Little Tomte, Wooly Squirrel


Astrid Lindgren’s The Tomten and The Tomten and the Fox are two of our most-cherished winter-time books.  I adored them as a child, and am very glad my kids love them, too.

A few years ago, Ruth made a needle-felted fox and little Tomten, and the boys still look forward to playing with them while I read the stories.  IMG_0548

The Tomten cares for the creatures of the forest and keeps watch over the animals of the farm.  He is a gentle, quiet little gnome and these simple stories of his unseen interactions on the farm resonate with young children.

My children have enjoyed their little Tomten and Fox playset so much, we have begun a tradition of felting little Tomte as Christmas gifts for friends with young children.


I set out everything to begin making a few, when Ruth decided to put the materials to better use:  crafting another friend for her own Tomten:


IMG_0557She wants to make it clear that he isn’t completed yet, but her little squirrel is beginning to take shape.  He still needs color and detail, but when finished, he will make a nice little addition to the Tomten play set.  Perhaps we can make a few more forest friends to join him, but for now, it is back to crafting a few more Tomten men.

Joining the KCCO today.  Back tomorrow with some knitting and books.



Christmastide Yarn Along


I’ve been enjoying this book in the quiet of the early morning.  The prayers and passages are perfect for that time of day, while I knit a few rounds of a simple pattern and contemplate the season in which we are immersed.  IMG_0508[1]

The simple knitting that has kept my hands occupied while my mind is engaged with the reflections of Christmastide has been a pair of uncomplicated red mitts.  The mitts above are a pattern I have enjoyed making many times before.  These are for a gift exchange, and will get gussied up with a bit of needle-felting before they are delivered to their recipient.


Red always seems like a good color for mittens.   My favorite mittens as a kid were a pair of red wool ones my grandmother knit long before I was born.  She ran out of wool before completing the last thumb, so it is a different shade – I always loved the quirkiness of that turkey red thumb against the vermillion of the rest.


The children continue to read and re-read the large stack of library books piled up in the sunroom.  Hal, age 6, has really enjoyed An Orange for Frankie.  The pictures are lovely, and the story is one he likes to hear over and over.


We picked up two big bags of satsumas this week, and I’ve kept a bowl of them out on the table for the kids to enjoy whenever they wish – it has already been refilled a few times.

After reading And Orange for Frankie, Hal and I read up on the tradition of giving citrus at the holidays – something we have in such abundance was once a cherished luxury.  St. Nicholas brings the children each a stocking on Christmas morning, and always leaves a tangerine in the toe – in Christmases past, it would have been the most treasured part, discovered last in the end of the stocking.

We were sure to really pause and savor the satsumas we snacked on as we read An Orange for Frankie one more time.  Hal also asked if we could make candied orange peels again – something we haven’t done in a long time.  I think that sounds like a very good idea.

Joining Ginny for the weekly Yarn Along, and also Frontier Dreams’ KCCO.

Early December Nature Table



Today it really began to feel like Christmastime in our home:


Bea and I converted the nature table  from autumn to Advent.


The Nativity figurines were a gift (from France!) and the conifer candle, picked up at the farmer’s market, is made from local beeswax.  The perpetual calendar is from MamaRoots.


I potted up a Christmas Cactus cutting from my mother.  Hopefully, by next Christmas it will be in bloom.


Ruth and I began decorating our little table-top tree.  (We always get our tree from the L’Arche benefit sale.)  The lights and star go on, and tonight or tomorrow we will string popcorn and cranberries.  Later in the week, come the ornaments.

More soon, but now we are off to Ruth and Bea’s Holiday roller derby scrimmage.

Hope you are enjoying the beginning of the Christmas season!



December Afternoon


Knitting a few rows on some Toasty mitts ,

IMG_9031IMG_9040Daily checks on fermenting veggies.  Jalapeno Purple kraut all finished and getting jarred up for gifts.  Plain sauerkraut coming along nicely.  It will be ready to serve with Christmas dinner. (The weight goes back on top when I’m done checking, so all cabbage is submerged below the brine.)

IMG_9024Vying for space in front of the heater vent to thaw frozen fingers and toes,


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Enjoying the ever-rotating display of Christmas decorations the children arrange and rearrange as they play with them.

Back tomorrow with a recipe for the coming Solstice, and some more knitted gifts.

‘Tis the Season



Merry Christmas!  I’m trying to post a bit for the holidays, as time permits.  We will see if I can keep it up.  My laptop is still broken, so I am borrowing my husband’s late at night after the kids are in bed.   The girls and I spend much of our spare time with speed skating club and the girls’ roller derby (I’m joining the recreational league in January!).  Hal is learning to read and endlessly creating Lego sculptures, and George is full of joy and wonder and 2 yr-old energy.  We are making all sorts of changes in the back yard gardens when the weather permits.  Life is busy and good and we are enjoying slowing down a bit for the holidays.

The last week or so, we have been trying to finish up Christmas presents and school projects.  I was a bit late in potting-up the paperwhites, but hope they will bloom in time for New Year’s Day.  One for us in a newly-found blue dish from the thrift store, and two for gifts.



I had a little helper bundle up to help me in the chill and sunshine:





Be back very soon with some requested recipes and more of our Advent season.



Christmas Preparations

We’re finally getting the sewing cleared away and readying the dining nook for Christmas dinner. (That big bag of oats will shortly become granola for Christmas gifts. )

And putting out some last-minute decorations…

and making our traditional holiday persimmon bundt cake while the boys play with dinosaurs at my feet…

and putting out the last few pieces of the children’s new Nativity on my grandma’s marble-top washstand. (As much as I’d love to have a Nativity set like this one or this one, I am really enjoying this budget-friendly set – the children can play with it as much as they wish – and they do!  They check each morning to see if a new piece been placed out, and if one of the kids seems to have disappeared, I know he or she will be in the guest bedroom quietly playing at the Nativity.)

and running ribbons through the last batch of drawstring gift bags, so we can start wrapping up presents!

So many other projects and preparations before Christmas Eve!   I am trying to balance the pressure to complete everything with the need to slow down, connect with the kids, read to them, play with them, and enjoy time as a family.   Doing our best to keep the time sacred in the midst of so much activity.

Wishing you comfort and peace at this time of year.

KCCO – Christmas skirts

After what seemed like endless gathering and pinning, the Christmas skirts are finished.  Bea and Ruth are happy with how they came out, thank goodness!

The girls chose whatever fabric they wanted from a stack of thrifted Christmas prints my sister and I had accumulated over the past few years.  Ruth asked for them to be double layered for warmth and to feel old fashioned (like a petticoat).

And she wanted it long – nearly to the floor – with ruffles.  I tacked on some vintage woven ribbon along the hem for good measure.

Bea wanted a drop waist and full-bodied skirt.

We also made a skirt for cousin Ruby:

Both girls helped choose and cut the fabric and even do some of the sewing.  Ruth added the bows as an afterthought.

I’m joining Nicole for her KCCO today, and then I’m packing up the sewing machine until after Christmas.

 I’m off to wrap presents and bake Christmas cookies with the children this afternoon.  Blessings on the rest of your week.

Holiday Sewing

Today is dedicated to finishing up Christmas sewing projects.  A three year accumulation of thrifted holiday fabric was sitting in a box upstairs, and the time had finally come to do something with it all, or donate it back.  So, sewing marathon it is!

Some of the fabric is fairly ugly 1980s through mid-90s prints of teddy bears and snowmen, but works just fine for gift bags and such.  More than half the fabric is quite old – 1950s and 1960s cotton prints of holly, ribbons, candles, and I’m pretty excited about sewing with those.

We’ve already completed many, many drawstring gift bags. (The girls can make them with minimal help, because it is all simple straight seams), and Ruth made some small pillows for gifts (I wasn’t allowed to look!).

The girls selected their own fabrics to make Christmas skirts, and they contributed to the design as well. (The old fabric above was a challenge, as there was foxing around the edges and it was difficult to find enough “clean” yardage for Bea’s underskirt).  Today will be lots of gathering ruffles, pinning, sewing.  If I have time, I will make the boys each a vest, but that may be overly ambitious.

While I sew, the kids love playing with the sewing machine feet and scraps of fabric and thread.  Isn’t it wonderful how children can make imaginative play with just about anything?  Who knew snippets of fabric and presser feet could act out such elaborate stories?

Joining with Nicole’s KCCO today, and will post the skirts when we’re finished.

Blessings on your winter day.

December 1

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

One of my favorite parts about getting out the holiday decorations is finding the box of Christmas books, and checking out a big stack of Advent and winter-themed library books.  I keep some of them in a basket, and rotate the selection every few days.

This morning we refreshed the greens and candles on the Advent wreath before lighting the second candle tomorrow night. (Yes, this is technically a birthday ring my mom bought me when I was a small child in Germany, but it functions just fine for holding Advent candles, too.)

I couldn’t find little candles that fit the candle stand, but some little Waldorf birthday candles substituted nicely.  The kids wrapped purple modeling beeswax around three, pink around the Shepherds’ candle, and a bit of holly around the Christ candle.  A little modeling beeswax on the bottom helped affix them to the candle ring.

The only downside with using such tiny beeswax candles is that by the time we are done reading the Advent readings for the week while the candle(s) is lit, it has nearly burned down.  I picked up enough extras to replace the used candles each Sunday.

And now that it is December first, we not only get to light the Advent wreath, but day by day, open the doors on our Advent calendar.  Today, on this calendar, we found a tiny drawing of a lizard behind door 1, and each day will have a different illustration of a toy or forest animal.

(We also have another from Grandma Bishop that has a Scripture verse revealed each day.)

This calendar was one my mother bought me when we lived in Germany 30 years ago.  The artwork is so detailed and the children love looking over the scene of beautiful drawings.  I’m glad to get to share it with them.

Joining with Taryn for her Gratitude Sunday.  As we prepare to light the Bethlehem Candle tomorrow, there is much to reflect on.  I am grateful to enter in to that reflection with my family this week.

Without any rhyme
without any reason
my heart lifts to light
in this bleak season

Believer and wanderer
caught by salvation
stumbler and blunderer
into Creation

In this cold blight
where marrow is frozen
it is God’s time
my heart has chosen

In paradox and story
parable and laughter
find I the glory
here in hereafter

 – Madeleine L’Engle

L’Arche Christmas Tree

  Each year, we visit the same tree lot to pick up a little table-top Christmas tree which will sit in the window seat.  It is a tradition we really enjoy, and we’re thankful to be able to support L’Arche in our small way.

L’Arche, is a wonderful organization that serves adults with disabilities in many communities.  From the Portland chapter’s website:

At L’Arche Portland people with and without developmental disabilities work together to create home and build community. Those with developmental disabilities form the heart of our shared life and invite others into mutual relationships. We welcome each person’s unique gifts and challenges, and offer opportunities for personal transformation. We trust in God and live as a sign that love, respect and interdependence are the path to a peaceful and just world.

Look how big these girls are getting?  Very grateful that we had a dry day to go pick out our little tree, and that cousin Ruby could join us again this year.

Over the next week or two, we will slowly decorate.  First up is the star, followed sometime later by a string of lights, then a night popcorn and cranberries, and one more night for ornaments and mini candy canes.  The children like the undecorated tree for acting out all sorts of woodland play with their toys, so no one is in a hurry to get the ornaments up.

As we finish making up our Advent wreath, getting decorations out of storage, reading Christmas books aloud in the evening, we are anxious for the season of Advent.  As we enter this special time in which we anticipate the arrival of the Christ-child, a Light in the darkness.

Each year when we pick up our tree, I am reminded of L’Arche champion Henri Nouwen’s words on compassion, and how they ring so true at this time of year, when the God of the universe fully immersed Himself in the human condition in order to extend compassion to Humanity:

Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.
― Henri J.M. Nouwen

Joining with Taryn for her Gratitude Sunday as we enter into Advent, and all the Hope therein.

Christmas tea




The dolls hosted a little Christmas tea party for their sparrow, cardinal and swan friends yesterday morning.   Pretend mint tea, fruitcake, gingerbread, and bird seed were served under the Christmas tree.

The girls were inspired by my favorite childhood Christmas book – Tasha Tudor’s, A Doll’s Christmas.  If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.  It is out of print, but you may be able to find it at your local library.

I heard a bird sing…


Yesterday evening, we strung popcorn and cranberries and decorated our little Christmas tree.  We have quite a collection of bird ornaments, and as we hung them by candlelight (dark at 5pm!) I was reminded of  Oliver Herford‘s little poem, I Heard a Bird Sing –

I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December
A magical thing
And sweet to remember.

‘We are nearer to Spring
Than we were in September,’
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.

Hope and Light to you on these dark winter nights.

Christmas Paper-Craft Kit


The girls are reaching an age where they really enjoy being able to participate in making Christmas gifts.  So, for their cousins (ages 5 1/2 and 3 1/2), we put together little paper-crafting kits, so Aasha and Ruby can enjoy an afternoon of Christmas crafting.

This is a very frugal gift, costing us less than $1 per kit, since we used cardstock scraps and last year’s Christmas cards, as well as craft notions purchased at the thrift store.  It’s also a gift crafty kids will love – when I made my girls fall-themed kits for Thanksgiving day, they made cards, collages, and all sorts of really inventive little creations.

If your kids would like to make these thrifty gifts for their young friends and family, they will need:


Scissors and pinking shears

a hole punch

paper punches (we used cardinal and snowflake punches, which I pick up when they are deeply discounted after the season)

Christmas-print cardstock scraps (we found some 60% off right after Thanksgiving (with a coupon)  for another project and I saved the scraps) or old Christmas cards to cut up

blank cardstock (we used reds and whites approx 3″x5″ from our economical big box of trimmings and discards from a stationer’s)

small cellophane bags (thrifted), and one larger cellophane or paper bag

crafting notions, such as ric-rac, sequins, stickers, buttons, glitter, seam-binding (anything crafty you can pick up at the thrift store)

glue sticks and glitter glue



1.  Use the pinking shears and scissors to cut out small pieces of cardstock and old Christmas cards – various sizes (2″x3″ up to 3″x5″).


2.  Puch out snowflakes and birds (this is Little Hen’s favorite part), and sort them into the small cellophane bags. (Firecracker spent a very long time glueing the glittery wings on all of the little cardinals and getting them at just the right angle.)  Punch holes and tie with thrifted ribbon or ric-rac.


3.  Fill additional small bags with craft notions and other small cut-outs from Christmas cards, and again whole-punch and tie these closed.


4.  Neatly fill the large cellophane or paper bag with the card stock, and add the bags of punches and notions in the front.  Throw in a glue stick and a tube of glitter glue.



5.  Create a pretty label for the front from additional cardstock, and decorate with glitter glue.  Whole-punch, and run a ribbon through the label and the bag to attach and close.

6.  Give the gift of open-ended Christmas crafting fun!

Back to posting

Tum Tum and Brenna watching squirrels in the yard this morning.
Tum Tum and Brenna watching squirrels in the yard this morning.

My apologies on being absent for a bit – we’re once again struggling with sick kids, especially Firecracker, who has had multiple trips to the doctor and the ER in the past few weeks because the colds are wreaking havoc on her asthma.

That, plus my first time hosting Thanksgiving for extended family, and now scrambling to prepare for our church’s Women’s Christmas Breakfast at my house this coming Saturday (ack!  that’s less than two days away!!), I have hardly been on the computer.

I’ll be back tomorrow with a string of posts about the beginning of our Advent celebration.


(And and extra special thanks to my dear friend, Trish, who has been tirelessly experimenting with new banners for me!)

It’s Christmas time in the city…

 This is truly a Christmas to be counting our blessings, with the treacherous weather and all.  We wish our flight wasn’t grounded and we could be lounging on the beach with Grandma and Grandpa, but we’re enjoying the crazy snow as best we can, and looking forward to New Year’s in Florida! 

Merry Christmas from our snowed-in family in Portland!


Kristi – don’t read below – Christmas present spoiler!


Finished a pair of these for my sister-in-law for Christmas (I also plan to make a grey pair for myself, like A Friend To Knit With‘s originals, after Christmas). 

They were knit from Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride in Victorian Pink.  I made a few little modifications, and am really happy with them.  Two snowy evenings of relaxing knitting (while holding a sleeping baby and watching John Adams) and they were done!

With some leftover yarn from other recent knitting, I also churned out a few coffee sleeves to go with them (my SIL is a Starbucks addict, so I thought they’d be appropriate.)  The pattern is here.

Okay, back to finishing packing and trying to get through on the jammed airline phone system to see if we can get a flight out. (The newsreporter just said some folks can’t get replacement flights until Christmas Day!  Our flight isn’t technically canceled yet, so they can’t rebook us, but ALL the other flights before our flight have already been grounded.  If ours is grounded, we’ll be the last to be looking for open seats – and we are a family of 5 – not so easy to rebook.   Doesn’t bode well…but it just goes to show how little control we really have over things… )

Wishing you all peace and comfort in the midst of a blizzard and stressful holiday travel.

Firecracker’s Snow Day

Pictures from earlier in the week, when it was a little warmer and less blustery, and Firecracker thought she might like to go play out in the snow.  She quickly thought better of it, and came in to warm up on the sofa, looking at some Dr. Seuss books with her sister and enjoying the snow from the window. 

We are currently pretty much snowed-in and the latest news is that our flight out to my folks’ tomorrow may be canceled as the snowstorm turns into an icestorm.  So, since I have some time on my hands, I think may have a second post up later today. 

Hope you are keeping warm and safe in the Iowa winter that has settled over Oregon!

Children’s Christmas Market

Our table at the Portland Homeschool Children’s Holiday Market, where our family sold homemade gift tags, peppermint bark, and marshmallows.  It was a wonderful venue for the girls to show off their projects, to raise money for various charities, and to network with other Portland homeschoolers.   

We raised $28 dollars for charity and sold nearly everything we brought (prices were kept low, so all children could participate in the buying as well as the selling –  $1 each, or 3 for $2).  We met lots of other great homeschooling/unschooling families.  The girls came home with tummies full of brownies and a bag full of homecrafted goodies they bought from the other kids at the market – fairy wands, playdoh, postcards, stationery, bean bags, chocolate lollipops. 

Many thanks to Lyla, who put on the event!!  There are future events in the works, and we will definitely attend again!

Peppermint Bark

This is an easy holiday candy that preschoolers/primary-aged children can make with only a little supervision.  The entire project (minus chilling time) takes about 15 minutes.

You will need: 2 lbs white chocolate, chopped, or 2 lbs white chocolate melting chips,

about 10 candy canes, crushed (to equal one cup) (my girls put the candy canes in a large bowl, and went to town with a potato masher),

a double boiler and a jelly roll pan lined in parchment or waxed paper.

Melt the white chocolate in the double boiler (we added half, let it mostly melt, then added the other half – it was much easier for the girls to stir this way)

When chocolate is completely melted, stir in the crushed candy canes until thoroughly combined.  Immediately pour onto your jelly roll pan, smooth into an even layer, and place in the fridge to chill (about an hour).  Then, carefully snap into pieces and enjoy!


Tuesday we spent the evening stringing popcorn and cranberries for the Christmas tree while sipping apple cider (homemade - from our dear friend, Linda).  We listened to Hubby read our nightly Advent reading, and then to this wonderful music.  Peaceful, joyful.  Now, this is Christmastime.

Our tree has very densely packed branches, so we voted to leave off the paper chains and candy canes this year – they’ll be hung up elsewhere in the house.  Tomorrow night – ornaments and icicles!