30 September


It has been a month since I've been in this space! It seems to be a vicious cycle. The more time away, the easier it is to stay away, the harder it is to think of posts, and on and on. 

But I couldn't let September pass without a single post. 

suddenly so big

golden light


In the last few days, it's suddenly felt like autumn, and I'm so glad to be welcoming my favorite season, and my favorite month tomorrow. It's been a year since I started stitching my Winterwoods sampler. It's been almost a year since we found out we were expecting John. Almost six months since my husband found out his contract wouldn't be renewed. Just over three months since John's birth. 

So many ways of measuring time. It seems like that's what we do: measure time; count the days, weeks, months, years. I can be so impatient in the moment, but as my oldest child approaches 12, I realize in ever clearer ways that I don't really want time to move on. I so wish we could stay where we are now. But, no. They grow up, these babies of ours. Bittersweet.

some knitting

three months old


We've got a new "school" routine going that is actually working for us. We're doing some projects around the house. (Hello, baseboards!) I'm knitting again. So many things to share! And on Saturday, I'm participating in a blog tour and book giveaway, so I hope you'll stop by. 

6 November

I didn't want to miss a post today although I have little to talk about. Like many of you, I'm watching election results trickle in so slowly. I'm not anxious about the outcome, at least in a really serious way (though I do care about it), because I trust that good can come from anything, even in ways we might not see. Like so many of you, I'm so grateful for the right to vote. And I'm also so grateful for my own local community, too.

Jun 13, 2012

Another quick phone check-in. We are still working in floors and painting, and haven't really begun unpacking yet, but hopefully that's on the agenda for the weekend. The painting is very nearly done, with just a wall of the kitchen and two small bathrooms left.

Yesterday my mother-in-law brought over our kitchen table and chairs. This is the first time we've ever had two eating areas in a house, and I'm so excited about it. I knew for the kitchen that I wanted a round white table, and my mother-in-law was able to find a table secondhand which she painted for me. Then (my favorite part), she found six mismatched chairs and painted them all white, as well. It looks perfect and I'm totally thrilled.

Swimming has been going great this week, as well. Fiona has suddenly had a boost in confidence and is jumping into the water independently and bobbing and blowing bubbles all the time, which is a huge transformation from just 9 days ago! Elisabeth has been practicing with the teen age group this week due to scheduling, and I think it's been good for her, both in terms of the harder workout (which she's been keeping up with!), and the fact that she's so serious about swimming she sometimes gets irritated with younger kids who just mess around. Next week she'll be back with her own age group, though, so she'd better not get too used to it!

Well, that's it for this Wednesday afternoon. Be back soon!

Jun 13, 2012

Jun 13, 2012

Jun 3, 2012

Hello friends! We are slowly, slowly settling into our new house after a week-long, sort of disastrous move. We're settling in to summer a little, too, with the first swim meet of the season yesterday, swimming lessons beginning tomorrow, and knitting projects on the horizon. We still have no Internet connection at the house so I'm posting this from my phone, something I've never tried before. More soon.

Jun 3, 2012

26 November


This morning I took some time away from the chaos and spent a few hours making wreaths with a friend; it was such a respite in what is such a busy time of year to take a morning just to make wreaths and drink tea without distractions. We both agreed it would be a new tradition!


We started with wire wreath forms and began with a somewhat sparse first layer of fir branches, going around in a spiral. We wired these on with floral wire, and then added another base layer of another fir. Finally we filled in with cedar, white pine, and holly. I love the earthy look that the spiral formation gives (rather than a more traditional "filled in" wreath). You could add ribbon or other decorative elements; I think I might leave mine plain because I like the natural look. 


Tomorrow I'll set out the advent wreath form on our dining room table and fill it in with leftover boughs of fir, pine, cedar, and holly. It smells just amazing!

8 November

Today has been one of those really long days, with just too much going, doing, rushing. I'm so tired out! I fell asleep with the kids earlier but I roused myself enough to stop in here and tell you that I'm too tired to make a proper post with pictures and whatnot. Wishing you a wonderful Wednesday tomorrow, be back tomorrow night! xo

6 November

I kind of love this day, the first day of the return to Standard Time. My kids all fall asleep an hour earlier ... it's like a magic reset button!

Today was such a great day of (mostly) peace in our little family; days like this make all the hard ones so worth it. 

Not a single photo was taken today. I'm so good with that, too. Some days are meant just for living, right there in the moment.

fiona airport - one year ago!

We realized today that one year ago on this Sunday (the date was one day off, but it was the first Sunday in November), we left for our little trip to the ocean. This photo is from the airport that day. During this time of stress and strain, scrimping and sacrificing, the memories of that trip are warming all of our hearts. (And how tiny Fiona was! That funny, fuzzy hair!) It's not likely that we'll make another similar sojourn for a while (but, oh, how I've been daydreaming of an even bigger journey -- to London! -- tonight. Always in the late autumn and into Christmastime, I find myself dreaming of London!), and that very rare sweetness gives me even more gratitude for that trip last fall. Someday, someday, we will be able to travel someplace exciting again. But, oh, how happy I am that we've done it once.

So grateful am I for the days that have passed, and for the days that are now. Truly, truly.


PS: Yes, I had posts here while we were away! I had pre-written them! Isn't that tricky of me?

Guest post: Amy of Whole Mama

Some time ago, someone commented to me that every mother needs another woman whose children are older (and whose children you like) to serve as a mentor and role model. I am so very, very blessed to have had at least one such woman in my life (beyond my own mama, of course).

Almost five years ago, I started teaching cello lessons to a young girl named Emily. Over the next few years, Emily, her mom Amy, and their entire family became a special part of our lives. They were the first non-family members we ever left James with. Amy took me on my first thrifting adventure. (Our well-loved bread machine was actually one of Amy's amazing thrifting scores, which she shared with me!) They have since moved away and we miss them dearly, but I will always consider myself very blessed to have had a woman like Amy in my life: an experienced mother that I could look to as an example when I was feeling unsure.

So, I immediately said yes when Amy offered to do a guest post for me. She blogs here, so please pay her a visit. She really is a beautiful, whole mama.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


This past June, my then-fifteen-year-old daughter, Emily, and I drove 2000 miles to Maine for a "writer’s retreat". She was to work on her songwriting and I was to work on a mothering book. Dad was out of work and had spent several weeks in England visiting his father, so offered to take care of the other five children while we worked interruption-and peanut butter sandwich-free for the better part of a month.

A few years ago, I could never have imagined someday taking, or wanting to take such a trip. Em was one of those high-energy, bouncing off the walls sort of kids.  She ran away from me at the grocery store. She refused to sit for a story. She escaped from Sunday school—twice. She even got away from me in church one time and crawled all the way to the front of the sanctuary under the pews. I marveled at my friends who seemed to enjoy their children and wondered why I, despite the fact I desperately loved my daughter, struggled with enjoying her.

But life has a way of mellowing both daughter and mother, and though it took many years, we, on the cusp of those fragile teenage years, when many mothers and daughters are going their separate ways, surprisingly, and delightfully, started to find camaraderie with each other.


The landlady who rented us the "Lilac Place", a lavender cottage just a short walk from the Penobscot Bay told us that she, too, had taken her eldest daughter on a special trip when she was sixteen. She was thrilled to see us doing the same and certainly she overheard lots of talking, singing, movie watching, and laughter, especially the day we completely smoked out the house with our botched attempt at laying a fire in the wood stove.


While in Maine, we ate picnic lunches at the base of pristine lighthouses. We found one of Maine’s rare sandy beaches just minutes from the cottage and spent hours in our swimsuits, silently working next to each other, taking silly pictures and comparing white legs and our breast sizes (I didn’t win in either category). We devoured lobster on the Passagassawakeag River. We lit candles on the many cold, rainy days and snuggled on the couch in heavy quilts, it being a summer cottage with no central heating (thus, the fire attempts). We ate homemade calzones oozing with melted cheese and made shortcake with locally farmed ruby red strawberries and freshly whipped cream. We walked in the driving rain, skipped rocks, climbed to the top of Maiden’s Cliff where legend has it a 12-year-old girl, on a family outing, fell to her death trying to catch her bonnet. We went to a concert at the tiny church across the street and laughed until we almost wet ourselves when, in the course of whistling loudly, I spit my chewing gum across the sanctuary. And every night, we snuggled together in the same bed, just trying to get warm, talking about boys and life and love and God.


Twenty-nine hours, 38 dead deer, and multiple McDonald’s stops later, we arrived home. The chaos and noise were still there. We hadn’t solved the world’s problems, but we had, for the first time ever, experiences that were ours alone, funnies no one else in the family knew about, private things between just the two of us.


Even now, we carry these, secreted in our hearts, tucked in beside fat memories and lobster dreams, among the shortcakes and the picnics, the hikes and the songs. That time was precious, like things are when you know they may never happen again, a time I hope will be a beacon of light and hope to this girl of mine, if -- or when -- her road ever grows rough.

Images from Thanksgiving morning

I really almost didn't post tonight. I was so close to letting myself off the hook. But ... I committed to doing NaBloPoMo, and I'm going to finish it, rain or shine. Holiday or no. ;)

I didn't think I really had anything much to say or share tonight, but I uploaded the handful of photos off my camera that were from today, and I had these three images.


Every year since we've been married, my husband and I have made pumpkin muffins for breakfast on Thanksgiving. We've tried a number of recipes. Last year's were awesome, although the kids weren't as excited about them. This year we made Emily's. I think we may finally have a keeper.

ruby red

This year, our pumpkin muffins were accompanied by baked french toast, bacon, and ruby red grapefruit with a sprinkle of turbinado. Yummy.


And also this morning, our Michaelmas candle burned itself out. It has carried us well through these darkening days of autumn. It has taken us right to the threshold of Advent. Beginning Sunday, we will kindle the small flames in our Advent wreath to bring us the rest of the way to the return of the light at Christmas. This is a beautiful, sacred time of year. I hope that all of you will have a meaningful experience of Advent this year, no matter what your approach.

And on that note, tomorrow evening will be my annual winter/holiday book post. I can't wait to share some more favorites with you!

About UncommonGrace

I'm Grace. I'm a mama, musician, and maker of things.

I started this blog in November of 2006 as a way to document daily beauty and ordinary joys in my life.

You'll find a little bit here about creativity -- I'm a cellist, knitter, sewer, and photographer. You'll find my thoughts about trying to live and raise my family mindfully. You'll find a little bit about our homeschooling journey and process -- we draw heavily on Waldorf educational philosophy and methods.

Thank you for visiting! I'd love to hear from you! Please leave a comment or email me at uncommongrace(at)comcast(dot)net.


Fiona's Birth

Each of my children's birth stories really begins with the day before they were born, and Fiona's is no different.

The day before Fiona came was, as you all surely remember, my birthday. It was a happy day full of the simple pleasures that I most appreciate on my birthdays. It was a Wednesday, and my husband sometimes has an extra-long lunch hour on Wednesdays, so he came home during his lunch and the four of us went out to eat at a cafe together. Once he had to be back at work, I took Elisabeth and James to get hot chocolate, and then we came home and spent some time outdoors (it was probably about 60 degrees here that day), enjoying the first appearance of some crocuses in our yard. My friend Erin and her two boys walked over to our house with some birthday flowers and a card, and the children played together for a few minutes while the mamas visited.

birthday cake2

I had a few cello students to teach that afternoon, and Elisabeth wanted to make me a cake. She worked on the cake while I taught my lessons, and then my mom arrived with Italian food. My husband, unfortunately, had a performance that night, so he wasn't here. But, while we were preparing the dinner and finishing up with the cake (the Goblin's Food Cake from this cookbook -- mine from my own childhood -- and frosted with pink-tinted whipped cream), 100 roses that my husband had sent were delivered, so his hand was in our simple celebration. After dinner and the yummy cake, we opened a few gifts from my mom, and then I put the kids to bed. My mom stayed until about 9:30, just visiting and sharing. It was a sweet evening.

A little while later, probably a bit before 10:00, my husband arrived home and said he smelled natural gas! It turned out that one of our stove burners had been turned all the way down, but not off. I was alarmed that none of us had noticed the smell, but I guess it was because it was such a slow and gradual "leak". We opened all the windows to air the house out. I didn't want to go to bed until we were pretty sure the house had been sufficiently ventilated. We watched the news and finally got off to bed a bit before midnight.

At about 2:00 or a few minutes after, I woke up to go to the bathroom. When I was on the toilet, I noticed a couple of gushes of fluid that I was quite sure were not me relieving myself. (Sometimes at the very end of pregnancy, that can be a little hard to tell, OK?) My husband was asleep on the couch due to the embarrassingly annoying snoring habit that I have during pregnancy. I woke him up and said that I was pretty sure my water had broken, but I wasn't having any contractions. He was really groggy, and said, "Are you sure?" He got up and we were trying to decide what to do, since I wasn't completely sure about my water having broken, and since there were no contractions. Then I noticed another small gush of fluid, and then another, and we were then quite sure that it was indeed the beginning of labor.


My husband turned on the computer to call for a substitute teacher at work, and I paged my midwife, Amy. The phone shows that she called back at 2:17am, so it had been about 15 minutes or so since my water broke. I told her about my water having broken, but that I wasn't having contractions. She said that she'd get dressed and put her things by the door, but would try to rest until I called back with contractions. Since my last labor had only been 60 minutes, the primary concern for her and me was that she came quickly once it was really "time". She told me to rest, too, but my husband and I decided to take a few minutes to get a few things in order before laying back down. I made a red raspberry leaf infusion, got some ice packs ready in the freezer (for after the birth), brushed my teeth. My husband did a bit of tidying. In the midst of this, my contractions began. Neither of us were really keeping track of the time, and I wasn't even aware of how long it had been since I'd talked to Amy, but I called her back at about 2:30 and told her I'd had three contractions and didn't know how far apart they were (I was thinking it had been about 30 minutes since I'd spoken to her rather than the 10 or so minutes it had actually been). She said that they must be fewer than five minutes apart since it hadn't even been 15 minutes since she'd called me. She told me she was calling the other two midwives and was on her way. I called my friend Meghan, who we had planned on being present for the birth after speaking to Amy, and she said her youngest was having an allergic reaction. She didn't feel like she could leave her, and didn't feel like she could really bring her along, either. She made the difficult decision not to come, which was disappointing for us both. But she said, "Do good work tonight," and I will never forget that moment. So, I ended up calling my mom, who lives about 45 minutes away, hoping that she'd be able to make it in time (and offer support to James if he awakened and needed it). She agreed to come and left her house a few minutes later.

Contractions were not too close together, and my husband and I were working through them in the bedroom. Amy was the first person to arrive, and she hurried into the house to see if she needed to catch a baby right away (as had happened when James was born), but we were sitting on the bed with candles burning, and I was still really comfortable in between contractions. Once she'd checked in with us, she went to gather her equipment from her car. This part of the process was fascinating to me because the midwives had never had the chance to set out their equipment when James was born. The other two midwives arrived soon after Amy, and the three of them were in and out of the room, checking in with us, and preparing things from the birth kit, getting towels laid out, and making sure they knew where everything was, but they were letting us manage my labor privately, which was really nice. The energy was really calm, peaceful, and quiet.

candles during labor

My mom must have arrived not very much later than the midwives, and I greeted her, still feeling cheerful between contractions, but I mostly wanted my privacy. I know that the three midwives and my mom were talking quietly out in the living room.

My contractions were painful, but at the same time, I was doubting whether it was really happening. I had no way of gauging the progress of my labor. I was drinking a lot of water, and making frequent trips to the bathroom. ;) Laying down on the bed made the contractions slow down a bit. Amy told me that things would move faster if I were up, and I told her that I was afraid for it to move any faster. Soon, I was feeling lots of pain and pressure even between contractions, and Amy speculated that this could mean that it was the end of dilation. I started to feel panicky, and was pacing very fast in the bedroom. Amy asked me if I wanted to take my pajama pants off, and at first, I didn't want to, but asked if it would hurt less if I took them off. She jokingly said that it would. After a few more minutes, I did decide to get undressed.

elisabeth, mimi (my mom), and lucy waiting for the baby!

Amy, my husband, and my mom had a brief "conference" and decided that it was time to wake Elisabeth. She was with us when James was born, too, and has very positive memories of his birth, so she had been very clear that she didn't want to miss this baby's birth. My husband went into the kids' room and carried her out to the living room, where she rested on the couch with my mom. James was sleeping through it all, and we had agreed in advance not to wake him if he didn't wake on his own.

Suddenly, the contractions stopped. My husband and I sat on the bed. For about ten minutes, nothing happened. I joked with Amy that she could just go home.


Finally, at about 5:00, I had another contraction, and it felt a little bit "pushy". I asked if I could get up to go to the bathroom one more time, and the midwives said "sure!", which at the time felt a little bit surprising, because I had been so managed during Elisabeth's birth (in a hospital), and James's birth had been too fast for questions like that to even arise. I had a few more contractions where I felt like my body was beginning to push, but I didn't feel like I needed to work along with it. By about 5:10, I began to feel a real urge to push, and started to work on moving my baby down and out. I was squatting at the side of the bed, growling with each push, and standing between contractions.

Elisabeth came into the room at this point. I asked her if she was afraid, and she said no. She was sitting on the bed with two of the midwives. Everyone was very quiet and centered. It seemed as though we were all very present in that moment.

Amy was using a flashlight and mirror to watch for the baby, and also a really lovely jasmine oil for my perineum. The baby was still high up, and I was working so hard to bring her down. The contractions were coming very close together and I was becoming afraid that I'd have to push for a really long time, which was terrifying to me. Amy suggested that I get onto the bed, but moving sounded scary. One of the other midwives was leaning across the bed, talking to me, and reassuring me. Soon after my initial moment of panic, I dropped to my knees for a push, and after that, Amy basically insisted that I get onto the bed. Later she told me this was because there was so little space and she didn't know how she'd be able to catch the baby right where we were.

I still felt reluctant to move, but the other two midwives were gently coaching me to just move one knee up at a time. I finally got onto the bed, on my hands and knees. My husband was crouched on the floor to my right, and Elisabeth was sitting at the head of the bed, just to my left. The three midwives were all sitting around me on the bed. I started to feel a little bit calmer than I had on the floor. I pushed a couple more times, waiting to feel the burning of crowning, and knowing that it would be the sign that my baby was nearly here. And then, with the next push, I started to feel that burn, but only for a second or two, because suddenly, without actually crowning at all, the entire baby slipped right out! She fell onto the bed faster than anyone could believe -- no one was prepared for that! -- and she cried very loudly right away. Though it was such a rush, and he can't remember doing it, I learned from Amy that my husband was the one to lift the baby up off the bed and pass her between my legs and up to me. It all happened in the matter of a few seconds. The baby was curled up and reminded me of a football as she came toward me. I remember looking at her and not believing it was really her!

immediately after

The next minutes (like this photo) are a blur to me. I remember feeling worried about the baby's cord being pulled, but I was reassured that there was a lot of slack. I remember adjusting the ISO on my camera for someone. Things were so fast, and yet so outside of time. I asked about James, and my husband (I think, or maybe my mom) went in to check on him. We were surprised he hadn't been awakened by the ruckus in the next room, but he hadn't been. They brought him in to see his new sister. The sun was just rising. We were a family of five.

fiona catherine, just born

in the moments after birth

This baby's birth was such a joy. Despite feeling a little bit out of control during parts of it, it was not frightening. The energy of my family and midwives was peaceful and I am so full of gratitude for all of their presence. It was as it should have been, in every way.

e & j cut the baby's cord

One of the most joyful and touching moments -- of many that day -- came when Elisabeth and James cut Fiona's umbilical cord together. As I watched them hold the scissors together, I realized that this was the first thing that the three of them would share in their life together as siblings that was just theirs. It was an experience that only belongs to the three of them -- the rest of us in the room were just witnesses. My mom was standing behind them as they did it, and she noticed that after they finished cutting the cord, James put his arm around Elisabeth, as if to say, "We shared this moment together."

new sister

Fiona Catherine, born on February 26, 2009, after just about 3 hours and 20 minutes of labor:

lovely fiona

We love you, little one!

In the Orchard

First, I want to thank you all so much for your enthusiasm about our news. Reading all of your sweet comments has certainly added to the excitement here. We just can't wait to meet our little someone new!


We have had a strange and busy week, which explains my longer than expected absence here. Between a scary injury (in a very inoppurtune place) for our little guy necessitating a "drop everything and rush to the ER" trip (everything is fine, by the way), a busier than usual weekend, a mama with a very sore shoulder (alternating ice and heat, and calling my midwife begging to be allowed to take more Tylenol), and a dog who both impressed and grossed us all out by killing a squirrel for the first time in the eight years we've had her, I haven't quite known which end was up since last week at this time.


We did take a day to visit our favorite, small, sweet, family-run apple orchard for some quiet apple picking, basking in that early autumn sunshine, visiting with some horses and chickens, and enjoying a treat of fresh apple cider and handmade cider doughnuts on the farmhouse porch.

to the orchard we go!

gigantic apple

apple cider doughnut

apple trees


Some of the many blogs that I love to check in with as often as I can!


60 Piggies

a beautiful life

A Dress A Day

a Friend to knit with

all buttoned up.


angry chicken

Anknel and Burblets

are so happy

Artemis Moon

Bits of Sunshine

b o t t o m l a n d

b r o o k l y n t w e e d

beauty that moves


Bella Dia

Bend-the-Rules Sewing Swap

Berlin's Whimsy

Big and Little

Bird Nest

Blue Yonder

Bluebird Makes Her Nest


Brambleberry Grace

Buttercup Corner

By Sun and Candlelight

cake & pie

cherry tomato



Confessions of a Pioneer Woman

Crafty Crow


creative little daisy

Dacia Ray

Decaf, Please



Ducky House

elegant musings

embrace create

family of five


Fill My Eyes With Light

fine little day

Five Reds

Fun is always in style.


Grass stained knees

Green Clogs

Green Kitchen: Craft Blog, etc.

Handmade Homeschool



hop skip jump

house on hill road

house wren studio


iMagiNe cReAtiVe nAme hERe

In These Hills

joys of vita domi


Knit One Quilt Too

Knitting Iris

knitting the wind


Lauren Elyce Photography

life with girls


Liquid Paper

Little Home Blessings

Little Red Caboose



mama urchin



Merriconeag - Place of easy passage

Milkweed Dreams

Molly Chicken


Mom in Madison

Montessori by Hand

moopy & me

Mothering Nature

Muddy Mama

My Little Loves

My Supernatural World

Noticing Project

oh happy day!

One more Moore



Our Little House

Our Yellow House

Over and Around Us


Pink Chalk Studio

Pink Picket Fence

Pip and Tom



Polka Dot Creations

Posie Gets Cozy

Pretty Little Things

Ram In The Thicket

Redheaded Snip It


Rockin' Granola

Safe Passage

Salt and Chocolate

Sara + h

Schooling from the heart

Sea and Sky

sew green

Sew Liberated

Sew Q

shim + sons

shining egg


simply breakfast

six and a half stitches

six one way

slacker school

small packages

SoBro Bungalow


Stepping On Legos


super eggplant

Suzanne Lopez Photography


tag sale tales

The Adventures of Cassie

The Barefoot Mama

The Crafty Crow

The Domestic Goddess : Home

The Feral Beetle

the glass doorknob

the little nest

The Long Thread

The Misadventures of Mama and Jack

The Parker Post

the purl bee

The Rinrins

The Rowdy Pea

the scent of water

The Small Object Steno Pad

the ~ spirit ~ of ~ the ~ river

Thimbly Things

This Vintage Chica

Through the Loops!

tiennie knits

tiny happy

Today in Faerie School

Tree Fall

trillium mama

true nature

turkey feathers

two straight lines

U N I F O R M Studio journal

Unplug Your Kids

waldorf mama

Wee Wonderfuls


Whole Cloth Designs

Wise Craft

Woodmouse Loves Crafts



Write, Mama. Write.


{Rubber-Sol: Why, hello there!}

Banner Archive

Inspired by my good friend and esteemed fellow blogger, Sarah of cloth.paper.string, here is an archive of all of my previous blog banners. Just because I like to be able to remember and see them again -- it's easy to get a bit wistful about them. ;)

November 2006

November 2006, the original Uncommon Grace banner. I imagined I'd never change it. Because it was so hard for me (digital photography, editing, and cropping had only been in my life about 2 or 3 weeks at the time), and because I loved it so much.

December 2006

December 2006. I did change it about 6 weeks later, though, wanting to capture a winter feel.

about page

For my "About" page. This is my favorite of all of them. This was one of the first photos I ever took on my camera, and really one of my favorite, still.

My About page is very important to me, and even though I have an FAQ up now, I can't take the About page down because it expresses very personally my objectives in beginning to blog. Sometimes I think I do better at fulfilling those objectives than others.

April 2007

April 2007. I remember taking this photo specifically with the blog banner in mind. This was the one tiny patch of spring and green that I could find around my home at that time. Just beyond this was a whole lot of brown grass and remnants of brown leaves.

May 2007

May 2007. My Mother's Day flowers from that year. They were so beautiful -- all that pink (my favorite color) and a whole lot of tulips (my favorite flowers). This is one of only two banners taken inside my home. The others are all outside, in an attempt to express the importance of observing the seasons of the year in our family life and small corner of the world.

June 2007

June 2007. I had something really specific in mind for this one (also taken with the blog banner in mind). Since I don't have a wide-angle lens, this was about as close as I could get. Fortunately my little model obliged my "fantasy" without even knowing it. Sitting at the edge of the pool is/was a pretty common occurrence, however, so maybe that's where the idea came from in the first place. I really wanted to evoke summertime, and a somewhat retro feel. I spent my summers at the pool as a girl, we swam every day (swim team). My own children spend a lot of time in the water as well.

August 2007

August 2007. This photo was taken on the night of our 8th wedding anniversary. We were driving from my sister's house, where we'd just dropped off the kids, to the restaurant where we were to have dinner. As we crested a hill, we just saw this field of sunflowers and pulled off the road for some photos. It was such a strange and lovely sight.

September 2007

September 2007. This was taken the day my camera returned to me after taking a trip for repairs. I love the red of the leaves against that bright, bright blue of the sky.

November 2007

November 2007. One of the first snows of the season. I really love this one, but I found it hard to get the title to show up very well against the leaves, no matter where I positioned it. I wanted to keep this one longer, but it had such a distinct late autumn/early winter feel to it that it ended up only staying up about a month.

December 2007

December 2007. This photo was taken on my parents' deck. Pretty magical, huh?

January 2008

January 2008. Same photo (cropped slightly differently), different font. I decided to change fonts for my title after falling in love with the lower-case "g" of Baskerville Old Face.

March 2008

March 2008. So happy to see Mr Robin after a long, long winter. I don't love the font color on this one, but ultimately I chose to go with it because I did want to coordinate with the robin's plumage.

july 2008

July 2008. The first one I'd done in months -- our computer died in April of 2008, and I was using my husband's work laptop off and on, but it didn't have a program to allow me to edit the pixel size of an image, so I couldn't create a new banner image for a long time. This photo was taken while visiting family in southern Kentucky, and just embodied summertime to me.

rainy leaf banner

September 2008. I have always said that my favorite season tends to be the one that is just approaching. So when we had a tiny sign that autumn was on its way -- just one or two yellow leaves, a couple of rainy days -- I was so excited and jumped on the opportunity to change the look on my blog!

Dollmaking FAQ

I get a lot of questions about my dolls, and I thought I'd try to answer a few of them here. Please do email me with any questions that I haven't answered at uncommongrace(at)comcast(dot)net.

~Do you sell your dolls? I am not currently taking commissions for custom dolls. I'm sorry to disappoint, but the pressure of making custom doll orders was too much for me. Should I ever reconsider this, I will announce it here on the blog, but at this time, I don't intend to take any more custom orders.

If you really want a doll made just for your child, or buying a doll made by someone else is too expensive (which I understand -- that's how I became a dollmaker myself!), I strongly recommend making your own. There is nothing like the experience of giving a child a doll you have made with your own hands. I know this as a dollmaker and as a mama.

 Read on to find out more!

~I want to make my own doll. Can you help me get started? I can offer you a lot of tips and advice on dollmaking. First, I just want to say that no matter how the doll turns out, your child will be privileged to have a doll made especially for him or her with the love that can be embued into it only by having been made by a parent (or other significant adult, of course -- grandparents, aunties, uncles, teachers, friends, older siblings, and cousins are all amazing dollmakers, too!).

With that said, here is a list of skills, tips, and materials that will be invaluable in your dollmaking journey.

1. Dollmaking is not hard, but it does require a lot of time, patience, and at least somewhat proficient sewing skills. (Hand and machine.) I don't recommend it as a "first sewing project" -- at least not without a lot of frustration.

2. Use a thimble. Seriously. Very important.

3. Learn how to hand sew a blindstitch. You will use this stitch to attach the body & arms, and to turn up the feet in some styles of doll. This is so important, not just for aesthetic reasons, but because a hidden stitch is much less likely to snag, thereby causing the doll to come apart.

4. Sew every seam on the doll TWICE. This means machine sewing around the body twice, and handsewing the head seams and attaching seams twice as well. This way if a stitch did get snagged or pulled and an entire seam came out, the doll would still hold together.

5. Assemble your materials, patterns, and instructions yourself. There are lots of kits out there, and I admit that I have not tried all of them. I'm certainly not saying that any of the companies that assemble and sell kits are trying to set people up for failure or that their kits are "bad". But the universal complaints I hear about kits are, "there wasn't enough (insert supply here)" or "the instructions, especially for the hair, were too confusing." Which leads to ...

6. The only resource you really NEED is the book Making Waldorf Dolls by Maricristin Sealey (this book was formerly called "Kinder Dolls"). It has all the patterns right there for a lot of doll styles and sizes, ready to trace out of the book. It has detailed instructions for dozens of hairstyles. It even has stitch schematics on some of the handsewing stitches you'll need to know.

7. Use a ballpoint needle on your sewing machine when sewing the doll's body. It's devastating when you are stuffing a doll and discover some "laddering" or runs (like with stockings) in the fabric of the doll's body, which can be caused by using a standard sewing machine needle.

8. Stuff the doll as firmly as you can; this will help it to hold its shape better over time. (Especially important with regard to the head.)

9. Allow yourself plenty of time to make a doll. Several months for your first doll, especially if it's going to be a surprise and must be worked on in stolen moments.

~What kind of yarn do you use for hair? I prefer to use a worsted-weight wool yarn. I have noticed that the mohair, while really pretty at first, becomes "ratty" more quickly, and doesn't retain that initial softness. I like Lamb's Pride Worsted and Cascade 220 for doll hair. Both come in a lot of colors.

~I've got the book you recommended. What other supplies do I need, then, if I'm not using a kit?
-Paper to draft your patterns
-marking pen or pencil
-5" doll needle (sold at JoAnn and Hobby Lobby, not just specialty websites)
-ballpoint sewing machine needles
-small handsewing needles (I like to use little sharps)
-embroidery needles (some with large eyes to accomodate yarn for some of the hairstyles)
-thread in colors to match both the skin and hair
-1 skein of yarn for hair
-embroidery floss in eye and lip colors
-1/2 yard of 100% cotton interlock fabric in the skin color of your choice
-1/2 pound of 100% wool batting for stuffing the doll (polyester fiberfill really does not work for this -- it won't hold its shape nearly as well)
-about 18" of tubular gauze to make the inner head form
-a spool of strong, thick cotton string
-1/2 yard fabric for a dress, a little less for an apron or pants
-other sewing notions for sewing the clothing: matching thread, standard sewing machine needles, ribbon or trim, buttons, narrow elastic, etc.

I get the majority of my dollmaking supplies from A Child's Dream Come True, including the tubular gauze for the inner head form, the wool batting (though I'm sourcing a local supplier for this), and the cotton string. I have used skin fabric from both Magic Cabin and Dancing Rain Dolls, and have been satisfied with both.

Dollmaking is an incredibly satisfying journey. Nothing compares to creating a doll with your own hands and watching it come to life. Best wishes to you on your own dollmaking quest!


My name is Grace, and I started this blog in November of 2006 as a way of recognizing and keeping track of positive and beautiful things in my daily life. As a pretty crafty person, it also became about cataloging my creative work.

I'm married to a musician and teacher, and mama to three sweet wee ones.

Sometimes I get questions about our life or the equipment I use, and I thought I could answer a few of the more common ones here. If these answers give you even more questions, please don't hesitate to email me! I can be an inconsistent emailer, but I'll do my best to answer your questions! You can contact me at uncommongrace@comcast.net.

*What kind of camera do you use? I take all of my photos with a Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi (also known as the 400D). I have several lenses for the camera, including a 30mm prime lens, a 100mm telephoto lens, and a 60mm macro lens. A few of my friends have debated heavily between purchasing a Canon and a Nikon when upgrading to a "big" camera, and inevitably ask why I opted for Canon. I had a few reasons -- I had read a lot of favorable reviews for the XTi, which was brand-new at that time (and is most equivalent to the D80 in the Nikon line). Another was that there are more lenses available in the Canon line, especially for the mid-range DSLR's. Many people who are better photographers than I will say that the difference between two similar cameras can usually be summarized with which has the better lens, so a wide variety of lenses from which to choose was pretty important to me. Another thing that I have noticed, when I see a big bank of photographers at the Olympics or something, is that so many of them use Canons (and the signature white Canon telephoto lenses). So, I figure, if Canon is good enough for them, it's definitely good enough for me! ;)

I don't have any "official" photography training. Most of what I know is from reading the owner's manual to my camera, looking at photos on Flickr to discover what appeals to me visually, and by trial and error -- I do lots of experimentation! I try to do most of my photography in natural light, and I never use the in-camera flash.

*What sewing machine do you use? I bought a <A href="http://www.berninausa.com/product_detail.jsp?PRODUCTprd_id=845524441868388&FOLDERfolder_id=2534374302025051&ASSORTMENTast_id=1408474395181831&bmUID=1192125341965">Bernina aurora 430 in August of 2007. It replaced a mechanical Brother machine that I'd been using since I started sewing "again" as a mother. I learned to sew as a girl on the machine my mom has had since she was 13. I agree with those who have said that having a nice sewing machine has changed the way they sew for the better -- and the smoothness and ease of operation on my Bernina make sewing such a pleasant and relaxing experience. However, it really is more machine than I need, and if I were going back in time, I might choose a less-fancy model.

I also have a Baby Lock Imagine serger which I use for finishing seams on garments and doll clothes. I upgraded to the Baby Lock after a year of frustration on a 20-year-old (also Brother) serger that I'd gotten from Craigslist. I used to roll my eyes a little bit when people said that a bad serger is worse than no serger at all, but now I think I'm singing a different tune. Having a better serger has definitely saved me time and a lot of frustration. I probably use the sewing machine more than the serger, although they are both useful and special in different ways.

*Do you sell your dolls? I have a whole FAQ devoted just to doll questions here!

*Can you talk more about your approach to homeschooling? I do get a fair number of questions about this, in particular about our Waldorf approach to homeschooling. It hasn't figured heavily into the content of this blog for a couple of reasons -- one being that in Waldorf pedagogy, formal "schooling" doesn't begin until 1st grade. Before that, the focus is on living daily life in a rhythmic and meaningful way, an aspect of our lives that is pretty clear in my blogging. The other reason is that this is not a homeschooling blog, per se, and so many of my readers are not homeschooling families. In an effort not to exclude my non-homeschooling readers, I haven't talked too much about it. Now that my oldest child is officially school-aged, I will probably include a few homeschooling posts here from time to time. In the meantime, I invite you to visit Christopherus Homeschool Resources, which is the primary curriculum resource we use.

*Can you share your experiences about having grown up as a homeschooler? I would be happy to engage in a one-on-one discussion with anyone interested in hearing about my experiences. I do not wish to scare anyone off, but I am open to answering any questions you may have. Sometimes when people ask me about my experiences, I sense that they are surprised and even a little disappointed by what I have to say. Being homeschooled was not a "magical" solution that prevented me and my three siblings from making mistakes in life. But I would not trade the experience for anything, and that's one reason that we chose to homeschool our own children. I'll briefly summarize my experience here as follows: Although I wasn't aware of the term "unschooling" until I was an adult, my parents definitely used an unschooling approach and were followers of John Holt. I was very happy with my homeschooling experience, although my three younger siblings all have varying levels of satisfaction with the experience. Were I to do anything differently than my own parents, it would be to seek more support for parents as well as children, use an educational philosophy (for me, it's Waldorf) to inform our exploration, and use public high school when the time comes in order to avoid many of the issues (mostly around extracurricular activities, not so much social opportunities or academics) that my sisters in particular felt regarding having been homeschooled.

*You have mentioned that you are a Christian. Why do you celebrate the Winter Solstice? We are a Christian family, and most of our celebration throughout the year does focus on Christian festivals. However, I find that everyone in our home -- the children and adults alike -- benefit very much from observation, awareness, and closeness with nature. Experiencing the changing seasons helps my children follow the passage of time in a very tangible way. We began celebrating the Winter Solstice a few years ago as another way to balance out a holiday season that had become too frenzied and hectic. Marking the universal importance and beauty of this time with a bit of extra reverence (we like to celebrate the Solstice by decorating an outdoor tree -- inspired by this book -- and spending a cozy evening before the fire sharing stories and taking a pause from the rush of preparation for Christmas) has become so very special in our home, but is in no way a "religious" observance. I don't feel that it conflicts with our Christian beliefs at all -- rather, I think that it compliments them rather well.

*Who is this mysterious husband of yours? Are you really married? Do you get along? (Yes, this is truly a question that more than one person has asked!) And, yes, I really am married. I do try to keep my husband's identity as private as possible on the blog in an attempt to keep certain details about our lives private. I think everyone has a certain comfort level about how much they are OK with sharing in such a public forum. For the most part, I try to keep our location and last name private. Sometimes, not sharing things about my husband and his successes in his music career feels a bit strange, but it's a decision I have made in order to keep the lines between public and private a little more clear. So, though his absence here can sometimes feel like a glaring omission, he's here, if a bit behind the scenes. We met in college, were married less than two years after we started dating, and though we have the occasional things that we bicker about (like any married couple), we are fundamentally very similar and we really do get along quite well. :)

*Is red your natural hair color? If not, who colors it for you?! Sorry, ladies, it's natural. ;)

More about me here and here.


Sleeping wee ones

I had the previous wool post set automatically for this morning, and although the sentiments expressed about wool are absolutely sincere, I feel that it's a bit insensitive in light of the Kim family tragedy.

I've been reeling about it last night and today. When I think of Kati and her two wee ones (virtually the same ages as mine), my heart just feels cleft. I know that my husband would have tried to do something to find help for us if we were in that situation. It was so courageous of James, and then so heartbreaking to hear that he was only a mile away from the car when he was found. I feel so very sick with sorrow.

This family will remain in my thoughts and in my heart for a long, long time. I'm finding it hard to be eloquent today, but I wanted to acknowledge this tragedy because it is weighing so heavily on the hearts of so many.

I'm ashamed that it takes a devastating heartbreak like this to remind me of how dear my own family is. It is so easy to take it for granted and to feel weighed down in the "dailiness" of life, especially with small children. But even now, my sweet wee boy is snuggled up, asleep on my bed wrapped in a cozy wool blanket, and I can hear my darling girl in the living room, softly singing to herself and playing a lovely imaginitive game; while I have the luxury of sitting in my own craft/office space with the warm western sun shining through the window. This afternoon, I get to teach 4 cello lessons to  bright, interesting, and individual students ranging in age from 9 to 16. And we'll have braised chicken for dinner. After my lessons, I'll drive our 13-year-old helper home, and when I get back, my dear husband will have washed the dishes, and we'll spend an hour or two chatting, drinking wine, and knitting (well, only I'll be knitting). I have so little to complain about and so much for which to be grateful.

I pray for blessings for Kati, Penelope, and Sabine. I pray that we all remember how important and sacred our time here with our families is.