Category Archives: Books

Yarn Along January

Over the holidays and on book club break I was so excited to have the luxurious freedom to read whatever I wanted.  Of course I ended up spending the better part of December previewing Christmas chapter books, trying desperately to stay ahead of my prolific young reader.  BUT, but, but, there has been other reading as well.  One day I had about 5 minutes to spare at the library on our way back from an appointment and I practically ran through the aisles, pulling books joop, joop, joop.  No time to really read or consider.  Gut reaction, judge a book by it’s cover and move on.  Below is some of what I ended up with.

Deer Valley Girl: I know many people love Lois Lenski, but I have to say, the “he said…”, “Then she said….”, “she put down the box”, “see spot run”, style narrative bores me.  I prefer books to be descriptive and nuanced.  Perhaps this is not the best representation of her work?  I don’t know.  But I do know that it’s 145 pages of large print with pictures and it’s been in the house for like a month and a half now, and I still haven’t made it through.

The Rules of Gentility  It takes place in the Regency period, so think Jane Austen, only with a twist because instead of just telling the story outright, it’s told from the perspective of the main characters’ thoughts and is therefore often hilarious and far “proper”.  Quick, light, humorous, rather dirtier than I assumed and just so much darn fun it was the perfect vacation read for me.  I could use a solid month of reading books like this, along with some simple knitting and a whole lot of tea and quiet.

Brown Girl Dreaming: Picked up with one of my book clubs in mind, with everything else I’ve only read a small section, but it drew me in right away and I already feel like it’s one I’ll be eager to share.

Bellefleur: Having read one book by Joyce Carol Oates that deeply resonated with me and another that was well written, but didn’t quite strike the same chord, when I spotted this the thought of luxuriously immersing myself in an epic long book by her sounded just delightful.  It took me a while to settle into it.  Halfway through and I felt like I’d already read three or four books and yet still was somehow unsure of myself within this book.  It’s long and jumps all over the place.  There are endless characters and ever more being introduced.  On one page you are in the present time (present to the story anyhow) and the next you are a 150 years earlier.  It’s strange and eerie and haunting and sometimes quite dull and confusing and astounding and with all of that I’m still really enjoying it.  I’m in a race to finish because books clubs have started up again and my reading time is limited!

Depletion and Abundance: Life on the New Home Front: I was introduced to this book by a friend of the author and I have to say, I had trouble putting it down and I’m now passing it around to other members of the household.  Overlooking a few editing snafus, this is an amazing, life changing sort of book.

A Country Affair: Not at all what I expected in picking it up.  I had to come back and add it in because I actually completely forgot that I had read it.  I found a library receipt thing and went, “Oh yeah..”  I think we can deduce that it did not make much of an impression on me!

I actually finally, finally, finally finished the Sweater That Shall Not Be Named.  Though it still needs to be blocked and I seem to be taking my sweet old time with this, just as I did with the whole rest of the project.

I’m working on a Lopi sweater for Elijah, who is uber-impatient and keeps implying that it’s taking forever, when in fact it is really not.  It’s pictured above right before I attached the sleeves to the body for the yoke.  I’m now through the vast majority of the yoke.  I cast on round about the first week of November….for a men’s sized fair-isle.  Not. taking. forever.  Actually going fairly quickly, considering he knew going into this that I had some other projects I needed to work on as well.  He always seems to start in on me when he’s sitting somewhere in the vicinity of my feet (which doesn’t seem like the best plan), so I just poke him with my toes a bit, tell him to give me a break, and keep on knitting.

I also knitted myself a pair of slippers, though I don’t have any pictures of them and they don’t really stay on my feet.

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December

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!!!!

with love, Melody, Steve, Iain, Elijah, Galen, Mairi Rose, Seraphina, and a whole slew of chickens

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Yarn Along: 11/11

Although Ginny, the creator and “host” of Yarn Along, seems to have drifted away from it, I’ve always kind of liked that weekly check in of reading/knitting, especially as a way of easing back into blogging after an absence.

There has been a shift in my knitting since I last wrote about it.  I’ve actually been knitting a great deal, just not posting about it.  My Ravelry notebook is woefully behind.  I’ve been working on a number of projects for my kids and feel as though I’ve comfortably settled back into the way things should be.  It would have been better if I was preparing for autumn, but I’ll settle for preparing for winter instead.  I’m currently finishing up the last strap on a romper for Seraphina, when I have the patience I’m working in the roughly eight-zillion ends on a sweater for Iain, and I’m well underway with a sweater for Elijah (pictured above).

I’m currently reading Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers by Ralph Moody with the book club for adolescents that I run at our homeschooling co-op and  The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl  by Timothy Egan with my high-school group.  The upside to leading the groups is that I get to re-read some fantastic books and share them with these children that I adore.  The down side is that it leaves precious little time for me to pick up a new book on my own!

These two actually have a great deal of overlap and relate to each other.  This was not planned, it just happened that way.  Both groups read at a different rate and they just happened to line up.  It’s been interesting for me to re-read the two of them together.  The first is the author’s memoir of  moving to and working the land on a ranch in Colorado at the beginning of the twentieth century.  It’s sort of like the Little House books, only rather harsher.  The second is a collection of information and real-life accounts of the brutal dust storms that absolutely devastated the high plains during the Depression.  Dust storms that were largely due to the settling and plowing up of the prairie sod in places like Colorado, where people where flocking at the turn of the century!  The politics throughout both are just mind-boggling; horrific in many ways and yet somehow not surprising.  Both books are well worth reading and sharing.

I would love to hear suggestions of your very favorite books for the 13-15 year old range!

 

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Hello friends

I started a post about Seraphina’s birthday, one about finishing a quilt for Iain, one about how I thought I was done with blogging.  Not a one of them ever went anywhere.  I know that some of you have been worried and for that I am very sorry.  Others have been sad or frustrated and I apologize for that as well.

I’ve been asked a number of times if I’m no longer in this space for good reasons or for bad and the frank answer is a little of each.

A few months ago we joined a homeschooling co-op.  We meet twice a week for two very long days.  It is both satisfying and all consuming.  I think that for Seraphina it’s like suddenly having 15 new siblings.  She always wants to go so desperately and when we are there it’s running from one thing to the next, all smiles for everyone.  Her current favorite game is to see how outrageously she can behave before Mommy will stop teaching to reprimand her.  When it’s time to leave she cries.  And when we get home, more often then not, she has a complete breakdown and spends the intervening days clinging to me like an infant.  It’s all mommy, all the time, making it pretty impossible to accomplish just about anything.

I’m co-leading a book club for the oldest kids (including Elijah and Iain when he has the time), where we’ve been reading the likes of Wuthering Heights and To Kill a Mockingbird.  And yes, I am  still not-so-secretly in love with Atticus Finch.  Fun fact: I attended the 7th grade book fair as the ghost of Catherine Earnshaw after having donned a lacy nightgown of my mother’s and powdering my face white.

I’m leading a book club for the next level down, including Galen, where we are just finishing up Swallows and Amazons, even though Galen has read it before.  That kiddo is a tough one.  It’s hard to find an appropriate book he hasn’t read.

I teach what I tend to think of as a small, mixed age, Waldorf kindergarten type class, which Seraphina has lovingly christened her “circle time class”.  I have a huge age range, with ten 1-8 year olds.  I lead a circle time with dancing, singing, story telling and finger plays followed by nature crafts.  We’ve made nests and nature weavings and played with snow dough, little clay pinch pots planted out with cress and more.

I’m also assistant teaching two drawing classes and helping out with a singing class.  It’s a lot.  With our dietary restrictions even just the food prep is an ordeal.  We’ve just shifted to a much more laid back, one day a week schedule, with lots of outdoor time and most classes being done until Sept.  I’ll be glad to take a step back and regroup.  Of course we have a singing concert, two performances of a play, an Irish dance concert and a ballet concert, with all the associated dress rehearsals over the course of the next three weeks, so we are still keeping quite busy, but things truly do ease up after that.

This is all the hectic but good developments.  Also in our world…

We were informed that Steve’s job of 14 years is moving several states away at the end of the year, and as we have made the decision not to move with it, there is a lot to consider.

Our ill little one, who miraculously and inexplicably grew well again around Christmas time, just as inexplicably began to decline again by Easter and we’ve found ourselves back in the world of long sleepless nights and seemingly endless worry.  I come unmoored at these times and loose all concept of time or priorities beyond what is in front of me.  I can’t even see beyond that.  It’s not even possible.  Full weeks just drift away without my being able to account for them.

Honestly, the only reason I am managing to finally post at all is that I’m laid up with “post vital cough syndrome”, Pleurisy (inflammation of tissue lining the lungs) and a resurgence of the RADS that hasn’t really given me trouble in over a decade.  In layman’s terms: whenever I try to move about I start coughing so hard that I see stars and feel like I’m going to vomit.

As to my future here, I truly don’t know.  Perhaps this post will be the catalyst that propels me back into regular blogging or maybe this will forever serve as my farewell post.  I feel like it could go either way.  There is so much up in the air right now that I have no idea what the future will bring.

No matter what, please know that this space and your involvement in it has been incredibly dear to me over the years.  Thank you all so much for sharing this little window into our life.  I’ve so enjoyed all of your comments and messages.

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Avocado Pink

“God gave you a mind.  It is your job to use it.  And use it properly.  Do not waste it on negative thoughts or greedy desires.  If you focus your mind and use it wisely, you can achieve anything in this lifetime.  Healing is in your hands, not another’s.” ~Katina Makris quoting her father

A little while ago I dipped some Andes del Campo into the dye pot with avocado pits to make some special yarn for my pink obsessed little one.  It turned the palest of pearly pink-peach, a wonderfully pretty shade.

And this week I knitted it up into a cozy balaclava for woodland hikes and winter outings.  It’s a little late in the season for such a project, but she had suddenly outgrown her warmest hats and a quick, easy knit sounded satisfying.  I over blocked it a bit, but happily she will have plenty of room for next year.

Can you tell from her face that it’s mud season?

I’m currently reading Autoimmune Illness and Lyme Disease Recovery Guide: Mending the Body, Mind, and Spirit.  It’s probably not for everyone, but much of it resonates with me and this library copy I have here is full of little slips of paper marking pages with information that I want to look into further or things I wish to remember or implement.

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SaveOh, and meet Persephone the lamb, our very newest neighbor!

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February

Frozen
Enchanting
Beautiful
Remarkable
Unusual
Arctic like
Rosey
Yummy

Calendar stitching and poem by: Galen

We had a mild beginning to winter.  There was snow, but just in a general solid coating sort of way, not a burrow through and where on earth to put it all?  Sort of way.  The kind of snow that people south of us get excited about and we don’t even really notice.  Or bother to shovel.  And then suddenly heaps and heaps all at once.  Now, what?  I don’t exactly know what to make of it, but it’s warm and melty.  A late winter and perhaps now an early spring?  I’ll not let myself get too attached to that idea. I wake up every morning exhausted.  The urge to hibernate is strong.  But as the light strengthens I can feel a boost in my own resilience and I crave more from life.

Every evening that I’m able I bundle Seraphine into a sled and go out for a walk.  I watch the colors wash across the evening sky, no two walks quite the same and often wish for my camera when it’s been left at home, but there is no capturing it.  By the time we get back it’s gone.

Steve had emergency surgery and has been home recovering for all but 3 days this month so far.  He will be fine, but getting back to regular life is slow.  It was a fairly minor procedure, but with a long and painful recovery.

Meanwhile our young one who has been fairing poorly this past year miraculously and inexplicably started to grow well again two days before Christmas.  And for a month there was nothing but increasing strength and joy.  And I set to work trying to reclaim some sense of normalcy in our family rhythms, in our school day, even in how we relate to one another.  Re-entry is a challenge, a very welcome one, but tricky all the same.  The last few weeks things have slipped a bit, with concerning symptoms starting to arise again.  I know not where life will go from here.

I finished my birthday book and enjoyed it thoroughly.  The first part is a memoir including some raw glimpses of depression and a life-style gone ire, but also of hope, deep love, and devotion as well.  The second part would really only be of interest to someone who knows many plants by name and cares about the yearly cycle of a garden and wants to picture different flowers juxtaposed in their mind’s eye, all of which suited me just fine!

February is poetry month here.  One of those little markers of the year that defines the feeling of a month and has for so many years that I don’t even have to plan it any longer, it just is.  Most of the books for the children this year came from the Poetry for Young People collection.

And here is one by Mairi, just because I thought it was rather clever for a second grader…

Mairi
Aren’t
I
Right?
I am!

This is also the season for desperately drooling over gardening books.  I read The Sensuous Garden probably a decade ago now, long before I had ever heard of Montagu, a.k.a. Monty Don, and it made such a strong impression on me.  It’s not about the technical aspects of gardening, nor is it really about design, it’s about how a garden feels, smells, sounds.  It’s about the experience of being a gardener in a garden.  It’s beautiful.  I just checked it out again and it remains one of my favorite gardening books.  I also checked out this one. My goodness.  Total horticultural eye candy. It left me seriously wondering if His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales would let me just camp out in his garden.  I mean it can’t hurt to ask right?

On a different note, I really think I have to find some cold weather climate gardening gurus because sometimes amazing voyeuristic floral profusion is a necessity for mental health in the middle of a string of blizzards and other times, when you are listening to someone complain about winter wearing on and on before turning around to show off their daffodils blooming at the end of February… while you’re still looking at several feet of snow outside…and well… you kind of want to slap that person.  But maybe that’s just me.  I’m not very nice sometimes.  Also our early-early daffodils generally start blooming in the fourth week of April.  So yeah.  There is that.

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The Handcrafted Wardrobe: Decluttering Craft Areas

A little update on the 2017 decluttering challenge: I’ve been at it for just about four weeks now and so far I’ve rid our home of 741 items.  I am serious about this.  Conversely in that same time I did come home with a couple of new things.  Circumstances considered, I was very well behaved.  The first series of temptations came during an outing to a rare and used bookstore where everything was being sold for next to nothing.  The second was a craft swap where everything was available for literally nothing.  Books and craft supplies.   My kryptonite.

A hundred and six year old first edition copy of a book that I thought might make a pleasant family read aloud, two children’s magazines from 1937 and 1944 respectively, that have the sweetest illustrations and which I intend to tuck into Mairi’s Easter basket and two old knitting magazines.  Including the six or so books that Mairi, Galen, and Seraphina picked out, we spent $12.

I came home with a few things from the sewing and knitting exchange as well.  There was an entire room full of free sewing and knitting supplies people!  I’m only human.  Still, I dropped off three boxes worth of donations and everything I came home with fit in my handbag.  Not such a bad exchange.

The two designs above are from Bear Brand Campus Knits Vol. 335, cira 1947.  The patterns have rather humorous names such as “Beau Catcher” (Steve checked it out and found the bait inferior).  These two above are “Art Appreciation” and “Collegiate” and I can’t decide which I’d rather grace my needles.

I started sifting through craft supplies before I was truly ready because of the swap.  It’s really an emotional process, much like sorting through sentimental items.  I’m afraid this is one area where I’m guilty of keeping every last thing, just in case.  It’s comforting to me to feel that in lean times I could make whatever might be needed.  But I want to live with more freedom now, not stockpiling for a future which may or may not come.  I’ve started looking at certain fabrics and telling myself that I’ve made my dress or blouse or whatever from it and now I can let what’s left move on to someone else.  It has already served it’s purpose for me.  I don’t have to use up every last scrap.  I’m trying to think less in terms of what I could use, as just about everything falls into that category, and more what I genuinely think I will use.  And perhaps more importantly, what I want to use.

What about you?  Do you have experience with decluttering craft supplies or trying to keep a more minimalist craft set up?

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36

My birthday was beautiful and I feel blessed.  As a gift to myself I finally, finally, finally sewed the buttons onto my Calligraphy cardigan and blocked it and I’ve refused to take it off since it dried.  It still needs pockets.  I need more pockets in my life.  I’ll get to it at some point.  Unfortunately the buttons seem a bit too small or the holes have stretched a bit too much, either way I might have to do something about that as well.  But none of that is stopping me from wearing it constantly.  The yarn is Swish Worsted in “Doe” (I believe this color has been retired).

I just finished reading The Winthrop Woman.  It was most enjoyable.  I had trouble putting it down.

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snow child, snow sweater

I’ve not yet finished A Charlotte Mason Companion, but a big tempting stack of books came into the library for me and I figured I better start in on them in order to finish up before they are due back.  Also, it’s nice to have a bit of time to think things over and digest before moving on.

I just finished reading The Snow Child, which was enchanting and just the right sort of reading for these grey winter days.  Our current family read-aloud is Happy Times in Noisy Village which is keeping the middle set giggling.

I know I recently posted a picture of Iain’s sweater, but it’s really Mairi’s sweater, a fair isle featuring a snowflake motif, that I’ve been working on.  In sock weight yarn with size 3 needles, it’s been slow going, but I’m finally getting close now.  With no deadline and no pressure to finish from myself or anyone else, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the process.  I’m looking forward to seeing her wearing it.  Just this morning I came to the conclusion that I do not have enough yarn to finish the button bands.  sigh.  I have an abundance of every other color.  Just not that color.  Meh.

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Nature Walks and Birthday Wishes….

One of the rhythms we are trying to get back to is that of a daily nature walk.  Quite apart from all of the benefits for the children, I’m a better person when I go for a walk every day and that is good for us all!

I have a birthday coming up at the end of the month.  A couple of people have asked what I would like.  I always seem to have lists, both mental and literal, of what the kids need or want, but for me?  There are a great many things that I want in this life, but don’t put me on the spot by asking what they actually are!

I’ve given it some thought and this is what I came up with…. I would like subscriptions to Taproot and Making magazines.    A new lens for my camera, you know, one where the auto focus function actually works.  And this book, which our library system persists in not having, no matter how many times I check.  And enough warm and soft wool yarn to knit a hood  and maybe some matching cabled mittens for those long, cold, winter walks.  And perhaps even more yarn for a cabled pullover?  Too may of those to link to…  And a bag with a zipper that reliably closes and stays closed, with pockets inside so that everything doesn’t get tangled up in a big jumbled mess and a pile of 2×4′s to build a bench in the mudroom which seems like it would solve any number of problems and charcoal grey wool fabric to make myself a skirt (perhaps something as simple as this?  Scratch that, I think I want this one) and something that blooms and smells sweetly for the dark days of winter.  I would love a pair of shoes that I actually like the style of, which also fit my orthotics and don’t pinch my toes and make them ache, but I think that’s probably too much to ask of any day, much less a mere birthday.  Mostly I think I’d be content with just a peaceful day, preferably one where I don’t have to make dinner.  And maybe a really good cup of tea.  Yeah, I want the tea too.

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