color block cuddlesome

“The book begins collecting your memories.  And forever after you have only to open that book to be back where you first read it.  It will all come into your mind with the very first words: the sights you saw in that place, what it smelled like, the ice cream you ate while you were reading it….yes, books are like flypaper- memories cling to the printed page better then anything else.” ~ Cornelia Funke, Inkheart 

I’m reading Inkspell, the squeal to Inkheart just now, and why not?  It’s somewhat embarrassing just how often I read children’s books for pleasure.  If the quote above is true then this series will forevermore smell of snickerdoodles and woodsmoke and evergreen boughs.  It will conjure images of candlelight and Christmas light, of long, long sleepless nights under the deep dark sky, sharp, spicy ginger tea, snow on snow on snow, with The Nutcracker and harp music for a soundtrack.

It’s the Seraphina show!  All Seraphina, all the time.  Sorry about that!  This is the very first thing I started knitting for her, before I could even prove that she existed.  Knitting for a baby that you don’t know for sure is coming is probably foolish enough, buying yarn for that purpose seemed even sillier still, besides, I wanted to start right away.  So, odds and ends, leftovers from here and there were put to use.  I started it way back when, but put it aside in favor of things that were more size and season appropriate.  I recently did the last bit of finish work.  I wanted to see how less buttons would go, so I only sewed every other one.  Not a good solution as it turns out.  Her foot keeps poking out between them.

I’ve been doing far more sewing then knitting this week.  My mind has been drifting and I find myself fantasizing about post holiday knitting.


a two headed princess…

I used to own a wool babywearing poncho.  It wasn’t perfect and it made me look like a mix between a weeble and a garden gnome, but it more or less did the trick. We dug it out at the beginning of the season only to discover the moths had been at it, blast their powdery little hides!  I swear those destructive tiny devils are going to be the death of me!

With several outdoor events this holiday season, mostly in the woods and always in the snow, I needed a way to safely carry her while keeping us both warm or we were in for a very long winter of being stranded at home alone.  I had less then a week between the discovery of my Swiss cheese covering and the first such event.  I ran out of time.  I also threw the timing off on my machine sewing through those thick layers.  But I did manage something warm and wearable, if not quite presentable.  Now it is entirely complete, with all the bells and whistles.

I very heavily modified this “Princess Coat” pattern by Burda.  I feel like the sleeves were much too long and bulky.  I chopped off several inches and tapered them a bit more.  Even so they are still big and puffy on me.  Otherwise I think it’s a very nice pattern. We’re keeping busy and keeping warm!


Azurite Lizzy

I’m currently reading the second in the Buzzy and the River Rats collection, also at Iain’s request.  These are some of his favorite books.  I get the appeal, especially for a boy his age, but I have trouble getting into them.  I’m secretly rather pleased that I am almost done and that today is library day.  It is funny to compare the differences in the prevailing parenting philosophies of the early to mid ’50′s, when this takes place, and now.  Kids running wild in the middle of the night, doing all sorts of potentially fatal things and no one thinks twice about it.  Kid with a potentially broken hand?  Tell him he should go see the doctor.  When he takes himself and doesn’t return for many hours, no need to check in.  Thinking about the trend these days of padding, standardizing and safety testing every object a child might come in contact with…it kind of makes me laugh.

Since most of my current knitting can’t really be posted about yet without ruining the surprise, I thought I would finally post some pictures of the party dress I made Seraphina for her blessing since it’s not going to fit her for much longer.



I have a lot of fabric; odds and ends leftover from various projects, overly ambitious plans that never panned out, all manner of old cast offs that I’m convinced I’ll breathe life into and repurpose one fine day.  Sometimes my Mother-in-law sends along fabric she thinks I’ll like, sourced at garage sales.  Years ago when I was making almost all of the kids clothes, I used to buy fabric in bulk, 6 or 10 yards at a pop.  Some remnants of that time still remain.  For a little while I was into fabric co-ops, until I realized that my proclivity towards believing I can do more then is humanly possible and pretty, heavily discounted fabric constantly being dangled in front of me was a bad combination.  I’ve got some fabric.  It’s nothing compared to the sorts of mega “stashes” I hear about sometimes, but if a kid comes to me looking to make, say, a pouch or a doll quilt, he/she’s got options.  The options aren’t endless, but we’re likely to find something along the lines of what they’re looking for.

I am not a hoarder or a clutter-bug.  Craft supplies are the one possible exception to this.  I rationalize this as being the exchange for having a large, creative family.  My stores are constantly being raided and it works well for us to have a lot of variety at our finger tips.  Even so, at the moment I’m craving less storage space and more room for living.  Just a bit of paring down.  I’m parting with certain things that I probably shouldn’t have held on to to begin with.  Let’s face it, by the time I start that rag rug I could probably gather 40 or 50 more pairs of holey jeans and torn corduroy pants.  But I’m also making things.  At a time when I’m hesitant to spend money, it’s a win-win situation.  Any time I feel like I’m approaching life from a feeling of lack, I go whip up a little dress or some pants and hey-presto!  Instant cure.  And a problem solved, whoever needs a garment now has one.

I’ve done an enormous amount of sewing lately.  I don’t think I’ve posted more then a quarter of what I’ve made in the last 9 months or so, if that.  Perhaps at some point I’ll try to go back and fill in the gaps.  Some projects required new fabric, but many, such as all of the dresses I made Seraphina in early autumn, were made from what I had on hand.  Due to limited amounts of most fabrics the two littlest members of the household make the most obvious recipients.

Mairi is in love with cotton velour.  Just now it is the fabric of all her favorite clothes.  I made her a pair of these leggings in the burgundy, as shown, and a second pair in navy.  For a whole week after I made this pair she refused to wear them.  She said she liked them too much and was afraid to mess them up!  Once I made the navy pair she loosened up a bit, knowing she had a back up.  Here they are topped with a Sally Dress, made of a really nice stretch twill and lined with flannel.  I think it’s going to be another season of using the same pattern again and again and I think this, my friends, is that pattern!



This moment in time we are in.  One hand on and one hand off.  Back to the dishwasher yet again. Bonnet dangling by it’s strings.  I know my other babies took their hats off from time to time, but I can not keep them on this one.  Or socks.  She occasionally manages to leave behind her pants.  She’s even wriggled out of a few pairs of tights.


long weekend

   Last weekend.  Thanksgiving.  I’m completely incapable of posting things in a timely manner at the moment.  We had our first big snow of the season.  I think the final reading on Galen’s snow gauge was 17″.  The day before the storm we brought in all the leeks from the garden and made a snack of the last of the baby carrots.  I’m still not ready to let the garden go for the year.  And actually the snow has melted enough now and some of the plants are tall enough that I’ve managed to chip away enough ice to wrench the garden gate open to gather frozen leaves of kale and collards.

I’ve just finished reading Wigwam in the City to see if and how it would fit into our studies.  The woodcut illustrations by Gil Miret partially inspired some of our recent wood block carving and printing experiments.  We made gratitude prayer flags in preparation for Thanksgiving, featuring apple prints, potato prints and yes, some woodcuts as well.  These were some early attempts.  After a good bit of playing the boys are starting to get more satisfying results.

I’m now reading Inkheart at Iain’s request.  We like to share the books we love with one another whenever possible.  Both Iain and Elijah are big Cornelia Funke fans, so I’ve read several of her books already.

Knitting wise, top secret knitting project #1 is in need of buttons.  Top secret knitting project #2 is completely done.  Top secret knitting project #3 is just absurd.  Casting on to size 3 needles, with lace weight yarn, at the end of November absurd.  Let’s put it this way, it might be wise of my sister to call and remind me how very much I love her.  I’m not even going to specify which sister.  After-all, I figure I should be getting something out of this.

Baby girl had her first solid food at Thanksgiving dinner.  I’ve been putting her off because we have so many issues with food allergies and sensitivities that I wanted to wait until gut permeability was less of an issue.  She turned 8 month old the day before and Galen had his heart set on sharing our feast with her.  To celebrate she had her first taste of our home-grown butternut squash.  The yell pictured above was one of excitement, not distress.  This girl makes me laugh.  She has since tried some of the spice free applesauce that Galen lovingly made especially for her and some of the aforementioned garden greens pureed with yet more squash.

We found what we believe to be wolf tracks crossing our driveway Thanksgiving morning!  There have been rumors of there possibly being some in the area, but up until now we hadn’t seen any convincing evidence that they were so very close to our home.  So very close.  We measured print and gait.  Much too big for coyotes and fresh too, they appeared within a couple hours of our driveway being plowed.

I can’t believe we’re almost a week into Advent already!


autumn days

Here in New England September and October are the months of county fairs and harvest festivals, cider pressing parties and bonfires.  Iain often dances at local events and 4-H (did I mention the big boys joined 4-H?) draws us out to others.

Can you tell this post has been a long time in the making?

I’m often asked what a typical homeschooling day looks like for us.  That is very difficult to answer because of course there is no “typical”.  Another question I’m frequently asked is how we balance schooling so many children of different ages.  The answer to that one is a little more straightforward.  While each individual child has a nice balance of work and play, free time and structured time, I pretty much “do school” all day long.  It’s a little unconventional, but I don’t mind and it works for us.

I thought I would try to post how this plays out on a random day, with a few disclaimers.  One: there is no way I remember every last detail, so this is not a comprehensive account, more a general over-view.  And secondly, I’m going to try to just mention the school specific activities, but honestly our home life and education are so intertwined that it’s hard to tell where one starts and the other ends because really in most cases they are one and the same.

On this morning Iain (age 14, grade 9) and Elijah (age 12, grade 7) both had their math completed before breakfast.  We’ve recently started using the “Life of Fred” series in addition to the “Key To” workbooks that we’ve been using for years.  This allows them to do the majority of their math work independently.

Iain is an early riser.  He likes to get as much of his school work and chores out of the way as early in the day as possible to leave time for other things later.  After he had completed most of his chores and math he settled in to read The Adventures of Robin Hood to Galen (age 8, grade 3), while Galen knitted.  He’s working on a pair of mittens for Mairi for Christmas.  Shh!  don’t tell!*

Over breakfast we all played Timeline.  I’m a huge fan of games as an educational tool.  This one involves trying to place various inventions in chronological order.

After breakfast and after-meal chores, Iain and Elijah set to work making a Albertian Veil for their perspective drawing lessons.  Then Iain went out to work on a landscape drawing, utilizing the veil, while Elijah worked on a writing assignment, then they switched.  Galen made his Weather Journal entry for the day.

When I returned from settling the baby for her nap, Mairi (age 5, Kindergarten) was dressed in a mouse costume.  My plan had been to do some sort of creative movement/story telling exercise with her.  I made sure to incorporate the mouse theme, knowing that would draw her in right away.  First we tidied and swept the playroom, to make space to work, while singing cleaning songs (including one about a mouse tidying her house!).  I started in on a story about a little mouseling being rocked to sleep by her mama (using the rocker board to rock her and singing a “mouse lullaby”) as the story progressed, the little mouse had a dream about being a seed that got buried under layers of leaves, rain, snow, etc (playsilks), many animals ran over the seed without even knowing it was there (massaging her in different ways to show different animals….a rabbit hopping, tiny nail tip bird claws, etc).  We continued on like this…the seed grew to be a tree, stretching towards the sun, being blown about by the wind and so forth, until the whole thing came full circle with that tree creating a seed, which she became.  That seed dropped to the ground, all curled up, whereupon mama mouse gently work her slumbering mouseling.

Time to check in with my other scholars.  The bigs boys shared their drawings.  I looked over their writing and gave them a few suggestions/corrections to be made.  I looked over Galen’s Weather Journal.  Since it was a cloudy day, I gave him a book on clouds to read aloud.  He read the story part.  We looked at the pictures together and I explained about the different types of clouds, their names and so forth.  This information is in the back of the book, but the presentation is a little too technical so I paraphrased.  I set Galen and Mairi up for painting.  Galen painting different types of clouds (at my request) and Mairi painting whatever she wanted (it started out as a mouse, but then she decided she didn’t like it and turned it into “blobs of color” instead).

Occasionally Iain and Elijah go to the stables early to get a couple of hours of extra work in before their riding lessons.  This was one of those days.

After they left Galen and I worked on his math together.  Afterwards I took the three little ones for a nature walk where they identified tracks, scat and trees and played in the woods for a while damning up a stream among other things.

Back at home I had planned on having them help me bake pumpkin bread to go with the soup I was serving for dinner.  They asked if they could try to make it themselves.  I said, “yes” and instructed and supervised them while preparing my own contribution to the meal.

Everyone was back home by dinner time.  After dinner we went through the usual bedtime routine with Mairi (which involves reading a book, singing songs, my writing what she dictates into her journal and saying a blessing).  Steve played a game with the boys during this time.  Then Galen went up.  He’s working on writing a story as a gift for Steve and I (side note: he’s been working really hard on this and I can’t wait until I finally get to read it!).  I try to make sure he has some quiet time set aside to work on it.  He usually writes for half an hour or so before going to read.  I insure the right kind of books get into his hands and he’s more then happy to take care of the rest.

Everyone 12 and up watched an hour long documentary together, followed by the big boys going off to bed to read for a while.  At this point I assign them a book a week.  They read a lot so they have no problem accomplishing this in addition to whatever pleasure reading they might do.

And that was our day.  More productive then some, less productive then others, just a little glimpse at what a random day might look like.

*This is a perfect example of time that I consider to be educational and productive, but that they would never think of as school time.  It’s just the way we live life.  Really there is a lot to be said for a lifestyle that’s conducive to learning!