Wednesday, March 07, 2012


Ash Wednesday is nearly always a day I give my little corner table a serious cleaning.  After the Christmas season there are always those few straggling pine needles and drips of wax.   There is something refreshing about stripping everything away and starting from scratch.  The dark background cloth of Advent is replaced with blue, the burlap is shaken out  and a few purple silks are added.  

Stones and rounds of birch bark are are put in place next.  This year I also added a birds nest - we never remove birds nests from bushes or trees but we do sometimes come across them fallen in the yard or on our road.  A single candle and an angel - even Jesus was ministered to by an angel in the desert.

The bird's nest is especially for me, a reminder to myself that I do know what I am called to do.  

The twigs and fluff and leaves of the bird's nest are brought from all sorts of places, from wherever the brave careful mother alights, with the fluttering but daring heart, to fetch them, from the distances and explorations that only the spread wings of love know. 
- Caryll Houselander "The Reed of God"

And after a walk, a bit green is brought in as a final touch.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I think I managed the cute yarn along button and started a new project!

Can I tell you a secret?   I have long harbored this fear of both knitting instructions and circular needles.  I would open a book of knitting patterns, look at all those seemingly strange nonsensical  symbols, shudder a bit, and close the book.  If still wanted to knit I would go back to knitting some variation of a square.

Circular needles hearken back to memories of my grandmother knitting.  My mind could grasp the idea of two needles but a circle?  Huh?  That is until I found this -

Can you imagine how silly I feel now that I know how easy it is to get started?   I ventured up into the attic to retrieve a very old red paisley zippered bag that my mother had given me several years ago.  She was cleaning out my grandmother's closet and thought I might find something in there of use.  Honestly, I did open it, but when one look at those strange contents brought on a shudder I zipped it back up and put the whole bag in the attic.  Because that is what I do - I put things I might need in the attic, you know, for later...when I need them.  My attic is scary.  It is instances like these that reinforce my habit of squirreling things away.....after all....look what I found when by some miracle I actually located the red paisley bag....

Metal needles are not my preference, eventually I may start to update these needles with bamboo - but I was so happy to have all I needed to get started.

I found Men in Knits at the library and was pleasantly surprised to find each of patterns sized for boys too.  Here I have in the works what will be a Hyland Argyle Vest.  I am very excited, I will accomplish 3 knitting goals if I manage this - a boys vest, something with a pattern, and knitting with circular needles!  Added bonus - I am getting over my fear of knitting instructions.

As far as reading goes, I'll share an impulse buy for my amazon kindle - Living with Contradiction by Esther de Waal, I've only just started it but can I share this little bit....

"When a novice enters the monastic community and lays the vows on the altar, the prayer is always 
Susicpe me, accept me, O Lord.  These are wonderful words that I too can come back to, time and again, as a prayer for myself: accept me, O Lord, just as I am, in my frailty, my inadequacy, my contradictions, my confusion.  Accept me in my complexity, with all those discordant currents that pull me in so many directions.  Accept all of this, and help me so to live with what I am that what I am may become my way to God."

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Drinking a lot of tea!

I finally succumbed to the bug that has visited all the children.  They bounce back from these more quickly than I do.  I have felt like a wet dish rag pretty much for a week now.   Drinking a lot of tea because one does not feel well is not quite the same as "taking tea" in the afternoon, but certainly a comfort nonetheless.   Today's tea was Stash's White Christmas, a gift from my mother-in-law.  This tea has become one of my favorites - along with Stash's Ginger Breakfast Black tea.  

Now I am in recovery mode and the list of things-to-do has grown exponentially each day I was not up and around.  I did finally pack up my "Advent Box".  One year I finally realized that there were certain things I needed even before the start of Advent.  I put together a box that I can take down with essentials to get a good start on the Advent season.  Interestingly, the Advent things always seem to get packed away well after most of the Christmas decorations are put away.  I had a lot of help from Gandolf, our fluffy addition from last Christmas.  Do you have any idea how difficult it is to have Santa deliver a cat?  But he did and we have loved having him for the past year.

My packing session went something like this....put out box....remove cat from box...pack a few things......remove cat from box....pack a few things....remove cat from get the picture.

Anyway, the Advent box has a few books that help me plan for Advent and Christmas and any books that are specifically for Advent or the feast days that fall in Advent - such as St. Nicholas Day and St. Lucy's Day.   Before I closed the box all up I took a few pictures of my "new" Christmas book.  I am in love with the illustrations and colors.  It is an ex -library copy of The Christmas Anna Angel by Ruth Sawyer and Kate Seredy (a wonderful combination of talents!).  I had never heard of this book before but I was looking for more titles by Ruth Sawyer and took a chance on this one.  I am so glad I did!

The story is perfect for Advent with a visit from St. Nicholas...

And a description of their rousting of the chickens on St. Lucy day to ensure a supply of eggs through the winter.

The book focuses on Anna and her desire for Christmas cakes at time when any surplus wheat has gone to the soldiers and the war effort.  A wonderful addition to my Christmas book collection.  Also in the box are the candle holders for our Advent wreath and all the things I need to set up our Advent Garden (minus the greens of course).  Mother Mary and the Infant are wrapped in tissue paper along with some very pretty geodes that I bought so long ago at a Christmas fair at the Fellowship Community in Chestnut Ridge. 

What else is in there - our Advent calendar, many more books, ornaments for the years I do a Jesse tree and this little guy who acts as our family version of the Elf on a Shelf.

Until next year.....

And now my cup of tea is empty.    A simple Beet Soup is on the stove for dinner this evening...the boys will be thrilled, well Aidan does really like beets, Christian not so much.  But there hasn't been much shopping happening and I have an ever growing supply winter beets from our CSG....beet soup it is.  It is a recipe that is found in Nourishing Traditions - I usually make this at least once for our soup suppers during Lent at Church - it always gets rave reviews.  I don't usually have chives, so I just skip it, but I do season with salt and sometimes a bit of ground ginger. 

6 medium beets
4 tbl. butter
1 quart water
sea salt

Peel beets, chop coarsely and saute very gently in butter for about 1/2 hour until tender.  Add water, bring a boil and skim.  Simmer about 15 minutes.  Puree with a handheld blender and season to taste. 
That's it.  Just the thing for a mom on the mend.

And I won't forget to visit Dawn at By Sun and Candlelight.  Her delightful kitties haven't been feeling well, I hope they are on the mend.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Yarn along

I did it! I finished something - I have a winter hat just in time for more cold temperatures.

Not the greatest picture.  But it does have a little something new to me - there are decorative rows of seed stitches in the blue.  A new stitch!  And it wasn't even on my list of knitting goals.  It does have a seam since I used straight needles but I just put it on with the seam to the back.  Perhaps by the time I do my next hat I will have braved those circular needles.

Oh - and about that list of knitting goals - I shared it with my 15 year-old daughter and she said "What?  You mean you want to make all these things before you die?"  Sheesh - so maybe a year is unrealistic but goodness I hope I have enough years in me to get my list done and more!

Now I have to decide what I will do next.....hmmm.  I did buy a small set of cable needles - anyone know of any good videos that show the cable stitch?  My grandmother knitted cables; it is times like these that I miss her.  I remember when I asked her who taught her how to knit she said to me,  "What do you mean who taught me?  I got a book out of the library and followed the directions."   Easy, right? 

Somehow after the Christmas break, the boys and I got out of our habit of a read-aloud together.  We had started Coot Club by Arthur Ransome quite a while ago but for whatever reason it got put aside.  We've found where we left off and are happy to join Dorthea and Dick as they learn how to sail!

Now I'll go check all the other goodies at the Yarn Along with Ginny.  She has a new button.   Which will take me longer, installing the button or learning the cable stitch?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Yarn Along

So nice to put yarn on a new pair of needles.  This year I am determined to set some knitting goals for 2012! 

I am starting with a hat for myself but this year but I would like to break new ground - so in no particular order -

Knitting goals 2012!

Some kind of patterned something - I am eyeing the mittens in the book, Folk Mittens, you see above that I just borrowed from the library - might be a little too scary for my next project though, we'll see.

Knit a vest - a simple boy's vest (maybe two, I do have two boys).

Learn to use circular needles.

Knit a shrug for my teen girls (there are two of them too!)

Some kind of shawl for me.

Attempt to learn a cable stitch. 

And if I really get brave - a sweater for hubby. 

Ambitious?  Doable? At this point I have no idea but it's always good to have a plan, right?

As far as reading goes, I am enjoying my new Kindle Fire, I feel so *current*, you know up-to-date.  I NEVER feel like that.  It's weird.  But on my Kindle I am reading "The Man Who Was Thursday, a nightmare" by G.K. Chesterton.  So far so good.  I am still learning the ins and outs of downloading things but I really like it so far.  I can also sit, all warm and cozy with a cup of tea and read my favorite blogs - like the Yarn Along at Small Things with Ginny!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Taking Tea

Today, my afternoon "tea" was a cup of  Swiss Miss Dark Chocolate Cocoa and a "clementine" orange.  It was nice to come in and have some cocoa after being outdoors and working hard.   I am trying again - my outdoor hour.  I think it would help my mood, my vitamin D levels, and certainly our yard if I could get myself to spend an hour outdoors each day.   Our backyard has so much potential but right now is a complete disaster.   Especially while there is no snow on the ground, I want to try to get out there and do some sprucing up.

I started with raking the remaining leaves in our driveway.  Beside leaves I found feathers.

The feathers must have been from a blue jay; there were quite a few.  There was no body (thank goodness) which I suppose means one of two things - the blue jay got away or it was consumed by some other animal - hopefully not by one of our cats.

Speaking of  "cats", my mug today is a temporary visitor.  My sweet husband brings home dishes - he thinks they are ours - this mug definitely is not.  This one must have come home from the counseling center where Ed works part time on a couple of evenings each week.  It says "What people really need is a good listening to." - Mary Lou Casey.  So true.  I will send it back - maybe with a package of cocoa inside?

While I was sipping away, Aidan was next to me reading Volume 2 of the TinTin series.  Both my boys love these books.  My mom started with two of the volumes for Christian's birthday back in November.   She began with Volumes III and IV after finding out those had the most content that related to the movie.  Between Aunt Laura and Nana we now have the first six volumes.   Spontaneous boy giggles are just the best!

The funniest thing about this series was that I had never heard of it until it was mentioned on one of homeschooling groups I check in with (I can't remember which one)  - I thought I had found this great new thing.  Both Christian and my oldest daughter exclaimed with delight when they saw the first books - both had seen parts of the series at two *different* friends' homes.  

Now I'll go see if Dawn has a Tuesday Tea time post up at By Sun and Candlelight.

Monday, January 09, 2012

The Outgoing.

The signs of the Christmas are not quite completely gone, but mostly.   In our home the Christmas tree is taken down on January 6th - and it can be quite the challenge to start back to some semblance of school work with the Christmas tree still a guest in our home but I am so in love with the idea of *Twelve* Days of Christmas. 

The process of taking down the tree is same each year - first the candles and candle holders are removed.  They get packed in a small box that lives in the laundry room - I am not sure how beeswax candles would fare in the attic during the summer months - better safe and cool then pulling out strangely misshapen candles next year.  Then the ornaments that are more fragile live in another box that resides at the top the girls closet.  Again - that concern over temperature changes in the attic. 

The the rest of the ornaments are packed away in one of the three Christmas bins.  The last ornament to be taken down is always the same - the Blue Angel.

One year she came with a book and every year since, that is the book we read when the tree is taken down on the day our little domestic church celebrates the Epiphany.  Now, in the story, the little blue angel ornament hides herself in the tree so it will not be alone when taken outside and then later burned at the annual neighborhood Christmas tree burning.  We have always wanted to keep our Blue angel for the next year but the thought of our very loved Christmas tree sitting alone in the yard is rather sad - don't you think?  So each year we take one of our Christmas cards and cut out the picture of an angel to nestle in the branches of the tree.

I cannot help but wonder how many more Christmas' I will have where I will read the story of the Blue Angel - but I think I will always perform this small gesture of giving the Christmas tree a small angel to watch over him.  It is part of the care I try to give to the season from start to finish. 

All the lights have also been brought in.  The Tree for the Birds and other outdoor Christmas greenery will stay up until February 2nd.  I do love having these days where I know exactly what I will be doing!  And before I pack up the all the Advent and Christmas books until next year I do think I will write out this quote to look upon on my more trying days.

"Yet this outgoing begins gently: it has something of the quality of Advent.  Before the Divine Child leaves us, we are allowed to experience the loveliness of his indwelling presence.  Therefore, when he has gone, the longing to find him again will be stronger than anything we may meet in the seeking; stronger than the fear which makes us want to remain locked up in our own limitations.  No matter how hard the way, it will be in some measure sweet to us, and we shall take it, not as a path along which we are driven but as one whose attraction we cannot resist, because we know that on it we shall discover him.
Where must we seek?
Everywhere - in everyone.
How must we seek?
With faith and courage and limitless love.
First of all, by faith."

(A quote from Caryll Houselander's "Reed of God" as it appears in Thomas Hoffman's "A Child in Winter" - I recommend both).

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Taking Tea

I am joining Dawn at By Sun and Candlelight in taking time to have a cup of tea each afternoon.  I have been inspired by Dawn's blog for years now.  I have several new habits I am trying to cultivate and having a cup of tea instead of coffee in the afternoon is one of them.  My sister gave me a lovely little tea box and a collection of Bigelow teas for Christmas.  I still need a bit of caffeine in the afternoon so today's cup was "Constant Comment" which is a black tea with a bit of orange and spice - very nice.   My mug was from my daughter, a little gift brought back from her trip to England and France.  The mug is from the Normandy area and I thought I would pull a few pictures from her time in France.  We'll first go to The Cathedral of Rouen -

Katie especially liked the story about the Butter tower which you see in this picture on the left.  During Lent, butter was one of the foods one would fast from but you could choose to pay a "butter tax" if you really wanted your butter during Lent.   The proceeds from that "tax" went to build this tower.  Katie referred to this Cathedral as the "small one" when compared to the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris - but, oh my, look how large....

Next stop the American Cemetery at Normandy

This was the site of one of the five concerts they did while on Tour. And finally we'll stop off in Paris!  

One of these days, I will have to pull out all of our old  Madeline books that we have from my childhood and see how many places Katie might have seen.  Here she is at top of the Eiffel Tower!

Gosh now I am in the mood for Sabrina, hmmm.....but which one, Humphrey Bogart or Harrison Ford - happy decisions.

Monday, January 02, 2012


On the first morning of the first day of the new year, I cried.   It was ridiculous really. Ed and I were planning to go to Mass at an 11:30am service in town rather than the 9:30am Mass at our local church.  We had to pick up Katie from a sleep over - the family wasn't together for New Year's Eve and we wouldn't all be together for Mass that morning.  So why did I get so upset when my seventeen year old daughter walked out of her room ready to go to the 9:30am Mass? Shouldn't I have been happy that she went to her first New Year's Party with her very sweet boyfriend, came home safe and sound by 12:30 am, and still got up to take herself to morning Mass?

Ridiculous.  Absurd.  But the tears flowed anyway.  And this being the Feast Day of Mary, the Mother of God - the priests homily was all about - motherhood.  I could feel more tears welling up but I willed myself not to cry in the middle of Mass - I was mostly successful.  My dear sweet husband thinks I am too hard on myself, he thinks I am a good mother.

But it is not that I  think I am a bad mother, I have just reached a point where I just don't know how to do this anymore.  At home with babies, toddlers, and young children - that I could do.  Not that I always felt I it did well all the time but I had some kind of compass in my heart that generally showed me the way.  Now I am in some kind of magnetic storm of teens and older children and my compass is just not working like it used to.

How do I keep doing this?  It seems to me only a question I will be able to answer for myself - I think there is a reason we don't hear anything about the Holy Family from the time Jesus is the age of 12 until he is what?  Thirty?!   Heaven help me. And Heaven will help me - I only have to keep asking and ask I will.  From today's Midday prayer (Psalm 40).

I waited, I waited for the Lord
and he stooped down to me;
he heard my cry.
He drew me from the deadly pit,
from the miry clay.
He set my feet upon a rock
and made my footsteps firm.

My resolution this year - firm footsteps.