On his last visit my dad sang Seraphina her favorite song as an early birthday surprise. Guess who is getting a teddy bear for her 4th birthday next week? Shh, don’t tell!
Seraphina’s Christmas Wish List: Eggnog, jelly beans, chocolate cake, candy, bananas, oranges, clementines, grapefruits. My mother asked, “don’t you want any baby dolls or toys or books?” Nope. Just sweets.
Elijah watches old episodes of Bob Ross, Galen watches Elijah, I try to figure out which walls can still fit more paintings. The northern lights one was my Christmas present from Elijah. Galen is an extremely prolific painter, but I tend to get fewer pictures of his as he tends to paint at night.
Two books that are perfect for around the time of the Winter Solstice:
Little Snow Bear by Hazel Lincoln has been a family favorite for years. I believe Elijah received it for his 4th Christmas. The illustrations are divine and I think they were the inspiration for the painting in this post. It’s a very sweet and gentle story in which little snow bear goes out in search of the missing sun. Our copy is worn and battered and greatly beloved.
Lucia and the Light by Phyllis Root was a happenstance library find and entirely new to us this year. The story is modeled off of Nordic lore, but more modern in tone and appearance. It had me from the opening page, “Lucia and her mother and baby brother lived with a velvet brown cow and a milk-white cat in a little house at the foot of a mountain in the Far North. The cow gave milk, the cat slept by the fire, and the baby cooed and grew fat by the hearth.” When the sun disappears one day Lucia’s mother tells her that they will, “be each other’s sun until the real sun returns”. The sweet story turns into an adventure when Lucia sneaks out to find the sun only to discover it’s been stolen by trolls! The trolls, admittedly, were too much for sensitive, three-year-old Miss Seraphina, but I will keep this one in mind for next year.
Life with teens: I have one who walks about draped in home-made whips and another who randomly wears boxing gloves as some sort of bizarre fashion statement.
The baby doll Juliette has been in a somewhat horrifying state for about a year now. She never really recovered from that time when Galen decided to give her “troll hair”. And beyond which was getting rather grubby with two years of loving. When two days before Christmas my neighbor dropped by with some brown mohair yarn I decided the time was ripe for an impromptu surprise makeover. I do not adore the highlights. They are what was salvageable of her original hair, plus the little bit of that yarn that I had leftover. I was afraid that if I used an entirely new hair color she might be too different, so I tried to blend the two. It’s ok-ish I guess. I also cleaned her up, refreshed her rosy cheeks and donned her in her new Christmas nightie (of course) she made her grand reappearance on Christmas Eve.
Elijah helped with the Christmas pajamas again this year. Thank goodness. It’s too daunting for me alone. It took 16 yards of fabric to cover those boys of mine! Sixteen! We hated the pattern (Simplicity 2771) so much that by the time we got to Galen’s we decided to switch to another pattern entirely (Kwik Sew K3945). Elijah made that complete set on his own in probably a quarter of the time it would have taken us with the other pattern. And probably half the size- the others were HUGE!
For the girls I used old standbys. My favorite Kwik Sew 3423 and it’s bigger sister Kwik Sew 3105. I used the latter for Mairi Rose’s first Christmas and have turned to them both regularly ever since. I made them each a pair of pink organic cotton velour leggins for underneath. And they are terribly sweet and soft and toasty and cuddly in them.
Oh, I almost forgot! Seraphina’s romper….I was rushing out the door headed for a long car ride and trying to quickly pull together everything I needed for the day’s knitting. I had every intention of sizing up the Lady from the North Cabled Romper, but something went amiss with my paypal and it decided to treat my payment as a check requiring three days to clear. Are you kidding me?? So I grabbed a stitch dictionary instead and designed my own as I went along. I was already well into it when the pattern arrived several days later.
And the chickadee! I love him so. It was a little project just for pleasure, started with some friends, mostly crafted on Christmas day, finished a day or two later. I think I might have to make a tradition of it and make a new bird each year to add to the tree.
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.
Funny story: As alluded to, two or three months ago I tried making a big deal of getting all purdied up for Steve’s birthday. We were planning to go on a date, just the two of us. I quietly worked on a new dress to wear, in a style he would appreciate, as a surprise. I thought it was a sweet idea, but suspected he might be less thrilled when he found out that Seraphina has been telling everyone we know about daddy having a “secret dress”.
It turns out he just laughed. Which I knew he would. But the story is funnier the other way.
So, I do this thing sometimes….just because we are totally weird…where I randomly surprise Steve for special occasions by dressing up in the style of a different era, complete with hair, make-up, etc. And I direct your attention to our ’50′s Valentine’s day (yikes. Kind of wishing I hadn’t looked. 4 years and baby #5 had some serious impact!). No idea where this started or why (actually, after re-reading that post, I think it started then! The blog is educational!). Like I said, we’re just kind of weird that way. In honor of his birthday this year, I went with the decade in which he was born. I was going for a Joan from Mad Men kind of thing, but Christina Hendricks I ain’t! What I am is a middle aged mother of five, so you basically get what you get.
Sewing a fitted dress when you are nowhere near an average size and shape?? Holy moly. I shortened the bodice, the skirt and the sleeves….brought in the waist, let out the high hip, brought in the low hip….did a full bust adjustment…a slight sway back adjustment (should have done more!)…made it narrower through the shoulders…lowered the neckline by two inches when one of my two muslins felt too choke-y* and correspondingly altered the collar. And probably other things that I can’t think of because I’m blocking out the trauma.
*Just for clarification, I don’t think this is a flaw in the pattern, it’s just that people with a history of breathing problems (me) tend to get freaked out by anything too close to their throat.
My darts are all….I don’t know…awful. Yup, that’s the word. Terrible, atrocious and mortifying would all fit as well. Even though I know how to sew darts properly and I swear I did them the “right” way. Somehow they are still totally wrong. I want to blame the fabric, but I’m not sure that’s fair. And I don’t like where they hit. I think I should have altered that, but I double checked pictures of the pattern and that is where they are supposed to be. Side note: I seriously, seriously, seriously need a pressing ham if I’m going to insist on continuing to make women’s dresses. Seriously. An invisible zipper foot would be good too.
I felt the fabric would be just perfect. I was wrong. It’s a stretch sateen….which quite predictably shows and amplifies every little flaw, both in my figure and sewing ability. The dress looks ok (and only ok) if I am standing still having just straightened it, but the moment I move at all it shifts and bunches and clumps-clings in funny and awkward ways. This is probably evident from the photos above.
So much work for something so horribly disappointing! I think I’ll be sticking with super simple sewing for a while now.
But yes, he liked it. Though I suspect he wasn’t actually looking at the darts, so I’m not sure how much his opinion should really count for. Just sayin’.
Is it irritating for me to be so flighty about my future here? I’m still laid up and according to the doctors will be for a while yet. I’m in a good bit of pain, not really sleeping, dwelling on disturbing news and over-all feeling rather despondent. And kind of lonely and isolated to be honest. I still can’t talk long without going on a coughing jag. So reaching out in an accessible way, trying to focus on the positive seems kind of right. But no word from me for over two months, followed by an emotional possible farewell forever post, and another random post a mere four days later?* Kind of obnoxious.
The quilt….it’s been in progress for years and years. I believe I bought the owl fabric for Iain for his 9th birthday? Maybe even his 8th birthday? I thought I may have taken him to pick out the fabrics to go with it, but now I’m not sure! Maybe I picked them out? I sketched out layouts and ideas, which changed from time to time….there are several in my sketch book…picked out a thread color and then changed my mind…moved the box of “Iain Quilt” fabrics from house to house, taking them out to look at from time to time…and so it went. In 2015, with his sixteenth birthday on the horizon, I started work in earnest, wanting to finally be able to give him this long awaited quilt. It was to be a surprise and every moment he was out of the house I worked away a square at a time. Each square was pieced and then quilted onto a scrap of cotton fleece. I used up all the bits of fleece I had leftover from other projects. I gave him the quilt top for his birthday.
I added a layer of wool batting and a backing of thick chocolate brown cotton velour, for a luxurious touch, and hand tied it all together with deep red floss. All of this was completed within maybe two weeks of his birthday. Nothing but binding left to go…..and……it sat. For over a year. I don’t know, I had some kind of a hang up about it. But it is now, finally, totally and completely done and in use. It is, by far, the warmest quilt I have ever made. I’m so glad to have finally finished it for him!
*Most of this post was written four days after the last one. Then somehow it just sat around (quilt like), never getting finished, for nearly a month. Which is probably a sign. But I still don’t know. I’m missing this space right now. As another side note, I have no idea what’s wrong with the formatting on the pictures from my last post and I’m too tired to even look into it. Also, I wanted to again mention that I am on Instagram. Whether or not I get back to regular posting here, that is one way to keep up with us a bit. I don’t believe you need an account to view photos on-line. I don’t totally love Instagram, but a single photo and little caption posted once in a while seems more do-able for me right now.
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.
Just fooling around. The video ends just before he threw his hat at me!
And now it is March. Mid-March! I just can’t keep up! Constant doings, in constant motion. I thought older kids were supposed to be less work??? What they lack in hands on parenting needs, they sure make up for in administrative work. I’ve spent the last several weeks putting together portfolios of work for every subject that Iain studied in his first two years of high school, so that he can earn all the credits he needs in order to graduate. I think the scanner is starting to make my brain vibrate. And all of the paper work! Forms for end of year dance recitals, forms for the prom, permission slips for outings, registration for 4H events, for school next year, for chess competitions, forms, forms, forms. One of my favorites? The back up emergency contact form. In the event that something happens to my child, while doing his lessons, under my roof, with me present. For when he finds himself in some sort of dire situation that his teachers on the other side of the state are aware of, but somehow I, in the same building with him, am not. And somehow they can not contact me…. or Steve-either at work or on his cell phone. I can’t really formulate a scenario where this would happen, perhaps some sort of crazy hostage situation? But man, when it all goes down, calling my father, several states away, will help tremendously.
And on the subject of urgent situations, I whipped up some emergency throw pillow covers. No thought, no planning, just grabbing fabrics at random; old flannel shirts, scraps of linen, pieces of an ill-fitting pillow case and stitching away. I know you are all thinking, “Melody, there is no such thing as a throw pillow cover emergency.” And I’m here to tell you that there is! I won’t go into all the gruesome details, you are just going to have to trust me on this one.
Some little person (I hear she’s actually a snow angel) has a birthday coming up very soon! Much making and planning under way…
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…
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.