Blog a la Cart

Life Lately

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It’s been relatively quiet around these parts, what with our back-to-back travel schedules, a few coughs and sniffles thrown in for good measure, a clogged ear (yes, I’m complaining about an earful of gunk, because hot dang it has nearly derailed my whole week. So distracting and irritating and WAH WAH, Woe, Is me), a car that has bit the dust and is forcing conversations about new transportation a few months earlier than we wanted and at a terrible time of year *ahemhellochristmashoppingahem*, frigid temperatures, and a back log of photography work.

So James and I have spent our evenings (post general bedtime routine for all Cartwheel Farm dependents), hunkered down in front of the wood stove, each glued to our respective computers, editing and processing and tweaking and guzzling tea and editing some more. We wanted two projects in particular (a birth video and my final wedding shoot of 2014) put to bed before we focus all attention on the cleaning and the shopping and the cooking and the table setting and the gobbling and the eating, eating, eating that’s about to go down chez Cart.

I am preparing my stomach accordingly.

This weekend will involve a great deal of prep work, including retrieval of our turkey immediately post-processing at a neighborhood farm, and a jaunt to the community wide farmer’s market. Many of the local farmers and crafters band together in to one big space exploding in locavore love. I’ve got another family holiday card shoot on the agenda, but compared to a birth or wedding, that is a walk in a park.

And Life plows ahead, in all of its harried yet wonderful ways. Kaki delights me more and more every day as her ability to communicate continues to explode, while Sunny humbles me with her adaptability and flexablity as she tackles life in a new school with an entirely new community. My children are my gravity. They keep me grounded and honest. And I wish that kind of perspective for always. xo Ash

“The Uncle Ben”

James’ baby brother (the youngest of four boys) is pure magic. Love this kid. He’s got his own style and does his own thing and is the best party trick in the world with those flips and twirls. You should see the way preschool jaws hit the floor when Uncle Ben starts tricking.

He made this video in hopes of winning tickets to this music festival and could use a little love to help him seal the deal. Give him some props, eh? And if nothing else, enjoy the dance moves.

Sunny and Kaki are currently trying to master the “Uncle Ben” which involves gangly limbs and swirling hips (which, admittedly, they do not (yet) have). Big aspirations – and if they wind up half as fun, with half the ups of this guy, life will be pretty grand indeed.

Last Week

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The past 10 days have been a whirlwind. It began with James’ departure for a conference in Philadelphia and ended with my return from both work  travel slash friend visitation (in Santa Monica, CA, Chicago, IL and Ann Arbor, MI). Parenting without James was hard. Courtland in particular struggled. Being away from the kids was equally hard. I am so grateful to have us all back together again, curled up in front of the wood stove, eating popcorn and drinking hot chocolate and just generally being a family.

But the the interim looked a little like this, courtesy of the iPhone…

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^^I wore a caftan gifted by my darling friend Amanda because who says you can’t channel beach energy in November? Sunny snapped the photo. Also, I’ve been rocking my hair in Dutch braids and find that middle-aged white men in particular have taken to complimenting this look. I just love that my hair is finally long enough for creative braiding. It’s been a two year endeavor.^^

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^^I put the finishing touches on a formal dining room which we set up in anticipation for many a holiday meal chez Cart. I’m thrilled to be able to display that oil painting of my great-grandmother and grandmother as a child. The original Weeks women. The other oil painting was done by my tutorial partner in an art studio course in college, Meleko Mokgosi. He created the painting based on a critique I’d given him of his work, and he gifted me the result for graduation. He has gone on to do amazing things in the art world.^^

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^^To entertain the kids while James was away, we did lots of snuggling in my bed, and adventuring to the movies. While we loved Big Hero 6, Courtland was initially terrified of Baymax, despite his cuddly, marshmallow-like appearance.^^

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^^We collected eggs, and walked the dogs, and generally enjoyed daily life in our little slice of Vermont.^^

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^^My friend Sharifa came and stayed with us to lend an additional pair of adult hands, including epic hair-braiding talents. Thank you, Weekend Wife! I am grateful to you!^^

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^^I then departed early Tuesday morning for the airport where I shared a cup of coffee with James on the other side of security, as he had just arrived from Philadelphia. We didn’t even realize that our paths would cross until he texted upon landing and waited with me at my gate. A really lovely, simple surprise. Also, how much do you love that androgynous person throwing shade on our airport selfie?^^

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^^I found rainbows in the airport and thought of my Sunny girl…^^IMG_8442.JPG

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^^I delighted in some face time with the Pacific, even if it was at 5:30 in the morning. My time in LA was brief and work focused, so I was grateful for the time I did manage to squeeze in with my beloved ocean.^^

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^^In Chicago, I ate like a Queen with one of my favorites, Devita. I even had my hair did at Dry Bar which was an extravagant but lovely experience.^^

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^^I then journeyed on to Michigan where sadly my dear friends were wracked with illness, so we lounged in pajamas and drank tea and generally played it super low key. I have no pictures to show from the experience, but fortunately, we’ll all be reunited in April where I shall ensure many a photo to document the occasion. In the meantime, you can enjoy the Rothko in the Sky.^^

It’s good to be home…

I miss them, so.

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I’ve been on the road since Tuesday, a combination of work and play (in Santa Monica, Chicago and Ann Arbor), but boy do I ever miss these sweet faces and their mismatched outfits. While it was tough solo parenting for four days while James was in Philadelphia, I look back on these pictures I took during that time and feel only swells of love and gratitude.

They’re now with James and his parents for a weekend of fun in PA, while I get some much needed catch up time with Sunny’s FGPs and their adorable son. We’ll all be reunited on Sunday – just in time to prep for Thanksgiving festivities and to kick off the holiday season!

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Holiday Card 2014

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It’s that time of year, my friends! As I’ve written about before, I’m a sucker for all things stationery (yes, with an E), and love the yearly process of assembling and addressing holiday cards for family, friends, and colleagues. As in years past, I’ve teamed up with Minted.com to create our family’s holiday card, and in exchange for helping us select our card, you get a chance to win a $100 gift certificate to Minted. Ain’t nothing like spreading holiday cheer!

One of my favorite things about the Minted site is the ability to upload a photo and then preview all of the holiday photo cards at once with that particular photo (select the “Find It Fast” button in the top right corner). It’s a quick way to get an idea of which cards work with a particular image. Then, of course, you have the ability to personalize and customize further. AND, Minted offers FREE recipient address printing, which, while I enjoy the process of handwriting addresses, I recognize is not a universal joy.

These are my favorite designs for this year’s photo. They are all variations on a theme. I was tempted to use one of the fall foliage photos of the girls for the card, but I like the idea of watching our family grow and shift through the years as a whole group on the front of the card, so I’m using this image from our 4th of July festivities this summer.

Details about the $100 Gift Certificate and how to enter below.

So, which one is YOUR favorite?

1. Be Light

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2. A Wonderful Life

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3. Happy Everything

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4. The Best is Yet to Come

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5. Be Joyful

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To enter to win a $100 Gift Certificate to Minted:

• tell me what your favorite holiday photo card design is from the selection above for our family

• for an extra chance to win…
‘like’ Minted and Blog a la Cart on Facebook, then come back here and tell us you like us, you really like us! in the comments

• for you Instagrammers, another chance…
follow Minted and Blog a la Cart on Instagram, then come back here and tell us that you’re digging our snaps

Make sure you enter a valid email address in the email section of the comment box so I can contact you if you win! The winner will be chosen next Monday, November 17 ,2014  at 5pm EST. Open worldwide. Total Value: $100

Below are cards from the past three years, since we started printed and sending Cart Family photo cards.

2013

2012 2011

44/52

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“A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2014.”

Sunny: Overhead from Addison one evening during dinner prep: “I would like to help make dinner tonight so that you say thank you to me.” I respond, “Well, thank you!” Her: “No, mama. Not now, at the end of dinner when we thank whoever cooked the meal. THEN you thank me.” Roger that!

Kaki: Overheard from Courtland in the grocery store this week, “The lobsters are sleeping. But one of them is watching a movie. And the movie is me.” I love preschool imagination so!

More details about The 52 Project here. To view all the portraits in the series visit here.

Homecoming // 2014

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There were cow bells and chili and facepaint and football and hot cider (and rum) and fear of purple bovines and Eph spirit despite a crushing loss.

Another happy homecoming in the books! And why yes, I am sporting a full fleece cow print footed pajama set in public. It’s how I do.

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My Tribe

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“For when you’re feeling S.A.D. and ‘blue,’ warm-weather gifts will get you through. F*ck the cold, gray skies be damned. Air is sweeter in caftan land. No more thoughts of ‘gimme, gimme.’ Here’s one for you, and one for Kimmy.”

My friend Amanda positively blew me away with this surprise gift from Emerson Fry (a company Kimmy and I have long adored, and our time in Sweden put us on the hunt for the perfect caftan. Amanda ended our search!)

First, I was greeted by surprise flowers in my office from a new friend and colleague, then a package of caftan awesome hit my door…

November, you got nothing on my tribe.

I am so grateful for all of the people in my life who lift me up rather than drag me down, especially during these darker days. Thank you for making my life brighter in every possible way.

Girls’ Bedroom // diy

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Since purchasing our home in March of 2012, Sunny’s bedroom has been a functional space, but one without any kind of design perspective or thought to decor. She lived with the blue walls and red curtains we inherited, patches of plaster on the wall from where walls of shelving had been removed when we moved in, replaced with hangers of dresses and bureaus of clothing. It was quite a hodgepodge, as demonstrated from the above snap circa January 2013 (and I’m not just referring to her outfit!). She was making use of Auntie Kimmy’s double bed, as Kimmy, up until recently, had been living in furnished apartments/housing. We figured that when Kimmy finally claimed her bed, we’d give the room the attention it deserved. After nearly 2 and a half years, Kimmy finally did just that. So James and I got to work, with the intention of migrating the girls into one bedroom and then turning Courtland’s itty bitty “nursery/bedroom” into an office/closet.

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^^The room post-bed removal, pre-redesign^^

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^^Our upstairs exploded in furniture and clothing and odds and ends that found refuge in our guest room, bedroom floors, hallways, etc., while we worked on Sunny’s bedroom. We have a rather compact upstairs, and it was pushed to the max.^^

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^^While I headed to Cape Cod with the kids a few weeks back, James and our friend got the room fully repainted in a fresh, clean white. It makes the room seem so much bigger and brighter. I’d been dreaming about doing this to the space since the day we moved in. It is so very satisfying to have it done!^^

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^^The next step was finding a cozy rug to warm up the space, as it’s a northern exposure and can be quite cool in the winter months. Sunny and I visited a local carpet store and scooped up this remnant of plushy, purple rug for a steal and had it cut and bound to fit the room precisely. Sunny insisted on purple, and I have genuinely come to love the look, despite my initial urgings for a more muted grey.^^

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^^Then James assembled the Ikea Kura Bed (it may have taken him three attempts to get the orientation correct for the bedroom, but he got there eventually.) To customize the look, we let the girls choose vinyl stickers for the bed, and given our choice of a purple rug, we went with a purple, pink, taupe theme. I am admittedly very impressed with the quality of the stickers and the impact that they had on the whole look. I highly recommend. We purchased them through PANYL (We used Violet, Bubblegum, Pewter and Thunder).^^

We finished the room with a pair of EcoSmart shades (a local Vermont company that manufactures shades to keep cold out in the winter, and heat out in the summer). For the bedroom, we decided upon the cellular black out shades in Oatmeal to blend with the taupe vinyl of the bunk bed. They are top down, bottom up shades, and truly finish the room and add that final touch of warmth that it needs as we head into these colder, darker days. I trust that this summer we’ll be grateful for them as well when we put the kids to bed and the sun is still bright in the sky.

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^^A few touches here and there with artwork, and book shelves, and hooks for costumes, and the room was complete!^^

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^^We hung both of the girls birth announcements in the room alongside two of my favorite photographs of our “farm fairies.”^^

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^^This little bookshelf holds their favorite board books and their shoes.^^

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^^I couldn’t resist the chance to showcase their gorgeous Ella Dynae costumes beneath our Rainbow Fairy on her 5th birthday.^^

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^^And the eery Lilac Fairy photograph found its way above the bunk bed…^^

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^^Growing up, my siblings and I had these nets to hold our stuffed animals. I picked one up on Amazon for $10 to contain the girls ever-growing array of plushes, and to disguise the utility box that holds all of our internet gear.^^

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^^We used Garnet Hill horse sheets from last season in flannel for the beds. We have cotton horse sheets from Garnet Hill for the warmer months, too. That pattern is still in stock here.^^

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^^A special shelf was reserved for all the handknit stuffed animals.^^

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^^Except for these guys, whose magnetic capabilities made them perfect for the bunk bed stairs.^^

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^^Bitty Baby and her wardrobe have a special place in the room alongside more books, a bin of tutus and dress up, and a bin of pajamas.^^

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^^Gladdy certainly enjoys having easy access to both her kids at night – she loves sleeping in the middle of the rug, or right on top of Courtland on her floor bed. And most importantly of all, the girls love it. And I am breathing a sigh of relief that at least one room in our home is complete.^^

Like Clockwork

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On Monday, James arrived at Courtland’s preschool just before 5pm, and was greeted by a flood of tears and distress. The teachers informed him that she had begun sobbing about 15 minutes before his arrival, but they hadn’t figured out the cause of her dismay. She buried her face in James’ shoulder and said, “Daddy, it was getting lighter and lighter and nobody was coming.”

You see, Courtland confuses light and dark, so what she was trying to convey is that as the day slipped into darkness, she feared that we’d abandoned her at the school for the evening. It would seem that even preschoolers understand the awfulness that is daylight savings.

Last night, I sat James down and we had our yearly discussion about my darkening mood. Like clockwork, I feel my motivation and spirit going down the toilet. It’s the post-Homecoming, pre-Thanksgiving, Daylight Savings-inspired funk that hits me like a ton of bricks every November. I am now able to speak very matter-of-factly about this depressive period, acknowledging its arrival, and doing my best to combat the pull to darkness and protect my family from its backlash. I sleep. I knit. I eat leafy greens. I bask in my sunlamp. I exercise. I schedule activities and socialization and I fight the urge to hide under covers and skip these scheduled respites. James brings me coffee in bed, eases me to wakefulness with a back rub and words of encouragement. He doesn’t fight the way I linger under flannel or shirk some of my usual parental responsibilities. After work, the kids willingly crawl under covers with me, and snuggle, and brush my hair, and spend time with their mama in the only way I’m able during this rough few weeks of transition.

I joked with James yesterday that I bet I could dive back into the blog and find a post from the first two weeks of November every year since we’ve returned to New England speaking to this period of sadness. And lo, there are indeed four years worth of reflections catalogued in the archives. They serve as important reminders that however pathetic I may feel, it’s not forever. I can and will get past this. And in the meantime, I have cheerleaders on my side to help move me through it.

To anyone that may feel this slump in spirit during these darker days, remember that there is indeed light at the end of the tunnel. We can do it.

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2013: This time of year is really hard on me (and many others, I’d imagine). I have S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder), and these short, dark days hit me hard every year. I’m a beast to live with despite my best efforts at exercise, time under the sun lamp, daily Vitamin D, plenty of sleep and healthy eating. I still just feel unhappy. This season has been particularly difficult with Ursa gone. James is so patient and understanding and always finds ways to put a smile on my face as I move through the 2-3 weeks of adjustment and sadness and come out the other side (today’s I HEART U pancakes as a perfect example).

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2012: Yesterday, I took a time out from my daily life, drove down to Lenox, and sat in the corner of a coffee shop knitting for three solid hours. While that may sound hellish to some of you, it was more therapeutic than any amount of time under my sunlamp, or with a shrink, or on Prozac. I needed a day, all to myself. A day with no email. No dependents. No plans. No nothing. And it was exactly as healing and relaxing as I’d hoped. It’s been a hellish fall. People in my life have been coping with so much loss and hurt and struggle. And I’ve had my own hiccups here and there. And I’ve been left feeling exhausted. Burned out. Stretched too thin. And failing on all fronts. I needed a day to make peace with that. So I basked in that stream of sunlight falling on my knitting needles and steaming cup of coffee, and thought, about nothing and everything. I recharged.

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2011: Feelings. I’ve got ‘em. In a maudlin and mellow dramatic way.

As I’m sure you’ve gathered, this is fairly standard for moi.

It’s the darker days.

It’s the baby who has absolutely no semblance of a schedule so James and I are like the walking dead because we can’t figure out how to get the kid to sleep the hours of the average working human. C’mon 3 month old! Get with the daily grind!

It’s the holiday season, which in and of itself wields enough nostalgia-provoking power to drown my weepies in a cup of egg nog.

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2010: He can instantly sense when I start to falter and most importantly, knows how to call me out on my shit in way that won’t result in me hurling a jar of pickles through the kitchen and reenacting scenes from The Exorcist. He ensures that I make it to the gym for a good ol’dose of endorphins (even if it requires physical force to get me in spandex – a tricky feat indeed), draws baths so that I can escape in the quiet of the tub, orders and installs sun lamps, gets me to laugh even when I am being a total bear and I’m spitting fire and hurling insults and refusing to cooperate.