Playing/ Free Exploration

Tea and a Visitor


One of my kids’ favorite rituals is afternoon tea.  We used to have a high tea on Thursdays, but as the kids have grown and their needs have changed, we’ve shifted to having a casual afternoon tea any day of the week they want to sit down and have it.

dsc_0879George inevitably wants to have tea every day, whether or not his siblings want to.  He loves getting out the china and his favorite mint tea and feeling very grown up.


With our tea, we had the last of the Seckel pears from our tree, and the first of the medlars (well, I enjoyed them.  George wasn’t so keen.  He did like the pears – I don’t think anyone can resist a pear whose taste matches its nickname,”sugar pear”.)


While George enjoyed his tea, Hal got some snuggle time with our favorite houseguest: Annabelle the Pionus parrot.  She is the most sweet-tempered, gentle parrot I’ve ever known (and I’ve known a lot of parrots).  She has such a calm demeanor and likes hanging out with the kids, although she seems to prefer Hal to everyone else – which is a good thing, because he absolutely adores her.


One thing I really enjoy about tea-time is that I can sit and knit while George and I chit-chat.  Today I finished a remnant hat while we were hanging out.  I seem to have lots of small balls of various greys and yellows  in worsted weight and have made a few hats with grey and yellow stripes – I really like the combination.  I’ve now worked through all my grey odds and ends and George has asked me to make him a cotton hat with red in it, so that’s next on the list for knitting projects.  (I also have a shawl on the needles, but I usually like a mindless, easy project to fall back on at the same time, and hats or socks always fit that bill.)


I’ll be back tomorrow for Ginny’s Yarn Along.

Magic Potion Kit



We’re hunkered down at home today thanks to the weather.  All derby practices and scrimmages have been called-off on account of the wind storms and flooding in Portland.   All my big garden projects for the afternoon are similarly on hold.  But we have found plenty to keep us busy in the hosue today.

Hal has a birthday party for a close friend from his ReWild Nature Immersion program, and I asked him what his friend might want for his birthday.  He replied, “Carmine’s really into Minecraft, and I think a magic potion kit would be a cool gift.  Let’s make it a ReWild-style kit, though, okay?”

dsc_0803Every magic potion kit needs something in which to grind the ingredients.  We started wtih a wooden mortar + pestle set I found online.  We polished it with some of our Beeswax Polish, and set about finding potion ingredients that could be ground in it.


George helped pack dried flowers (calendula, lavender) and herbs in babyfood jars (I had picked up a bunch on Freecycle for the kids’ craft projects).

dsc_0794I added sweet myrrh resin (Opoponax, from Somalia), which smells amazing and is fun to grind up.

dsc_0800I lined a thrifted wooden box with some gardeny-herby fabric cut to fit, then Hal helped arrange the jars of herbs and flowers and magical-doo-dads and dropper bottles and wrap it all up.




I know Hal was really proud of his homemade gift and I hope Carmine likes the finished kit and he gets a chance to create all sorts of messy magical projects and potions!

A Morning Indoors


Hal is at ReWild’s Nature Immersion program on Fridays.  It’s the highlight of his week.  He gets to run around outside all day, learn primitive skills, and engage in loads of imaginative play with his friends.  He comes home tired, filthy, and very, very happy.

It’s not just a benefit for him:  In a house with lots of kids, sending just one kid off for the day has lots of perks.  It not only provides him with adventure apart from his siblings, but it also reduces the conflict, mess, noise, etc in the house by a significant portion.  And considering that resolving sibling conflict normally comprises the bulk of my “parenting” lately, Friday is a day I’ve been looking forward to, as well.  I get so much accomplished on Fridays, all while having a quiet, peaceful morning.


I got a loaf of sesame-spelt bread baked early this morning.  It has 2 cups of unbleached flour, and 1 cup of spelt, so it takes longer to rise, but it gets some loft eventually.  It is much less dense than an all-spelt bread, with the nutty flavor of the spelt still coming through.



While the bread was rising, I worked on a pair of top-down mix-n-match socks I started ages ago.  I’m down to the toe on the last sock, and then I can block them!  (Joining Ginny’s Yarn Along. These are 100% wool yarn my sister-in-law gave me some time ago.  They’re leftovers from another project she did, so I’m not sure of the brand.)


While I’m knitting this morning, George has been alternating between working on a puzzle and playing with items on the nature shelf.  He loves to look at the agates and limpet shells we collected at the beach last month, and added some hazelnuts from the backyard.


It seems that everywhere you look in the kitchen, there are medlars strewn about.  The kids and I keep bringing them in as they fall from the tree.  They need to sit on the counter for a few weeks to soften and be edible.  I can’t wait to eat them:  they taste intensely of autumn to me.  (See my new video about growing and eating medlars here.)

This weekend is packed with derby.  I’m officiating four bouts, in three days, as well as a few scrimmages.  But next weekend I’m taking the weekend off to work on fall garden clean-up and transition some of the front yard garden from annuals to perennials.  The plan is to add two new pawpaw trees, another pomegranate, and a “Nikita’s Gift” persimmon amongst the shrubs and herbaceous perennials I established the last two years.  Finding derby-life balance is hard for me, especially as autumn in the garden is still a busy time, but I’m looking forward to a crazy derby weekend starting today and a permaculture weekend next weekend.

Beeswax Polish Kits


Introducing our new line of Beeswax Wood Polish and polish kits!  Made with local beeswax from natural beekeepers and sweet orange oil, our polish protects and conditions wood, and is safe for children.

Natural wooden toys, bowls, and furniture need to be buffed with polish a few times a year to keep their shine and prevent over-drying and cracking.  In Waldorf education, children take responsibility of their possessions through The Practical Arts:  this is where children are given child-like versions of adult responsibilities in order to master skills, increase independence and confidence, and prepare for adult life.  Kids learn to care for their toys, play kitchen items and utensils by polishing objects themselves.  This form of handwork teaches fine motor skills and teaches even very small children that they are capable of contributing in a meaningful way to family life.


Our 2 oz tins of polish are available on their own, and also in kits for children.  The kits include a tin of polish, a handsewn 100% cotton flannel polishing cloth, and 2 natural palm wood child-sized spoons ready to be polished.


We’re proud to add our polish kits to the inventory of local beeswax products for the Portland Village School’s Craft Fair and Bee Thinking’s upcoming holiday bazaar.

Autumn Gifts


I’ve been busy the last few days making things for loved ones.  I have lots more to share, but am behind on uploading and editing photos.  So, for now, a few pictures of the gifts We’ve been making this week.

Above:  A little indoor fairy garden as an early birthday present for Bea, who maintains the fairy garden outside in the yard, and is always sad to see it go dormant over the winter.  Now she’ll have her own little garden to tend to right in the windowsill.


I have an abundance of beets, and my dad really loves beet salad.  George helped me make him this one with candied nuts, bleu cheese, and a balsamic dressing.




Lastly, I finished and blocked a shawl for a friend who is going through a difficult time right now.  It’s a prayer shawl, made in 100% Brown Sheep wool.

More soon.  Hope your weekend is filled with good things.

Collector’s Item

Unschooling Nature Table

Unschooling Nature Table
Hal sorting items for his “store”. Front to back: ground cherries, hollyhock seed head, grape leaves with filberts and calendula seed heads, yarrow, painted rocks…

Years ago, my kids crafted their own version of a universal child’s game:  collecting items from nature/the garden, assigning those items special qualities (fairy berries!  war paint!), and selling them in a “store”.  One child (usually the youngest) is “The Collector” and he gathers items to sell to the shop owner, who in turn, markets them to her remaining siblings and friends.  It’s kind-of the ultimate unschool nature table make-believe game.

Unschooling Nature Table
Bea sorting goodies George has brought her: amaranth leaves, lavender, nasturtium blossoms, tomatoes, hollyhock blossoms, calendula seed heads, filberts.
All of the kids getting along and playing together despite the diversity in their ages and developmental stages. It’s a rare moment, I’m cherishing it.

I managed to get a tremendous amount of yardwork done while the kids played, and enjoyed helping George, The Collector, find goodies to bring his siblings.

Unschooling Nature Table

Thimbleberry, grape, and filbert leaves all make excellent “wrapping paper” for purchased goodies.  Bea loves to wrap them up and secure them by pinning with a small twig.


We’re ramping up for our homeschool co-op to start tomorrow (I’m teaching a class based on one of my favorite childhood books, My Side of the Mountain), and have lots to prep today.  I’ve also been really busy filling plant orders for folks, and will have a post with more about that tomorrow.

Tuesday Evening


The garden always starts to look a little more wild and unkempt than normal this time of year.  Some plants are past their prime and looking scraggly.  Some have spilled over their boundaries to scramble over paths and up tomato cages.  Some (like the mile-high lettuce in the center-background) are allowed to bolt so I can save the seeds or are permitted to self-sow about the garden.


After dinner, George helped me pick some tomatoes and plums and summer squash for a delivery in the morning.  He got a thrill out of being hoisted up to help reach the first wave of ripe Stanley plums.


He thought this Pink Brandywine tomato was really cool and deserved a close-up.



As the sun was getting close to setting, Ruth brought out her favorite chicken, Cookie, to peck around in the Rain Garden before she and Casey locked up the poultry for the night.



It’s a good thing Cookie is the world’s snuggliest chicken, because Ruth absolutely adores her.  She’s a total puppy dog and wants to be picked up and held at every opportunity.



All in all, not-too-shabby for less than an hour’s picking with small children “helping”, especially considering I also picked another dehydrator-load of calendula and comfrey, and some golden raspberries for the kids’ dessert, and weeded as I went along.  Definitely, not-too-shabby.

Neighborhood Nature Walk


When the kids have abundant energy, and the weather is unusally dry, it’s time to bundle up and walk to Grandma and Grandpa’s.  The kids brought a basket to collect items for the nature table on their way.


We’ve been reading books about Thanksgiving, but also about late-autumn as we prepare to shift into the winter holiday.  The kids were anxious to add items to the nature table while it is still decorated for autumn.  (At the end of the month,  the table shifts over to Advent and Winter decor.)


George had more fun jumping in the leaves than collecting them.


Bea brought her whittling gear, so that she and Grandpa could make spoons when we arrived at his workshop.



Ruth, enjoying the crunch of the leaves.

More soon – crafting and good things from the kitchen!


Little Mitts, Little Hands


Strep throat and a chest cold swept through the family this week, so we have done little else besides snuggle and attempt to get well.  New “Triple Crown” thornless blackberries are waiting to be planted in the garden, the grapes and raspberries need to be pruned back for the winter.  However, nearly every item on this week’s “to-do” list this week has been abandoned in favor of long waits – for throat cultures at the urgent care, and antibiotics at the pharmacy.

I cannot sit still without some handwork to keep me occupied.  All of the waiting for medical appointments and snuggling with sleeping feverish children has afforded ample time to knit.  And knit, and knit.  I worked up a new, very simple children’s fingerless mitt pattern (the children always request mittens or some such for Christmas).   They are a quick knit – taking only about two hours to complete, and a great use of leftover worsted-weight yarn.

A few images from our week, although there isn’t much:


On this morning’s trudge down to the chicken run to feed the poultry, I was struck by the beauty of the half-pruned Concord grapes on the chicken coop.  We lack the showy maple trees of the Midwest, but the grapes never fail to bring some autumn color to the garden.


When George has felt like playing this week, he has been rediscovering the block basket.  In the early morning, when the other children are still asleep, he asks if he can go play blocks.


IMG_0228[1]These mitts will be a Christmas gift for George – he loves anything TARDIS blue, and a friend gave me some incredibly soft Manos del Uruguay yarn, which knit up beautifully.

I think the kinks are ironed out, and will share the finished pattern (in toddler/preschool and elementary sizes) in time for next week’s Yarn Along.  Be sure to check back this weekend for more from the garden, and next Wednesday for the fingerless mitt pattern.



Yarn Along: Annis

IMG_0143[1]Joining Ginny’s Yarn Along this week.

Knitting: I’m finishing up the Annis Shawl in Brown Sheep Nature Spun fingering weight yarn.  The yarn was purchased several years ago on clearance, but I had never found the  right pattern for it until I recently came across “Annis” on Ravelry.

Reading: Just finished re-reading How To Make A Forest Garden by Patrick Whitefield.  Every time I thumb through it, I glean something new to apply to our landscape.

On a whim I snagged On Such a Full Sea, by Chang-Rae Lee from the library “Best Picks” shelf.  It is a Dystopian post-apocalyptic novel, and while I am only two chapters in, I must say that the writing is light years better than other novels I have read lately from the same genre.  The prose is absolutely gorgeous – rich and vivid, and yet not in any way combersome.  Not surprising, considering Lee has been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.



The rain today is dreadful, so much of the day was dedicated to play and craft projects in the living room, reading and mathematics, and all the sibling squabbles that come from being confined indoors.

Wishing you a peaceful rest of the week.




First Day of Autumn


It has been three months since I last posted an update.  Three months ago tomorrow, I broke my leg quite badly at derby practice, and have spent the summer recovering from two subsequent reconstructive surgeries.

Hard Wear

They tell me it takes a full year to be back (as close) to normal (as the ankle can get).  In the last two weeks, I’ve finally been able to get out in the garden for a few hours each day.  While I have some complications, and still have a brace and need to use one crutch, being back in the garden has done wonders for my recovery.  It is such a gift to be able to get around outdoors – however slowly – and tend to the garden – however wild it has become.  It is so so good to get back to any measure of garden work.

A quick glimpse at our morning in the garden:  (Bea, our resident shutterbug, took all of these pictures, as I was ecstatically hobbling around the yard with a crutch in one hand and pruners in the other.):

IMG_9577[1]The last of the plums were picked today.  They are “Stanley” prune plums in the front yard.  They are ready a full month after the other plums in the yard, so we have had fresh plums throughout the summer.


IMG_9736[1]The Swiss Chard is a bit out of control in the front beds.  I allow the brightest and most vigorous plants to bolt and then let them self-sow every year.  The result has been bigger plants each year and deep bright pink or red stems in most of the plants.


The Cox’s Orange Pippin apples are beginning to blush a bit of red.  I am anxious for them to ripen!


I can never resist snacking on Cape Gooseberries (Physalis peruviana, which are also known as Inca berries).  They always ripen at the very end of summer after most fruits have peaked.  The late ripening, plus their sweet-tart exotic flavor makes them worth growing, no matter how small the crop.


September also yields a flush of tomatillos.  Much like green beans, the fruit loves to hide:  you can pick a plant through, come back five minutes later and pick another full basket worth.


When placed together, it is easy to see that the tomatillo (“De Milpa” variety), Cape Gooseberry, and ground cherry all belong to the genus Physalis.  Their papery husks keep the fruit clean, even when it falls from the plant at peak ripeness.

IMG_9747[1]While I picked tomatillos, the older children made and elaborate game for George that involved gathering beans from the “Sadie’s Horse Bean” and “Indian Runner” pole beans.  it kept them occupied for a very, very long time.

IMG_9782[1]A portion of this morning’s harvest for Birch Community Services, which included ground cherries, “Violette de Bordeaux” figs, lavender, French Tarragon, “Delicata” squash, tomatoes, summer squash, plums, “Lacinato” (aka “Dinosaur”) kale, Lemon cucumbers, chard, sage, rosemary, and tomatillos.

More soon as the garden winds down for the year, and life slowly returns to a familiar rhythm for our family.

Blessings on your week.





(Edit:  I realize WordPress is having issues right now – all my photos are loading sideways, and while they look fine on my Dashboard, they appear flipped on their side in the final post.  Working on it!)


The past few mornings have felt like September with their crispness, and we’ve started out the day in sweaters.  And yet the afternoons are the best that summer in Oregon has to offer with blue skies and warm breezes.  So, of course we’ve been taking advantage of the gorgeous weather and spending every possible moment outdoors.   Every evening we’ve taken long walks, and most days we head to a playground in the city after swim lessons and garden chores.


Sunday we played hooky from church, packed a picnic lunch, and went for a day hike in the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge.  The paths are wide and easy to navigate for toddlers like George who want to walk/run like the big kids (“No backpack!  I walk!  I WALLLLKKK!”).


And the wildlife!  We saw frogs and birds and insects and fish at every turn in the path and every pond.  Bea tuned-in to every call of every bird, particularly the Orange-Crowned Warblers and Song Sparrows.  But the highlight of the afternoon is when a Bald Eagle flew very low to the ground, directly over our heads, and landed in an adjacent tree.

If you haven’t made a trip out to the Refuge, we highly recommend it.  And we’ll be traveling back again to see the migratory birds moving through in the fall and spring.

I’ll be back later this week with some knitting, spinning, and maybe a few new recipes.  But for now, it’s back outside to soak up that sunshine.




Sourdough on blue cornmeal.  Breakfast.
Sourdough on blue cornmeal. Breakfast.

Joining Taryn of WoolyMossRoots for her Gratitude Sunday:

-Very glad to have a little free time to return to blogging, and catch up on some of my favorite blogs.

-And grateful to return to some much-beloved routines and habits (like baking bread nearly every day, knitting, reading aloud to the kids in the afternoon, making pickles).   IMG_8471-Grateful for the intense and much-needed rain this week, followed by a bolt of growth all over the gardens.

-Feeling very blessed to have such kind and thoughtful neighbors, who lavish such unconditional love on my kids.

George, almost two. On his push bike.
George, almost two. On his push bike.

-Bittersweet to see my youngest, who is suddenly full of independence and strong opinions, outgrowing some of his baby-ness as he edges up to his second birthday.  However, it is exciting to see him take on new things and discover words and concepts every single day.

-And of course, on this Father’s Day weekend, grateful for Casey, who is a dedicated and loving father.  He reads the kids adventure stories every night, whittles bows and arrows for the girls, builds Lego monsters with Hal, and gives his kids a childhood full of rich, imaginative play.

Hope you have a peaceful and restorative Sunday and a good start to your new week.

Rejoining the Yarn Along


A little early morning, bleary-eyed knitting with my early-riser.

He was up long before his siblings, so we snuggled in bed as he sifted through a jar of buttons (one of his favorite past-times), and I chugged coffee and finished a few inches on this little project:


Joining Ginny for her Yarn Along this morning, and Nicole for her KCCO.  I am in-between books at the moment, but have been a tad-bit obsessed with watching Wrapunzel’s tutorials while I knit.

Looking forward to visiting the other knitters in the Yarn Along after the kids are in bed tonight.


Making Butter

I made a bit batch of beef stew for dinner this weekend – enough to last for two meals.  We rarely eat beef or pork (other than a small amount of ham or bacon to flavor veggie dishes), so it was a real treat for all of us.  All day long, the kitchen was full of the aroma of leeks, smoked paprika, merlot, allspice, and cinnamon.

Ruth suggested we make butter and loaf of bread to go with dinner.   I happened to have 2 cups of organic heavy cream in the fridge.  Okay, let’s make butter!

To make butter

take a 1 quart mason jar, and add:

2 cups of heavy cream

a pinch of ultra fine popcorn salt (optional!  I prefer mine without salt)

screw the lid on, and shake.  And shake and shake and shake.  For about thirty minutes.

(Ruth, concentrating hard on the jar, willing the cream to separate!)

It was a weekend morning, and Casey was reading books to the kids, so we just passed the jar around, each person shaking and swishing until s/he got tired, then passing it to the next person.   After about 15 minutes, it was perfect whipped cream.  Then after about half an hour, suddenly there was a large chunk of bright yellow butter sitting in buttermilk (top photo).

This was the perfect opportunity to get one of the antique butter molds Casey’s grandma, Ruth Young, had given me a few years back.  I believe they were her grandmother’s.  After we had squeezed all the buttermilk from the butter (exactly one cup of each), and chilled the very soft butter in the fridge for a while, we pressed it in the oiled mold.

(The cup of buttermilk was used to make the bread later in the afternoon.)

 The butter smelled buttery and looked so beautiful, and the kids couldn’t wait to eat it.  I never got a shot of the finished molded butter, because as soon as I turned to get some crackers (the bread wasn’t made yet), the children had already dug into it with spoons!  Ah, well.  Next time.  It was absolutely delicious, though.

Great choice, Ruth!  It was a fun activity, and went perfectly with the crusty bread and beef stew for dinner.  Now, if only we had a neighbor with a cow and steady supply of fresh cream…

Out in the Chill

Some images from the garden this week:

My little garden helper.  Love spending time out in the garden early in the morning,  just me and George (and the poultry, of course).

We found some gorgeous mushrooms (Turkey Tail?) growing on old plum logs bordering the rhubarb patch.  Aren’t they beautiful?

And this feathery mycelium on the underside of a board that had been laying on the ground since the children abandoned their fort with the onset of chilly wet weather.  Every time I see gorgeous fungus in the yard, I resolve to learn more about this fascinating Kingdom that brings healing to our landscape and nourishment to our perennial fruit crops.

Dashing in to gather the last handfuls of ripe lingonberries after jubilant quacking from the ducks alerted me to their presence in the lingonberry patch.  They did not damage the plants, but stripped 90% of the fruit off.   Sigh.

We are working through the garlic in storage so quickly!  I ran down to the basket in the basement to gather a few more cloves for the beef stew I was making for dinner.  Hoping hoping hoping we won’t run out of garlic before the newly planted crop matures in late June.

Filled with gratitude for a week that included so much time out in the garden, working hard and enjoying the crisp cold fresh air.

And grateful for the privilege of having little George in our family – for being able to watch his transition from babyhood to boyhood.  He is adding new words and signs to his vocabulary almost daily.  He is blossoming into his own little person, with a personality so different from his siblings.  Loved watching him playing in a flake of straw, squealing with utter delight and scattering the straw with total abandon.  It is the ordinary little moments like this,  in the midst of ordinary days,  that I will hold dear in my memory.  Such a blessing.

Late December in the garden

Our Christmas was the first spent at home in Oregon, instead of visiting Grandma and Grandpa B.  We had a peaceful and happy holiday.

Since, in the past, the children and I have been in Florida for 4 to 6 weeks in the winter, we have missed out on enjoying the garden in this season.  But not this year!  Every morning, we have bundled up and spent two or three hours outside.

Our temperatures have been mild (high 30’s to mid 40’s) and we have taken full advantage.   The poultry love it that we are out improving the garden, too.  Every shovel of earth turned over yields a bounty of worms for hungry beaks.  When we are outside, the birds are ever underfoot!

Back in October, I planted several rows of our heirloom garlic in the front yard.  In order to improve our bulbing garlic over the years, we save the biggest and best cloves from our late-June harvest for planting.  This year, we also set aside many small inner cloves to be planted in clumps for a spring harvest of green garlic.

With November temperatures still well above freezing, I was able to do a late planting of shallots (on the left), as well.  However, the addition of many perennial veggies and fruit trees has reduced space for annuals in the front yard, so there were bulbs leftover.

This week, the ground remains unfrozen, despite morning frosts.  I was determined to get the rest of the garlic and shallots planted in the backyard.  After 2 hours of reshaping a bed that formerly grew beans, turning in composted manure, adding a dormant rhubarb to the end of the bed, and mulching the paths around the bed, we were reading for planting.

Once the garlic is planted, of course it has to be mulched to keep through the winter.  Well, chickens LOVE fresh straw mulch – whether they are actively looking for seeds and snacks, or just reveling in scratching, whooshing, crunching.  A fence is requisite.  Bolt, our Speckled Sussex, only needs a few moments to find a weak spot in a fence.  (She was removed and the fence mended before she damaged the newly planted garlic.)

It was good to have rest time over the holidays, but I am glad to be back to posting.  And with the approaching New Year, I am looking forward to green things growing again.

Time to go thumb through seed catalogs and finalize my orders for the 2013 garden year!

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.

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.

The Tomten and the Fox

Needle felting is one of those crafts we feel drawn toward more in the winter months.  Both of the girls really enjoy making Christmas ornaments and decorations.  Harold is learning to use the needle tool safely, and often prefers playing with the tufts of roving and his older sisters’ finished projects.

Astrid Lindgren’s Tomten books are among my favorite winter stories from childhood.  Harold requests we read them (along with Jan Brett’s Hedgie’s Surprise) at least once every day since I added them to the book basket.

So, in honor of the the children’s fascination with the little red-hatted caretakers of the farm, we made a little needle-felted Tomten for them to play with while I read the stories aloud.

Without any assistance, Ruth also made the fox from the story.  She posed him all snuggled up, his belly fully of porridge (not hens!).

Linking up with Nicole for KCCO today.  I’ll be back tomorrow for the Yarn Along, and some thoughts on winter agriculture later in the week.

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.

Stockmar afternoon

Late afternoon -that time in the hour before dinner, the hour before Daddy gets home – is so often a strain on family harmony.  We’re all hungry, low on energy, short on tempers.  I struggle to find ways to keep the children occupied, finish dinner, and keep squabbling to a minimum. (I remember Grace relating a similar frustration at that time of day, and feeling relieved that I wasn’t the only mom on the verge of pulling her hair out and yelling at the the top of her lungs come 4:30 or 5.)

When the children aren’t out playing with the neighbor boys until dinner, I try to rotate through special handwork activities they all can enjoy.  Modeling beeswax is a favorite reserved for the most trying afternoons.  After a whole day of sibling disharmony, we all have to reconnect, so while the split-pea stew simmers and bread bakes, I sat down to join them.

This was the first time George had used modeling beeswax.  It took a while to convince him that this yummy-smelling stuff was not, in fact, a snack, but he eventually figured it out.

(The green out the window is the swath of cover crops now fully established.  The only food going up front right now is volunteer chard and Tuscan kale.)

As the last rays of sun came through our front window, we had an opportunity to chat about the day, anticipate delectable Thanksgiving dishes, and sculpt together.  Finally, sisters are laughing together instead of grouching at each other, and little brothers are encouraged instead of teased.  This time was just what we needed to get back to our proper selves and work (play!) as a family.

Modeling beeswax one of the kids’ favorite media (especially for Ruth, who made the autumn fairy, above), however it is quite spendy.  We were given our original set years ago by a dear friend who had gone to Waldorf school as a child, and knew how magical modeling wax could be for kids.  Over the years, I have replaced individual sheets one at a time as needed, but we try conserve and re-use every precious piece.

I recently learned that you can make your own modeling beeswax for far less cost than those lovely Stockmar sheets.  Maybe sometime (if I can find an affordable source of local beeswax), we’ll give the recipe a try.

As the sun sets, and we settle in to the weekend.  I’m looking forward to a quiet day tomorrow, to catch up on housework and sewing projects, and read-aloud with the children as a late-autumn storm is forecast to roll through.

Blessings on your weekend.

Play Kitchen


George’s favorite place to play of late.

Who knew an old beat-up play kitchen set out by a dumpster would, after a little TLC, find years and years of new life, providing so many hours of delightful imaginative play for four very imaginative children?

Cookin’ up sea shells and clothespins…mighty tasty.


Nature Play and a Lunch Recipe

The past two mornings, the kids and I have worked on harvesting the end-of-summer lavender, which we will use for winter craft projects.  (More on that next time).

The lavender plants are all in the front yard, which is unfenced, and we are along a bus line.  Keeping a busy toddler safe and occupied while we work on front yard projects is a must.

George was kept very happy by his big sisters, who were dead-heading dahlias for me, and bringing him the spent blossoms to play with.   He had such a grand time shredding the flowers, flinging petals in the air and giggling to himself.

After harvesting lavender for quite a while, it was time for lunch.  The older three children take turns being my lunch helper on different days of the week.  This gives me a chance to get some one-on-one time with each of them and teach them culinary skills safely.  This lunch couldn’t have been easier, and it was a hit with all four kids.   Here’s what we made:

Bea’s Bacon-Peach “Pizza”

Preheat oven to 400 F.

For each person, you will need:

4 slices cooked bacon (leftover is fine)

4 slices of fresh peach

2 slices stale rustic bread (we had leftover levain)

a few tablespoons of pizza sauce

mozzarella,and Parmesan

fresh basil leaves (optional)
Directions:  Place sliced bread on a jelly roll pan.  Spread sauce, add 2 slices of bacon per piece of bread, top with cheese, then 2 peach slices, then more cheese.  Garnish with basil leaves if desired (kids prefer to leave it off).

Bake at 400F for 8 min.  Place under broiler for another 1-2 min or until cheese is caramelized and bubbly.

Serve with salad and a fruit smoothie.  Viola!  Lunch!  And happy kids!

Who needs toys when you can shred and fling and mash and revel in blossoms?

While some moments are rough, and we’ve had our stresses and hiccups the past few weeks, we are doing our best to be intentional with each other in our homeschooling, our living and being together, and in celebrating the last breath of summer before the return of Oregon’s inevitable grey, rainy autumn.

We love the snuggly, wooly, apple-cidery things that will come with the coming chilly weather, but for this week, we’re holding on to the blossoms, the lavender bottles, the juicy fresh peaches, the playing outdoors together while we can.