And this is as far as I got in what was going to be a very full advent sort of post. Better some than none? I don’t know, but here you go anyway.
The garden is covered in ice and snow. I’ve been scanning/quick reading Christmas chapter books all month to make sure that they are ok for Mairi, who reads at least one a day. I’ve been making a list so that I don’t have to start all over again with Seraphina. I should share it here, but who wants a list of Christmas books after Christmas?? I’m absolutely exhausted, but I suppose that can’t be helped. Christmas pajamas are complete, but for a few snaps still needing to be set. It took 16 yards of fabric to cover my boys this year, for goodness sake! The girls’ are of a different fabric and pattern this year- pink and matching, Seraphina is going to be thrilled and hopefully Mairi Rose will be tolerant. My Grandmother’s shortbread with all sorts of alterations for dietary restrictions turned out only so-so. Elijah has been covering at least one canvas a week (that is one of the more recent ones above) and Galen has been averaging a painting a day (didn’t get so far as to include those pictures). We’re supposed to have a snowstorm Christmas morning and I’m pleased about that. Currently I’m trying to figure out if there is any way to fit in a Christmas Eve nap, but I think I probably ought to go clean up my living room instead. It’s also my sewing space at the moment. You might just be able to picture the chaos. Or maybe not. I seem to bring with me my own special brand of chaos. And goodness I need to be on top of it all soon because in 12 days my children have a birthday. Mairi Rose will be 9 and Iain will be 18 (!!!). p.s. Who decided that 18 makes for an adult? I think I might like to have a word with them… And there are still gifts and things to be tended to there. So I think I’ll end here by saying a very merry Christmas and happy holiday season to all of you!!!!
Two bundt cakes stack bottom to bottom sort of make for a pumpkin shaped pumpkin cake. We used carrot juice to color the icing and matcha green tea to tint the marzipan.
Elijah has started making Halloween costumes for his friends as well. This is Gandolf the Grey’s staff….
and Gimli’s helmet…
The Dread Pirate Roberts, a.k.a. Wesley
And my darling Anne-girl.
It was really nice of our neighbor’s black cat to drop by on Halloween for ambience.
Anne of Green Gables dress details:
I started with the geranium dress pattern. I used the bodice extension and sash straight from the expansion pack. I took the straight sleeve from the expansion pack and modified it for the oh-so-important puffs using this tutorial. I made the sleeves first and she came in to kiss her puffs several times each day. I took the hem band from the pack and made it 1 1/2 times longer and used that to craft the ruffle at the bottom. The collar is an actual hand-pieced, antique collar. After some repairs I added a button and bound button loop so it could be worn, but still remain a separate piece. The rest is just trim.
It is brown of course. Because Mathew bought Anne a brown dress with puffed sleeves. Mairi Rose was so offended when he gave her a blue dress in the movie! This was hands-down one of my all-time favorite costumes. I couldn’t stop watching her in it. She’s like a china doll. And that she picked Anne? Oh my, well this mama heart couldn’t be happier!
This littlest one was seriously too excited to stand still for a picture. All of these rather poor ones were taken in rapid succession over the course of like 45 seconds, which was way, way longer than she wanted to spend on it. Which explains why you can’t really tell what her dress looks like in any of the pictures. I’ll have to get a better picture of it at some point. She informed me that she plans on wearing it everywhere so I should have plenty of opportunities!
Ever since we were matryoshkas together two years ago, Seraphina is convinced that we require coordinating costumes, which is how I ended up as a Mama Kitty last year. And really now, how long is this last baby of mine going to want her mama to wear a matching costume? Not very long at all. So I humor her. This year I was informed that herself, myself, Unicorn, and her doll Milky were all to be princesses for Halloween. Sometimes I humor her a lot. I asked her if it wouldn’t make more sense for me to be the queen and she assured me it would not. I was the mama princess and her, Milky and Unicorn where the baby princesses. End of story. Yes ma’am.
Seraphina’s dress is also a geranium, with the gathered sleeves from the expansion pack. The only modification I made was to add three large, lace trimmed ruffles in tiers down the skirt. I was also told that her dress must be pink. I had other ideas in mind, but set myself the challenge of making it entirely from what I had around the house. Adjustments were made and this is the result. She seems happy with it!
My dress is a heavily, heavily modified Darling Ranges dress, altered to the point of no longer being recognizable as such. Mine was a freebie sew as well. I found the material at our local fabric swap. Since I was taking the time to sew it, and I happen to really need clothing, I was trying to make something that she would consider a princess dress, but that I could get away with for everyday wear. I’m not 100% sure that I’ve made a success of it, it’s awfully red for one thing, but I’m going to see how it works out.
Another old post that has been sitting around, waiting to be finished, for ages now…
“My heart always needs beautiful Christmas.” ~Seraphina Violet Juliette, age 2
Everywhere we go it’s like Christmas cards come to life; snow covered, candle lit, evergreen trimmed New England countryside.
I listen to podcasts on minimalism while working on absurdly intensive projects and smirk to myself over the perversity.
My children are obsessed with holiday diffraction glasses. They have come to expect gingerbread men everywhere.
Butter Tarts. My word! THE official holiday treat of the 2016 season.
She calls our advent wreath a nest, a belief that is probably reinforced by our forever tucking feathers into it.
I keep making her the same booties, over and over again, because I love them so much. Each time I just alter the pattern to be larger and now call them slippers instead- this time in a festive bright red.
When the Papa Bear was too ill to take us for our Christmas tree, our newly licensed man cub stepped up. It’s a brave new world and him a star in it. He did brilliantly on his exam, plus bonus style points. The examiner said that in 13 years, he’s never before had a kid show up with actual driving gloves on. ahem.
In the children’s room at the library one day, the only other person present is watching me out of the corner of her eye with awe, or perhaps like I’m crazy- I’m really too preoccupied to discern which, as I scan the shelves looking for just the right books while simultaneously reciting Goodnight Moon from memory to Seraphina as she turns the pages. Clearly not a mother of many. A head pops around the stack, “Mommy, who wrote the Pippi books?” “Astrid Lindgren dear….and a comb and a brush and a bowl full of mush and a quiet old lady who was whispering ‘hush’…”. Galen returns, arms stretched straight down with a stack of books balanced up to his chin. “Ten, ten, ten, you may get ten books and no more.” He plots and schemes with Mairi and between them they agree to get several books that they both want to read to make the most of their limit. A woman by the door asks if we’re getting them by the pound. I explain that there are only this many because I put a limit on them. She thinks I mean that I used some kind of reverse psychology to convince them to get books. I don’t really know what to say to that. The librarian behind the counter quietly giggles a bit and overrides the system restriction, which we’ve now managed to go over again. She knows us and she understands. She was a child like this once. I don’t get kids who don’t read. I don’t get people who don’t read.
Every time he comes on stage she jumps up and screams, “Iain! It’s Iain! There’s Iain!” And no amount of begging, pleading, cajoling or popping dried fruit in her mouth at just the right time can stop her. On the way home I wonder, is this our last year of being the family with the disruptive young child? Maybe it will be so for one year more? Either way we are growing away from certain phases in life and while certain things will surely be easier, it’s a strange feeling to know these days a numbered. Days that are too busy and too loud and too stressful and too beautiful to comprehend.
We’ve been holed up at home with a flu for weeks now. It’s a yucky and tricky sort of thing that gives the impression of fading, only to come back again in full force with new symptoms. I think, for me anyway, periods of illness have got to be the hardest part of raising a large family.
Though I don’t actually think of our family as large. It doesn’t feel large from the inside, since there is not a single component that we could very well do without. But the last time I tried to argue this point Steve put me on the spot by asking that I list families with more children. This I gladly began by naming a few families that I’m acquainted with through the wonders of modern technology. At which point he stipulated that I must know them in real life; decidedly harder. And the answer is two. I personally know of two contemporary families with more children than us. Though going back a generation or more changes things radically; my mother is one of seven, his father is one of thirteen. So it’s all a matter of perspective!
Still with seven people in one house, illness takes a tiresomely long time to work it’s way through.
The reasonable sorts of things that Steve does when I’m completely incapacitated with the flu: keep an eye on the kids, try to keep up with the dishes, maybe wash and put away a load or two of laundry… The highly unreasonable sort of things that I do when Steve is entirely laid up with the flu: attempt to completely remodel the pantry, entirely covering every flat surface in the main living area with it’s contents, making it nearly impossible to cook or find a place to eat, or well, move, allow the toddler to spread every single canning jar lid and ring I own out on the floor to keep her busy and therefore out of my way…you know, that kind of thing.
For the record, not my fault. And not my plan. When I was too sick to move someone dropped something heavy on a bag of yams. The yams were split open and then buried and well you can imagine the state they were in when I discovered them. It was a symptom of a greater, long-standing pantry problem. I will not bore you with the details, but let’s just say the situation snowballed and rapidly morphed from a cleaning project into a construction project. So, add a number of tools to the mess you are picturing in your head right now. And me using them between sneezes while taking frequent breaks so as not to pass out. And Steve so sick that for like two days I’m not even sure he knew there was full out deconstruction happening right under his nose.
Galen put on a light show for those of us who were upright on New Year’s Eve, using his new Snap Circuits Light Effects kit (highly recommended for scientifically minded people in middle childhood). In the mess on New Year’s day I cooked a fancy, but easy dinner. This served with kale and applesauce and sparkling cider. And we all found a corner somewhere to eat it, together more in spirit than physically. I pulled Seraphina up our road in her little red sled; the first time we’d felt well enough to stray a bit from home. Together the two of us greeted the moonrise on the first day of the year.
And never stops – at all - “~Emily Dickinson
2015 was a very hard year for us and 2016 harder still. So much more so than I’ve ever let on here, or I think could even put into words. Often in the last couple years I’ve wondered if that poem didn’t go the wrong way round. Instead of an uplifting force it’s seemed to me that she should have implied that hope is a flighty thing, difficult to grasp and often painful to try to hold. But I have hope for this new year, despite it’s rather inauspicious beginning. I have no resolutions, but certain thoughts and ideas that I wish to take with me into the new year.
Welcome 2017. I’m cautiously optimistic about what you might bring.
This post has been sitting, half-finished, on my desktop for over three weeks now. Everything, everywhere just got to be too, too hard and so I stopped doing what I could in order to better manage what I couldn’t.
I’m way behind on Iain’s colorful, crazy, and wild birthday sweater. The sizing on this pattern seems to be way off. I already came to the sickening conclusion that it wasn’t going to fit, ripped it out and started again. Now I’ve finished the back and after stretching it flat, I can see that I’m going to have to pull back all of the shaping from under the arms up, so that I can add in extra length. Frustrating. I still can’t decide if it’s going to be kind of cool or completely hideous. Mostly I think it’s just going to be really, really late.
We finally got our garlic in, 200 bulbs, which will not be enough, I can never plant enough. It was a warm day of golden sunshine that tricked us into feeling like we were deep in the heart of the growing season and that just maybe it might never end. The very next morning we awoke to heaps of snow, with more accumulating every few days ever since.
On one side of that “curtain” there are three young people working on a play involving a turkey with dish glove feet. On the other Thanksgiving dinner is being prepared, with Little Miss Two flitting back and forth from one side to the other.
On Thanksgiving proper we did nothing. We didn’t go for a walk or get down the nice dishes or make a new set of napkins or get dressed up or even go around the table saying what we were thankful for. None of us had the strength or the heart for it. We were just beat. I swore I would do better with Christmas, but my holiday spirit is fickle at best this year.
We laid on the futon and I read my girls book after book; Giving Thanks: The 1621 Harvest Feast, The Great Pumpkin Switch which I didn’t particularly care for, A Stawbeater’s Thanksgiving which made me sad, The Very First Thanksgiving Day which I like, An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving by Louisa May Alcott which made us laugh, and Home Sweet Home which isn’t exactly a Thanksgiving book, but probably should be.
I recently overheard a mother complaining about how she couldn’t take the stress of keeping track of even one library book in her house. I had to laugh. We currently have 66 books checked out, with another 5 sitting at the library waiting to be picked up. To be sure this is excessive, even for us. But there is something about this season, this year and we keep on coming home with more and more.
I’ve been reading Little Men aloud to Mairi Rose. It’s one of my favorite books of all time and I always get a hankering to read it at this time of year, probably because it ends at Thanksgiving. She is reading Gwinna aloud to me. I just finished Mist on the Mountain, both written and illustrated by Jane Flory, which was a chance library find. I picked it up thinking it might be a good family read and my goodness, I just loved it so much! And as much as I loved the story, I think I might love the illustrations even more. I read it all before discovering there is a book that comes before this one. I’m so sad our library system doesn’t have it.
I both started and finished my Christmas shopping this week in an intensive and stressful last minute shopathon and am very glad that is over. I’ll happily settle in to some holiday crafting as a pleasant change of pace.
This post has been sitting, open and half finished, on my desktop for weeks now. But I’ve been spread too thin and in need of a break, so that is just how it stayed.
We’ve yet to make a single batch of applesauce, though it’s on the agenda for today, with apples in storage from our favorite orchard. We have been cider pressing up the road a few times and have made jerky soaked in cider and added apples to our current batch of kraut. I love the way the flavors of a season seep in everywhere.
I ordered stacks and stacks of apple themed books from the library and these were a few of our favorites. Click on the pictures to be taken to book details.
Apple by Nikki McClure: If you are familiar with Nikki McClure’s books you probably know that people tend to either love them or hate them. This was actually her first book, reprinted in recent years for her now wider fan base. Each double page layout features one of her iconic paper-cut illustrations, opposite a single word. There is a story line, but I didn’t feel like the younger children had any hope of following it based almost solely on the pictures. I really didn’t think they would be that interested in it over-all, but it ended up a favorite with both 7 year old Mairi and 2 year old Seraphina.
The Apple Pie Tree is very cute. Seraphina’s favorite picture is the one where the two little girls are running through the sprinkler. I like that you can see individual stitches in the sisters knit socks. Fun artwork in a sweet story following a year in the life of a tree that makes “the best part of apple pies” and the two little girls who love it.
The Apple Pie That Papa Baked: This one may have been my favorite of the batch, with it’s whimsical illustrations and lyrical text. It’s a story that builds on itself as it goes along, until the end when you are reading the whole story, from start to finish, as a sort of poem, with the comforting familiarity of repetition that speaks so strongly to little listeners.
Johnny Appleseed: The classic tale, beautifully and simply told as a poem and complete with lavish folk art illustrations, rich in details. The children loved finding and identifying all of the many animals painted into the landscapes.
Life & Times of the Apple: Handsomely done and full of information, including history, science and folklore, this one is being added to my 5th grade botany block. I’m eager to check out the other books in this series.
The day after the above pictures were taken kicked off a weekend of wild windstorms that swept all of the leaves right from the trees. We’ve also had some of this…
November, I am not ready for you!
My heart isn’t really in a true Handcrafted Wardrobe post tonight. My mind it too full of other things, flitting about, unable to settle. I do have some finished projects, but no pictures, getting photos of myself being rather a bother and a chore at times. I have been pondering cold weather needs and adding to my cool weather capsule wardrobe mood board. I’ve been comparing what I’ve made so far to what I’ve dreamed up with that board to see if I’m keeping on track, and I don’t believe I am. I’ve been teasing out silhouettes in my mind of a Thanksgiving dress in vintage floral print on a deep wine ground. Then I think, oh slippers for the baby! And is there enough of that crimson wool for a bonnet as well? Is that costume plan foolhardy or does it truly stand a chance? And when will I find the time to make it? Is my lesson plan for the week full enough?? And off I go again…
This weekend was supposed to be devoted to sewing for children, but ended up being all about cooking instead. We had our first little snow squall, the fire burned without end and the wind howled and howled. Even now it continues to whip around the eaves and thrash the trees about.
Both our pork and beef arrived this week. A whole pig and whole cow respectively, except for the bits of pork that are still being smoked. As a former long time vegetarian, I am still not entirely comfortable with eating meat, though I make a good show of it. This, I at least believe, is the best way of going about it. Local, free-range, grass-fed meat from a small family farm. The price per pound works out to be around the equivalent of inexpensive cuts of conventional meat, only we get all of the cuts down to expensive roasts and porterhouse steaks, along with the reassurance of a good, healthy life for the animal involved and nutritionally superior food for our family. But it does require freezer space! Which was on the tricky side and lead to a frozen harvest cook-a-thon. I made a huge pot of beef stew with all sorts of autumnal root veggies, turned some summer squash puree into a dairy-free cheese and baked a strawberry crisp, using home-made coconut butter as the topping, as per this recipe. We had the fresh pork chops Saturday night, cooked with onions and pineapple sage and served with orange and yellow chard. I grew pineapple sage for the first time this year and I find the scent intoxicating. It has somehow managed to escape harm despite all of our recent frosts and brilliant scarlet flowers are just beginning to peep out of their buds. I have delusions of somehow finding a way to winter it over in the garden, though I know the thing is impossible. Perhaps I’ll dig it up and see how it fares inside.
I still have some thawed chard that I think I’ll turn into creamed chard and a couple of jars of shredded zucchini that I haven’t decided what to do with. We also spent almost an entire day rendering lard, which was a first for me. Eight whole quarts full! I’ve never even cooked with lard before. And maybe, just maybe I’ll finally sew up that skirt full of pins by my side.
Has the season scattered your focus as well? Do you find a discrepancy between what you like and the items that you make, buy and wear? This has always been true for me and I’ve been trying to correct it, but apparently without much success.
Some pictures from before our trip, some from after; a jumble. Whirlwind life. I can’t keep up. Autumn was just starting to creep in when we left our mostly green land, we came back to full swing blazing glory, fast forward a week and most of the trees were bare and talk of winter suddenly seems natural and fitting. But where did autumn go? I must have blinked.
We got our very first egg, the day before we left, and have had a small, but steady supply since. But there has been chicken drama. Did I mention before that we added to our flock? I wanted no roosters, we now have three. Which I guess is what I get for allowing the kids to make our poultry transactions. Two have been well behaved, one has not and that one of course is an especial favorite of the older boys and something of a terror to younger folks.
A garden inspired dinner; steak and zucchini, with a basil paste and roasted garlic. I read in a book about cutting zucchini julienne before pan frying, instead of in rounds, because it allows it to actually brown. Cooked simply this way with just a squirt of lemon juice? Amazing. I can not stop eating it.
Turmeric Switchel; looks like orange juice, tastes like burning. I jest, I jest! But probably an acquired taste for most, though very helpful for an energy boost and pain relief.
funny little note: I just looked at the recipe again, as I linked to it, and I’ve been making it for weeks with double the spices! I just may need it that strong anyway.
Knitting has been a whirlwind also. My sweater, still missing it’s measly button band, was cast aside. The shawl has been blocked and worn a great deal and loved, but not photographed at all. By the end of tonight I will have four bonnets in need of blocking. The toddler sweater needs grafting and steeking; two things I readily admit to habitually procrastinating on, but there is a time limit on this one, so I’ll have to suck it up some time this week.
For all of my talk, I haven’t sewn at all and really must get to it. I think I may have inadvertently bit off more than I can chew re: Halloween this year.
“She watched her little ones walk around their only world, the one that she was creating. She hoped that the wars within her would not break upon their delicate shores.” ~Marie Mielke, Soul Gardening: Issue 18
I’ve always been a collector of quotes, but I find I am especially so just now.
Yes, I’m rather obsessed with the chickens. But mostly I wanted portraits of each of them to include in my garden journal. One of the roosters tried to crow for the first time a couple of weeks ago and let out this hilarious half-crow, half-squawk that made Elijah and I look at each other and burst out laughing. It has improved since then….if you can consider loud, jarring noises…occurring regularly…. during the only hours I have a shot at sleeping, an improvement. Seraphina’s crow is improving as well. She hides her face in the hem of my skirt and, “ruh-rah-rah-rah-roo”s her heart out. I don’t know why her face must be covered with my skirt to do this, but apparently it must. Mothers know so little really.
Our new batch of sauerkraut includes both red and green cabbage, beets and carrots and looks like a big jar of confetti. For a quick meal last week I seasoned ground beef, kind of as I would for tacos and served it over yams with fried onions, chopped cucumber, and veggie cheese. That one is going on the meal plan, for ease if nothing else. Though really it was quite delicious and hearty as well. Radishes, grated carrot, fresh herbs, avocado, all sorts of things could go on top.
Between us, we collaboratively made a new set of napkins. There were five of us working on them in one way or another, but I think Iain ended up doing most of the sewing. I have another set in a coordinating print all cut out and waiting for a rainy day.
Our back door has been broken for a while, but it’s now to the point where I can literally put my hand through to the outside. I found a potentially beautiful wooden one to replace it, but it required a great deal of attention. Every night for a week, while dinner cooked or the kids did their after-meal chores, I’d go out and work for 45 minute or so. It’s nearly ready now.
Elijah is trying to grow a giant pumpkin. It got a late and rough start. While I don’t think it’s going to end up county fair worthy, it is filling out and shaping up to be the biggest pumpkin we’ve ever grown.
A new nature study necklace for my shop, which is now open, though I’m still in the process of setting it up.
I’ve made a reservation for two nights in November at a tiny lakeside cabin nearby. It’s to be a big surprise for the children. I don’t know when I’ve ever needed a vacation more. I’m now eager to finish my sweater, as I picture myself wrapped in it while watching mist rise off the water, sitting on the cabin porch, steeping in the scent of pine trees, chilled damp earth, and wood smoke. I only have one button band left to go. And pockets. I do believe it shall have pockets.
It’s such a hard season to keep up with posting regularly. This happens every year around this time. I think I usually get into a groove again in October? Meanwhile, I find myself not getting around to it day after day and then putting out these massive monster catch-up posts every two weeks. Such is life.