Thursday, January 17, 2013

January Days

"Laura in the Snow" by Tasha Tudor

"It snowed and snowed, the whole world over,
Snow swept the world from end to end.
A candle burned on the table;
A candle burned."
- Boris Pasternak, Dr. Zhivago

I need a new, beeswax candle for our table. Yes, we have passed the Winter Solstice, but we are still burning our candles and huddling by the fireplace at night. A few days ago, I heard one of the girls say - though I think they've each taken a turn in saying it - that now that the holidays are past, they are ready for it to be warm again.

"Well, winter has a long ways to go yet," I said as we drove through the round-about on our way home from our friends' attic yesterday. "You have to try to appreciate January for what it IS."

Certainly, I used to think this way too; I don't think it's necessarily a trait of one who has lived years in a sub-tropical climate. No, I think it is just our natural inclination after all the excitement, to be a little let-down by the solitude of winter. I actually once even wrote a poem about winter and named it, Unfortunate Season.

 Goodness. That's a sorry attitude.

I'm sure my change of heart has to do with a number of things. One, was my "friend," Tasha Tudor. She had a love of and taught me to really enjoy the pleasures each season brings, including winter! A book of her life and work, The Private World of Tasha Tudor, is one I have owned for years and is one I treasure. It is a picture-book for adults for sure. The photographs are beautiful, the narration of the way she lived her life as well as the interviews with her are delightful (she was very wry!), her home is so unusual, inviting, and interesting, and her garden was lush! It's perfect reading for a snowy day!

Tasha Tudor with two of her darling corgis!

Two, is certainly a perspective on the present that I don't think I appreciated as much when I was younger. Every moment of time is one we will never get back; I appreciate it all so much more now.

Three, having lived without a greater vibrancy of seasons, I do enjoy their distinctness.

Four, is the knitting and other handcrafts, as well as painting that I so enjoy. I don't mind being inside so much with these pastimes when warm breezes are not beckoning.

Five, is perhaps just an excuse and opportunity to be still and to enjoy our little nests. I know that by the time March rolls around, I will be positively aching to open up those windows, only to have another thirty-one days of chill and sloppy weather staring me back in the face. But for now, there are books to read aloud and hot tea to drink, games to be played - both the board and electronic kind, together- and cooking in the kitchen with the intention of heating it up - so opposite from those dog-days of summer. There are grains and beans seemingly perpetually simmering; hot meals for breakfast lunch, and dinner; breads and biscuits often on the menu for dunking into stews regularly showing up at the table.

Next week temps will dip below 0 degrees F for the high of the day. I won't be strapping on my skates - good attitude or no - on those days, but I am getting them sharpened this weekend. I picked up a nice pair at a thrift store just before Christmas. When the thermometer shows up in the 20's again, I hope to be out there at least a couple of times before the thaw.

The temperatures are supposed to begin to take their nose-dive on Saturday. But that's okay. I'm planning a trip over to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts just to breeeeeaaathe in a little inspiration. We were there at the beginning of the school year to see the wonderful Rembrandt exhibit. I had not been to the MIA in years though, and longed to slowly peruse all of the galleries. It was not to be, however, with our group having another agenda already planned out. I knew I would be back. The timing is just right: it will be nice to get out and walk around in a large indoor facility without it being a shopping experience! The price is right: free. And the kids are opting not to come along this time which is actually fine with me. I've taken young people plenty of times to art museums - my own children as well as other children who were members of art classes I taught or just to visit. But, of course, you know how it is... delightful in it's own way and a lovely way to spend time together, but you don't actually get to spend much time with any one piece for longer than 30 seconds. I am truly looking forward to just taking my time, reading as much as I want about each piece and even spending some time with a few favorites. I love to look at brush strokes... and sometimes the sheer size of a piece is just astounding to me.

In the Studio:

Speaking of paintings, I have a new idea for one that I am excited about, having not painted much - with our move and all - since last winter when I dabbled a bit with the girls while teaching them watercolor. But I haven't done something "big", relatively speaking, in a while, so I'm excited to begin that.

I've got my new February Lady Sweater on the needles. The last one grew, since it was made of a cotton/acrylic blend. It was still lovely and has found an new home. But I really, really like the design and still want one for myself and it's a fun and relatively quick knit for a sweater. I'm doing it in RED which is a departure for me. I don't own too much red, it being one of my least favorite colors. But it's growing on me. And since it seems the majority of my wardrobe resides in the "neutral zone," I'm ready for some punch. It's likely too ambitious to think I will be done on Valentine's day, but if I can wear it once before sweater weather disappears, I'll be pleased.

I'm also working on these Longbourn Mitts for Maia from the Jane Austen Knits Fall 2012 magazine. She's been after me a while to knit something for her, so I let her pick out a small pattern and some yarn. It's a lace pattern, so it's taking a while. I can't knit it and read or watch anything while I'm doing it like I can with just straight knitting.

Well, this post has grown long enough. Next time maybe we'll talk reading! In the meantime, enjoy your January wherever you are!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Snowflake Tea Party in the Magic Attic!

Welcome to our party!

This year part of our curriculum involves the unit study called Where the Brook and the River Meet. It is a study based on Lucy Maud Montgomery's classic, Anne of Green Gables. We meet weekly with some friends of ours who are doing the study with us and one of the projects we were to do was to host a tea party for younger girls. We've had a couple of our own for each other (mothers preparing things for the girls first, then a collaborative effort - girls and moms) earlier in the year, but this time it was the girls' responsibility to do the majority of the party prep and hostessing.

While our friends live in the country north of the cities now, they keep an attic apartment in one of the rental properties they own, as they still have work and homeschool events down here. The apartment is a centralized location for those of us in the co-op, so we decided to have the tea party here and since the party was scheduled for January, went with the idea The Snowflake Tea Party in the Magic Attic.

The girls and I arrived Friday night for a decorating-party sleepover and the transformation began! 
Four wonderful, teenage girls and one almost-teen, set to work cutting and glittering and hanging snowflakes and silver ornaments:

I daresay we may have had more fun then our guests of honor. But at 1 a.m., we needed to turn in so we could be ready for the big event!

The next morning a variety of iPod alarms went off to let the girls know it was time to rise and shine and get to work again. More snowflakes were created to change the daybed into a "snow throne" for the little ones to have pictures done if they chose.

The snow throne complete, the girls paused to take a few pictures of their own:


 A few of the goodies captured before the guests arrived:

Katrina made scones.

Eve, Katrina, and I cut out pb&j sandwiches into mitten, snowflake, heart, and star shapes.

Eve baked a cake and Katrina made Russian Tea Cakes in varying sizes so we could make snowmen with the extra frosting!

Just as the guests began to arrive, Elleanna gave Eve a gorgeous hairdo!

And then the little ladies arrived in very fine attire!

The big girls waited on the little ones and although Sugarplum Tea was available, hot chocolate was the beverage of choice, hands down!

Tea completed, it was time for designing bracelets and necklaces with some magical-fairy jewels:

The big girls helped the little ones again to make sure their new jewelry was everything they wanted it to be.

While the little girls worked, mamas even got crafty learning how to knit. :)

Sugary treats gone and beading done, the guests began to "unwind" a bit and decided playing cards after tea was a good idea. While their ancestors may have retired to a parlor after tea to play a game of "whist," these ladies were partial to a game of "fish"...played with penguin cards... on the floor and the snow throne.

 Finally, after a long game, the guests began to indicate that they were all worn out... ready to call it a day.

And thus, the Snowflake Tea Party in the Magic Attic came to a wonderful end. What a fun couple of days we had! Thanks to Katrina, Eve, Maia, Olivia, Elleanna,and Laura. Hopefully, we gave our guests a party they will remember for some time to come! :)

Monday, January 7, 2013

Joy Dare Link-up - January Seven

(Note: Blogger is not uploading my photos... the picture below was added before this trouble began. I want to participate in the Joy Dare link-up, so I am publishing without photos, but this post, along with others not yet published do to this problem - will be edited when the issue is corrected.)

This year I am taking Ann's Joy Dare and listing over a thousand thing
s I am thankful for in 2013. Some will be via the lovely prompts she provides and some are just from my spirit's own self.
Open my eyes, LORD...
1. I am thankful for YOU, Lord. I am thankful that you have made it possible for me to spend time with you any time I want; that You are accessible to me because of Your son, Jesus. That You hear me, that You respond to me and speak to me in so many ways. That You remind me of the freedom I have in You, Jesus, and that I get to continue to participate in the advancement of Your kingdom.
2. For 2012. Overall, it was a very happy year - for all of my family, I think. We ended it last night with Mike, Lena, Cole, and Misha. I feel like they are happy we are here. :)
3. For our parents. All still with us and generally, well. Mom, Dad, and Sharon all will turn 70 this year!
4. For reading. For all of the amazing things I learn through books and magazines and newspapers, the Bible, the internet.
5. For writing. It takes me places.
6. For brilliant, Christian leadership. God has provided so many who share their lives with us, striving with us toward his kingdom.


3 gifts heard:

7. The music that wakes my Eve. It means she is here with me, she will be up and about to begin another day with us, and she is maturing and embracing responsibility (getting herself up on her own).

8. My older daughter's laughter. She is a happy, happy girl!

9. Dishes softly bumping each other in the wash-pan of hot, soapy water.

10. Pouring dry beans into the colander; running them through my fingers, looking for rocks and clods of dirt; rinsing them under clear water to prepare for soaking. I feel connected to women all over the world when I do this - and to generations long past remembering.

AND more thanksgiving for:

11. the amazing, nutty smell of basmati rice

a gift inside:

12. cooking grains on the stove, steaming and warming up my winter kitchen

a gift outside:

13. beautiful, blue January mornings

more gifts heard:

14. NPR & Minnesota Public Radio

15. the always cheerful and inspiring Knitmoregirls Podcast

16. insightful Cognitive Podcast

17. warm, quiet, and thoughtful, Knitting Pipeline podcast

which leads me to:

18. knitting

19. wool ~ a brilliant fiber ~ so amazing LORD!

20. cashmere... just delicious

a gift on my plate (or in this case, in my bowl):

21. basmati rice, spinach, & tofu sauteed in shoyu: a hot, savory, comfort-food breakfast

and therefore:

22. the versatile, humble soybean

23. authors and artists who love and celebrate the seasons as much as I do: Gladys Taber, Tasha Tudor, Susan Branch, Sarah Ban Breathnach, among others

24. the four seasons

25. calendars and planners (so exciting!)

26. almanacs

27. public parks and preserves

28. reading to myself

29. reading aloud


30. snowflakes swirling

31. homeschool cuddles on the couch; vanilla candle-scent in the air

32. birds!

33. fluffy, feathered-friends in a feeding frenzy at the feeder

34. peanut-butter and maple syrup in my oatmeal

35. snowdust on the walk & tiny, creature-prints

and so thankful...

36. that I really love what I do and how privileged I feel to be able to do it

37. that Paul is willing to go to work every day to let me stay home to educate our children


something old, something new, & something blue

"Old" is rather easy for me, as I love antiques and heirlooms. I have a special romance with the 1930's and 1940's in the U.S. and England. I especially love household items from these decades. But this morning when I woke up and came up to the kitchen for my morning cup of tea and read the prompt, I immediately thought of

38. tea

It is ancient and I particularly like the British custom of tea-time.

In thinking of "new", I am thinking of friendships - old and now new again thanks to our return home to Minnesota. In particular, today I am thankful for the gift of my old and now new-again friend:

39. Laura ~ a true, kindred spirit


This day was consumed by our Snowflake Tea Party in the Magic Attic!


a gift I am reading, making, seeing


40. re-reading: One Thousand Gifts along with Sharon Astyk's, Making Home; Jen Hatmaker's, 7; Judith Levine's, Not Buying It, and of course and always, the Bible


41. an embroidered quote & picture of my home; knitting a new, red "February Lady's Sweater" for me

42. this journal (my paper version): such an outlet and a pleasure

43. my blog: a different kind of creative writing


44. the chubby, fluffy squirrels enjoying the pb&j crumbs I left out for them. When I keep the ground trays and feeders full, they usually leave the bird feeders alone, so that is good.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit; Happy New Year; Start as You Mean to Go On... and all that!

Oh, gosh I love this day. I love, love, love the first day of the new year! Maybe it's the planner in me. I wonder... do those who are naturally more inclined to planning enjoy this day of goal-setting, resolutions, and new ideas more than those who like to live life a bit more spontaneously?

So, here I am, having not been here a while. But I can't be late to the party on the first day of the year, now can I? So, one thing I hope to do (not resolve, but hope) is to at least show up here once-a-week. I'll likely only accomplish that through planning ahead and making time for it on my trusty calendar, but it's something I'd really like to do.

I actually have a bit of a list of things I'd like to do today and most of them seem to involve just sitting, which is somewhat ironic considering my word of the year.

But more about that in a minute.

So, one of the things I'm doing is joining in with so many others in taking The Joy Dare over at A Holy Experience.  I am re-reading Ann's book (it's only $3.79 in the e-reader edition right now!) and while I often write in my journal my thanksgivings, I plan to participate more intentionally this year and... is it possible... do. it. every. day?  Oh, I'm usually so bad at that. Hence, my hoping for one blog post a week here. But. I always look to see how a new habit... a new good habit... a new, brilliant habit just might make a new impression on my life and open my eyes even more to the wonder that is this God-gift.

Next, I'll be over at making some new reading plans, thinking about and maybe rearranging my "to-read" list, and creating my "Read-in-2013" bookshelf for the year. I think I read about 43 in 2012. It's always surprising and fun to look back and see what I read and thought about in the past year. Maybe you'll join me?? I'd love to have you as a reading friend! I love seeing what my friends are reading; you all are so smart and give me such great ideas!

Maybe I'll have time to clean up some of my favorites list. Does yours grow to the enormous proportions mine does? And I rarely have time to re-visit so many.

I've got a teeeeeny bit of school planning left, but generally, we are ready to start up again tomorrow.

Finally, my word of the year this year is WALK.

We had such a very busy first semester, but with the end of a few activities, have re-claimed a couple of days for this new year. It would be lovely to leave the car parked and spend more time getting to know the community in which we have planted ourselves. You know, before our sweet dog, Lucy, died a couple of years ago, we walked with her every day. You have to, you know. You just have to walk your dog. And we are still a family that loves to walk. But we don't do it every day. And certainly when the temps begin to read in the single digits, it is hard.

I'm not promising to walk somewhere every day, but when the opportunity arrises, I want to choose to walk instead. We live about a mile from a little grocery and a mile -and-a-half in each direction from two, wonderful libraries. Those paths take us into our little town and so, I hope to take those paths more often. It will take even more planning to accomodate the extra time needed, but I intend to make the effort.

This past Sunday we had a time of sharing at church in which we shared some of the things God has done for us this past year. I shared some thoughts on a little bit more about why I am choosing the word WALK for this year:

While 2012 has been the long-time answer to so many prayers and questions, new questions always arise and so the conversation with my God continues. Most recently, in the light of the New Town, CT shootings, beyond the questions we are all asking about what we need to do as citizens, I continue to ask, when tempted to respond with fear, "God, how can I continue to be Your joy and Your hope? When everything in me wants to recoil in a posture of self-defence, how can I, instead, expand and reach out and advance Your kingdom?"

I don't have one, complete answer yet, but every year for the past six years or so, I have made it a practice to choose a word for the year; something to set the tone and  serve as a direction I'd like to take. In the past I have had words like: "create," "imagine," "kingdom," and "discover". This year, I feel very strongly that my word is "WALK".

My daughter and I got practice in this the other day when we walked to the grocery store for a few, needed items. We met a new neighbor out shoveling her walk. We saw other people out and about, had a conversation with an employee at the store, and looked people in the eye and said "hello".

To know and to be known.

I know walking isn't the answer to this problem. But maybe it is an answer for me.

I was so homesick in Florida. I longed to be with "my people" - to be understood and really known. Jesus tells us in John 10 that we are His sheep and He calls us by name. We are known.

I wonder if the people who do these random acts of violence feel known? And I wonder if we might begin to change that...

Again, I believe that there are things we need to address, as a nation, concerning gun-violence, mental illness and the things that, thankfully, we do seem to have begun talking about. And I plan to lend my voice to that discussion. But as a Christian, in my everyday life, I want to continue to be practicing the phrase, "love reaches," which is a phrase I have remembered and have tried to live by since a good friend mentioned it to me years ago. One way I hope to do this is to be intentionally present in and around my community - the community beyond my church and beyond my family and friends. I'll start by taking a walk.

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