Category Archives: Holidays

feathers

We’ve been holed up at home with a flu for weeks now.  It’s a yucky and tricky sort of thing that gives the impression of fading, only to come back again in full force with new symptoms. I think, for me anyway, periods of illness have got to be the hardest part of raising a large family.

Though I don’t actually think of our family as large.  It doesn’t feel large from the inside, since there is not a single component that we could very well do without.  But the last time I tried to argue this point Steve put me on the spot by asking that I list families with more children.  This I gladly began by naming a few families that I’m acquainted with through the wonders of modern technology.  At which point he stipulated that I must know them in real life; decidedly harder.  And the answer is two.  I personally know of two contemporary families with more children than us.  Though going back a generation or more changes things radically; my mother is one of seven, his father is one of thirteen.  So it’s all a matter of perspective!

Still with seven people in one house, illness takes a tiresomely long time to work it’s way through.

The reasonable sorts of things that Steve does when I’m completely incapacitated with the flu: keep an eye on the kids, try to keep up with the dishes, maybe wash and put away a load or two of laundry…  The highly unreasonable sort of things that I do when Steve is entirely laid up with the flu: attempt to completely remodel the pantry, entirely covering every flat surface in the main living area with it’s contents, making it nearly impossible to cook or find a place to eat, or well, move, allow the toddler to spread every single canning jar lid and ring I own out on the floor to keep her busy and therefore out of my way…you know, that kind of thing.

For the record, not my fault.  And not my plan.  When I was too sick to move someone dropped something heavy on a bag of yams.  The yams were split open and then buried and well you can imagine the state they were in when I discovered them.  It was a symptom of a greater, long-standing pantry problem.  I will not bore you with the details, but let’s just say the situation snowballed and rapidly morphed from a cleaning project into a construction project.  So, add a number of tools to the mess you are picturing in your head right now.  And me using them between sneezes while taking frequent breaks so as not to pass out.  And Steve so sick that for like two days I’m not even sure he knew there was full out deconstruction happening right under his nose.

Galen put on a light show for those of us who were upright on New Year’s Eve, using his new Snap Circuits Light Effects kit (highly recommended for scientifically minded people in middle childhood).  In the mess on New Year’s day I cooked a fancy, but easy dinner.  This served with kale and applesauce and sparkling cider.  And we all found a corner somewhere to eat it, together more in spirit than physically.  I pulled Seraphina up our road in her little red sled; the first time we’d felt well enough to stray a bit from home.  Together the two of us greeted the moonrise on the first day of the year.

‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -

And never stops – at all - “~Emily Dickinson

  2015 was a very hard year for us and 2016 harder still. So much more so than I’ve ever let on here, or I think could even put into words.  Often in the last couple years I’ve wondered if that poem didn’t go the wrong way round.  Instead of an uplifting force it’s seemed to me that she should have implied that hope is a flighty thing, difficult to grasp and often painful to try to hold.  But I have hope for this new year, despite it’s rather inauspicious beginning.  I have no resolutions, but certain thoughts and ideas that I wish to take with me into the new year.

Welcome 2017.  I’m cautiously optimistic about what you might bring.

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Light is returning….

Happy winter to one and all!  And, well, a happy summer to all the rest!

We woke up to snow again this morning.  It feels like it’s going to be a very snowy winter.  We’ll have a white Christmas for sure.  Plans for the day include tea, leftover chili, the baking of sun bread, and Elijah and I settling into some serious sewing.

I sewed a Winter Solstice inspired rope vessel as a gift for our neighbor who always hosts our annual celebration.  I’ve actually made a number of rope bowls/baskets over the last six months or so.  After the holidays I will try to share more.  I feel like I’ve learned a great deal in the making of them.

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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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Halloween: Part 2

Mary Poppins: Practically perfect in every way!

When I saw that she was looking for something more tailored, I inwardly sighed at all of the work ahead of me for something that wasn’t likely to get much wear.  Then it occurred to me that I was planning on making her a new winter coat.   Two birds, one stone, and all of that, I made her a wool coat for Halloween.  All except for the buttons and button holes, because the button hole stitch on my machine outright refuses to work properly.  I’m pretty sure it’s a conspiracy.

I’ve had a really hard time finding good quality coats for the kids.  They mostly seem to be either ridiculously expensive or ridiculously insufficient.  Girls’ coats are the worst, with the focus being more on fashion than warmth.  We can’t do thrifted ones, because it’s almost impossible to get the chemical smells out.  This whole “puffer coat” trend has not worked for our family either.  We’ve had several coats get a little too close to the wood stove or snagged on a protruding twig.  Turns out they don’t really work well once all of the stuffing falls out.

When we moved to this area, 14 years ago, my regular winter coat was on it’s way out, but I had a wool overcoat that had previously been used for only work and special occasions.  I figured I might as well wear it out, since I wouldn’t have much cause for dressing up.  Much to my surprise, it still looks exactly as it did when I got it, nearly 20 years ago now.  I just occasionally brush the mud off.  Now the kids are surely harder on their outerwear than I am.  But I’ve done a great deal of gardening, hiking, Christmas tree lugging and so forth in that coat and it’s still going strong.  I thought it was worth seeing how it would work out for the kids.  It’s an experiment of sorts.

For the pattern I used Burda Style’s Girls Dress Coat 12/2012 #156.  I often like their sense of style, but find some of their directions confusing.  I’ve used a couple of their patterns in the past and I would be hesitant to use them again; too troublesome.

The main fabric is a heavy woolen coating.  I quilted two layers of batting to the lining inside.  We’ll see how it holds up!

With this costume we also made a new skirt to double duty. helping to fill out her autumn wardrobe as well.

When it was decided that she was to be a “baby kitty” for Halloween, she told me I must be a “mama kitty” and of course it’s impossible to say no to such a sweet face as that.

I had talked myself out of knitting her a sweater for Halloween.  But, while in Pennsylvania, I whipped through my allotted travel knitting much faster than expected, leaving me with nothing for the ride home, which I feared would render me a threat to myself and others.  A quick pop in to the craft store, where I managed the best I could yarn-wise, and this little sweater was well under way after-all. I’m very glad of it too, because really she needed a new sweater; all of the hand-me-downs being in pretty poor shape at this point.

The pattern is Gilipeysa, converted from a lace weight yarn to a worsted weight.  The bonnet pattern is my own and will be available for purchase at some point.  The bonnet and cream part of the yoke are Knitpicks Reverie in Natural (on sale right now!).  I believe the other two yarns are Patons Classic Wool in ‘Grey Mix’ and ‘Natural Mix’.  Sadly, the colors don’t show well in these pictures.

And that finally puts an end to Halloween!

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Halloween, Part One

Mostly for the sake of The Grandparents.

Seraphina would have been happy to paint every squash under the sun.  Her second one had a beard, so it could “talk like Pop-pop”.

Considering the number of practical jokes they play on each other, I thought this was very trusting (and possibly somewhat naive).  Elijah had me do his, which was likely a safer bet.

It’s kind of ridiculous, the lengths my family goes to for Halloween costumes, considering the very short period of time they actually wear them.  But it’s kind of their thing, so I try to be supportive and enthusiastic.

For years now the older boys have been trying to convince me to let them go as something scary.  Traditionally our celebrations have always been more about the magic of the season.  We attend a mixed age party, where two of my children are the eldest of the bunch, and I don’t want to be the mother who brings the teens who scare the little ones, my own little one included!  Besides, who needs more fear and evil?

blah.

I feel like I’m daily coming face to face with the fragility of life and I’m heartsick over the woes of the world.  Surround me with images of joy, of honor, of love, of goodness.  There is enough horror and gore.  The earth doesn’t need anymore.  I don’t want anymore.  Real or pretend.

But Elijah finally wore me down,or more accurately, took advantage of my being too exhausted to argue…

Besides, a mother’s hang-ups probably shouldn’t dictate Halloween costumes.  I’m sure it must seem to my children at times as though I take everything to seriously.

Iain had plans to go as a very noble literary figure, brave and true.  I was secretly thrilled, thinking how handsome he would be and pleased too, in my motherly heart, over such a wholesome choice for my maturing man-child.

There were issues with a prop.  And since it’s perfection or nothing round about here, he made a last minute shift…

and went with a different kind of scary, as well as an easy last-minute costume and a cheap laugh. It was a whole lot funnier last week.

And dear, sweet, little Dobby!  Elijah really did a fantastic job with that mask.  When Galen saw these pictures he said, “Wait a minute, is that me?!?  It looks so real!”

I whipped up a quick hood with ears and we fashioned the rest out of an actual pillowcase.  As it turns out, what I learned afterwards was Steve’s favorite pillowcase.  How on earth was I supposed to know the man has a favorite pillowcase?!?

Just a little glimpse of the girls, as their costumes were quite involved and warrant a post of their own!

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May Day

I’m so pleased with everyone’s enthusiasm for The Handcrafted Wardrobe project!  I am ridiculously excited about it.

I have no brain for original blog post titles.  I’m worn out today.  It’s been raining constantly.  It’s kind of depressing.  And soggy.

By carrying Elijah’s sweater vest about with me through out the day and knitting a stitch here and there, I think I’m on track to finish on time for his birthday.  fingers crossed.  I’m starting to think about projects beyond.  There are three sweaters I want to make myself.  Alright, there are thousands of sweaters I want to make myself!  But, there are three that I want to make right now.  Which is not in line with my current no-yarn-money status.  I’m making an effort not to resent my doctor for taking my yarn money.  I know he’s just trying to help me.  But if he comes in to my next appointment with a fabulous new hand-knit sweater, we’re going to have words.

May Day was beautiful. Not the weather of course, though it didn’t rain too, too much.  I taught Mairi and Galen how to knit i-cords and they made us garlands like these to wear.  I didn’t bring my camera; which fell somewhere between consciously deciding and outright forgetting.  I wasn’t sure how much I would be up for; my strength waxes and wanes, so I brought a sleeping bag and spread it on the grass beside the maypole and tucked sweet Miss Seraphine up with me.  But when everyone grabbed a ribbon, she jumped up, declaring, “Serasina need to get bow!” and ran off to join in.  She held the tail end of Mairi’s and she danced the entire time.  In the very last 30 seconds or so, when everyone was rushing around trying to tie up the band standing under the maypole, as is our tradition, a friends scooped her up and ran the last lap around with her.   I have requested at least one photo of her epic dance from someone who did take pictures.  I would like a memento of that for posterity’s sake.

I’m currently reading Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up.  Sad but true: I am a hopelessly disorganized and chronically messy person who reads cleaning and organizing books for pleasure.

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Easter Sewing and Celebrating

A few of my necklaces were taken off the market, due to little people that I love being too attached to them.

Elijah finished sewing his shirt.  He consulted with me from time to time, but did all of the work himself.  Button up shirts are hard!  I consider that quite the accomplishment.  He used  Simplicity 1327, which we adjusted to fit him.

Dresses for my girls…there is kind of a funny story behind these.  Last year our friend and neighbor was here helping us with some carpentry work when, because sometimes I forget to just keep these things in my head, I exclaimed, “I really just want to make a baby dress out of your drop cloth!”  And of course somewhat to my embarrassment, she insisted I take the drop cloth.  And because it was a big old sheet, there was enough for two dresses and head scarves as well.  I used Simplicity 1264 which is a reprint of a ’50′s pajama pattern.  I simply lengthened the tops a bit.  I also put them together with total disregard for pattern instructions, just piecing it however seemed quickest and easiest. More on the bonnet in another post.

Let’s see, what else is new?  I’m currently completely lost in this book, working on Mother’s Day gifts for the shop, trying to get the gardens and yard cleaned up in preparation for planting, obsessively spring cleaning and trying to fit some remodeling projects in.  I’m seriously considering just assigning the kids some books to read and math sheets and devoting all of next week to decluttering, deep cleaning and repairing the house and yard.  I have this huge desire to get life in order right now.  I have such trouble finding balance in this season.  There is so much I wish to accomplish.  The pull outside seems at odds with the desire for that big push in the final months of the school year to try to fit in everything I would like.  Do others struggle with this?
KCCO

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An AIP Valentine’s Day

Our first holiday with expectations since starting AIP.  Our traditional Valentine’s Day menu is potato pancakes, bacon and applesauce for dinner, with cinnamon rolls for dessert.  These Sweet Potato Latkes were not quite the same, but wonderfully satisfying.  Some people expressed a preference for them!  The bacon was missed.  I haven’t been able to find safe bacon yet.  But we served them with plain baked apples and they were greatly enjoyed (Galen ate 16).

Mairi and Galen came up with a darling plan to surprise their brothers with a Valentine’s Day brunch when they arrived home from work.  They made all of the decorations.  I helped them to plan the meal and Steve assisted in it’s preparation.  Heart shaped Bread Sticks with “Curried” Chicken Salad and a large bowl of fruit salad; all sorts of fruit chopped up and made fancy by tossing with chopped dates, the juice of an orange and coconut flakes.  When we went to clean up, we each found a valentine under our plates.

For our little treat to the children, I made packets of freeze dried fruit, wrapped in pink tissue paper, decorated with stickers.

I think I over compensated a bit because I also made Pumpkin Spice Granola for dessert, but everyone was much too full to eat it!  Actually, Iain, Elijah and I each had a little taste, much later in the evening, over a game of Flag Frenzy.

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The Stocking Formula

I do think I’m making all this sound a lot grander then it actually is.  It’s just that I’ve been filling children’s stockings for 16 years now and in that time I’ve gotten a feel for what works for our family and what doesn’t.  As I noticed a certain pattern emerging over the time, I found that just being able to mentally plug in something to fit each category really simplified things for me, so that I don’t feel like I’m starting from scratch with five empty stockings each year.

Now in our household the stockings are ostensibly filled by Santa Claus, though at the moment no one is in a very Santa place; fickle, jaded little creatures.  I jest!  I jest!  Really either way is fine.  And we only started doing the Santa thing at all at their request.  But that’s the context that this tradition was born of.  The stocking gifts tend to be the only ones we wrap in paper.  It seemed unlikely that Santa would use the gift bags obviously made by me, therefore…  Plus there is something undeniably more exciting about tearing the wrapping off a package compared to opening a bag.  And since all other gifts, at all other points in the year are wrapped in play silks or fabric bags, that little bit of paper is an extra special treat.

Each child’s stocking gifts are wrapped in a specific color, every year without fail; one child’s in silver, another in gold, green, red, blue.  That way, even if everyone dumps the contents on the floor and it all gets mixed up, everyone knows without a doubt which gifts belong to whom.  Also, as you will see below, sometimes not all of the stocking contents actually fit in the stocking.  Which seems counterintuitive, I know.  But you will understand better in a moment.  In that case the ill-fitting gift is placed under the stocking and again the color-coded wrapping saves on confusion.  Also, it’s just a sweet little detail!

On to the formula: candy canes, gum, a deck of cards, art or craft supplies, a beautiful book and an optional practical item (as needed).

Candy Canes- I know of two companies that make big, beautiful, old-fashioned candy canes- worthy of pride of place, hanging out over the stocking’s edge- without the use of corn syrup or artificial dyes.  Hammond’s “Natural” line of candy canes come in a wide variety of flavors and Giambri’s (a little smaller and more moderately priced) come in both traditional mint and lemon.  Both companies still make other candy canes with more questionable ingredients, so be extra careful to purchase from their “all-natural” lines.  Yes, they are still sticks of pure sugar, but it’s Christmas.

For tiny ones we substitute fruit leather.  For tiny-tiny ones fresh fruit.

Gum- B-Fresh Gum.  A very rare treat.  This one is sugar free, corn free, gluten free, etc. Has no artificial ingredients or preservatives and is actually a source of water soluble calcium and b-12.

Same substitutions as above for wee folks.

A Deck of Card- Our family plays a lot of card games, usually over meals.  Cards lead a rough existence here!  In the event that we feel that enough have survived the year we make a substitution here.  I think that happened once.  Most often it’s just a deck of cheap regular old playing cards as they suit our needs just fine.  Occasionally someone will get another sort of card game entirely, such as Skip-Bo, Uno, or Quiddler (one of our all-time favorite games!).

Art or Craft- This can be anything from a pack of window crayons to a ball of yarn to a set of woodworking files depending on the age and interests of the child.  This is one area where the size and shape of an object might not conform to stocking dimensions.  So while one child’s colored pencils might fit and another’s carving knife is just fine, the third’s lap loom might need to rest below the stocking.  I prefer to get them something from each category, and from that whatever really suits the child, rather than just something that will fit.

A Beautiful Book- Not just any book, but a truly special one, chosen with great care that hopefully really speaks to the child and meets them where they are at.  There are few greater gifts.  I have a personal rule that I only buy them books that are either not available through our interlibrary loan system or which I know they will read many, many times over.  Board books and many novels fit nicely in most stockings, but picture books or say a beautifully illustrated, hardbound collection of poetry, do not.  So this another area where some of the books may be in stockings and some may not, since I want to give everyone a book no matter what phase they are in.

Miscellaneous (optional)- Some years there might be a little something else, usually something practical. This year for example, everyone is getting a small wooden comb because they all keep borrowing Mairi’s which is now broken and in need of replacing!

A Note on doll stockings:

This one is kind of the wild card.  Many, many moons ago, on an adorable impulse, the older boys and I sewed a set of stockings for their beloved Waldorf dolls and the doll stockings became something of a family tradition.

Some ides for filling doll stockings:

  • shoes, hats or any other doll accessories
  • small crystals or gemstones
  • little gnomes or smaller dolls to act as the dolls’ dolls
  • a small wooden or needle felted animal, a little teddy bear
  • a tiny house plant
  • a little edible treat (you would be amazed at how giving most dolls can be, they almost always are willing to share with their keepers!)
  • dolly dress-ups: doll sized fairy wings, a wee gnome hat, a cape, etc

While I used to lean towards the fancier things on this list, these days it tends to be something very simple, like a crystal or bit of food.

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