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Based on  your emails and comments, we know what you, our loyal readers want to see: more of the plants. We’ll get to those in a minute.

But first, here are a few shots of how we celebrated Easter this year. As Anna wrote earlier, my sister, Annie, who lives just down the road in Boston came over and we had a feast. Anna’s creations from her new Wyoming cookbook proved ready to go into the permanent rotation. Here we are posing for obligatory pre-meal photos before digging in:

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After brunch, Annie opened her Easter basket. Gordon was especially interested in its contents:

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What can we say, he knows what the good stuff smells like:

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Apparently, begging is exhausting. It always amazes us where and how Gordon can fall asleep:

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It was a lovely holiday and a great opportunity to think about our families and friends and reflect upon the magnificence of winter turning into spring.

Speaking of spring, ok, it’s time for some plant seedling updates. I’m happy to report that we have removed the greenhouse lids on two of the flats because the seedlings have outgrown their roofs. Here’s the latest:

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They are all mostly in the 3-5″ tall range. The green beans are especially happy, already sprouting little leaves!

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My favorite upstarts have been the sunflowers. They sprouted up a few days ago, with the seed coats a clear giveaway for what was coming up out of the ground:

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We’ll probably have to start transplanting the squash, beans, and cucumbers soon. We’ll put some more pictures up when we do. Send along your own if you are taking the plunge into container gardening. It’s easy and incredibly satisfying.

Until next time, Happy Holidays and happy spring!

Hello All,

Wishing everyone this morning a Happy Easter, and hoping spring comes soon with new life and fresh moments of happiness and hope and love for the coming months.

Today I feel mixed feelings of happiness and sadness–happy because it -IS- almost feeling like spring, and we have new sprouts popping up that will bring good produce to us this summer; happy for the buds on the trees and the flowers popping up all around; excited for the coming of summer and all the warm days will bring.  But sad because I’m missing my family today… I know it’s hard for us to be away from our families on holidays, but for some reason Easter gets me every year.  And picturing my mum and dad at home dying eggs by themselves just breaks my heart.  So to all of our families far and wide:

WE LOVE YOU!  We miss you!

We will be having a nice Easter brunch soon and be celebrating the newness of the Spring with Annie–we’ve cooked up some yummy treats for her–Sunrise Enchiladas and Blue Ribbon Cinnamon Rolls, from a special Wyoming Cookbook given to me by my mother.  I’ll put photos up soon.  We’ll also be trying to plant some of our sprouts that have grown WAY outside of their little peat packs (roots everywhere! It’s incredible!) in hopes that they’ll be able to grow much bigger and faster outside…

Enjoy the day!  It’s a day of new life!

Seeds went into the ground Saturday… and we already have plants! Well, you can judge for yourself:

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Simply beautiful! They they did require some coddling (spray bottle water feeding, evenings bathed in “natural” light from the plant light). BUT a bunch of little guys have responded well to this treatment and have started poking out of the soil. I especially like the ones that lift up big pieces of of soil on their way out of the ground. This one seemed particularly strong:

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Nearly all of the vegetables have shown at least a little bit of green above the surface. Even the tomatoes, which we figured would be the hardest to grow from seed. The quickest growers have been the lettuce. They are fun little sprouts and particularly phototrophic, growing at an almost 45-degree angle toward the window:

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More “growing updates” to come soon. Happy Spring, and Happy Holidays to everyone!

Hello Friends.

It’s been quite a while.  And we know that, because last time we blogged there was a giant freaking snow pile in our driveway.  And now, alas, there is not… nothing like actually, and especially today.  It was lovely outside.  And if I don’t see snow for another whole 8 months I’ll be a happy bear.

This weekend was good and fun and filled with good food, good friends, good games, and too much sugar.  Let’s do this thing in three categories:  Gardening; Friends; Sugar

Gardening:

YEEEAAAAHOOOOOOOOO! It’s _almost_ that time of year again, that time of big tomatoes, little squashes, and other fresh delights hanging out of our pot garden.  To get a kick-start this year, we drove over to our local Home Depot… which by the way is a great place.  Families of all shapes and sizes picking out seeds and gardening stuff, big guys with their little girls loading pink paint and lights into carts, and crafty types picking up wood and nails for their next projects, all with big happy smiles on their faces, and nice folks in orange aprons there to help you out.  Anyhoo, we were there for one thing: Starting Kits.  You can make your own if you have boxes, REALLY heavy duty plastic bags or plastic liners, wire of some sort, and plastic wrap.  OR, you can spend $5 and buy a reusable box with 50 little holes for 50 seed starts with its very own plastic top.  While we’d love to do our own thing, we couldn’t not spend the $5 plus $4 for a bag of special seed-starting peat moss stuff.  It seemed like a good idea, and we’ll see about that.  We also bought seeds for tomatoes, squash, beans, carrots, lettuce, various flowers and herbs.

We brought our wares back to the house and got straight to work:

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We organized a work space, and filled the box with the 50 spots with the peat mixture stuff…

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sprayed it with water, and added various seeds in rows…

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then we gave it a good drink of water and put the top on.  We did this three more times, and set them up in our back room under a plant light and turned the space heater up to 71.

Apparently these things like this kind of special warm wet climate… and the little boxes create a bit of condensation and sort of make it swampy… perfect conditions for turning from seed to sprout.

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We hope to have seedlings in about 7-10 days… and don’t you worry, you’ll be kept very well informed.  Yay for gardening!  Yay for pots and dirt and seeds!  Pot gardens!  Yeaaay!

Friends:

Later on Saturday evening we brought ourselves over to good buddy Seth’s house for some Settling of Catan and good food with our other lovely Anne Marie friend.  But boy were we surprised to see Jamin too, in Boston for apartment hunting (congrats to Jamin on his match at MGH!)

Settlers of Catan is a great game.  And you can call us nerds until you go blue in the face, we will not stop playing, nor will we take your teasing.  It is, a fantastic game.  See here if you don’t believe us.  You trade commodoties for other commodoties, all in the hopes of building roads and huts and cities and longest roads and largest armies.  And no, it is not like Risk.

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We played for about three hours… and I’ve never seen a board turn out like this (and I say that because, unlike most games, the board and state and rate and style and outcome of play is different every time).   Mark and I were on a side in orange against Anne Marie in red, Seth in white, and Jamin in blue.  Three parallel roads!! Craziness.  Anne Marie had the HUGEST road… like 12 lengths long or something (see the pic above), and everyone was so close (8 pts each with 11 to win in this game–we decided).

Seth kept moving the robber (yes! there’s a robber!) and stifling our sheep and brick winnings… and then the robber came off and Mark and I dominated, and then it was over.  But fun.  And funny.  Because everyone has their endearing ways of playing, such as in trading:

(Jamin: OK, guys…so here’s what I want. I have bricks. I want wood. Anyone? Anyone? OK, let me repeat myself: here’s what I want…)

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and evading the robber: (Anne Marie: But I only have two cards! I’m not strong! — except that she is strong… it’s just a ploy) and pointing out other players strength when they put down a road or settlement (Seth: OOOOOH… she’s strong! Oooooooh! Look how strong she is!) and me, I just like to deny everything… No! I don’t have any ore. Sorry.  Not today.  Sorry… (when I perfectly well do have ore, just not to trade with you).

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And Mark? Well, he’s generally just very tricky.  Very tricky indeed, and not to be trusted.

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Suffice it to say, it was good fun.  Mark made marinaded chicken and he and Seth skewered up some kabobs with yummy veggies, and we enjoyed good kabobs with some sort of cous cous that was spicy and delightful.  Good times.  Good eats.  Good friends.  Good game.

Sugar:

So today I probably consumed a pound of sugar. Or so.  Maybe two pounds.  But it was worth it.  Sammy Pants friend came over for a while and helped bake the lovely Easter Cookies.

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We made maybe 3 or 4 dozen or so…

And they are awesome.  Sammy is a cookie decorating machine.  Here are some of our finest:

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And anyone who knows anything about decorating cookies KNOWS that there is frosting everywhere, and it seeps out of every place.  And if one looks bad, you eat it.  Or if an ear falls off, you eat it!  Or if a giant glob of frosting accidentally on purpose falls off the knife, you have to catch it on your finger, and EAT IT!

And so we crashed.

And it was good.

The end.

Of a lovely weekend.

I cannot wait for summer.

Anna has gotten us back in full-blog mode, and there’s lots to report on. What a few weeks it has been! Last weekend we were in beautiful (cold) Killington, Vermont with college friends of mine. It’s an annual tradition, thanks to our wonderful host, Jessica. My highlight is always making fires — I love every aspect of it, and it’s not the sort of thing you get to do very often in a city apartment these days. The only minus is having to wash every bit of clothing you brought with you because you smell like a campfire. A small price to pay, in my book.

The spot is almost impossibly beautiful in the winter, as is obvious in this picture:

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Hiking in the snow is always part of the weekend, and this year’s snow crop did not disappoint. We were waist deep in many spots. On Saturday, we braved the snow and ice in an effort to cross a raging frozen waterfall. We made it, though my foot slipped back in the icy water. To warm up, the two doctors in our group recommended a few glasses of wine. Done.

Anna and I also did some playing in the snow. A few freeze-frame captures:

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We highly recommend this. You will smile like this afterward:

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On our way back to Boston, we made a detour through Williamstown. Of course we got purple cow cookies:

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Tuesday there was this little national matter that we are just now starting to understand completely. Wow.

Then Thursday, we met Loyal Reader Mark, who’s just taken a new job at the Boston Symphony Orchestra, for a night of Mendelssohn. Guy peaked at age 20, sort of like a college football player who goes pro to early (insert Maurice Clarett joke here). Anyway, it was our first trip to Symphony Hall, and the world-renowned acoustics are as good as described. Thanks, Loyal Reader Mark!

This weekend, we have had the great pleasure of hosting our good friend Darryl, who made the trip from Gambeir, Ohio. For readers who know Ohio geography (there can’t be many of you, can there?), Gambier is roughly 30 miles north of my hometown of Granville. Right in the heart of Buckeye Country. Can you tell I’m just a little bit jealous?

Anyway, before Darryl got here yesterday morning, Anna, Sammy, and I participated in a volunteer event at the Boston Food Pantry downtown with the Williams Alumni Association. Wet met Jessica there, too (as she too had thankfully unfrozen from Killington). For those of you who have never volunteered at a food pantry, it is good and meaningful work. There were roughly 80 volunteers there, divided into two teams on assembly lines. Ours looked  like this:

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Within a half hour or so, as task-specialization kicked in, we were operating as a pretty well-oiled machine. Jessica was a loader (lifting boxes off of the pallets onto the line for sorting), Anna and Sammy were first sorters (inspecting the contents of the boxes, throwing out expired or opened products, and discovering the weird stuff that people thought were a good idea to give to a food pantry — pregnancy tests, anyone?). I was proudly the runner, meaning I did a little bit of everything. Like storing the hundreds of mops and brooms we received:

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If you have never volunteered at or donate to a food pantry, we’d strongly recommend it. In 3 hours, our group boxed up over 15,000 meals, but the Boston pantry helps feed over 90,000 clients a week. Drop me a line if you ever want to go. As a nice thank you, the Pantry gave volunteers beautiful flowers that had been donated by Trader Joe’s. They are sitting on top of my blogging desk now, and are a great reminder of the cycle of generosity that service creates:

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Lots more to report on soon, hope you are warm and well-rested wherever you are.

Anna sure seems excited these days:

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And the feeling is contagious…

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What could it be? Oh right, that little thing…

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Yay! We’re “official,” and ever so happy 🙂

(and here’s one more really cute picture of Anna)

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It’s getting cold in Boston, and we’ve been trying to think of ways to keep the heat inside. We thought that stopping the stiff breeze coming through the living room windows was a good place to start… So, remembering what my grandma had growing up, we decided to make some window and door “snakes.” Basically some old fabric filled with rice. Anna did a great job sewing, even adding some buttons and stitching enhancements — like this:

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We felt the difference almost immediately. Only problem is, some of them don’t stay put and try to escape into other rooms…

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So good thing we have a Gordon to corral them!

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Anyone else have ideas for keeping an old New England house a warm(er) this winter?

So, ok.  We don’t actually make the soap.  We buy the soap from another soap maker (because we don’t really live in a good place where soap making with the lye and all the chemicals would be easy and safe to clean up, and I’m not really sure our renter’s insurance covers soap-making-mess-ups).  But we do mix scents and melt the base and add in the best of the earth’s essential oils, plant extracts, herbs, and dried flowers and create beautiful, yummy-smelling soaps.

Here’s what we did today… it’s a long affair of melting, mixing, pouring, and waiting, so we only started out with one batch.  We’ll do more as the week goes on.  Today we did a rosemary mint batch, and the house is smelling awesome.

First, we put together all of our tools:

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From left to right: goat’s milk, glycerine, and shea butter soap bases, various molds, soap cutter, herbs, and essential oils and plant extracts.

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Then we cut the soap base and melt it down to a liquid.  We use the microwave, because it’s faster and we’re impatient.  But you can also use a double boiler on your stove or a commercial melter.  The liquid soap is very hot when it first comes out, but cools quickly so we move fast to add the scents.  Here I’m adding a concoction of peppermint oil and rosemary oleoresin extract (it’s green and sticky and smells like rosemary… duh!).

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Then we stir stir stir and pour really carefully into molds.  These ones will be bars, but we made a few rounds too.  We also ordered a brand-new awesome loaf mold that hasn’t come in yet, but will be really fun to use–you pour the whole lot into it and let it set 24 hours, then cut it up into slices like a loaf of bread.  That’s new for us this year, and I’m very excited to try it out.

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The color on the screen is kind of a weird yellow, but the true hue of these soaps is a beautiful earthy green.  At this point the soap is already starting to set up, and can get a little globby, so we had to re-heat to keep it from getting funky.

Then we stamped them with LPE…I made the stamp out of resin block, and it broke down from all of the stamping and heavy pressing 😦 so I’m going to have to find an alternative method of pressing L.P.E. into the soap face (suggestions greatly appreciated!!).

Anyhoo, here’s the finished product!

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Again, the color is a weird yellow here, but in REAL LIFE, they’re a lovely shade of pale earthy green… I hope the color doesn’t turn people off, but oh well.  THEY SMELL FABULOUS, and they’re really creamy and lather up nicely.  Hopefully I’ll be able to do another style tomorrow…

We took the handmade pledge!  Which means we’ll be making every effort possible this holiday season to buy or handmake all of our gifts.  It’s easier than it looks with sites like Etsy.com where you can really find ANYTHING under the sun that’s handmade, vintage, or crafty (like soaps from Le Petit Éléphant).  From jewelry to child toys, clothing, art, and bath & beauty, there’s really no reason for you to have to go to the mall and deal with the craziness and commercialism of the holidays.  The season is about being thankful and thoughtful and telling those you love you LOVE them.  And this season, I’m THANKFUL that I’ll never be setting foot in a mall again.  Unless my mom drags me in with her, in which case I’ll go, begrudgingly, with my hands stuffed in my pockets and a frown on my face.

Anyhow–check out Etsy and see all that’s there, including…

Ta DA!

Le Petit Éléphant!!

We’ll be posting items for sale soon, so keep checking back often.  Or just shoot me an email and I’ll take special orders.  Here’s what we’re offering this year (or what we plan to offer–once we get to making the soaps we sometimes get creative and come out with some fun scents and flavors we didn’t expect):

SOAPS (3-4 oz. bars, stamped with L.P.E. and wrapped in velum, $3 each or 4 for $10, your choice of bars, as available):

Goat’s Milk Base

  • Honey Chamomile
  • Rosemary Mint
  • Lavender Vanilla
  • Gardenia
  • Lemongrass Verbena

Shea Butter Base

  • Honey Chamomile
  • Lavender Vanilla
  • Gardenia
  • Coconut

Clear Glycerine Base

  • Rosemary Mint
  • Lavender
  • Honey Chamomile
  • Lemongrass Verbena

I’ll also be putting up holiday cards, calling cards, and stationery, all hand drawn or printed with one-of-a kind designs.  These can also be made to order with your specifications.  Just let me know!

We may also do printed shopping bags, but we’ll see how the soap-making goes and how much time we have.

So check us out!  We look forward to creating something special for you! And sorry for all of the shameless plugs for our store, Le Petit Éléphant on Etsy.  It really is a fantastic space for artists and crafters to sell and share their ideas and wares.  We hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Happy Giving!

This past weekend, Mark and I traveled out to the wild, wooley west to see Marcy, my oldest friend from growing up, get married in a four-day wedding extraveganza.  Wyoming is truly beautiful this time of year… if you can escape the snow, which unfortunately we didn’t.  But we had an enormously fun time seeing everyone, attending parties, and participating in a beautiful ceremony that took place inside the warmth and love of our childhood church while the wind and snow blew in heaps outside.

We flew in to Casper, an oil and gas town of about 60,000, elevation more than 5,280′ in the mountain plains of Wyoming, on a beautiful fall day.  I’ve actually never flown in to Casper during this time of year when the prairie cottonwoods and grasses have turned bright golds and oranges, contrasting against the evergreen junipers and lodgepole pines.  By the time I get home it’s already winter and everything is dead and frozen over, or during the summer fresh in bright green.  As we flew over the bluffs I was struck with the colors and how the flora stratifies just like the rock it grows on.

It was a 60 degree day, but much like New England–all we had to do was wait a minute and the weather would change.

Casper is home to many things, from one of the largest oil and gas industries in the lower 48 to Lou Tauberts Ranchwear with FIVE FLOORS of boots and hats and chaps and wranglers and lassos and bolo ties and big buckles and carharts and all kinds of western awesomeness.  The city is surrounded by ranches and farms and cattle, and more North American antelope per square mile than people.  But the one thing I suppose one could say Casper is famous… or infamous… for is… the Beacon.  A bonafide cowboy bar.

And yes, that’s right.  It says “Where the cowboys go SNEAKIN'”  And OHHH MY… do they ever.  And not just young cowboys.  Old ones too.  And cowgirls.  And cowladies.  They do the two-step to live music and then dance the night away to a DJ.  This is an incredible site to see.  Believe me–I am not making fun of this, the moves these people have are amazing.  One dance in particular they do is called the “Casper Slide.”  I don’t know exactly how it became the “Casper Slide,” because the dance doesn’t have anything characteristically Casper in it… just some kicking and stepping and twisting around.

I tried to catch a video of my friends doing this special dance (they are in the background… the girl with the veil is my friend Marcy), but a woman who was very in to her Casper Sliding stepped right in and stole the limelight… anyhow.  Watch and you’ll get the idea… both about the dance and about the awesomeness of the Beacon.

All Sneakin to the Beacon silliness aside, the wedding was beautiful and sweet and lovely.  We laughed and cried.  We took too many pictures.  We watched our friend become Mrs. Marvel.  We ate salmon caught by Marcy’s father and bacon-wrapped cheese-filled jalapenos (well, Mark did in any case–I stuck to the cheesy potatoes!).  We danced and drank too much wine.  And did I mention it snowed?  It did.  During the wedding and the reception and all through the night until more than a foot blanketed some areas and we all threw rose petals at Marcy and her Eric as they bundled into the limo and we all slid home to our warm beds.

In the morning, I awoke to this:

The snow kept us home one extra day due to a late flight and a would-be missed connection.  It was nice to be home, even for what only seemed like a minute, where the old dogs still love you and your bed is made just the same way it used to be.  The smells are there–for me it’s cider and something good cooking on the stove mixed with something I can’t categorize but that feels so familiar.  The colors and the weather and the dogs and the smells… they all remind me that no matter where I may be, Wyoming will always be my home.

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