$60 at Goodwill Thrift Store

This post is meant to be a companion to the video I put up a on YouTube a couple days ago… a more detailed display of all the goodies and knickknacks I scored this past weekend at one of my local thrift stores! I will also link the video below, for those interested.

 

Without further ado, THE GOODS:

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These were the girls’ picks.

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Gorgeous details (and yummy baby toes if you peek the background).
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The Children’s Place jeans for First-Born, and a J. Crew skirt and brass pot for me!
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PEEKABOO!! ūüėÄ
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The trivets and items from the brass lot.

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Two Sides to the Picture

By Alice B. Haven, published in Godey’s Lady’s Magazine; February 1859.

 

The farm-house at Highwood was a pleasant picture to any one who could appreciate rural quiet and picturesque shading of sky and foliage, with the neutral tints of the low building itself, and the great moss-covered rocks, to the right, that excited the wonder of all who saw them for the first time. Mrs. James, the farmer’s wife, could not understand the raptures of the town ladies and gentlemen, who had been out the last season to look at the place. Highwood was for sale; and when the visitors had been over the house, Mrs. James naturally asked them in, as she came back with the keys, and gave them the best the cottage afforded;¬† so that she had many a compliment for her butter and bread, as well as the brown house, which she thought extremely plain and old-fashioned. That was its peculiar charm. The low, sloping roof, now shaded by a huge apple-tree, one mass of snowy blossoms – the Virginia creeper and straggling May rose, that were nailed against the dark wood-work of the porch – the tidy door-yard, with its clumps of snowball, and lilac, and sweet syringa, all of the taller than Mrs. James – and then the bald, gray rocks, huge boulders of granite, riven and rugged in their old age, though draped, in summer, by clinging blackberry-vines – made the little work like a vingette of Birket Foster’s, especially this warm spring day, the first in which Mrs. James had ventured to bring her sewing and sit in the open door, to watch her two boys – twins they were – scrambling over the rocks, while she, with her willow basted of mending, served as a nursery gateway for the eighteen-months baby, playing with empty spools, in the little square landing at the foot of the stairs – three boys, four boys in all, for the oldest had followed his father out to the field, on some household errand. The neighbors all pitied Mrs. James when the twins came; she “seemed to have her hands full,” with her husband, and boarding one of the men, and three little children underfoot. She was poorly all the spring after their birth, and had some very miserable thought herself, before the nurse left her; but her children were all healthy, and every one admired the new-comers so much, for people came from far and near to see them, that by the time they were out of arms a little, Mrs. James began to be very proud, and pity people who did not have twins! She had the kindest husband in the world, too – industrious, frugal, though always willing to spend for the comfort of the house and his family; never out of temper, that is to say, with ordinary provocations, and as fond and proud of this wife as in the days of their courtship.

Ordinary observers might have considered the little woman’s lot a very happy one; but she had her own troubles, as she used frequently to say, “No one could judge for another,” and Mrs. James inclined to be “low-spirited.” There was the house people admired so much; she only wished they were obliged to live in it. The kitchen was the coldest place, in winter! and the roof leaked, do all that her husband would to discover and repair the mischief. The village carpenter said “it was no use patching such an old shell – the whole thing ought to come off;” but the place was in the hands of trustees, and Farmer James could not afford to undertake so formidable an expense, on his own account. The down-stairs bedroom was so small – that was another thing. When the trundle-bed was out, there was scarcely room to turn around, and “dear knows what I am to do!” And here Mrs. James sighed and shook her head, glancing into a very probable future.

There were trowsers, and aprons, and stockings to be mended, in that basket, before she could touch her spring sewing, and her husband’s Sunday shirts, she had noticed, when putting away the clothes, were “beginning to break.” Plenty of work, for one pair of hands, you will allow, considering that she set every stitch herself, besides doing the most of the housework. Mr. James was very reasonable – all men are not – about extra help. The woman who came every week to wash was frequently called in for Saturday’s cleaning, and always helped in the fall, when there were hams, and sausage-meat, and lard to be attended to; in fact, Mrs. James always felt at liberty to call on her, knowing that she was in no danger of cross words and black looks when she asked for “Betsey’s money.” Her husband knew very well what an industrious, tidy little woman she was, and that she never wasted a penny on her own clothes or the children’s.

“If there wasn’t so many of them, and boys, too,” thought Mrs. James, presently, as she adjusted a patch on the little gray trowsers of one of the twins. “It’s very hard that I should have so many children; there will be five under seven years old! only think of it! I don’t think there is another person in the world that is to be so much pitied.”

Mrs. James was suffering from a very severe attack of her besetting malady, “low spirits.” They had become more frequent of late, though she had always been a little inclined that way; so frequent and so long-continued that her husband began to get very uncomfortable about her, and came home tired, at night, from the heavy spring work, dreading to enter the house, lest he should be met by sighs and forebodings, with a covert personal thrust now and then, which disturbed him more than his wife ever dreamed of. In fact, she had no idea how this infirmity of temper had increased upon her, or she would have been shocked. How often she had heard her husband say, in the bright days of their early married life, that “he hated a fretful woman as he did a wet spell of weather in haying time.”

Highwood had been sold at last. Mrs. James took down the great bunch of keys, for the five-and-fortieth time, one raw March morning, and put a thick shawl about her, to accompany some visitors over the house. A tall, handsome gentleman sat on the lower step of the piazza, when she came up the sweep, and a little lady not much taller than herself, but so light and graceful that she seemed to float through the dusky hall like a sunbeam, when the door was open, sat above him, while he warmed her frozen little feet in a travelling-shawl.

“A very imprudent creature for a married woman,” Mrs. James remarked to her husband, when describing the pair, “for she had on thin-soled gaiters, and the frost not fairly out of the ground, though to be sure they rode from the depot. But everyone knows what a house that has been shut up for three years is, though I have done my best to keep it aired. A little thin velvet mantle, too; she was glad enough to get that shawl around her before she got out of the house. I don’t believe he’s so very fond of her, either, for all he had her feet wrapped up in his lap; for she seemed to hesitate so, when she began to say what she would like to have done, and had to give up to him in every thing. He’s selfish, you may depend.”

“You women jump at things so,” said the farmer, nursing little Joe, the baby, on his knee, while his wife was busy about supper. “I guess you’ll have a chance to find out, though, for he seemed to have pretty much made up his mind to take the place. He talked as if he had plenty of money, too: and that’s comfortable; the old place needs a fortune put upon it.”

And plenty had been spent, judging from the extent of the repairs and the beauty of the decorations that went on from the moment Highwood passed into Mr. Livingston’s hands. Everything was guided by the most finished taste. Out of doors, the lawn, the shrubbery, and the garden began to brighten, a green-house¬† and grapery glistened in the sun, a monster stable, with all manner of odd little turrets and weathercocks, was built: while all over the farm, barns, and fences, and walls were placed in the most thorough condition, to the delight of the farmer’s heart. But the change in the old house was the most magical of all. Bay windows and casements lighted up the interior, the drawing-room glowed with frescoed panels and gilded mirrors let into the wall; a conservatory, and even an aviary were added to the dining-room; delicately tinted French paper replaced the green stains of the chambers. Curtains, and carpets, and pictures, and elegant suites of carved furniture did the rest.

Mrs. James watched all the proceedings, from day to day, with the most vivid and womanly interest. Once or twice Mrs. Livingston had been up to give some orders to the upholsterers, and had asked her to see that they were executed; so she was not intruding when she went from room to room, and from floor to floor, wondering, admiring, and Рwe grieve to write it Рat last, envying the mistress of all this elegance. The family were to take possession soon. Mrs. James had been over the house for the last time, that morning, and delivered up the keys to the housekeeper, who drove up from the city in the beautiful carriage she had just seen aired and brushed in front of the stables. The housekeeper seemed inclined to be very friendly and communicative. There were to e six of them, in all, she said, besides the coachman and gardeners, a French cook and waiter, both men, a laundress, and seamstress, and chambermaid; five in the kitchen, for of course so fine a person and Mrs. Root did not class herself with the rest of the household.

“And how many in the family?” Mrs. James had ventured to ask.

“La! as to that, we never can tell from one day to another, my dear,” returned Mrs. Root, patronizingly. “Sometimes only them two, sometimes nobody but her, and then again a house full for weeks together, that keeps us all flying, with no end of dinner company when we are in town.”

“No children, then?”

“No, indeed, which is a great comfort; for, between you and me, nurses have been the very bane of my life; they get spoiled so; the mothers think they could not live without that particular individual, because, not knowing anything themselves about children, they believe all that’s told ’em; and they indulge the youngsters so, that, the minute I complain of any of their topping ways, and they are going to be sent off, all of ’em set to, and cry, and scream and stamp, and say that their dear Margaret or Ann¬†sha’n’t go; and the mother gives in for peace’s sake. I’ve seen enough of it; and one of Mrs. Livingston’s recommends, when she came to engage me, was that there wasn’t any children.”

“Not a care in the world,” thought Mrs. James, recalling this conversation, as she held up the next article in her basket to search for thin places – “not so much as a baby to look after – all that heart can ask. Look at that house! the very cook’s room with a carpet, better than my only one down on that front room these eight years! all those books, and pictures, and flowers, and birds to amuse herself with – plenty of company, if she gets tired of being alone – that elegant carriage, and a horse for a side-saddle besides, and not a hand’s turn to do about the house. It doesn’t look to me fair that I should be slaving so from morning till night. It’s nothing but work! work! work! from the minute I’m out of bed, till I get in again.”

The time had been when Mrs. James, so far from grieving over the necessity for her industry, was very proud of it. When her husband came from the store Saturday nights, as he did sometimes, and repeated the compliments he had received, as well as the liberal payment for her butter and eggs¬† which she could always have for herself and the children – how proud and happy it had made her! When the minister’s wife said, “I declare, Mrs. James, you are the smartest little woman I ever knew, to keep such a neat house and nice-looking children – Mrs. Phelps and I always speak of it when we come here” – she was so elated that she carried her head half an inch higher the next Sunday morning, walking into her pew with Peter and the twins, as neat as hands could make them, and reflecting on the baby and the roast beef left at home in charge of the hired man. She used to say, in those days, “what if she did work hard, she was well paid for it, dear knows! and somehow sewing rested her from housework; and there was the man to help her churn; and Peter, little Peter’s father, wasn’t like some men, but took as much care of the children when he was in the house as she did.”

Mrs. James did not have a very happy summer. The work dragged, somehow; she never suspected how much willing hands do to make it go lightly; the mending-basket never was emptied from week to week; the children’s dress and her own was growing more careless; and, worst of all, her husband often came home, not cross- that was not his way –¬† but moody, and gloomy, and silent, instead of whistling and singing about the house, as he always used to do. If he would have answered back, when she poured out her complainings, it would have been a relief – but he only got up, and put down his newspaper with a slow sort of sigh, and walked out of the house – especially when she began to worry about not getting ahead any, and so many mouths to feed,¬† and so many children always under foot. That was the burden of her lamentation, commence where she would.

It did not help the matter any to spend so much time in watching the doings at Highwood, and listening to the gossip of Mrs. Root and the head gardener, who came in quite neighborly. She could see the house very distinctly from the side windows, and even distinguish the light figure of Mrs. Livingston from the guests, as they walked the piazza in the cool shade of the morning, or strolled down to the greenhouse, and came back loaded with spoils. Later in the day, the open landau, or the low¬†coup√©e, sometimes both of them, would be driven with a dash and glitter up to the entrance; and the ladies, in the lightest of lace mantles, and flouting flounces, and gay little French bonnets, were driven off, leaning back with that listless, careless manner, as if it were and every-day matter – as, of course, it was – their hands crossed before them in pretty helplessness, laughing and chatting among themselves, and unconscious of the existence of any other human being out of “their set.” Sometimes Mrs. Livingston cantered past on her saddle-horse, looking very lovely in her round hat, and plume, and full-green riding-habit.

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Mrs. James admired and envied her most on these occasions. How many “changes of raiment” she must have! snow-white peignoirs in the morning, with fluttering ribbons and elegant embroidered petticoats, a different dress for driving out, and still another for the evening; so with all her guests. There were no young people in the family who lived at Highwood when she came there; only an infirm couple, very advanced in life, who went out but little, and saw no company. This was the first time Mrs. James had ever come in contact with merely fashionable people, who lived apparently for the enjoyment of the hour. Now and then, she would have a nearer view. For novelty’s sake, Mrs. Livingston would walk over with her visitors to see the pretty little nook in which the farm-house was nestled. Words seemed to be insufficient for the praises they rang upon it, and its mistress, and the sturdy little ones tumbling about on the grass and rocks, and looking all the more picturesque for their torn straw hats and check aprons. Little Joe especially became the favorite with these grand people for his bright eyes, and red cheeks, and tangled curls; and oftentimes, when Mrs. Livingston chanced to be alone – for it was noticeable that her husband seldom remained at Highwood when there was no company – she would send for the child to pass the morning with her, so that he lost all shyness, and was ever ready to go to the “pretty yady,” as he called her. Mrs. James heard, from these birds of passage, that she was to be envied her snug little house and beautiful children; but it did not convince her in the least.

Mrs. Livingston walked over, one afternoon, and sat down, in her quiet, familiar way, on the porch, where the sewing-basket was regularly placed. The summer was almost gone; indeed, September had come in, but with a¬† moist, oppressive heat, that seemed more like August. Dinner was cleared away from Mrs. Jame’s tidy kitchen, the table set back against the wall, the yellow-painted floor swept free of dust or crumbs, the dishes all in their places on the dresser. There were white half curtains at the windows, just moved by a most welcome breeze that was springing up; and Joe’s per kitten slept in the sunshine by the outer sill. Mrs. Livingston could see into the room from her seat on the porch; and its orderly quiet rested her, for she had left a house full of people at Highwood, who had done nothing all day but lounge about and complain of the heat; and she had yet to go back and dress for a long fatiguing dinner; and in the evening there would be the sharp click of the billiard balls, the jar of dancers, or the monotony of the card-table, whether she felt like exerting herself or not. She was in her morning-dress still – an India muslin robe, trimmed with lace, and lined with violet silk. Bows of violet ribbon fastened it at the throat and waist, and looped up the flowing sleeves. What round white arms! how soft and slender the hands shining with rings – diamonds, and a single emerald even more costly – clasped idly about her knee! Yet the face had a worn, listless look, except when it brightened at the voices of the children. Mrs. James stitched away in silence. Mrs. Livingston always said: “Now, don’t let me disturb you; I shall not come again if you do.” And, whether by design or not, she never did intrude on washing or baking-days, or before the house was settled down, and the afternoon’s clean apron and collar could be put on.

The first time she came, the mistress of Highwood had been shown into the little, stiff best room, where the chairs stood at precise right angles with each other, and no article of furniture seemed capable of changing its situation any more than if screwed to its place. Mrs. James was in a a flutter, too, and excused herself to put on a¬†bar√®ge dress and worked collar, in which she looked as little at ease as her best room. But Mrs. Livingston asked to be shown the house, and admired the kitchen, and sympathized with the leaky roof, and promised it should be attended to, and suggested a way of enlarging the bedroom, by taking in a deep pantry, or store-room, and adding an outer kitchen for the heavy work, with the milk-room at one end. Finally, she established herself in the doorway, just where she was sitting now, and when she came alone, after that, refused to be entertained anywhere else. By degrees, the stiffness and flutter of these visits wore off, and Mrs. James sewed and talked, and insensible fell into enumerating the hardships of her lot, which always seemed aggravated by the sight of Mr.s Livingston’s dainty toilet and abundant leisure.20181029_130719

“Come here, little Joe,” the visitor said, holding out her hand to the flushed, half-pouting child, who had rolled out of an afternoon nap and the low trundle-bed, and stood, barefoot, on the floor, eyeing her through his curls.

The sulking little face visibly brightened at the sound of her voice, and the assurance that his mother’s visitor was no other than the pretty lady he loved next to her; and, edging shyly along, he was soon seated in her lap, and playing with the bright rings that were an endless wonder and amusement.

“That’s just the way it goes, Mrs. Livingston,” signed Mrs. James, preparing to get up and bring the child’s shoes and stockings; “it’s nothing but waiting on one or the other all the time. Here I’d just got Peter off to school- he’s begun to go this quarter – and washed Johnny and Tommy, and put on their clean aprons, and just as I get about ten stitches done, up wakes Joe, and all to go over again; and by that, their father sends for me to hunt up something out of his tool-room, and then it’s time to put on the teakettle; and so it is.”

“They keep you pretty busy, I’m sure,” said Mrs. Livingston, cheerfully, “but you wouldn’t part with one of them, for all.”

She said this a little nervously, and watched for the answer.

“I don’t know about that; wait til you come to have four all of a size.”

“I wish I had six, for that matter, rather than none; I shall never have any children.”

“You’re young yet; you can’t tell.” And Mrs. James thought “people never do know when they are well off.”

“I am older than you, and have been married quite as long, Mrs. James.” It seemed scarcely possible, so matronly was the one, so slight and girlish the figure of the other still. “Oh you don’t know, you can’t tell how I envy you! I never come here without it,” said Mrs. Livingston, a moment after. “There can be no more love, no happiness like it.¬†Childless!¬†you don’t know what a terrible word that is. I could bear all the rest,” she was going to add, “and perhaps it would not be so if he was a father;” but her chief bitterness was unspoken, only her face wore a convulsed, miserable look, that Mrs. James marvelled at, but could not understand. “I don’t read my Bible very often – not as much as I should, I know – but when I do, it always opens of itself to the story of Hannah, or Rachel. Perhaps you wonder at them as you do at me. I have prayed, but God has forgotten me!” And she hid her face in the child’s fair hair, as she bent down over him, and strained him closely to her.

Mrs. James did wonder. Could it be possible that children were really a blessing, and not a trial, after all?

But Mrs. Livingston was not unpractised in quick self-control. Her daily life had taught her that, perhaps, of all the people she called friends, who had eaten at her table, and slept under her roof, that summer, no one had ever seen so far into her heart. When she lifted her head, a moment after, there was only the winning, coaxing smile of one who comes to ask a favor and is seldom refused. How much anxiety it masked no one could tell. “Well then, since children are only a trouble, so much the better for me,” she said, lightly, “so much the more hope that I shall get what I have set my heart on, and Mr. Livingston consents to. We want to rid you of part of your burden, and carry off little Joe. Say ‘Please,’ pretty, my boy, and come and have me for your mamma, and a little pony with a long tail, and a hat and feather like mine. Oh what fine times we shall have!”

It was said gayly enough, and the child clapped his hands at the prospect of the pony and the plume. A quick pang of jealous fear shot through his mother’s heart, and she put out her hands involuntarily to take him away.

“I am quite in earnest,” said Mrs. Livingston, more quietly, still retaining the child. “I have always had a fancy for him, and when I saw Mr. Livingston’s notice was attracted, the plan flashed into my mind, though I never should have thought of it, if you had not told me so often what care and trouble you have with so many. We do not wish to rob you, either. Mr. Livingston tells me to offer you five hundred or a thousand dollars; and if that is not enough, to give the rest a start in the world; and poor little Joe will not be missed among so many. Tell her to say I may have you, my boy; she does not care half and much for you as I do.”

But the face into which she looked for consent was only blank with wonder and dismay. Part with little Joe! Give up all right and title to the baby who had never slept from her arm since the day he was born? Let him be called by another name, and taught to forget that she had borne him? Was Mrs. Livingston trying her? Perhaps she was only jesting, after all.

“I do not think it would answer,” said the petitioner, taking hope from the silence, “if we were to continue to live here; but perhaps you know that Mr. Livingston has decided to go abroad – to go to Europe – in November, and, as we may stay some years, to sell the place. It is his way” – for Mrs. James forgot the boy, for a moment, in wonder at this unlooked-for intelligence. “He is never contented long in any place. I never allow myself to get attached to anything, only this child; I could not help that; I tried to, but you do not know the craving for innocent baby kisses, and fond words, and the patter of little feet about a great, lonely house. If he were to grow up here, it might make you and him unhappy when he came to understand it; but as we are going away, and he will have our name, he will never know anything of it, and I am quite sure you will trust me to take care of him, and educate and be proud of him!” Mrs. Livingston spoke fast and eagerly, not exactly understanding the manner of Mrs. James, who only rose and called the child into the house to be dressed, in a harsh, husky voice. grasping his arm so tightly that he screamed and struggled to get back to his friend; but she was going. “I will not take any answer to-day,” she said. “Talk it over with your husband. Mr. Livingston says he is a man of so much good sense and judgement; he will not fail to see how much better it will be for the child, and how it will relieve you, especially when there is another to look after. My boy will be crowded out, any way. He loves you and his children so much that I know he would not let his own feelings stand in the way.”

How much he loved his children, no one but their mother knew; how strictly he corrected their faults, and upheld her weaker rule over them; how patiently he waited on them in their babyhood; and how thoughtfully self-denying he was, to provide for their future, and the education to which he had always aspired. Mr. James would never listen to it – that was one thing; and, assured of this, his wife began her wonderful story, when he came in at night, by this time allowing herself to dwell, with not a little pride, on the destiny that was offered to this child, glorying harmlessly, as she supposed, in the position and heirship that were laid tribute at his feet, only to be rejected.

“He’s going to sell Highwood, and go abroad. Yes; he told me so this morning. I always thought he was a restless disposition, though a more liberal man I never knew; he sows money wherever he goes. Well, it may be the best we could do.” And the farmer folded his arms, moodily.

Mrs. James could not believe that she understood him. “About Joe, not the farm, I mean,” she said.

“Ay, for the little man and ourselves, too. A thousand dollars isn’t to be found lying at the door every day, and there’s one chance in ten, that the next landlord may take a fancy to keep us here. ‘Twon’t be to easy to be set adrift in the world, and there’d be one less mouth to feed.”

Mrs. James felt her heart swell with an anger and resentment that, for the moment, was almost madness – a wile terror, too, for she knew her husband’s firmness of purpose too well to think of opposing her will to his. But she would in this case. No man would rob her of her child. What was a father? What claim had he on the life she had won and nourished through weariness, and fear, and suffering? She would brave him to his face if he dared to think of it. She would leave him, and follow her child to the ends of the earth. “One mouth less to feed!” Heartless, selfish calculation! She would work her fingers to the bone before¬†that¬†should part them.

Great drops of perspiration stood on her forehead, as she tried to keep an outward self-control, and heard, for the first time in all her life, taunting words, only her own fretful repining, cast back at her from one who had heretofore borne with her infirmity so patiently.  Even after her husband was asleep Рfor the first time in all their lives without any good-night kiss, for she was too angry and miserable to claim it, and he too sullen to offer the token of affectionate good-will Рshe lay awake and wretched, clasping her child as closely as if some great peril threatened him, and wetting his hair and soft baby face with her salt tears. All the blessings of her life seemed to stand before her upbraidingly; and she felt as if they were vanishing from her sight.

Leave Highwood! the quiet home that had seemed as much theirs as if they owned every foot of the soil – the vines and wild-flowers she had planted and trained! the shadow of the trees! even the daily sight of those great granite rocks that she could fancy in the moonlight, rising in their sharp but familiar outlines! her home where all her children had been born! Though what was that to the threatened loss of he husband’s love and the child, if a separation worse that death was to come between them? She pictured it to herself. If he died now in his babyhood, her eyes would have the last look of love, the waxen fingers clasp her own before they were reached out to the shadowy messenger. Her hands would robe him for the grave, and lay him in his little coffin; but to live, and never see him, never know of his welfare! or, if they met, to be looked upon with the cold indifference of one who sees a stranger, and perhaps with contempt for her humble lot in life! So she tortured herself, until the moon went down, and left only a hopeless darkness to her straining eyes.

It was very hard to rouse from the unrefreshing sleep that came at length, and go about her morning duties with that weary heartache and no word of comfort from the lips that had never denied it to her before; but her husband kept the same gloomy silence, only saying, when he went out; “Send for me when she comes again.”

Mrs. James had heard of people who prayed, as for life, in great extremities; and she tried to pray now; as she went about her work, never losing sight of her child, and now and then leaving all to take him in her arms, and make him repeat again and again the promise that she put into words for him, that he would never leave her, words that had no meaning to him, but comforted her, nevertheless.

Oh, how slowly the morning wore on! She began looking across the lawn long before the dressing-bell for breakfast sounded at Highwood, and trembled with every step, while Mrs. Livingston still slept under her fluted muslin canopy.¬† She too had, “prevented the night-watches,” but with an older and heavier grief than her neighbor had ever dreamed of – a new revelation of her husband’s selfish heartlessness, from which the child she coveted promised her relief. It was wonderful that he had allowed her in it; but, like the outward devotion which he paid her at times, it was a fancy of his exacting, capricious nature.

Not that Mrs. James intended to send for her husband as he had desired her to do; far from it! Mrs. Livingston should at least hear a mother’s denial of any temptation of wealth or position could offer; and, though she prepared his mid-day meal with the exactness and punctuality of habit, she would not sit down before it, and dissemble the pain and sorrow he had caused her, but, taking the child, went into her room, shut the door, and lay down upon the bed, burying her face in the pillow in dreary wretchedness. She did not hear the door open softly, or the the loving, pitiful expression of the eyes that filled with tears – they had known but few in a long lifetime – at seeing her lying prone and exhausted with the conflict she had passed through – passed through, for she no longer felt anger or resentment, or opposed her will to “the giver of life and death,” who had appointed her lot; so that, when she became aware that her husband was kneeling beside her, she did not resist the arms that drew her closely to a great, manly heart, but lay there, sobbing heavily; while the disordered hair that fell around her face was pushed back, and smoothed by hard but kindly hands.

“And so you thought I would take him away from you, that bribes or want could make me part with one of them! It was a hard lesson, Mary; and perhaps I was too cruel; but I only meant right; I wanted you to see that it was easier to say than to do, to spare any of them. Here’s last night’s kiss, and here’s to-day’s, and there’s one to ease you up a little. Don’t take on so now! don’t! don’t, when you see I did not mean to say yes, any more than you did!” And so Mrs. James came slowly to understand how her husband’s firmness and sense had taken advantage of the offer to teach herself knowledge, and bring back, if possible, some of the old cheerfulness that had once made his home so happy.

When the apple-blossoms whitened the dooryard next spring-tide, Mrs. James sat under the shade, and sang at her work as in years before. It was harder still that when Mrs. Livingston first came and sat there beside her, bringing, unwittingly, envy and discontent to lodge under the sloping roof. There was “another to do for,” a baby girl, whose cradle was brought to the door-step that she might be under her mother’s watchful, loving eyes. Little Joe scrambled over the rocks with the twins now; and many a sad rent was the consequence; but his mother repaired them willingly, with pitying thoughts of the poor lady who had seemed so cruelly disappointed when his father refused to let him go, remaining proof against tears and entreaties when the bribes had failed.

Mrs. Livingston was an exile in a land whose beauty could but bring partial forgetfulness of her lonely lot, the slave of another’s capricious will. Mrs. James dwelt securely in the house she had learned to prize through fear of loss, upheld in the fretting, multiplied by the cares of life by an affection she never doubted, and fully repaid for them all by the clinging caresses of her little ones, and the bright day-dreams of their future that came and went in the floating shadows around her.

WIR: July 22-July28, 2019

Monday, July 22

I made it to the gym this morning for a cycling class and absolutely crushed it!! It’s amazing what a shift in hormones and little sleep can do! Gabriella has been doing better about sleeping at night, but I¬†still need to work on going to sleep earlier.

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These are the padded cycling pants I use!

To be frank, I really didn’t get much done around the house today. I washed a few loads of laundry, hung them on the line to dry, folded them as I took them off the line, and put everything away. Other than that I was rather lazy (other than the 20 million little things that must be done for the children every day) and loafed around on YouTube for a substantial portion of the day.

We had sockeye salmon, mashed potatoes, and mixed-greens salad for dinner. We also tried some frozen sushi from Aldi! When I saw it at the store, I was convinced it must be awful, but I was so impressed by the sheer audacity of carrying such an item that I decided to give both options a try. They turned out really nice!!

Aldi frozen yummies
Gabriella is exploring the frozen packages.
SO COLD
“Why do they feel like this????”

Tuesday, July 23

It’s been a really long time since I did a “Tea Party Tuesday” post on Instagram… it’s been a while since I did a tea party at all…. today is the day that’s getting fixed! I made a chocolate cake using my oldest, and most favorite recipe that just so happens to be vegan! It is from¬†The Joy of Vegan Baking, and I have mentioned it many, many times on my Instagram. The icing was a regular non-vegan buttercream that I tinted pink, and sprinkled with nonpariels. I used the baking strips that I mentioned in my¬†“perfect layers”¬†post.

“The sandwiches look nice, but when can we have the CAKE??”
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Good times with good friends.
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Eating my sandwich, but eyeing that cake reeeeally hard.

Wednesday, July 24

This morning started well enough when I did get myself out of bed to go to the gym!! Things took a turn when no instructor showed up. I considered working out on my own, but I really don’t feel confident with the equipment or working out in general without someone there telling me what to do and keeping an eye on my form, and my bed was still so warm and soft and cozy… with my husband still sleeping all cuddly-like… so I decided to go home and snuggle back up and fall back asleep.

We made homemade chicken tenders for dinner! It’s a recipe I’ve been toying with for a couple weeks, and I find it rather plain and uninteresting, but it is a total smash-hit with the kids and husband so…. I guess I will keep making it..?

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My sweet little “helper”… really not helpful.

Thursday, July 25

Gabriella has an annoying habit of triumphantly stripping off every stitch of clothing, including her diaper, and hurling all articles as far away as she can.

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…….. why?

We received this playpen as a gift from relatives before she was born, and we have used and abused this thing and it’s still going strong!!

We went to the pool around noon, and brought a small picnic lunch that the girls thoroughly enjoyed: leftover homemade chicken fingers (with ketchup for dipping), chocolate pudding cups, and some Annie’s gummies.

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Not at all a flattering photo of me, but I refuse to catfish you. (You can see Gabi is enjoying the chicken!)

Friday, July 26

I’m writing this on Saturday evening, and for the life of me I can’t remember what we did on Friday…….. I vacuumed the house..?

Saturday, July 27

Today we took the girls to a local American Girl Doll club activity, and went grocery/miscellaneous shopping at Aldi and Walmart. Hubby suggested we visit the beach tomorrow, so we started preparations for that!

Sunday, July 28

We went to the beach at¬†First Landing State Park¬†and had an incredible time. It’s always exhausting doing this sort of things with little kids, but it was really good bonding and fun time for all of us. I’m wearing the bathing suit I mentioned in a previous blog post¬†which is unfortunately sold out in this color but does come is several other colors, and my “Mama Bear” hat is from Amazon.

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I managed to get her to take a 30 minute nap in my arms!
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Surveying the scene with Daddy
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Gabriella wants to hog the binoculars, and she can’t even use them right!
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Endless D-R-A-M-A with this family, lol!

Kid-Approved Homemade Chicken Tenders

Chicken tenders (and chicken fingers, and chicken nuggets) are ubiquitous on the plates of most American children… and the same could be said for many adults! Many rely on the convenience of fast food restaurants and frozen packages from the grocery store. There is no denying the convenience of those options, but if you have a little more time to spare, why not give these a try? They are simple, not overpowering for a young palate, and don’t use many ingredients. If you are able to eat peanuts, I strongly recommend peanut oil for superior taste and frying, but feel free to use whatever frying oil works best for you.

I have not added very specific quantities for this recipe because it varies so much from batch to batch, and personal taste. I have estimated as best as I can, but this can serve as a great base for your own experimentation. I was inspired to use self-rising flour for frying after trying some Lenten recipes from The Festive Fast, by Marigoula Kokkinou and Georgia Kofinas. I enjoyed several recipes from this book and highly recommend it!

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  • Chicken breasts, sliced no more than 1 inch thick (I used three large breasts in this photo)
  • garlic salt (or plain salt or seasoning of choice)
  • self-rising flour (several cups, but it’s hard to measure exactly so have plenty extra!)
  • water
  • peanut oil, to fry (enough to be at least 2 inches deep in your pot)

Lay out the sliced chicken in a single layer, and sprinkle liberally with garlic salt on all sides. Allow chicken to sit for about 30 minutes while the salt absorbs.

Pour frying oil into your pot and begin heating over medium high. It is very convenient to have a candy thermometer for this, especially if you are unfamiliar with how hot the oil should be. We are aiming for about 350-375¬įF (I believe that’s about 175¬įC).

Make a runny batter of about 1 cup of self-rising flour to 2 cups of water, whisked thoroughly to remove lumps.

Pour a cup or two of self-rising flour onto a large plate or bowl for dredging the chicken. You may choose to add additional seasonings here, but I refrain in order to keep the salt content down, and the flavor mild… it’s for my kids after all.

You will likely need to fry the chicken in batches, so take the first batch of sliced chicken and gently press it into the dredging flour, and leave it for a minute or so to let the flour absorb excess moisture. Lift the slices and gently shake or tap off excess flour, then quickly dunk into the batter. Lift the slices up and hold them over the bowl for a moment so excess batter can drip off, then return to the dredging plate and turn the slices gently once or twice to absorb moisture.

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Returning the chicken to the dredging plate after a quick dunk into the batter.

When the oil has reached the right temperature, gently place the slices in, being careful not to overcrowd. They should sizzle and bubble immediately. Fry until golden brown, turning gently once or twice, this should take only a few minutes if you sliced them thinly.

Remove them from the oil with tongs or a slotted spoon, and place on a rack (or plate with paper towels) to drain.

Repeat this process until all the slices are cooked.

We enjoy ours with plain old ketchup, but you can go as gourmet as you want and try just about any sauce you can think of! This recipe is almost absurdly simple, and I wouldn’t have thought to share it if it wasn’t for the fact that my children (and husband) become absolutely ecstatic when they find I am making this for dinner. Sometimes, simple is best!

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Sometimes, it really doesn’t take much to please a hungry family!

 

 

WIR: July 15-July 21

Monday, July 15

It feels weird starting this little routine up again after abandoning it for several weeks. Gabriella has fallen back into a mildly annoying routine of multiple brief wakings during the night, which (combined with my habit of going to bed at midnight… or later) is making it hard for me to rationalize waking up at 4:40 in the morning to drag myself to the gym. I really want to prioritize fitness, especially as I continue to age.. but before I can prioritize fitness, I have to be getting enough sleep. I’m going to try to get myself to bed earlier so that, even if she continues this frustrating habit, I will still get an acceptable amount of rest each night. Not great, but acceptable. We are setting the bar as low as possible without making it dangerous for me to operate heavy machinery. It’s hard because this is my only “adult time”…. I don’t socialize basically ever, we don’t use a babysitter or relatives to watch the kids… this is my only time to just hang out with my husband. And since we had kids almost immediately, I really value what little alone time we manage to wring out of our schedule.

Tonight we had pork chops for dinner. The meat is from either¬†Cypress Grove Farm¬†or¬†Windhaven Farm, I can’t remember which. It is super fatty and I adore it. I used the leftover rendered pork fat in the skillet to saute some asparagus. After removing the asparagus, I sprinkled some Trader Joes garlic salt over the veg. I need to type up my pork chop recipe. It’s super easy, and we rely on it almost once a week.

sauteeing the asparagus

glistening with fat

We split the chops up between the five of us. I nobly forgo most of the meat, as long as I get a bone to gnaw on (*hint* the little bit of meat closest to the bones is literally the best ever). I also made a basic lettuce salad with my homemade dressing, sort of Greek/Italian.

Tuesday, July 16

Last night, my husband talked me into turning off my alarm and skipping the gym this morning. Neither of us have slept well for days (weeks… years?), and even though I did get to bed a little earlier last night, it was still pushing midnight. I’m frustrated about my selfish little routines very frequently getting shelved, but sleep does come first, and I’m glad I stayed home to catch up on Z’s. All the kids slept well last night.. other than the older two gabbing secretly in bed until 10:30, until I caught them and gave them a scolding… and they all woke up a full hour earlier than usual.

We did at least do some homeschool lessons. Our “school” is leisurely in session year-round, so that we can take breaks when we actually want/need them. Right now we are going through their Brain Quest activity books and making sure they are both totally complete before the school really revs up in the fall. Sophia’s book is for the¬†Second Grade¬†and has only nine more pages to go… today we finished out the multiplication section, and tomorrow we will move on to the introduction to division, and then I think she has a couple money activities. Barring some catastrophe, she will likely be finished with her book by the end of the week. Adriana’s Kindergarten¬†book has more pages to catch up on, all related to phonics, and some writing and sight words. All the other subjects in her book are completed. She doesn’t work very well under pressure, so I push her less and give her more time to complete things. I’ve noticed she’s been getting a little more thick-skinned lately, though, and I think she will start advancing a little quicker once I can start drilling her a little harder without risking an emotional collapse. She has been hungering to really read on her own, so I think she’s finally motivated to tough it out during lesson-time to achieve her goal. As usual, I simply meet them where they are.

I was really hoping to pick up my old teenage routine of tanning in the back yard during Gabriella’s nap, but it started thundering right after I put her down… it is back to bright sun, so maybe I will stop typing here and head on out (with the baby monitor close by). I hope I don’t seem juvenile, but I can’t help turning back the clock a little in summer. I took advantage of post-Independence Day swimsuit price reductions and got a couple new one-pieces from American Eagle (this one¬†for $19.98 and this one¬†for $29.97… though I see that as of this writing, it is now $19.98!! I got both in Small Long), and I can’t wait to prance around in them. I also ordered some bikinis on insane discount from Abercrombie & Fitch, but I won’t write about them until they arrive and I’ve had a chance to try them on.

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I correctly assumed my husband would appreciate the tie feature at the bosom of the suit on the right…. as does the toddler.
suits back
They are both snug-but-wearable, especially in the privacy of my backyard. I can’t wait to hopefully debut them soon at the local watering-hole!!

As far as housework, I haven’t done much. I washed the couch slipcover and hung it on the line to dry, but haven’t put it back on the couch yet. Sames goes for the girls’ bed sheets. I also did LOTS of weeding throughout the garden. It was blazing hot and I was dripping sweat within minutes, but something about pulling weeds is addictive.

For dinner I will be making my homemade meatballs and spaghetti. We have a lot of kale that needs to be used up, so I think I might might a kale salad to accompany the meal… there is some summer squash and zucchini that needs to be used up, so I might slice and grill those (perhaps along with some firm tofu) and eat that in lieu of pasta. I’m not trying to suggest that I have given up on pasta!!! But I think today I will abstain. I’m on a nice weight-loss streak this week, and want to gently keep it going. My goal/hope is to lose 10 pounds by August 17. If I keep on the trajectory, I will be just fine. Telling myself “it’s only a month” makes it seem more achievable. Realistically, I will probably keep going beyond that, but if I do make my August goal, then maybe I will take a break and plateau for a bit.

*Update* I did not end up going tanning, opting instead to finish this entry, enjoy an afternoon cup of coffee, and then start on dinner.

Wednesday, July 17

I woke up before my alarm (before my 4:40am alarm, how miserable is that?) from my husband’s snoring. I got myself to bed by 11pm, but had a hard time falling asleep so “early” so I ultimately didn’t get much more sleep than usual. I might have fallen back asleep if it hadn’t been for his snoring… I figured I wouldn’t be able to fall back asleep with all that racket anyway, so might as well roll on out to the gym.

As soon as the class started, it was obvious I wasn’t myself. My period is expected in a few days, so I assume this must have been due to a PMS shift in hormones… #testosteronehasleftthechat

I was a wobbly, weak, emotional mess and could barely pedal with even a light resistance on the bike. I DID stay on the bike and pushed myself for the full hour, and by the end of the class I’d managed to find a small amount of my usual pep. It was nice to get that endorphin boost during a generally crummy time of the month. Hubby will be out of town for the next couple days, so I won’t be going to the gym, so this morning’s session was especially valuable to me.

Within the next couple weeks, I would really like to start getting back into weight-training. I used to do basic weights LOOONG ago, before marriage and kids, but I’ve forgotten everything, and the machines in this brave new modern era are different than the implements of torture to which I was accustomed back in the Dark Ages when I was young. It would be nice to set up an appointment with a personal trainer, at least for a few sessions to get me on track, but they cost money and not likely to want to meet me at 5am. If you have any suggestions or tips on getting back into all this, I’d love a comment here or on Instagram.

The weather is sunny and bright, and I think us girls are going to head to the pool this morning!

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The big girls are both in Ambercrombie & Fitch bathing suits that I recently purchased on sale. (Gabriella isn’t in her swimsuit yet)

After the pool, Gabi took a great nap and I cancelled all my duties and laid out in the sun in the back yard and worked on my tan. My leg tan…. I kept the rest of my body and face covered… I really felt beachy and committed to doing absolutely nothing for the rest of the day, but the Mom and Homemaker in me couldn’t let that slide, and by the end of the day I did end up vacuuming downstairs, and scrubbing the downstairs bathroom. We had homemade chicken fingers for dinner and they were a raging success! I’ve been toying with recipes and it seems that today was the day I got it right! Too bad I never write down my experiments… hopefully I can replicate it,¬†and get it typed up here to share with you.

Thursday, July 18

Today we are going to go in-person to deliver Sophia’s test results to the local school board to fulfill our requirements for homeschooling in our state. We also delivered our “Intent to Homeschool” forms for the two older girls for the upcoming academic year! I will have a First Grader and and Second Grader. It’s exciting and terrifying, and the weight of this responsibility is impossible to forget.

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My OOTD to deliver homeschool paperwork.

I wore a brown dress by¬†The Limited¬†that I purchsed second-hand through¬†Clothes Mentor. Last time I posted this dress on social media, it was too tight to actually wear around, and now it’s starting to gape! Especially on the upper part of my body.

I wore my Sam Edelman “Gigi” sandals¬†and carried my Michael Kors “Jet Set” bag (as usual).

Friday, July 19

I had a bunch of housework planned for today, but we went to the pool instead and had a great time. We are all getting brown really fast. For as pale as I am, I thankfully don’t burn easily, and it seems the girls enjoy this attribute as well. I purchased my bathing suit on Amazon¬†(size Medium) but the company that makes it does have their own website that might be worth checking out! It came in a few colors and some floral designs as well.

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Saturday, July 20

Hubby’s parents have a BJ’s membership and recently added us to their account, so today we drove over to the Chesapeake location to check it out. We used to have a Costco membership and really loved it, but cancelled it when we moved too far away to make visiting practical. BJ’s seemed very similar and we found lots of products that we like, although the diapers weren’t¬†quite¬†as economical as our current options (Amazon “Mama Bear” diapers¬†and Aldi “Little Journey” diapers), so we probably won’t purchase diapers from there. They were still well-priced and we may purchase from them if we are already there and very short on diapers. Out of the brands they carry, we prefer Pampers, and I believe the price averaged out to 27¬Ę per diaper, size 5.

This reminds me! I posted a while ago about our downstairs bathroom, and featured a diaper pail for our cloth diapers. So why are we purchasing disposable diapers at all, you ask? We have always used a mix… disposables for naps, night and travel. Cloth for regular at-home time. We recently ditched the cloth diapers though, because the elastic wore out of the G-Diaper pouches, and we weren’t sure we wanted to bother repurchasing if this is our “last child” and she’s close to potty training anyway.

“Last child”. Yea right. Second-Born was “definitely our last child” as well, yet here we are.

Maybe I should just order new G-Diaper pouches and stop lying to myself.

While we were already at BJ’s I visited the local branch of Plato’s Closet to see their selection. I’ve been to other locations that are dripping with second-hand clothes from Abercrombie & Fitch and American Eagle (my preferred casual brands), but this location had almost none, although I dug around for quite a while. Oh well, at least now I know!

We completed our weekly shopping at Aldi.

Sunday, July 21

The girls and I attended church last week, but unfortunately will not be attending today due to a combination of sheer physical distance, and my husband’s overall disapproval of Orthodoxy. I consistently try to toe a respectful line between my own religious beliefs and his, especially with regards to the children. It’s an unpleasant challenge, but it is what it is. I will do the usual Bible study and prayers on my own at home.

Other than that, I plan on making pulled pork in the Instant Pot for dinner, along with homemade dinner rolls to use as buns. I have a mountain of ironing that I need to tackle…. and who knows, maybe I will sit down at my sewing table for five minutes.

Or maybe I will put off working on my dress for another 5 weeks.

Probably the latter.

WIR: May 27-June 2, 2019

Monday, May 27 (Memorial Day)

We enjoyed a leisurely morning (as leisurely as can be had with three young children, one of them a toddler) at home, and at noon went to Albert G. Horton Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery. I always have mixed feelings when honoring veterans… I am grateful that many have volunteered to risk their lives in the hope that they are protecting loved ones, and serving their communities. I am grateful to those who did not volunteer, those who were drafted. I am very grateful to those who willingly ran towards danger in foreign lands, only to face abuse and discrimination upon returning home. I am also angered that their service is needed at all. I feel angry because I do not believe all wars are just, and many people suffer greatly…. only to have the same problems and tragedies repeated again and again.

Remembering veterans always pushes me in my developing understanding of Christian pacifism. Is war ever ok? Is it ever justified? If one is truly pacifist, and knowingly endanger others by refusing to take up arms… is it really pacifism? I don’t have answers, and almost certainly never will in this lifetime. But Memorial Day always makes me pause, and question. I even grieve, even though nobody in my family has fallen on a battlefield. I really hope the warriors….¬†all¬†warriors, both friend and foe, lived and died for truly worthy causes.

I also remember the nameless civilians that are inevitably harmed and traumatized by war. The children that have grown in horrific wartime conditions… and struggled to survive when the war was over, but life was still far from normal. I am grateful that my children live in a peaceful place, and that my country is generally at peace… but I am forced to remember the many people that are suffering even as I type. How our lives are so different, and yet we are fundamentally such similar beings. The unfairness of it all angers me. Will it ever stop? Will¬†another war make it stop? Is pacifism just a form of burying one’s head in the sand…. a form of willful ignorance, maybe even cowardice?

My own impotence angers me.

But I can’t be angry too long, because:

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Tuesday, May 28

Just finished my fixed hair¬†post (the follow up to my messed up hair post), and now I need to spend the rest of the day prepping for some friends who are coming over for dinner tomorrow!! It’s a family of seven, I believe… my husband used to work with the patriarch of the crew.

I’m tentatively planning on making fresh hummus with fresh cut veggies to dip (I should really get my recipe posted on here), baked mac-and-cheese (also need to type that up), and Paula Deen’s peach cobbler, dinner rolls, and lemon meringue pie¬†(but using my own tender pie crust recipe). I also might make a salad, but I’m not sure. My mouth is watering just thinking about it all! Hubby will be grilling steaks and doing boring manly stuff. Who knows. I will track the interesting things here. Things that do not include his boring-manly-grilling-stuff.

For a long time, I’ve wanted to dabble with YouTube but so far haven’t come up with a style that really feels authentic to me. I am really inspired by the filming styles of congcongh, sueddu, Liziqi, and might toy with something in their genre… so I’ve dusted off the camera and am gathering some footage relating to this dinner… we will see how it turns out. I have so much to learn, it is dizzying. And EVERYTHING is made harder with a toddler in tow, especially one as forceful as Gabriella is turning out to be! Whew!!

Add to that a literal mountain of ironing I need to deal with, and vacuuming the house (at least I got the upstairs and steps done this morning), general cleaning, and….. ::cough:: learning how to make bound buttonholes so I can make some progress on my current sewing project (you can track it on @the.seamy.side.of.life).

Wednesday, May 29

Yesterday, I made dinner rolls, most of the lemon meringue pie (the crust, and lemon filling), and hummus. I got tons of footage for the possible YouTube video!! It’s stressful learning a new skill, especially when I’m already under pressure getting things ready for an event. I¬†know most people hardly consider friends coming over for dinner as an¬†event, but Hubby and I are very excited and we love going all-out as much as we are able.

Speaking of Hubby and “Boring Manly-Stuff”, he grilled all sorts of things… pork, a couple different cuts of steak, chicken wrapped in bacon, and some sort of sausage or kielbasa. I don’t know. If it doesn’t have sugar and/or cheese (or bread) I honestly couldn’t care less.

Today I made baked macaroni and cheese, peach cobbler, and whipped the egg whites to top the pie. I think I need to add more cornstarch to the recipe… I’ve made this pie twice, and both times it didn’t set very firmly. It tastes amazing, though!!

I did a marvelous job of filming… until the guests arrived! Maybe this means I’m not meant for social media stardom, but I couldn’t help but turn the camera off. I want to¬†live my life and¬†interact with my guests! I had every intention of stealthily filming a clip or two of the finished dishes and some of the fun the kids were having, but as soon as everyone got to chatting, I put filming out of my mind. I’m a little frustrated that, since I didn’t film any sort of ending, all of my party-prep footage is now useless. Maybe I shouldn’t say “useless”…. it’s true I probably won’t be uploading a completed video this time, but I have to admit I did learn a lot about the best places to put the camera, which angles I prefer, etc.

I did snap a quick pic of the completed peach cobbler and lemon meringue pie right before I started serving them…

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I made the meringue while the guests were present, and I think all the kids were amused when I solemnly ordered them into the kitchen….. only to had them a spoonful of “cloud” to eat. I think I caught them by surprise, and it was a nice ice-breaker. We then torched the pie, and that was also a crowd-pleaser. Sugar and fire have a way of bonding people.

There ended up not being a lot of leftovers… at least not the dishes I made. My husband basically grilled an entire farm so we¬†do have a lot of meat leftover. I’m honestly considering storing some of it in the freezer, because there isn’t any way we can eat it all in the next few days.

Thursday, May 30

Doing NOTHING feels so good right now. This won’t last long, as I really do need to finish cleaning up from yesterday, and just housework in general. But I don’t have a hard deadline looming over me at the moment, and it feels good to work at a leisurely pace. I don’t even have a deadline for lunch or dinner, since we will be having leftovers! I will need to get back to my brisk routine tomorrow, since life with kids in the house is always busy, and we have a few exciting things coming up….. Adriana’s party, for one thing, and a possible trip to Busch Gardens.

And also a surprise guest that only Hubby and I know is coming……. ūüėČ

The rest of my day will be spent cleaning, ironing, and I would like to wash my bedsheets. Having fresh sheets is a luxury I’m obsessed with, and I like having them freshly cleaned every three or four days. Ideally, I would have fresh sheets¬†every day, but the water bill would be insane. The weather is bright and sunny today, which means I will also get to dry them on the line! The scent of sun-dried sheets is unbeatable. I always sleep better after putting freshly sun-dried sheets on my bed.

Sunday, June 2

I’ve taken another *surprise* social media break. I burn out way too easily… I think my frustration about the YouTube attempt mentioned earlier really got to me more than I expected it would. I just feel like all my attempts at building anything are futile. My daily life is so stuffed with laundry, SO MANY MEALS, diapers, baths, dusting, vacuuming, homeschooling… tantrums from the toddler and bajillions of questions from the older ones. I already have so much to do, why do I add other projects to it? Dreams and “goals” seem pretty pointless when I have no time to put into achieving them. To be honest, I’ve been also feeling like my dreams and goals are pretty stupid to begin with. But I won’t bore you with my moaning any more.

We just got back from grocery shopping. Our cart was full of mostly baking ingredients. I’ve probably bit off more than I can chew…. AGAIN.

Adriana has actually not picked a birthday cake! But she selected from my cookbooks many recipes of foods that look like something fairies might eat. Lemon pound cake, blueberry pie, rugelach (she said they look like woodland logs!), cookies in the shape of leaves, a cream tart with slices of poached apples arranged to look like roses, a plum galette… I can’t remember it all! But I am excited to try, as it all sounds delicious.

We will also have a visit from Teeny Tiny Farm!!! They came to her party a couple years ago and were a big hit. This year we are getting the simple Pony and Friends Package, and I have been informed that they do have a unicorn horn that the pony can wear so that it resembles the unicorn from the movie we are drawing inspiration from.

We will have a special, surprise house guest at the party….. but unfortunately we might not have many (or any) kids… we’ve had friends move away, and we live rather far away from most of our old friends anyway, and I didn’t want anyone to feel pressured to trek out to our house at 6pm. We do have a neighborhood family that we enjoy playing with, and I will invite them, but with the understanding that the timing might not be great for them either.

Maybe it’s not such a bad thing… maybe the best thing a middle child can have for her birthday is attention from family, and a party and pony that she¬†doesn’t have to share….. Queen [Titania] for a day, indeed….

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She wants a swig of homemade Indian chai leftover from a big sister. It’s never to early too learn how to use good china!

 

Got My Hair Fixed

Shortly after my attempt at cutting my own hair resulted in failure, I called Blonde Salon, hoping they could fit me into the schedule ASAP. Thankfully, Jennifer was available just a couple days later, so I marked my calendar and impatiently waited.

After settling for basic “mom hair” for last few years, I decided that – if I’m going to pay for a haircut –¬† I might as well go for something with a little more pizzazz. Maybe something that included bangs… I had bangs when my husband and I met and were dating, and I look pretty good with them. However, I do have multiple cowlicks on my hairline, which make styling them really tricky. Since my DIY haircut resulted in very harsh shorter layers, the inclusion of bangs would also soften the layers.

I’ve followed @_alena_alena_¬†for while on Instagram and have always admired her coiffed, yet touchable mane. Somehow she manages to keep a style that is both polished and elegant, and also a bit relaxed and approachable. So before my salon visit, I trolled through her page and saved some photos to show my stylist.

Her hair is always curled….. mine is “aggressively straight” aside from the ringlets along my hairline. Oh well, I will at least do my best.

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Nervous, but ready! I made this skirt, by the way!!
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It seems a client brought a chicken in? Only in Suffolk! ūüėÄ
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It’s a “Silkie” breed.
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The big reveal!!
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The REAL question is whether or not I will be able to make the style look nice on my own, at home!
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peek-a-boo…

Verdict: I liked the pampering, and the result. I think when I go for a bang trim I will ask them to take them up a bit shorter, and see how they work on my face.

WIR: May 20-26, 2019

To be honest, I don’t really know what this post is about. I thought I experienced an epiphany, but now that I’ve started typing, I feel a little foolish. My idea was to start… journaling, I guess? Journaling publicly online? I guess that’s what blogging really is, right? So far, I have only ever posted about specific topics on this website (recipes mostly), but maybe I’m missing something. I don’t read any blogs, so I haven’t a clue how they are supposed to work…???

“WIR” is my abbreviation for “Week in Review”. Not a creative title, but that’s what I’m giving you. I have about 700 subscribers on Instagram… it isn’t a lot by most people’s standards, and the number has grown very slowly over the years. This is all perfectly fine with me, as I don’t consider myself a “real blogger”.. just a constantly frazzled wife and mother who likes all things fancy and decadent, but can’t afford it. I’m just fiddling around and having a bit of creative me-time and bonding time with like-minded people online.

Despite my humble online presence, I seem to receive a lot of positive feedback and camaraderie, so… this series (if that’s what it becomes) is for you! For those of you that enjoy my little Instagram posts, and may enjoy a bit more “meat” to it.

Sunday, May 19

Thought of many profound insights to share. My memory was immediately wiped clean as I sat down at the keyboard. C’est la vie.

Monday, May 20

Mostly spent the day trying to catch up on housework after a busy weekend… the usual Monday routine. I also researched some local traveling petting zoos. We are hoping to schedule one to come to Second-Born’s… actually, believe it or not she DOES have a real name…. let’s start that again: Adriana’s birthday. There probably won’t be a lot of people there, unfortunately, but hopefully she can at least have a pony to ride! We’ve had friends move away, and we live in a rather out-of-the-way area ourselves, any many of our friends and relations simply struggle to make the trip for this sort of thing. We do have some neighborhood friends that I hope will make it, but since I am admittedly pulling this together pretty last minute, I’m not holding my breath on their attendance. Adriana has fallen in love with the 1935 film version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Yes, you read that entire sentence correctly. So far I have a wig¬†and silver dress¬†for her to vaguely resemble Queen Titania and her fairy attendants (see below).

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It would probably be best if I reserve the bulk of my party-specific info for a separate post, just to keep things organized.

While I did manage to get the blog post up about Sophia’s Easter dress, I still need to type up one for Adriana’s.

Tuesday, May 21

Adriana and I made her favorite blueberry waffles this morning, and tried to do a cute little photoshoot. My photography skills are still abysmal, so the whole experience really only produced a tasty breakfast that First-Born (aka Sophia) inexplicably snubbed, and fodder for my middle child’s already robust ego. We used the recipe from¬†“American Girl: Breakfast and Brunch”¬†and it really is tasty.

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We like both American Girl AND Williams-Sonoma, so this is an excellent combination.
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I use Command Hooks to keep measuring spoons always in easy reach.

Adriana decked herself out in her Williams-Sonoma apron (logical) and an ill-fitting and unnecessary chef’s toque (illogical), also from Williams-Sonoma.

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Oops… should have thought this through a little better.

I hand-whipped some cream to dollop on top, but didn’t account for the heat emanating from the fresh waffles. As we tried to rush through some fancy “Instagrammy” food shots, the whipped cream melted and our plate was left looking more sloppy than elegant. It tasted marvelous nonetheless. Thanks to Sophia’s snobbery, the rest of us enjoyed extra portions.

While the recipe states frozen berries may be used, I personally recommend using fresh. We used frozen blueberries in the past, and the melted juices tinted the whole batter a rather sickly purplish-grey. I think that’s why Sophia was repulsed when she discovered what was on the menu. Fresh berries hold up better in the batter (yes I did that on purpose), and I think they come out looking nicer.

I’ve also filmed a YouTube video about my new Hobonichi Techo Cousin planner. It is currently uploading…. almost 3 hours for a 10 minute video? Is this normal??

Third-Born (known by the family as Gabriella) has barely slept for the past week. I think she had several large back teeth coming in all the same time!! It seems all our suffering has come to an end today, thank GOD!!!!! Her nap started a little before 12:30 and it is now 3:55 and she is still asleep! Poor thing. Hopefully the worst of that drama is finally behind us.

Wednesday, May 22

I cut my hair!!

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I used the “unicorn method”. This was my first time EVER cutting my own hair. At least not since some surreptitious snipping back in grade school…

The rest of my experience is posted here, under the “Beauty” tab, because this was such an ordeal that it does require its own post.

Thursday, May 23

Other than typing this entry, I chilled-out with social media today. I feel like I burn out very easily when it comes to social interaction, and it seems to include social media. Why am I like this? It’s a significant handicap considering I rely on other humans for my own survival, and I even¬†want to socialize sometimes… it just kind of kills me a little inside if I do it for too long. I’ve always been like this. I was the kid that went alone to her bedroom during her own birthday parties. Ugh. Since I can’t think of a solution, I guess all I can do is keep trucking along as best as I can.

The girls did well with homeschooling today, although our lessons have been pared-down to the bare necessities since Gabriella has entered the Terrible Twos (which really started when she turned 1). Adriana is still to young to be required to undergo standardized testing to comply with our state regulations, but Sophia is gearing up to take the CAT6 through Seton Testing Services and if any of my readers have any insight they would like to share on this subject, I would appreciate the input!

I’m going to give the two oldest fresh pedicures, and I want to do my own mani/pedi tonight, but we will see how that goes. It all really depends on Gabriella… I can hardly give my nails time to dry if I am obliged to attend a screaming toddler throughout the evening. But as I mentioned on Tuesday, she seems to be over the miserable sleeping rut she was in for a few weeks.

How could I forget my most exciting news? I have a professional salon appointment set for tomorrow morning at Blonde Salon, to fix the embarrassing cut I gave myself yesterday!!! I’m really thinking about adding long, swept-away bangs….. hmm… this may also be better as a separate post.

Friday, May 24

The haircut turned out fantastic! Jennifer did a great job, and if you are in the area, I recommend her! I will save the rest of the haircut info for a separate post… you’re probably picking up on my love of compartmentalization and organization…

The most exciting event of the day, nay… MONTH… was when I looked out the window and discovered our neighbor had cut down a large tree! My first thought was for the lovely fragments of trunk that were already cut into the perfect height for chairs or tables for Adriana’s fairy party! What could be more whimsical and appropriate for our Midsummer Night’s Dream f√™te that real logs and stumps strewn about the garden for seating etc… with English ivy still clinging to the bark? Nevermind the fact that the sap is still flowing from the freshly cut wood, and guests may find themselves stuck to their seat at the end of the evening…

I was thrilled about the logs, and then he approached me with a nest he had found in the tree, still with two teeny blue robin’s eggs. He asked if we had any interest in them, otherwise he’d leave them out for the animals. I said the girls would love to give interspecies maternal instincts some exercise (let’s be honest, so would I), so we took them. The girls were full of high hopes, and of course I was too, but after rotating around the sun more that 30 times, I had a realistic expectation that this probably would not result in healthy adult birds. It would be a miracle if they even hatched. But I was determined to do what we could. My children are very fortunate, and have never experienced¬† grief…. and we haven’t had pets, so their personal understanding of the “circle of life” is limited to cold theory. It is a punch in the gut when actually experiencing it first-hand.

We have zero incubation equipment, so our Hail Mary was human body heat. Sophia cut two compartments out of an egg carton, which we further padded with tissues. We placed the eggs inside, taped the carton shut, and took turns holding it our warm laps, with sheepskins and blankets piled on top to retain heat.

I carefully slept with it in this position at night. It was like when my babies were newborns and we slept with them in bed with us: I barely moved all night…. instinctively aware that there was delicate life right next to me.

Saturday, May 25

I felt absolutely ridiculous after waking up next to a carton of robin’s eggs. I determined to try to figure out if there is any way to see if the buggers were even alive before I invested more of my time sleeping next to rotten eggs. I seemed to remember people holding eggs up to a light source to determine….. something.. what was it? Thankfully I live in the age of Google, and quickly learned this technique is called “candling”. I saw a few videos online, and this 4-minute video was one of my favorites. We used the method on both eggs, and determined that one was clearly a “late death”. This 5-minute video is utterly fantastic and also shows examples of how dead eggs will appear during candling. We took the dead egg outside, and cracked it open to study before leaving it to fate nature had intended all along….. nourishment for another living being.

The other egg actually had movement!!! I recorded it in a YouTube video of my own, but it was really hard to get the lighting right. I could even occasionally see something thin and opaque that appeared to be maybe legs moving against the shell.

A subscriber from Instagram suggested placing the egg in another nest to be adopted. A genius idea!! Only problem is, I was unable to locate another nest. I made a note to myself to keep better track of the nests in our area for this very purpose should the need ever arise again.

Back into the carton and laps it went.

When I candled it at night before I went to bed, I noticed reduced movement. I bundled up with it again at night.

Sunday, May 26

Upon coming downstairs, I candled the remaining egg, and determined it was dead.

I broke the news as gently as I could when the girls came down, but they reacted as I expected. It was a heavy blow, but important to experience and work through. They will work through it, but grief takes time… even for something as “foolish” as a common bird egg. I’m glad they have the compassion and empathy to understand and care. When they are ready, we will take it outside to reunite it with the Circle of Life, and allow it to keep life going for another hungry garden resident.

First Ever DIY Haircut!!

Not too long ago, I shared on Instagram about how I was considering trying to trim my own hair in an attempt to avoid unnecessary expenditure. I am a dutiful little housewife, indeed. I will go ahead and divulge the spoilers up front: it did not go well. But I did take lots of photos, and I will post them all below, while I wait for my salon to ANSWER THE PHONE I AM DESPERATE PLEASE JUST PICK UP!!

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The technique I opted for is commonly known as the “unicorn method”. It is a favorite among YouTubers right now, and many of my own Instagram subscribers recommended it, so it was BOUND to go wonderfully. I used the regular scissors from this kit.

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Carefully, now!!
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Here comes the chop!!
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What could go wrong?… It’s only hair, right???????
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WE’VE REACHED THE POINT OF NO RETURN!
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“Point-cutting” This allegedly makes it look better.
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Regrets…. I’m having lots of them.
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These aren’t layers, they’re…………………. shelves?
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In my defense, I did once pay a lot of money to get this same messed-up cut. The failure from that stylist is one of the reasons I fear salon visits and wanted to DIY in the first place. And…… AM I SEEING GREYS????
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Looks ok like this… guess I’m sticking with “half up” styles until this is fixed.
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Verdict: WACK. zero stars.
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Now I’m I’m just snapping photos to feed my ego. Time to go.

Stay tuned to find out if a professional stylist can save me, or if I will be left to wallow in my own folly…

Girl’s Formal (blue) Dress

For Pascha (also known as “Orthodox Easter”) 2019, I made matching dresses for my two older daughters! These projects were full of “firsts” for me, and some of those firsts were extremely frustrating. However, I powered through and got it done, much to my own surprise!!

Pattern: I used a vintage Simplicity pattern #4275 (circa 1950s), however I greatly altered the assembly method. So while I did use the pattern pieces, I made two different dresses and layered the sheer version (view 1 on the pattern envelope) on top of the opaque version (view 3), and I added a lining that was not in the directions at all.

Fabric:¬†For the opaque base layer, I used the “Royal Blue Plain Dyed Polyester Taffeta” from¬†Mood Fabrics¬†at $9.99 a yard (58″ wide). For the translucent top layer, I used¬†“Royal Iridescent Nylon Organza”¬†at $5.99 a yard (44″ wide). The lining was made of a robin’s egg blue cotton woven that I have massive amounts of in my stash… I got it from my grandmother, and that’s all I really know about it!

Notions: All notions for this project were also from Mood. Buttons are GORGEOUS (and quite heavy!) Italian Beige Mother of Pearl Shank Back Button (13mm $1.74 each). I ended up not using buttons on the front of the dress as pictured on the pattern envelope, because the buttons were heavier than I expected. The smaller size would have been darling, but I decided there was enough going on with the dress already . Thread is 260 Primary Blue Gutermann Sew-All Thread

Extra Info:¬†Where to begin? This was a really nightmarish project, and I won’t sugar-coat it for you. I cried real tears many times, and experienced a great deal of despair and self-loathing during the construction process. It all started with the fact that, not only had I never used/tested this pattern before, I also deliberately did not follow the directions and made life more complicated for myself by actually cutting two dresses and trying to combine them myself. This was especially tricky around the neckline because the dresses had very different necklines. The base dress (view 3 on the pattern envelope) called for seam binding to finished the edges of the arm-holes and neckline. I took the time to make my own bias tape with the blue taffeta (another nightmare, please keep reading), but I could not manage to master the technique and it kept turning out sloppy. While attempting to remove the bias tape and try again, I ripped the fabric of the bodice entirely, and ended up needing to cut a new one (thankfully I did have enough taffeta leftover). I ended up finishing the edges by using a lining… and I’m sure First-Born appreciated a cotton lining anyway, instead of having scratchy polyester all over her torso. These complaints all flow so nicely to the next subject: the fabric itself. I have never worked with taffeta (polyester or otherwise) in my life, and only used organza once (for a princess dress for our realtor’s daughter… it’s on¬†my Instagram¬†if you fancy a scroll), so I can’t really say if all taffetas and organzas behave this way. Let me tell you, and I cannot emphasize this enough:¬†this taffeta frays constantly merely by looking at it. I suppose the good thing about this being polyester, is that it was relatively easy to work around this… I started keeping a lighter on my sewing table, and right after every single cut to the taffeta, I would quickly run the flame near the edge of the material and melt the edge together. Use this technique with caution, lest you send your whole project up in flames. The organza was also prone to fraying, but I did expect it, and it wasn’t half as bad as the taffeta. However, this particular organza would get snagged very easily… much like the nylon stockings I used to splurge on… is this just typical with nylon in general?? The organza I used for Second-Born was much more user-friendly.

All-in-all, this dress is riddled with mistakes and poor-workmanship… perhaps I should call it “inexperienced-workmanship”… but my daughter cried when she tried the completed dress on for the first time, and kept going on about how she felt like a real princess, like Grand Duchess Anastasia of Russia (she is going through a Romanov phase)………… so I accept this a hard-won victory, and certainly a valuable learning experience.

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