We had pancakes topped with a berry sauce for breakfast and filled the house with flowers. Seraphina picked out pretty pink candles for the table We made a sun catcher from flowers that we dried during the spring. I gave them the book Sing a Song of Seasons:: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year, not because it’s a gift-giving occasion in our house, but because I wanted it anyway and just thought it would add to our celebration. Its really one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever seen.
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.
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.
My darling Mairi Rose is many things, but easy to shop for is not one of them! I confess to being entirely stumped as to a gift for her this Christmas. No one else could think of anything either. Believe me, I asked! I finally settled on creating a kind of hand pottery set. Perhaps not the flashiest of gifts, but it’s frankly been a beautiful experience that has added much to our homeschooling week.
To put together the kit I started with ordering 25 lbs of white air dry clay. I can’t find the clay I bought, but I’ve heard good things about this one. Lots and lots and lots for sharing and long-term use. I re-purposed a caddy that we already owned. I keep most of the clay in a closet in the original packaging and bring out five pounds at a time. Even with at least three young people playing, this lasts a long time. We’ve found that the best way to store it is in a ziplock bag with a damp paper towel and with as much air as possible removed. We’ve had no problems with dry out when stored this way. In addition to the clay I purchased a set of wooden sculpting tools. These are great and just right for kid sized hands. As well as some acrylic paint for finishing the dried clay pieces. To these I started adding bits and pieces from around the house: doilies to roll prints onto the clay, a giant silicon baking mat that didn’t fit any of my pans to use as a work surface, toothpicks for poking holes and supporting larger and more detailed sculptures, a piece of sponge for smoothing the clay. I found a flower mold ice cube tray at a library sale for 25 cents to use as a paint pallet. Mairi discovered that empty thread spools make a pretty little flower print. Rubber stamps, both with and without ink, are fun to play with and the kids really enjoyed embedding beads into their projects for Valentine’s Day. We’ve also made a lot of prints of flowers and leaves (taken from our house plants at this time of year!), with beautiful results.
Every Monday afternoon we take everything out and create. Right now just the clay is entirely satisfying, but now that this family rhythm is established I’ll be mixing it up at times to keep things fresh, swapping out clay one day for say modeling beeswax, home-made play dough, or kinetic sand working with different themes and projects in mind.
Since people are likely to ask, the candle above was made using this candle making kit which Mairi received for her birthday. As you can probably tell, art supplies are our major expenditure when it comes to gifts for the children. We spend very little on toys, preferring to make most of what they own, but we do try to ensure that they have quality supplies to work with.
Or perhaps fancy of flight?
Measuring in at just over 6 feet tall, this is a replica of the 1783 hot air balloon built by Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier that was the first to ever carry a human aloft. We all played some part in its construction and subsequent launch, but really it was Elijah who did the lion’s share.
Each panel took at least a couple hours of constant hand cramping work in order to trace and fill in the design. And as there are eight gores that was quite the investment of time and energy. I suggested we just do a few…leave the other ones blank or embellish them with some simple stripes or polka dots or something. But no, this perfectionist boy of mine had to have everything just so. Not sure where he could possibly get that from (insert not so discreet throat clearing noise here).
We invited friends and neighbors over for the launch and afterwards toasted the Montgolfier brothers with sparkling cider. Those of us who worked on it weren’t as impressed with it’s flight as we were hoping, but we’ve been talking through some potential modifications, both to the structure and our inflating methods.
The kit was put out by the Smithsonian Institution in 1998, so I don’t know how readily available it is at this point. I found that Ben Franklin’s Balloons was the perfect documentary to go along with it.
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.
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.
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?
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!
I am very pleased to welcome my neighbor, friend and mentor Dandy to this space today!
The day I stopped by to photograph Dandy for this piece was the first time I had been in her room since they did some remodeling and I just couldn’t resist photographing that as well. Without further ado, I give you Dandy….
Living in the woods makes me wear browns and greens; it’s all that digging up of rocks and being still to observe wild life. It has been a delightful quiet existence, but hermit time is now over. I am leading an exercise class and dancing with a new troupe. It’s time to bring more color into my life. We all have so much beauty and uniqueness to share, and the gentlest way to mesh with others (aside from commenting on the weather) is to simply **present oneself**.
I LOVE socks! My current favorites are tan with worms crawling on them. More and more of us are shopping at “Sally’s” and “Willy’s” (Salvation Army/ Goodwill), but they can only sell new socks, of which they have so few. So I buy socks at the best-in-the-world little small town hardware/general store.
ACCESSORIES: People who live in the woods understand that dressing up to go out means putting on earrings, so make that jewelry perfect for you. I’ve taken to wearing a necklace that jingles an enchanting tinkling sound while I walk, sending it’s own pretty greeting.
I think if we spend maybe five minutes before we dress, checking in on our mood, life might be more fun. Do my clothes reflect me and my mood accurately, or shall I dress to bring in something I wish to feel- “bass ackward” as they say.
Either way, I find that if you are AWARE that you are presenting your self as a gift to your fellow passengers on this planet, it makes for more delightful interactions…..a wee butterfly just landed on my hand as I write this; she concurs.
Note from Melody: I asked Dandy to tell the story behind the sets of earrings that she made for herself and her daughters….
When I was in the middle of child rearing, I came to a point where I desperately needed something creative to do for myself that used very little energy. I went to bed one night asking/begging for help. In my lucid dream that night, I was on top of a huge rock behind our house – the rock abutted an almost vertical cliff, out of which grew a lovely hemlock with exposed roots. As I sat on the rock, a small man around 3″ high – very grave, serious person- came from the earth beneath the roots of the hemlock. His wife was right behind him. They showed me earrings made in a book form.
The earrings I made are what the small man showed me.
Dandy is a 63 year old happily married woman with four adult children, who loves to listen to 100 year old people; dance with a dance troupe; and water big pine trees’ bark in the hot sun. She loves seeing earth spirit images in bark, snorkeling with her husband in the ocean and making forest paths to enable fellow humans to walk in the woods without ticks dropping on them.
A huge thank you to Dandy for joining us today!
What’s inspiring you this week?