Autumn Rhythms


We are a month back from our trip, and I feel like our autumn schedule is finally becoming routine. With dance and swim team each four times a week, voice lessons, piano lessons, three weekly online classes, meetings for the library’s teen advisory board, weekly physical therapy and school, it’s taken us a bit to fall into a rhythm.


The calendar in my phone looks like a crazy quilt, with all sorts of overlapping blue and green and red squares.  What’s helping is a sit-down each weekend to plan the next week on paper.


There are little pockets of autumn beauty in the week as well.  My porch is exactly the right temperature (and quiet!) for a quiet time between our read-aloud hour and lunch.  The roses are blooming like nobody’s business, and our burning bushes are finally burning.  Sam added two trees to our postage-stamp of a yard: one redbud and one apple.


I’m learning to make a short walk through the garden part of my autumn rhythm. Smell the roses. Admire the chrysanthemums. Thank the chickens and the peach tree for the bounty they gave us this summer.


I am learning to make gratitude and marvel parts of my fall rhythm. I just wish it hadn’t taken me so long.

An Evening for Refugees

A few weeks ago was the annual art show/fundraiser for the refugee organization we work with, Project Worthmore.

A few members of our refugee family came, and were happy to see some of their friends there. We got to introduce them to our friends, and to two of the artists in the art show, which thrilled them.

To me, the best part of the evening was hearing the story of how relationships, which are slow and messy and don’t have any shortcuts, make the differences in people’s lives.  With so much anti-refugee rhetoric being shouted from the political stage right now, it was inspiring to be with so many people who say, “Yes, you are welcome here.”

New Colossus, by Emma Lazarus (on the Statue of Liberty)

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

School Update: Beginning of October

It’s officially fall.  I know this because Pinterest keeps sending me pins of cute outfits with tall boots and scarves, and recipes for pumpkin spice lattes.

In past years, I would be saying we’re just getting started on school, but this year (for various reasons including early May AP exams and a September trip to London) we started in mid-August.  So we’ve done 7 full weeks of school.  The kids keep asking if this means we’re going to finish in April.  Unlikely. 

New rhythms: Friday poetry teas.
I don’t think we have any budding Tennysons or Dickinsons in the family, but I sure like reading poetry and drinking tea.

Also new to us are Jonah’s online classes. We’ve had classes online before, but this year he has set class times and virtual online classrooms with attendance as part of his grade. He’s being very faithful about it, but a 90-min online class Friday afternoon is kind of a drag.


New resources: for the first time, I’m using some materials from Teachers Pay Teachers. This lesson, from Mme R, was to create a menu for a French restaurant. Moriah had a blast with it.


I’m upping my geography game. So far it’s working, thanks to a globe I’m keeping in the living room, and a huge world map I hung in the dining room. Now, I throw out 1-2 geography questions every day (“Name three countries in the EU,” or “What are the countries laying claim to the South China Sea?”). We’re all learning.


Not working yet: third grade.  She just hasn’t found a rhythm yet.  Each of my kids have taken years to learn the lesson that getting the work goes better when you do it first (before Legos and cartwheels and bike rides and playing.) I can’t tell if it feels like it’s taking her forever to settle down to a routine is because I’ve already taught (and learned) this lesson multiple times, or because it really is.

Certainly when the older kids were figuring this out, I wasn’t driving anyone to swim team or dance in the afternoon, so I was available for helping/teaching in the late afternoon.  This year: not so much.  Right now, it’s hard.

How’s your rhythm this fall?

London vacation: unexpected joys

Not everyone in my family likes to plan their vacations the same way. We have both people who make list months in advance and like to know what they’re doing every moment, and folks who are less structured.  My favorite vacations are the ones that included well-laid plans AND unexpected delights.

We managed to hit many of the sites on our lists, and we missed a few. (National Gallery and Westminster Palace: I’ll see you next time.)  But we also received gifts of completely unanticipated fun.

In the Heights.  We bought tickets for this show (one of our favorites) months ago, and then, because the London run is being extended they closed the show early to rehearse a new cast.  Our night was one of the canceled ones, but they gave us an option to change our tickets for the closing night.  We almost didn’t, because if the show ran at all late, we’d be left without Tube/bus to get back to our house. After hemming and hawing, we managed to get 5 tickets instead of our previous 8.  And I’m so glad we did, because after the producer got up to thank everyone for making the production a success, he introduced Lin-Manuel Miranda who got up and gave a speech.

And yes, I instantly turned from ordinary, middle-aged theater-goer into Raving Superfan. In fact, everyone in the entire theater did. I can’t figure out how to upload my videos of his wonderful talk (about home and identity, the themes of this fantastic, energetic show), but I have this really grainy fan photo. And I’ll try not to talk about it (much) the next time we get together. You’re welcome.


We were in London for two Sundays and worshiped twice at Westminster Abbey. Obviously, it’s an amazing setting, and the choir sang beautifully, but the best part was partaking in the shared liturgy. The lectionary readings took up right where our church had left off the previous week, and the service- straight out of the Book of Common Prayer- was so entirely familiar to the kids, I think none of them thought twice about our being in England. That moment of commonality, of home, was a treasure.


Our final Sunday, we planned to meet my parents for tea after church . However, all the streets around Trafalgar Square were blocked off for the Tour of Britain bike race.

Had I had this handy map at the time, I would have stayed west of the southern spoke of the race, but instead we walked the east side of Whitehall and then had to cross the route eight hundred times (more or less) to get to Fortnum and Mason’s on Piccadilly. (No, that wasn’t the awesome part.) An hour and a half later, when we finally made it to Piccadilly by crossing the route at every Tube station we could find, the road was blocked to all but foot traffic, and we had a great time messing around in the middle of the road, making slo-mo videos a la Michael Bay’s Apocalypse.


Don’t judge.


Of course, tea with grandparents and crazy ice cream sundaes was awesome, and any day in a bookstore is a good day, but the unstructured nature of that day was extra special.


Do you have a favorite moment of unexpected fun on a recent vacation? Please share in the comments!

Summer Eats: Week 8-10

Our summer farm season is wrapping up.  Two weeks ago we got eggplant, kale, turnips (red and white), carrots, potatoes, a yellow pepper, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions and garlic. (Remember how our CSA was hit with terrible hail?  More of the plants than we thought are still producing!)  This week we received cauliflower, broccoli, onions, garlic, peppers, squash, one cucumber, turnips (and lots of them!) and carrots.

In the past I have had trouble with kale.  I’ll eat it, but everyone else (Sam included) found it too bitter.  In fact, after our first CSA, Sam’s comment was “too much kale!” and we found a different one that was a little lighter on the greens.  But greens are good for us, so I was determined to try again.  And I found a winner!

HappyFitMama’s Kale Blueberry Superfood Salad

She says the secrets are cutting out the stem (all the way up the leaf) and working the dressing into the leaves a little bit and letting it sit.  I made it about 1.5 hours before we ate. When Momo got home from dance class, she picked all the kale out of the salad and left behind the raspberries.  (I used raspberries instead of blueberries.)  Can she even be my child? Perhaps not.
At the bookends of the season, I find we have a little bit of lots of different things, but sometimes not large enough quantities to make a main course out of anything.  So I like to serve what we call “Potpourri,” or lots of different things on pretty plates.  Above you see our popcorn, carrots, yellow squash and zucchini (which some of my kids like with Ranch dressing), bread and jam, Sesame Eggplant Obsession, and a variety of cheeses (they are at the top there, served on a gorgeous cheese board my friend made from a walnut tree that came down from his yard- how cool is that?).  My friend Amy says anything tastes better in a margarita glass, and that applies to serving boring supermarket slices cheeses on a handcrafted walnut cheese board, too.

It’s not really a summer food, but I made up a recipe for Roasted Cauliflower Soup, and all my kids will eat it.  So here it is. Sorry I don’t know how to make it easy to print. Feel free to cut and paste and adapt to your taste.

Roasted Cauliflower Soup

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut in 1-inch pieces
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed or diced
  • 3 potatoes (Yukon Golds or Reds work well), washed a diced (no need to peel)
  • 6 cups chicken stock

Wash and cut one head of cauliflower into florets. Cut 3 carrots into 1 inch pieces. Toss both with a little olive oil; dust with salt and pepper and roast at 425 degrees until they start to darken (for me it was about 20 minutes, but it will depend on how big your pieces are.) You can do this earlier in the week and store them in the fridge, or do it right before you make the soup.

Chop 2 slices of bacon and dice one medium onion. Brown the bacon for a few minutes till it starts to darken and then bottom of the pan is slick, then add the onion and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Add 1 clove crushed garlic and sauté until onions and garlic are translucent.

Add 6 cups vegetable or chicken stock, 3 diced potatoes, and the roasted cauliflower and carrots. Bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer. Cook 20-30 minutes or until all the vegetables are very soft. Purée with a hand blender. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with crumbled bacon and crusty bread.

Another variation is to add a tart apple (peeled) with the potatoes.

I think that’s it for our Summer Eats Series.   I am baking bread again, and the kids are asking for our favorite fall soups again.  I hope the end of your summer wraps up well!  I’ve added links to my other Summer Eats posts here.

Summer Eats: Week 1

Summer Eats: Week 2

Summer Eats: Week 3

Summer Eats: Weeks 4-6

Summer Eats: Week 7




More London Photos

The girls’ favorite days on our trip were: 1) the day spent at Universal Studios looking at all the rooms, costumes, and paraphernalia from the Harry Potter movies, and 2) the day we spent at Hamley’s toy store and building fairy houses in Hyde Park.



When Sam first saw the sticker price of a day at Universal Studios, he was going to give it a pass. But it was no more than a day at a studio tour here, or a day at Disney.

Phoebe is still hoping she gets a Hogwarts acceptance letter on her 11th birthday.


Is that a Lego photobomber right behind her?

Lego ninja attempting to steal the Lego Crown Jewels

Momo’s fav: Lego Queen with Lego Corgi

We spent several hours at Hamley’ and the girls didn’t buy anything.  When we went there years ago (I was 10, I think?), I felt like there were all sorts of toys I had never seen in the US.  Now, everything there was the same as what we see here: Legos, Playmobile, glitter nail polish, the same franchises of stuffed animals.  (Except for the Lego displays, which were uniquely British.)

Sneaking away in London without my children: Kew Gardens

Halfway through our time in London, we split up for a day.  Sam took the girls to Harry Potter’s world, my parents had already left for the morning, and the boys wanted to stay home to play video games rest. I had my choice of sites to visit without them: the Florence Nightingale museum, the Royal College of Surgeons museum, the National Gallery, or the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.

Because it was a gorgeous, sunny day, I opted for Kew.


I have such warm memories of Kew Gardens from our trips there when I was a child. My mother and our London friend were both avid gardeners, so visiting Kew meant not only wandering acres of beautiful park and gardens, but learning about all the plants and trees. My own children, when invited to come with me, said, “Nah. It’s just a Botanic Garden, right?”  Um, no.


I was better off without them.

The Palm House

I spent the morning wandering paths and reading on a bench under the biggest catalpa tree I’ve ever seen.  A sawed off branch near the base of the trunk had 65 rings.  (I counted.)  I examined a Cyprus of Lebanon.  The grass was sprinkled with mums with prams, picnic blankets, and little children.

The Orangerie

When I got hungry, I went to the café at the Orangerie and had a lunch I never would have approved for my children, or ordered had they been there.

A few years ago, I couldn’t have imagined a vacation when my kids would be big enough to do their own thing while I did mine. Time’s a flying, and this is where we are.  I am grateful for the day.