31 October

near our church

Thanks for your patience, friends, as I've worked out my crazy technical issues. (After 3 appointments with the genius bar, it turned out to be our cable connection after all....)

First off, the winner of the giveaway was Monica, who said: 

"It looks like a lovely book! Thanks for being so open in this space."

Monica, please send me your address at the email address in my left sidebar.

Now, on to some other things.


Happy Halloween! I'm so excited! I'm happy to say that we finished our costumes earlier this year than usual. Yesterday I fell down the stairs and I think I cracked my tailbone, so that was crazy and I feared we might not be able to finish the costumes because sitting is really painful for me! Fortunately, I was already ahead of where I usually am the day before Halloween (bad procrastinator that I usually am), and Elisabeth did the rest of the sewing for me! She was awesome. 


This October has been so golden and all the leaves I pass seem to look like little coins on their trees, making me think of this favorite poem by Elsa Beskow:

Golden, you are,
Golden sovereigns on your trees.
Golden guineas on your floor,
golden coins of leaves
that fall
for us to scuffle through
and rustle
and rattle
and hustle
and scrabble
and dabble
and paddle
as they fall
into an October carpet
which hides
our shoes.

our neighborhood

I think I'm going to give daily blogging in November a try again this year. Last year I just couldn't get through it, with first trimester sickness. It was feeling like too much, and since I hadn't announced my pregnancy to anyone at that point, it was just too hard, and feeling too much like quantity over quality. But this year, I'm hoping that nothing unexpected will pop up. It's always been so much fun for me and such a good habit. I should do it more! Ha!

See you...tomorrow!


august 7, 1999

14 years ago

14 years


What an amazing 14 years it's been!

4 children, 2 dogs, 2 cats, 7 homes, dozens of friends and family, a few arguments, and so much fun and joy and love. I wouldn't change a single thing!

6 August


I usually hate August. I mean, I didn't start out having such a strong opinion of it. Way back, almost 15 years ago, when my husband and I got engaged, we chose an August wedding date.

Last year I wrote a post about August that I never published due to the intense lethargy I was experiencing (I seem to do that often in August). I'm going to share most of it below, in italics. 

This August is starting out a little different. A little bit outside of time, with a newborn. And of course, there's no return to work after a summer off for my husband. He's here most of the time right now. I never knew I'd be saying that unemployment was a mixed blessing. 

He's going back to school in a few weeks, to learn new skills and start a new career. It's overwhelming and scary and exciting and sad all at the same time. (This is a man with a doctorate in a field that he can't find work in, afterall.) As I say below, this time will pass, and things will be new. There is always hope: hope that September will come, that new opportunities will present themselves, that there is goodness and kindness in this world. And by hope, I don't mean empty optimism. I mean real hope, confidence that despite bad days and hardship, the end of the story is a good one. 

{Photos in this post are all from this year, not last year.}




swimming lesson


The other day, I saw a comment somewhere that read, simply, "I love August." It was in reference to the garden harvest this time of year. But reading it made me realize something: I hate August. Seeing someone profess their love for the month gave me the permission to admit my hate for it. It was freeing.

It wasn't always the case. It used to just be one of those summer months. Summer not being my favorite season, but special and delightful in many ways. There didn't seem to be anything remarkable about August, one way or another. We chose to have our wedding in August almost as an afterthought. I wanted it to be in June but thought it might be cliche. So we sort of randomly picked another summer date. Now I kind of wish we'd gone with "cliche" June.

August for me now carries all kinds of weird feelings. The heat is sweltering, the landscape dry. School starts too soon. The transition of my husband being suddenly gone for 14 hours a day, usually six days a week, is harsh and callous. To say I make this transition poorly would be a laughable understatement.

Years ago, shortly after I'd begun blogging here, February rolled around and lots of people started complaining about how hard February was, how unjust that the shortest month should feel so long. At first, I tried to play along like I "got" this. But really, I didn't. I don't hate February. I never did. Actually, I love February. 

But, as it turns out, I do hate August. It comes roaring at me, like a crazy locomotive, each year at a faster and more intense pace. I find myself being short with my children, resentful of my poor husband (whose transition to back-to-school is already chaotic enough), grumpy, bitter, and listless. For years, when I used to keep this blog up more than I do now, I'd suddenly take weeks off during August, unannounced. I'd retreat from friends, fight with my sister, hurt my mom's feelings. 

What am I going to do about it? I don't know. It doesn't seem as simple as just coming up with a formula. I think it's something I need to reflect on, and gradually turn over, like soil. 

I will tell you that I've been trying this year. One day when my kids seemed to be possessed, and I seemed to be possessed (fights, scolding, fights, scolding), I decided to break the cycle by taking them to the movies. I have never taken my own children to the movies before. So we went to see "Brave". Another day, I surprised them with little Lego sets. 

I've been trying to keep fresh flowers in the house. I've been going easy on dinners. Salad has been popular, and hot dogs. I've been reading to them a lot. I've been trying to say "yes" whenever I can. 

James starts soccer next week. Elisabeth starts a new year-round swim team soon after. The heat of August will pass, September will come. I know this.

I still hate August. But these little things helped. They reminded me, it's not all bad.

4 June




fiona and millie



It occurred to me yesterday or so that this baby is really going to be born, and quite soon (in the next month, anyway). I haven't spent a lot of time preparing for the baby, or for his or her arrival. It has seemed kind of theoretical to me, and with three other children to focus on, it just hasn't been the central focus of my days. Which is perfectly fine, and probably made the time pass faster. But now, I realize, things are going to happen whether I'm ready or not. So we washed some baby clothes, and I lanolized diaper covers last night. I made a lasagna and a great big casserole for the freezer. Some things that I had thought sounded like good things to accomplish before baby are probably not going to happen, due to time and/or cost. But I think the basics will be in place. Of course, there are always the woolies that I've wanted (either to purchase or finally knit) with every baby and ended up telling myself "maybe next time" -- but with a summer baby, there isn't a lot of need for newborn woolies. Ah, well. I have knit a couple of things for this Junebaby of mine and I'll share those here as soon as they are dry from their blocking (happening now).

Tomorrow is my home visit with my midwives, that 36-week milestone that seems so momentous to a homebirther. It seems like once the home visit has happened, everything shifts into watching and waiting mode. (I tried doing a search so I could link to maybe an informational site about what the home visit is but only came up with forum threads. I was trying to explain to someone the other day about the home visit and how it seems like a big deal. Anyway, it's a prenatal appointment that's done at home, where you go over all the details of the birth, with everyone who is expected to be there for the birth. It's kind of an exciting appointment.)

This summer we have a neighbor girl with us during the week, which is such a good thing -- it keeps my kids busy and occupied, and that  is so helpful. And it's contributing a small amount of income for us, which I have to say is much appreciated.

James is going to start baseball at the rec center. He and Fiona will have swimming lessons, and there will be a day camp at our church, too. And then, the baby! I can't believe it. I really can't.

1 February


Wow! I had no intention of letting a whole month go by without a post. January is a tough month for me (like August) -- the transition times after a school break leave me feeling like we are limping along without a routine. We've also had a series of viruses run through our house. Thankfully, I think everyone is healthy now. Last night I slept with my mouth closed (like, because I could breathe through my nose) for the first time in a couple of weeks. That was nice. 


We've just been quietly hanging out, hoping for snow. It did snow one time in January, this past Monday. We got about 3 inches which was noteworthy for this sad, sad, dry winter we're having. I'm used to having a lot more snow than this! It seems disappointing.

puzzle 1

puzzle 2

puzzle 3

puzzle 4

The fun of a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle was discovered and everyone in the family has been variously addicted to working on it. It's nearly complete now (more than in these photos). My husband picked up another one the other day, which makes me grin.

reading together


The house is starting to feel a bit more settled. We've been here for about 8 1/2 months. We still need to get things up on the walls. And we need baseboards downstairs. Then there are the big projects that remain -- exterior paint, new windows and doors, moving the laundry room to the basement, updating the kitchen and bathrooms, re-installing the coat closet that was removed to make a shower in the powder room. (We don't need a main floor shower -- or a handicapped toilet -- like the last owners. But we sure do need a coat closet!) Someday there will be a sewing room with egress windows in the basement for me so that one of our children can have the fourth bedroom upstairs, but that's further down the road. And I dream of repairing the fireplace in the family room and putting in an efficient-burning insert. And maybe a small woodstove in the living room, someday. There is lots to do, but I'm beginning to feel more at home just as it is now. I feel that the living spaces are pretty, the bedrooms are spacious, we are comfortable. This house is just the right one for us. That feels reassuring, after the long search, choosing something that needed so much work, and so on. 

In one of the photos above, you can just see my completed Winterwoods sampler in a frame. The matte is too small for it so I'm going to change it out before I take another photo of it, but I am so happy to have it! It's perfect for the living room. 

I think that's about it for today. I'm so happy that it's February. Goodbye January slump! Hello birthday season!

16 November

from last year, our old house.

Today a friend and I had the beginnings of what I hope will become a longer discussion of the celebration of Advent. We are both hoping to bring more to our families this Advent. For both of us, as Christians, we are thinking specifically about the spiritual elements of anticipation -- both for the historic arrival of Christ and for His anticipated return. Neither of us wants to introduce more in terms of doing more, buying more, giving more, hurrying more. Rather we are hoping that the "more" we can offer will be ultimately more nourishing to our families' souls.

We will continue with our usual traditions, but I'm thinking ahead to some additional things we can do. I fully intend to incorporate a Jesse Tree this year, something I've wanted to do the last couple of years but I've been a bit stymied on the project because I had something so specific in mind for the ornaments, something I don't really have the ability to create on my own. I struck a compromise with myself this year, something I think should be doable. I also want to do more with the O Antiphons than we have been.

I have other things I want to say about this but my thoughts are still a little jumbled. Hopefully after a few more clarifying conversations, I can formulate my thoughts about it into something a little more coherant. 

I'm already looking forward to beginning our old traditions afresh in our new home. We will be observing our countdown Advent calendar as usual. My original posts about that are here and here. A couple of years ago, I made a PDF of the little schedule I put together so you could get an idea of how it actually plays out in our family, and that can be found here. I also urge you to read this post, written last year. It says so much of what I'd like to say again, this year. If we could only all sit around my kitchen table with a warm drink and really talk about these things that we all cherish: traditions, families, faith, the ways we celebrate what matters to us, simplifying. As much as I do love the medium of a blog, sometimes I hate that it can come across a bit like screaming "Do this! Make that! Be more! Be better!" when really we all just need to reach out and encourage each other and know that what matters is just being. Being present with our families, embracing traditions that enrich our celebrations, and letting go of all the rest.

I'm hoping for the same for all of you, whatever your path this December. 

(PS: The photo above was the single Advent-y photo on my computer that had not previously been seen on this blog. We still have no cord to access anything on our external harddrive! It's kind of weird not to have access to any of my old photos.)

Lunch Week: Thursday

Day 4: Tortilla pizzas

cheese pizza

First of all, it snowed, a real snow, last night.


winter! it's just around the corner!

on the apple tree

snow play

Somehow snow just makes everything feel better, doesn't it?

Today's lunch doesn't seem very snow day-ish, but oh, well. 

Tortilla pizzas have been a staple for us for a long time. It's a thing that everyone loves for a while and then gets tired of for a while, so it goes in and out of rotation a lot. But they are very simple.

pizza - before baking

Here's my method:

I like to use whole grain tortillas. These are made locally and are so soft and delicious for just about anything. Of course, you can use any tortilla you have on hand.

Sometimes I make a little marinara sauce on the stove, an old-fashioned "alla marinara" (1/4 olive oil, several tablespoons minced garlic, some oregano, and chopped tomatoes), sometimes I use pasta sauce (homemade or from a jar), and sometimes, like here, I just spread some olive oil, garlic, and diced tomatoes right on the tortilla. (You can use fresh or canned tomatoes, these are canned.)

After the tomatoes, I add a few toppings, depending on what we have on hand. Here, I used sliced mushrooms and some roughly chopped black olives. One of the pizzas was just cheese, just in case.

before baking

For cheese, I just grate up some of whatever we have. Gouda cheese is good on these! So is cheddar or muenster. Probably just about any cheese would be good! If you have some fresh mozzarella on hand, slices of that are the best.

Bake in a 400-degree oven for 10-12 minutes. If desired, you can throw some fresh greens on top, or sprinkle with some dried herbs before or after baking ... this is really a flexible meal. Like scrambled eggs, I really feel like pizza is something that just about anything can be thrown on!


I saved our VERY favorite lunch for tomorrow, so I hope you'll join me! 

Please keep sharing your favorite lunch ideas, either in the comments here or link to your own lunch posts! 

12 October

I apologize for not posting all week. I so want to be here more frequently but this week just got away from me. I did get a fair amount of progress done on one Halloween costume, some stitching on the sampler, a tiny bit of knitting (not very much), dentist and orthodontist visits (phase two of orthodontia is coming up so soon!)

Here are a few pictures from the week. 

There comes a time in the life of the Halloween costume designer where just going for it is the best course of action.

There comes a time in the life of the Halloween costume designer where just going for it is the best course of action.

Week 3

Terrible phone photo of this, but my real camera is not doing so well either in lower light settings or when actual focus is required. :( It's old and very worn out. I have no idea when I'll be able to replace it. Fingers crossed. 

Homemade spaetzle and sautéed mushrooms.

Homemade spaetzle and sauteed mushrooms for lunch today, and often lately. Spaetzle has been a favorite lunch of mine since I was very young, and my children love it, too. For many years, we just had the boxed kind, but recently I learned to make homemade and it's so good and easy!




Lots of leaf play. These are from yesterday when it was a bit warmer. Today was chilly. For a while, it was gloriously sunny, but now it's overcast and thundering. 

See you soon!

5 October



It actually snowed last night. Only the faintest dusting, but snow even so. I've spent the day shivering under blankets on the couch. It seems that even though the two-year-old furncace was serviced and certified in May before we bought the house, we can't actually figure out how to operate it. The company that certified it is coming over to take a look, hopefully any minute. 


Yesterday, my mom and I spent most of the day trying to puzzle out a pattern for Elisabeth's costume. We made some headway but I think I'm still a long way off from figuring it out. Last year's pirate costumes were fun and easy to make but I'll admit I was a little disappointed that they didn't get the number of compliments from complete strangers that I've been accustomed to. (Yeah, that's kind of embarrassing but I'm admitting it anyway. Halloween costumes are my thing, you know?) Anyway, I don't think that's going to be a problem this year, as we are going for some slightly more intricate costumes. Ahem.


My Winterwoods sampler is coming along so beautifully. It seems like completing five things (letters and/or motifs) a week is about the right number for me right now. I like being a tad ahead in case a week comes when I'm too overwhelmed to get much done on it, but I also don't want to finish it too quickly (and I really could've finished it by now, I think). If you're still thinking about joining us, please do! It's not hard and each letter is pretty fast to complete. Even the bigger motifs don't take too long (compared to other crafts). 

Well, the furnace guy came and went while I was making this post. Our furnace is working now. We are now off to a benefit dinner for the campus ministry at our church. (Our church serves the student population of a large university.) Tomorrow morning, we are looking forward to a freezing cold soccer game. What are your weekend plans?

3 October




October, October! I'm so, so happy, my favorite month has arrived in all its golden delciousness. I know I've shared this quote before, but it's a favorite of mine, so I think it bears sharing again:

“There is no season when such pleasant and sunny spots may be lighted on, and produce so pleasant an effect on the feelings, as now in October” -Nathaniel Hawthorne




The way our days are going right now, I'm afraid October might just fly by. But I want to hold on to every one of its treasured, golden days. 

Some things coming up that we are excited about this month:

Costume making. I'm so sorry to be a tease (only, maybe I'm not sorry....) but costumes will be kept under wraps for the most part until Halloween night. However, if you are really good, you might be able to guess. I may drop a few hints through the month, just to keep things fun.

The end of marching band. There are only two weeks left! Well, 17 days to be precise. And then I get my husband back! And I am so happy!

GLOW swim practice. As in, swim practice with more than a thousand glow sticks in the water. Oh, my. This event, more than any other, has made me feel like the mother of a "big" kid. I don't know why, exactly. It just feels like something so totally different and grown up.

Baking. I am going to make some apple cider doughnuts. (These? Or these?) And some Halloween cookies.

And cooking. October is my favorite time to nestle in to some favorite cooking. 

A tiny bit of snow forecast for this weekend!

Knitting. Mine is coming along so nicely, and I have lots more ideas in mind. And the kids. Elisabeth needs a new project, and James is ready to start some knitting of his own, too!

Stitching. The sampler is so much fun and so beautiful!

Pumpkin patches, hayrides, carving pumpkins, favorite traditions, dry leaves, crisp air, golden sun, friends, family

Oh, October, you are so good.

21 September




It's still pretty hot here, definite summertime weather still. But the light is golden and autumny, now. 

I have a bad cold, which came on super suddenly Tuesday night. Still, there is lots going on so I'm just trying to plow through, with the help of lots of tea. I hope that I won't crash and then regret pushing through the last few days. This weekend there's not much going on, except a soccer game tomorrow morning.

And of course, some stitching! Those of you who are joining Ginny and me in the Winterwoods stitch-along, don't forget to get started tomorrow! I'm so looking forward to peeking in on everyone's progress. 

I want to talk about towels





I haven't been here in ages. I could talk about the progress on our house, or about the scorching heat followed by fantastic rain last week (followed by more heat), or about swimming and other summer niceties, or about the nasty summer colds four out of five members of our house currently have, or the fact that my husband is out of town and starts work on Monday (8-hour-a-day band camp until school starts in August, which really won't be eight hours a day because of set-up, clean-up, drive time, questions, paperwork, phone calls....), and how we've discussed before that his return to work at the end of the summer (now so much earlier due to marching band and an earlier start date at his new school) gets me down every year. 

But I really want to talk about towels. I don't know why, but I just want to.

I think proper beach towels are an absolutely necessary part of life. Maybe it's because we always had separate towels for swimming when I was growing up. But I really think they're a vital necessity.

My mom gave me a cooler, reusable picnic placesettings for four, some crystal candlesticks, and four beach towels for my bridal shower gift. It was actually a fantastic, creative, and useful gift (even though I hadn't registered for any of it -- bridal registries are another topic I can [and have] go on and on about, but I digress).

Two of the towels were ordinary large beach towels and two were super giant beach towels, like blankets, almost. We still use all of them. For a while, after we had kids, the big ones were Mama and Daddy's towels and the ordinary (but still big) beach towels were Elisabeth's (then Elisabeth and James's). Four years ago, we forgot to bring our beach towels with us on a trip, so my husband ran into Target and picked up four more. They must've been an anomaly because I have never before or since seen such large, heavyweight beach towels at Target. Since he got two identical blue ones and two identical green ones, they transitioned into our swimming lesson towels for the next few years, which were the key years in developing my obsessive swimming bag ritual. The kids would use two matching green towels one day, and two matching blue towels the next, all summer, ad nauseum. I washed the towels every night and folded them, ready for the alternating days. 


Last year, we lost one of these towels and Fiona really needed to be worked into the mix, anyway, so I bought six great big beach towels on sale from Lands' End (which really has excellent sales, by the way. I have gotten $15 coats there, too, that would normally be five times that price). I still continue with the same ritual, with the older towels being used for Mama and Daddy, or for extras at swim meets.

Why did I feel like telling you all of this? Why did the silly details of my obsession with beach towels need to be my first post after such a long break?

Maybe it's because controlling the swimming bag, and keeping the towels completely orderly, is my way of having control amidst the chaos of summer, when everyone and everything seems to be exploding every which way, and which seems particularly important this summer, when we've gone through a lot of transition and haven't really settled into our new home.


Maybe it's because, like everybody, I want to be known and understood, and this crazy little habit of mine is a way for me to tell you something about me, about the quirky things that matter to me, in their small way.

And maybe it's because, like I wrote almost three years ago, this towel ritual of mine is love. It's one of the many small ways that I love my family. I feel like it's important to say that it's not just a way that I show my love to them, as if love is some intangible concept that requires a kind of external scaffold to make it present. I don't believe that, because I think love is an action. It's something we do. It's something we choose. We love our families, in all the ways we can, the best we can, for as long as we can. We mess up. We leave the dishes in the sink too long, we lose our temper over something stupid, we forget their piano lesson. But we keep on loving them, in all the small ways that are our ways.

Also, my family isn't even aware of my towel ritual, except in some peripheral way, because they always have towels in the bag. It's not like, "Thanks, Mama! Now I can see your love for me because you made sure there were towels in the bag!" This work and love of mothering goes unseen and unrecognized. Almost always by our children, and sometimes even by our spouses. There are so many days, my friends, when I would so love a gold star at the end of the day -- either because it was a really good day, or a really bad one. I would love some acknowledgement and appreciation. As I know would you. Sometimes, every once in a while, I get that. But mostly, I don't. Mostly, I keep on loving my family in my small ways, hoping that it's enough, that I'm enough, that it will all add up to something beautiful in the end. 

I want you to know, you who are reading this right now, that your quiet and hard work is something beautiful. That your silly little love rituals, whatever they are, are enough. That pleasure you take in them, the ways you love your family, the hardness of the everyday, these things matter. And they do add up to something extraordinary. No matter how flawed you are -- as a human being, as a parent -- what you are doing is valuable. 

And that's why I wanted to talk about towels today.

9 June

Another phone post tonight, as I'm too tired and sunburnt to fuss with one on the computer, which is not yet properly set up.

I've been trying to capture some before and after pictures of the process of making this house into our home, but of course I wish I'd taken even more of the "before" pictures (I think that's always the case, don't you? The contrast seems more pronounced when you can really remember what it was like before!)

So far we've stripped a ton of wallpaper and painted almost all of the interior walls of the house (when we're finished, we will have). We've demolished a low wall in the kitchen, pulled up carpet and layers of linoleum, and are now installing our hardwood floors. It's all so exciting (and tiring!), but everyday I'm actually amazed by the changes to the house.

The kids have met a neighbor girl and have spent hours this week playing outside with her. This is the first time we've lived in a neighborhood with any children in it, so everyone's excited.

Swim season is in full swing. Today we had the longest swim meet ever. All told, it was over seven hours! Exhausting! And we all came home more sunburnt than we meant to. But still, I remarked to my mom today, I love being a swim mom. It's a great sport to participate in, for so many reasons.

I want to knit something. Or maybe learn to crochet. Granny squares are calling my name. But for now, my focus (and money!) are going to the house project. It's all a season, I know. And in just a few more weeks, I know we'll really begin to feel home.

More soon, friends.

9 June

9 June

9 June

9 June

9 June

31 December

Here we are, right at the end of one year, waiting to ring in the new. I am, as always at this time of year, full of so many things I could tell you, I should tell you, I would tell you if things weren't moving forward into the new and out of the old so quickly.

I could tell you about the end of our Advent season, special new traditions, successful craft projects, and our Christmas celebration, as well the celebrating we're still doing here in a quiet way even as everyone else is winding down. I should tell you about the few handmade gifts I managed to make, the many I didn't, the things I still hope to complete in the next week. I would tell you about a second tooth lost on Christmas Eve, a 15th tooth lost on New Year's Eve, and a final farewell to diapers in between. 

So many things I always want to get to on this blog in this last week of December, that I never seem to be able to. 

finishing out 2011

the end of 2011

Because really, I'm here, quietly knitting on the couch. Playing game after came from that tall stack -- some new, some old. Gazing at the tree, cuddled under blankets, not going anywhere if I don't have to. Except to bundle up into the car to look at Christmas lights -- just one more time, and again one more time. We're still listening to the Chrismtas music; we're still singing it in church on Sundays, too, and will be for two more Sundays. And I'm so thankful for that, because I don't want to say goodbye to this time of year. In the end, it's so much preparation, both the intentional keeping of Advent, and the work to be ready to celebrate Christmas for two short weeks. Two weeks, outside of time, where only joy and gratitude exist. We wait for -- long for -- this time all year; for me as a Christian, this seems to parallel the waiting and longing we have for the real joy that Christ, in an infinitely mysterious way, brings with his humble stable birth so long ago.

the way 2011 is ending

Anyway, I'm wishing you, my dear friends, the most joyous, prosperous, blessed 2012. We'll have so much to talk about in this coming year -- about life, craft, art, and whatever else comes along. Thank you for being here with me this year, I can't wait to share the next one with you!

with blessings on this eve of the new year,



24 December

We're here, we're here! Christmas Eve has arrived. Ready or not, it's time.

Yesterday was my husband's birthday, and since we'd had a big snow the day before, he spent the day sledding with the kids. I stayed home and knitted some last minute gifts and enjoyed the snowy view. 




a little of both

I'm sharing updates of my last-minute progress over on the Facebook page this year. They are not quite as exciting as last year because I'm not making as many gifts. My siblings and I aren't exchanging gifts with each other's families this year (because we won't be together on Christmas this time) which makes it simpler! Still, hop on over, if you feel inclined, to see how we're spending this Christmas Eve! (If you haven't yet "liked" the Facebook page, now is as good a time as any. Hee.)

Anyway, Merry Christmas, friends! 


22 December: Winter & Holiday Favorites, 2011 edition

Well, I've figured I need to just stop apologizing for not being here much. There are many reasons, some good, some not so good, but we'll just say I'll be here when I can. 

book 2

I toyed with the idea of not doing a winter/Christmas book post again this year. To be honest, I've plowed through many of my very, very favorites over the last 5 years. And I had a moment of doubt last week about it, thinking it just might come across as excessive. But we really are collectors, they're my favorite children's books of all, these wintery and Christmassy ones. They always have been, since my own childhood, I think. So I've decided to share a few with you again. Some of them are new to us this year (the kids always get new nativity books from St. Nicholas -- though this is getting a bit trickier as Elisabeth is beginning to feel "too old" [whether she actually is or not, that is how she feels] for picture books, but there's reallly just one book that matters on the subject that isn't a picture book), and a few have been with us a bit longer. I know it's not enough time to buy any or probably even find them at the library, but at least it's here for future reference. (As always, the Amazon links are here for your convenience; I don't have an active Amazon Associates account, so I don't make a penny from them, wherever you buy them. Support local or independently-owned booksellers when you can! My favorite is Chinaberry.)


The Night of Las Posadas I really love this one. Tomie dePaola has been a favorite of mine since my childhood, and this book is so sweet, with its mysterious miracle. It straddles the realm of a nativity book and a contemporary Christmas book. It's very reverent and beautiful.

Family Christmas Treasures: A Celebration of Art and Stories I don't recall when, why, or how this book came into our possession, but I absolutely love it! It is a huge book (15" high or so), filled with fine art images from artists as varied as Gaugin, Pissaro, Norman Rockwell, Grandma Moses, and Andy Warhol. (Also many 19th century lithographs, etc.), and short pieces (or excerpts of longer ones) from literature. Washington Irving, Samuel Coleridge, Willa Cather, Kenneth Grahame, Truman Capote, Dylan Thomas, Robert Louis Stevenson, and so many more. This is, maybe (I say, ever so tenuously), my very favorite Christmas book. Really, really, really.

You Can Do It, Sam So absolutely cute and sweet. We've had this book for probably 8 years and all three of my children have loved it. It's so very perfect for those independent toddler days, when being able to deliver a bag of treats to the front door of a loved one elicits such pleasure and satisfaction in a little one. This is a dear, sweet book.

This Is the Stable This was Fiona's St. Nicholas book this year and it has been a real winner. It's not quite as dull as some of the "house that Jack built" formula books can be, but still repetitive enough to be just right for my almost-three-year-old (!), who loves a bit of sing-song to her books.

The Little Boy's Christmas Gift I'm including this one a bit hesitantly, because it's out of print, and pretty long. It was James's St. Nicholas book this year, and I have to admit that we often don't read the whole thing but just admire the illustrations, which are so beautiful (and are the reason I'm including it). The back of the book has an author's note which talks about the inspiration for the illustrations (15th & 16th century paintings from Northern Europe). He discusses details of the paintings that inspired his, and the symbolism they used. As a piece of art, this book is a masterpiece. As a story, it's a bit slow and dull. 

Apple Tree Christmas This is a book that Elisabeth has been coming back to again and again for the past 2-3 years. It's a story, based on some true events, of a family living in an old barn (it's hard to tell the time period -- maybe anywhere from the mid-1800's to the 1930's), during one very hard winter. The older sister is an avid artist, and the family has a beloved apple tree where she likes to climb and draw. The hard winter comes and there is a lot of damage -- to the tree, to the family's way of life, etc. The way they pull through it is both inspiring and a little bittersweet. It always makes me feel grateful for what we have.

Mouse's First Snow We have a few books in this series (we got the Halloween one when Elisabeth was just a baby), and something always brings us back to them. They're so simple, and everything in them is so familiar. I really like that the father is the one going out to play in the snow with the little mouse, because my kids all really love a good snow day with Daddy!

The Story of Christmas This was Elisabeth's St. Nicholas book this year, and while the text is simply the biblical text (King James version), and the illustrations are (in my opinion) both lush and intriguing, it's a case in point: she thought it was too childish. However, I really like to look at it, ponder the words so beautifully, strangely, and yet familiarly told, and look at the folk-inspired Scherenschnitte illustrations. So, maybe not the best for that in-between time of childhood. ;) Adults and younger children will probably all appreciate it, though.

It's Snowing Oh my goodness, I don't think anything could be cuter than this little round mama and her little round baby, all wrapped up in furs and running outside to play in the snow at night. Such fun, so light-hearted and sweet. What a happy reminder to play with our little ones! 

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I hope you enjoy this year's list, as well as all the previous years' lists. (Find them here: 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006.) This may be my last time to do it -- I don't want to be final on that, but I think I've pretty well gone through most of our collection at this point! I have many more winter & Christmas books on my wish list, though, so we'll see what next year brings. (Oh, by the way, I added my holiday listening list to the right-hand sidebar once again, beneath the book list, for your listening pleasure!)

Merry Christmas if I'm not back before then!


5 December

Well, my intention to be back on Friday or Saturday after a day or two off was thwarted by a ghastly stomach virus that took all of us but my husband down. I thought I was going to die! Seriously! But all's well now, though I'm a bit more harried than I would like, international shipping deadlines and whatnot. :)

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Anyway, last night, in the midst of heavy snow, and freezing, freezing temperatures, our little merry family bundled up in our warmest woolens and ventured out to ice skate! (Though I was reminded once again how I could really use a pair of these, especially since I don't even own any pants ... it was cotton jersey pajama pants under a skirt for me and I was cold! Maybe someday....) 

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Snow continued to fall, lights twinkled overhead. It was one of those beautiful, magical Christmassy moments that you couldn't manufacture if you tried. We all came home and stripped our outer layers of clothing off and hopped into bed in our woolies (or, pajamas, in my case). 

Tonight we will set out our shoes for St. Nicholas to fill in customary fashion. I am a little bit amazed how, after ten years of doing this, the traditions that we have put into place so consciously have continued to carry us. A little more about that tomorrow. 

27 November

Today was a very fun day, the first Sunday of Advent, and something else exciting (you'll find out tomorrow!). (I'll also share a picture of the Advent wreath looking all spiffy with its greens in an upcoming post. The pictures I took tonight turned out really badly.)

fiona and millie

Right in the middle of the day, there was a quiet calm spot of respite, a little like the eye of a storm, with a girl and her kitty. Did I mention I am reluctantly beginning to like cats?


9 November

My goodness, this November's blogging challenge is a bit by the seat of my pants compared to last year, when I had planned lots of posts out in advance! It's fun but a little crazy!

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I've been amazed this week by the light and how it's already feeling so much like late autumn (even though I know autumn technically has 5 or 6 weeks remaining). Yesterday, I really had this feeling like it was almost winter. I'm excited. I really am. Autumn and winter are my favorite seasons, and that transition time between the two is really magical.

In that vein (I think), I wanted to make sure you'd seen this film. It's been going around, but if you haven't seen it, you should. It's a murmuration of starlings in the UK and it is breathtaking. 

And, also wondering if you'd spied this amazing cake in the latest issue of MSL. Oh, my! I love a good candle pyramid, and on top of a cake?! Oh, the goodness there! I think I'd like to try my hand at it, although I'm sure it'd be a ton of work to put together. Still, you'd be able to save the parts from year to year. Does anyone know where to find those lovely slender green taper candles?