Monday, December 24, 2012

More Making

Frozen Berries

I had every intention of sharing more of our December projects over the past few weeks. . . but time slipped away from me.  So I'll give just a peek into what we've been making—now that Christmas is nearly here!

Baking

Tiny sets for special cousins;

Tinies

Sister dolls for the sisters (from this wonderful book!);

Messy Workspace

Sister Dolls

Leg warmers from felted sweaters;

Leggies

Dolly Legs

Mr. Monster (completely designed and partially sewed by Amabel!);

Monster

Ornaments created from tiny things that accumulate in my desk drawers;


Making

Tiny Things

And this doll!  Oh this sweet little doll with clothing and accessories that Amabel sewed over a course of a few days—secretly, in her room.  For Ellen.  With Love.  Merry Christmas, friends!

For Ellen

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A New Tradition

Hands

I think we can officially call it a tradition now! 

This afternoon, Aunt Debbie and Aunt Marcia arrived with armloads of delicious gingerbread necessities. . . and then Liz, Philena, Tait, and Charlie joined the party.  And so the joy of making, this year, was multiplied manyfold!

I put the camera down early on in the evening to help squeeze out frosting.  So, I'll let you imagine what the houses looked like when they were finished—after five children (ages 1, 3, 4, 7, and 8) spent over an hour around the table together, working diligently to cover every inch of gingerbread!

Full Table

Eliz

Preparations

E

Philena

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Gousty Tree

Blanket Flowers

I am in the snow-dusted garden in front of my parents' home.  The world is hushed beneath a delicate covering of snow—except for Amabel's singing in the distance and the thud of Ellen's boots up and down the paths.  She is making tracks.  I notice the forms of the plants.  November silhouettes are now outlined in white.  Blanket flowers are still standing tall in front of the little (guest) house: my brother's summer writing cabin.  I think of him and his family.

Clothespins

We walk past the clothesline on our way up the back valley to look for a Christmas tree.  I notice drops of water suspended on the line.  The air is not quite cold enough to turn them into ice.

Not tall enough

Amabel is singing louder now, experimenting with the sound of her voice as it echoes over the hills.  Ellen has discovered a "snow cafeteria."  "Come see!" she calls.

Snow Cafeteria!

There are rose hip bushes among the meadow grasses, sumac, and scraggly pines.  I stand in front of one.  I move around it, watching how the light illuminates its red buds.

Rosehips

The dogs dash around us, noses to the ground—carried away by the delight of animal scents on fresh snow.  They look up only briefly when we call their names.

On the Run

As we walk back toward the house, Jeffrey joins us.  We decide to look in the front field for a tree, near the Tunnel of Love.  But I am distracted by the garden plants again—what remains from the summer now covered in white lace.  I'm particularly drawn to the bronze fennel.  I remember taking a picture of it glowing in August light.  How wonderful that my parents have left it standing.

Bronze Fennel

My family wants me to join them now.  I leave the fennel and follow three figures down the path into a sea of pine trees.  

This One, Papa?

Together, we find our tree.  A perfect Gousty tree.

Watching (from a safe distance)

Buds

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Making Calendula Salve

Flowers

Back in August we planted a very simple fall garden.  Jeffrey and I looked through our basket of seeds and picked out a few varieties with cold tolerance and a relatively short number of days to maturity.  We planted radishes, tat soi, peas (won't do that again), cilantro, carrots, and calendula.  Calendula was a wild card because we'd never grown it before and our seeds were packaged in California—so the growing instructions were a little unreliable.  But I love to experiment with flowers, so we put some seeds in the ground.

And it flourished!  We were surprised and delighted to be picking the bright red, orange, and yellow flowers for weeks on end!  Even after the first couple of hard frosts, the lush green plants bounced back.  On sunny November days, Amabel and Ellen would come running around the side of the house with their hands full of blooming calendula.

The girls knew that we were saving the petals.  They'd seen Jeffrey and I pulling them off the flowers and listened to us talking about making salve.  "What is salve?"  They wondered.

Seeping

It's actually quiet simple to make.  We followed the general instructions from A Delightful Home.  First we soaked a fourth-cup of dried petals (which is a lot more fresh petals than I expected!) in olive oil for two weeks.

Calendula Oil

Then we strained the petals out of the olive oil and combined the resulting oil with a forth-cup of beeswax and 20 drops of lavender essential oil.  We ended up with little jars of lovely honey-colored, sweet-smelling salve that we're planning to tuck into stockings later this month! 

Salve

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Creating with Wool

At our cozy old house in town (built in 1905, I believe), we had a little moth problem.  Much to my dismay, a clan of tiny, sneaky moth babies devoured some of our favorite wool garments, leaving behind un-mendable holes.  I couldn't bear to part with the sweaters, and so in an effort to repurpose them someday, I felted them up in the wash.  That was three or four years ago, and since then they've mostly stayed tucked away in a box (except for the occasional project like Ellen's dragon costume last fall.  Did I tell you that Harry fit into it this year?  Ellen discovered this herself when rooting through the dress-up box for a costume in October.  Hilarious!).

Seriously?

Okay, so it was a little tight.  Don't worry, we didn't make him wear it for more than a few minutes!

Dragon Dog

Well then a couple of weeks ago I happened upon this advent tree project—just about the time when Amabel and I found ourselves in need of a day of rest on the couch—and immediately thought of all those felted sweaters, waiting in their box.  A lot of cutting and hand sewing ensued, and the result was an advent forest: 24 simple trees under which the girls hope to discover little treasures this month!  I like them because they remind me of my old, loved sweaters and especially because we created something together that be used over and over again to welcome the Christmas season.  The girls like them because all kinds of things can hide under these trees; they've already been used by the dollhouse dolls and animals for a round of hide-and-seek!

Advent Trees

When making the trees, we used a few other scraps of fabric (besides wool) and added some embellishments.  Each tree has a layer of interfacing ironed on inside so that it stands up nicely.  Now that our wooly forest is complete, it's time for me to get going in earnest on a little secret sewing machine project.  More on that soon!

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Mantle

We're going to be sharing some of our recent projects here on the blog over the next few weeks in the spirit of creating and sharing!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Together


My dear friend Jenny took this photo of our family this weekend.  We were down in Grand Rapids watching her daughter in an Irish Dance competition (officially known as the Mid-America Oireachtas, which is a lovely way of saying that it was a big deal).  As a former dancer (I danced and choreographed a bit in college), I loved getting a peek into the world of fancy Irish footwork; but even more than that I loved seeing Jenny (you can see us together here on her blog).  I'm so grateful that our letters, our phone conversations, and our blogs have kept us connected over the past six years since Jeffrey, Amabel, and I moved from Pittsburgh back to Michigan.  Even after all those years apart and all that space between us, as Jenny said, we picked up as if no time had passed.  Jenny's friendship is a wonderful gift.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Gratitude

Grandmommy's Table

"I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; 
and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder."

— G.K. Chesterton

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

November Days

Autumn Grays

My November Guest

My Sorrow, when she’s here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walks the sodden pasture lane.

Pods

Her pleasure will not let me stay.
She talks and I am fain to list:
She’s glad the birds are gone away,
She’s glad her simple worsted grey
Is silver now with clinging mist.

Milky Seed

The desolate, deserted trees,
The faded earth, the heavy sky,
The beauties she so truly sees,
She thinks I have no eye for these,
And vexes me for reason why.

Yarrow Stalks

Not yesterday I learned to know
The love of bare November days
Before the coming of the snow,
But it were vain to tell her so,
And they are better for her praise.

— Robert Frost


Leafless

I want to thank Ashlea for sharing this poem.  It so fit my mood and photos from my recent wanderings, and I was delighted to discover it on her blog yesterday.  November has felt very quiet for me so far.  We are slowing down, taking stock, and truly letting go of some commitments that were not nourishing our family.  Walking outside, I've found a lot of peace in the increasingly barren landscape—watching the forests and fields shed layers of summer growth; watching their stark forms emerge; and learning to know the love of bare November days.  

Puff Heads

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Sewing Lesson at Grandmommy's House

Grandmommy's Window

To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.  

– Mary Oliver

The Featherweight

Cloth Sandwich

Thread

This November seems like the perfect time to begin sewing again.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Pyramid Point in Autumn

Uphill

I'll let the photos do all the talking today. . .

A little lift

On Top of the World

Up

RIght before Harry jumped!

Fam

Terriers

Sand Dance

Silhouettes

View

Looking Down

Flying!

Me too

E

One

Two

Three

Pink Cheeks

Beech

Tall

Our Girl

Hiding from Mama