Monday, November 30, 2015

The last morning of November

All is right with my world for a few more minutes. The house is quiet and I'm sitting in my favorite place looking out at the dawn as well as our just decorated Christmas tree. However, I can hear the children stirring and Noah has some sort of flu bug; fever, head and body aches and sore throat. So the day will probably prove to be trying in the ways that days with sick needy children are, and yet, as much as I had planned and looked forward to a week full of school and crafting, I think a day of laying around by the tree and reading and knitting and babying my kids, won't be all that bad either.

Usually I can't think past Thanksgiving and find myself scrambling a couple days into December to get ready for advent. This year, I was determined not to get a late start on Advent, so I picked up a few Christmas books and a new calendar in advance. Then Dustin surprised us with an early tree. He likes to get rid of the tree as soon as possible after Christmas, whereas I enjoy looking at it as long as possible. So, I guess this is our compromise. I get to enjoy it earlier in the season. I've spent the past three days at home, cooking and cleaning and decorating for the season; which is why all is right with my world despite having potentially two sick kids.

I want to point out that there is now an email subscription gadget at the top right of the blog, so you can subscribe and get a heads up when there are new posts.

Also, for all you photographers out there, I could use a bit of camera advice. As you well know, I do not take very good pictures. It's all about content as opposed to quality. This is due in part to both the quality of my camera in addition to not making it a priority to learn the camera that I have. Taking pictures during our Alaskan winter months poses low light challenges. When I look back over our pictures of the last several years, especially baby pictures of the kids, I sure wish we had budgeted for a nicer camera. I have spent the last week googling low light point and shoots and comparing lens aperture and other details that influence the ability of cameras to take good low light photos. I've been reading camera reviews and watching camera videos and looking at pictures and we are getting down to some serious decision making. The camera at the top of my list right now is the Sony Cyber Shot DSC rx100 ii. It is an almost pocket size point and shoot. I like that it can shoot ten frames per second and that it has wifi for uploading capabilities. Most novices feel that it takes great pictures even on the auto setting. I have read a few conflicting reviews on how well it does in low light settings. Most say it does great in low light settings, but the pictures shared are night time still shots and not indoor pictures of moving children. I am not looking necessarily to take professional quality pictures, but I would like to take clear crisp pictures of my kids decorating the tree or opening presents and for them to not have to freeze like statues to try and get a clear shot. I have also looked at the 3rd version of this camera and it sounds like it has the capabilities to take even better low light pictures, but I don't know how big a difference are between the two cameras, and if it is significantly better enough to warrant the extra two hundred dollar difference.

My two questions are 1. Is this camera going to take the pics I want or is this asking too much of a point and shoot and do I want to give up the small convenient size and get a DSLR? 3. Is this camera more than I need and is there a less expensive camera that will do as well or better in low light? Well, any advice anyone can give me would be much appreciated. I've been reading reviews all week and may be more confused than ever at the mixed opinions. Bonus points for whoever leaves a comment noticing the higher quality photos that should be coming sometime soon!

Best wishes to you all as we enter the dark days of winter!

More fall vacation pictures

 Avery standing in front of my grandparents house with Contention Cove in the background.

 Grampa giving a geology lesson to the kids on the two types of rocks found in the area; Ellsworth schist and granite.

 Noah and his Paw Paw, lowering a crab trap into the water.

 Dustin teaching the kids and his niece and nephew how to eat blue crab that we caught earlier in the day.

All in all, a pretty great mini escape from winter.

Two posts ago I wrote about my love for Maine. And while I can almost and maybe even really picture myself there, truly I am an Alaskan girl at heart and have yet to be content anywhere else. So, just to set the record straight, we are very content to be living in Fairbanks and have no plans to move. If we ever were to move out of Alaska, it would have to be a northern state where there is still cold and snow, but lots of sun. Maine feels like it is just about as far away as can be, but I do love the combination of a northern climate mixed with sea air, old buildings, family history and the ability to grow and buy more locally produced foods.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Carroll Homestead pictures

Here are pictures of the Carroll homestead I wrote about in my previous post. It was built by my great, great, great, great grandfather; John Carroll built it in 1825 and continued to make improvements on the homestead over the following years. The Mountain House, as it is called, is on Dog Mountain, on Mt. Desert island, off the coast of Maine.

The Mountain house was given to Acadia National Park by a family member, in 1979. Not only is it still used in the summers for family reunions, but it is also opened to the public occasionally for viewing, and for school field trips and other educational purposes.  

 Avery standing in front of the kitchen hearth.

 Kitchen work area. The table and chairs, in the center of the room, were covered.

 A picture of the wash area in the pantry. You can just barely see the hook hanging from the ceiling that meat was hung from.

Fireplace in the parlor. The parlor was part of an addition that was added on in 1850.

 Wood pegs in the roof rafters.

 Kids in the precarious upstairs attic.

Outside entrance to the root cellar, where a winter's worth of fire wood was stored, as well as the year's supply of apples, potatoes and other root crops. On the other side of the house was a smaller stone room where the eggs and dairy were kept.

Stone stairs leading up to the outside entrance. John Carroll had been apprenticed to a mason as a young man growing up in Ireland. I think this stone cellar is just beautiful. Over the coming generations, most of the Carroll men were masons, doing much of the stone work required around the island. John Carroll's only son, Jacob Carroll; however, went to see for many years and eventually was captain and part owner of a ship. When he retired from the sea, he too, took up masonry.

A picture with my grandma; Judy Carroll (daughter of Phillip Carroll, one of the last children to be born in the Mt. house), and my grandpa, Joe Stockbridge, whose family was from Ellsworth, a nearby town on the mainland.

Noah, in front of the south side of the house, by the roots cellar. When I was Noah's age, I could see the ocean from where Noah is now standing. But this time, I couldn't see it from the attic window.

I hope some of you have enjoyed this glimpse into the past.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Family Vacation and Carroll family history

Well, geez I've missed you guys! I have a couple good excuses for not posting for two months. First my computer broke and it took six weeks for the shop to get around to looking at it. (Somehow during that time and since, we have gone from a one computer household to three laptops- so this should never happen again!) Second I don't know how it happened exactly, but now I don't have the photo shop (on any one of the three laptops) that allows me to downsize and crop pictures, so that they are small enough to post- so no pictures till my husband sits down with the computer and fixes it for me. Then we just took a lovely vacation and I can't wait to tell you all about it!

First we flew from Fairbanks all the way to Portland Maine, and then drove to my grandparents home, which is on Contention cove between Surry and Ellsworth; two small towns near Mt. Desert Island (think Bar Harbor). My grandparents were both born and raised in Maine, as were their parents, and their parents before them. They relocated to Oregon long enough to raise four children and then they moved back to Maine and built a home in the same location that my grampa's parents had lived since the mid nineteen hundreds. This is the second time we have traveled to Maine with our children, both times in early November, and both visits we have experienced warmer than usual temperatures. We were blessed with sixties and seventies, sun, oak leaves and hazelnuts and laden apple trees everywhere. I absolutely adore Maine. Due to the balance of seasons, the climate/growing conditions, real people, old houses, history, rural living, the woods,ocean and wild life; it is one of the few places that I think I could move to. The main drawback being it's distance from all our friends and family.

One of the clinchers for me, as far as whether we could fit in, was a trip to the Blue Hill farmer's market, where, I visited with a woman selling fresh and aged goat cheese; who not only raises goats, but is a potter (an occupation I hope to take up again someday), and her son was home schooled and also went to the Waldorf school up the road. When I hear Waldorf school; I equate that with knowing that there are like minded families with similar values and lifestyles - which, is so important when considering locations one could transplant to. As I stood in the midst of this small quaint farmer's market; admiring the products available; local maple syrup, heirloom apples and cider from wild apples, vegetables and charcuterie, and as equally important the back to our roots vendors, I looked around and wanted to shout, "I've found my tribe! You could be my people!" As I selected beets, parsnips, shallots, winter squash and salad greens to turn into dinner that night, I was just bursting with contentment and wanting to meet everyone and see their farms. I was also reminded of how much more relaxed the regulations are in Maine for making and selling your own fresh and aged cheese and cured meats, which is so much more difficult to do here - legally.

The highlight of our trip (for me and probably me only) was a guided trip inside the Carroll Family homestead on Mt. Desert Island. A generous park ranger had told my grandparents if they ever had family in town that wanted to see inside, he would show us inside the homestead, which is usually only opened for family reunions and special occasions, and he held true to his word. Let me back up a bit, The Carroll family homestead was built by my great, great, great, great grandpa; John Carroll, who moved into it with his wife and their young family in 1825. He had immigrated from Ireland in 1790. It was eventually passed on to his son, Jacob Carroll and then his son, another John Carroll, who moved out of it with his wife and family in 1917. Eventually it was given to Acadia national park and has been cared for by the park service. To this day visitors and school classes visit the homestead to get a glimpse of what rural Maine life was like. The homestead began witha 21x25 foot dwelling, with a root celar and attic.There was a hand dug well, a kitchen garden, larger vegetable fields, hay fields, a barn and a well. There were usually chickens, sheep, a milk cow or two and a horse. In 1880, they recorded seven acres of tilled land, twenty acres of pasture and meadow and fifty three acres of forest. There were paths down to the ocean as well as a view of the ocean from the yard - which is no longer there as the trees have grown up.

I have grown up fascinated by the Carroll homestead and have visited on a few occassions, but have never been there when the house was open. On this occassion, we got venture down into the root celar, as well as the main floor and even into the attic, precarious with it's rotting boards and spider webs. As you can imagine, I turned this into a homeschooling activity for the kids, with the help of a book that was written about the homestead, called Four Generations in Maine, a  Carroll homestead school curriculum written for Maine classrooms, as well as a video taken of my great, great aunt and uncle speaking about life on the homestead. By the end of it all, my kids had their fill of this part of their family history - I on the other hand, can not get enough! Back to my roots, indeed!

Well, after a delightful week with my grandparents, we flew to Florida to visit with my husband's family. We were blessed with another week of warm sunny weather, seventies and eighties and humid! We divided our days between the pool, the beach and the docks, where my husband and son enthusiastically caught blue crabs to take home and eat, while Avery played on the playground with her cousins and I stared at the water entranced by the non stop wave on manitees and dolphins that passed by. We took the week of any indoor learning field trips and just spent as much time in the sun and outdoors as our skin would allow. Getting out early and coming in during the middle of the day to rest before heading back out.

After two weeks of travelling we are happy to be home. It is a winter wonderland here, all frosty and white. I am content to be home and going into winter. I want to do more crafting and baking than is possible in the next five weeks, so it is time to get organized and prioritize. I look forward to sharing pictures of our crafting and advent preparations with you! Happy baking and cooking and giving thanks week to you and yours!!