Category Archives: Books

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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Evolving

“It is something to know what to do with ourselves when we are beset, and the knowledge of this way of the will is so far the secret of a happy life, that it is well worth imparting to the children.  Are you cross?  Change your thought.  Are you tired of trying?  Change your thoughts.  Are you craving for things you are not to have? Change your thoughts; there is a power within you, your own Will, which will enable you to turn your attention from thoughts that make you unhappy and wrong, to thoughts that make you happy and right.  And this is the exceedingly simple way in which the Will acts.” ~Charlotte Mason

I think (hope) that we are finally past this recent bout of illness.  Never ending sickness seems to be everywhere this winter, doesn’t it?  I’m wiping all of the doorknobs, handles and drawer pulls with germ killing essential oils, and I added a bit to our hand washing soap as well.  We are quite ready to be done with all of this!

We are slowly getting back into a rhythm, adding in one thing at a time, including trying to be back in this space more often.  I’ve missed sharing here.   I’m reading A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflextions on The Gentle Art of Learning, which I started before, but was unable to finish before it had to be returned to the library.  I’ve taken it up again, this time with my own copy, which is rapidly becoming dogeared- even though I’m usually quite against that sort of thing.  But I  kind of bought it for just that purpose.

I’ve sign on for the 2017 in 2017 decluttering challenge and it feels fully soul satisfying and just very right at this moment to be distilling what is most important to us.

And on the subject of taking what feels good and right and letting the rest go, I’ve decided that our birthday sweater tradition needs tweaking.  It’s a tradition that we love in many ways, but the last couple of years it hasn’t flowed smoothly as it has in the past.  This year I told Iain and Mairi Rose well in advance that I wasn’t even going to try to finish their sweaters on time.  I’m not sure what this tradition is going to look like going forward.  I’m still thinking it over.  It did occur to me that when I started making a sweater for each child on every birthday, I had 3 small boys; one with a birthday in January, a tiny one in February and one in May.  Now I have two in January, one in February, one in March and one in May, with this year’s sweaters ranging in sizes from 4 to men’s large, and yet I’m still acting like things are just the same!  Including aspects like keeping them a complete surprise, even though with two teens in the house there are now multiple “children” who don’t go to bed until I should be!  I say should.  That doesn’t mean I do, but I’d like to see a shift there as well.

There are many changes happening in our lives right now.  This feels like a period of intense growth.  It feels strong.

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Advent Blur

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.

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Hello

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.

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The Handcrafted Wardrobe: take 2, a belated post

Trying again here!  And special thanks to Elijah for humoring me with more pictures.

Details: Cindersmoke Shawl in Cascade 220 from dear Corina.

I just finished reading Life Disrupted: Getting Real About Chronic Illness in Your Twenties and Thirties.  I found the last section, regarding relationships, the most useful.  Though what I could really use right now is resources on parenting chronically ill children.  So if anyone has suggestions there, please pass them along.

In her chapter about what she terms “Meltdown Mode”, she talks about how she could handle a seemingly endless barge of medical interventions, pain, and life threatening emergencies with grace and aplomb, only to break down, crying hysterically upon finding the wrong type of salad dressing in her take out bag.  On top of everything else to have some basic simple thing go wrong…you think, “I can’t even have this work out?!?”  It feels like a slap in the face.  I get it.  I’ve thought it.  I’ve done it.

And we all of us have our different break-down issues.  She goes on to say that her chronically ill father tends to lose it over waiting in lines or vague and confusing instruction manuals.  For me, I’ve come to see that clothing is a falling apart issue for me.  It’s hard enough to have the energy to get out the door, factor in corralling and organizing five children, and then to be faced with having nothing to wear that fits right or is comfortable or appropriate as well?  Too much.  I think that was kind of what I was trying to say with this post.  And why this project, which may seem frivolous and silly to some, is so important to me.

A very happy Thanksgiving to those of you in the US.  And I hope that all of you, everywhere, have a great many things to be happy for today. love, Melody

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Apples, Books, Cider…

Oh, New England!  You just do autumn so well!

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.

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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…

Though it’s mostly melted now.

November, I am not ready for you!

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Lil Shepherd in the Rain

In an otherwise dry summer, I feel as though we’ve had a whole season’s worth of rain over the last week.  There were points when I was convinced that the entire house was just going to bob up and float away.  I would lie in bed at night in semi-consciousness listening to the torrent all around me and get the impression that I myself was being washed away.  In a way I kind of adored it.

I made Seraphine a Lil Shepherd vest a couple of weeks ago when I needed a break from tiny sock needles and thin fiddly sock yarn for bitty socks.  She likes the vest (I think it’s the pom-poms) and the socks, which is a huge boon for me because more and more often lately she’s been telling me that woolen items are not soft and that they “hurt”.  She’s very fickle.  There are some items that I consider rough, but she accepts without question and others that are soft as can be and she turns her nose up at them!  Very frustrating for a mama-knitter.  It seems to help for her to see me knitting them.  She always wants to know what I’m making and who it’s for.  Then there is a build up of excitement about this special bit of clothing just for her.  I think that may have been the saving grace of the vest and socks.

I just started reading A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L’Engle.  I can’t remember who recommended it?

The salad above is kale with chicken, avocado, black olives and that vegetable cheese I’ve been making (it’s similar to this, but we have our own way of doing it).  That was nice, but I’m terribly disgruntled about food in general lately and sick to death of everlasting elimination diets, which I’ve been on various variations of for the better part of 16 years now.  And I just seriously need a big long vacation from the whole darn thing.  Unfortunately, vacations from eating don’t tend to work out well.  I know there are plenty of ways to make it exciting and delicious, I’m just too everlasting busy and tired to, a) be that creative and b)  actually have the time to make it all.  And the times when I do manage to make something novel and interesting, it takes hours to create and disappears in mere moments because there are so many people digging in.  Alright, end rant.  Moving on.  Here if not in my head.

I’ve experienced a very unexpected knitting/wardrobe windfall!  I had this theory that my best bet, as my kids get older, for insuring that they quietly and happily keep wearing my knitted goods was to be as discreet about their home-made nature as possible….classic men’s wear colors, simple designs, nothing that’s going to call too much attention. In passing Iain mentioned liking brown, so I was thrilled when a shade of brown went on clearance in my favorite, go-to, everyday yarn (the color is “Doe”.  It’s now sold out in worsted, but still available in DK weight for $2.81 a ball, which is a pretty fabulous price for superwash merino!). I ordered enough for a sweater and started planning my simple, non-threatening, fingers-crossed teenager approved, palatable classic.

Imagine my surprise when a week after the yarn arrived he told me he wanted me to make him something “wild” and unlike anything he owns, with as many colors as possible!  Preferably loud, bright, attention grabbing colors!  I guess the joke is on me with that one!  That’s more than alright because the consolation prize for being way off base is that I’m getting a new autumn sweater after-all.  The full coverage warm sort of one that I had in mind, though in a different color and pattern than planned.  I never would have bought the yarn for myself, but since it’s already here…  And I also have the unique, endearing and amusing task of working up a wild and crazy sweater for my son’s seventeenth birthday.  Not a bad deal at all.

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The Handcrafted Wardrobe: History

My father recently acquired some old family photographs.  I want copies of every single one of them, but so far I’ve only managed to scan a couple.

The baby in that top one is my grandmother.  Would you just look at my great-grandmother?  Pearls at the beach!  Ack!  I love it.  The second one is my grandmother again, but a bit older this time.  All of those ruffles slay me.  The last one is of my grandparents together.  I’ve had this one for a while now and that dress has really got to be one of my absolute favorite dresses of all time.  I have no idea what color it actually was, but I always pictured the bodice in a dark green velvet, with the skirt being a warm ivory.

And this one….

Is really completely off topic, but the boy on the left there is my father and I just really think that teenage Elijah looks a lot like teenage dad.  And I also kind of think Elijah would dig that jacket.

Over the years I’ve discovered that I adore fashion and clothing, and yet I have absolutely no interest in current trends.  A huge part of the appeal for me is the story behind the garment.  And it just seems like the only story behind most modern styles is that so-and-so famous person wore it and it caught on.  That means nothing to me.  Which is not to say that I’m not influenced by current fashion.  We none of us live in a vacuum!  Everyone’s views and tastes are shaped by the time and environment that they live in.  I’m just not passionate about it. 

What really fascinates me is where clothing and history meet.  Those times in the past where situations arose that shaped a style.  Events that may not even seem to have any relation to fashion at all, but which in retrospect, have had a huge impact.  Think of the invention of the bicycle and how it was really the start of the downfall of the strictly bound corset.  Women suddenly had this new found freedom in a mode of transportation that was relatively inexpensive and socially acceptable for them to utilize on their own.  The only catch?  Dressed as they were, they couldn’t bloody well breathe to make it up those hills!

In particular I’m truly intrigued by those periods of times where clothing yourself and family was a struggle, say during wartime or a depression.  What really inspires me are those times when women, and men too I’m sure, but mostly it was women, looked at a situation and said, “okay, we’re going to make this work, but we’re going to make it beautiful too”.  Times when creativity and ingenuity were paramount.  Think flour sack dresses or blouses cut just so, to use a minimal amount of fabric while still remaining feminine and flattering.  Think of women going in droves into factories and farm work and needing to keep their hair out of the way for safety’s sake.  That could have been a strictly utilitarian endeavor, but women went and cultivated styles that were glamorous instead.  Have you seen some of the dresses and other articles of clothing from after WWII made of silk maps?  With cloth rationing still on the escape maps printed on silk being brought back by soldiers must have seemed as good a source of fabric as any.  Look at knitting in times of lack, when stripes become en vogue and intricate fair-isles made from odds and ends, along with whatever you could harvest from a worn out old sweater, start cropping up. Even the rebound effect of luxuriating in fabulously full skirts and the completely frivolous use of fabric after rationing was lifted is an intriguing glimpse into a particular period in time.

As I said, it’s the story that captivates me, whether it be a hand-woven fabric made in some ancient tradition, the alchemy of yarn dyed with local flora, or a little snippet of embroidery that’s the mark of a doting mother’s hand.  Perhaps that’s why I’m so drawn to making clothing.  Hand made garments have their own unique tales to tell.

For a lavishly illustrated look at some of the fashions of years gone by, taking you all the way back as far as we can gather, check out Fashion: The Definitive History of Costume and Style.  It does not disappoint.

What about you?  Are there any eras you are particularly drawn to?  What is the appeal?

Last week I forgot to announce the next challenge!  It’s August 15: Just for Fun.

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boyish scenes and other bits

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SaveA while ago, possibly months even (?), someone wrote to me asking if I could post a picture of my on-going blanket project.  I replied that of course I could!  And then promptly forgot about the whole thing.  Better late than never?

This project is just over a year old now.  In terms of size perspective, Iain is right around 5′ 10″ and the blanket is folded under in such a way that maybe 1/2 to 2/3′s of the width is showing.  I had kind of thought that maybe it would be nice to finish it for this autumn, but I ran out of yarn ends to add to it, so I’ll have to keep completing other projects for a while to replenish my supply.

More about the blanket here.  And here is another in progress photo.  Looking back at these old posts and knowing where we are at right now, all I can think is that this has been a very hard year.

I haven’t done much reading this week, but when I do I’m back to reading Living Language as I start trying to flesh out the coming school year.

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And it was summer-

warm, beautiful summer. ~Hans Christian Anderson

After dinner swim…

This girl cracks me up.  This is the funny face you get if you ask for a smile…

Maybe some peek-a-boo?

I made BBQ Pizza with Chicken, Bacon and Cilantro.  We used our own crust recipe.  I omitted both the cumin and the maple syrup from the sauce and switched out the apple butter for pumpkin puree.  It was very good.  I think it may be even better with the apple butter: motivation for putting up extra jars this autumn.

Mairi Rose has been all about popsicles this summer.  This left me scrambling for some sort of popsicle mold.  I could not bring myself to buy the plastic ones.  These stainless steel ones look great.  But when you add up the per person price for as many people as we have?  Eeek.  Steep.  Finally, I spent $10 on a set of made-in-Spain tempered juice glasses.  We fill them up, pop in a spoon which we already have, freeze and voila!  A couple minutes on the counter and they pop out perfectly.  The ones I got are actually a little big for this purpose, which of course everyone is seriously thrilled by.

I had a conversation years ago with a friend who was trying to build an ecologically sound, healthy house.  He was talking about how in the name of recycling and conserving resources you could go out and buy an incredible artisan crafted sink made of say, reclaimed copper for thousands of dollars.  Or you could go to your local salvage shop and get a previously owned sink for $30.  I often try to think in those terms.  There isn’t always a simple, less splashy and obvious solution, but often times there is.

I’m reading The Secret Garden to the younger children.  I used to read it aloud ever year, but it’s now been several years since I have.  Long enough that they don’t remember it.  The older two, of course, could probably tell you the story inside and out!

Another pair of toddler socks done and her looking like a wee, woodland sprite in them.  The yarn is leftover Stroll Sock Yarn, from Elijah’s vest, in “Peapod” and “Forest Heather”.

The world….I don’t know what to say.  It always seems almost vulgar to post about quiet, sweet everyday life in the face of so much suffering.  To say my thoughts and prayers are with those who are in pain seems both trite and obvious.  Like most people, I don’t have any answers.

Edited to add dress details because a couple of people asked.

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