Monday, January 30, 2012

Hearty Vegetable Soup & Felted River Rocks

Today I decided to make a hearty vegetable soup for dinner, I hadn't purchased a Rutabaga or Turnip in so long that I thought it would be fun to buy a couple for the soup.  This soup is packed with veggies, just the thing to keep everyone healthy as we inch closer to spring.

Here are the ingredients:

Hearty Vegetable Soup

1 bunch celery chopped
1 large or 2 medium onions peeled and chopped
1 package mushrooms coarsely chopped
1-2 turnips chopped
1 rutabaga peeled and chopped
1 bag frozen classic mixed vegetable
1/2 bag frozen crinkle cut carrots
1- 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 can beans drained and rinsed (I chose Great Northern, just about any would work though)
64 oz. of Vegetable or Beef Broth
Water as needed to cover veggies
Salt, Pepper, Dried Italian Seasonings, Dried Parsley - season to taste
Dash or two of Tabasco if you want a little spice - to taste- a little goes a long way

Put all ingredients in a soup pot, bring to a medium boil, then turn down to simmer,  simmer for a couple of hours, check how the veggies are coming along, check seasoning.  I like to add seasonings at the beginning middle and end of cooking a soup, checking the flavor of the broth to adjust the seasoning just how we like it.  The soup is done when the veggies are all cooked through and tender.

This soup is loaded with veggies!

Serve with sourdough bread, you could also make up some tiny soup noodles like orzo or stelline or even mini alphabet noodles.  I prepare my noodles separately and just scoop in a serving to each soup bowl, that way the pasta doesn't get soggy, and you can control the amount that you put in each bowl.  I also like to set out Parmesan cheese to sprinkle on the top of the soup.

I also did a fun craft today that I have been wanting to do for quite some time- I wet felted some river rocks.  I used Valentine colors so they would be a nice decoration to set out for Valentines Day.

First I got out some river rocks, I bought a big bag from the garden department last summer to use for crafting.

I used thin layers of wool and wrapped around the rock in various directions, like this.

Then I filled a bowl with hot soapy water, dunked the wool wrapped rock in the sudsy water and worked the felt by dunking it in the water and squeezing the water out, until it started to hold its shape, then I used a terry cloth dish rag to rub the wool to help it felt.  When the water cooled, I dumped it out and filled it with more hot water and dish soap.  The instructions I read said to use water as hot as you can stand for quicker felting, of course with children, the process would be slower in not as hot of water. Here is the link with instructions I found for felting rocks.

After I felt the rocks where to the shape I wanted, and felted enough, I rinsed them out well under running water, and set them out to dry.  Tomorrow I will trim away some of the fuzzy bits, I may also try wet felting some of them more, one of the rocks had exposed rock, that I couldn't get worked back into place.  I do like the swirls of valentine colors.

Here they are, not quite dry yet, but I wanted to see what they would look like with some of my driftwood.

Overall I enjoyed this project, my hands did smell of wet sheep while I was working on these rocks, but that's okay.  The hot soapy water was nice on my hands, and it is a fairly relaxing craft.  Next time I would probably make one or two at a time, because I did start to lose patience after the first two.  I do prefer the needle felting process more, as the work is more controlled and you can get the colors just where you want them, but for felting over a solid object, wet felting is the only way to go.  Surely I will be pulling out my green shades of wool for St. Pat's and making some more wet felted rocks.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

52 Weeks of Fairy Tales Week #4 - The Twelve Dancing Princesses

For week four of my 52 Weeks of Fairy Tales Series I have chosen another of my childhood favorites- The Twelve Dancing Princesses.

The tale of the Twelve Dancing Princesses is a story about a king who had twelve beautiful daughters.  The king had a mystery to solve, every day he had to replace all of his daughter shoes because they were worn through, and the king could not figure out how the shoes were being worn out.  The king tried locking his daughters in their room every night, and posting guards at the princesses' door.  But, every morning the King would find his daughters' shoes were again worn through.

So the king made a proclamation, anyone who could solve this mystery would marry his choice of the king's daughters and one day inherit the kingdom.  Many princes came from far and wide, and none could solve the mystery.  One day a soldier was returning from war and saw the king's proclamation, so the soldier decided to make his way to the kingdom and try to solve the mystery.  Along the way he met an old women, and because the soldier was friendly to the old woman, she gave the soldier a gift and some advice.  The old woman gave the soldier a magic invisibility cloak, and she told the soldier  not to eat or drink anything that the princesses offered him.  The soldier thanked the old woman and continued to the palace.

When he arrived at the palace he was treated very well, and shown to a room adjoining the princesses' room where he would be able to keep watch. He was given three nights to solve this mystery. That evening one of the princesses brought the soldier a glass of wine mixed with sleeping powder, which is how the princesses had foiled the other men trying to solve the riddle.  The soldier remembered the old woman's advice, and thanked the princess for the drink, then dumped it out when she was not looking.  He then pretended to fall asleep, but secretly kept watch of what the princesses would do.

When the princesses believed that the soldier was asleep, the oldest princess pressed a carved wooden leaf on the end of her bed, at which time, the bed lifted to reveal a secret stairway.  All of the princesses went down the stairs, the soldier, quickly covered himself with his invisibility cloak, and followed the princesses down the stairs.  He was in a hurry and accidentally stepped on the youngest princesses gown, tearing the bottom of her dress.  She looked back but saw no one, her older sisters told her that her dress must have caught on a nail.  Then they all continued on.  The stairway led to an underground path, the path went first through a forest of silver trees, the soldier broke off a branch and tucked it in his cloak.  The youngest princess heard the snap of the twig, but again could see nothing behind her.  Then the path led through a forest of golden trees, again the soldier took a twig.  Lastly the path led through a forest with trees that had diamond leaves, again the soldier took a twig.  The end of the path came to a lake, upon the lake were twelve boats, each with a prince waiting to row the princesses away to a secret underground castle.  The soldier slipped into the boat of the youngest princess, the prince rowing her could not understand why the boat was heavier.

The princesses and princes arrived at the castle, and the soldier followed and watched.  The princesses and princes spent the entire evening dancing, until the princesses' shoes were worn through, at which time they made their way back across the lake, and through the forest path, and up the stairs back into their bedroom.  The soldier hurried on ahead, and took off his cloak, and went to bed.  When the princesses arrived back, they checked the soldier to see if he was still sleeping, and since they saw he was, they thought their secret was still safe.

For the next two nights the soldier again followed the princesses to their evening of dancing, on the last night he brought with him the golden goblet that the youngest princess had been drinking from.  The next morning, the king gathered the princesses, and summoned the soldier to see if he had solved the mystery.  The princesses were shocked when the soldier said that he had solved the mystery.  The soldier explained to the king that the princesses danced through their shoes every evening in an underground castle.  The princesses denied this, and the king demanded proof, at which time the soldier brought out the silver twig, golden twig, and diamond twig, as well as the golden goblet.  The king believed his claim, and the soldier was given his reward, he chose to marry the youngest princess because she was the kindest, he would also one day inherit the kingdom.  The king is very glad to have the mystery solved. They all live happily ever after.

There are of course other variations of this tale, as there are with most of the fairy tales, but this is the version I grew up reading.  I love the thought of secret passageways, how fun it would be to have a doorway to an underground kingdom, as a child I loved imagining what the kingdom would look like.

For this week's craft, I decided to do a paper craft, I would love to make 12 dancing princess dolls, but that would take much longer than a week.  Because I am very fond of forests, I decided I wanted to do a craft involving the silver, gold and diamond forests.  I decided I would make a two page picture, for the beginnings of a fairy tale scrapbook.

Here is how it turned out.

Here it is put into a scrapbook.

I really enjoyed working with paint for this project, I haven't played with paint in quite some time.  I made a special trip to the craft store on Sunday, on the way home from church, to pick up some very pretty silver and gold paint, as well as a pack of 12 by 12 black cardstock ( I also found 3 pieces of wonderful fabric that I will have to show in a later post).

I also found this little pack of paper which worked perfectly for the twelve princesses, and I'm sure will come in handy for more fairy tale crafts.

I found a stencil for the princess shape online here, and reduced it down to the size I needed.  Then I traced the figure onto different patterns of paper from the above mat stack, I picked out six patterns and cut two princesses from each one.  First I traced the princess onto the back of the paper, and used a craft knife to cut them out.  After I painted and glittered the silver, and gold forest, and glittered the diamond forest, as well as painting a path, I let the project dry, then glued the princesses along the path.

Making  notebooks, scrapbooks, and books is one of my favorite learning tools.  I have made notebooks and mini books with my Sunday school class, and when I home schooled my son in the fourth grade, we made a wonderful Space unit notebook and history notebook.  Notebooks are a fun way to incorporate art into lessons, and very good for hands on and visual learners.  I think it would be wonderful to make a fairy tale notebook with your own art for each story to share with a younger child, and of course it would be wonderful for a child to make their own fairy tale book.

I also made a second project for this story.  After Christmas, my sweet husband, who is used to my funny requests, cut up a whole large storage tote full of twigs from our Christmas tree for me to use for various crafts throughout the year.  Thanks Gary!

One of the twigs was begging to be turned into a silver branch from the underground silver forest.  Perfect storytelling prop for this story, and a very fun and easy craft for any child.  It was difficult to capture the silver twig in this photo, I first painted the twig with metallic silver paint, after the paint dried, I painted on a thin coat of clear glue and applied some fine silver glitter.  The twig turned out very pretty, and is currently adorning one of my side tables.

If you would like to read more of the story of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, there are various versions of this story online that you can find through a quick search.  I also have included a link to the story at Amazon below.

Also last week I found a wonderful deal on all twelve of Andrew Lang's Fairy Tale Books, I do not have a kindle or e-reader, and have hesitated buying one because I love paper books so much, then I found out you could download a kindle reader for free to your computer. I thought that that would be a good idea because a lot of older books are free or around a dollar.  Then I saw all 12 of Andrew Lang's Fairy Tale books in e-book format for under a dollar, so I downloaded the kindle to my PC and bought the book.  I was pleased how easy it is to navigate, very handy for reading a multitude of fairy tales.  I still hope to collect the whole set of his books, I currently only have the Blue fairy Book, but for now, this e-book is pretty fun.

I am looking forward to the weekend, and am hoping to get started on some Valentine projects, I see a few bulbs starting to break through the ground in the garden, and am getting very eager for spring.  Hope everyone has a fun and relaxing weekend.

Here are links to the previous 52 Weeks of Fairy Tales Posts- Week #1, Week #2,  Week #3

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Beef Stroganoff & Lemon Glazed Pound Cake

Toady I was in the mood to try a new recipe, I found a very simple recipe called Easy Pound Cake at  I was intrigued because it was a cake recipe that required no baking powder or soda, and very few simple ingredients.  The Recipe calls for 5 eggs, when I went into my egg drawer in the fridge, I found only 3- yikes! this baker is never down to three eggs.  Anyway, I decided that I would cut the recipe in half, and use my last three eggs to try out the cake.

Here is the halved recipe:
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 stick butter, softened
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 eggs

I creamed the sugar and butter, mixed in the eggs, then the flour, mixed until well blended, and mixed in vanilla.  Then poured the batter into a greased loaf pan.  Baked at 350 F. for 35-40 minutes, until knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Removed from pan, cool for 15 minutes, then I decided to glaze the cake with lemon glaze.

Lemon glaze- Mix 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice with 1 cup  powdered sugar. (add a few more drops of lemon juice if glaze needs more thinning.)

This cake is very good, a nice crust, with a rich moist buttery middle, perfect for an afternoon snack.

Beef Stroganoff

Last week we found a good bargain on chuck roasts, I always wait for roasts to come on sale then I buy a couple, One for the freezer, and one to cook right away.  Usually I use them to make a delicious pot roast meal- you can read my Pot Roast Dinner Post Here.  I had planned on making a pot roast right away with one of the chuck roasts, but different things kept coming up, and I put it off for a couple of days, then the kids were off to youth group, so they wouldn't be here for a big meal, but I knew I had to cook up the roast anyway so it wouldn't spoil.

I decided I would cook up the roast, and turn it into Beef Stroganoff, for the next night when the whole family would be home, and able to enjoy a nice meal.

Here's How I turned an inexpensive Chuck Roast into delicious Beef Stroganoff.

First I browned the roast on all sides, seasoned it with salt and pepper, then I covered the roast with water, and added a chopped onion to the pot, and brought it to a low boil.

While the water was heating up, I cleaned and quartered a package of baby portobello mushrooms, I then added those to the pot roast pot.  Once the water reached a low boil I turned the temperature to medium low and let it simmer on a low boil for the evening, about 3 - 4 hours.

Since I was going to turn the pot roast into stroganoff, when it was done cooking, I packed it away, broth, beef, mushrooms, onions and all into the fridge.

The next day, to prepare dinner, I took the meat from the broth, and sliced it into bite size peices, and set the meat aside.  Then warned up the broth and mushrooms, and onions.  I also started boiling water to cook up a package of wide egg noodles.

To make the sauce for the beef, in another pan, I melted 4 tablespoons of butter, then to the melted butter added 1/3 cup of flour, mix until a paste, and cook on medium high, stirring constantly for about a minute, to that I added the warmed broth/mushroom/onion mixture, and half a cup of milk, and a teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce, and salt and pepper to taste,  and stirred until thickened.  I then added a rounded half cup of sour cream, and all of the sliced beef. Stir until sour cream is incorporated, and warm on medium heat until beef is warmed through.

In the meantime, finish up the egg noodles, then drain.  Serve Beef Stroganoff Mixture on top of noodles.  Here is how it turned out.

Very tasty, next time, I would add a little parsley for color, and maybe a dash more Worcestershire sauce.  Overall, a wonderful way to cook up inexpensive chuck roast, and  a perfect comfort food meal for all this rainy cold weather we have been having.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Chinese New Year

Gung hay fat choy!

Happy Chinese New Year.  The above greeting means "May you prosper." and is a traditional Chinese New Year greeting.  When our children were young, we started celebrating the Chinese New Year.  Learning about  different cultures around the world has always been important to me, and what better way to do that than to enjoy some of the different holidays celebrated by those cultures.

So today we are recognizing the Chinese New Year- this year is the Year of the Dragon.  I have been wanting to make a felt dragon since I saw this pattern at Rhythm of the Home. Since the kids and hubby were busy with various activities yesterday, I decided that it would be fun to make this dragon for Chinese New Year.  Here's how the dragon turned out.

This dragon took quite some time to make, but he turned out really cute, the kids think he looks pretty great, and we will have to name him.

Every year on the Chinese New Year we have Chinese Food for dinner, some years we have take away, and other years we make something.  This year we are having Orange Chicken and Rice with veggies.  We also have a silly tradition that started the very first year we celebrated Chinese New Year.  I had purchased some really fun Dragon Picks for our celebration, and wanted a dessert to put the dragon on.  I couldn't really find a recipe that I could make up quickly, and since it was a busy day that year, I made a pan of brownies, and stuck the dragon pick in the brownies.  We have celebrated with a pan of brownies, with a Dragon Pick, every year since.  I bought the Dragon Picks in bulk from Oriental Trading Company and still have enough for a few more years.  So even though they are in no way traditional, we still look forward to our Chinese New Year Brownies every year. :)   Here's our dessert for tonight.

I found this book years ago, that I have used to teach our family Chinese New Year customs.  This is a great book, packed full of interesting information and great pictures that would be perfect for teaching young ones about this holiday.

Along the side of the book are red envelopes that are traditionally filled with a money gift for children on the Chinese New Year.  Here is the Wikipedia Chinese New Year link with lots of info about this fun and interesting holiday.

Below is my Amazon Affiliate Link for the children's book Celebrating Chinese New Year.

Hopefully everyone has a nice day, and a Happy Chinese New Year!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

52 Weeks of Fairy Tales Week #3 - Thumbelina

This week I chose the story of Thumbelina for my 52 Weeks of Fairy Tales- Week #3.  I was browsing through my children's books, to decide which tale I might read this week, and stumbled upon my Tasha Tudor's Fairy Tales Book.  The first story inside was Thumbelina.

My Tasha Tudor's Fairy Tales Book

Thumbelina was written by Hans Christian Anderson, published in Denmark in 1835.

The story of Thumbelina begins with a woman who wanted very much to have a little child.  So she seeks the advise of a wise old women, who gives her a barleycorn, and tells her to plant it in a flower pot.  The women goes right home, and plants the barleycorn.  Within a few days a beautiful flower grew from the seed, the bud was still closed, and the women thought it was so pretty that she gave her flower a kiss.  The flower opened up, and inside was a beautiful little girl, no bigger than your thumb.  So the little girl was named Thumbelina.

The women made a little walnut shell cradle for her tiny girl, as well as petals for bedding.  She gave Thumbelina a plate filled with water, and Thumbelina would sail around it on a leaf, or play among the flowers.
One night a horrible thing happened to Thumbelina- and old mother toad stole Thumbelina from her tiny bed, and brought her to the muddy stream where she lived with her ugly son.  Old Mother Toad thought Thumbelina would make a lovely bride for her son.  They kept Thumbelina out on a lilypad while they prepared a home for her and her groom to be.  Thumbelina was very sad, and the fish took pity on her, so they nibbled away at the stem of the lily pad, and the lily pad and Thumbelina floated downstream.  The birds all thought she was very pretty, then a white butterfly let Thumbelina tie her scarf to the butterfly to pull the lily pad along safely.  All would have been fine if it wasn't for a June Bug spotting her, and carrying her off into a tree.

The other beetles thought she looked strange though, so the June bug carried her down to a daisy plant, and left her all alone.  All summer she stayed there and lived off of the honey in the flowers, and dew from the grass.  As autumn came, Thumbelina wandered, now her clothes were rags, at last she found the home of a field mouse.  The field mouse welcomed her, and let Thumbelina stay in exchange for housekeeping and stories of the outside world.  The mouse introduced Thumbelina to their neighbor Mole, Mole fell in love with Thumbelina, but Thumbelina did not like him.  Feildmouse fancied herself a matchmaker though, so she began planning the wedding for Mole and Thumbelina.

One day all three were walking through the tunnels between the mouse home and the mole's home, and came upon a sparrow who had fallen down the hole and become stunned by the cold.  Thumbelina took care of the sick sparrow, when spring came she let the sparrow free, the sparrow offered to take Thumbelina with, but Thumbelina didn't want to be rude to field mouse who had taken her in.  Soon however, mouse became cross with Thumbelina for not being excited about the wedding she had planned for her and mole.  The mouse threatened to bite Thumbelina if she didn't show more gratitude.  

The wedding day arrived, and Thumbelina went outside to look at the beautiful sky one last time before she was to be wed to Mole, and live in his dark tunnels.  As she was bidding the sun farewell, her friend swallow saw her, and offered to take her to a land that is warm and full of sunshine.  Thumbelina decided to go, climbed on the swallows back, and flew with the swallow to a warm country.  The swallow set her down in a beautiful garden, she was delighted to see the flowers, and clapped her hands.  Then the largest flower opened and inside was a man no larger than Thumbelina, who was very handsome.  He wore a crown, and had wings.  Then Thumbelina noticed all of the flowers held a tiny person.  The tiny man with the crown was king of them all.  The king took off his crown and put it on Thumbelina's head, and asked her to be his wife.  Thumbelina became Queen, Thumbelina was renamed Queen Maia.  Everyone brought her gifts, including a pair of wings, which she attached to her shoulders, and now she too could fly around.  Her and her husband lived happily ever after in the sunshine filled country far far away.

I enjoyed this story, and have always loved the idea of little miniature people and lands.  Probably one of the reasons I collect miniatures, and enjoy making fairy gardens.  As a child I enjoyed making miniature scenery in shoe boxes, and very much enjoyed any miniature type of doll I was given.  

So for this weeks craft, I decided to make another doll, since I am on a doll making kick right now.  I am enjoying seeing a new little doll added to the bookcase shelf each week.  I normally make dolls 3 1/2 inches tall, since Thumbelina is supposed to be the size of a thumb, I used the 1 1/2 inch doll pattern.  Here is how she turned out.

I found a perfect flower for her in my silk flower bin.  I really want to make her a felt swallow, however, I am still trying to make the best pattern.

I think it would be fun to read this story to a child then let them make their own little Thumbelina world in a shoebox.  It would also be fun to look up pictures of mouse and mole tunnels to see what it would have been like for Thumbelina while she was living with mouse underground.  Also, I wonder what ever became of her mother, the women who planted the barleycorn and hoped for a child of her own.  I would hope that maybe the King and Queen would visit her to say hello, or maybe send a note back with sparrow.

I found this website the other day when I was reading about Thumbelina, and you can read the story here online.

Here is the link to 52 Weeks of Fairy Tales Week #1  and, 52 Weeks of Fairy Tales Week #2

Here is my Amazon Affiliate link to the book I use to craft my little dolls:

I would also like to note that Mr. Groundhog has taken up residence on the book shelf as well, only a couple of weeks left before he comes out to let us know if we will have six more weeks of winter or an early spring.

We have been having quite some rain around here the last couple of days, check out my post about our visit to Molalla River as it has risen quite significantly.

Hope everyone has a nice weekend!

Rising Molalla River

I was planning on doing my 52 Weeks of Fairy Tales-Week 3 Post this afternoon, but with all of the rising rivers around here, we decided to take a quick trip to the Molalla River to see how high it is getting.  The rain has been coming down pretty good the last few days, and with the snow melting, the rivers and streams all around are rising.  So we headed over to Feyrer Park, which is about ten minutes outside of town, and right on the Molalla River.

We often visit Feyrer Park during the spring and summer for a nice walk or an impromptu picnic, so we are familiar with what the river normally looks like.  We were surprised how high and fast it is today.  Here are some  of the pictures we took.

The river is level with the grass, normally it is a good five feet down below.

The water is normally not brown like this, and the whole time we were noticing large tree trunks and branches moving down the river at a very fast pace.

I had to get a picture of this tree covered in pretty ferns.

You can see how high the water is compared to the picnic benches, which are usually not right next to the water.

Had to get a few family pictures next to the interesting trees.

I loved this knobby tree, looked like it would start talking in a low deep voice any minute!

We then took a walk to the other side of the park, where a tiny creek winds through the camping area, the creek was much wider and quicker than normal.

I love all of the cedar trees.

Joseph checking out the water.

Gary and Sarah looking up into some cedar trees.

After enjoying the little creek, we walked back over to the river, and got a picture of it's depth under the bridge, so we will be able to compare it this summer.

A few last looks, and the boys skipped a few rocks.

Here is a short video of the river, this gives a little better idea at how quick the river is moving.

On the way home we drove around some of the back roads, and realized that some of the houses and roads were flooding, so we decided to head home.  Then Mom called to make sure we were okay, she had no idea we were off exploring, she had heard on the news that the highway had gone out near Molalla, fortunately we were not near there, and the road was shut down before anyone got hurt.  I knew the water was high, but I hadn't realized the level of flooding, so my prayers go out to the people who will be dealing with flooding homes, and to all of the workers who will be out fixing bridges and power outages.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Seed Catalogs Are Here

One thing I love about mid January is the arrival of all of the seed catalogs.  Even though winter is in full swing, and spring planting is still a way off, January and February are great months to plan out my garden.  I love pouring through all of the pages, deciding what new flower varieties I might try, and what veggies I will plant.

I love to look at all of the different varieties of plants.  So many tomatoes to choose from, I want to try a few heirloom varieties this year, and the Big Pink Tomatoes look like they would be so pretty in the garden.

I try to choose new colors of Zinnias every year, Zinnias are one of my favorite flowers to grow, I love the Queen Red Lime colored Zinnia, that will definitely be on my list.

I also pull out last years garden plan and use it to make a new plan for each year, so I can make sure to rotate my garden beds from year to year to prevent disease and insect problems, and to decide where I want to put different flowers and any other changes I want to make.  I like to get a jump start on making my gardening seed list so I can fit it into my budget.

So even though it is snowing and finally wintery around here.

The blossoming Heather reminds me that spring is just around the corner.

Every year I like to plan a few new projects to improve or expand the garden, this year we are putting in some new raised beds to add to the veggie garden, as well as updating the flower and shrub beds.  My poor flower and shrub beds have taken quite a beating this year from puppy.  I will be adding low fences to some of these beds while I get them repaired and hopefully teach Zoey puppy to behave herself in the garden.  She has the most peculiar habit of relieving herself on top of my lavender, yep, she climbs into my lavender bed, climbs upon a lavender plant and does her business.  It makes for interesting work cleaning up the yard- apparently she likes her rest room smelling of lavender.  Funny, interesting, but annoying, because my lavender bed is the central focal point of my back garden, a little pruning, a couple new plants to fill in damaged area, and a little fence and time ought to bring my lavender bed right back.

Here is one of my lavender plants from last year, before Zoey discovered it as her favorite "spot".

Here is the culprit, enjoying a sunny day in the yard.

It is fun to look back at my summer garden pictures, all of that pretty green!

I have been enjoying the little bit of snow we have had, it is pretty to see the snowflakes falling, we have yet to have anything more than a thin dusting, but it is still very pretty.  This morning the snow is mixed with rain, but the kids still got a two hour delay to start school this morning, as many of the students are up at a higher elevation.

With Christmas over, both Sarah and Joseph are preparing for Spring events in school- my daughter Sarah is in the concert choir, and they are preparing for Spring performances.  My son is in his first high school play- The Giver- and will be playing the Father.  Joseph is spending a lot of time memorizing his lines, and enjoying play practice.  I love that they have the opportunity to take part in events like this.

Here are a couple of YouTube videos of my daughter's concert choir group during last spring's competition.  They always sing such beautiful songs, I have heard a few of the songs they are learning this year and can't wait to hear them perform.

Both gardening, music and plays remind me of my dear grandma.  My grandma is one of the best gardeners around, she even taught her Meals on Wheels delivery volunteer how to grow tomatoes, he now grows a huge supply of tomatoes in many varieties and donates them to people he delivers food to, and he fondly calls my grandma his "tomato guru", which really pleases my grandma.  My grandma spent her younger years, back in the 30's and 40's singing and doing plays, she even had her own radio show!  Boy would I love to have recordings of that.  Along with all of that, she has traveled to Egypt, England, and France- she has such fascinating stories to share.

Here is a picture of my Grandma at the entrance to Karnak in Egypt back in the 1970's.

So that is what I am up to this week, enjoying the winter weather, and planning my spring garden.  I am also looking forward to getting out some of my Groundhog's Day and Valentine Day decorations this week.

When do you start planning your garden?  Do you have a favorite place to get seeds?