To the Mountains We Go!

It’s been about two weeks since we’ve left our mini vacation to go back to reality and I can’t seem to stop thinking about planning our next trip back.  As some have heard of the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains in western NC, there really are not any words to describe the mystical beauty to give that place any justice. We’ve lived in NC for almost seven years now and we’ve ventured that way many times before, but never during the infamous Peak season. All the lush golds and garnet  that tower above you in hundreds of year old trees boast why pilgrimages are made there.  There is something spiritually soothing about that place and it has to be experienced in order to understand. (Just a disclaimer that there are a ton of pictures so you know in advance).

We plan on making this an annual family getaway even if it is just for a few short days. I am an ocean person, but this experience has made it very difficult to choose.

Our trip wasn’t just to see the foliage, however. It was a bit of a family reunion. My paternal grandfather has finally had a chance to see the United States and to meet his great grandchildren for the first time. It has been a lifelong dream for him to be able to see how his hard work has paid off and that his family gets to live the life he and my grandmother have always dreamt for us.

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We stayed in a cabin in Maggie Valley, had an awesome view and plenty of catching up.

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Since my husband has never had the chance to meet my dad due to his passing, it was a bit emotional for me to see my grandfather and Andy meet for the first time. My grandfather and my dad look very much alike from their tall stature, voice, and appearance. It was like having my dad join us on our reunion too. They pretty much hit it off.

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Left to right: Daddy, Eric, Andy

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Left to right: Me, Saffron, Daddy, Ezra, Sara (SIL), Eric (brother)

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Sara and my Aunt Judith

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Back to raving about the mountains. The next day, we ventured out to Cataloochee, which was about 30 minutes away (it seemed like eternity to get there and back. I’ll explain later). Cataloochee was a thriving mountain town that dwindled as soon as other towns began to pop up surrounding the area and the younger generation sought for other work opportunities. It’s also a ski resort now aside from being a national park.

My brother and sister in law frequent there, so we decided to check it out. First, I am a city driver. I like flat,  predictable grid roads. I am not a mountain driver nor ever will be. I am a scaredy cat when it comes to steep drops, unrailed, narrow, one lane roads with plenty of blind spots that you might as well close your eyes while you drive. The drive to Cataloochee (according to little scared Sophia) is no walk in the park. Even Andy, who I believe is a warrior on the road said that he couldn’t foresee making another trip up there for awhile regardless how beautiful it is. I don’t know how people do it with campers. I just don’t. We even asked the Park Ranger if there is another way out and she said no. So, pretty much I napped all the way back.

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Once you get past the winding gravel road (it sounded so charming when my brother was explaining how to get there), lush, open fields welcome you, while the creek with its fresh mountain water sing you a lullaby. Not far from entering, there is a quaint church that has not been used for a very long time, but is still in amazing condition. I’ve only seen this type of setting in movies and was blown away by its charm and beauty. This little building has an entrance facing the creek and you can still hear the ghosts of sermons past.

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With such beautiful Fall scenery, we couldn’t resist taking an impromptu family photo sesh.

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Papaw Mic with the kiddos.

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Just a hop, skip, and a jump from that old church is the old schoolhouse. If you’ve ever seen the movie, The Village, this whole place had that kind of communal vibe. We were just nearing Halloween, so it was really neat to walk into these buildings with lots of history.

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Don’t tell me that this doesn’t spook you out a little?

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My love for wooden floors continue.

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On the way back home, we stopped by Sky Top Orchard in Flat Rock, NC. I have always mentioned to Andy that if he wanted to woo me, he’d take me on a date to an apple orchard. Unfortunately, we live too far from one, so this was his chance to make up for the lack of dates we hardly (actually never) go on since we’ve had kids. It was beautiful to say the least and Saffron had so much fun picking the apples. Plus, the little farm animals and their lovely environment reminded me of the picturesque farm in the movie, Babe. Can you tell I watch lots of movies?

By the way, if you are not at all interested in picking apples, you still must make a stop here to try one of their apple cider doughnuts. It’s like crack and we ordered a dozen of them only to have eaten them all by the time we got home.

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I can hardly wait until October starts creeping around next year, so we can do this all over again.

Goats and Pumpkins

Autumn is really my favorite part of the year in the East Coast. The smell of cider and pumpkin baked goods waft the air like flowers in the Spring. Squashes and other gourds nourish our bodies and fill our plates with a delightful golden color. The State Fair, Halloween, Corn Mazes, Haunted Hay Rides aside from the magnificent changing of leaves become icing on the cake for me.

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Last weekend, we ventured to a farm to pick out a pumpkin and just to have some fun family time. I like to take Saffron to as many outdoor activities because once it gets way too cold, we usually hibernate inside most Winter and that can get pretty restrictive for a three-year-old.

One of the things I love about living in North Carolina is that there are so many farms to visit and expose our kids to a more simple and natural way of life. When we lived in California, most of the animals I saw were in the zoos. So, looking out our new home and into a pasture is pretty magical to me.

Here are some snapshots of our day.

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Enjoy Autumn and its many many gifts!

Love,

Sophia

 

Scissors and a Right of Passage

I have learned from consensus that little girls (and pre-teens) plus scissors equal hair disaster and that it has happened to the best of us. Well, it happened to my little girl when she thought that she could be Rapunzel from Tangled and chop off her locks!

First, I thought my scissors and other sharp objects were out of reach for her, but I guess she has recently gone through a surprising growth spurt, which allows her access to all sorts of trouble. Having my attention divided now between two kids, I can tell how easily and quickly accidents can happen. Being three, my little Spice has found her independence (and sneaky ways). When things get quiet, that is when you know that something is up. Well, it was quiet for awhile and she made it seem like she was obediently coloring. She must have thought that coloring was so juvenile because she broke out the tool that most of us have turned to out of complete boredom…scissors.

Inches of hair scattered everywhere on the carpet with no pair of scissors in sight until I saw the handles sticking out from her puppet theater. She comes out as if nothing happened when apparently, she bluntly chopped one side of her hair already. I assumed she was taking a break and returning to her scissors if I hadn’t said a word. First reaction, I was in a bit of shock. Then, I giggled because she looked like she was 18 months old again when her hair was short. Then, I got a bit irritated because she is starting ballet soon and I was definitely looking forward to putting her hair up in a bun. But, I couldn’t hold anything against her because I once chopped my bangs really short and somehow it kept getting shorter from Xena to  Audrey Hepburn to David Beckham short. I have come to believe that it is somehow a right of passage for girls, in which drastic hair experimentation proves a sense of independence and a blossoming character.

As for Saffron, she loves loves loves her Dorothy Hamill haircut, not thinking that Mama has to put a bow on her hair most times to distract from her handiwork. Here she is at the salon to even her hair out while I sat back and shook my head:

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Does her doing a duck face look like she regretted chopping off half her hair?

She wanted to do a mini photoshoot in her outfit she chose herself and I knew that I am raising a Diva, but the confidence that she imbued in her photos was amazingly mature and now I know that she really did go through her own right of passage. She has only been on this earth for three years and I’m amazed at how much she changes every year. Time has to somehow slow down for me, so I can hold onto my little girl longer.

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One thing that she has taught me from this experience is that with confidence, you can rock out any mistake. So, never be afraid to make a change because you’ll never know if it will be any better unless you just do it. Thank you, Saffy for reminding me of that!

Love,

Sophia

A Magical Thing Happened

Last Saturday when we went on an outing to a museum, a magical thing happened…

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A large butterfly landed on my daughter’s arm while we were walking through the conservatory. It was a beautiful image of innocent wonder. It’s symbolic of transformation and that is exactly what is going on in our lives right now. If you haven’t heard, you can read about how much our lives have changed here.

Life has been chaotic, but in that chaos beauty remains and I have lately forgotten to see that. That Saturday, in that simple moment, I saw the magic that happens when love abounds and you trust in God to make you happy wherever you are. Just like that butterfly that trusted Saffron not to crush it, I started trusting again in something bigger and more powerful than I. I started trusting that everything will be alright and that this chaos will transform into something more manageable. Adjustments are hard, but I have the most supportive and compassionate husband that holds my hand through and through.

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I am reminded how blessed and simple my life is and that magic is everywhere and in everything if you just be still and trust.

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Love,

Sophia

My Eternal Summer

We are already halfway into summer and I barely had the chance to enjoy the warm weather as I am usually confined indoors because of the baby. There have been less days that were ideal for outings this summer. I never really had to tackle a hurricane season before I moved here from California, so having it rain most of the summer really puts a damper on all our plans.

But today, Mother Nature gave us a break. She let the sun out after almost two weeks of gloominess. I’ll take whatever she can offer. I already knew that because we were expecting our bundle of joy, we would be taking less day trips to the beach and having less activities for our vivacious three year old. Here comes the Mommy guilt again. Also, we rarely use our community pool. It is not toddler-friendly and usually very crowded. Summer is not the same without drenching oneself with water at least once. So, I made a trip to Target and bought her a sprinkler system and some water shoes. This was the result:

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Everything is in full bloom now in our garden. Can’t wait to taste the melons!

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Her giggles and screams of pure excitement are enough to satisfy my heart. I live vicariously through her innocent zest for life. Although this summer will be very low key for us as we settle into being new parents once again and Autumn will be here before we know it, my daughter is my eternal summer, shining radiantly everyday for us and giving us that light that we sometimes need when life becomes a bit gloomy.

Happy Sunday!

Love,

Sophia

Lost In the Abyss of Dirty Diapers and Butterfly Kisses

So, I haven’t disappeared completely (although I feel like I have succumbed to being part of the walking dead). As my blog readers know, I was pregnant and eventually a baby will make his debut to the world. Well, I would like to introduce to you our precious new addition who was anxious to meet us two weeks early and we are over the moon with him:

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I have no luck with my kids. They both look just like my husband. I don’t mind so much because I am over the moon with him too. For the years that I’ve wondered how our kids would look like, I can stop wondering now. It’s surreal that they are my flesh and that they imbue such radiant light and energy. I feel blessed with such a gift from God and as tacky as it is, I’m going to refer to a quote I once heard from One Tree Hill that to be a parent is God’s sign that He still believes in us no matter how much we feel like we have failed (OTH fans, I know I’ve butchered it, so be kind).

My dear Ezra was born so quickly, that we didn’t really have a lot of time to process what happened. Two weeks later, we are just getting used to our new routine. I have to admit that I am scared to death on how I am going to do the following:

  • Homeschool Saffron
  • Take Saffron to her ballet and swimming lessons
  • Breastfeed Ezra every three-four hours
  • Doctor appointments for Saffron’s allergies
  • Constantly change diapers
  • Complete my Business Degree
  • Cook three meals a day for my highly allergic daughter
  • Remember to eat and shower
  • Housework
  • Remember to sleep
  • Avoid swigging a bottle of tequila from the stress of motherhood
  • Try not to forget my marriage
  • Fulfill custom orders from my Etsy shop (don’t worry, if you place an order, it will get done, I promise and pinky swear).

And, yes, I did just make a list because that is who I am…Type Anal. Even more so now that I have to battle my mommy brain from lack of sleep. Lists are lifesavers.

As for Saffron’s relationship with Ezra, it is amazing to watch how she interacts with a new baby in the house. For years, she has been the sole attention because of her eczema and allergies and  we have always been extremely protective of her. We have made too many trips to the ER in a year and have given her too many steroids to not be overprotective; hence, the homeschooling. It gives my husband and I a peace of mind and less isolation for her compared to her going to school and have to be left out of parties and crafts with food that she’s allergic to. We thought that because of all this attention she’s had, she would be jealous, but it has been the opposite. When we got home from the hospital, she was quite the lady. She grew up (literally, she seemed to grow a few inches taller during the three days we were in the hospital). She sings to her brother when he cries and caresses him. She picks things up for me when I am too busy. She graciously pretends to sleep through the night when her brother cries. I have been blessed with such an independent three year old. Although I don’t want her to grow up so fast, having a newborn will have to force her to take on responsibilities of being a big sister. I have such mommy guilt with the less time I spend with her and her routine has been out of whack lately. Fortunately, she doesn’t show a shred of jealousy and has been the perfect big sister.

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In response to this guilt I carry, I knew that I had to spend a whole day with her, just the two of us, doing special things and I had to do it before my amazing mother leaves us. She watched Ezra all day while Saffy and I first ran errands, then to the park, then lunch at Burger King (it’s a special treat for her to get her own french fries because BK has a separate fryer for fries and she hasn’t reacted to eating them). Her face lit up when she got her very own french fries and continued to thank me with so much gratitude (it was really sad because her response showed how deprived of normal food she has been). We then made it to the NC Art Museum and being that she’s a bit older than the last time we had gone, she actually appreciated the trip. We pointed out colors and had our own interpretations of sculptures and paintings. It was nice. No tantrums. No whining. Just love between a mother and her daughter. Nice.

Excuse the graininess in the following images from my Instagram. It was one of those days when I preferred to be more in the moment than focusing on taking pics with my bazooka camera. 

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Saffy’s Interpretation: “It’s too big to wash the dishes, Mama.”

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When you have multiple children, you’re pretty much split in two. My husband and I have been through a lot with our first child, which gives us a step ahead with this second one. However, we can’t be equally giving our attention to both children at the same time, so we have agreed that we would have more one on one dates with Saffron, so we don’t miss her growing up so quickly and that she understands that Mama and Papa still love her even with another child to share our love with. Days like the one she and I had at the Museum are humbly simple for us as adults, but extraordinary experiences for our little one.

Hence, our life in a nutshell right now- a bit hectic with less sleep and more to do. Once things start getting into full swing again, DIY Mondays, Thrifty Thursdays, Favorite Fridays, Scrumptious Saturdays, and random Motherhood posts will resume. For now, I’m hoping you are enjoying your summer with lots of fun activities planned and lots of lazy days ahead.

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Love,

Sophia

Please Excuse the Weeds

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Our sprouting plants! Click on the image to enlarge.

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Taken with my iPhone. Last year’s bounty. We had lots of beets, kale, carrots, and tomatoes.

I woke up this morning and after a few days of just rain, the sun was finally out, which meant that the money I paid to have our lawn mowed was just a complete waste. Our lawn went from groomed to jungle in a matter of days. I’ve noticed after years of dealing with our yard, our grass is the most temperamental that I have ever seen! It’s a mixture of weeds and bare patches and are not thick enough to even have a decent picnic with a blanket on. When I lived in California, the dirt was black and soft. My plants flourished wonderfully and I loved gardening on it. It’s probably because the soil in NC is really red clay that I have a hate-hate relationship with it here. Red clay, though full of minerals doesn’t like me back either. I hate it when it rains here because when you track in the mud and get even a patch of it on your clothes, you can say goodbye forever to your favorite pants or throw them in your scrap cloths for housecleaning. My daughter once wore her new pair of jeans out in the snow and slid on her knees as she was running to catch some snowflakes. My husband saw my expression, as if in slow motion, my eyes widened and I belted out a slow, “Noooooooooo!” Those jeans, those cute jeans, were history. Hence, I really detest the soil here. Yes, lots of trees and plants grow here in NC, but if not treated properly, your yard will look like a red mound of an anthill.

With such a huge backyard, we would need to till the whole land, put lime on it, then replant the right kind of grass. We’ve attempted to hire lawn care companies and they would seed the ground, but that’s all. No. Our yard is a far cry from that. It needs to be torn up and the soil needs to be tilled into submission. It discouraged me from doing any further work on it because it was always a waste of money. Then, I had a lightbulb moment. I delegated hubby to build raised beds in the backyard, so I can have good soil and compost for planting. Ding ding! I can ignore the weeds and focus on the plants inside the beds instead. I really have a keeper because he went straight to the hardware store for some lumber and built me three raised beds. I can tell he was really sick of looking at the bare backyard too, otherwise he would have taken his sweet time doing a project like this.

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One of my criteria of a man that I can spend the rest of my life with– that he build me a garden.

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Baby carrots! So cute!

I don’t have the best green thumb and I know that I have sooooo much to learn about plants, but my daughter is at an age that I feel it is important for her to be in touch where good, nutritious food comes from. We have since had success with herbs and tomatoes. This year, we planted some Napa cabbage, yellow squash, zucchini, eggplant, broccoli, and tomatoes. Apparently, lettuce is a self seeding plant because it just grew in rows by itself and we have a bunch of it growing without any of my help. We rebuilt our string bean teepee to give it one more chance. Last year, the vines started growing and then they stopped, but they are supposed to be runner beans, which left my teepee very bare and exposed. Our blueberries are back and this time, I will net that baby until they get ripe enough for picking instead of leaving them for the birds to feast on. They’ve had organic blueberries year after year and wipe out my bush each time. We also have the cutest baby apples growing. I don’t know why my trees do not grow taller or even wider. I have dug holes three times as large for them and they still remain the same size I purchased them four years ago. I throw my hands up gardening here.

Anyway, I’ll update as soon as things really start blooming. Most likely in July or August, our flowers will be in full bloom and they can distract you from staring at our weedy lawn.

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The flowering herbs Saffy picked for me while I was trimming the plants. Such a cute and unexpected bouquet from weeds!

The South Has Tractor Parades

Being that we have done pretty much everything in NC as a family, there’s nothing more exciting than a carnival that comes to town. NC has its annual Fall State Fair in October, but there are usually smaller events that take place that’s family friendly. We went to the Got to be NC fair today, which is more of an agricultural fair. It was free to get in and you can’t beat that if you’re desperate enough to find something different to do around here. I’ve never seen so many farm equipment in my life.

Saffy is a bit older and I was curious about her being able to go on the kiddie rides. She got to ride the kiddie train by herself and much to my dismay, Andy took her on the Ferris Wheel. If there is a time that would cause me to go into early labor, it probably would have been the site of my tiny baby going on an open Ferris Wheel that swings and the image of her sliding right underneath the seat rails. I was having major hot flashes and seriously considering fake fainting, so they would get off that thing. What made me even more nervous was when I thought they were about to get off the ride and then the conductor let them go one more round while he unloaded the other lucky souls. Right when they were stopped at the top, a storm started brewing and the wind started to hiss like we were expecting a tornado to come through at that moment. I didn’t want an “I told you so” moment with my husband, so I just prayed that they get off that ride safely before that wind flipped their seat over. Everyone was safe and sound, but as for my husband, that’s a different story. At least Saffy had a blast.

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Vintage Aldo Cowboy Boots are perfect for this Agriculture Fest.

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You see that girl in the front photobombing? I couldn’t resist posting this. She looked like she wanted out.

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Love how they added flowers to make it more charming.

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I told you there’d be tractors.

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Making fun of me from the ride.

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See how she can easily slip underneath? I couldn’t take the stress.

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What exciting things have you done this weekend?

Strawberry Fields

Spring is here and this is our second year on our annual tradition of picking fresh strawberries. Saffy, as she grows older, has learned to appreciate learning where whole foods come from and likes to get dirty doing it. Her face brightens up when we plan our trip to the strawberry fields in the neighboring town. Andy also enjoys making sure we pick the juiciest ones and I enjoy just being out picking berries, so I can make a yummy strawberry chocolate pie! If you’ve never gone out to pick your own berries, I highly suggest you do. I know that it’s more work than just grabbing a small box from the produce aisle, but getting to pick food from the vine and not having to deal with the gigantic chore of gardening, you still feel rewarded at the end. We have a few crops growing in the back and my favorite is our blueberry bush I planted a few years back. It has produced so many plump blueberries, but I rarely get a chance to enjoy them before the birds do. At least our local wildlife is fed well. So, to feel like Spring has sprung, we’ve made it a tradition to go strawberry picking to kick off the season. Last year, I came more than once. The last time was late in May and the strawberries were overly ripe already; however, the whole berry patch smelled like chocolate dipped strawberries. It was divine and I have never experienced anything like it. Even a whiff would stimulate those happy endorphins!

Here was our last year’s harvest (I never bring out my DSLR to such an active event, so please excuse the not-so-crisp photos):

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Taken from my iPhone because I had to enjoy grabbing a bucket full too instead of lugging my bazooka DSLR around.

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She was my little helper in 2012.

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This was our recent trip to the strawberry fields. My growing bump probably enjoyed my berry samplings too!

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She picked them on her own this year. 2013

After harvesting, I immediately soak the berries in one part vinegar and ten parts water and thoroughly drain them to help them stay fresh and not get so moldy so quickly. They last a lot longer this way. You can also do this with other berries too.

If you are ever in Raleigh, NC, come stop by DJ’s Berry Patch in Apex. Such a pretty field with yummy berries!

How do you kick off Spring with your family?