Category Archives: Holidays

holly jolly

My dad read T’was the Night Before Christmas via Skype this year.  Very exciting.  Iain bought Seraphina her own little sled and Elijah carved her a set of wooden spoons.  She’s not sure what all this fuss is about, but she sure enjoyed herself.  The big boys have been putting on a little show the last couple of years, helping the littler ones to get all of the dolls in the house dressed in festive clothing and such.  It’s really very sweet.  This year they turned the attic into Christmas town and the four of them slept up there on Christmas Eve.  They were so pleased with this arrangement that they went up quite early to do holiday Mad Libs, play games and read books.  It worked out beautifully for us.  We had a leisurely time setting everything up and then my love and I got watch a movie while eating Christmas cookies!  On Christmas Eve!  Amazing.

This year’s pajama patterns:

all of the pants were self drafted

Iain’s shirt is Kwik Sew 2530, view A minus the collar

Elijah and Galen’s shirts are Kwik Sew 3366 (now out of print I believe?)

the girl’s nightgowns are the Sally Dress pattern

I modified this pattern for Seraphina’s bonnet



Oh, Mr. Bear, shouldn’t you be slumbering??  Not lumbering through my garden, clawing at the snow?

clementine candles; star lanterns; borax snowflakes; gingerbread cookies with cinnamon icing

We’ve had so much snow already this year!  Our Solstice celebration was magical.  The music!  There was music everywhere; banjos, mandolins, an accordion, penny whistle, voices singing out into the candle lit night with powdered sugar snow sifting through the clouds.

There have been so many magic moments this holiday season.  Hardships too of course, but so much beauty to compensate.  Last week everyone was invited to watch Galen and Mairi’s ballet class.  Unbeknownst to us, their teacher had invited a violinist to play Christmas carols for them to dance to.  It was marvelous.  Such a simple little thing, but so moving.

Will I ever get over the heart-aching joy of watching Iain perform, just as poignant each and every time?  Somehow I don’t think so.

And now I must be off!  There is still much baking, sewing, wrapping and merry making to be done!


long weekend

   Last weekend.  Thanksgiving.  I’m completely incapable of posting things in a timely manner at the moment.  We had our first big snow of the season.  I think the final reading on Galen’s snow gauge was 17″.  The day before the storm we brought in all the leeks from the garden and made a snack of the last of the baby carrots.  I’m still not ready to let the garden go for the year.  And actually the snow has melted enough now and some of the plants are tall enough that I’ve managed to chip away enough ice to wrench the garden gate open to gather frozen leaves of kale and collards.

I’ve just finished reading Wigwam in the City to see if and how it would fit into our studies.  The woodcut illustrations by Gil Miret partially inspired some of our recent wood block carving and printing experiments.  We made gratitude prayer flags in preparation for Thanksgiving, featuring apple prints, potato prints and yes, some woodcuts as well.  These were some early attempts.  After a good bit of playing the boys are starting to get more satisfying results.

I’m now reading Inkheart at Iain’s request.  We like to share the books we love with one another whenever possible.  Both Iain and Elijah are big Cornelia Funke fans, so I’ve read several of her books already.

Knitting wise, top secret knitting project #1 is in need of buttons.  Top secret knitting project #2 is completely done.  Top secret knitting project #3 is just absurd.  Casting on to size 3 needles, with lace weight yarn, at the end of November absurd.  Let’s put it this way, it might be wise of my sister to call and remind me how very much I love her.  I’m not even going to specify which sister.  After-all, I figure I should be getting something out of this.

Baby girl had her first solid food at Thanksgiving dinner.  I’ve been putting her off because we have so many issues with food allergies and sensitivities that I wanted to wait until gut permeability was less of an issue.  She turned 8 month old the day before and Galen had his heart set on sharing our feast with her.  To celebrate she had her first taste of our home-grown butternut squash.  The yell pictured above was one of excitement, not distress.  This girl makes me laugh.  She has since tried some of the spice free applesauce that Galen lovingly made especially for her and some of the aforementioned garden greens pureed with yet more squash.

We found what we believe to be wolf tracks crossing our driveway Thanksgiving morning!  There have been rumors of there possibly being some in the area, but up until now we hadn’t seen any convincing evidence that they were so very close to our home.  So very close.  We measured print and gait.  Much too big for coyotes and fresh too, they appeared within a couple hours of our driveway being plowed.

I can’t believe we’re almost a week into Advent already!


costumes for the boys

We made wee pumpkins to package up treats in.  I traced a cake pan to get circles of orange tissue paper and twisted it all up with some green floral tape.  We made a couple of sizes to hold various things.  These are the tiny ones.

Legolas Greenleaf

He bought the wig and pin and sewed, gathered or constructed the rest.  We went to the fabric store and he picked out what he wanted, down to elastic (which he ended up not using) and thread without so much as consulting me.  Back at home and he started cutting and stitching.  I worried a bit about the many things that he might not take into consideration as a novice sewer, but bit my tongue and stayed out of the way and as you can see he clearly had it all well in hand.  The only thing he asked my advice on was the making of the gauntlets.  I talked him through drafting a simple pattern based on his measurements and he executed it perfectly.  I had absolutely no concerns about his ability to make his own accessories (a.k.a. weapons), which he carved and burned designs into.

The Jockey

Holy-moly.  This one almost put me in an early grave.  This boy and his ideas I tell ya!  Whenever I mentioned his costume plans to people, they always commented on how easy it would be, because surely he must have most of the gear already?  Nope.  You see, jockeys do not wear black britches, they wear white.  A plain riding helmet?  Completely unacceptable.  I was handed a sketch, which I then had to transform into a workable, wearable pattern…and then redesign when he opted for an entirely different fabric.  He did all of the sewing himself, down to the hand embroidered horse (amazing right?), with me talking him through each step.  It really was quite the undertaking.  But through it all I kept thinking, how often will I be able to help one of my boys with a dream sewing project?  I mean really now.

And our dear little Robin Hood.

Goodness he’s adorable!  But, eek, don’t tell him I said so!  I would be in an awful lot of trouble you know.  While making his costume, I took the opportunity to start teaching him a bit about using my machine.  While I did the majority of it, he did sew a couple of the straight seams himself.  He was mightily pleased with himself and is pushing for a new project that he can do all on his own.

Iain made the bow, quiver and arrows for him.  Actually he sold them to him for a very reasonable price.  There was a catalog and order form and everything, even a three cent shipping charge for carrying them downstairs.


yarn along, etc.

I’m currently reading The Complete Sherlock Holmes.  A dear friend gave us some very special books from her own collection and this was among them.  They were ostensibly a gift for the children, who are greatly enjoying most of the volumes, but I pulled this one aside, as I realized I had never read it (no, I don’t count enjoying the show Sherlock, though enjoy it I do).  There is this great kind of undercurrent of humor in the writing.  I was considering having the older boys read it.  We recently did a block on the Victorian and Edwardian eras.  Whenever we work with a certain time period I like to expose them to music, art and literature of the time.  As I’m reading it, it’s brought up all of these questions in my mind about whether I’m ok with endorsing murder stories as a form of entertainment (do as I say, not as I do!).  I admittedly watch some shows and read some books that are essentially murder mysteries and yet the idea of my children doing the same thing makes me uneasy.  Also some of it is gruesome, too much so for a sensitive 12 year old, at least.  Thirdly, it is extremely, wildly offensive to basically all non-Caucasian peoples.  And while I as an adult recognize it as a product of the time period, I try to keep the bigotry the kids are exposed to at a minimum.  It’s just one of my little quirks.  I think I’m going to hold on to this one a little longer, until I know that they can read it with full understanding of what’s going on.

I did read an excerpt aloud to them last week.  We were working on a creative writing project with emphasis on using descriptive words to really paint a picture for the reader and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is pretty much unparallelled on that front.

The knitting- I’m back to working on Iain’s birthday sweater.  And by that I mean that I’m hoping that posting about it will motivate me to pick it back up again.  This pullover has a serious case of Second-Sleeveitis.  I’m looking forward to knitting the yoke, but I just can’t seem to convince myself to cast on for that second sleeve that needs to be knitted beforehand.  Will you judge me if I confess that the only reason I’m even considering going back to it now is that I really want the needles it’s on for an entirely different project?

Remember this little set?  She outgrew the longies ages ago, but this wee sweater has seen a lot of wear.  She wore it at less then a week old and she’s still wearing it now.  I think this will be one of the last times though.  I’m considering a new vest or short sleeved sweater for layering in wintertime.

And some pictures of this year’s dragon bread….

All of the photos were taken prior to baking.  Everyone made their own loaf this year.



We came home to peonies just on the verge of bursting into full, frothy blossom, blooming peas and the very first ripe strawberries of the season.  We’ve now entered that time of intense growth.  I swear, everything in the garden, including the weeds (!) doubled in size over the last week.

We may have gone a bit over-board with the Summer Solstice treats.  One morning for breakfast it was lavender scones (we modified this recipe) topped with whipped coconut cream and dew covered strawberries fresh from our garden.  The following afternoon peach cobbler for baking day, with the last of the frozen peaches from last year.  There will be more soon!  Delicious ripe peaches on our trees, bought in cases from the orchard, available for snacking whenever we please, oh I can’t wait.  Then there were strawberries, dried in the oven, just because we never tried it before.  One batch came out a little over-done, one a bit under, but we every last one of them anyway.  The summer sweets don’t seem to be stopping any time soon.  We baked strawberry rhubarb pie today.  It was fabulous, but now I’m out of honey, maple syrup and every possible kind of flour.  So, I guess things will let up a bit…at least until shopping day.  I’ve been indulging my sweet tooth these last few weeks.  I’m being quite naughty.  I don’t care and you can’t make me.

Only a child of mine would deem an axe a necessary tool for making floral crowns!  A little bit into the process Elijah decided that some birch bark would really be “just the thing”, moments later he reappeared with axe slung over his shoulder and a decent chunk of tree dragging behind.  Floral crown making somehow morphed into iris leaf plaiting.  They are wondering if it can be wound into a hat like straw.  My pantry is festooned in yards of iris leaf braid.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the experience of being a teenager.  By next year we will have two such creatures in our house.  I myself was a very typical teen.  When my parents went away for the weekend when I was 16, I threw…a dinner party.  I served fettuccine alfredo and garlic green beans (because you’ve got to have your veggies. duh.).  There were other things too, but I distinctly remember preparing the fettuccine and the beans.  Fresh green beans from the little produce market that I worked at part time during the summer.  Because, come on, what kid would serve frozen green beans to guests?!?  Lame-o!  I bought myself a set of new candlesticks to use as a center piece.  They were made from a combination of clear and teal glass in three different heights.  There was piano music playing softly in the background as guests arrived and sparkling cider all chilled and ready to serve with dinner.  I only wish I could remember what I served for desert.


Around the Garden ~ May

The roses have since arrived and been settled in the ground.  That card makes me smile.  Though it still doesn’t beat my favorite piece of kid writing, a story I was once handed that concluded “thee and”.

For Mother’s Day Steve conscripted children to help in the garden under my direction.  I’ve been rather frustrated with my lack of ability to accomplish much out there this year.  It’s not so much just the baby, I’ve worked around that before, as my body’s inability to both carry her and work as well.  I can mostly manage one or the other, at least for short periods of time, but not both.  So for the day they were my hands for the most part (I did manage to sit and weed a bit) and together we accomplished quite a lot.  The front flower garden was a mess and now it’s all nice and tidy and ready for a thick coat of mulch.  This is a much more pleasant sight to come home to!

I didn’t take any pictures of the back gardens, but they are doing amazingly well.  Steve and the kids are working on building new beds, everything is spreading and growing, it’s glorious.  We had our first little asparagus harvest of the year, around the size of a bunch you might get at the store and so fabulously sweet, with the kind of flavor that you would never get at a store.


May Day

Nothing went as planned and yet, everything was just as it should be; dancing, music, friends, family and what eventually turned in to a beautiful spring day.  We danced the May Pole, dyed eggs and shared brunch with our neighbors.  In the afternoon; the beach…first trip of the season for most, first trip of a lifetime for one.  Happy children back on, near and sometimes (just briefly) in the water.  Tic tac toe in the sand.  Apparently none of our sand toys survived the year.  Galen brought a garden hoe instead.  Mairi planted stick “trees”.  Steve used paddles to signal to Iain and Elijah who had kayaked off to an island.  Galen used them to be a bird.



Bread birds ~ We used this recipe for the bread

It’s finally starting to feel a bit spring like here.  We’ve had some warm days.  Slowly, slowly, slowly there is a bit of work and a bit of growth happening in the garden.  The weekend before last we planted a couple of trees, including an apricot for Seraphina.  Steve brought home a whole tray of various violets and her brothers and sister planted them all beneath her tree in the warm spring sunshine.  It snowed two days later because that’s the way spring is here…give and take, back and forth, really almost right up until summer when the steady warm weather truly settles in.  The pansies and violas made a cluster of little snow mounds under her tree.  The patch of wild ginger that Galen and Mairi Rose planted didn’t fair well under the snow.

We hung swings in the front yard.  Just four of them for now, dangling from beams of wood, strung from tree to tree.  We did this once before, at our old house, the Easter that Galen was a baby.  Rosebud excitedly told me that all we need is a slide and it will be just like we have our own real playground.

It was all the rage to try to extract the treats from your Easter basket as though you were a horse.  This is perfectly reasonable behavior, yes?

We ended up with some strangely colored eggs this year.  We didn’t have our usual dye stuffs on hand so did some experimenting.  If anyone is looking to make grey eggs, we unwittingly discovered about 4 different options for you.

Baby girl received a new Easter bonnet and such a rosy-posy, kissable little dumpling was she.  She has officially been sick more than half her life at this point.  Just a little cold really.  Unless you happen to be a very tiny person with a very tiny nose, in which case it’s a pretty big and overwhelmingly miserable thing.

Sunday was glorious, with the temperature hovering around 60.  I spent a lot of time trying to convince my children that this does not constitute “swelteringly hot” nor “scorching hot”, neither is it justification for a water fight to keep them from “dying of heat”.  They wholeheartedly disagree.  I’ll happily keep my sweater on, thank you.  After the egg hunt the Papa Bear and boys started up a game of wiffle ball, while Mairi made sand cakes, complete with real birthday candles, on the sidelines.  In between games they pitch to her and let her hit a good many balls before going back to their play.  My sister and I sat field-side; watching, knitting (both of us) and nursing (just me).  Her making an ascot with a pretty leaf pattern at the ends, me going back and forth between a cardigan for me and Elijah’s birthday sweater, depending on how free my hands were at the time.  Wiffle ball morphed into football, with Steve on his knees in the end zone, and teammate Galen jumping joyously into his arms.  After a very long while we decided to go for a walk, just to the edge of the woods, where the water was rushing and falling under and around the path and the kids settled in to game after game of “Pooh Sticks”, before heading home for dinner.

Our neighbor brought us over some beautiful Pysanky.

This blue and orange one was painted specifically with blessings for Seraphina in mind.

Wasn’t that a lovely gift?


Week in the Life Friday

More snow and another day at home for everyone.

I’ve decided that a picture together every year is a nice Valentine’s day tradition.

Galen was hilarious.  He came down dressed in a complete suit and bow tie and started helping with dinner.  As he worked he began to shed one thing after another until he was grating potatoes wearing nothing but shorts.

Should we even talk about these ones?

No, I don’t think we should.