Category Archives: celebrations and festivals

Halloween

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.

They were adorable, carving a pumpkin together.  She sings happy birthday to the pumpkin every time we light a jack ‘o lantern.

Elijah has started making Halloween costumes for his friends as well.  This is Gandolf the Grey’s staff….

and Gimli’s helmet…

A motley crew…

Indiana Jones

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.

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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.

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36

My birthday was beautiful and I feel blessed.  As a gift to myself I finally, finally, finally sewed the buttons onto my Calligraphy cardigan and blocked it and I’ve refused to take it off since it dried.  It still needs pockets.  I need more pockets in my life.  I’ll get to it at some point.  Unfortunately the buttons seem a bit too small or the holes have stretched a bit too much, either way I might have to do something about that as well.  But none of that is stopping me from wearing it constantly.  The yarn is Swish Worsted in “Doe” (I believe this color has been retired).

I just finished reading The Winthrop Woman.  It was most enjoyable.  I had trouble putting it down.

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January 5th, Our Official Day of Familial Excitement….

Really it all started when one of them decided to be born on the other one’s birthday.  Ever since that year, statistically speaking, 1/5 has been a mostly crazy sort of day for us.

While birthday sweaters were wrapped up with needles still in them and many warnings to be careful in the opening of them so as not to inadvertently drop stitches, I did manage a last minute dress for her.  The pattern is Simplicity 5997 from 1973.  It’s actually meant to be a nightgown (their meaning, not mine), but whatever. The rose covered fabric was thrifted by my mother-in-law.  It’s much paler in person.  I’ve been itching for an excuse to buy some of the prints in Rifle’s new fabric collection, and thought this might just be my chance, but $11 per yard plus shipping versus free and already here?  Guess which fabric won out…  She was quite pleased.  I should have gotten a close up of the vintage floral buttons and hand sewn button holes- sewn with real silk button and button hole twist from a tiny wooden spool- also from my mother-in-law.  Yes, the button hole function on my machine is still not working.

This is the second year in a row where we’ve had to call 911 on their birthday.  Lest you think we just go about calling emergency services for every little thing, these have been the only two times we have ever called.  Ok, well Galen once dialed them by accident when he was 2, but I don’t think that counts (they don’t really care for that kind of thing, by the way).

This year’s calamity involved a chimney fire with flames shooting several feet into the air.  Bless our metal roof and single digit temperatures with frosty snow all around.  And the chimney being run almost entirely outside the house instead of in the walls.  These things and these things alone meant a night of excitement instead of full out disaster.

Seraphina thought that the firefighters were coming to fight us and that we were basically under siege and bravely told Mairi that she would save her.

Iain spent the entire day pretty much too sick to move, poor kid. He did open gifts, but that was about it.  You know your kids are feeling pretty miserable when the whole house is illuminated by flashing lights and surrounded by emergency vehicles with people coming in and out and around every which way and me piling snow boots and sweaters around them in case we are forced to evacuate and two out of the five of them barely bothered to lift their heads or open their eyes or even seem to register what is happening at all.

Also, it would be the case that what felt like half the town would turn out and need entrance to the house immediately after I tore apart the pantry, scattering it’s contents all over ever flat surface in the house.  Along the lines of this…

Only everywhere else as well.  Seriously, that wasn’t embarrassing at all.

Iain is much better now and we did have a belated celebration for him a few days later.

On their birthday, as the fire fighters, first responders, et al left, I resisted the temptation to say that we’d see them next year.  Here’s hoping we don’t!

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Advent Blur

Another old post that has been sitting around, waiting to be finished, for ages now…

“My heart always needs beautiful Christmas.” ~Seraphina Violet Juliette, age 2

Everywhere we go it’s like Christmas cards come to life; snow covered, candle lit, evergreen trimmed New England countryside.

I listen to podcasts on minimalism while working on absurdly intensive projects and smirk to myself over the perversity.

My children are obsessed with holiday diffraction glasses.  They have come to expect gingerbread men everywhere.

Butter Tarts.  My word!  THE official holiday treat of the 2016 season.

She calls our advent wreath a nest, a belief that is probably reinforced by our forever tucking feathers into it.

I keep making her the same booties, over and over again, because I love them so much.  Each time I just alter the pattern to be larger and now call them slippers instead- this time in a festive bright red.

When the Papa Bear was too ill to take us for our Christmas tree, our newly licensed man cub stepped up.  It’s a brave new world and him a star in it.  He did brilliantly on his exam, plus bonus style points.  The examiner said that in 13 years, he’s never before had a kid show up with actual driving gloves on.  ahem.

In the children’s room at the library one day, the only other person present is watching me out of the corner of her eye with awe, or perhaps like I’m crazy- I’m really too preoccupied to discern which, as I scan the shelves looking for just the right books while simultaneously reciting Goodnight Moon from memory to Seraphina as she turns the pages.  Clearly not a mother of many.  A head pops around the stack, “Mommy, who wrote the Pippi books?” “Astrid Lindgren dear….and a comb and a brush and a bowl full of mush and a quiet old lady who was whispering ‘hush’…”.  Galen returns, arms stretched straight down with a stack of books balanced up to his chin.  “Ten, ten, ten, you may get ten books and no more.”  He plots and schemes with Mairi and between them they agree to get several books that they both want to read to make the most of their limit.  A woman by the door asks if we’re getting them by the pound.  I explain that there are only this many because I put a limit on them.  She thinks I mean that I used some kind of reverse psychology to convince them to get books.  I don’t really know what to say to that.  The librarian behind the counter quietly giggles a bit and overrides the system restriction, which we’ve now managed to go over again.  She knows us and she understands.  She was a child like this once.  I don’t get kids who don’t read.  I don’t get people who don’t read.

Every time he comes on stage she jumps up and screams, “Iain!  It’s Iain!  There’s Iain!”  And no amount of begging, pleading, cajoling or popping dried fruit in her mouth at just the right time can stop her.  On the way home I wonder, is this our last year of being the family with the disruptive young child?  Maybe it will be so for one year more?  Either way we are growing away from certain phases in life and while certain things will surely be easier, it’s a strange feeling to know these days a numbered.  Days that are too busy and too loud and too stressful and too beautiful to comprehend.

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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 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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Summer Solstice

The children found a fallen and abandoned nest in the woods, nothing very out of the ordinary about that, but this one happens to be lined with a lock of Mairi Rose’s hair!

Breakfast fixin’s from the garden: garlic scapes, onion tops, sweet thyme, mint, pineapple sage and regular sage to season our sausage patties.  Lemon balm for tea.  Once the sausages were cooked I tossed all the greens from the bottom of the basket; collards, kale and the last of the bolting spinach, in the pan with the juices, added a bit of broth, then covered them and steamed.

 

We usually have a Solstice celebration.  Last week I was thinking about how I wanted to do something special, but I never really got beyond that thought.  The day of, on my way up to put the baby down for a nap, I told them all to come up with a plan while I was away.

This is what they came up with: A picnic dinner in the garden.  Burning the Swedish Torch that Iain made a few months back.  Baking and eating strawberry-rhubarb pie (as we are not currently eating any sweetener or grains and they made up the recipe themselves, this part was kind of gross, but they seemed happy with it anyway!).  And launching rockets.  I added a sun inspired craft and our celebration was complete.

 

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