Face-timed in. Imagine this pandemic hitting 30 years ago without all the technology available to us now?

Outside the day began in the mid-60's but was predicted to drop about 35 degrees so I had to prioritize getting out for a walk. It was glorious! Temps in the 60's is wonderful! I have a severe allergy to cold and temperature change and try not to go outdoors if it is less than 55 degrees. I had to get my walk as the temps predicted for next week are colder until Wednesday. Our gym is closed now too -- so no indoor walking. I have to rely on the real deal.

For our first week at home we made a loose schedule:
8:15 Get up and Eat Breakfast
8:45 Family Worship
9-12 School
12-1 Lunch
1 Reading time (alone)
3:30 Tea Time
4 Chores
6:30 Dinner
8 Family Time with an episode

Loose schedules help me. We all know "what comes next" and can get ourselves on track. Today we are going to come up with one for "spring break" which runs for the next two weeks.

I managed to take a little time to try a daffodil painting with gouache. I paint at a table in my bedroom because that's the space I have. Our daffodils popped open in the night so it seemed the right thing to paint! I checked my diary and they bloomed a full 2 weeks earlier than last year! By the way, I've been posting Nature videos the last two days so others can see spring as it unfolds in my part of the world. You can find them on Facebook under Heather 'Winslow' LeFebvre or on instagram under heather_winslow_lefebvre.

It was Michael's day to bake and Laura volunteered to help him. They decided on shortbread. Every two minutes she ran up the stairs to ask me about the next step. It turned out great! By the time they finished it was quite past tea time and the shortbread was too hot to eat without crumbling so we decided to make into dessert later.

About that time I came down with a nasty allergy headache. I've been so thankful not to have had one of these intense headaches for some years and thought I had reached a good level of self-management to avoid them. I guess not. Or this is a bad year. Or something. Dinner plans changed. I went to bed and Michael got put on duty to make frozen pizza. Good thing we had some! I was grateful the headache calmed down after about 2 1/2 hours. What a relief. But I stayed off duty the rest of the evening to keep from lowering my head and bringing it back. Just as the headache was ending its worst we managed to get James out back to play his bagpipes as promised to the neighbors on the Next-door App. He valiantly stood in the 39-degree weather and played about 8 songs, ending with Amazing Grace. A few neighbors had come out to sit in their backyard to listen.

With Friday finished we ended the school term and have two weeks of break ahead. The Governor of Indiana did shorten the school year requirements by 20 days this year though. We wonder if our school will take advantage of that and give the kids a longer break? I don't know. Drew is a senior and is pretty sad that this is how his final semester of school is ending -- no prom in April, no sports, no getting together with large groups of friends, no "being a senior."

Food Eaten: Two leftover scones for breakfast with tea, toast and leftover sausage gravy for lunch, a piece of toast for snack, and leftover turkey soup for me for dinner while the others ate frozen pizza.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Life on the Home Front: The First Day of Spring


In which I discuss the first day of Spring, monitoring the butter situation, and the nearly exploding refrigerator...

I was reminded by Ann Kroeker earlier this week that this is a very important time to be recording what daily life looks like as life as we knew it rapidly changes into a new era. It didn't take much encouragement for me to return here.

We are a week into life at home, one week into the three weeks of groceries I bought last Thursday, one week into at least seven weeks of the kids being home from school (I'm guessing this will change to be longer.)

Everything is surreal. We are all hiding at home, waiting for the tidal wave to hit, wondering who will  get sick, who will be the first one, not wanting to even ask "who won't make it." Is this how it felt on the home front during Word War II?

I spent years reading books about World War II, interviewing friend after friend about their actual war-time experiences when we lived in Scotland, and watching my mom and other missionary wives live life in post-war Uganda in the early 90's. All that knowledge is rushing to the front of my mind as if it was there for a reason.

So it's not the toilet paper I'm worried about: it's the butter. It's hard to be excited about food when there's no butter! I have a limited diet: no gluten, no dairy (except butter), no nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, or peppers), no fermented foods or foods with vinegar, and the list goes on. Butter is important to me! And my family eats it at an enormous rate. It might be the first thing we have to break out for. I have 9 pounds left. At our current rate, that equals a little over two weeks. Why so much butter?

We've instituted afternoon tea times with a mandatory sign-up sheet for baking. Even Michael has been assigned a day this week (he doesn't bake -- I think he baked four loaves of bread before he left home as a teenager just so his mom could be assured he wouldn't starve). The tea time is to provide an activity for the afternoon that will improve our spirits and foster social interaction in the family. It's also requiring a lot of butter.....

We had our traditional First Day of Spring Tea yesterday, something I started the very first year we were married. I started so many traditions early on in our family's life because I was often stuck at home with little children or chronic illness, lived in situations with few opportunities to see people, and wanted to bring up the mood of the family. As life has gotten busier, these little traditions have become harder to keep, and probably not as necessary many years. Suddenly, there's time and the need for the traditions. So we pulled out and ironed the linen tablecloth I found in Scotland 18 years ago with the first spring flowers on it (the snowdrops, bluebells, daffodils) and we even pulled out the spring teacups. We found an old, half-used bag of frozen strawberries in the freezer (fresh strawberries are the tradition for this day), and Laura helped to whip up a batch of gluten free scones to make strawberry shortcake.

I am encouraging each one of us in our family to find some small way to encourage others during this time. Laura has made an extensive list of people she can create cards and letters for. Drew and I are working on creating nature videos so no one has to miss the first glimpses of spring. James agreed to play his bagpipes out back for a few minutes on St. Patrick's Day. It turns out a few people heard him, including someone who was missing her father who had passed away a few years earlier and who loved St. Patrick's Day. All this was learned from a friend who found it chronicled on the NextDoor App. James is planning to play again. Anything, no matter how small, is important right now -- important for building camaraderie, keeping everyone's spirits up, keeping an outward focus and keeping love alive in our own hearts.

I've also made a list of household chores we've been putting off far too long. Things like reorganizing closets, cleaning out cupboards, and cleaning up dried ice-cream underneath the fridge. All was going well until we heard scary sounds last night and a son yelling, "The refrigerator is exploding! Dad! Help!" along with the accompanying sounds of water spraying at a great rate from the kitchen. Moving the refrigerator had caused the water hose to pop off the wall and pressurized water to begin flooding the kitchen. "The water shut-off in the pantry!" yelled Michael. Drew and I ran in and turned the water handle 1/4 inch each way. Nothing happened. "It's in there, keep trying!" yelled Michael with his fingers pressed hard against the opening of the hose. I handed Drew a dainty china teapot blocking one side of the water pipe, threw a bunch of extra kitchen towels on the floor, and vowed to clean the small pantry as soon as possible. Finally, underneath, there was an actual valve handle, and with a great tug, the water was off. That led to shop vaccing up all the water and a trip for Michael out "into the apocalypse" to get a brand new hose from Lowes. By bedtime all was well, the floor shiny clean, the fridge replaced, and the drama of the day done.

Food eaten: tomato soup and old bread turned into garlic toast for most of the family for lunch; turkey soup for dinner along with bread I'd picked up at Wildwood Market while making flower bouquets on Wednesday. I think breakfast was toast. And we did have strawberry shortcake for afternoon tea.

PS: I've put a "Follow by Email" link at the top left of the blog in case you want to receive these posts in your email inbox.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Heather's Gluten Free Scones


Heather's Gluten Free Scones

2 1/4 cup white rice flour
7/8 cup tapioca starch
7/8 cup sweet rice flour
2 tsp. xanthan gum
2 Tbsp. baking powder
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt

8 Tbsp. cold butter

1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a food processor, combine all the dry ingredients, pulse to mix. Cut in the cold butter and pulse until small crumbs are formed. Dumb mixture into a bowl.

Beat the eggs and add with the heavy whipping cream to the dry mixture. Carefully combine. Dump half the mixture onto the counter and knead to form an almost-smooth dough. Pat out with hands until about 1-inch thick. Cut with a scone cutter. Repeat with remaining dough.

Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes (this is very approximate -- keep an eye on them). I like to bake them on a parchment paper covered cookie sheet.

Makes about 1 1/2 dozen large scones. Best served warm.

Variations:
maple sugar instead of granulated sugar
brown sugar and toasted pecans
lemon zest and dried blueberries
orange zest and dried cranberries or cherries
lime zest and fresh blueberries
fresh rosemary and fresh blueberries
dried currants

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Best Books from 2019



I thought I would choose five favorite books from my 2019 reading list and share them here. I plan to share a longer list (15 titles) in my next newsletter (you can sign up for the newsletter on the left sidebar of my blog).

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
I appreciate Trevor Noah for his ability to make me laugh. I'm so glad I read his memoir. It opened my eyes to what life was really like under South African apartheid. Trevor's personality and humor made his story deeply engaging and easy to read. Somehow he also managed to communicate the heart-wrenching reality that was apartheid, and the prejudice that was encouraged then and still continues around the world today. This book can help us better understand injustice and the effects it has had, and give us compassion for those we may know who have directly suffered under it.


Freckled: A Memoir of Growing Up Wild in Hawaii by TW Neal
This book had me compulsively flipping its digital pages as I flew across the Atlantic this summer. Want to know what it was like to grow up in the 70's on wild Hawaii with two hippy parents who were mentally ill? Does that seem far out? The setting might be, but more people than you might think will find elements of their own childhood inside this story.

 Choosing Rest by Sally Breedlove
It was providential that I ran across this book on my shelf and decided to re-read it. This book seems to have been condensed down so it contains gem after gem of wisdom on how to live a life characterized by rest and peace in the midst of heartache, trouble, trials, and the mundane. I highly recommend it.


 Over the Hills and Far Away: The Life of Beatrix Potter by Matthew Dennison

I can't resist biographies of Beatrix Potter! This relatively new one is a manageable size and gave me the chance to escape away to the world of Beatrix Potter and the circumstances that led to her gifting the world with such beauty and timeless stories.


 Glittering Images by Susan Howatch
I was introduced to Susan Howatch this year and I'm thoroughly enjoying her novels. I'm working on the Starbridge series which is set in 1930's-1940's England and subtly tells the history of the Church of England during the 20th century while following the lives of some of those that live and work within the church. These books could be characterized as Christian fiction, and yet, in a good way, you don't notice that they would be that genre. I enjoy all the psychology and deep thinking that Howatch includes in her novels, and of course I can't help but enjoy the English setting.

That's it for now! If you want to know some of my other reads, just wait for the newsletter!

Please note: this post contains affiliate links. Anytime you click through from this page to Amazon and purchase something I receive a small commission. Thank you!


Saturday, January 25, 2020

London and Beyond


The new year had a special beginning this year as I had the opportunity to lead a sketching tour to England for ten days. People pooh-poohed London in January, but we can testify that it was warm (50-58 degrees F), absent of crowds, and even filled with plenty of blooming flowers!


The trip was a dream hatched with a friend of mine, and seen through two years of planning hurdles and preparations! Five amazing girls joined us and it was our privilege to share in their adventures. 


These roses shocked me into realizing that finding so many flowers in bloom in January in London was one of the two highlights of my trip. These humble blooms are worth the world more in winter than in summer when they are lost to the crowd of every other rose. Each day of our trip was like a treasure hunt, searching the parks, sidewalks, and hanging baskets of London for the priceless gift of flowers in winter.


I think observing my reaction to finding these flowers in London has confirmed in my mind that nature exploration, education, and art is at the core of who I am as a creative person and I must continue to explore how I can use my gifts to bless others in the future.


The trip was a lot of work, but watching it unfold was a bit like watching a piece of art be unveiled to the public and I loved seeing the girls enjoy every bit of what they experienced.


 The other highlight of the trip was sitting around the table with the two other adults and the five girls -- from breakfast, to devotions, to cafe lunches, to fancy afternoon teas, to home-cooked dinners -- relationships being forged around a table touch the deepest part of my heart. The china, the setting, the food, the tea, the atmosphere -- those are all just props for getting down to the real business of interacting with one another.


 I could hardly sit still at this tea -- my eyes darting everywhere, trying to memorize all the details, constantly grabbing my phone so I could take yet another photo and somehow grasp the emotion and camaraderie of the moment.


And the china! The navy blue with white floral pattern? Good thing the hotel didn't have a gift shop because I would have been seriously tempted to buy something.


We eventually had to say goodbye and prepare for re-entry into regular life back in Indiana. School is back in session, I'm back to work, suitcases are long unpacked (but the tea I brought home is still piled up), and plans for the coming year are starting to be made.


Next week I want to share some of my favorite books from 2019 and hopefully I'll find a few more posts to share more about our adventures in England!