Friday, December 13, 2013

December Daily - Week Two: Tree and Tea

What a cold, COLD week we've had! Yesterday and today were a true relief, because we were in the positive temps once again after a long stretch of sub-zero. It's amazing how good 17 degrees F can feel after crazy-cold subs zero days! It's early for this kind of cold. We usually are enjoying 30's and 20's through most of December. January and February have visited us early this year it seems. All is well and warm inside, however! We are cozy and I am thankful for that and we remember those who are not so blessed in our prayers regularly.

The Christmas season got well underway in our home this week as we purchased our tree at our local Lion's Club tree sale after church this past Sunday. It was snowing regularly at the end of last week and the beginning of this one, so we brought a bit of that snow in with the tree and she had to drip dry on some sheets for a day along with waiting for her branches to fall.

But then it was finally time to decorate and Eve was thrilled to find "Bendy Santa" in amongst the ornaments (and Maia was thrilled to photo bomb this picture which seems to be one of her favorite things to do of late, so there you go, sweetheart - doesn't she look cute??).

Eve has invented a "Hide the Santa" game that has evolved over a couple of years into the completed version last year which is, she hides Bendy Santa somewhere in the living room or kitchen and when one of us finds him, we have to put him on the rocking chair that she keeps on the shelf in her room. If no one finds him after three days, she puts him in a new hiding place. The thing is, she's gotten very good at hiding him; our cottage is pretty small and still it is a challenge!

Eve could almost reach the top of the tree this year without any help, but she did need to grab the footstool. My baby is the tallest girl in the family now - almost 5'6 - and we don't know if she's done growing yet or not!

And now for a little Christmas Tree Love:

There's that beautiful, blue morning light! And see the candy dish there on my side table next to my mug of tea? Guess where "Bendy Santa" was?! Maia was contemplating taking a piece (there were fewer in it than in the picture below) and she saw a little face peeking out at her! I told you she was good at hiding him! The funny thing is that she says he's always somewhere we'd naturally run across him, so he's not under the couch or tucked into cushions or anything like that.

And here's the sweet, cheerful tree in the daytime. Don't they look so different in the daylight? Such a different kind of friendly charm from the deep magic they cast at night. Isn't it a lovely tradition?

Mid-week brought a wonderful treat! My dear, childhood friend, Susan, sent me this gorgeous, little quilt for my dollhouse! I hope to get a little bed to put it on for Christmas! She did such an amazing job; I love all the soft colors. It is just perfect!

 Eve made cookies for a cookie exchange she is hosting tomorrow. But before that...

It's time for a Christmas Tea!

Won't you join us? Last year the girls and I joined up with two other homeschooling families (who are also our FRIENDS!) and did an Anne of Green Gables study over the course of the year. Tea parties take place in the book and so we had a few of them ourselves, including one at Christmas. We also invited another friend last year - Susie. Susie was homeschooling too, but she has three boys, so she doesn't get to do tea parties too often. Last year we had it at Laura's house, but this year, Susie hosted and, as Laura did the year before, she pulled out all the stops. We all brought goodies to share and Susie provided us with the delightful atmosphere of her home and all her beautiful dishes. I contributed Butternut Tea Bread, Lemon Scones with Blueberry Sauce, and of course, Cucumber Sandwiches!

Susie had a fun collection of hats that she willingly shared with anyone who wanted to wear one.

Susie has only been in her house a few months, but the whole of her top floor has been, what Laura called, "Suzified!" It is so charming and fun; you would hardly guess that this is a split-level home in the suburbs.

Downstairs is the boys domain. They stayed away from all the frippery happening upstairs! Check out the hat Eve wore! It looks like a wedding cake atop her head!

Here is our hostess, Susie, on the left, bringing around a choice of sparkling cranberry juice or alcohol-free Moscato.

This was SUCH a fun day and we did it all ourselves! Everyone helped to do dishes at the end and clean everything up. It's amazing what a difference a little bit of porcelain, silver, and lace can do. :) We capped off our day by stopping at Simply Vintage on the way home... carrying the mood of beautiful, old, and cherished things into the evening. I hope we can make this a tradition for our Christmases to come; it's a wonderful addition to the season!

I hope all of you are enjoying some special moments this Advent Season too. I know many of you are as I look around the blogosphere! I'm wishing you all a very happy week to come. We've got good thing in store: Grandma Jeanette and Jerry arrive next week and there's so much more to come!!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

December Daily - Week One

My friend, Marianna, at Cardinal Acre told me that she is doing a "December Daily" journal. It's paper and is lovely with lots of pretty scrapbooking paper and other ephemera. This month is always so unlike the others... and yet so like the Decembers before it... in a way, but of course changing every year too. I don't have time to manage a paper journal this year, but I did think I'd try to take at least one picture a day to capture the essence and rhythm of our month.

My Granny's Creche: It's one of my very favorite of the things she left me.

We've spent a delightful year with Susan Branch! She makes every month fun, so we're
doing it again for 2014!

Decking the Halls begins. I selected the lights in the kitchen to stay after everything 
else is wrapped up and put away.

Our own snow over our table as it begins to fall outside...

Eve made the first snowman of the year with the dusting that we got!

Then it starts to add up for real...

Meanwhile, inside where it's cozy, my sweet neighbor, Margo, and her son, Matthew
sent over this wreath (the larger one on top) to decorate my dollhouse!
There's more work to be done and I'll finally get some time
to work on it, as we are officially on winter break!!

I love the very quiet mornings with my tea, Bible, a ticking clock...

...and the blue and blue and blue.

Our little guardian has gotten buried, but continues at his loyal post.

 And the Christmas cactus is blooming right on time! Yes, December, we're off to a great start!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Preparing and Musing Thanksgiving

     We gather together 
 to ask the Lord's blessing; 
 he chastens and hastens 
 his will to make known.  
 The wicked oppressing 
 now cease from distressing.  
 Sing praises to his name, 
 he forgets not his own.

 It is cold this morning. Columns of steam could be found along the skyline as I drove Eve north for her Latin class. Frost still clung to bare branches despite the sunshine. Oh, the sunshine! Don't we appreciate it on these November days when the landscape cries out for light to illuminate the subtle colors there? On cloudy days in autumn I get to feeling like I'm wearing a perpetual baseball cap that I wish I could fling skyward. I don't mind cloudy days in the summer when the earth is a riot of color anyway and I find myself seeking shade. But I luxuriate in the sun on October days when its light turns the trees into gemstones and I crave its light in November so I can witness late autumn's true palette!

Inside is a different story! The harvest colors are crowding my counter. Some of that bounty above is for our Thanksgiving dinner and some for meals in the weeks to come. I wish I could have taken a prettier picture to share with all of you, but like many of you, we are busy with preparations for the big day tomorrow and I just grabbed my camera and took a quick snap before we got busy with some things we could prepare ahead of time. We'll celebrate with my side of the family on Thursday and Paul's on Friday, so there are many dishes to prepare.

The linens have been washed and are in the dryer as I sit here at the library waiting for Eve's class to get out. Last night we prepared cranberry sauce, a sweet onion salad dressing, an olive relish to go with roasted veggies, cut up carrots and parsnips for said veggies, and cubed up bread for stuffing. Pumpkin pie will get made today along with some more veggie chopping. My goal this year is to actually catch a little of the parade as well as the dog show that they televise every year on NBC. I think I'll manage this year, as we are having dinner at 5:00; the late hour plus my preparation should amount to an easy pace for the day.

There are a few labels to print, linens to press and fold, place cards to make, and some wine to buy. I'll be taking my grandmother's china in a box over to my brother's house where we'll enjoy dinner again this year. I'd hoped to take a walk in Simon's Ravine before we eat, but it's supposed to be pretty cold again tomorrow. I don't know if I will be able to convince anyone to join me - especially when the kitchen gets all steamy and cozy!

For those of you in the U.S. celebrating tomorrow, I wish you all a blessed Thanksgiving. I so enjoy the rhythm of the year - so much the same and yet different every year too. I pray that you are with family or friends tomorrow and that you may find gratitude for the day, for the season, for the year in ways big and small: for family, friends, health, memories, columns of steam rising in cold air in the city or on the windows in your kitchen, frost on branches, wool mittens for your hands, the changing of the seasons, the smell of pumpkin...pie or candles or coffee or muffins or anything!... and for kitties that sometimes look so quizzical in their baskets and sit so still, like they're posing for their class picture like Charlotte kitty did for me the other  morning:

Have a wonderful day!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Dream House

Here's one of the birthday presents I got this year this past September. I LOVE dollhouses and have wanted one for years, but ordinarily, I could only afford a kit (which I didn't really want to have to put together) or I would have to purchase one used and ones that were in nice condition on Craigslist were also too cost prohibitive. But, there is a wonderful little shop about 5 miles from our home that I frequent called "Simply Vintage." I love this store, because I love antiques and vintage... things!... and this place is very affordable. The woman who owns the store is a lovely woman and it seems that for the past few years she has been purchasing dollhouse kits herself and assembling them in the back of her shop and then setting them out to sell. I had admired her work because she used such tasteful colors on both the inside and outside of her houses. Well, at least they were to my liking. She does put in wallpaper, but it is lightly patterned and the colors she chooses are nice palettes; she does a good job of coordinating them well.

The weekend of my birthday I saw that she had put this house out in the window. The following week I went back to pick up a shelf I had purchased there and I pointed the house (still there!!) out to Maia. When we spied the 20% off EVERYTHING sale sign in the window, Maia told me I should get the house right then as before the sale price, it was only $150! I have seen houses in poor condition on Craigslist for over $200, so I knew this was a really wonderful price. So, yes. I finally got my dream house. :)

So, I have the house, and it has a tiny bit of decor inside. I'll share those photos with you all another day. The outside, as you can see, has a little bit of decoration for fall and Eve also put some little, tissue ghosts in the windows and on the roof for Halloween. This is precisely why I have wanted a dollhouse for so long; I want to decorate it for the seasons and share the fun with children, whether my own or others that may visit over the years to come. Things are pretty sparse at the moment, but to me, that will be the fun: making and finding things for the house over the years. And the house needs a family too, of course! I have been looking around and haven't seen dolls yet that I want for the house. They, too, are awfully expensive, generally speaking, for nice ones. But the house will be worked on and ready for its occupants when the time is right.

The spot where my little dream house sits is right in the living room of my own, cozy, little dream house. There's Charlotte kitty sleeping in her basket next to the house! This photo is taken from "my" spot - my rocking chair that was never really supposed to be my rocking chair necessarily, but one that I've just kind of adopted as my own over the years, rocking babies back to sleep, sitting and knitting or writing, or reading. In fact, I'm sitting here right now as I write this post. My devotional basket is on the floor next to me with pens, Bible, journals, and current books. My knitting bag is here with the various projects, so though I never really officially decided it was "my" chair, my family rolls their eyes if I try to deny it!

I put my little house there on the table (piano bench, actually), because I want to enjoy it, change it with the seasons as I said, and share the wonder of it with little ones, because that's exactly what I have felt since I was a little girl when it came to the world of miniatures: WONDER! This year, my dollhouse has yet to obtain a Christmas tree, but I do have a wreath for the door and a few other things that I will be working on that will involve some polymer clay. The irony has not gone unnoticed by me that it is now that I have so little time with school + homeschool + graduation responsibilities along with all the other things which = so little time that I have finally gotten my house. But, it just lets me appreciate it all the more when I do have time to add a little something here or there.

Our own Christmas tree will stand in the spot where the house now is, but I've already found a spot where the house will reside during the holiday fun. Do you love the big "holiday rearrange" like I do? I can hardly believe the amount of work we do for one month of decor, but that is exactly what it is. I often find new ways of keeping the house once I've tried something new because of Christmas. But it also helps me to appreciate the ordinary look of our home too.

This past weekend was my Maia's 17th birthday! She chose to spend her day riding rides and spending a bit of her birthday money at the Mall of America.  One of her best friends also flew in from Florida to surprise her and the girls really had a wonderful time! Helping to execute the surprise and then witnessing (and videotaping) the girls shock and utter joy will remain one of the best memories of my life, I know.

I'm generally not a huge fan of malls, but we do come here from time to time as it is the closest one to our house and the girls like to come to look around for special holiday outfits and back-to-school. Truthfully, what they almost always come away with - when it's their own money to spend - is cute accessories, having learned that their money goes a lot farther at the wonderful selection of second-hand clothing stores in the Twin Cities area. But, the thrift stores don't have the amusement park with roller coasters and other head-spinny rides that this mom avoids like the plague, and so here we came and enjoyed the festive atmosphere with all the twinkly lights.

And speaking of head-spinny rides, I took a detour into Urban Outfitters while the girls and their brave dad were enjoying the last one. I wanted to see what was trending with the 20-something set. It's so weird when suddenly you realize that you and your generation are now vintage. *sigh*

So, to the sounds of the 80's and music track playing in the store, songs by the artists of my own teenage years... the Smiths, Bauhaus, Madonna... I noticed that turntables are quite fashionable now again too.

 Of course, these turntables have USB ports in them too. But there was even a small selection of albums being sold next to this display too. I wasn't sorry to see that. I wonder how popular this throwback will become (or already is)? My kids already long for the large headphones that we so happily eschewed ourselves once the lighter Walkman headphones came along and then, of course, the beloved ear buds! Interesting how things cycle isn't it?

Two more quick things:

I hope to find a sweater pattern similar to this one! So fun with all the different stitches. This happens to me all the time: now that I am knee-deep in the gift knitting, I am seeing all kinds of things I want to knit for myself and my Ravelry queue seems to grow by the day. None of it is realistic, of course. I will never knit all that I want to knit. But it's kind of like that with Pintrest too: I will never do or have but a fraction of the things I have pinned to my Pintrest boards in the same way I used to cut and tape beautiful photos from magazines into notebooks for design inspiration. Still, just having the queue there lets me believe it's possible, and that, of course, is half the fun!

In truth, what I am actually able to acquire both with time and money runs a little more along the lines of my girls and their accessories. My indulgences of the seasons never consist of all those things that get pinned or added to wishlists or queues. Usually, it actually amounts to something more like this:

My seasonal holiday soap. :) This Method hand soap in "Hollyberry" scent is deliciously festive and gives me a boost every time I begin a new round of cooking in the kitchen. And the little letters were those I purchased years ago at Michaels and painted. They come out every year and perch on different ledges for a little bit of variety mixed with tradition, which seems just the thing for this time of year!

Thanks for stopping by! Snow began falling this afternoon. There will only be a little this time around, but by this weekend, the landscape is going to add variety all its own! 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Changing Seasons: Living the Metaphor

Hello bloggy friends! I just turned in my last school project for the semester. Now there are a couple of online presentations to do and the final and then we'll wrap up first semester! But all the hard work is behind me and I can just wrap things up and begin to focus more on the holidays ahead.

This has been such a different school year for me and it's not just that I am a student. As I see the vividness of the season around me, I am feeling the poignancy of the change of seasons in my own life. Maia, as so many of you know, is graduating this year. We just got the news that she has been accepted into the co-op graduation group (there are over 100 seniors in our homeschool co-op and there are only 60 slots currently for the graduation ceremony) and will be graduating on Tuesday, June 3, 2014 (time to mark your calendars, grandmas!). YEAH (Youth Educated At Home) puts on a gorgeous, intimate, meaningful graduation ceremony. We were blessed to be able to volunteer last year and watched the majority of the ceremony before we had to go out and prepare to hand out cake to all the happy guests! It was so moving; I wanted to cry and I didn't even have a graduate... yet!
But this year I do, and there are all kinds of preparations and get-togethers with the graduating class to look forward to, including a paddleboat ride with dinner down the St. Croix river in the spring.

More news is that Maia has changed her mind about college and has found one that she has her heart set on. Money, however, is an object and so many discussions about the feasibility of it all, financial aid, working hard, trusting God, etc. have commenced. It's a lot for a girl to take. It's a lot for a Mama to take. And the truth is we still just. don't. know.

But, we are moving forward in faith, asking God to open doors as we seek His direction for her life.

Since early fall, I have been adjusting to my girl being away more often at work (where she is tonight!) and her sister has had to do her own adjusting, as Eve considers Maia to be her best friend. Now we adjust to a new idea, that Maia may not be here so much come next year at this time. The school Maia has her eyes on is not far from us, however - a 20 minute drive! - and I think Eve is comforted by the idea of weekends with her sister - whether here at home or on campus. If it all comes to pass...

So, I'll admit to some moodiness of late. Which is part of the reason I haven't taken the time to sit down and post. I've found more time recently now that I've finished up all the big things with my own school, but I haven't felt myself, haven't been ready or felt like I could share what I might want to share.

But tonight, God bless Susan Branch and her cheery blog, I felt my own happy self emerging again. One can only take so much talk about finances for so long before one starts to feel a bit like a squashed bug.

Tomorrow is Friday and I don't have anywhere to be, save for dropping Maia at work in the late afternoon. Oh, day! Happy, full day, stretching before me! I know it sounds terrible to say that I'm looking forward to dusting, but I'm craving doing a little spiffing up. I've got frozen, cooked jack o'lantern in the freezer and I'm thinking some pumpkin muffins are in order. That and working on more Christmas presents.

This is my neighbor's truck a week ago today:

I told him it looked like it was buried under snow, except it was leaves. :)

And here is the rest of the yard:

It looked just like this last Friday when Maia and I set out for the college tour in the morning. Notice the leaves on the tree? When we got home, the trees were BARE! It was such a blustery day, that both the front and back yard trees dumped everything they had... and we spent Saturday raking.

I also finished these green, stripey plain vanilla socks a couple of weeks ago and my toes are very happy with the squishiness and warmth of the wool. I took my friend Liz's advice and pre-darned the heels, weaving in an extra layer and hoping this superwash yarn will be more durable this way.

I did get a sweater's worth of beautiful, navy blue yarn for my birthday to make myself a sweater, but I only got as far as half a swatch when I realized that Christmas knitting and crafting season was upon me. More selfish knitting will return in January, but for now, everything is TOP SECRET!

Oh, this was so nice. I do wish I could have been more regular posting these last couple of months, but adjusting to new schedules is a real trick. I expect I'll be quite busy come next semester too, but let's not think about that yet, shall we? Hope to be talking with you again soon; Maia's birthday is on Saturday, and I'm sure there will be some fun stories to share!
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