Category Archives: WIP

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!

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

By

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.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

By

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.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

By

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.

Save

Save

Save

By

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.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

By

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.

Save

Save

Save

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!

Save

By

While we were away….

The last picture is of our arrival back home.

It was the week we discovered Seraphina’s love of slides.  On the way down the sky worked up a sampler as we encountered every kind of cloud imaginable.  I randomly took pictures of and off bridges.  We collectively discovered that while virtually useless in the country, when stuck in the suburbs, sidewalk chalk may well be one of the best things ever invented. I knitted a whole shawl, from start to finish, in less than a week, then cast on a cool weather cardigan for our littlest one.  My hands ached with knitting.  It’s possible that a simple textured shawl may be just about the most perfect sort of travel knitting.  We visited with sisters and aunts and uncles and grandparents.  Memories were made.

It was not easy.  Three of seven days in and lacking a co-parent, I found myself with three children who wanted to go home and one who wasn’t keen on coming in the first place. I coaxed and spoke of visits with Grandma and a trip to the Renaissance Faire.  They rallied.  Somewhat.  For segments of time.  The “better period” lapsed. My mother got sick.  A migraine set in.  Everywhere was loud; trains and traffic and sirens, and crowded and smelling of exhaust and lawn spray.  I’m sure all that was true on our last visit, but is just seemed so much more so this time.  Towards the end of the (marathon) week I started having visions of myself walking through my own front door, collapsing on the floor in tears of relief and fervently vowing never to leave the house again.  For a twist, I actually found myself sitting on my parent’s living room floor, the morning before returning home, after a grand total of 1 1/2 hours sleep, crying over what I’m not even sure I know.  Many people needed different things from me and it was not possible to accommodate them all.  There was heartbreak. It all seemed very tragic at the time.  And no, this is not how I usually behave.  My nerves were just that frayed.  Sensory over-load.  Too many, too fragile people to hold the space for.  As it turns out, we were decidedly not ready for travel just yet.

Coming home we left what felt like August and drove on into November.  I didn’t weep or make any dramatic declarations, but after the car was unpacked and the kids sent off to bed, I did sit with a cup of tea and stare at the fire for a good long while.

It’s chilly here now.  We missed peak foliage at the pond.  I’ve been thinking of making Mairi Rose a winter coat.  Quite suddenly it seems to be time to stop thinking and start sewing or come up with a plan B.  I’m glad and ready to be back home with my sewing machine.

I’Save Save Save Save Save Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

By

cloaked in goldenrod

“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.

A single golden, glorious day, where, at least for a little while, all seven of us were together and well enough to be out and about.

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.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

By

The Handcrafted Wardrobe: Simplicity Seeking

First off, I want to say thank you for all of the kind comments on my last post.  I’ve read them all, several times.  And I wish I had the time to write back to each of you, but that’s just not possible right now.  I sincerely thank you for the words of comfort, encouragement and support.

This week I’ve been planning a handcrafted wardrobe on a smaller scale, for my dear Mairi Rose, who is very much in need of clothing for the autumn.  I came up with a pretty simple plan with just a handful of different patterns and shapes: a basic sweatshirt-tunic type thing*, a playdress, leggings.  I have a pajama pattern that I might alter to make her a pair or two of elastic waist slacks with elastic gathers at the ankles in a sturdy fabric for hiking and climbing trees and that sort of thing.  And I think I’ll do a basic, quick and easy peasant dress for nighties and maybe cut it short for a blouse or two.   I’m really proud of myself for keeping my plans minimal and reasonably do-able.

I realized that this sort of simplicity is really what I need within my own wardrobe making endeavors.  A set of capsule patterns for a capsule wardrobe.  Easier said than done.

I was once invited to join a group of dear women in encouraging each other to be creative.  While I was honored to be asked and delighted to be involved with these lovely women, I was totally baffled by the idea of needing encouragement in this area.  Frankly, if people really wanted to help me out, they would create some sort of support group that teaches people to resist creative urges.  Or perhaps find something that could just siphon off all those surplus creative juices that so often turn me into an inspiration fueled crazy person. Because, like so many other areas of my life, this is what happens when I come up with a good basic plan…. the “and maybe…”s start up.  And maybe I’ll make this alteration to that pattern and this one and that one, effectively turning into drafting an entirely new pattern, which is neither quick, nor easy, nor simple.  Or I’ll come up with a collection of basic patterns and maybe decide that I should just add in a few other ones just for fun and maybe a few to add interest, etc., and it snowballs.

Less stress, streamlined sewing, comfortable basics, these are really what I need right now, so I must find a way to gag the muse and get on with it.  Perhaps if I just keep uttering the words, “Keep it simple, keep it simple, keep it simple” over and over again?

Do you think you could come up with core patterns to be repeated for a basic wardrobe and stick to it?  What would you include?

*I now see that this pattern has been retired, so back to the drawing board on that one.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save


By

harvesting and a sweater for every occation

The garlic is in and at least a few blueberries made it to the freezer.  I had really hoped to make it back to the blueberry farm again by now.  We thought the tiny girl would just park herself somewhere and gorge away, blueberries being her very favorite.  But she took her task very seriously and was determined to fill her own little basket.  She went off on her own (we kept an eye on her of course).  We kept asking if she wanted to pick with one of us and she would reply, “No, I pickin’ with myself!”

It’s birthday sweater season, where my knitting project is dependent on who happens to be in the room with me.  I have one color work sweater where I feel completely certain about the color selection, but nervous about the pattern and a second one where I’m completely at ease with the pattern, but nervous about the color selection.

I actually haven’t started Iain’s sweater yet. My gauge is so horrendously off that I haven’t had the courage to face it.  Ravelry had the wrong yarn weight listed and I was silly enough not to double check with the pattern.  Every time I sit down to try and figure it out I think,”OR I could just pick up one of these sweaters I already have started and have a nice relaxing knit.  Yes, that does sound quite good.”  And I do just that.

It occurred to me that this is my last week of summer in which to accomplish anything.  Next week our schedule explodes and we are thrust into a full scale, full on, hectic autumn schedule.  Where did the summer go???

I’ve been frantically trying to get the house and our lives together, but I’m so easily sidetracked.  My ridiculous mind keeps having nagging thoughts like, “hmm, maybe we should try to paint the bathroom real quick?”  A perfect example: yesterday I sat down on the futon with a basket of fabric to sort through.  As I was cutting off scrappy ends and tossing them into a trash bag, I was acutely aware of the flat throw pillow I was leaning on.  Let’s just say that the situation escalated and Steve came home from work to find me sitting in the middle of a huge pile of stuffing and bits of random fabric, pulling apart packed together fibers and blistering my hands chopping scraps up into teeny-tiny little flecks.  These things happen, right?  I’m happy to say that we do now have three fluffy pillows to recline on at the end of our long hard days. Of course, they are now too big for their pillow cases, so there is that….

I’m sometimes alarmed by how much my life resembles an episode of I Love Lucy.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

By