Category Archives: Life

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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Affiliate Updates

I swear, this photo was not staged!  She was just really super excited about the arrival of coconut chips.

Buy bulk nuts, snack mixes, dried fruits, candies & sweets by the pound at Nuts.com!

I’ve been meaning to talk a bit about my new affiliates for a while now.  The two newer additions are Nuts.com and 100% Pure.

We’ve been loyal costumers of Nuts.com for years.  In addition to nuts, seeds, dried fruit and a wide range of flours and the nori we love for snacking, they have the best prices I’ve seen on the arrowroot that we use for grain-free baking.  We buy it in bulk and the price is even better than through a whole sale food co-op.  I really appreciate their selection of certified gluten-free items from dedicated facilities.  Their customer service is superb and their shipping is mindbogglingly fast.  Where we live orders show up the next day (seriously!) pretty much without fail.  I confess there have been times when I’ve placed an order to save on a next day emergency grocery store run.  They offer free shipping on orders over $59, which is a huge boon for bulk shopping.

100% vegan, natural and cruelty free

I very rarely use make-up, but when I do, it’s extremely important to me that it be a safe and healthy product.  When I was looking for make up for our vow renewal, I ended up using a couple of products from 100% Pure.  I especially liked their Fruit Pigmented Lip Cream Stick: Perfect Naked Pink.  So much so in fact, that when it went on sale, I later treated myself to the Perfect Naked Mauve as well.  It’s worth checking in regularly for their special offers.  They offer free shipping on all orders.
The Big Sale at knitpicks.com

And just as a little public service announcement, Knitpicks big sale starts tomorrow!  With up to 60% off of over 1,000 yarns and brand new yarns being introduced.  Very exciting!

Ordering from these affiliates through this blog means that we get a small percentage of each sale, which goes towards supporting our family, for which we are extremely grateful to you all!

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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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Apples, Books, Cider…

Oh, New England!  You just do autumn so well!

This post has been sitting, open and half finished, on my desktop for weeks now.  But I’ve been spread too thin and in need of a break, so that is just how it stayed.

We’ve yet to make a single batch of applesauce, though it’s on the agenda for today, with apples in storage from our favorite orchard.  We have been cider pressing up the road a few times and have made jerky soaked in cider and added apples to our current batch of kraut.  I love the way the flavors of a season seep in everywhere.

I ordered stacks and stacks of apple themed books from the library and these were a few of our favorites.  Click on the pictures to be taken to book details.

Apple by Nikki McClure: If you are familiar with Nikki McClure’s books you probably know that people tend to either love them or hate them.  This was actually her first book, reprinted in recent years for her now wider fan base.  Each double page layout features one of her iconic paper-cut illustrations, opposite a single word.  There is a story line, but I didn’t feel like the younger children had any hope of following it based almost solely on the pictures.  I really didn’t think they would be that interested in it over-all, but it ended up a favorite with both 7 year old Mairi and 2 year old Seraphina.

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The Apple Pie Tree is very cute.  Seraphina’s favorite picture is the one where the two little girls are running through the sprinkler.  I like that you can see individual stitches in the sisters knit socks.  Fun artwork in a sweet story following a year in the life of a tree that makes “the best part of apple pies” and the two little girls who love it. 

The Apple Pie That Papa Baked: This one may have been my favorite of the batch, with it’s whimsical illustrations and lyrical text.  It’s a story that builds on itself as it goes along, until the end when you are reading the whole story, from start to finish, as a sort of poem, with the comforting familiarity of repetition that speaks so strongly to little listeners.

Johnny Appleseed: The classic tale, beautifully and simply told as a poem and complete with lavish folk art illustrations, rich in details.  The children loved finding and identifying all of the many animals painted into the landscapes.

Life & Times of the Apple: Handsomely done and full of information, including history, science and folklore, this one is being added to my 5th grade botany block.  I’m eager to check out the other books in this series.

………

The day after the above pictures were taken kicked off a weekend of wild windstorms that swept all of the leaves right from the trees.  We’ve also had some of this…

Though it’s mostly melted now.

November, I am not ready for you!

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The Handcrafted Wardrobe: Off Track

My heart isn’t really in a true Handcrafted Wardrobe post tonight.  My mind it too full of other things, flitting about, unable to settle.  I do have some finished projects, but no pictures, getting photos of myself being rather a bother and a chore at times.  I have been pondering cold weather needs and adding to my cool weather capsule wardrobe mood board.  I’ve been comparing what I’ve made so far to what I’ve dreamed up with that board to see if I’m keeping on track, and I don’t believe I am.  I’ve been teasing out silhouettes in my mind of a Thanksgiving dress in vintage floral print on a deep wine ground.  Then I think, oh slippers for the baby!  And is there enough of that crimson wool for a bonnet as well? Is that costume plan foolhardy or does it truly stand a chance?   And when will I find the time to make it?  Is my lesson plan for the week full enough??  And off I go again…

This weekend was supposed to be devoted to sewing for children, but ended up being all about cooking instead.  We had our first little snow squall, the fire burned without end and the wind howled and howled.  Even now it continues to whip around the eaves and thrash the trees about.

Both our pork and beef arrived this week.  A whole pig and whole cow respectively, except for the bits of pork that are still being smoked.  As a former long time vegetarian, I am still not entirely comfortable with eating meat, though I make a good show of it.  This, I at least believe, is the best way of going about it.  Local, free-range, grass-fed meat from a small family farm.  The price per pound works out to be around the equivalent of inexpensive cuts of conventional meat, only we get all of the cuts down to expensive roasts and porterhouse steaks, along with the reassurance of a good, healthy life for the animal involved and nutritionally superior food for our family.  But it does require freezer space!  Which was on the tricky side and lead to a frozen harvest cook-a-thon.  I made a huge pot of beef stew with all sorts of autumnal root veggies, turned some summer squash puree into a dairy-free cheese and baked a strawberry crisp, using home-made coconut butter as the topping, as per this recipe.  We had the fresh pork chops Saturday night, cooked with onions and pineapple sage and served with orange and yellow chard.  I grew pineapple sage for the first time this year and I find the scent intoxicating.  It has somehow managed to escape harm despite all of our recent frosts and brilliant scarlet flowers are just beginning to peep out of their buds.  I have delusions of somehow finding a way to winter it over in the garden, though I know the thing is impossible.  Perhaps I’ll dig it up and see how it fares inside.

I still have some thawed chard that I think I’ll turn into creamed chard and a couple of jars of shredded zucchini that I haven’t decided what to do with. We also spent almost an entire day rendering lard, which was a first for me.  Eight whole quarts full! I’ve never even cooked with lard before. And maybe, just maybe I’ll finally sew up that skirt full of pins by my side.

Has the season scattered your focus as well?  Do you find a discrepancy between what you like and the items that you make, buy and wear?  This has always been true for me and I’ve been trying to correct it, but apparently without much success.

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Amber Glow

Some pictures from before our trip, some from after; a jumble.  Whirlwind life.  I can’t keep up.  Autumn was just starting to creep in when we left our mostly green land, we came back to full swing blazing glory, fast forward a week and most of the trees were bare and talk of winter suddenly seems natural and fitting.  But where did autumn go?  I must have blinked.

My garden and I are estranged.  It’s an uncomfortable and lonely feeling.  I’m doubtful that at this late date any of my awkward attempts at reconciliation will be fruitful.

We got our very first egg, the day before we left, and have had a small, but steady supply since.  But there has been chicken drama.  Did I mention before that we added to our flock?  I wanted no roosters, we now have three.  Which I guess is what I get for allowing the kids to make our poultry transactions.  Two have been well behaved, one has not and that one of course is an especial favorite of the older boys and something of a terror to younger folks.

A garden inspired dinner; steak and zucchini, with a basil paste and roasted garlic.  I read in a book about cutting zucchini julienne before pan frying, instead of in rounds, because it allows it to actually brown.  Cooked simply this way with just a squirt of lemon juice?  Amazing.  I can not stop eating it.

Turmeric Switchel; looks like orange juice, tastes like burning.  I jest, I jest!  But probably an acquired taste for most, though very helpful for an energy boost and pain relief.

funny little note: I just looked at the recipe again, as I linked to it, and I’ve been making it for weeks with double the spices!  I just may need it that strong anyway.

Knitting has been a whirlwind also.  My sweater, still missing it’s measly button band, was cast aside.  The shawl has been blocked and worn a great deal and loved, but not photographed at all.  By the end of tonight I will have four bonnets in need of blocking.   The toddler sweater needs grafting and steeking; two things I readily admit to habitually procrastinating on, but there is a time limit on this one, so I’ll have to suck it up some time this week.

For all of my talk, I haven’t sewn at all and really must get to it.  I think I may have inadvertently bit off more than I can chew re: Halloween this year.

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While we were away….

The last picture is of our arrival back home.

It was the week we discovered Seraphina’s love of slides.  On the way down the sky worked up a sampler as we encountered every kind of cloud imaginable.  I randomly took pictures of and off bridges.  We collectively discovered that while virtually useless in the country, when stuck in the suburbs, sidewalk chalk may well be one of the best things ever invented. I knitted a whole shawl, from start to finish, in less than a week, then cast on a cool weather cardigan for our littlest one.  My hands ached with knitting.  It’s possible that a simple textured shawl may be just about the most perfect sort of travel knitting.  We visited with sisters and aunts and uncles and grandparents.  Memories were made.

It was not easy.  Three of seven days in and lacking a co-parent, I found myself with three children who wanted to go home and one who wasn’t keen on coming in the first place. I coaxed and spoke of visits with Grandma and a trip to the Renaissance Faire.  They rallied.  Somewhat.  For segments of time.  The “better period” lapsed. My mother got sick.  A migraine set in.  Everywhere was loud; trains and traffic and sirens, and crowded and smelling of exhaust and lawn spray.  I’m sure all that was true on our last visit, but is just seemed so much more so this time.  Towards the end of the (marathon) week I started having visions of myself walking through my own front door, collapsing on the floor in tears of relief and fervently vowing never to leave the house again.  For a twist, I actually found myself sitting on my parent’s living room floor, the morning before returning home, after a grand total of 1 1/2 hours sleep, crying over what I’m not even sure I know.  Many people needed different things from me and it was not possible to accommodate them all.  There was heartbreak. It all seemed very tragic at the time.  And no, this is not how I usually behave.  My nerves were just that frayed.  Sensory over-load.  Too many, too fragile people to hold the space for.  As it turns out, we were decidedly not ready for travel just yet.

Coming home we left what felt like August and drove on into November.  I didn’t weep or make any dramatic declarations, but after the car was unpacked and the kids sent off to bed, I did sit with a cup of tea and stare at the fire for a good long while.

It’s chilly here now.  We missed peak foliage at the pond.  I’ve been thinking of making Mairi Rose a winter coat.  Quite suddenly it seems to be time to stop thinking and start sewing or come up with a plan B.  I’m glad and ready to be back home with my sewing machine.

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cloaked in goldenrod

“She watched her little ones walk around their only world, the one that she was creating.  She hoped that the wars within her would not break upon their delicate shores.” ~Marie Mielke, Soul Gardening: Issue 18

I’ve always been a collector of quotes, but I find I am especially so just now.

Yes, I’m rather obsessed with the chickens.  But mostly I wanted portraits of each of them to include in my garden journal.  One of the roosters tried to crow for the first time a couple of weeks ago and let out this hilarious half-crow, half-squawk that made Elijah and I look at each other and burst out laughing.  It has improved since then….if you can consider loud, jarring noises…occurring regularly…. during the only hours I have a shot at sleeping, an improvement.  Seraphina’s crow is improving as well.  She hides her face in the hem of my skirt and, “ruh-rah-rah-rah-roo”s her heart out.  I don’t know why her face must be covered with my skirt to do this, but apparently it must. Mothers know so little really.

A single golden, glorious day, where, at least for a little while, all seven of us were together and well enough to be out and about.

Our new batch of sauerkraut includes both red and green cabbage, beets and carrots and looks like a big jar of confetti.  For a quick meal last week I seasoned ground beef, kind of as I would for tacos and served it over yams with fried onions, chopped cucumber, and veggie cheese.  That one is going on the meal plan, for ease if nothing else.  Though really it was quite delicious and hearty as well. Radishes, grated carrot, fresh herbs, avocado, all sorts of things could go on top.

Between us, we collaboratively made a new set of napkins.  There were five of us working on them in one way or another, but I think Iain ended up doing most of the sewing.  I have another set in a coordinating print all cut out and waiting for a rainy day.

Our back door has been broken for a while, but it’s now to the point where I can literally put my hand through to the outside.  I found a potentially beautiful wooden one to replace it, but it required a great deal of attention.  Every night for a week, while dinner cooked or the kids did their after-meal chores, I’d go out and work for 45 minute or so.  It’s nearly ready now.

Elijah is trying to grow a giant pumpkin.  It got a late and rough start.  While I don’t think it’s going to end up county fair worthy, it is filling out and shaping up to be the biggest pumpkin we’ve ever grown.

A new nature study necklace for my shop, which is now open, though I’m still in the process of setting it up.

I’ve made a reservation for two nights in November at a tiny lakeside cabin nearby.  It’s to be a big surprise for the children.  I don’t know when I’ve ever needed a vacation more.  I’m now eager to finish my sweater, as I picture myself wrapped in it while watching mist rise off the water, sitting on the cabin porch, steeping in the scent of pine trees, chilled damp earth, and wood smoke.  I only have one button band left to go.  And pockets.  I do believe it shall have pockets.

It’s such a hard season to keep up with posting regularly.  This happens every year around this time.  I think I usually get into a groove again in October?  Meanwhile, I find myself not getting around to it day after day and then putting out these massive monster catch-up posts every two weeks.  Such is life.

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Wrapped in Flannel: Part 2, now with words!

Iain took a stab at fixing the space bar and it now more or less works, provided you strike it just right.

And now for the items left unsaid on the last post…My second to last pair of pajama pants disintegrated just days before the big labor day fabric sales.  With the ability to purchase flannel at around $2.50 a yard, I thought it was time to treat myself to some new jammies.  But evidently my commitment was only tentative, because my shopping trip turned out much the way it usually does.  My plan was to make myself two nightgowns and three pairs of pajama pants.  Which seems reasonable enough.  But as I approached the cutting table, I started to get nervous about spending money at all and specifically on myself, so I decreased the amount of, or completely eliminated, the fabric that was slotted for projects for me, while leaving the fabric that was meant for the children.

The result being that when I got home, I discovered that this green flannel, originally intended for a nightie that I was really excited about, was the only length of fabric big enough to cut a pair of women’s pajama pants out of. So I made them, with a pang of regret for the much wanted, but less needed nightgown.  And as soon as they were off the machine, I slipped out of the tattered leggings I was wearing, depositing them directly into the trash, and slipped into these.  I would probably be wearing them still, if I hadn’t been called upon to leave the house.  And even so, I spent some time considering if they could pass for trousers.

The bottoms situation is getting a little dire.  By the end of last week I was down to this pair of leggings, the afore mentioned “last pair” of not-long-for-this-world pajama pants and this new pair of pajama pants.  Which does not quite seem to be enough.  In desperation, I did finally try to fix the waistband on the olive leggings and managed to put a few holes in them in the process.  Word to the wise: velour does not like to be unpicked. But they are more wearable than they were.

I think the problem is two-fold.  One: it’s much harder to piecemeal together pants from what one might have around and, as mentioned, I have trouble investing in fabric (or clothing) for myself.  Of all of my Handcrafted Wardrobe projects so far, I’ve purchased fabric for one of them.  And that felt like a huge, somewhat guilt inducing, treat to myself.  Everything else has been made from whatever I have around.  And two: pants are boring.  At least the pants I wear are.  And as much as I might need them, I’d rather dream up and sew a dress or a top instead.  All the same, I think it’s clear what my priority needs to be!

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The First Week of (Home) School

Homeschooling quote of the week: “I am not talking to myself, I’m hosting an impromptu parent-teacher conference”

We managed a little walk in the woods together, I believe for the first time all summer.  And a trip to the pond as well.  In a normal year we would go from the end of spring, through the beginning of autumn at least once a week for the better part of the day.  I think this was only our third 1-2 hour visit of the year, so it felt like a big deal.  The teeny-tiny people on the teeny-tiny island out in the middle there are my great-big boys.  We came home with a bucket full of treasures and much to detail in our nature journals.

I’m not squeamish about snakes, and I say this as someone who has been bitten by a snake- everyone present freaked out, I found it totally (perhaps morbidly?) fascinating (it didn’t hurt at all, it was crazy to see this thing attached to me and the fang marks on my arm were pretty cool).   Snakes don’t bother me, except when there is the possibility of an overlap between bare baby feet and poison/fangs.  Last summer Steve and Iain were pretty sure they spotted a copperhead sunning itself in our squash garden.  And while I don’t mind snakes, I’m also not particularly knowledgeable about them, though we all learned quite a bit in this last week.  So we were very cautious around and in identifying this neonate that we found on the driveway.  Thankfully, from what we can tell, this one appears to be a type of brown snake, and therefore harmless.  Unlike the poisonous “White Baneberry”, also known as “Doll’s Eye’s” (Actaea pachypoda) that we came across later in the woods.

My first batch of apple themed books came in from the library.  Emily of New Moon is not, in fact, apple related, but with the pretty apple speckled cover on this edition, it fit right in.

We started school a week earlier than usual this year, because there have been some big changed in our little homeschool.  With the intention of earning an official high-school diploma in a couple years time, Iain is now enrolled in a virtual high-school.  Classes started for him this week and I wanted to be sure we had a bit of time together, to ease into the school year, before so much of his day was taken up in a room closed off from us.  This is a totally new experience for our family.  So far it has been much more time intensive for me than I was anticipating!

Speaking of time, there is none.  Ever again.  In August I sat and got my homeschool binder in order and it seems our calendar is full to bursting, and still going strong three to four months out.  I refuse to look beyond that point.  I’m not sure how this is even possible.

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